When we initially set out on this trip, we planned to sail around the world over a period of 3 to 4 years. We may have told our families that the trip would take about 2 years, but that was only to make our decision to drop out of the working world mid-career and forestall producing some grandchildren a little more palatable. We agreed with each other before we left that we would only keep doing this as long as we were both having fun. By the time we reached New Zealand, we had put 14,000 miles under the keel in one year. We were both a bit burned out on cruising. So we agreed to give it another year, get ourselves to Singapore, and consider selling Mata'irea there or just stopping and working for a while before continuing on. If we were still enjoying cruising, we would keep going. We shared this plan with our friends and families while we were home for the holidays last year.
Over the past few months in Indonesia, we realized that neither of us wanted to stop the trip in Singapore. We both want to keep exploring. So our options for next year became: a) heading home through the Mediterranean Sea, b) heading home via South Africa, c) spending another season in South East Asia, or d) turning right at Singapore and heading back to the Pacific via the Philippines. We dismissed the last option pretty quickly. For several weeks now we've been mulling around the first three options.
Due to the increase in piracy in the Gulf of Aden this year (Somali pirates have developed a nice little cottage industry of kidnapping crews from boats and holding them for ransom), neither of us is really keen to take the boat that way. We weren't concerned for our personal safety, and we figured that we could take out insurance to pay off any kidnappers, but we didn't want to risk losing the boat and we didn't want to put our families through that kind of stress. So we looked into the costs of shipping the boat to the Med, but somehow that seemed like cheating. We couldn't very well go around saying that we circumnavigated (cough, cough) except for that part where we shipped the boat through the Red Sea (cough, cough).
For a year now I've been lobbying for going home via the Med. I just didn't like the alternative of crossing the Indian Ocean. The distances between island groups in the Indian on the typical three year circumnavigation track (Cocos Keeling, Chagos, Rodrigues, Reunion and Mauritius) are so great that it seemed like a lot of work for not so much reward. And then there is the problem of tricky weather and sea conditions around the Cape of Good Hope. So that left us with the third option of hanging out in South East Asia for another year, hoping for the situation in the Gulf of Aden to improve enough to head home via the Med.
We've both tried to embrace the idea of spending the next year hanging out in South East Asia. There is a ton of stuff to see and do in the region. There are so many cultures and cuisines to explore. We talked about leaving the boat for a while in Langkawi and doing some backpacking through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. We both tried to adopt a laid-back, cruisy attitude about not having plans or a schedule. We tried, we really tried, but it wasn't working for us. Even after two years of being slackers, we're both still pretty goal oriented. Not having a schedule left us both feeling a bit rudderless. We didn't really realize how much being directionless was weighing on us until we reached a decision today about which way to go. Now we both feel great. We're totally energized and looking forward to the next year of exploring.
Early this morning, while Sten was out surfing, I made some coffee and poured over Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Routes (the cruiser's bible), weighing the options for getting us and Mata'irea home. When Sten came back from surfing, I passed him a cup of coffee and told him that I had a rough plan for taking us home through the Indian Ocean. My proposed route would keep most of our passages under a week and allow us to visit some unspoiled spots. But I wasn't sure how the seasonal weather patterns would effect our timing. Sten remembered seeing an Indian Ocean passage planning chart in an old Cruising World article that we downloaded from Khulula's treasure trove of cruising info back in Vanuatu. We dug up the article, spread a chart of the Indian Ocean across the salon table, and refined our plans.
When we leave Indonesia at the end of October, we'll head up to Malaysia and Thailand. In February, we'll begin heading west across the North Indian Ocean, taking advantage of favorable currents and winds during the Northeast Monsoon. If we can get the paperwork arranged, we hope to stop at the Andaman Islands enroute to Sri Lanka. In March and April we plan to explore Sri Lanka and the Maldives before heading south to Chagos. We'll spend at least two months in the unpopulated Chagos Archipelago before heading west to the Seychelles in July. After two months exploring a chain of islands that has been called "the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean," we'll start making our way south to Madagascar in September to position Mata'irea for the run to South Africa in October. We plan to have ourselves and Mata'irea in Bermuda in time to see the first of the 2010 Newport Bermuda Race boats crossing the finish line.
Once we had the route down, we set about figuring out what charts we need to order and contacted our insurance company to let them know that we finally had a plan. Now we just have to figure out if we can swing a quick trip home over the holidays.