2008 Sep – Crossing the Southern Indian Ocean
Hello to all !
Last time we wrote in November 2007, we had just arrived in New Zealand after a wonderful six months crossing the South Pacific from Panama and visiting many Polynesian islands. In Fiji, our son George was born.
We apologise to those of you who did not receive that email.
We spent six months in New Zealand, and aside from working on the boat, managed to fit in three months of touring the country by jeep and caravan. After arriving in Opua, a very small and friendly place, we moved down to Whangarei where we had found a pile mooring for our boat at a very reasonable price. We bought an old jeep and caravan to use for our road trip, packed the boat up and drove away to visit friends and places around New Zealand. It was good to be on land for a while, but very cosy in the caravan!
We visited friends in Auckland, Rotorua, Picton, Nelson and Christchurch, and managed to learn some paragliding as well, in Nelson and Queenstown. The scenery was fantastic in so many places, but the very best was the West Coast of South Island. Unfortunately this was where the sandflies (tiny biting flies) were worst, so we made a quick exit over the mountains to Queenstown where there were hardly any.
Daniel, Elaine and George were driven 200km by ambulance to the hospital in Invercargill when Dan broke his arm in Queenstown falling off a trampoline. Invercargill is New Zealand’s southernmost city, in a latitude similar to Guernsey. It is where at night Orion rises to the same height in the sky but is exactly upside down! It is also where Burt Munro, of the “World’s fastest Indian” fame lived. Southland hospital was excellent and the treatment was free. In the southernmost town of Bluff, Nigel turned over rocks to get five “paua”, larger versions of ormer, which tasted out of this world!
New Zealand is a land of opportunity in many ways, and it was tempting to stay.
We left finally in May for Australia, where we spent ten weeks cruising from Cairns, north inside the Great Barrier Reef to the Torres Strait, west across the Gulf of Carpentaria, and on to Darwin. Cairns is a very friendly and pleasant city, and the Great Barrier Reef is a great piece of water for enjoyable sailing with relatively flat protected seas. Some of the islands are lovely to visit and we snorkelled over the giant clams at Lizard Island, up to 4ft across! We swam with turtles at Low Islets, and watched large rays circle the boat near Darwin. In the deserted Wessel Islands we spotted wallabies!Â Australia is known for its large and hungry saltwater crocodiles and in most places it was not advisable to swim, but we never saw one. In Northern Australia for the greater part of the year you cannot swim at all because the water is full of the very poisonous box jellyfish, known as “stingers”, luckily our visit was in the cooler southern winter when these jellyfish are not present.
We spent a little time in Darwin stocking up the boat, where over 100 boats were waiting to sail with the rally to Indonesia. Relatively few are planning our route around South Africa. Even with all the rally planning, on arrival at Kupang all the yachts were impounded for several days! Our vague plan to visit Bali was soured by this news and we decided to avoid Indonesia.
We visited Ashmore Reef, 500 nautical miles west of Darwin, which is Australian and guarded by a customs boat. Snorkelling is good and we met some Indonesian fishermen there.
Then followed a 1050 nautical mile trip to Christmas Island, also Australian. There are wonderful seabirds, and other indigenous birds. Snorkelling right by the boat was excellent. The island is covered in red crabs who burrow in the undergrowth. Annual migrations to and from the sea take place in November.
Another 550 nautical miles took us to Cocos Keeling Islands, an Australian atoll in the middle of nowhere but good for some swimming and windsurfing.
Our plan for the rest of 2008 is to sail across to South Africa via Mauritius and Reunion. We leave today on our trip to Mauritius which is 2,300 nautical miles, about two and a half weeks.
We plan to arrive in Durban, South Africa in November and leave Cape Town in January or February 2009.
After that we plan to sail up the South Atlantic Ocean and may visit South America or even the Caribbean on our way back home.
We must admit some hesitation and trepidation to sailing again with three children, two of whom are so young. However once under way yet again we have found a routine which seems to work, and we are all enjoying the trip.
George recently had his first birthday, he is getting on well at walking and potters about on two feet a lot. He is a big baby, with a very pleasant temperament, and he is starting to understand many things we say.
Lisa was two in April, she is talking well. She loves swimming at the beach or in the paddling pool with George.
Dan is seven now and enjoys any time he can find with friends. He is getting on well with schoolwork, and at the same time he is soaking in all the details of our travels.
Our website has further information and photos about our trip, although I don’t get much time to work on it these days and it needs some updating right now!
We would love to hear your news too, please write.
Very best wishes
Elaine, Nigel, Daniel, Lisa and George.