Sailing for Cocos Keeling

Date: Aug. 14, 2016, 4 a.m. Position: 10 35.42 S, 105 4.20 E

It was hard to leave Christmas Island, after spending two weeks among the trillions of crabs that swarm the island and meeting some of the friendliest island folks we’ve encountered on the whole voyage! We’ll post journals soon of our exceptional adventures there.

We slipped the mooring lines before first light and sailed out into the Java Trench. Within several hundred feet from the anchorage, the depths plunged off into 1000 feet, and then to 15,000 feet just a few miles from the island. For the 530 NM passage to Cocos Keeling, we are sailing over a massive chain of extinct underwater volcanoes. Christmas Island is the only summit in the chain that breaks the surface, and it is said that it is taller than the mass of Mt. Everest, when measured up from the sea floor. From underwater, Christmas Island would look something like the scale of Mt Rainier, “Privateer” anchoring on the rim of the summit.

As we left the lee of Christmas island we picked up the swells and got battered by a few gentle squalls and heavy rainfall. It actually worked out pretty well, as the hard rain washed the yellow phosphate dust off the boat, which we had a heavy dusting of after anchoring downwind from the mine loading operation in Flying Fish Cove. The winds went light in the wake of the squalls so we did an hour or two of motor-sailing, topping up our battery banks and making more water with the water-maker. The gloomy morning finally gave way to a sunny afternoon and the trade winds have filled in nicely now. We’ve been making 7-8 knots with 15 knots of wind on the beam all day and into the night.

We’re angling down to the south right now as the trades are predicted to intensify and veer more S-SE on Tuesday evening. We’re hoping to keep the wind aft of the beam on our final approach to Cocos Keeling by using this tactic. Hopefully, we will keep up the good speeds through the passage in order to arrive at Cocos in daylight. I had originally wanted to leave Christmas Island at sunset for better timing of a morning Cocos arrival, however the winds at sunset yesterday were strong with a ferocious sea tearing past the island. Presently, we are looking at an evening Cocos arrival, which is less than ideal. We may have to heave-to and spend another night at sea if we cannot make the entrance in daylight. Time will tell–we’re still 400 NM away. Such are the thoughts and worries that a ship’s captain bears…

I’ve been growing out my beard again, as this gives me friendly reception with the Muslim populations on the islands. Today Kelsey looked up at me from the companionway and noted many grey hairs on my chin! I suppose it’s from looking out at all the swells and “greybeard” seas in my sailing career. I’m glad to be growing older out here at sea, with my family, bounding over the waves.

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