Captains Blog star date 01072013

Cocos Keeling is a typical Indian Ocean atoll and we were anchored inside it! To be able to anchor in such a place is a one off. Going ashore to the relatively untouched Direction Island was a treat and a privilege.

With our anchorage surrounded by reefs, I thought it would be a great seamanship task for the entire crew if we sailed off the anchor. I gave all the crew an explanation of what we were going to do. At least some of them must have understood as it worked fine! The wind was 15 to 20 knots, so, just before the anchor broke away from the seabed, we set the Fore Topsail aback so that it would turn the bow to port. The aft watches were standing by the Fore Mast braces and when the wind drew close to the beam we braced the foreyards round. The aft watches then set the Main Topsail and the fore watches set the Fore Course. Now that we had good headway we were able to steer.

Chipps, 2nd Engineer pointed out to me the crystal clear seabed beneath us and we felt we could touch every rock and stone. It was very unnerving and I stopped looking over the side, preferring to believe Lesley, 2 Mate, when she insisted we were on track and in 8 metres of water!

We rounded our first beacon and squared the yards whilst we cleared the reefs before bracing the yards to starboard and altering course to pass down the west side of Cocos Keeling Island.

So plenty of rope pulling for the crew and the rope pulling only stopped when we had all the Square Sails set and were bowling along in a SSW’ly direction. The phrase ‘All Square Sails’ includes the Fore T’Gallant sail. Setting this sail was some achievement. The previous voyage the foil inside the T’Gallant Yard had been badly damaged. Not wishing to sail all the way from Singapore to Fremantle without a Fore T’Gallant sail, the Bosun, myself and the Bosun’s Mates converted a 23 year old roller furling sail into a traditional sail, complete with cringles, buntlines, clewlines, and lots of reinforcing patches. The sail owes us nothing and is fragile so we are only setting it at wind speeds under 18 knots. The sail sets beautifully and we are justifiably proud!

We are potentially faced with days of motoring to get 1000 miles to the south and out of the SE Trade wind which blows steadily at 20 to 25 knots. So it was a real treat to have a cracking overnight sail and we hope it continues. I am being hard on the helmsmen because the better the course they can steer, the longer we can sail for!!

Captain Barbara