Sailing to A Land Down Unda!

When I started this blog in July 2011, it was at the start of my circumnavigation of Britain. I set myself a task of writing a journal detailing each day, trying to keep it lighthearted, and dare I say, funny, it was not so much a guide to sailing but an insight into my thoughts and feelings as I embarked on my adventure.

Being a prolific blog writer can become a very onerous task, and I could be found in my cabin, long after everyone else had gone to sleep, busy typing away to capture the day’s detail whilst everything was still fresh in my mind. When we all went on land, whilst others were browsing or relaxing, I was busy seeking out places to use wifi to post the blogs, and glancing around for power sources to recharge my camera batteries and laptop.

Although onerous, I am so glad I did, because now I have a great record of my journey around Britain, something I treasure, and have created a blog which seems to be growing in popularity, with over 176,000 hits. You have just added another hit to the counter – why dont you leave a comment too, I would love to hear what you think!

Since that trip, Ive not kept my blog so much as a journal, just occasionally adding posts when the mood takes me, or when I find I’m doing something interesting, hence an increase in the frequency of my posts during this wonderful adventure sailing from Malaysia to Australia.

I am now about to set sail to Australia from Indonesia, from Kupang on the island of Timor, down to Darwin, taking an estimated 100hours (conservative estimate). I thought I might take the time to write my thoughts and feelings along this part of my journey, and write it as a journal, in Bridget Jones Style (minus the self help books!). It might make dull reading, but then again it might be enlightening, or maybe even cathartic for me, if nothing else, it will occupy my brain on this journey! As you sit at the helm with nothing to see but the ocean, it does give lots of thinking time. Thoughts constantly run through your head as you gaze out across the water, so I thought it might be useful to connect my fingers to these thoughts and see what comes out, here goes!

I normally write a blog which will occupy you whilst you sip a cup of tea, this time, I think you need to make a pot and relax, maybe even a nightcap, as this may well send you nicely to sleep…….

I have long had an ambition to sail around the world, and with this world consisting of 71% water, a significant proportion of this is in the Southern Hemisphere, there are alot of oceans and seas to cross. This journey from Indonesia to Australia, across the Timor sea is a mere hop skip and a jump, but to me, it is my first big crossing as it will take 4 days (and nights of course – no popping off to some cosy marina or anchorage on the way!). With only 2 of us on board, that means taking it in turns to be on watch and sail the boat while the other takes a rest. We have decided to do this in 3 hour stints, 3 hours is sufficient to take a decent nap, and just long enough to concentrate without respite, but for me, a woman who likes her night sleep, it is going to be a bit of a test.

When I sailed around Britain, on the Round Britain Experience We had some “crossings” but it was only down to the Scilly Ises from Falmouth, then from Scilly Isles to Milford haven (South Wales), and then again over to Northern Ireland. Definitely little hops, and with 6 of us onboard, we were always on watch with another person and never for longer than 2 hours, and of course, we only did this for one night. Now I’m faced with the prospect of 4 consecutive nights

I take my hat off to those who solo sail, how amazing that some do.  Look at Jessica Watson, who completed the 23,000 non-stop trip just before her 17th birthday! Or indeed to my dear friend Rachel Smith who crossed the Atlantic with a friend – but she wasnt in a cosy yacht like me, she was rowing, yes ROWING across the Atlantic, just her and a friend in a small rowing boat, no cosy cabin like me, and having to row the whole time. Their endeavours gained a place in the Guinness Book Of Records! So, click this link on Amazon Pop  “From Antigua to Bust” and order her fascinating book (go on….buy her book, she has worked so hard for it!)

So, this is my first crossing, it isnt an ocean as such, just the Timor Sea, but it will give me a good insight into how I might feel if I do embark on a big Ocean Crossing. I would love to sail across the Pacific, and think of all the lovely places on the way – Galapagos Islands are definitely on my bucket list, as are French Polynesia, Samoa, Cook islands, the list is endless.

Its very exciting crossing a sea, I have my fingers crossed for sightings of more dolphins, perhaps even a whale who knows. Trouble is, if we do see something in the distance, Daryl and I get very excited about these things, and we have to steer towards them and take a look, taking a detour. This is what we did when we sailed down from Adonara to Timor

Just a tiny 2 mile detour to see dolphins!

Part of our track from Adonara to Timor, with just a tiny 2 mile detour to see dolphins!

Thursday 11th September 3am-6am -Rest Time

The start of our journey down to Darwin.

The alarm sounded at 3am, we were all ready for action. Well, I wasnt particularly, as I decided I needed to finish and post my latest blog – “My Love Affair With Indonesia”, it felt only right that I should submit it whilst I was still in Indonesia, that, and the fact I had spare credit left on my internet that I wanted to use up before I left the shores (well, I am Welsh!!). The vagaries of the internet meant that uploading a blog with so many photographs was a frustrating task, and just when I thought I was nearly ready to publish, somehow half my blog just disappeared in front of my eyes! Being a determined character (some might say stubborn!), I gritted my teeth and continued to set it right. This led to a vey late night, and, having not showered since my dive earlier in the day, I went to bed feeling very unprepared, I knew I was going to start this journey knackered, and feeling quite grubby, not a great foundation for a 4 day journey!

Kneeling down on the bow, dragging up the anchor, thick with mud at 3am, I was rather regretting being a blogger and having such a late night, but, with the moon full in the sky, with just a gentle breeze, I had a good feeling about this journey and relaxed a little.

Daryl was taking the first watch, so I knew I would be on duty again at 6am, so I hurried to my cabin to get some sleep. That was of course, until I decided to check my emails, I knew I would be without internet for 4 or 5 days (imagine that!!), so here I am, also writing this. So, at 4.30, I’m snuggling down for a nice sleep!
Sleep during this rest time = 1 hour 15 mins

Thursday 11th September 6am-9am – On Watch

My first watch.

What a serious looking sailor!

What a serious looking sailor!

Yawning, I took my early morning brew and sat at the helm to get a hand over from Daryl, who said he had been very pleased that we had “sneaked” around the corner and not been hit by a choppy sea as we had predicted. I already knew this, as I lay in my cabin and felt the boat just glide through the water, making for a much easier rest.

I still have access to a signal and receive facebook messages. Ive already sent a message to my children telling them I love them, and that if I don’t make it to Australia, my last Will and Testament is to split everything between them

What a kind Mummy I am!

What a kind Mummy I am!

I’m sure they will see the funny side of it, and if I do die on this journey, it will hopefully raise a smile when its read out at my funeral!

We have around 1 knot of wind, which isnt great for sailing, but it is right on the nose at the moment, which means it doesnt slow us down as we motor forward. Its forecast to back (turn in an anticlockwise direction), and increase, so we should be able to get the sails up when it does.

Daryl is prepared for a bit of motor sailing!

Daryl is prepared for a bit of motor sailing!

The sea is nice and flat, the sun has risen and is glistening on the water, and life is good! Hopefully Daryl is fast asleep in his cabin and will feel rested when he emerges ready to relieve me from my watch at 9am. When he does, I’m going to jump straight into my bed and snooze for as long as I can. Then at the end of my break, before my next watch, I’m going to take a lovely shower and smell fresh again.

Thursday 11th September 9am-Noon – Rest Time

Daryl returned, and with no encouragement needed, I scuttled to my bed and to a blissful sleep. With nice, gently rolling swells, the boat felt beautifully steady, and I relaxed in my cabin and let the gentle roll of the boat rock me off to sleep like a baby in a cradle.

Have you ever had one of those lovely warm fuzzy dreams, you know, the one where the man of your dreams is there with you, not only is he there, but he thinks you are a goddess, and just as you are getting to know one another particularly well, the bloody alarm goes off!! Well, I had one such moment! In a lovely deep sleep, the man of my dreams and I were getting to know one another very nicely when a change to the movement and sound of the boat brought me back to reality. I was no longer in the arms of my Adonis, but opening my window hatch to take a look at why the boat had slowed right down. What I saw more than compensated for the disturbance of a lovely dream!

Look what I saw peeking through my cabin window!

Look what I saw peeking through my cabin window – not only could I see them but I could hear them all calling to one another!

As I mentioned earlier, I had hoped we would see whales during our journey. I knew they would be around, as I had read that one of the last whaling posts in Indonesia was on Timor, but I didnt dare hope we would get sightings.

These beautiful creatures gave us quite a show. We sat in amazement and watched them swim around us, curious it seemed about our boat. They would swim around, then head into the distance, and we would restart the engines and move slowly towards them.

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I have completed more than 350 dives in my time, but never been in the water at the same time as dolphins or whales, so I couldn’t resist, on went my fins, mask and snorkel, and with camera in hand, I jumped into the water

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I found it difficult to see through the viewfinder of my camera, due to the glare of the sun, and the fact that my maturity is creating an extra optical challenge, but I was treated to sightings of 4 whales who swam with me. Thats me in the water on the left, the whale on the right in case you are confused!

Whales with a woman from Wales!

Whales with a woman from Wales!

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All divers know what this sign means - for me, this means "bloody fantastic"!

All divers know what this sign means – for me, this means “bloody fantastic”!

The whales had moved on, I reluctantly exited the water, hoping we would get further sightings and I could jump back in again when we had caught up. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next!

I have experienced some very special moments during my diving. There have been many occasions when I have done my bit to protect the environment and felt that I have been repaid by mother nature. During a reef clean up 5 years ago, having filled a large bag with rubbish, five eagle rays swam by, in perfect formation, as if to say thanks for cleaning up our home.

"Cheers for tidying up mate"!

“Cheers for tidying up mate”!

On another occasion, as I was snorkeling, I had stuffed discarded plastic cups into my bikini (it was amazing how many my bikini held!), soon afterwards, a beautiful manta came by at the surface, swam past me, did a barrel roll and swam right back again to keep me company. He stayed with me for over 20 minutes, the divers on the reef below unaware of the wonderful spectacle at the surface as I had a manta all to myself!

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Karma at its very best, it was as if these wonderful creatures were expressing their gratitude.

Well today I experienced another such spiritual moment.

So excited from my swim with whales, we hoped to catch up with them again so we were overjoyed to see them rise again to the surface, I was ready to jump right in when we saw something amongst the pod we couldn’t make out. As we got closer we were shocked to find that 3 poor turtles had become entangled in a bundle of discarded fishing net, completely trapped and helpless, a very sorry sight to see. We immediately stopped the yacht, lowered the dingy into the water, and each armed with a knife, went to their rescue.

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This net looked like it had been in the water for some time, it had crustaceans attached to it, and had attracted a great number of fish, it was a like a mini reef system floating in the middle of the sea.

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The turtles initially struggled as Daryl gently cut through the tangle of rope, then almost as if they knew we were not a threat to them, they lay still for us to do our work, until they could feel their limbs becoming free.

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The first one freed, Daryl started to cut the tangle of rope from around the second, the rope was so twisted, particularly around its neck, it was amazing how it was still alive. How long had these turtles been here like this, just stuck there, each limb tied, just waiting to eventually die?

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Look at its poor face, how distraught it must have been

I cut through the net for the third, he was in such a tangle, with the unrelenting rope twisted and restricting every part of this poor creature!

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What a wonderful sight it was for us to see each of them gradually being released and watch them swim away to freedom!

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We were able to save the lives of 3 turtles today, and the whales had led us right to them! I don’t really think that was a coincidence. The whales had let us play, then asked for our help which we were more than ready to give.

I wanted to avoid any future turtles from getting stuck in this death trap again, as well preventing a hazard for any boats which may come by. My instinct was to get this net out of the water, to collect it up, take it onto the boat and dispose of it when we got to Australia, As the quarantine regulations restricted us even bringing a piece of fruit or a chicken egg into the country, I didn’t think they would react too favourably at the idea of us bringing a mini-reef system back! Daryl and I gathered it up as tightly as we could,

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tying it up amongst itself, it became slightly negatively buoyant, and with a duck dive and a push of the oar, the ball of net started to head into the depths, hopefully it will descend the total 1100metres below us

Down goes the death trap

Down goes the death trap

And hopefully descend so far it doesnt cause any further harm

And hopefully descend so far it doesnt cause any further harm

Sleep during this rest time = 1 hour

Thursday 11th September Noon-3pm – On Watch

My “rest” over, I was back on watch. Just in time to sort my photos and update my blog! I was tired, but exhilarated. What an experience.

One of the advantages of a shift pattern on a boat is that it gives you a defined period to be on duty, a time when you can relax when you are not on watch, without thinking you really should be doing something, like keeping the skipper company!

The other thing I like is the space it gives me, I have really enjoyed my times of isolation, just me and my thoughts. It can be very intense being with just one other person on the boat, like a married couple, but we are not a married couple, (I have to be mindful of that as I’m ripping my clothes off to quickly jump in the water to swim with the Dolphins!), Daryl already has a lovely wife, she is busy caring for her family in New Zealand (hello there Laurel!), and I’m assisting him take his boat back to their homeland to enable him to spend more time with his family.

Daryl and I have spent 10 weeks living together in a space measuring 50’ x 28’, before I arrived in Malaysia on July 7th, I had never met him before, and in true “Big Brother” style, we were thrust together to live in a confined space for 4 months. Don’t get me wrong, Daryl is an absolutely smashing guy, I love his company enormously, and have sat and talked about what seems every subject under the sun for many hours but I really value the time when I can have some space of my own, and I’m sure it swings both ways, and Daryl values the time and space he has away from me too!

Thursday 11th September 3pm-6pm – Rest Time

My second watch over, I retreated to my cabin, hoping to take a rest at last, not even bothered about meeting my Adonis again, when Daryl called me up once more as he spotted 2 more whales! We stopped, took a quick look but they had dived down, no chance to swim with them this time. Time to try to sleep. We are now more than 12 hours into our trip and Timor is still just about visible in the distance, it feels as if we are never getting away from it.
Sleep during this rest time =1 hour 30 minutes

Thursday 11th September 6pm-9pm – On Watch

My shift misses out on the sunset, and as well as its rising, so, feeling a little hard done by  I emerged early from my rest period to watch the sun set, thinking how lucky Daryl was to have this beauty during his watch when all I got was darkness (poor me!).

However, my shift had a beauty all of its own – the sun had already set, and with very little light left, the world around me got darker and darker, and gradually all the stars revealed all their glory as the little light from the sun slipped away.

An hour or so later, looking out into the darkness, I could see a shape, it looked so near, getting brighter and brighter, for a brief moment I thought, “surely that can’t be a ship” until my brain went into gear and I realised it was the moon rising on the horizon!

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I find it hard to find the words to describe its beauty, certainly my camera struggled to capture it, but I sat mesmorised as I watched it gradually rise, looking less like a ship burning on the horizon.

I was then surprised to see a bird circling around the boat, possibly a sea eagle, it didnt have the angular shape of the Frigates we had seen earlier, it passed by the boat, then came back round again, and around, in ever decreasing circles, I thought it was going to land on the boat and we were going to have an extra passenger.

I remembered my time sailing around the coast of Scotland, when a skewer did exactly the same thing. One of the other trainees onboard was a wonderful guy named John Varty, the Reverend John Varty no less.

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At the age of 66 he took on this trip to gain his skippers licence and circumnavigate Britain. He was a great companion on that trip, and writing this has reminded me how remiss I am not to have contacted him in so long, (an email coming your way shortly Reverend!). John is a keen ornithologist, something I know very little about, and any bird I saw I used to ask John to identify and tell me about it. I could really do with him now. What large bird would be out at sea in the dark and would complete circles of the boat, gradually making the circles closer and closer? I’m not giving you much information to go on here for identification John, no photos and no description, except it was large and didnt seem to have the frigate shape to its wings.

Anyway, my watch passed by quickly, and in what seemed no time at all, Daryl emerged from his cabin in a sleepy haze. My handover consisted of “The moon rose….oh, and I saw a bird!”

Thursday 11th September 9pm-Midnight – Rest Time

It was now 9pm on our first night, to my cabin for some sleep (and to update my blog!).
Sleep during this rest time = 2 hours
Total Sleep in 24 hours = 5 hours 45minutes

Friday 12th September Midnight – 3am – On Watch

Midnight soon came and another watch, Daryl had even less to hand over as he slipped away sleepily to take his rest in the cabin.

The sea was lit by the beautiful moon,

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there was barely a breath of wind as there had been for the entire journey so far, our folded sails untouched, the motors were purring beautifully away. The downside of little wind is no sailing, but having to motor, the upside is the sea state is usually very calm with a very gentle movement through the water.

I sat gazing out at the moonlit sea with nothing but my thoughts as 3 hours slipped effortlessly by. Just before Daryl emerged at 3am, we had now been on the move for 24 hours, and covered 118 miles, thats an average of 4.9nm/hour, not bad considering we had stopped to spend over 2 hours swimming with whales and rescuing turtles earlier in the day. We felt very chilled about this progress, and knew we could relax and take time to rescue any wildlife in need of our services along the way!

Friday 12th September 3am-6am – Rest Time

Just 24 hours into my journey to Darwin from Kupang, and already I have written more than three and a half thousand words, how can one day on the water provide me with such material to write about?

Back to my cabin for more sleep! I drifted off to sleep about 3.30am, into a deep and blissful sleep, woken only at 5.40 to sunlight streaming through my cabin window as the sun rose very quickly in the sky

My cabin is in the starboard stern (right side at the back), and as we were traveling in an Easterly direction, I was a little surprised to have such a good view of the sunrise, why was it rising in the South this morning? Of course nature hadn’t got it wrong, it was Daryl who had become excited by the prospect of some “sailable” breeze and turned the boat into the wind to raise the sails. I emerged sleepily as Daryl uttered “sorry, did I wake you” I’m not sure how anyone could sleep on a yacht when the sails are being raised, particularly when we were on a port tack and the Genoa had to be pulled on the winch directly above my head. Never mind, I really didn’t mind being woken ahead of my watch, Daryl unable to wait just another 20 mins for me to rise to get the sails up when we had been motoring for nearly 27 hours. It was a sight for sore eyes to see wind in the sails, the motors finally given time to rest, at least for the time being.

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Sleep during this rest time = 2 hours 10 minutes

Friday 12th September 6am-9am – On Watch

A very satisfying feeling moving across the sea with wind in the sails, it was short lived unfortunately, and would continue to tantalise me by building, then dropping, trying to resist reaching for the ignition to fire the engines back into life, it would then build again. Hey, it doesn’t matter, we have time up our sleeve, who cares if the boat is moving at 2mph, its just like walking to Australia!

Never matter, my watch is coming to an end and I can have a lovely peaceful rest in my cabin in these lovely still waters….that was….until….whats that, a pod of bottlenose dolphins heading towards us from behind. With no further thought, I shouted Daryl to come see.

I grabbed my snorkel gear, stripped down to my underwear and jumped into the water to go swim with my friends. How lovely to swim with Dolphins. Ive never done the typical touristy thing –

“sit in a pool with a tame dolphin who adorns the walls of thousands of family homes around the world, have a photo taken stroking its snout, and pay my extortionate fee”

A lovely thing to do I admit, but here I was in an ocean with my very own pod to play with. They do look so playful in the water, sliding along, passing over one another, rising to the surface, breaking through and diving once more. I was captivated. No photos I’m afraid this time, I was far too busy just enjoying the moment, the image is in an album in my memory.

Friday 12th September 9am-Noon – Rest Time

Time now to rest and await my next watch, my mask, fins and snorkel are at the ready, and I am already wearing my bikini to save Daryl’s embarrassment if I find the need to jump right in again….fingers crossed!
Sleep during this rest time = 2 hours 30 minutes

Friday 12th September Noon-3pm – On Watch

I had a lovely restful sleep, dreams of swimming with Dolphins (well, I didnt, but it sounds good doesnt it), and at midday, I took over my watch once more. Daryl had been taking a look at the electronic charts he is using. Its a system called “Open-CPN”, apparently something other sailors can tap into and update. So much of the oceans are still unchartered, everyone does their best to share information.

Daryl had seen a 5.5m deep reef on the chart, measuring about 1 mile across. He thought it a good idea for us to take a 3 mile detour there and see if we can scuba dive. We are always looking for potential diving spots, and we tell ourselves that we might just be the only people to dive on that particular spot, well, its true, we just might! As we were not pushed for time, I agreed it sounded like a good idea. This was to be disappointment number one.

Searching for the reef!

Searching for the reef!

We cruised around the whole area, and this was our depth….

oh spooky, I can just see my frown reflected in the depth sounder!

oh spooky, I can just see my frown reflected in the depth sounder!

I think some joker must have added this imaginary reef to the charts on April 1st, whoever you are, I’m loving your sense of humour!

This afternoon was becoming much less exciting than yesterday, ready for disappointment number two which occurred just as we were leaving our “phantom” reef. Remember I said you get attuned to the sounds on the boat, both Daryl and I raised our heads when one of the motors made a completely different sound. Immediately shutting the motor down, he went to inspect. It was either going to be a broken impeller, a plastic bag sucked up into the motor, but no, the belt for the raw water pump had completely snapped in half rendering the starboard engine unusable.

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I call Daryl “Mr Fix It”, with a large workshop area on his boat and several cupboards stuffed full of tools and “spares”.

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Daryl deep in his man cave checking out his spares!

Unfortunately, no spares of this particular belt. An advantage of a multi-hull is the fact you have two engines, lucky, now we still have one to take us there and if that should fail, well, we always have sails, just might not make it to Darwin on Monday morning on this particular week with the wind we have forecast.

Friday 12th September 3pm-6pm – Rest Time

An altogether disappointing afternoon, I retreated to my cabin to rest up, a little later than normal due to the mishap. When there are clouds around, I usually try to look for the silver lining – the cloud was one engine was out of use, the silver lining was the fact its  located right under my bed, so my cabin was going to be a far quieter place with no engine noise inches away from my body!

At just gone 4pm, I drifted into a delicious sleep…..but just one hour later, I was woken by Daryl shouting and hammering on the hull to wake me. It sounded urgent, I raced out of the cabin, grabbing at some clothes as I went, wondering what the emergency was, hoping he had seem a whole family of humpback whales…. only to find he just wanted to get the main sail up. I tried to bite my tongue, but felt really grumpy for being woken so urgently for something he had obviously been contemplating doing for at least the last half hour. I tried to explain, it wasn’t the fact that I had been woken which I resented, its expected we will be woken if the other needs assistance, but it was being woken in a way which made me race out of my cabin, at breakneck speed whilst still half asleep that was irksome. Daryl just smiled and ignored his grumpy crew!
Sleep during this rest time = 1 hour

Friday 12th September 6pm-9pm – On Watch

Again, looking for silver linings, I was at least up in time to see yet another stunning sunset

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and at 5.30, I suggested to Daryl who was looking weary, that he go rest and I would start my watch early. Needing no persuasion, he muttered he would come back early, I dismissed that notion and told him to just return at 9, and enjoy an extra half hour, that it was best for us to keep with the same watch times. Anyway, do you know the phrase “when you give someone an inch, they take a mile”, well, here is an example.

Friday 12th September 9pm-Midnight – Rest Time

The moon had just risen, in its 18th day now and waning, but still looking magnificent as it emerged over the horizon. As 9pm approached, I felt ready for some rest after 3 and a half hours gazing out across the water, the minutes ticked away, no Daryl. Knowing how tired he was, I didnt go to remind him of the time, then 9.30 came, still no sign of my skipper. My brain started to work overtime, and gradually, into hyperdrive and I started to imagine the very worse.

Your mind can play tricks on you when you are very tired, and I certainly felt very tired. “What if he couldn’t wake up?” ”What if I went in there and he was out cold?” “What would I do?” I really don’t want to run through the scenarios I was working through in my head, I knew I was just being silly, but when you are tired, you can get a bit irrational. I was relieved at 10:05, a sheepish Skipper emerged with the words “You didnt wake me”. Well, of course it was my fault he is over an hour late for his watch,  silly me.

As I headed to my cabin, he muttered the kind words “You can take an extra hour if you want, come back at 1am” Where was the extra hour I asked as I stumbled into bed.

I didnt think it harsh to  imprison my skipper in a locker for being late for his watch!

I didnt think it harsh to imprison my skipper in a locker for being late for his watch!

Sleep during this rest time = 2 hours
Total Sleep in 24 hours = 7 hours 40 minutes (result!!)

Saturday 13th September Midnight – 3am – On Watch

1am soon came, a fitful sleep dreaming of sleeping in past the alarm and missing my watch…as if I would ever do such a thing! Daryl sounded chirpy as I relieved him from his watch, he informed me he would return at 3am, I didnt argue! Such a peaceful night, a light breeze, just one motor running, and a totally flat sea. I could hear fish jumping from time to time, save that, nothing to report when Daryl did return at exactly 3am. I struggled to stay awake during this watch, I felt tired through to the core.

I know reading this it seems as all I do is rest, but the sleep is split between 4 sessions around the clock, and that is usually fitful.

Saturday 13th September 3am-6am – Rest Time

So much for fitful sleep, I slept like a log, I so needed that!
Sleep during this rest time =2hours 30 minutes

Saturday 13th September 6am-9am – On Watch

I awoke ahead of my alarm, in fact, I have woken ahead of every single alarm so far, I have either woken naturally, or woken by Daryl as Ive mentioned!

You see, we have to set alarms, and not rely on the other to wake us, as Daryl explained, what if something happened to them while you have been asleep, and they fell over the side, and you carry on snoozing for the full 8 hours! Imagine eventually waking up and not knowing where your shipmate is! So, if for some reason Daryl fell overboard, and it happened an half hour into his watch, that means I can turn the boat 180 degrees and sail for 2 and a half hours and I should find him, that is unless he has been eaten by a shark, or bashed by big waves and current and taken off course! Its these little thoughts which creep into your mind when you have so much thinking time. I think if I anyone fell into the inky black waters during their night watch, its pretty much curtains for them, unless they were wearing a life jacket and, even in these warm tropical waters, an exposure suit, as it would be a long time before we would be found. The golden rule therefore, is to remain in the cockpit at all times, even in calm waters, and only go on deck wearing a lifejacket, or certainly, only if the other person was around.

A beautiful quiet, calm day. I was feeling very peaceful, started off with the sails up, but as the sea got more and more glassy and the wind dropped to <1knot, it was time for the engine to be fired up and time to catch up on some writing.

Daryl had a short rest, but obviously couldn’t sleep and emerged at 8 to begin some maintenance work on the boat. There is always something to do on a boat, the list just keeps growing. I reported last night to him that the bulb had blown on the bow navigation light, that was an easy job, now for some polishing of the stainless steel and a chance to check out the spare parts in stock on the boat

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Polishing the stainless is like painting the Forth Bridge…..as soon as you think you have finished, where you started needs doing again!

A Wardrobe door needs fixing!

A Wardrobe door needs fixing!

As for me, well, I’m on watch, I couldn’t possibly multi-task

How could an"Anchor Wench" leave so much mud on the chain?

How could an”Anchor Wench” leave so much mud on the chain?

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As the end of my watch drew near, the water was so calm, like glass, I gazed across and thought how lovely it would be to get a dolphin sighting right now.

My blogging office and the glassy ocean beyond!

My blogging office and the glassy ocean beyond!

I was not to be disappointed! I spied a small pod of dolphins and wasted no time to alert Daryl, get my snorkel gear on and jump straight into the water. I had seen the dolphins in the water, albeit briefly, but these animals didnt hang around to play with me today. Daryl followed with the dinghy and picked me up out of the water. And I plopped into the water once again. We looked around until we could see them surface once more, and raced up to them Daryl raced around in the dinghy, trying to steer them towards my waiting camera. A mother and her young headed towards me, swam right past, turned and sped off in the other direction.

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I suddenly felt very guilty, as I came to the realisation these animals were not playing today and may well feel hunted by us. I called to Daryl to come back to me, and told him what I thought, that this was so against our philosophy of the ocean. He said he had felt the same way at the same time, and we decided it was time to leave the dolphins to their ocean.

It just wasnt the right time. Not only did the dolphins not want to play, but l had seem some stingers I didnt like the look of. The last thing I needed was an injury so remotely situated.

Saturday 13th September 9am-Noon – Rest Time

We spent about an hour with the dolphins, got back to the boat, and I headed for my computer to take a look at the photos whilst Daryl gave his bottom a scrub (his boat silly).

Out of the blue a small plane emerged, came up very close, then scooted off quickly. Grabbing for my camera, I was too late to photograph it! We reached for the VHS, sure enough, it was Australian customs checking us out. They had read the boat name and called us on the radio. They must have had a fantastic VHF as we picked them up as clear as crystal, with no sight of them in the air. They wanted to confirm our destination was Darwin, and confirm our port of departure, how many people on board and if we had any animals.

What a job! Spending the day in the plane, watching out for vessels. Australia are already aware of our planned arrival. Daryl has emailed them all many details, including ships papers, copies of our passports, but it is good to see that Australian waters are being watched. I guess there are so many vessels trying to enter the country illegally, its a constant nightmare for the country, many take such risks to get there

Australian navy personnel rescue asylum-seekers from a sinking boat off Christmas Island in October 2001

Australian navy personnel rescue asylum-seekers from a sinking boat off Christmas Island in October 2001

This must mean we are now in Australian waters, with 200 miles to go to Darwin.
Sleep during this rest time =1 hour 15 minutes

Saturday 13th September Noon-3pm – On Watch

As I lay on the trampoline, the sails up, gently moving across the sea towards Australia, I thought what a tough life being on watch is, the responsibility of it all, its very arduous indeed!

Its A Hard Life!

Its A Hard Life!

My skin has turned very brown as I have been on the boat, I don’t really spend much time sun bathing as such, but as I pretty much wear a bikini most of the time, and being in the tropics on the water, my skin has turned golden brown. Life is good!

Saturday 13th September 3pm-6pm – Rest Time

It is lovely having the sails up, and I felt wide awake. When you have to have the motors running, they seem to drain  the energy from you.  Now with the sails up, I really didnt feel the need to take any sleep in the same way. I sat and chatted with Daryl for a while, then decided I really ought to be sensible and catch up on some sleep to ensure I keep fresh overnight. I had a lovely doze, and emerged at just before 5 in time to sit with a cuppa and watch the sun set. (Do you really want another sunset photo here?)

I really didnt feel I should let Daryl go on his break early, look how he repaid that favour last night! Instead, I went to give my cabin a little tidy, and I needed to get some clothes on, having worn my bikini all day. I decided to tidy my hair up a little. I thought of some of my dear friends, Lisa Little in particular at this moment. I have been jumping in and out of the sea over the last couple of days, only allowing myself a little quick rinse off with some fresh water when I get out, so much so that when I came to remove my hairgrip, I found it had gone rusty where it had been placed a couple of days ago! Wouldn’t you just love that Lisa! I really do let myself go a bit when I’m on the boat

Looking fabulous!

Looking fabulous!

We are going to be in Darwin in a couple of days, and, customs allowing, we will be able to replenish our water supplies. With this in mind, I took a lovely shower and gave myself what Daryl would call “a fussing”
Sleep during this rest time = 1 hour 15 minutes

Saturday 13th September 6pm-9pm – On Watch

I’m now sat at the helm, feeling all fresh and clean from my lovely shower, no rusty clips in my hair, and I’m even wearing a spray of perfume! The sun has set, there is a gentle breeze blowing, less than 5 knots, but with a current with us, we are making 4.5knots. The motors have been off all day, it has been blissful. We are so glad we allowed ourselves plenty of time to get to Darwin so we didn’t feel under pressure and have to clock watch.

We are only 160 miles away from our destination, and to arrive there at a good time, we only need to sail an average of 4.4knots.

Its totally dark, not a bit of light pollution. As we are not under power, the only light we have to show is our tricolour (right at the very top of the mast), no other boats around, no moon and the nearest land ….miles away. Its a magical place, and I can hear the lapping of the sea around the hull, the slight hum as the wind generator ticks away converting some of the breeze into power for us, and I am sailing into a canopy of stars. It really is a very spiritual feeling.

Part of the preparation for a journey on a boat is to check the weather forecast, its as essential a feature as ensuring you have sufficient food and water on board. I use an app which gives me “Grib Files”, basically, maps of areas showing the wind speed and direction over a period of time. It was no surprise to me that the beautiful breeze we had been enjoying all day was soon to stop. As we were under no time pressure just yet, and the only working motor lay under the bed of my resting skipper, I decided to just dawdle along, albeit at a speed which barely made the boat steerable.

I warmed up one of the meals I had prepared ready for the journey, and at just before 8, Daryl appeared, unable to sleep.

Sails furled, engine on, he placed his hand on my shoulder and said “why don’t you go take that extra hour now”! Cheers Daryl. I felt wide awake having had a peaceful day, but the thought of a whole 4 hours rest was delicious!

Saturday 13th September 9pm-Midnight – Rest Time

Just before Daryl sent me to my cabin with a scrumptious extra hour to sleep we had been chatting about setting alarms to start our watches. He told me he wasnt sure why he missed his alarm last night, that perhaps he had set it to AM rather than PM (I did tell him I wasnt falling for that old chestnut!) I informed him I had always woken before every alarm and not once has it sounded. In truth, I have always woken several times before my alarm! Being the absolute angel that I am, I informed him I set 2 alarms.

So at 8pm, I settled into my cabin, felt very wide awake, spent about half an hour typing away, then decided I rely ought to be a good girl and make better use of my extra time to sleep. I set 2 alarms as usual and settled down to sleep.

Oh dear, oh dear, I now have egg on my face!

I was in shock when a knock came to my hull at 00:57, and it took several seconds for me to compute that I was an hour late for my watch! I emerged very sheepishly, trying desperately not to blame him for not waking me earlier, asking Daryl if this now meant I had to walk the plank! He just looked at me, a knowing smile on his lips and said it really was no problem as I apologised for abandoning my post!

One of my alarms looks absolutely fine, I clearly just didnt hear it, the other, well, what can I say, it is set absolutely fine, at 11:57, am that is……that old chestnut itself! The shame of it!

In truth, I’m not at all sure what time I would have eventually woken unless he had stirred me, I was so very sound asleep, the best I have slept in a long time!
Sleep during this rest time = 4 hours 30 minutes
Total Sleep in 24 hours (9 hours 30 minutes – result!!)

Sunday 14th September Midnight – 3am

Wow – I slept nearly 10 hours in the last 4 hour period, something I struggle to do unless recovering from an overindulgence of my favourite red! I must have been more weary than I realised, or just feeling far too relaxed. Either way, lesson learned on the “holier than though” stakes! I wonder what punishment Daryl will be concocting, surely he can’t just let me get away with it as easily as I have!

So how was it that I felt more tired than normal? I feel totally spaced out. How was it that I didnt stir, not even once during my sleep. I do think the body clock has alot to answer for, I was getting used to a set time, and having been given an extra hour had clearly upset this clock. So, it turns out I’m not perfect after all!

So much thinking time on a boat. I became very thoughtful, thinking about reaching Australia. I’m starting to feel emotional about returning to there. I left these shores in 2012 to follow my heart back to the UK, it didnt work out and I’m returning as I always said I would, even sailing back. I have had so much time to think in the 10 weeks I have been on Cool Bananas. I have shed many tears, but gradually my heart has been healing. Now I’m close to Australia, the wound is somehow opening up a little, and Ive been reminded of all the hope I held when I left these shores.

Sunday 14th September 3am-6am – Rest Time

Time to go to my cabin to give my dull halo a polish. Just 2 hours available to rest as my penance for being a naughty girl earlier! You never sleep as well when you know you have limited time, and sleep came to me very slowly, but when it did, it needed the alarm to raise me, this time, I had set my own correctly and didnt rely on Daryl to hammer on the hull! Sooooo sleepy!

Sleep during this rest time = 1 hour 10 minutes

Sunday 14th September 6am-9am – On Watch

Just 108 miles into Darwin, we are well on schedule. No wind again, it has crescendoed to 4 knots at one point, quickly lapsing back into the doldrums, all night the same, but our trusty engine has coped with the work all by itself..

Beautiful morning and I was feeling very relaxed. Sitting at the helm with just my thoughts to keep me company when suddenly I heard a loud noise and an aircraft wizzed in from behind, swooped down, then directly up and away. Yep, it was the trusty coastguard plane again. I reached for the VHF which soon burst into life with a call requesting our intentions yet again.

This time, I managed to get a quick sneaky photo!

 

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Sunday 14th September 9am-Noon – Rest Time

What little wind we had has dropped right down, barely a whisper of a breeze. The sea has a glassy haze

At 11.30, call from Daryl – “do you want to get up to see a shark basking in the sun?” What do you think?

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What could it be???

Can you see what it is yet?

Can you see what it is yet?

I shot up and was delighted to find that a scalloped hammerhead shark was enjoying the calm waters and was basking in the sunshine!

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imageimageWhat an absololute treat! I have been fortunate to dive with these wonderful beasts, have hung out in the blue waiting for a glimpse – this one just lay there for us to admire!

Sleep during this rest time = 40 minutes

Sunday 14th September Noon-3pm – On Watch

As I prepared lunch, Daryl said he would sit at the helm for me, I told him to keep a watch for something, I asked for a whale shark. Well Daryl, you truly disappointed me, you only found me …….

My absolute favourite - Manta!

My absolute favourite – Manta!

What a treat we were having on this journey, we had seen many dolphins, pilot whales, a hammerhead shark and now a manta. On top of this we saw many sea snakes too.

sea snake

We hadnt expected such a show of wildlife on our journey. Beautiful crystal clear waters, we are really enjoying this trip!

Sunday 14th September 3pm-6pm – Rest Time

So very hot today, 34oC, I had expected it to get cooler the further away we got from the equator, and indeed it had as we traveled trough Indonesia, but the closer we now get to Australia, the hotter it seems, and the water is much warmer.  Its as if Australia is radiating its heat to us out here!

I suggested to Daryl that we turn the engine off, we are ahead of schedule still, and at this rate we would get into Darwin in the early hours, whilst it was still dark. Why don’t we turn the engine off, put the sun covers up over the tramp and both of us rest for a while. Super idea!

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Making a shady area to relax. Look at that glassy sea!

When we are on the move in the boat, we do not drink any alcohol, you have to have a sober brain if you really need it. In fact, apart from our “Sundowners” we drink very little really. However, the boat had now stopped, we were taking a break, so I led Daryl into wicked ways and suggested we share a bottle of Bintang – yum! Just the thing in this heat.

This is a bottle left over from the contribution a lovely couple made who visited us  – Catherine and Paul.  We met them when we visited the Orangutans in Borneo. They came to visit us on the boat when we were in Bali, and again in Gili Air – I think we spent at least 6 evenings with them – we really “bombed” their honeymoon
So Catherine and Paul, thanks for the Bintang! It was delicious!

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Cheers to you Catherine and Paul!

What a stunning sunset, it seemed the whole sea turned a mixture of red and pink, a delight to watch.

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Sleep during this rest time = 40minutes

Sunday 14th September 6pm-9pm – On Watch

As the sun set we could feel the temperature drop, a blessed relief, it has been a hot one today. Almost as soon as the sun had set, you could see the wind before it was felt. The sea state changed in an instant! Daryl headed to bed just after we set the sails, the wind unusually for this trip coming from behind. The wind went from less than 0.5knots to 12 in no time at all. We were well ahead of time, in no hurray at all but the elements just seemed to bring us closer and closer to Australia.

A half hour before the end of my watch, a ship was coming our way, he didnt seem to want to change course, and I knew we would need to gybe to avoid him. As this is only the second time we have had the wind behind us on the whole of this journey, and that was with a spinnaker, I really didnt want to run the risk of getting it wrong. I reluctantly woke Daryl. Although dog tired, he was good natured about it. I tried to make it up to him by sorting dinner for us both.

I have been sorting the food and meals for us, and had planned the last few meals for our journey. I didnt think I would want to be cooking during this passage, so I had prepared meals which just needed to be heated up each evening

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I had been eeking out the food, as I knew once we landed at Darwin, part of the landing procedure would be a visit from quarantine.

I remember when Francesca and I arrived in Australia for the first time in 2011, we were like excited schoolgirls and scoffed at the security video shown as the plan was close to landing. This film showed a couple entering Australia, she had an apple in her bag, and they were led off like heroin smugglers! I soon had the smile wiped off my face when the sniffer dog picked me out of the line of arrivals, and I was made to stand in a cordoned area like the naughty schoolgirl I really was.

With this in mind, I have been planning the food supplied to last just until we arrive in Darwin, as I fee sure quarantine officials will certainly arrest any stray carrots we have left aboard!

Sunday 14th September 9pm-Midnight – Rest Time

I was so ready for a sleep. I remember the same feeling as a new mother.
Sleep during this rest time = 2 hours 40minutes
Total Sleep in 24 hours (5 hours 10 minutes)

Monday 15th September Midnight – 3am – On Watch

My last night watch for this part of the adventure. As Daryl headed to bed, dog tired, he said he could just see the start of the light of a ship ahead, he said there were 2 boats, but one had just gone. These boats were to occupy my mind for my entire watch!

The ship just got brighter and brighter, I assumed it was just getting closer, and tried to guess its direction as a collision really would spoil a lovely trip! Soon several other ships came into view, and I altered course to try to avoid them, then their lights changed and they changed course, I changed again – it felt like a game of cat and mouse.

What my inexperience didnt tell me was I was reacting too far ahead, as these boats were still miles away, but their lights were so very bright as they were 3 tug boats working with a very large ship loaded with machinery and cranes. As I got closer, I could see why I was confused earlier. The ship which I thought was coming towards me was just so large and illuminated.

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We do have a system on the boat for being able to look at the presence of shops in the water (AIS), but it didnt register until I was getting pretty close, you can see their track and perhaps understand my confusion?

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All collisions avoided, Daryl took over shift and could see the parade of lights left in our wake!

Monday 15th September 3am-6am – Rest Time

I went to bed wearily, but knew we were only 24 miles from Darwin. I slept for just over an hour and a half, and peered through my window to see the sun was just rising, and we were close to land

No more watches, it was now team work to get us safely into port, await customs, immigration and quarantine and settle the boat either to a marina or to anchor.

Displaying the "Q" (yellow) flag, awaiting quarantine inspection to enter the country

Displaying the “Q” (yellow) flag, awaiting quarantine inspection to enter the country

A change to the clocks were needed – by 90 minutes. Customs and Immigration arrived on the boat – 3 women to check all our details. They decided not to search the boat – Daryl and I don’t particularly look risky characters!

No Goods To Declare!

No Goods To Declare!

We then waited for what seemed like an age for the quarantine official to arrive. He was such a character. He seemed more interested in telling us all his stories than he did checking the boat. I handed him the leftover food we had, and he took away the few bits and pieces we had and said we were a “quarantine inspection dream” – I bit back the comment – “I bet you say that to all the girls!”

We hosed down the boat, filled the water tanks and headed our to the bay to anchor up and have a well earned snooze ready to start our Australian Adventure!

About Jill Beckett

I hope you enjoy reading this blog, it is written purely for entertainment value! Its just a way of keeping a journal for myself as well as staying in touch with family and friends around the world. I try to "live life to the full", "think out of the box" and any other cliches for making the best of it that you can think of! I started writing this blog in 2011 when I gave up my job in the UK as a midwife ("The Baby Catcher"!) and began circumnavigating Britain in a 45ft yacht and trained as a skipper prior to going to Australia to live for a year. I then returned to the UK for 17 months where my feet became itchy once more and I moved to Bali to take my scuba diving to a professional level ("Jilly Fish") and trained as a Dive Master, then a Dive Instructor. I then sailed from Malaysia, through Indonesia diving along the way eventually making it to Townsville, Queensland, in October 2014, a 4000+mile trip, on a 50ft Catamaran! Following this I spent a wonderful year living in Australia, working on a casual basis as a baby catcher (midwife), and as "Jillyfish (dive Instructor) on the Great Barrier Reef as well as sailing as much as I can on a beautiful 44.7 Beneteau called Shazam. My newest chapter finds me back in the UK, living on the South West Coast in gorgeous Devon! Drop me a message, I would love to hear from you and what you think of my blog! Mwah x
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11 Responses to Sailing to A Land Down Unda!

  1. Pingback: A delightful evening: the Cairns Sunset Cruise | Cheskie's Gap Life

  2. Anita says:

    I always admired you, and every blog you write just makes you go up a step on my admiration ladder, one inspirational lady xxx

    • Jill Beckett says:

      I just read that and went “gulp”! Thanks so much Anita, you are a pretty special person yourself. Thanks for your lovely comment, writing a blog takes alot of time to write and post, so its good to hear glad you are enjoying reading them!

  3. Lauren says:

    another fabulous blog Jill, loved it and as for the turtles, I believe you were meant to be there to help them xxx

  4. Sandra says:

    Full of admiration for your commitment to blogging Jill, even when you had such a limited time to rest! I’d like reading this to acknowledge this, and be amazed and thankful.

    I love this story, something I’m unlikely to ever do, nor the vast majority of people. So to have the journey covered in such depth and detail is such a gift.

    Thank you sooooo much.

    And that heart will have healed and be ready to receive love again very soon. You will have learnt more than ever to love your self through these travels, and that will radiate out to the universe. The person you went back to UK for was maybe just not able to meet your expectations – the one who will be ready to share a life of purpose and passion with you will exceed them.

    I’m sure you’ve read ‘The Alchemist’? No journey is ever wasted.

    You are astounding!

    Love and hugs from me and Barry.
    xx

  5. andrea says:

    Great post Jill, really interesting!!!! Love that you saved the turtles! Fantastic to have it all captured on your blog – wish I had done so on my travels, it’s amazing what you forget, and it’s the little things that are often the funniest or most interesting! See you soon! xox

    • Jill Beckett says:

      Thank you Andrea! Can’t wait to see you again, not long now! Will let you know when we are landing in Townsville and would love to meet up!
      x

  6. Rae Simpson says:

    Hi Jill

    Enjoying your heart felt posts and the fun stories from Cool Bananas. My wife and I buddy boated with Daryl and Laurel a few years back in New Zealand and across the Pacific. Then joined them for a crossing of the South China Sea, Malaysia to Borneo.

    You have an awesome skipper and wonderful opportunity to enjoy the tropical oceans. I’m delighted to read you are exploiting the opportunity to the max!

    Pass my regards to Daryl and I look forward to future posts from both of you.

    • Jill Beckett says:

      Lovely to hear from you, glad you are enjoying the blog. Daryl has spoken about you, you sound a really fun guy!
      Good luck with your sailing!
      Jill

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