01 June 2015

13 Days at Sea - Femantle to Bali - 1450 miles

The down blasts of wind were pulverizing the ocean water, flying spray made the ocean look white and very wild.  The gusts were hitting 60 knots.  It was all very cool looking from the Fremantle Sailing Clubs second floor bar. The rally start was postponed for two days to let a very impressive storm pass.

It's been a whirlwind since we departed our slip in the Fremantle Sailing Club yacht basin on May 19th. Even as we started two days later than planned due to the storm, the seas remained washing machine like from after effects of the storm. Once we started sailing, Eric was more than a bit green due to the nasty motion. The first three days of the sail north along Western Australia's coast were very tiring and taxing on us both. Sleep was disturbed due to the seemingly random motion of the large left over swells from the storm, plus Eric was seasick and so not much help below decks. Fortunately Laurie managed the motion better than Eric did, it also meant that she spent more than her share navigating, cooking and keeping Katmai ship-shape.  It was feast and famine, after initially having too much wind, the next week we were plagued by too little wind.

The best part of the midnight to 6 am watch
 shift is the sunrise !
We had one full 24 hour period of zero to one knot of wind and most other days the wind was less than 5 knots. We did a lot of motoring and drifting! The calms were interrupted by squalls at times, one of which hit us at night, no moon, pitch black and massive amounts of rain. We tried our best to find the shortest way out of the squall, but as hard as we tried in just about all directions of the compass the squall seemed determined to stay on top of us. It was a bit on the scary side things. Once the squall finally moved on it presented the most spectacular lighting show I have ever seen. Well, after that bit of excitement the wind dropped again to near nothing.

Finally, the trade winds returned to normal
and we made great time the last 3 days. A nice 8-15 knot easterly!
We coaxed Katmai north it seemed inch by inch. We only started to get the first sign of real wind north of 14 degrees south latitude, mind you we started at 28 degrees south latitude, when the trade winds slowly filled the void. Our last two days at sea were great sailing, reaching in 15 to 25 knot trade winds. Bali here we come! The only problem was that the approach to Bali and the Lombok Strait is a major international shipping route. A seemingly endless parade of tankers and other large merchant ships kept us awake as we had to judge each one to insure we did not get too close to these fast moving monsters.

Approaching the finish line with "Plus 16".
13 days and 1450 miles and we arrived at the same time.!
Arriving in Bali was great, after nearly 14 days at sea we converged with another rally boat, called 'Plus 16', just a few miles from the finish line. What are the odds of finishing neck to neck with another rally boat after nearly 1500 miles at sea? On reaching the Benoa Harbor Marina we were greeted by a fantastic reception. There must have been 50 some rally members on the dock waiting for us with cold beers and cheers. It was really touching after so long at sea to be greeted so warmly by our friends from Australia. We arrived exhausted, but healthy.

There were a couple of highlights from the 13 day trip from Fremantle to Bali:

Frustrations during the calms.

During our calm days near the northwest coast of Australia, off of Carnarvon, we were able to raise a small sail that Eric had in his bag of tricks called a dazy staysail.  Having the main sail up in nearly no wind was really difficult as it slatted and banged around, not good for the sail or our nerves.   The Dazy Staysail flies free like an asymmetrical spinnaker, but it is much, much smaller.  We flew it on the foredeck (without any other sails), and were able to make 10 miles in 5 hours, in nearly no wind....but eventually, even the tiny little zephyr winds died and died dead, so it was back to motoring slowly north.  We even started to chase after thunderheads and clouds:  We had been watching several thunderhead heads form along a line about 14 miles away, heading toward us, sort of.  We decided to see if they had wind, and motored next to them and set a double reefed main and our staysail…ready for a gale.  Boy, did they have wind....15 Knots max. (Sarcasm intended).  A bit of rain felt good, it was darn hot.  After the clouds passed behind us, we broke out in to a new weather domain, and we got all excited.  There was a stable, but low ESE wind, at 2-4 knots.  Party time!  We hardened up and sailed close hulled, and the apparent wind allowed us to ghost along with actual sails up.  We sailed alike that for a few miles but by at 4 pm that day, even that wind died, really dead, and the sea, hundreds of miles from no where was like glass and almost oily looking.

Visitors in the Night:

On May 27th, we ghosted along under sail in total darkness in 2-4 knots of breeze in order to conserve our last tank of diesel.  We were in the middle of the Timor Sea, waiting for the trade winds to blow from the east as predicted on our weather forecasts.  Literally from about 10 pm until daybreak a pod of about 15-20 smallish dolphins played in our (tiny) wake.  They jumped around and got really animated when we hit any boat speed above 3 knots.  It was like they were encouraging us to go faster!...We only initially knew the dolphins were there in the dark because Eric could hear their breath.  I truly first thought that Eric needed some sleep and was delusional...but he was right, a flashlight confirmed we were in large pod of dolphins.

During the day, we had seen the dolphins chasing schools of flying fish that would leap out of the water and coast 100’s of meters in the air when the dolphins where pursuing them.  Katmai too chases up flying fish, it is very common to see schools or individuals sailing way in the air from our bow at 45 degrees.  We almost every morning find a few on the deck, dead.  They are 8-12 inches long.

It did not occur to me until later that the dolphin were after flying fish that Katmai distracted, but it is possible.

To top that off, after my morning nap, as I was waking, I put my hand on the floor board next to the bed and at the same instant that I felt a damp scaly thing, the fishy smell of last night's flying fish casualty hit my nose. Made me let out a little scream! Oh my, this poor devil actually flew through the open window on to the floor by our bed!


  1. Fresh fish, very tasty!

    from Bruce

    1. That poor flying fish was too wilted to be worth eating, although they say they are good to eat.

  2. Hi Bruce, We could use your fishing skills! Unfortunately the only fresh fish we have 'caught' have been via trade or cash. Oh, we tried, must have trolled half of the way with various lures, but despite dreams of tunas and Mahi-mahi, we have struck out. I though of you and your fishing lessons (on paper) of the past the other day when I saw a big school of nice big trevally when I was snorkeling ...unfortunately no spear gun! At least I knew what kind of fish they were, thanks to you!! Cheers!