Monday, July 28, 2008

July 27, 2008 - Passage to Indonesia

We've been motoring since late last night. During the pre-dawn hours of Sten's watch he had to maneuver around an unlit vessel of some sort. We figure that it was an Indonesian fishing vessel that was in stealth mode because it had illegally crossed into Australia's territorial waters. Australia takes border patrol very seriously. There is even a show on prime time television in Australia (and New Zealand) all about intercepting illegals and quarantining goods at airports throughout Australia. Early this morning, at the 200 mile limit of Australia's fishing zone, we passed an Australian war ship patrolling the boundary. Right on the other side of the line, there was a fleet of Indonesian fishing boats working the shallow waters of the Timor Sea.

Our first night out, when we were still trying to sail, we had radio contact with a ship. I explained that sailing dead downwind with our sails winged out, it would be easier for us to alter course to starboard, than to risk jibing by altering course to port. The officer on watch was your typical Aussie - super friendly. We got into a conversation and learned that his vessel was a supply ship returning from reprovisioning the offshore rigs at Bayu-Undan. You can imagine how thrilled he was when I told him that there were a hundred more sailboats behind us for him to maneuver around. Most of the day today we have had the offshore rigs in sight. It was my first time seeing rigs, but Sten had seen them before off the coast of Angola when he was working on the Joides Resolution, a deep water drill ship. Although the closest we got to the rigs at Bayu-Undan was 4.5 miles away, that was apparently too close. We were contacted by radio and requested to alter course to honor the 5 mile exclusion zone around the rigs.

One good thing about motoring is that it allows us to eat well. The flat water is very conducive to cooking underway. And having the motor running was a perfect excuse to plug in a waffle iron and make waffles in the cockpit for breakfast. Washed down with tall glasses of iced coffee, it was one of my favorite passage meals ever.

Over breakfast Sten and I were talking about our short stay in Darwin. Sten commented that "this trip has changed my definitions of what makes a place exotic or remote." He went on to explain that when he was asked by CAT to work in Melbourne a few years ago, he jumped at the opportunity to work someplace so far away and different. But after seeing places like Beveridge Reef and experiencing the unusual cultures of the out islands of Vanuatu, both of which are difficult to get to and so very different from anything we'd ever seen before, this time around, Australia seemed very accessible, familiar and comfortable.

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