Moon to moon sailing

Trip Start Nov 07, 2006
1
2
Trip End Dec 04, 2006


Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines
shadow

Flag of Thailand  ,
Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Moon To Moon
A single handed sailing report of Capt. Fearless' Adventures on the high Seas!

My yacht MoonFlower ( MF ), a cutter rigged Bowman 47 was moored in Darwin's beautiful Cullen Bay Marina and suffered by not being used to her capabilities for the last two years. I had lost the feel for it and also was busy to get money into the travel kitty. Anyhow after a days sail in Darwin's beautiful harbor last summer during my vacation from cruise ship work I decided to take her beyond the horizon which in my terms meant, I had to take her across the equator. The "feeling" and "drive' was back. The Call of the Sea was back in my veins again, the poison in my blood and heart.

So planning started about mid July 2006 while I was still engaged in working on RCCL's Enchantment of the Seas as the Executive Chef and I had to save money for some needed repairs and improvements. The worst thing a sailor can do is to let his pride lye unused in the Marina, neglected and half forgotten.
Anyway repairs went under way soon after my next break in early October and a planned departure date was set for the end of the month. But guess what? Ah you know, it never goes to plan and so things took longer and much longer as expected. And don't let us forget that we sat here in the last Australian Frontier, the Northern Territory and its capital town, Darwin.

So days went bye and hopes where dwindling to get ready before the NW Monsoon starts kicking in with full "power", meaning no wind, rain squalls and thunderstorms on the way up north and across the Equator. However as days went past I finally had her ready, at least what I thought. But what are we calling ready in sailing terms really. If she ever would be ready at all but I thought that I had covered most important things and checked everything so I gave it a go.

On the day of departure the engine decided to play up with a blocked fuel line and we missed the days tide window for getting out at the gate, but hey there is always another day and finally the next day we passed the Marinas Lock gate, refueled till the tanks and Jerry cans went bursting and by 9:30am MoonFlower sailed out of Darwin for the last time in 2006.
The first days are fine and the wind though a weather change decided to blow from the West, exactly the direction we were heading. Happy Hours at 5 pm followed by dinner with a beautiful sunset and rising full moon, those are the last images remaining off a two year stint in Darwin's waters.

Day two is not much different, just gaining distance from the mainland by motor sailing with a light headwind. This day, the 8th of November 2007 goes to the memory of my dad who celebrates his birthday on this date and a nice glass of good white wine runs smoothly down my throat to toast the occasion.

During the night the wind freshens up a bit and we have 15 knots on the head with choppy seas. Almost on the clock at 6 am the engine had enough and gave up of supporting me. But we had wind and so we tack to port and good old George my dear friend autopilot takes care of the helm while I try to get to the engine's problem. Me as the novice diesel mechanic, I grew up on petrol engines, riding and racing motorbikes, driving cars and motorboats and pushing dad's lawnmowers in my early youth. That's why I had no clew why she stopped running. The first thing was to check if she got enough fuel and here comes the first shock, tank No 1 is empty. As during the refueling the tanks have been only topped up with whatever was missing after 2 years Marina life and the occasional service engine runs. So the amount going into each tank wasn't really checked. Both tanks appeared to be full. The problem however was that the breather line for the tanks had a blockage and was not letting any air out and so the tank gave a false impression when refueled.
So I switch over to tank 2, bleed the fuel lines and after a few coughs she starts turning over again. Hurrah we are safe and on our way again, just in time as the wind decided to have an undeserved rest and the sea got calm again. In my thoughts I find it so unfair, because during my motorboat time I had so often lots of unwanted wind and now I am in due need of this element it plays calm. Nevertheless it is another gorgeous evening and colorful sunset. Exhausted by 9 pm I fall asleep motoring in a westerly direction on a deserted and calm sea with no other yachts in sight.
As you sail along and douse, you never really are fast asleep and it happens that I hear the distress radio calls on channel 16 from a boat somewhere way down south of the Australian coast. The boat got into bad weather with strong winds. As that weather front moves up the coast from the southern seas this wind reaches us in the early morning hours and we are able to shut down the motor and have a decent sail for almost the whole day. During one of my regular checks of the sails I hurt my back with a wrong move and with the already soar left leg troubling me from earlier in the morning I am a bit handicapped for the rest of the week. Luckily I had some strong painkillers and antibiotics in the first aid box. They took most of the pain and got me better by the following morning. The day was spent with tacks along the rhumbline and rests in between. Later in the afternoon the wind dies again and we motor along. Its a game of up and down as the elements play with us.
Somehow the yacht doesn't handle that well and I get the feeling that there is something wrong below and stakes are high it is the propeller. I stop the engine, get my mask and snorkel and have a good look underneath. The only thing I can see are a few dead barnacles still encrusted on the propeller blades which I try to scrape off with a spatula. At 5:30 pm it looks all perfectly clean, myself had a good refreshing plush in the refreshing ocean and shortly after we keep going westwards again. And what a change it made, we gain a knot of speed and she runs like a happy chappy ship again. Only me with my soar leg and back and some scratches from the sharp barnacles on my right hand, needs a good rest in the spacey cockpit from all the excitement and injuries.
Dinner is served again on the aft deck, a juicy grilled steak with potatoes and some vegetables and a glass of wine. The night is quiet and we tuck through without any incidents.
The following day I still feel a bit run-down and so my good companion, the book, gets a fair share of attention. While reading from section to section with short outlooks in-between, I am able to re-charge my own batteries. Dan Brown's story takes my whole concentration and I can't put the book down. After the xxx chapter I finally tell myself to stop reading and to make the morning check of the yachts rigging, sails, batteries and engine gauges. Starting to get up I put my head rightup to see what lies ahead I get the shock of my life, only about a quarter mile away from us I spot a coral Island, white as snow it shines in the dark blue sea. I check my GPS but I am still on my course and George the Autopilot is doing his job without a fault. On my Garmin Blue chart there is no island or sand cay to see. My thoughts are that I have a wrong course and that those reefs and sand cays must be the Ashmore Reef. I disengage George and turn hard to star port to bring us away from the now good visible reefs surrounding the sandy island. Than by checking my hard charts I see that those islands.......... Are.... And that I have ploted us a bit too much south to round the Ashmore Reefs. Later the day we pass the marked reef and set course for Christmas Island. Still a bit shaky from this mornings happenings, my thoughts bother me and the "What If" question gives me butterflies in my tummy and it takes a while until I settle down but it will always be somewhere in my mind that thought of 'what if you would have fallen asleep or worked down below deck".
A few hours later the wind stops completely so I crank the motor and motor sail through the night.
Next day mornings while doing my regular check the next surprise surfaces. Having exhausted fuel tank No 1 I check tank 2's content but to my surprise discover that I got only a bit under a half full tank left and with the jerry cans and one hundred liter in the tank it doesn't look to good. I start calculating, measuring and guessing but if the wind keeps going like this we would possibly not quiet make it to Christmas Isle. The decision is made shortly after to follow plan B, calling into one of the Indonesian islands, preferably Bali but luck has gone the other way and we get headwinds increasing to 12 knots. The course needs to get changed again and I let George to steer us towards Roti Island, an island on the Indonesian archipelago. With fuel for only 2 days left we use every bit of wind and keep the yacht at 45 degrees to the wind motor sailing. We try to get to a safe anchorage before dark but around 1 pm the wind decides to quit entirely. Sails come down again and throttle forward is the order.
After a quick lunch I have to do my galley duties. Washing the dishes of the past 2-3 days which resulted in the next surprise, the fresh water pressure pump calls it the day and delivers only a fine drizzle as the most it can do. Out comes the toolbox and the pump has a full strip down on the table. The rubber membranes are gone, the pump becomes an "out of order" mind sticker and water flows now from the plastic container. Showers are written off as the best I can do is a little rinse with a bowl over the head and body. Time is flying and a timely arrival in Roti impossible so we change course again to the next neighboring island about 12 hrs away. Speed is set to get us there just after sunrise. With no wind and a flat sea free of any fishing vessels I enjoy a fine self cooked gourmet dinner and a glass of Kiwi wine before I lay down in the cockpit and close my eyes for a couple hours. It's a clear night and I enjoy being out there with the elements and the moon is watching over us.
Following morning I can see the island from a far and we head straight for the only marked anchorage on the Garmin plotter. The only concern is if I would be able to find any diesel, I keep a good outlook for any houses or even a holiday resort. Huge gray rocks in the distance with some palms around look almost like a roof of a building and next to it are a few huts making it look like very inhabitant. Closer to the island the sea rises quickly? to a depth of 20 meters, George is on the helm and I keep my eyes open for some boulders or reefs by leaning against the forestay. Just a few meters in front of me I notice some rather large and unusual water disturbances and it looks like a whirlpool. All goes so quick and all of a sudden out of this pool at huge whale surfaces and blows his fountain of water and air. My heart has stopped beating and I just wait for the impact as the whale starts diving right under the yacht.
Luck is on my side this time, nothing is happening but I am afraid that the whale would come back to chase me the "Intruder" away. Back on the helm I steer right towards the beach into shallower water and never saw anything again from this whale. Soon I find a good spot to drop the hook and Moonflower has its first anchorage in this country and on her voyage. The dingy is quickly dropped into the water and loaded with the empty jerry cans. Some islanders get together on the beach and look interested towards us. As Indonesia is well-known for the excellent surfing waves which are also present on this beautiful white sanded beach I look for a break in the reef where I can get safely to the beach. A local Islander gesticulates towards me and directs me between some corals where the waves break and the surf becomes manageable. The water is crystal clear and the right depth is hard to guess, I see a "bommy' right in front of me and turn around to lift the outboard motor's shaft and propeller to avoid any damage, so my full attention in this minute goes towards this task. A huge wave is approaching us in this moment I get caught by surprise. This wave than lifts the dinghy into the air and lands us head down first in the water. I am diving down under the dinghy and see that all my stuff gets washed away. Luckily I packed the money, passport and ship papers into a waterproof bag which I see drifting away in the current. A few swim strokes and I can grab that bag. When I got back to the surface I see the dinghy already washed ashore, the fuel drums and rudders floating next to it. But where is the outboard? I swim ashore and some Indonesians come to my rescue. The old man who tried to guide me through the corals points towards where the accident happened and I gesticulate to him to ask the boys around for help and to locate the drowned outboard engine. A few minutes later one of them finds the motor, he dives down and when comes up again he shows his full pride with a big smile in his face and together we land the O/B ashore. There we mount it back onto the dinghy and wash the sand as good as we can from the engine. Honestly I didn't believe that this engine would ever start again but after a few pulls on the cord the motor becomes alive. I feel very happy that the damage is not that what I expected. Than we all sit together around the dinghy and I try to explain with hand and feet and signs drawn into the sand that I need some fuel for the yachts diesel engine. More and more locals join the scene and finally a girl comes forward who had learned a bit of English in school. They however do not fully understand what I am after and they want me to come with them into the village. We all jump on their individual motorbikes and drive through a dry field of grass and date palms, along grazing goats and huge pigs. Later we arrive at one of the better looking house of this poor Village. The people are very hospital and we sit again all down on a porch trying to communicate. Suddenly a man arrives and he introduces himself in good Asian English as the local high school English teacher. He explains to his fellow villagers what my problem is. About an hour later we are of to what I think is a petrol station but to my next surprise we enter the yard of another friend who deals with diesel fuel sucked via a hose from a big drum into 20 liter containers. I brought with me 3 drums which hold 25 ltr each and after some discussions they realize that I want them all full with diesel and not only the offered 20 liter in each drum. This however creates a little problem as they know only a 20 liter mark and the prize for it, anyway it gets worked out somehow and the fuel finds its way into my drums. Job well done and to show my willingness to pay I reach for my wallet pulling out US dollar notes but they say that they do not take US dollars as they got no use for it and the next bank is very far away from them. What a day I think. We head back to the teachers house, without my drums of course and at the arrival the problem is quickly explained to him. He smiles and grasps for his purse and offers me to exchange the needed amount. We head back to pick up the fuel, I pay my depts. and on three motorbikes we make our way back to the beach in a convoy where each motorbike has one driver and one guy who holds a drum full of diesel. Back at he beach the drums are loaded into the dinghy and while swimming we are able to maneuver it through the swell and corals into deeper water towards the yacht at anchor. As soon as we passed the danger zone I climb inside and to my surprise all of my new acquired crew does the same. What can I say, I just let it happen and we end up to be 13 guys in the small 2.6 meter long craft, quiet amazing I notice. The engine starts with a few coughs and heavy overloaded we make it back to MoonFlower. I refuel my tank and explain that we need to do the same again if possible, they just smile and jump into the water and we all make it back to the beach. The second time it works out without any drama to get safe to the beach, they defiantly know which way to choose through the coral banks. Also the second run goes a bit quicker and only 2 hours later we are back on the yacht again with more fuel. Now more villagers arrive at the yacht by using their dugout tree canoes. For the first time I see that they actually handcrafted something using nothing but simple tools, no nails, no ropes, they use raw rock, metal and natural fiber, and all is very rough carved but it floats and does it purpose. The yacht fills up with Indonesians now, all eager to see how it looks inside and I show them my yacht and rooms down below. They can't close their mouth as they have never seen anything like this, there is no TV in the village and only the chief has a little battery operated shortwave radio, hanging on a leather string around his neck. I offer them ice cold sodas and the kids get cookies and lollies and everybody is happy. The teacher asks if I would have some pens for him to give away to his students and I happily give him all the pens and ballpoints I can find.

I got enough fuel loaded to reach Bali and they have had an exciting day in their lives. The clock shows 5 pm and I kindly tell them that I need to get going and they leave smiling and waving while jumping into the water. Together they swim or paddle to shore. As soon as they reach the beach they cumulate on a sand dune while waiting for me to disembark. I get myself organized, hand winch the anchor up as another surprise surfaces, the solenoid gave way to rust and made it another broken part on my journey. This will be defiantly on my next checkout list for future voyages. Exhausted but happy I look and wave over to my new friends.
The sun is setting over the calm sea and MoonFlower motors nicely into the last sunrays.
During dinner I often think back about those "real" and "consumer un-damaged" villagers. My heart fills with a very nice, warm and soft happiness, having being able to meet such pure humans and their natural kindness. I promised to be back one day and look forward to see them again. A fine ending to the first week at sea on this adventurous trip.

The following morning I am a bit tired due to yesterday's long exposure to the strong sun and all the excitement and hard work I had over that day. I can feel a lot of pain in my body and so this day is scheduled for a good rest. All work is postponed for next day and I relax in the cockpit with reading and flipping through my old yachting magazines. The little wind has now changed to a nice breeze of South South-Easterlies, cooling the hot air down a few degrees. The remaining day is without any dramas and turns out into a beautiful day of sailing.

After a breathtaking sunrise I feel much better today and regained some valuable energy from yesterday's lazy day. Last night dinner was a can of baked beans, grilled steak and potatoes, some solid food, which is most likely responsible for the newly gained power. Light winds and motor sailing with "George" on the helm I make myself available for some galley duties, cleaning up, washing dishes and searching through the supplies in the fridge and freezer. The day goes by eventless, only a pot of dolphins joins in after lunch and gives me an escort while playing around the yacht. Some of them emerge fully out of the water and I see great artistic jumps and a stimulating joy affects my being. What a great show, natural and free of any charge or burger munching tourists.
The GPS reads 130 Nautical miles to Bali and I should arrive there during the next day. As the pilot books recommend not entering Bali during the night I adjust my speed for an 8 am arrival at the entrance to the port.
Shortly after midnight I pick up a mayday call from another sailor, a Swedish 28 footer yacht with 4 young sailors on board. I respond quickly and alter course to intercept with them. They have an engine malfunctioning and are unable to get into Bali on their own. They have been trying for the past 3 days, sailing during the day and nights but were taken back by the strong current in the afternoons and this situation left them in a no win situation. As soon as I see their yacht I remember them from sitting in the Darwin marina a few berths down MoonFlower's own mooring. We arrange a strong towline and hook up their yacht and head into a misty morning. MF's strong Perkins engine pulls us through the swells and current and we arrive safe at the entrance to the harbor. The wind is in our favor and they can manage to sail into Bali's harbor. I spear ahead and navigate towards the Bali Yacht Club. Strong traffic in the channel holds me right at the channels edge and on the starboard side of the harbor. I misjudge a suspicious green marker and MF thereafter runs aground on a sandbank. My first one ever. I try to free her by reversing but the fast outrunning tide wins this battle. Even with the help of fellow yachtsmen we cant get her free and so I give up and settle for sitting aground till tide change, all but a few meters away from the pier. The whisker poles are brought into action preventing MF from falling on her side, and the water depth has gone down to just half a meter. After MF is safe and sound aground I radio over to the club and get a ride over to the pier. There we head straight for the bar for a ice-cold beer. My plans for the day, a quick stop-over with refueling and water bunkering has evaporated into the hot air and when I am approached by customs officers all my plans to reach Phuket for the Kings Cup are dwindling fast. As it is my own true luck, the day today is a Saturday and all offices are closed. Not because of being Saturday but also because it's a public holiday. That means waiting till Monday morning, 3 days hold-up that I don't really have. I give in to the higher nature of the situation and try to make the best out of it.
Other "locals", yachtsmen from every corner of the world who are either here for a stop-over or a winter break advise me to have enough Rupees available on Monday as officials don't appreciate US dollars for payments of visa, harbor or any other "special" fees they might need for their services. I take a trip with a ridicules expansive cab driver, he charges more than a New York Cabby, to down town where I am able to exchange moneys. Back a few hours later and loaded with millions of rupees I enjoy another ice cold beer at the skippers bar and meet up with the 4 Swedish sailors who I rescued the night before.
Its Saturday evening and a good party gets going on the pier, the Swedish crew is now secure in a mooring with a few other nationalities sitting together with some hired Indonesian crewmen of Hong Kong based racing yachts. My own yacht is now safe and sound tied up next to the fuel station, ready to take some diesel and carry on whenever the authorities let me continue. During a walk on the pier I run into a couple from good old Austria who moored their Amel yacht SV Sabrina for a winter break in Bali and together we finish their last bottle of Australian wine over a good chat and sailing stories. Later I mix with the party crowd and we sing along till the wee hours. Two of them have guitars and a songbook and plenty of Indonesian Arrack gets washed down our throats. Life's so good in the company of fellow yachtsmen on a Saturday evening in a cosy marina.

I have my first sleep in the cabin bed for days and wake up with somebody banging on the window at 9 am. To my surprise it is a custom officer. He offers me to help, which I highly appreciate. During the next hours I am able to meet the harbormaster, customs and immigration officer and it costs me a smile and a few dollars in "special fees" to get all necessary stamps and papers. Everything turns out nicely; I get a cruising visa for Indonesia, fill up with fuel and water and by 2 pm sail out of Bali harbor. What a change in happenings and so unexpected. My hopes of reaching Phuket in time are high again and the sailing out of Bali's harbor is a very enjoyable ride. This gets even more exciting as the two racing yachts catch up with me at nightfall and I use all my tricks and skills from previous racing to keep up with them. We have good headwind and I can keep MF close-hauled and with a apparent wind angle of 50-60 degrees I read 9.5 knots speed and we're flying, oh what a feeling......after so many days of windless sailing.
I hold up with them for a good amount of time but as we reach the end of the channel the wind drops and the two yachts pull away and soon become just two "sticks" on the distant horizon. For me its time now to change directions and the GPS reads 950 nautical miles to Singapore.
The following morning I have done two weeks out at sea, a reason to celebrate. During the afternoon I organize myself a good dinner and some wine in the fridge. Though very lonely I enjoy being out at sea and to be "at one" with the elements.
Next day is as good as any other only with the exception of a tropical rain shower in the afternoon. I rush down to get my soap and shampoo and enjoy this welcome warm shower on the aft deck. MF also gets a good wash-down from dust and salt.
The sailing through the night turns out to be a scary one, thunder and lightning and many Indo fishing boats ahead of me. The night fills with strong spotlights and I got up to a count of 120 boats within a few miles. Some of them come very close and I zigzag through their courses, always watching out for their fishing nets in tow. Wind is picking up more and more bringing a few squalls towards me. Two small birds take refugee on the bow near the windlass and stay with me till next morning.
At 8 am the wind drops completely again and we motor sail during the day. Now we are looking out for squalls to have some wind and late afternoon we are approached by a huge and dangerous looking one. Lightning is nearby and it is too late to outrun this one. Everything gets secured and tied down, sails reduced to 2nd reef, the inner forestay sail comes out while the Genoa rolls up to a handkerchief size. For the first time I am a bit scared, not so much of the wind, we have been through much heavier weather on Australia's East coast but the close lightning strikes give me the creep. To close for my taste, far to close. I am worried and secure my harness to the steering pedestal. My good old Garmin 12 GPS comes out of the emergency bag and I quickly punch in my coordinates, just in case we get hit and I loose all electronics on board. The thunderstorm holds out all night and next morning doesn't look any better though. Strong squalls and changing wind directions makes us zigzagging and I try to out-run the stronger thunderstorms. At night the fishing boats come out again and besides avoiding the weather I have to look out for the fishing trawlers too. The situation clears up and by 2 am we hardly see any other vessels and the weather has passed us thankfully. Not so next day, again we face heavy squalls and during one while using the engine to outrun a big storm we get hit hard by strong side winds and the boat heels dangerously over to portside. This heeling resulted in an air intake of the fuel line as the diesel in the tank swaps to either side. This air bubble in the fuel line is enough to stop the engine. Now we're going through rough seas and I am not able to "breath' the engine. All efforts during the night to solve the problem are fruitless and battery power drops to a critical low. Lights, instruments and autopilot would use up the most of the remaining power which is left in my battery banks so I am forced to safe energy and therefore I put myself on the helm till dawn, George has his well deserved night off even he never complained so far. During mornings I clean all fuel filters, pump fuel through the lines, bleed the engine and try every possible way I know but she wouldn't start. Having been up for more than 2 days and nights without a minute of sleep I give up for the moment and relax in the cockpit. I have another cup of tea and while recuperating I go through all possibilities and with new effort I attack the problem once more. But my head is not able to think straight anymore and the last attempt ends up with a totally quiet engine, she didn't even cough. I realize that this is how far I can possibly go with my expertise and resignation crawls into my mind.
The next big problem arises at the same time, we face a "No Wind Clear Day, beautiful for a day out fishing I think but not of any use for us. We are helpless and drift in the current towards a reef and some rocky islands. I have no other choice as calling for help over the radio.
I recive a few responses from ships but answers as "I get back to you in a Moment" are all I really get. I set up my anchor, ready to drop the hook as soon as I have any grounds under my Kiel. So I could secure MF and wait for real help to come. I am not sure if Indonesia has a coast guard but I am prepared to us my HF radio to reach the Australian Customs or Coast Watch.
Around 11 am I get a response from an oil tanker, the.................... of British Petrol.
There are some good sailors still out there, the ones who care and I feel so happy when they reply to my securite call on the VHF radio. The Captain and I exchange co-ordinates and he assures me to be with me within a few hours, though they are almost 80 miles away. He must have noticed my exhaustion and my disturbed voice, though I haven't been panicking yet. But thoughts of loosing the yacht and maybe my life are circulating in my minds.
During the waiting period I tried again to start the engine but she has decided not to turn over at all. With my petrol generator and solar panels I am able to charge the batteries until the arrival of the tanker. Than later the Capt. calls me again and I can see the ship coming on the far horizon. I can't believe that this actually happening to me. The tanker arrives and stops just a hundred meters away from me. What a captain I think, knowing from ships how hard it is to bring a tanker of that size to a full stop just meters away. They put a small craft into the water for the emergency crew and head straight over for MF. With great hopes I welcome them and let the engineers board MF. We have a little chat and those 2 young Scottish sailors head down into the engine compartment. The filters are checked and fuel lines bled but still no running engine. My hopes are dwindling away and I have all sort of ideas shooting through my head. What would I do if she doesn't start up, where would I get help and repair, who would tow me into the next harbor, those thoughts give me the creeps all along. We go through the whole scenario why the engine stopped and what happened after and the things I tried myself to get her going. We bleed all fuel lines again, one after the other and suddenly as the engineer opens a bolt a strong whistle blows into the air. Somehow there was some air trapped in a chamber and finally it got released. We all make sure that all fuel lines are free of any air and that all is tight and here comes the test, crank the engine skipper is called from down below. On the first turn of the key she starts up, a bit shaky at the beginning but than she runs free and without any troubles. God bless those engineers who came to the rescue.
I am so happy to have my "Old Lady Perkins Diesel Engine" running again. I forgive her all the pain I had over the last hours. The engineers pack up at once and I thank them by handing over one of my best bottles of Scotch. To my surprise they deny, Capt.'s order, No hard drinks allowed on board, light beer only. I offer to send it over for the Capt. But no, the grog stays on MF. The Capt. and myself exchange a few words and I thank him with all my heart for being such a seaman.
Just before dark, MF is cleaned up and ready to head into the next adventure.
All my praying for wind is heard the next day, it blows strong head-on and we sail up-wind for almost the whole day. A few squalls and thunderstorms after lunch make the wind shift and now it's in our favor. Good sailing for a few hours but the night lies ahead and I am very exhausted from all the action the day before. But I am very motivated, the equator crossing lies 2 days ahead of me. Next day the wind plays up again and delivers the usual squalls we need to chase. Those are the only highlights for the day. Tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow we cross the equator and enter the northern hemisphere
The plan for tonight is to have a nice dinner and a drink before celebrating the crossing with a bottle of champagne. The darkness comes very quick, night falls fast and at 6:30pm it is pitch dark. We cross at 10 pm sharp and champage is flowing in my first ever and own equator crossing. Unfortunately dinner had to be cancelled as we had to much wind and strong squalls to battle. So many windless but beautiful nights we had so far over the past trip, so why does it have to be so nasty tonight, these are my thoughts for the night watch but as Mum always said, Tomorrow is another day and hopefully the sun will shine bright again. But it really doesn't matter anyway, we have made it and the equator has been crossed and me and my good old buddy Neptune had a few glasses of champagne and some good old rum.
Next day's weather is very similar but at nightfall the wind drops and by 6 pm it died off completely.
The motor gets cranked on again and we motor sail towards the northern half of the world. I do my preparation for the night party, we missed yesterdays celebrations, as suddenly the engine sounds like being choked. Oh no I cry out, not again. I get back into the cockpit and crank her over in neutral and she starts up as nothing could stop her. The gear shifts in, throttle forward but no response, just a cough and finish, engine's dead. What could that be? I remember the warnings and the many sights I had previously of the floating fishing nets in Indonesian waters. While getting the torch my hopes are for a undamaged propeller and a quick resolution. But it isn't so, a bunch of old ropes and fishing nets together with some floating devices hang on from the starboard side. With the gaff I pull up some ends but nothing basically happens, the ropes are very strong and wrapped around the prop. Only a sharp knife can help here. Out comes the sharp bread knife which I tie to the boat hook stick and than I begin cutting her loose. The result is poor and I decide to get snorkel and mask and get a close look on what could still hold us up. The yacht swings up and down in the present swell and it becomes dangerous to work the prop free. A few moments later I make the decision to get the dive gear out to have better chances cutting through the thick bunch of ropes wrapped around the shaft. I holster the dive gear and jump back into the water. I am secured with a rope connected to the yacht. While diving I push all thoughts of having sharks around and under me far away and begin cutting through the bundle. The knife is sharp and it takes only a few minutes till we are free again. The bunch drifts away in the strong current while I rush back on board again to clean up the mess I made earlier.
Now I am to exhausted to cook my planned gourmet dinner so I get myself a can of chilly beans and some sausages, chuck it into the frying pan and while it warms up on slow heat I have a good shower with the bucket. God, how much I would have loved a functioning shower at this time.
Never the less I enjoy my late supper with one of my last beers before I retire in the cockpit.

Next day has good wind and sailing is a pleasure, no engine needed for the whole day. More ships are appearing on the horizon, Singapore is getting close and we are altogether 21 days into the trip. I sail along the shipping lanes left side to avoid any big ships but this puts me also in the danger of the many floating fishing nets set out here. It's a beautiful night and we make good distance and by morning we reach the entrance to the Singapore Straits by passing the well-known lighthouse????? on starboard side. The sun rises quickly and soaks up the rest of the rain clouds far behind us. The wind is coming from the aft quarter pushing the yacht into the channel. I decide to opt for the channels middle lane where I guess that it would be the safest place to be. Merchant ships and oil tankers are passing us in either direction sailing with full speed and I feel the "rush hour" of the straits. Some of the ships get so close to us that I could throw a rock to them and quiet often now I need to change our course to avoid being run over by them. But it is one of the most exciting and adrenaline rushing sailing I have ever experienced. The whole impression feels like we are on a downhill run, speeds of 10-12 knots are clocked on the GPS, flat sea and just the right amount of wind to have full sails up and a comfortable sailing. Oh what a feeling, oh what......
After a quick run we are down in Singapore and I opt for the Singapore sailing club to have a days stop-over to refuel my fuel tanks. Unfortunately we have to run against a outgoing tide in this river where the club has its pier. Singapore is quiet big and so it takes until lunch to reach the club. To my bad luck the club does not have any diesel available, this should be noted in the cruising guide as it is quiet exhausting to motor for so long up the river. I try to get some jerry cans filled from a petrol station but got told by a club employee that this isn't possible anymore since the terrorist attacks in Bali and New York. They advise me to head for the Armed Forces Yacht Club to try my luck. Singapore is a world port with maybe the most oil tankers around and I have troubles to get 400 liters of diesel, something isn't quiet right I believe as I head back down the river. The tide has changed in the meantime so we are forced again to go against the current.
Just before 4 pm I get to the hidden and tricky entrance of the SAFYC and the club staff guides me in safely, though a big thunderstorm has developed and it rains like the last day on earth. Wind is gusty with 25 knots of speed and from every direction. I reefed down before and I am quiet happy that I did it, even the storm lasts only for an hour, but with all the ships traffic in the harbor you cant take any risks. After I maneuvered through the entrance with the help of the yacht club crew I feel safe, the wind ease now and blue skis are appearing again. I secure the yacht right infront of the fuelpumps and the guys get organized for the refueling.
I am surprised by the friendliness they have to foreign yachts. They refuel MF, both tanks and all my jerry cans and not a drop goes onto the deck. I have nothing to do and this is a nice change. I chat away with the marina manager while the boys do all the work and we speak about other yachts and we find out that we both know some of them. He invites me to use all the facilities the club has to offer which I greatly do. The first thing however what I need is a ice-cold beer from the bar. It actually gotten up to 3 before I hit the shower and this shower must have been the best facility I ever seen in any yachtclub worldwide. It's as clean as it gets, fresh flowers, orchids of course as you are in Singapore, a helping hand with soap, and body lotion and perfumed towels are here to make it a lifetime experience. Just before I stepped into this "luxurious bathing temple" I had already ordered a chicken curry with my waiter and by the time I get back to the restaurant it is freshly cooked and steaming hot with beautiful jasmine rice and sweet chutney on the side. I feel like in heaven this afternoon and it strikes me to stay here for ever but the call of the sea is whispering into my ears and so I get ready to take off again. On the approach of the marina you have to pass a area of high security, it's the Singaporean navy base and well guarded. Though I knew about this from coming in earlier but somehow the happiness must have blinded my mind, or was it the beers I had with my dinner, I don't know but as soon as I cross the unseen line the alarm gets off. I put the throttle forward and try to escape this area in the hope the alarm would stop. It didn't and shortly after the alarm gone off I can see that some Navy speedboats are heading towards me and I fell being in trouble one more time. On the GPS map I notice that I have left this high security area and therefore the Navy boats also change course but heavily search the area I had crossed. Divers are deployed into the water while the boats run up and down the line. My sails are quickly hissed now and we speed away from the Navy grounds. Night has approached now and we sail past Singapore with a full lit skyline and hundreds of boats and ships in the channel. Around 6:30pm the tide changed and we experience a very strong current running against us and I need to run the engine almost on full throttle to keep going, wind has dropped again and it feels like running against a strong river. Later when we pass the cargo port the overheating and oi; pressure alarm sounds and the engine stops. Oh my God I think, what's happening now? Merchant ships and tankers right and left, no power and no wind in the sails we are at the mercy of the elements and our luck. I got no choice and report my situation to the harbor control which has already seen us on their radar screen moving backwards in the current. I advise them that I am single handed sailing and that I need to go below to ascertain the engine problem. They send out a securite warning call to all ships approaching my coordinates and keep an eye out for any possible collision. I have a strange feeling in my guts but no other choice than to go below and see what's happening. In my mind I have that if we get hit by a ship than this is the way it is and the only thing I need is a bit of luck. Down in the engine compartment it is sticky and hot steam hangs in the air, the first thing I griped was the water bottle and after carefully opening the engines water cooler tap I poor al the contents into the thirsty engine cooler. I watch the heat gauge come down to normal and after filling it up to full line I carefully start the engine again and luck was on my side, she runs again like new. On the radio I hear the control guy warning an approaching tanker and I get as fast as I can on the helm. In a not so far distance I see the lights of the tanker dangerously looking down at us. I put the gear in and throttle forward to get us away from any danger. The engine runs well however my eyes are glued to the temperature gauge if there are any movements from the needle. She nicely holds up at 80 deg. C running temperature and off we go on our planned course. I radio in to the harbor watch that my problem is fixed and that I am on my way again and thank the controller for their professional assistance. Getting through the Singapore straits is quiet an experience. The first part was done during the day and second part at night. We are on our way and being passed by many other boats I noticed that the tankers have water guns spraying along both sides and down their aft sections, it looks quiet funny in a way but its prevention from being boarded by pirates. I have a small encounter myself as two suspicious boats are coming very close to us during the night, those are rotten looking fishing trawlers with high powered diesel engines doing at least 30 knots of speed. They come close bye and their unlit boats and as soon as we are within calling ditance they shine their powerful search lights onto us, taking a quick look before heading off again. Maybe I don't look being worth anything for them. It's good for me I think while I put out a short prayer into the night. Morning is approaching and so does the Malacca straits. I am glad that the sun comes up, I feel safer now having passed the dangers of the night. We have a bit of wind and the engine is ticking over and with 7 knots of speed we make good distance. I just want to bring this pirate infested area behind us. The whole day nothing really happens and we sail along. I take short breaks and rest in the cockpit to get some energy back into my system, a long night is ahead of us. But it is not as exciting as last night, I see patrol boats running up and down in the straits, and ships are closer together than on a normal base. George is steering his set course and we are happy chappy. I try however to make it through the night awake but at first light I pas out in the cockpit. A deep sleep of exhaustion overcomes me; the physical exhaustion is fueled by all the excitements and survived dangers of the past days. This puts me in a deep coma like sleep for about 3 hours. I wake up by sheer intuition; this is now for the second time that I have a guardian angel whispering into my ear that I need to look out. So I open my eyes, close them again and after reopening I realize that the thing I am seeing in front of us is not a bad dream. Only about 5 meters and straight in front of me is a Malaysian fishing trawler, no pirates, a real fishing vessel towing its net behind him. I have no idea how it got there or how we got there so close behind. The fishermen look scared and so do I. With sign language I apologize to them and make them known that I fell asleep and did not see them ahead of me. They must have been there for a while and my guessing is that I was running behind them with higher speed catching up to them after a while. Than as there was no reaction or course change from us they had to watch me and adjust their speed to mine. I was motor sailing with the mainsail full up and a reef in the genoa. Last time I looked on the gauge I remember doing 4 knots and now as the wind had freshened up we are on 6 knots. So the fisherman had to speed up too, I was already in their net area and because of their increased speed the net was dangerously up to the surface. Imagine the shock in their faces and mine. A few minutes of thinking how it would be best to get out of this situation brings me to only one solution. Speed up and get as close to the trawler as possible before turning hard to starboard. It needs to be almost in a 90 degree angle and with enough speed to reach past the trawling lines. I gesture to the crew what I have in plan and surprisingly they understand right away. Maybe they had gone through all the possibilities too and thought that would be a good way to clear their tow.
So I wave to them and give signal about what I will do now. MF speeds up and the bow almost touches the trawlers aft railing before we swing hard to the right. I can see their scared faces and starring eyes when we turn. The captain of the fishing vessel lightly pulls to port to give me more way. I disengage the gear now, we have enough speed and after a few seconds of waiting if the propeller touches the line or net we are free.
We are free and wave with our bare hands to each other. God knows what disaster this could have been. I rush down below and cool off with a shot of rum before getting back on course again, knees a bit shaky and soft. This was by far the scariest breakfast sailing I have ever been in.
The rest of the day goes eventless and just before dawn a flock of dolphins give us company and while digging into a hearty dinner I watch them jumping and playing beside us. Artistic jumps, airborne twists and other spectacular plays make this the show I always wanted to see in nature.
During this adventure loaded single handed trip I make friends with the birds which joined us just for a rest during the day or through the night or even the small pair of birds who sought sheltering refuge under the dinghy and rolled up sail in the thunderstorm. The dolphins which played along the side and all those creatures that came for a visit they all become part of this trip and happiness fills my heart.
Tonight I send a toast across the oceans back to Austria where my lovely aunt Anni celebrates her 70th birthday.

The following morning we run into many more of the rainsqualls filled with thunder and lightning. We however are already used to this and for this reason well prepared. The end of the Malacca Straits is in front of us as we sail past busy townships. Today we catch a nice size Wahoo and plans are to simmer the fillets in Thai read curry sauce with coconut cream and steamed jasmine rice. Just to make the appetite for the final destination grow a bit more.
The wind is good during the last distance of the trip; we pass Penang and head for Langkawi, an Island near the Malaysian coast. All of a sudden the yacht starts running in circles, what's happening now? Have we caught another fishing net or lost steering. The weather is fine with a light breeze and I can't see any signs of fishing nets floating nearby. I put the gear in neutral and kill the engine. The next thing is to disengage George the autopilot and check the steering, but all seems fine to me. So I start up again and set course and than realize that the autopilot doesn't hold course and the compass heading is not what it should be. Has George lost his mind and gone crazy over the last leg. I remember that it happened once near Bali when we encountered a strong magnetic disturbance. So I switch him off and let him rest for a while and motor sail along with myself on the helm. How tiring it is after being so used to have the autopilot on at all times. I wait for a while than switch George on again but the result is the same, he doesn't want to do what he is supposing to. Out comes the hand book and I read all through but nothing in the troubleshoot section points to his misbehavior. So I opt for a recalibration and work myself through the pages. Meanwhile the wind freshened up a bit and it becomes difficult to steer the yacht and calibrate the autopilot. We have to go in circles for 3 times and George should find his positioning. So we do this a few times as we miss punch several times and after the third unsuccessful try we give up. George is dead. I sail along hand steering MF over lunch and about 2 pm the wind eases again so we give it another go on the calibration task. This time I am already better trained and I have my plan of attack ready setout in my head. And it works after the first trial. We are in business again. George is in control of the helm once again. A deserved rest is on the agenda and I let George do all the "hard" work, but still keep a close eye on the gauge, cant trust this silent crew member yet.
The wind gets stronger again and I am happy as we are sailing again without the engine and the silence is very welcomed. I can make up a few quick miles in this wind. We have now almost 20 knots coming from the shore and sail under full sails with good speed. The night approaches and no sign of letting the wind ease, usually the wind was dying around 7 pm, just after sunset but not today. I raise the staysail and bring in the genoa and prepare myself for a long night of rough sailing. The wind gauge reads now gusts to 30 knots and the swell gets bigger and bigger. As we are head on to Langkawi and the wind has shifted, coming now from strait ahead I decide to give this port a miss this time and head for Phuket. In the distance I see 3 other yachts changing their directions and leave Langkawi to starboard. It became now impossible to reach this island. I could heave to and wait until the storm has blown out but this could last for several days so I assume that heading to Phuket is a good choice.
The wind still blowing hard in this pitch dark night with occasional rain squalls takes all my last energy reserves, its cold and miserable but hopes are that tomorrow we will have out-run this depression. So we sail along, George is doing what he suppose to do. Later that night I have an encounter with a fishing boat as they come strait towards me, I change course but they do the same and I get very upset with this game and when they finally come into range they turn away into the darkness. The morning breaks and the sun brings warming rays across the ocean. We are still sailing on full speed and by lunch we have finally left the weather front behind us. The rest of the day is picture perfect and when I spot the first Thai fishing boats I fell very excited and know that we will be "home" very soon. We pass a few islands and sail along with the now homebound fishing vessels. Course is set for Challong Bay, the first entry into Thailand. Sunset is a dramatic beautiful one as only Mother Nature can theatrical create. We are getting quiet close to some fishing boats and I wave over and see those friendly faces I remember so well. The saved last 3 glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and a nice dinner make this just the perfect last night of this trip. Now the moon is up again with his full face, shining down onto us with his silver light.
The estimated time of arrival shows 4 am and the need to get into a safe anchorage drives me forward pushing me for a finish. 27 days at sea are done and I feel great with this achievement. Sailing into Challong Bay during night is exciting and I feel safe as this port is well set with navigation lights. From the distance I make out the long pier with all its lanterns and by 4am I drop the anchor for the second and last time of this trip. MoonFlower is safe and sound at anchor and myself a bit over excited cant find the well deserved sleep I need so badly. Next day morning I put the dinghy into the water and motor over to the pier and head off to Customs, Immigration and Harbor Master. The papers are done quick and efficiently though by my own luck with authorities and their official opening times it is a public holiday today again but the office is well manned and by 11:30 I report back to family that MF has arrived safe and sound in paradise. At 2 pm I am on the way again sailing past the well-known Prom Thep cape which is Thailands most South Western Land Point. Passing several beaches during afternoon I happily sail into Patong Beach at exactly 4:30 pm and by 6 pm I have my first beer in one of Patongs open bars and drinking holes. I have checked in at Sunshine Home via email and Gandy, the guest house owner welcomes me with a warm handshake. After some more "quick" beers I head up into my room for a long hot shower before I fall totally exhausted asleep. The shower is like heaven, with a smile in my face I call back to the days on board when I showered with a bucket in the cockpit or in a rain squall on the aft deck. Now I know how important it is to have a working pump and functional shower.
However it was a great trip and I would not hesitate to do it all over again. It was pure adventure and a lifetime experience even when I was sometimes very close to call it the last day in life. And guess what? I finish this story with a fine glass of.......................
Sauvignon Blanc and the music from Pink Floyd, how could it be any other way

Andre
Capt. Fearless

http://captfearless.googlepages.com/home
Slideshow Report as Spam

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: