Saturday, February 23, 2013

Here we go again

We are off again… crossing that ocean to get back to South Africa, with the intention of using it as a stepping stone to South America. But of course, with our arrival in SA only about nine months from now, South America is a long way off and those plans are ephemeral at best.

What! 9 months to get to SA? So to explain ourselves here is the picture of the voyage, with a brief description.
 There are 4 main legs to the route we have chosen across the Indian Ocean: Phuket to the Maldives, Maldives to Chagos, Chagos to Mauritius and finally Mauritius to SA.

Leg 1 is timed to use the winds of the NE monsoon season (blowing from the NE), which hopefully will mean that in general we will not get wind “on the nose” that we have to bash into. This leg will be done in the last week of Feb / first two weeks in March.

This grib chart (below) shows the weather in that first leg predicted for 24 February: wind indicated by small arrows, blue patches show rain. The cursor (showing where we are going, roughly) and associated detail on the left clearly shows almost no wind in that area…
for situations like this, we have made provision….
Yes, an additional 20 jerry cans of diesel, secured along the back walkway and in lockers, which we are hoping NOT to use!

On the other hand, we see a cyclone developing SW of Sumatra. This system draws in all the wind from elsewhere, and we may end up with absolutely nothing; on the other hand, it could move up and give us wind… but it may just be in the wrong direction and it may just be uncomfortably strong. 

The prediction for next Thursday however is this:
We will be at the red dot, approximately: reasonable winds but very, very wet. Once we are out there, of course, we just do the best we can with what we find.

Leg 2, Maldives to Chagos, is short (about 3 days) and generally easy. To be done after a month travelling down from mid-Maldives to the southernmost atoll, enjoying just cruising.

Leg 3 takes us to Mauritius. We will try to go via Rodrigues, but may not get there if the winds have too much of a South component.

On 17 Feb, this was the weather in that general area of the Indian Ocean:
 UGH! The detail shows 60knot winds in a cyclone just off Madagascar, and a storm front approaching from SA…. And they both moved towards Mauritius: You do NOT want to be in that ocean!

This 3rd leg therefore cannot be done before the cyclone season south of the equator (and over Mauritius) has ended, hopefully by mid May. The timing of legs 1 and 3 dictate a stay in Chagos, but BIOT (British India Ocean Territories) only provides a one-month permit to visit Chagos, sometimes making it difficult for sailors if there is an unfavourable weather system ahead of them and they need refuge.

Leg 4 (Mauritius to SA, after hopefully a quick visit to Reunion) should not be done while there is still chance of big storms coming round the cape and up the east side of SA, therefore cannot be undertaken before about October, which dictates a long stay in Mauritius.

So. Weather dictates our progress, but we look forward to the forced stop-overs in Maldives, Chagos and Mauritius as opportunities to explore and in some cases have friends and family do some exploring with us.

Our hope is that we are NOT dictated to by boat problems, and at this stage we believe Ketoro to be sea-worthy. A complete set of new house batteries, new starter motor and regulator, all less than a week before departure, amongst many other mechanical interventions, will hopefully ensure that.

This work was done at Yacht Haven Marina, far north in Phuket, and this was Rolf’s view from half-way up the mast when Irene winched him up there to fix the fore-deck light (for night-time sail changes and deck work at sea) and install a new horn.

And this was Irene’s zoomed-in view of Rolf:
At this stage his bum was really sore and he was using his feet and toes to shift weight (as is monkeys’ wont): my request to send down the bag to hoist up the camera and remain up there, get creative and photograph his environs was somewhat growled at…!

We have also worked hard to fill Ketoro with provisions… if you were to come on board, you would probably laugh and roll your eyes, particularly at this sight:
This was the forward cabin, just starting to take shape as a storeroom, but already providing essential needs: the box of red wine centre back, the drinks cans dotted around (these supplement those at the bottom of all the other lockers), the spare water pump and white bag which contains spare toilet macerator, fan blasting air into the jam-packed back locker (found mould, didn’t we!?) and…. Drum roll… huge bags of corn flakes and coco pops!! Ok, so our insistence on kids’ cereals is shooting ourselves in the foot in terms of storage, but cereal people are cereal people and they will make a plan to get their coco pops (won’t they, Rolf!?)

Our first provisioning trip to Macro rewarded us with 3 huge trolleys and a till slip that was longer than Irene is tall.
Rolf with part of our first provisioning-trip supplies
The stuff all had to go somewhere. While we unpacked lockers to put layers of tins and cans at the base and then repack, we found that our system of storage has until now been pretty erratic. So started a major “spring clean”. That means storage of foodstuff, medicines, electricals, tools, adhesives…. You name it.

And of course that spring clean found the mould in the locker above. This is a very dry deep-storage locker: duvets, sleeping bags, hiking boots, extra pillows etc have been safe there for 3 years. Further investigation of the mould revealed…. Aaaargh! Water! Saturated sleeping bags! Moulded boots! The finger-tip taste test revealed salt. Happily, it was nothing more than a leak in the water pipes that feed through this locker to cool the generator and 24 hours later (and a boat festooned with dozens of odd drying items and Rolfs work on leak identification and repair and subsequent drying out of locker)… the deep-storage dry locker was good to go!

Well, so are we.

So: a quick trip to lovely Phuket town
to enjoy the contrasts provided by newly-renovated old buildings
and a quick reminder of the great market food stalls
Bye for now! We will upload the next blog when we are in the Maldives, but until then you can follow our progress across the ocean by clicking on the link on the right.

There is a huge ocean out there, and it is an extraordinary privilege to have such close contact with it. It is at times exceptionally beautiful, at times not; at times benevolent, at times definitely not so. We will be well - we will be sailing! Enjoying the good and getting through the less pleasant, we will make the most of the experience of the open ocean again. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

On board our boat

We have just had Mark, Livi and little Blake on board, so of course we would like to write about it and thought, for those of our friends who have not yet visited us, that we would like to give them a picture of what it is like to live on board our boat.

And since we took the family down the magnificent west coast of Phuket then up into Phang Nga Bay, we would be guided by the photos and make it a picture-story.

So, of course, we went to the photographs to use them as a base and weave the tale around them. But… well, this is pretty ridiculous!! Magnificent scenic shots? Sunsets? No… All the photographs are of a baby!

So now we have to confess that this tale of life on Ketoro is from the perspective of a 6-month old; future visitors, please be not afraid: the boat caters for adult visitors quite comfortably, and you will not, for example, have to…

Bath in the galley sink on the first night, after your late flight;
We will provide other lovely bathing circumstances for you;
You will not be restricted in your movement around the boat (but we can make it safe for you too…).
You may do a bit of driving,
You will be treated to dinghy rides, and if you examine your circumstances we hope you will be at peace with it all!
(but we are not sure if, for you, we will stretch to lounger up front in the dinghy, with cold-pack for your back and parasol for shade);

And we will provide the wherewithal for all your other needs (so what is wrong with these teethers?)

Hopefully the background of the photos show adequately the crystal-clear water, beautiful scenery and lovely eateries which we try to show our visitors…. Whether or not they are able to appreciate it!

Of course, on board our boat there will invariably be work needing to be done; in this case, amongst others, Mark was required to help Rolf change props underwater,
and the boys spent many hours in the port engine-room.
This means they spent many hours under the port bunk in the cabin, which of course means that on board our boat it is not always a certainty that your cabin will be entirely yours for the duration of your stay!

Along with tales of boats at sea, sometimes there are unfortunate stories to be narrated of marine creatures defending their territory from us, the invaders. This time it was Irene who had an unfortunate encounter: with a jellyfish, or rather: the extremely long tentacle of one. On board, we did the best we could to denature the toxin initially with vinegar and heat, but it turned out we simply did not have adequate pain killers or other meds to deal with the symptoms brought about by the toxins that affected nerves, muscles and joints. We are, however, blessed to have friends on shore, and JJ came to the rescue with a longtail boat and then his car to whisk us away to hospital where they addressed the inadequacies of the med kit on Ketoro!

During the final week of Blake’s stay, we watched the stars and nightly saw the new moon begin to fill…
Bitter-sweet for us, for at the next full moon we will be on our boat, sailing away from Thailand finally.

So you will have to come and join us at our next destination… come on board our boat, and claim your own Ketoro cap!
In fact, if you come to Mauritius but are worried that you have no sea legs, rest assured: the net to surround the boat lies in wait for the visit of two perhaps newly-walking tots, and will be there for you too!