Sunday, February 28, 2010

Across the Arabian Sea

On our last day in Uligan, manta rays once again graced us with their presence. After a morning swim, some tea onboard DK with our new Maldivian friends, Hussein and Imad, and a thorough lashing down of everything onboard, we lifted DK's 55 lb. Delta anchor and slipped through the shallow coral bomies heading towards the Arabian Sea. We were underway.

This was our first passage not submitting position reports and also our first going stealth through pirate waters. To our families and a few friends we emailed daily position reports and a little synopsis or our world. So, seeing that much has already been written, some of you may find it an interesting read.

Day 2
Local Time (5 hours ahead of GMT): 07:45
Local Date: Thursday, Feb. 11
Position: 08 15' N, 071 45' E
COG (Course Over Ground): 322 degrees Magnetic
SOG (Speed Over Ground): 5.8 knots (1 knot current with us)
Wind: light to none from the North
Distance to Oman: 1161 miles

We left yesterday at about 12:15. Two other boats left the day before, and 3 on the same with us, so there are 6 of us within 24 hours of each other. 2 of them are single-handers and 1 is a fast catamaran. Not a single boat is left in Uligan and at least 20 underway towards Oman that we know of.

Not much wind or else all the wind on our nose, so we have been motor-sailing since we left. Weather looks like we will start to get nice 15 knot NE in a couple of days to hopefully have some nice sailing. Today light clouds making it a gray morning.

Went through one of the shipping lanes last night. No problems except ALL the boats now have their AIS systems turned off, making our cool new instrument useless. Weird to be in a Sea where every boat, big and small, is being cautious of the pirate situation. In case some of you haven't read it, we recently posted a BLOG on the pirate situation on our site if you want to
learn a bit more.

So all good with us. Nic is sleeping and I am having my double bag of black tea on my first day off coffee again. blah. I so want a nice cup of french roast right now, but coffee and new passages don't mix well for my seasickies.
Nothing else to report. Mellow so far....

Day 3
Local Maldives Time (5 hours ahead of GMT): 08:15
Local Date: Friday, Feb. 12
Position: 09 55' N, 069 46' E
COG (Course Over Ground): 305-315 degrees Magnetic
SOG (Speed Over Ground): 6.5 knots
Wind: NE 12-17
Distance to Oman: 1011 miles

Looks like we went about 150 miles yesterday. Wind started picking up about 17:00 hours and clocked to the NE, thankfully. We've been scooting along all night and morning at 6-7 knots on a beam to broad reach. Nice. Seas still pretty small at 3-6 feet, so a little rolly, but overall no complaints as we are making miles fast.

Only bummers have been our wind generator stopped working and our toilet is plugged up, again. Yeah, I know, you can pretty much imagine my temperament dealing with taking the toilet apart and the head hoses off while on a rolly beam reach. Especially after the huge toilet job I just did in Langkawi not many months ago. Right now I have some muriatic acid soaking some of the head hoses, hopefully that will do the trick...

And, of course, now that we have great wind for generating power with our wind gen, it needs a big overhaul with new bearings and such. Basically, a fairly big job I need to do while at anchor that will take some hours to replace all the internal parts. Of course, what would a passage be without some things breaking and a list to fix once you arrive to the next port?? But the

We were stealth last night with no lights on. Went through some more shipping lanes and also Nic piloted through a group of 6 fishing boats. No problems. We are still pretty far away from where most of the pirate activity usually takes place, but we are being careful.

Not much out here. A few birds and flying fish, but pretty benign right now. We're not fishing as it's pretty rough and we are still pretty stocked with wahoo and mackerel from the Andamans.

Slowly getting into the passage rhythm again...

Day 4
Local Maldives Time (5 hours ahead of GMT): 07:45
Local Date: Saturday, Feb. 13
Position: 11 11' N, 067 58' E
COG (Course Over Ground): 300-305 degrees Magnetic
SOG (Speed Over Ground): 6.5 knots
Wind: NNE 10-15
Distance to Oman: 882 miles
Distance traveled last 24 hours (approximate): 135 miles

Wind stronger last night with more pushy seas at 15-20+ knots and seas breaking along our boat at 6-7 feet. Wet in most of the cockpit and waves constantly on deck. We reefed and slowed down a bit and just sat in the darkness rolling and bucking along.

Ships around from time to time, but no fishing boats. Sometimes when we get too close to a big ship we put our tricolor mast light on and they return by turning on their AIS for a bit. We both can see where we are better and our intended course. Then we pass each other and return to the darkness. Most of the big ships keep some navigation lights on though, but turn off their

Good news on the toilet. After about 4 hours straight yesterday morning dismantling the "whole entire" unit in the rolly seas, it is now fully-serviced and working the best it ever has. Thank the Gods (for all you "Battlestar Galactica" followers)! Yeah, you could picture it right, me, waking up in DK being pitched from side to side, no coffee, and back into the head for a really fun mix of greasy tools, poop water, and small delicate brass parts to put together in exactly the right way while the boat is throwing me and everything else all over the place. Fun. The good thing is that it is over with.

But, of course, a new problem now. Instruments and autopilot still on the fritz. Sometimes they just decide to stop working. Nice. Thankfully with our new chart-plotters that have GPS built in, we are still up with that system with our chart, plotting, GPS, and radar. The things that go out are our electric autopilot, wind gauge, speed and depth. We don't "need" that stuff out here, but sure would be nice if i could finally figure that one out. Right now it is back on and i am testing it to see if it will work again for a while. Last passage it worked great for a few days, then all of a sudden, on the fritz for a day with it turning itself "off" every 5 minutes or so. Then, it decides it is working again, and does great for the next 5 days straight in all weather and sea conditions. Go figure.
Our monitor windvane is working great, though, and is doing most of the auto-steering anyway. As long as there's wind, we'll keep the monitor steering.

Still lumpy out so not exactly "peaceful", but at least we are making miles and getting closer to the home-plate.

Day 5:
Local Maldives Time (5 hours ahead of GMT): 08:10
Local Date: Sunday, Feb. 14
Position: 12 27' N, 065 41' E
COG (Course Over Ground): 300-305 degrees Magnetic
SOG (Speed Over Ground): 6-7 knots
Wind: NE 10-15
Distance to Oman: 729 miles
Distance traveled last 24 hours (approximate): 155 miles

Not much to report today. As they say in Thailand, "same same but different".

Winds still from the NE and moving from 10-20 knots. Last night on the stronger side with some pushy wet seas. This morning gray skies and seas and wind down a bit, but still moving along at 6-7 knots boat speed. We are always happy when we are making miles.

Toilet good and autopilot hasn't needed to be on since our windvane has been doing all the work. Our friend, Jim on SV Cardea, who is in Sydney, just emailed us about the autopilot. Seems he used to have the exact same problem and so have many other sailors he knows. The problem is with our Raymarine ST6002 control head which controls the brains of the system. It has issues. Nothing we can do about it now until we can send the unit back to Raymarine for a fix, but at least we know what the problem is. It's been like this ever since we left Palau when we put this new unit in. The funny thing, or not so funny to us, is that we replaced our autopilot because our old one would randomly turn itself "on" and take over the wheel. Not good when we have our windvane on as the 2 systems fight each other. But now our new autopilot likes to randomly turn itself "off". Classic. I just love marine electronics.

No other boat problems, just in our routine of sleeping, eating, reading......

No boats around for the last 24 hours which is good too. Almost half way to Oman and happy for it.

Day 6:
Local Maldives Time (5 hours ahead of GMT): 08:15
Local Date: Monday, Feb. 15
Position: 13 35' N, 063 17' E
COG (Course Over Ground): 300-305 degrees Magnetic
SOG (Speed Over Ground): 6-7 knots
Wind: NNE 13-18
Distance to Oman: 573 miles
Distance traveled last 24 hours (approximate): 160 miles

Gray skies this morning and cold cold cold. Weather has really changed at night these past couple of days as we get further north. Putting the layers on at night just like the old days sailing in California. Strange to actually be up this far north again, our first time since Mexico when we were at this northern latitude. Pretty sure we will have some chilly nights in the
Red Sea coming up too as it is full-on winter in the Med right now.

All good with us. Just plugging away the miles. Not much boat traffic in these parts and the wind has been pretty consistent from the NNE and NE at 12-20 knots average. We still have about a 1 knot current against us, otherwise we would be averaging around 7 knots/hour instead of our usual 6 lately. We are over half way there though, and happy for it. Weather is indicating stronger winds and bigger seas in the next couple of days, so we will get ready for a wet and sloppy ride with our beam reach point of sail.

Day 7
Local Maldives Time (5 hours ahead of GMT): 08:25
Local Date: Tuesday, Feb. 16
Position: 14 38' N, 060 59' E
COG (Course Over Ground): 290-295 degrees Magnetic
SOG (Speed Over Ground): 6-7 knots
Wind: ENE 13-18
Distance to Oman: 425 miles
Distance traveled last 24 hours (approximate): 150 miles

Did we mention that it is cold yet??? :) Foulie bottoms on at night for the first time since ???maybe 2 years ago in New Zealand, I think. Nic, of course, has at least 2 more layers on then me. Both of us are still holding out for shoes. We haven't worn shoes on this boat since, I know for sure, 2 years ago in New Zealand. Chilly in the wee hours of 0-dark thirty, but so worth it not to slip on the boat sneaks. We love being barefoot.

We are both still doing well. The highlight of the night was a phosphorescent dreamy episode on the sea. There was a couple of hours where all the whitewater from our boat and the breaking of the waves glowed a beautiful bright green from the abundance of little phosphorescent critters. With a new moon, and pretty much a black sky, the sea was still lit up from the amazing show. Never seen it so beautiful. We definitely get our fairy dusty phosphorescent nights, but the magnitude and luminosity of this one was over the top.
One to remember.

Besides the change in temp (which, btw, makes for great sleeping)and the dreamy glowing waves, we are still just in the zone. Nic is on her 4th or 5th book, and I am on my 3rd. Cooking still sucks in the galley with our point of sail and still the rolly swell where we are living "on the walls", but overall, no complaints as we are on the home stretch and still have great wind for sailing.

Salalah is supposedly a nice little compact anchorage and we think there must be over 30 boats there now. We tried to time our arrival right after the first big convoy of boats leave (20+ boats at once) on the 18th. Looks like our timing will be perfect for arrival on the 19th, as long as everything continues well.

Day 8
Local Maldives Time (5 hours ahead of GMT): 08:10
Local Date: Wednesday, Feb. 17
Position: 15 29' N, 058 32' E
COG (Course Over Ground): 290-295 degrees Magnetic
SOG (Speed Over Ground): 6-7 knots
Wind: ENE 15-20
Distance to Oman: 275 miles
Distance traveled last 24 hours (approximate): 155 miles

Sleepy morning as us not having changed back our clocks to Oman time has caught up to us. We are keeping Maldives time until landfall and now it is dark at 07:00 in the morning and, yes, cold. We have definitely been loving the cooler weather for sleeping though and really really enjoy not soaking our sheet in a pool of sweat every time we lay down.

Wind picked up most of the night to a pushy 20-25+ knots and bigger seas at 7-10'. We're on a broad reach so not too bad except for the occasional breaking wave high along our hull that splashes everything in the cockpit. It's called "getting pooped" in sailor lingo, and basically it just sucks. Just when you are warm and content wedged into the one dry corner of the cockpit, along comes a big 10-footer and crashes onto the transom sending a soaking wet deluge into our little world. DK is now thoroughly covered head-to-toe in a thick layer of salt on EVERYTHING, including ourselves. Sailing-wise we just reef-down and DK's been surfing the waves as we continue making 6-7 knots over ground.

Nic mentioned this morning before she tucked in that this is the first passage where she has really been counting down the days. Both of us just ready to finish this one off. Maybe the combination of us just having had a big passage and also that for the last 7 days we have been on this rolly heeled-over starboard tack where most things are difficult to do besides laying down or curling up in our pillow-protected corner of the cockpit under the dodger with the ipod or a book. We know it could be a lot worse, and really not that bad, but, honestly, we are just ready to be done.

Day 9
Local Maldives Time (5 hours ahead of GMT): 08:15
Local Date: Thursday, Feb. 18
Position: 16 20' N, 056 05' E
COG (Course Over Ground): 290 degrees Magnetic
SOG (Speed Over Ground): 5-6 knots
Wind: NE 8-12
Distance to Oman: 124 miles
Distance traveled last 24 hours (approximate): 150 miles

Ahhhh. The wind has turned more easterly and at last we are on a comfortable broad reach headed down wind. We had a great night surfing along at 6-7 knots even with reefed sails and a counter current. At last we could see a horizon line and our hands in front of our faces again. The sky was so clear the stars were piercingly bright. The sky was full of twinkling friends and we were both grateful for their company. Familiar constellations are slowly making an appearance again although at 10pm the big dipper looks ridiculous resembling a vertical lollypop.

We spent all night acutely aware of ships. Back in heavy shipping zones again. They travel without their AIS on and we are still traveling stealth and dark. The ships are really courteous though and turn their AIS units on around 5 miles away from us. We're not sure if it's a regulation or if they are just being kind. We respond by illuminating our tricolor mast head light until we're sure they've passed us or seen us or switched off their AIS again. This exchange always makes me smile for some reason. Then we go dark again and peer into the darkness for any other little ships that are trying to be invisible as well.

Saved three flying fish last night after hearing them "thwap" against our dodger and behind the cockpit. They are really uncooperative and flap out of grasp. The worst part about it is their wings you kind of have to pin them down to get a good hold on them, then there's their scales that come off with a really slimy glue. Then there's the stench. I've washed my hands numerous times and I can still smell them. Hopefully they're grateful and they actually manage to survive.

We are still holding out. Barefoot in the chilly darkness and all day. I did break down on my 4-7am watch and put on a hat.
Happily our toes are still free.

We should smell land tomorrow night and have our hook down sometime tomorrow after first light.

Day 10
Local OMANI Time (4 hours ahead of GMT): 12:05
Local Date: Friday, Feb. 19
Anchorage Position: 16 56' N, 054 00' E
COG (Course Over Ground): 0 degrees Magnetic
SOG (Speed Over Ground): 0 knots
Wind: NE 5
Distance to Oman: We're here!!!
Distance traveled last 24 hours (approximate): 130 miles

Land Ho! We're here! After a lovely peaceful day of sailing we had to fire up the faithful engine by afternoon. The seas were flat calm and the wind was nearly dead. Gar had to do a quicky fuel filter change underway without mishap, thank be the gods. Put put putting along we passed cargo and tanker ships headed every direction into the Red Sea, India, Oman... We motored all
night at low rpms against a one knot current. Normally we don't welcome a counter current but this was perfect for our am arrival. We kept company with stars and passed a sailboat (turns out it is a cat with 5 younger folks on board). At one point the sea was so calm we could see the reflection of stars on the surface. A bit eerie but a perfect way to end the passage.

This morning we were welcomed to the Middle East by 3 big pods of dolphins (love them), sea gulls, terns, and little birds that sit on the surface of the water and tweet tweet and scatter when we approach. The big orange sun rose directly astern and the light is different. Everything is a bit hazy, brown, beige and bleached bone dry. We are definitely in the desert and happy to be here.

We followed a container ship into this tight port. Now we're med moored with the help of a Kiwi boat and an American. There are 12 boats here now after having 27 leave yesterday in the first big convoy. Seven more are leaving in convoy in a couple of days. We'll work on our repairs tomorrow. Get a solid night's sleep and maybe even eat a big meal tonight.

My lids are starting to droop as I missed my am nap I was so excited to be here. Will write more when words come smoothly.


And so we find ourselves in Oman, our first Middle-Eastern country filled with a rich history, an abundance of camels, and some of the friendliest people we have met anywhere! Our life has been the usual balance of doing boat projects, hanging with some of the other cruisers, and exploring the town of Salalah and the fascinating countryside.

We are here until March 4th when we will depart with 19-20 other boats on a big organized convoy heading through "pirate alley" to Aden, Yemen. We are a designated "group leader" boat along with a Kiwi boat and two Dutch boats. The convoy should definitely bring about some quality stories. :)

Will write more about Oman soon

No comments: