Indian Ocean: Australia to Africa

Landfall in Africa!!!, Day 10

Date:Nov. 15, 2016, noon
Position:28 28.71 S, 35 2.89 E

Our beam reach ended around sunset last night when we got to within 70 NM NE of Richard's Bay. It is prudent to aim north of the destination, as the strong Agulhas currents sweep you to the south as you cross the main bulk of the stream. We definitely did not want to get swept south of Richard's Bay and into the advancing low pressure system! However, the winds stayed very S and SW, despite the light E-SE winds forecast. Our last 70 NM were once again a beat to windward.

Dawn rose another red-sun-in-morning-warning day, with massive mushroom clouds marching along the shores of Africa. We sighted our first glimpse of the African continent in between a few of these cells, before the misty rains closed in again and obscured the land. There appeared to be a mixture of jungle and open savanna land. It was so amazing to think that lions and giraffes and elephants and hippos walk these shores! The lands on Privateer's starboard beam promise adventure and mystery: Swaziland, Zululand, Mozambique, Lesotho...

The winds became very unstable near the mushroom cells, buffeting Privateer from every direction and raising a high, vigorous, and heavy chop in the Agulhas current. We lurched through steep and angular waves as hot and cool winds swirled through the rigging. The mist brought our first smells of the land--the smells of a new continent. We could smell the sweet grass, like a freshly mown lawn on a dewy morning, and I swear I could smell Elephant dung on the warm breezes as well. First smells from the sea are always the most vivid after being on the ocean for many days. The nose goes into overdrive for about an hour before the new smells become "normal" and the brain shuts them off and tells you not to notice them anymore. For that first sweet hour, my mind took me back to a time of childhood with these smells and sent shivers down my back.

We gave up on the sailing for the last 25 NM. The winds were coming from all directions, and the sooner we could make port the better. It is no joke out here in the Agulhas current. These waves are wicked, and it's not even a windy day by South African standards. We were seeing the effects of 20 knots SW against the current, and it wasn't pretty. I can easily see why, when met with a SW gale, the Agulhas current produces vertical waves 60 feet tall, capable of (and regularly) cracking freighters in two. A small boat would not have any chance of survival these conditions. With our SW gales to come in a day or two, there was a strong urgency not to linger here. These are considered the most dangerous seas in the world, and sailing along here today is about as fun as playing that game where you fan out your fingers and stab a dagger into the table between them. We got lucky and did not get stabbed.

Our beloved electronic tiller pilot, however, steered its last course before a nasty rogue wave smacked the boat and flooded the cockpit, submerging the precious unit and destroying the internal fluxgate compass. I was forced to hand steer the last 5 hours and it nearly ripped my arm out of the socket. As we approached the land the waters turned muddy and milky, and we had a close call with a 55-gallon barrel. It was lurking just below the surface of the waves and I noticed it only because a rainbow sheen of gasoline blossomed outwards from the hazard. A few minutes later I saw another. Despite not sleeping more than 3-4 hour stretches for the past ten days, and being up all night last night, I was very alert and aware of my surroundings--you kind of have to be!

At last, we radioed Richard's Bay Port Control and passed in behind the massive breakwater walls that protect the bay. We made it!!!!!!! Yeah Privateer!!!!! The winds dropped to zero very politely (& luckily!) for our arrival. We found a slip in the rickety Tuzi Gazi marina docks and gingerly tied alongside. An excellent passage safely completed.

The enormity of this world voyage and the significance of the passage sunk in as we walked the docks and chatted with the other sailors. We rolled our dice with the rest of them in La Reunion and it was a good roll--Snake Eyes! The others were not so lucky. Sapphire left one week before us and came in after us, 16 days later with a shredded mainsail. Another boat neighbor in Reunion left 2 days before us and limped into port after encountering severe seas that left one crew with a broken arm and the dodger & frames stripped clean off the decks. Aliena was busy taking down here spare main, after the original one disintegrated and the spare delaminated. Looking around the harbor there were many more blown-out jibs and tales of 55-knot winds and being hove-to for four days, etc etc. Our tiller pilot failure was the least interesting story on the dock and our passage the quickest. Despite our relief and exhilaration, we kept our cards close to our chest and our poker faces on.

Finally, I would like to thank Mark on base command S/V "Tuuletar", who provided us with detailed weather analysis several times each day while en route. His caliber of forecasting kept us in favorable currents and routed us well away from the bad weather, with safe and comfortable route alternatives in order to avoid any storms, should they come our way. Thank you a million times over, Mark! Receiving your texts and mulling over the options with you was a highlight of this passage.

Overall, we had an safe and thrilling passage. We really did have a bit of everything. We sailed every angle from wing & wing to close-hauled and everything in between. We had winds from 10-45 knots, and winds from every direction N, E, S & W. We had 4 gentle downwind days, a 186 NM distance-shattering day, a few days hard on the wind heeled over, and a big lightning storm to spice things up. We flew our storm trysail and storm jib which saved wear and tear on our working sails and kept us comfortable in the blow. We lucked out on the timing of the fronts and didn't have to heave-to or wait for better weather. We achieved the best possible outcome after just 10 days at sea--a fast passage.

A new continent to explore now, Africa awaits...


Vicky: And a " thrilling" read for us Pete. So glad you all arrived safely. And now on to see some big animals with Taz! Have fun exploring--I look forward to pictures. xoxo Nov. 19, 2016, 1:39 p.m.

Chris Frost: WOW! It continues to be a privilege to follow your adventures on my computer screen in my cozy study. You're a wonderful writer and your entries have the power to put reader aboard with you and your crew. Enjoy your time ashore in Africa, and let me know when you're ready for me to find you a mooring here in Round Pond on your way to the Northwest Passage. Nov. 20, 2016, 3:45 p.m.

joker123 apk download: Hi there! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any problems with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing months of hard work due to no back up. Do you have any methods to stop hackers? Nov. 9, 2018, 8:04 p.m.

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Tough miles, Day 9

Date:Nov. 14, 2016, noon
Position:28 28.71 S, 35 2.89 E

After the storm front passed yesterday we sailed along nicely until daybreak, but then a stiff 22-knot Westerly wind kicked in, right on the nose. This, compounded by the urge to make port before the next major storm in a few days, was a very frustrating experience. We had to crack way off to the NW, almost at a right angle to our destination.

Finally, yesterday afternoon the winds went more WSW and lightened up and we fired up the engine to improve our angle of attack toward destination. We still angled off to the NW more than I liked, but were once again making miles and still able to use the wind vane for our autopilot. I slept the rest of the day to recharge after the adrenaline and elation of the storm wore off and exhaustion kicked in.

We had to work very hard and get very wet to make our miles today, again. It was sort of a miniature repeat of yesterday, minus the front. The winds came more "annoying Westerly" again and we were forced once more to fire up the engine to keep our speed up. No lingering around here! Hammer down and get to port ASAP, by any means. We have the Agulhas current to cross and another bigger storm to beat.

In the afternoon the swells built to 5 meters, big giants coming up from the Southern Ocean. They were spaced nicely apart, however, so didn't pose any threat. The winds filled in from the South at about 22-25 knots and we took off on a beam reach in very lively conditions. It felt more like we were going through the waves--the decks continually awash. I forgot to turn a cowl vent around--big mistake. I was here at the nav station on my computer and Kelsey was playing with Taz in the bunk. When Kelsey saw the portlights (windows) fill with green water, she knew it was going to be interesting. We took a wave wrong and the crest smacked the side of the boat hard and water shot down into the boat through the cowl vent pipe like a large-diameter fire hose. Fortunately the boat was heeled over enough that the main stream landed on the floor, but seawater still sprayed all over the bunks and into the galley.

Finally in the evening the winds shifted more to the south and we eased off onto a fantastic beam reach for about 100 NM. We are now on our final approach to Richard's Bay. So close!

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Lightning storm, Day 8

Date:Nov. 13, 2016, noon
Position:28 29.60 S, 39 41.65 E

We saw the wall of lightning about an hour before the front hit us. Big bolts and zaps hitting the ocean ahead. The winds were only around 15 knots and Privateer had slowed down to about 4.5 knots. It felt a bit silly to be sailing in 15 knots with storm sails. But I resisted the urge to pile on more canvas. With lightning on the horizon and Kelsey & Taz sleeping below, this was time to batten down: the calm before the storm.

Slowly, we sailed into the wall of electricity. The misty air smelled like burnt-out batteries, and my thoughts turned naturally toward what would happen if we experience total instrument failure. One GPS is always stored in a metal box, to protect against lightning strike. I've heard of other sailors putting their electronics in the galley oven, too. Just don't forget to take them out before you pre-heat! I woke Kelsey up and had her wrap Taz up in the foam yoga mat, to create a total insulative barrier.

It wasn't your average thunderstorm. Blue and purple flashes burst continually from the sky, in constant succession, the colors like the weird blue light inside a tanning booth. The ocean was a metallic purple under those strange lights, with pink white-caps..."Pink-caps!" When an extra-intense bolt would land near the boat, a perfect negative-image of Privateer was burned momentarily into my eyes. If I blinked, I could see a black image of Privateer against a white background, down to every minute detail including the wire rigging and ropes.

Thunder on the ocean is a sound to behold. There's nothing to echo off of out here, and the thunder rushed out across the expanse of ocean like the noise of a jet engine. I can only describe it as a "circular" noise. From all directions the thunder rushed outward. Some of the lightning bolts directly overhead produced a stacatto thunderclap, but being in the epicenter with no echo to hear, that was all we heard. Once in Alaska I saw a house-sized boulder fly off a mountainside and into the ocean from thousands of feet above. The sound that rock made when it hit the water was like tonight's overhead thunder: kind of a hollow sucking noise.

When the SW winds came, I thanked god that we had our storm trysail up and not a reefed main. I just had time to watch the wind speed instrument go from 8 knots to 35 in one second, and then I was too busy to watch it top out. The storm sails snapped-to like a rubber band (they are built to stretch) and Privateer took off like a wild animal that had just been poked in the rear. The only problem was, we were on starboard tack in NW winds before the event, and now with the winds SW we were still on starboard tack but sailing back toward Reunion! We needed to tack ASAP.

I lit up the decks and prepped for action, running down the checklist in my head: Flip air vane paddle hard over for deep port tack, let fly lazy storm trysail sheet after sails pop, secure storm try, secure storm staysail sheet & let fly lazy sheet after she backs and hammers the boat over. Simple enough. Only problem was, the winds were so intense that no matter what I did with the air vane adjustment, Privateer just surged straight ahead, unable to come to windward for the tack. I tried falling off into a jibe, same thing. At that point Captain instinct kicked in and somehow I made it work, though I cannot tell you the sequence of events because I still can't figure out how I did it. I started the engine but couldn't hear it over the shriek of the wind--I didn't even know it was on until I goosed the throttle and felt a faint vibration under my feet. I was completely disoriented by the lightning flashes and waves crashing over the decks. Again, I put the air vane where I knew it had to be in the end, punched the throttle full-out, and used all my body weight to force the tiller over. And somehow the boat swung around, not sure if jibed or tacked, and I got sheets made fast. It was like trying to drive a runaway car around a sharp bend on a mountain road while eating a sandwich and texting a friend and trying to figure out how the windshield wipers work. I was thrilled to see Privateer tracking straight on her new line now, surging through the storm like a Cadillac. I whooped and howled into the wind and lightning.

Meanwhile, Taz slept peacefully down below, oblivious to the lively conditions on deck, while his Dad sang to himself at the helm. "Does anyone know where the love of god goes, when the waves turn the minutes to hours..."

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Smashed the Distance Record, Day 7

Date:Nov. 12, 2016, noon
Position:28 29.60 S, 39 41.65 E

We did it! Privateer shattered her all time distance record. We logged a whopping 186 NM day at sea. 1/2 of this distance was sailing to windward, and the other half wing-on-wing. We probably could've broken 200 NM if I'd set the pole out earlier. We spent a good part of the night deep reaching with the yankee blanketed by the mainsail. However, for safety I do not set the pole in the dark if I can avoid it. At first light we rigged the pole for wing & wing and the boat accelerated another 2 knots extra speed.

My muscles ache from all the sail changes and maneuvers these past few days! Constant reefing, un-reefing, dipping the pole from port to starboard, jibing, etc. We're playing the winds and sailing as fast as we can to beat the SW buster on Wednesday.

With the 2nd front due to hit us at 0300 hours tonight, I slept throughout the afternoon as best I could. This next one should be a bit of a doozie. We're supposed to get a 180 degree wind shift (not in our favor) so we are running as far off the the south in anticipation for a "bounce" to the north on our track line.

Today "Aliena" popped back onto our AIS and we passed again, remarkably, within sight of each other. Of all the ocean out here what are the chances... We noticed that they had come to a full stop, and I gave them a safety call on Ch. 16, with no response. I ran down the list of possibilities: either they had landed a huge fish, were raising or lowering their main, or someone/thing had fallen overboard. Later we received a call from the tired skipper: their mainsail had torn in half! Luckily they had a spare main on board. But it was in-mast roller furling and quite a feat to thread the huge sail into the slot while hoisting in a vigorous wind & sea. The skipper told me he'd lost a lot of skin, but he did it.

Around sunset the winds piped up fresh from the North at 25 knots, higher than forecast. I had a nagging feeling about the approaching front, and decided to play it safe and hoist the storm trysail and douse the mainsail. With the boom safely and securely lashed down and trysail sheeted to the strong point in the cockpit, I felt elated. We are now ready for anything. The boat immediately went from feeling a bit over-powered to under complete control. We still have the double-reef yankee flying, and can roll it up at the first hint of strong winds. Now that the storm trysail and storm staysail were set, I noticed we were still flying our French Tricolor flag. We lowered the flag and hoisted the flag of South Africa! Here we are, on our way to Africa, with a gale on the horizon and the mighty Agulhas current ahead of us. We're as ready as we can be.

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Hauling Ass!, Day 6

Date:Nov. 11, 2016, noon
Position:27 11.56 S, 42 52.42 E

It was flat calm in the morning, motoring across very long-period swell coming up from the SW. It was also a "Red Sun in morning, sailor's take warning" dawn. I took advantage of the quiet conditions and topped off our fuel tank (pouring jerry cans into deck fill) and put a smart double-reef in the mainsail.

The engine stayed on until noon, when the first front arrived. Our clear skies became misty with cloud scuttle, and a fresh wind popped up instantly from the south. We sheeted the yankee and staysail and took off on Privateer's fastest tack ever! From 12 noon to midnight tonight we sailed well over 100 NM! As winds built to 20-24 knots forward of the beam, Privateer powered into the waves making solid 9-10 knots SOG. Our highest of the day was 15.4 knots! I'm still not quite sure how we did it, but the miles in our wake tell the tale. It's the fastest I've ever sailed on any 36' boat.

Making those miles is money in the bank for us. We must reach Richards Bay by Wednesday, or face the prospect of 3 extra days at sea, hove-to in potentially very nasty conditions. Each hour we sail at those speeds is one hour less on our ETA.

We're pressing down south of the rhumb line now, to prepare for a more vigorous front on Sunday, which should bring more S-SW winds, rain, and possibly lightning. It was a wet enough ride today, heeled into the waves, and we want to be able to crack off a bit in this next frontal system. It's a bit of a zig-zag path toward Richard's Bay, but it only adds a few hours and greatly increases [relative] comfort on board. It was a deck-sweeper of a day today, waves continually booming down on deck & walls of spray as Privateer disintegrated the waves in front of her.

Taz was a good boy today & held on tight to his animals--the trio of Kitty, Kanga, and Kiwi, with the newest addition of his Mauritian "toilet kitty" which has already been chucked into the sea, into the toilet, and run over by a car & lost an eye.

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Rounding under Madagascar, Day 5

Date:Nov. 10, 2016, noon
Position:26 35.41 S, 45 36.54 E

The good currents and light winds carried us all the way past our southern waypoint, 75 NM south of Cape St. Marie, Madagascar. With sails barely filled, we glided along at 6.5 knots. All good things must come to an end, however. The wind dropped before shifting to the south. We motor-sailed for an hour or two, and then had enough wind to beam reach on a good sail for another few hours, but finally the winds went too light again and we've been motoring through the night.

We are putting on a full head of steam now to try and maintain a 5.5 knot average, giving us an ETA at Richards Bay on Tuesday night. An intense low is forecast to form over Durban next Wednesday-Thursday, and we don't want to be anywhere near that! If we slow down, or the low comes earlier, we will be forced to divert north to Maputo, Mozambique. The alternative is to ride out the storm hove-to. It's supposed to pass through quickly, but looks like a doozie with 45-knot winds. We'll do everything we can to avoid it. I spent a few hours emailing back and forth with Mark on Tuuletar and Sam in South Africa. Eventually they both came to the same conclusion on a route, which is a direct rhumb-line course to Richards Bay.

I've never seen so many freighters at sea--at all times today we had anywhere between 5-8 of them on our AIS. Any time one was on a trajectory to within 1 mile of our track, we called and requested diversion. They have all been very generous in giving us a wide berth. Kelsey called one captain who freaked out because he thought we were a US warship!

We squared away the boat today in preparation for the swells & winds ahead. We're eking out all the speed we can get, sailing and motor sailing if our speeds drop below 5.5 knots. I think I've reefed and un-reefed the main 5 times in the last two days! There always seems to be a patch of 25-knot winds right at sunset, and again at sunrise.

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Rounding under Madagascar, Day 4

Date:Nov. 9, 2016, noon
Position:25 39.69 S, 48 26.96 E

The excellent sailing continued throughout the night, and into the morning and afternoon. We made 170 NM on our noon-to-noon! All under clear skies, steady wind, and low seas. We kept pace with the 56' sailboat "Aliena", keeping her sail on the horizon all day long. In the morning we crossed paths to within about 1/2 NM, snapped a few photos, and watched as her sails slowly diminished under the horizon. Aliena has decided to push further south before rounding Madagascar, while Privateer is sticking closer to the coast and the favorable currents.

The morning was heavily marred by the shocking election news from the USA. We feel like we do not have a country to sail home to anymore. What a sad, sad disgrace.

We hit an area of counter-current which Mark quickly routed us away from, and were soon back to the edge of the main flow. The Indian ocean current hits Madagascar like a big fire hose, creating a line of 1-3 knot current with associated back-eddies and counter-currents, just like water hitting a rock in a giant river. It's important to know where to go, because it's the difference between sailing at 8 knots with the current, or at two knots against.

As we round under Madagascar we're sailing over a broken plateau of shallower water and many sea-mounts. In rough conditions this would be a dangerous lee shore with hazardous seas. Fortunately today, she's a sleeping giant and we're gliding along at 8-9 knots nearer the shore (within 70 NM) in the current stream and low seas.

Tomorrow, the swells are supposed to kick up, pumping in from the intense low in the Southern Ocean. The first front should pass over us after we've rounded Madagascar, then a second one on Sunday, followed by a developing system over Durban that we will keep a very close eye on, as we close with the S. African coast.

For the time being, we are still charging along downwind at 8-9 knots! It feels strange to make these boat speeds with less than 15 knots of wind.

I don't know what else to say. Our thoughts are with our family and friends in the USA, and around the world, as we stumble into dangerous and uncharted waters.

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La Reunion to South Africa, Day 3

Date:Nov. 8, 2016, noon
Position:24 5.02 S, 51 3.50 E

Last night the winds dropped to very light and I was surprised we had any steerage at all, but we still eked out about 3.5-4 knots. After a few hours of lurching around, however, things got old and we fired up the engine. Fortunately, the wind filled again soon after, right at sunrise, and things developed into the most fantastic sailing day as can be imagined.

With an almost flat sea, 15-18 knots abaft the beam, and sails set to wing-on-wing, Privateer achieved a fast point of sail. As soon as we poled the full yankee out to windward, we surged like a greyhound through the gentle swells, 8 knots, 9 knots, 10 knots. For the entire day and into the night now, the winds were steady and even, with a gentle heel to keep things comfortable down below-decks.

Mark is keeping us informed about where to sail to catch favorable ocean currents and stay out of the adverse currents (there are a lot of them on this route). Like clockwork, we sailed into an area of predicted favorable current and picked up a knot of boat speed.

Taz didn't go down for his usual nap today which threw off the watch a bit. Then he took three poops in a row--no wonder he couldn't sleep! All that food he ate when he got his ocean appetite back...

My day was somewhat shadowed by my apprehension of the next week to come. Many important decisions need to be made about how far out to round Madagascar's southern cape, and what way-point to aim for to set ourselves up for the frontal systems. A shelf extends off Madagascar that is known for freak waves, and we want to clear by that ASAP. I will breathe a bit easier after we round Madagascar's southern cape, when we can draw the rest of our cards and see what kind of hand we're dealing with.

Today was also the day of the freighters--we have found the major shipping lane from Cape Town to Singapore. One by one or three by three they pop up on our AIS. If they're in line with us we make contact with the bridge and they alter course to give us a safe 3 NM pass. We also spotted a sail on the horizon today! She is the 56-foot yacht Aliena. I was very pleased that despite her much longer waterline, she's only gained on us by about 2 NM over the last 12 hours. We're on a converging course and only about 3 miles away from each other now. Hopefully in the morning we will be close enough to take pictures and exchange e-mails.

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La Reunion to South Africa, Day 2

Date:Nov. 7, 2016, noon
Position:22 52.35 S, 53 2.22 E

We managed to sail 144 miles noon-to-noon in fairly light winds. At very first light, I set the pole, as the winds had swung around more to the north (behind us). The swells flattened out and a steady light wind made for some easy wing-on-wing sailing. Other boats are motoring, but Privateer did just fine, making 5-6 knots under sail most of the day. We really want to conserve our diesel as much as possible for the second half of the passage, as we close in on the South African coast. We'll need as many cards in our hand as we can for the infamous Agulhas current.

The self-steering gear works wonderfully in light air, keeping us right on course at all times. We've nearly mastered the art of setting the vane, though we always learn something new each time we sail. Privateer--what a fine boat! Heavy weather, light airs, she handles them all in grace.

Taz sprang back into his sea routine today, devouring all food in sight. We had a marathon playdoh session until it devolved into Taz flicking little bits of the pink dough all around the bunk and mashing them into the cushions. Oh well...much better than yesterday's vomit. Kelsey also has her appetite back, after turning the corner on her morning sickness (finally!)

We've been in constant contact with Mark (creator of this website) on "Tuuletar" and he's devoting an extraordinary amount of time in giving us detailed weather forecasts, routing advice, and ocean current synopses. His help comes at a time when our Sailmail, GRIB, and WxFax reports are nil due to the poor SSB reception here. Thank you a million times over, Mark! We are also in contact with Sam, a local South African meteorologist who is also giving us reports (although less detailed, as he focuses primarily on HAM radio communications). And finally, another boat "Simmer Down" on passage with us has some sailor friends in Russell, NZ providing them with their synopses. We receive and trade all this info over our DeLorme inReach, a magic device that lets us text message from our iPad from anywhere on the planet. Every sailor can benefit greatly from the DeLorme inReach. "Simmer Down" uses one too, and contact with them is effortless. Repeat: every boat should have a Delorme inReach.

Right now it looks like we'll have two frontal systems sweep past us, on Friday and Sunday, as/after we round Madagascar, with a large 4.2 meter swell arriving from the south, originating from a big low in the Southern Ocean. When we turn the corner around the bottom of Madagascar, our sailing will get a bit trickier. Luckily the first system looks to be pretty mild, and the second one more intense but moving through rapidly, with potential thunderstorms. We'll be keeping a close eye on the barometer!

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La Reunion to South Africa, Day 1

Date:Nov. 6, 2016, noon
Position:21 14.37 S, 54 57.22 E

Where do we want to sail today? How about Africa!! The provisions are loaded, passports stamped out to exit, and we are on our way.

It took the better part of the daylight hours to finally make it free of the wind shadow of La Reunion. Piton Des Neiges ("Peak of the Snows") is the highest point in the Indian Ocean, so I've heard, which effectively blocks the normal wind direction and creates a massive lee. We had a light SW wind right on the nose for about 8 hours. With all sails set and pinching as close as possible to the wind, we eked out 4 knots in roughly the right direction.

We had to motor for several hours as well, which was fine as our batteries needed a good deep charge after being in a marina for two weeks. We left our shore power cord on the dock years and years ago, and we use only solar and wind power to charge our batteries. Ironically, marinas are poor environments for making your own power. The land and buildings and boats shadow the solar panels and block the breeze. Privateer prefers the free and open anchorage for a multitude of reasons.

Poor Taz did not enjoy motoring through confused swells near the land this morning. After two months kicking around in the Mascarenes his sea legs got a little soft, and he puked all over the bed sheets and all over his Mom. Fortunately he only gets sick with the following combo: long time away from the open sea, motoring, & confused swells. He quickly perked up when we shut the engine down, all sails drawing and windvane set. He's wild for his orange-flavored electrolyte drink, and we had to administer it in small doses otherwise he sucks it down too fast!

Around 1500 hrs we finally broke free from the curses of the land and found the solid Easterly winds, and are now sailing the rhumb line toward our 1st southern waypoint, south of Madagascar. We reefed the main before sunset (always an assurance) as a fine 17-knot breeze developed abaft the beam, and we are clipping along at 7-8 knots with spray flying.

The first day on passage is always kind of a tough one. Particularly the first 12 hours. We have a light-wind forecast for the next week, and our doubts were raised when we encountered the contrary SW winds. But I'd spent way too many hours in the past weeks staring cross-eyed at the Windyty and Passageweather forecasts, watching them change hourly, taking my mood up or down depending on the outlook. What finally pushed us off the dock is that cyclone season is bearing down on us, the forecasts will always change, and the fact that this passage leg is a notoriously tough one, with little chance of having favorable conditions the whole way. Next week's forecast didn't look so hot for leaving, and a $25 per day marina bill really adds up fast. I groggily nodded to another groggy sailor in the pre-dawn morning who's also setting out today. "You going?" he asked. "F- it, we're going" I said. "Yeah, F- it" he said (in case you're wondering how sailors communicate when not over the airwaves).

The decision of when to leave harbor is a deeply personal one. The fleet watches as each boat goes, on this day or that, and wonders who will be the luckiest boat with the luckiest weather. We've cast our dice, pushed beyond the initial first 12 hours at sea, and are now freely beam-reaching our way to Africa! Every mile sailed is another in our wake.

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Indian Ocean Pirate!

Date:Oct. 23, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:20 56.36 S, 55 17.25 E

Greetings from L'ile de la Reunion! We are safe in harbor and preparing for the big upcoming passage to South Africa. And...we also have some big news! Taz is going to be a big brother soon! The Indian Ocean is bringing us another child. One for the Pacific and One for the Indian...

Kelsey is currently 14+ weeks pregnant and due around April 20. We've known for quite some time (since Cocos Keeling) and it was a bit of deja-vu when we found out. Yet again, we were on a remote coral atoll out in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by coconuts and hermit crabs, and Kelsey was even wearing the same dress. It was meant to be...

Our cruising plans have changed radically to accept the upcoming circumstances. We've decided to have this baby in the USA, partly due to the expense and hassles we faced having Taz abroad. Also, partly due to the fact that South Africa is the last stop before we'd sail to Zika inflicted countries, which eliminates South & Central America and the Caribbean as options for Kelsey right now. Kelsey and Taz will hop on a plane in mid-January and fly from Cape Town, South Africa to Minnesota.

My Dad is flying into Cape Town in January and the two of us are preparing to deliver Privateer 7,000 nautical miles across the Atlantic, with brief stops at St. Helena and an island or two in the Caribbean before making landfall in Florida. From there, we'll try to make our way back to MN as soon as possible, so I can get back to Kelsey and Taz in time for the birth.

We are thrilled that Taz is getting a sister or brother! The new baby has now almost crossed the entire Indian Ocean in the womb, much like Taz did in the Pacific.


Catherine Watts: Such great news, Congratulations! Hope the run to South Africa is as settled as the forecast suggests. XOC&M Oct. 25, 2016, 4:59 a.m.

Tom: Congratulations! Oct. 25, 2016, 3:30 p.m.

Talia: Congratulations. Happy journey home family. XO Oct. 25, 2016, 11:42 p.m.

Vicky: Happy happy news!! xoxo Oct. 28, 2016, 11:55 p.m.

Simon: Congratulations guys! Going to have a full crew soon. Nov. 4, 2016, 10:31 a.m.

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Rodrigues to Mauritius: Day 2

Date:Oct. 2, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:19 35.61 S, 60 43.07 E

We're still poled-out and charging along...we made 156 miles over ground, for a solid 6.5 knot average over 24 hours. The trades in the Indian Ocean are really giving us a good sail! We keep adding a bit of diesel-stabilizer and biocide to the fuel tank every now and then, because we haven't touched our full tanks in so long...

I'm glad we left when we did--the winds are forecast to drop lighter on Monday afternoon, and we don't want to be wallowing around in this swell. The winds dropped off a few knots today and we have the perfect amount of wind (around 15 knots) for a comfortable, fast ride. We've seen about a dozen freighters on the AIS, and we appear to be crossing a major shipping route from Africa to SE Asia. Extra eyeball scans on the night watch are a must!

The water and air temps are finally cooling down to a sane level (i.e. not sweating 24/7) and one of the additional perks is that our solar panels are cranking out more amps. Cooler panels make more electricity. We were able to run our water-maker longer, which means longer showers, more water for washing down the boat, etc etc... Our new (in NZ) air-cooled fridge is also working less-hard now, which frees up a ton of load on the battery banks. Privateer's electrical system is optimized for temperate latitudes, and it's nice to see everything working so well together again.

I finally connected with the Africa radio station today and we appear to be back in business. This is good, as now our attention is turned to the tough passage ahead, from Reunion to South Africa, where we will need to receive the most accurate weather forecasts every day in order to make safe decisions on our passage routing.

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Rodrigues to Mauritius, Day 1

Date:Oct. 1, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:19 40.74 S, 63 25.19 E

October 1! And what better way to ring in this great month with a little 350-mile passage from Rodrigues to Mauritius? The new moon will guarantee we see lots of stars on the night watch. Our friend John on Sapphire is departing with us, but he is bound for La Reunion, one more day sailing beyond Mauritius.

After clearing the inner harbor we met with 18-20 knots of stiff breeze and started off our passage running out the gate, under reefed sails. The pole is out and we are wing-on-wing under the old standby sail configuration that has served us so well for the last 6,500 NM from Vanuatu. We're really racking up the ocean miles this year!

The seas sort of zippered together as we came out of the lee of Rodrigues, with swells meshing from two different directions. It made for the "metronome" effect for about 6 hours. But we are clear of that now and enjoying a fast ride, around 7 knots. We reluctantly leave Rodrigues in our wake, and hope to meet up again soon with our friends on S/V "Ralph Rover" and S/V "Fleur de Sel". For now, the weather window is right and we must sail on...

While in Rodrigues we unbolted the Monitor from the back of the boat and did a complete disassembly and re-build inside the boat. She's really working well now, with all new bearings and bushings, and polished up to look like new. I used as many parts out of the spare kit as I could!

Kelsey and Taz unfortunately have the 2-day bug that's going around Rodrigues now, so they spent most of the day sleeping down below, but Taz and I still had fun flinging his stuffed animals around the cabin and watching a great sunset. I can single-hand this passage as it should only be a few days to Mauritius.

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Rodrigues Landfall!

Date:Sept. 13, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:19 40.78 S, 63 25.24 E

Our motoring last evening was short-lived, and the perfect breeze struck up to carry us through the night, and into the lagoon at Rodrigues. We are safe in Rodrigues! I didn't want to jinx it, but I can now safely say that we had THE ideal passage from Cocos Keeling to Rodrigues. Boats in the previous weeks ahead of us reported horrendous conditions, and behind us several nasty lows filled in, stalling out the next wave of boats. With luck from the smiling weather gods, we were in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, all the way across the Indian ocean. It was a "good angel" passage as I call it, with a few little "demons" thrown in there in the middle to spice it up a bit.

I will leave the description of Rodrigues for another post at a later time. The place is incredible! Turns out that if you drill a hole through the center of the earth from Oakland, CA, you will find many things the same, but different. It's funny how the young men here dress just like the gang-bangers in Oakland, but here they will greet you with a polite "bonjour monseuir" and a shy smile. The hills are arid like much of CA, and the whole island used to be teeming with hundreds of thousands of giant tortoises... a very special place.

Many of you are wondering about the absence of posts in the past few weeks. We are in a dead-zone area for SSB propagation and can't connect to the Africa station right now to send out our messages. As we sail closer to Mauritius, we should have improved reception. We are in a very unfrequented corner of the world... We do ping our exact location via a tracker device every ten minutes, which our family closely follows. So even if these e-mails stop for several weeks, they can see that Privateer has made it safely to the anchorage and can text-message with us. Please, no need to worry! :)

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Days 11-13

Date:Sept. 12, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:19 40.42 S, 65 49.75 E

These past three days have gone by in a pleasant cadence. Easy downwind sailing in 20 knots, mellowing seas, sometimes wing-on-wing and sometimes deep-reaching. We're at that point in the passage now that time has shattered and we are like the sunrise and the sunset, making circles over the horizon each day in our sea routine.

On September 11th we finally shook one reef out of the double-reef main. When I hoisted the sail, several mummified and very stinky flying fish appeared, pasted to the sail right in front of my face. They had jumped into the sail at some point in days past, falling into the flake. Our mainsail now has a few greasy black smudges and many fish scales glued all over it, just under the second reef.

Privateer is finally nearing Africa! This has been a dream for so long now, and it's hard to believe that we're actually within reach now. We have been very fortunate on this passage, one of our finest so far. We've been very lucky with the winds, which have held steady and blown us now to within 89 miles of Rodrigues before we had to fire up the engine.

We have a new record for Privateer's longest tack: 1,910 miles in 13 days on port tack!! Rodrigues is a very significant landmark for us: it is on the opposite side of the earth as Oakland, CA, which was our easternmost point of the voyage. With the initial Alaska leg and the south-north detour to NZ, and the general southern leg from Oakland to Marquesas, we have sailed about 3/4 the way around the world distance wise, but we are now geographically 1/2 way around the world now. For the first time, we will be getting closer to home now with each mile sailed west. The majority of our sea miles are behind us now, as we take off on a more direct line toward North America.

Under power now, we should reach Rodrigues sometime tomorrow afternoon. It's kind of nice to end the long passage with a bit of a motor. We're re-filling our water tanks with the water-maker, taking long hot showers, topping up the battery bank, and cleaning the salt crystals off the boat. The seas have settled right down, with the swells marching under the boat in orderly 2-meter rows from the SE. Thank you, Indian Ocean!


Talia: So awesome to hear from you guys again after no contact for awhile. It reminded me of when I was a kid and the astronauts would orbit around to the dark side of the moon and we would wait until we had radio contact again. Happy Sailing. love love love, Talia Oct. 2, 2016, 4:22 p.m.

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Day 10

Date:Sept. 9, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:19 13.63 S, 73 56.51 E

It was quite a lurchy day as we "metronomed" through the seas today, wing-on-wing. The winds are still holding steady at 20 knots E-SE. While the height of the seas has decreased to about 3+ meters, they were a bit peaky, and every now and then one of the breaking crests would decide to clobber the side of the boat and flood the cockpit. Nothing dangerous, just inconvenient. For example, as I was preparing Taz's morning oatmeal, the bag of frozen blueberries flung itself across the galley and opened in a shower of buckshot. I frantically tried to rescue as many blueberries as I could back into the bag as they rolled back and forth across the counter and onto the floor.

Taz likes to take "copty (helicopter) rides" around the cabin. As we hold him aloft and fly him around he names and points at everything he sees. "Porthole, waves, deck, waves, water, sailboat, GPS, 'nother porthole--two!" He places his toy cars on the floor and they take off back and forth, as the boat rolls. I'm amazed at his ability to remain steady in a seaway. He rotates his torso and subconsciously anticipates the next wave, keeping his upper body steady vertical. He's a natural.

Our boat speeds are good and we're averaging about 150-mile days now. With our mileage to destination down into the 500s, we are on the home stretch! The last few days are always the longest for me, the big count-down. I'm just hoping these winds hold steady for us. It would be great to at least make it within 200 miles of Rodrigues, before we might have to motor-sail. We have been very fortunate so for on our 1,500 mile-long tack and counting!

Last night Kelsey fine-tuned the Monitor course and sail trim, and she must've done a perfect job. For the past 24 hours, the boat has been pegged directly on course, not deviating even more than 1/10th of a mile either side of the rhumb line. I've never seen anything like it, even when motoring under autopilot. We didn't touch the helm or sails all day long, as Privateer winged along, straight as an arrow.


Amy Vose: Kudos to Kelsey for her fine tuning and to all of you for handling whatever comes your way! Hope you continue to make good progress toward land. Look forward to your next posting. Xo Sept. 10, 2016, 2:48 p.m.

Talia: Taz hit the jackpot to have the two of you as parents. <3 Sept. 10, 2016, 4:01 p.m.

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Barreling along...

Date:Sept. 8, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:18 51.97 S, 76 33.35 E

Winds and seas have calmed a bit since the gales of the past few days, but we are still riding 20-25 knots of E-SE breezes and occasional squalls that are lingering with the passage of the cold front. It's a good wind, and just the one we need to get us there! We've reduced the poled-out Yankee to a small scrap of sail, and are riding comfortably with #2 reef main sheeted all the way out, storm Staysail sheeted flat for our "shark fin" stabilizing sail, and the Yankee scrap. Wind angle is 150 on port tack and boat speeds hovering around 6.5-7 kts. The motion below is tolerable, with occasional lurching when we get punched by a wave crest.

We swapped out one of the blocks on our steering control line and rigged a fresh new line, as the existing one was frayed, because the block was chewing it up. Kelsey and I managed to do it all while the boat was under way! The task was small fry compared to yesterday's adventures

Taz picked up the phrase "cool, dude" today and for some reason it really cracks him up! He laughs hysterically as he repeats it over and over again. He even woke up at 1 AM last night and started saying it as he chuckled to himself.

We made 135 miles noon-to-noon because of our time spent on the repair yesterday. GRIB reports look good and we should have great tail winds for a few more days, with the last two days being light winds and possibly motor-sailing for the final 48 hours of the passage. It's all a few days out yet, so we'll see what happens. Our current ETA for Rodrigues is Sep. 13 by nightfall.


Monica Haynes: I love reading your daily posts. So glad to hear things have calmed down a bit for you guys. I love you all, especially that cool dude Taz. Sept. 9, 2016, 12:53 p.m.

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Record-breaker day & steering failure

Date:Sept. 7, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:18 27.82 S, 78 54.79 E

Privateer shattered her all-time noon-to-noon record today, flying over 173 miles (as the crow flies). Adding for tack angles and wind shifts, we covered well over 180 NM over ground. So the new record stands, at 173!

The seas continued building throughout the night last night, and in the morning it was heaping seas in a smother of foam. The troughs were like a watery amphitheater, walls of water looming all around. Rising up on the crests, our view was similar to looking out an airplane window at an endless chain of snowy peaks as far as the eye can see.

A radio call with S/V "Sapphire" 500 NM ahead of us now revealed he (John) had had a rough night as well. His Monitor rudder sheared off at the top weld and he is sailing under heavily-reefed sails and using rope to lash the tiller. It's too rough for his electric autopilot, and we are all hoping seas will calm for him soon so he can get some sleep.

The apparent chaos of the waves juxtaposed with our *relative* comfort below is testament to the superior sea-keeping abilities of the Cape George 36. As waves punched and battered the cockpit, her small foot-well and broad bridge-deck allowed her to drain fast after she filled up and keep on sailing. Other "cheese and cracker boats" as our NZ friends call them, have large cockpits for entertaining, but cause the boat to wallow when a heavy sea breaks over the deck (imagine the immense and sudden weight of a full-size hot tub added to the back of your boat). Two waves in a row could easily poop a vessel. We're always jealous of the cheese and cracker boats in the anchorage, with all their comfortable seats and tables etc. But we'll take our cramped and seaworthy cockpit over any other on a day like today, we wouldn't trade it for 1,000 cocktail hours on a cheese and cracker boat. Ironically, cheese and crackers are about the only thing on the menu when the going gets I guess you could call this a cheese and cracker day--on a kick-ass traditional and time-tested design of a proper boat. 3 cheers for Privateer!

The event happened at 1230 hrs just after noon. Booming along in 30 knots when suddenly the boat spun around and jibed the Mainsail. Thanks to our multiple preventer system, it was a gentle jibe. Curious: the Monitor control lines were still intact. Usually, the boat will only jibe if one of these has broken. I steered us out of the jibe but my heart sank when I looked back to find that the Monitor rudder post had sheared off. Fortunately, the rudder was still trailing behind the boat like a Dorado on the line, attached to it's safety tie line.

The facts: we were 880 miles from Rodrigues, suddenly with no autopilot, in a gale. It was way too rough to even think about destroying our electric tiller-pilot. I am basically single-handing the boat when Kelsey needs to take care of Taz (who is getting his molars now.) We absolutely had to fix the Monitor, now.

In moments like this, I go into a sort of "soldier mode" and instantly enter into an optimistic and focused state. Two things immediately going for us was the fact that the breakage happened during the middle of the daylight hours, and Taz was sleeping soundly in his berth. First assessment revealed a simple shear-tube break, of which we had not one but two spares! "Kelsey, you're on the helm, steer wind angle 1-5-0." I rummaged through the spare bin and proudly held out the two spares. Perfect! Execute 2nd maneuver: heave-to and stop the boat, in order to stabilize the platform for repair. As we jibed and locked sails in a perfect heave, we heard a metallic clatter. 3rd maneuver: replace the broken tube. "Kelsey, please hand me the new tube."

After a few minutes of looking for the two tubes that I had in my hand before the heave-to, I asked again. "Where the F--- are the f------g piece of s--- tubes??" After 15 more minutes of frantic searching, we began to realize that in my haste to procure the spares and heave-to, the tubes had skittered right off the deck and down into 15,000 feet of seawater when the boat jibed around into the heave. And that my dumb-ass had for some reason brought both spares out into the vulnerable cockpit. "This is just the sort of thing that can happen at sea" I chided myself. "Two spares sitting in there all this time, right up to the second we need them, then gone, because of my stupidity." The situation went from very controlled and positive to a very personal low point. Forget about the tubes. Move on. Think. I measured the SS tubing on the dodger frame--diameter too small. Measured the tubing on the arch: just right. I cringed at the thought of cutting a section of tubing out of the arch, not only for the sacrilege of it, but for how long and difficult that would be to do with a hacksaw, in heaping seas. My spare tubes were probably still falling through the water down to the ocean floor...

Suddenly, Kelsey emerged from below and shouted "PETE!" She proudly held one of the tubes aloft! We both swore that we remembered me bringing both tubes into the cockpit and setting them up on the bench of the arch, and that we'd heard them go overboard. But in my initial excitement of finding the spares, I had for some unknown reason put them right back into their locker, sealed the hatch, and replaced the cushion over it. Whatever. I have never looked so lovingly on a 2" O.D. x 24" SS tube, with a perfect set of holes precisely drilled into either end to accept the locking bolts. The situation ramped back into an extreme high. Next came the wet part.

Kelsey tethered me up and I climbed out over the stern pulpit, and lowered myself down onto the Monitor frame. I must re-emphasize that we were in 30 knot winds with explosive seas breaking all around. We were hove-to which created the calm slick, but it was still quite a ride. With one arm locked solid around the Monitor frame, various tools in the other hand, legs falling asleep as my feet tried to find grip on the slippery salt-encrusted tubing, and with various greasy bolts and cotter pins in my mouth, I tried to remove the broken tube section and detach the bracket that holds it. My biggest fear was slipping and cracking a rib on the sharp metal extrusions on the frame. Riding this bucking bronco, both I and my "work station" were submerged by each passing wave. We call this a "circumnavigation experience". I felt like shark bait and constantly scanned under the boat for movement. It is an unnatural instinct to climb outside of the safety of the boat at sea, and into the electric-blue deep waters. I tried channeling the astronauts who must work on broken solar panels etc in space, tethered by a thin strand to their life force, surrounded by a vast emptiness of death and incredible beauty.

Once back to the safety of the cockpit with the bracket, we had a bit of a head-scratch on how to remove the broken tubing, which required a bit of Pine Island ingenuity. We were able to pull the broken piece out of the shaft by bending one of our kitchen knives into a hook tool, drilling a few small holes into the side of the tubing, and pulling it out with SS seizing wire and a rubber mallet.

Finally, we assembled the new parts, repeated a second "astronaut walk", and put everything back together. We jibed out of the heave-to and were on our way again, in less than two hours after the breakage! All squared away and back on the road again.


Vicky: So glad this day had a happy ending. I think I'm getting some new grey hairs Pete! xoxo Sept. 9, 2016, 1:44 a.m.

Talia: holy cow you two, that entry had me on the edge of my seat and I'm glad it turned out well. Pete, I surely hope you will follow in your grandfather's steps and write a book after this adventure is over. I read every entry. Love you guys..xoxoxoxox Sept. 10, 2016, 12:55 a.m.

Chris Frost: What a great adventure this is for you, Kelsey, Taz, and those of us reading your log entries, Pete. We hope you'll chose the northern route back to the west coast and stop in for a visit and some time ashore with us in Round Pond. Sept. 14, 2016, 3:51 p.m.

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Building seas

Date:Sept. 6, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:18 15.29 S, 81 56.50 E

The Indian Ocean is showing its not-so-pretty face tonight. Several hours before sunset a stiff S-SE wind found us, bringing gusts of 30+ knots in the squalls. The seas are heaping, and at times the deck looks more submarine than sailboat. It's a good thing we stowed everything away yesterday--the few items we forgot about became instantly known when they projectile-missiled themselves across the cabin. We clocked out a whopping 169 miles noon-to-noon.

At times like this I wish I could be as carefree as Taz. He's completely oblivious to the gale, and even seems to perk up at times like these. There's really not much to do except hold on, and remain at instant readiness in case something needs quick attention. "Does anyone know where the love of God goes, when the waves turn the minutes to hours" Gordon Lightfoot wrote. These words are so true. The worry is worse than the actual gale.

Privateer is of course handling the seas like a champ, blasting a path through the ugly cross-swells. At times like these I'd rather be on no other boat--her true form shines in moments like these. It looks like tonight will be the brunt of the heavier winds and seas, and then it should slowly taper off over the next several days.

We crossed the halfway-passage mile today! We've sailed 1,000 miles in 6.3 days (FAST!) since leaving Cocos Keeling, with another 1,000 miles to go now to Rodrigues. I had dreams of making a "halfway alfredo" for dinner as some friends on another boat do, but it's too rough to cook tonight. Maybe I'll try my luck at a 2/3 or 3/4 alfredo if conditions allow--something to look forward to anyway, as I gnaw on a granola bar for dinner...

We're getting down near 20 degrees South now, and the nights are much cooler. The seawater is cooler as well. Best of all, the solar panels are more efficient in these "colder" temps and the fridge also doesn't have to work as hard. And with the gale turning the wind generator, we're quickly topping up our battery bank and able to use electricity without thinking about consumption. We hardly ever run our engine to charge batteries. We usually just fire it up to motor into an anchorage, and turn it off again after we put the sails up on our way out to sea again. It's a great way to keep the engine room real tidy, too. We've burned only 4-5 gallons in the past 5,000 miles. So we get about 1,000 nautical miles per gallon--very fuel efficient!


Amy Vose: Hi Peter, Kelsey and Taz, Thanks for all your wonderful posts. They are entertaining and reassuring. I am in awe of what you are accomplishing and of your resourcefulness and skill. I wish you continued smooth sailing. Amy Sept. 7, 2016, 1 p.m.

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Squared away

Date:Sept. 5, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:17 31.73 S, 84 48.56 E

The new high pressure system is filling in now and we are screaming along on our beam reach, with 20 knot winds just aft of the beam. Our current speeds are between 7-8 knots. The winds are more out of the south now, and we have adjusted our course to ride comfortably down the rhumb line. All of our southing in lighter winds is paying off now, with our improved angle to destination now.

This morning and afternoon we squared away "Privateer" and gave everything a good sweep and polish. The less we need to do in the heavier seas to come, the better. Everything is ship-shape and in top form. In the evening we double-reefed the Yankee and snugged up the cringles in the the #2 reefed Main. The winds piped up right on cue at sunset and we are riding comfortably.

Last night I had an epiphany about a Taz-proofing problem. We've needed some sort of baby gate to keep him from wandering into the galley (especially near the gimballed stove) and into the forward head. Basically, we needed some sort of way to contain him in the main saloon. I kept on telling myself I'd find some plywood in port to make one, but suddenly realized we already had the perfect pieces on board! The dinghy floorboards are the perfect height and fit. A few grip clamps and voila--Taz now has a safe zone on the saloon floor. With his toys, potty, and high chair on hand, he's pretty stoked. He's been running around in circles chanting "wild rumpus, wild rumpus, wild rumpus!" He can watch Mom in in the galley and still see the "big boy potty" in the head, and we can easily step over it. I wish we'd thought of this sooner! The best solutions on board always use something you'd have to stow anyway, and putting it to good use instead. Dinghy floorboard/baby gate...who'd have thought? We're about 8,000 miles from the nearest Babies-R-Us (thank god) so necessity is the mother if invention.

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Lonely waters

Date:Sept. 4, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:16 27.07 S, 87 6.51 E

Like cowboys riding for days across the open plain, we sail onward over the endless azure seas. Miles and miles and miles of Indian Ocean. Sunset, sunrise, sunset, sunrise, the days fly past in quick succession. Our closest known human companion is our friend John on S/V "Sapphire", about 700 miles distant. Otherwise, we are quite alone out here! It'd be like being the only person in Minneapolis, Minnesota and having just one other "neighbor" in Dallas, Texas. "Privateer" has sailed us to the far corners of the planet.

We logged a solid 164 NM day, chugging along on our beam reach with a few hours of wing-on-wing in the afternoon. Except for moving the little piece of string that sets the course for the Monitor, and poling out the Yankee once, very little needed to be done sailing-wise. We played with Taz, napped, and even watched a movie. These are "easy miles" at sea.

This next week the winds and seas are forecast to freshen up to 25 knots with 4-meter seas for a few days before dying down again. If the GRIBS hold true we should have a pretty great sail. Now that we're south of the rhumb line, we'll have a good angle of attack for the new winds to come.

Our SSB propagation is starting to fade away and this may be the last post for a week or more, until I can load journals from the internet on shore. We use radio relay stations in Brunei and South Africa, but we seem to be entering into a no-man's land between the two. All is well on board "Privateer" and we are enjoying the solitude and the wide-open seas!


Vicky: Thinking of you 3 and hoping all continues to go so well. And hoping the trusty Monitor behaves for the duration. xoxo Sept. 5, 2016, 2:40 p.m.

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Date:Sept. 3, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:15 15.84 S, 89 40.88 E

We ended up getting a few light squalls on Kelsey's watch last night, which cleared most of the salt crystals off the decks. Other than a few slimy flying fish in the scuppers, the decks are clean. The winds backed more easterly, and I rigged the downwind pole at sunrise. We spent the morning and afternoon flying wing-on-wing on a beautiful downwind run under sunny skies in 16-20 knots of good wind.

We're sailing down south of the rhumb line in order to line up an easterly approach to Rodrigues. This will give us more flexibility in our sailing angle on the 2nd half of the passage, and give us a better chance of wind aft of the beam the whole way. It's sort of like the larger version of the route we sailed from Christmas Island to Cocos Keeling. When the highs push through they throw up a wall of stronger S-SE winds for a few days before the isobars level off in an E-W line. Better to be sailing a course of 270 True through these winds. The passage distance is so great that we'll be sailing through at least two of these "walls". We left Cocos right after the first one leveled off. I'm sure to be boring people with weather-geek talk...but sailing has by necessity turned us into amateur meteorologists. It's all-important to understand exactly what is going on in order to make the best (safest) choices at sea.

We're really moving along at a steady clip--three 154 mile days in a row now. We're back to a broad reach now, sliding down the waves at 7.5 knots. Taz was a bundle of energy today. We had some good fun kicking his bouncy ball around the cabin, assisted by the motion of the boat. He's perfected his aim into his miniature potty, and he's also interested in sitting on the real head now too. He gets upset when we diaper him up, so we've let him go naked. No pee on the floor today! He's very proud of himself and clucks his tongue in satisfaction.

1/4 of the passage passed behind us today when the GPS mileage-to-go rolled back to 1500. We also crossed the 90E longitude, putting us a full 1/4 of the way around the world just from Fiji. It also means that Taz has sailed well over 1/4 of the distance around on board Privateer, not including his Pacific Ocean crossing inside the womb.

Tonight we are sailing over the "90E ridge", a wall of massive underwater mountains that stretch for thousands of miles from Thailand to Antarctica. The summits rise to within 5,000 feet below us. The swells seemed a bit stacked up on the windward side of the ridge, no doubt due to the effects of the ocean currents flowing over the chain of summits.

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It's "Privateer" o-clock...

Date:Sept. 2, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:13 58.73 S, 91 59.18 E

Around 2am last night ("Ghost of Murphy" time) one of our Monitor control lines chafed through and snapped, causing the boat to sail to windward. The conditions were so gentle that we didn't even notice until we'd sailed one mile after the break. Luckily Taz was asleep, and Kelsey helmed the boat while I monkeyed around at the transom, rigging a new dyneema line. We were soon on course again.

We had an ideal day of sailing in low seas and 16 knot breezes, hauling in another 154 NM in the last 24 hours. Easy miles! The boat is gliding along as if she's on a string. During a few stretches of the day, we made 7.5 knots and it barely felt like we were even moving. We've been talking on the SSB to a few sailboats about a thousand miles ahead of us. One of them is experiencing 50-knot winds and 7 meter seas right now... it's all about being in the right place at the right time!

In the late afternoon one dark squall came up on us from the south. I was hoping it'd nail us so we could rinse the salt off the boat, but it passed just ahead of Privateer and off over the horizon, and left us under sunny skies again. The Indian Ocean is the saltiest of the three great Oceans, and salt crystals are growing all over the boat. They look like little square snowflakes, sticking to all our stainless steel and covering the solar panels.

For the past few days the Monitor has been making a troubling creaking noise, which I finally identified today. One of the pendulum shaft bushings (plastic) was cracked and had almost slipped out of the tube. Luckily, I was able to push it back in, but there is still some metal-to-metal contact between the tube and the frame where the bushing collar is missing. We'll have to sail the passage as-is, until we get to port and can remove the pendulum and replace the bushings with our spares. It's not a critical repair and the Monitor should function just fine for the remainder of the passage. We'll keep a close eye on it. I sprayed the hell out of all the moving parts on the Monitor with my trusty can of "Team McLube". Plastic has no place on a boat in the tropics. It instantly turns brittle and cracks apart. All exposed plastic parts on an ocean-going boat should be considered as needing annual replacement. It goes without saying that the Monitor is the most important piece of gear on board, as it does the job of two permanent helmsmen. It gives us the gift of time--and sleep--and it allows us to do things other than steer the boat 24 hrs a day.

It's funny the games you play in your head at sea on a long passage. The GPS started at around 2,000 miles and I've been watching the number decreasing, while imagining that our miles-to-destination number is the year, and thinking about what was happening in the world at that time. A few nights ago we were in WW2 (1943) and then soon the 1929 Great Depression. The 1800s were really great, and today we passed 1776, American Independence, and as I write this the year is 1626, but my mind draws a blank on that one. Counting down to the birth of Christ...

Time and days and nights begin to meld together on passage and we settle into our own little world out here. Passage time. Magic time.

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Getting back into the groove

Date:Sept. 1, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:12 59.40 S, 94 26.06 E

Another day on the great blue railroad...we reeled in 150 miles on our beam reach in 22 hours. The day was hot, but we had to keep the cabin completely buttoned up to prevent spray from entering through the hatches. I tried to crack the butterfly hatch during the heat of the day, but ten minutes later several cups of seawater splashed down on our bed. The cockpit is continually doused by every tenth wave or so, so it's kind of like being stuck between a hot and a wet place. Our consolation is that every day on this passage, we will sail a bit farther south into cooler latitudes. The nighttime temperature is perfect though, and I much prefer the starry night watch to the muggy days.

Taz is very proud of his new toilet skills, and he saves his urine like a dog marking many territories so that he can pee into his miniature potty as many times as possible. He prefers to pee standing up, and sort of clutches the wall as the cabin pitches back and forth in the waves. Now we can move on to #2 training!

It was a lazy day and I slept through most of it, peering out at the sparkling blue sea in between catnaps. We've got just enough wind to keep us moving along at high speed, where we can make 160 mile days with no drama. It's perfect sailing except for the right-angle swells. I can tell Privateer is very pleased to be sailing the Indian Ocean--she's made for exploring these exotic waters. Sails full and trimmed for beam reach. We continue on...

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Setting out across the Indian, 2,000 miles to Rodrigues

Date:Aug. 31, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:12 5.46 S, 96 52.98 E

We are under sail! It feels good to be back out on passage again, after two relaxing weeks on Cocos Keeling. Last night I found a shackle pin on deck at the base of the mast--exactly the kind of thing you never want to see before going offshore. Where did it come from?? I finally found the culprit at the downwind pole hoist. It was an easy fix and I was able to lower the open shackle to the deck and re-connect it. It is a lesson that every shackle on board must be moused with SS seizing wire.

In the pre-dawn hours, Privateer was tugging on her anchor chain in good breezes, signaling she was ready to go. At daybreak I fashioned UHMW wedge supports for the Monitor wind vane brackets and hose clamped the entire assembly to the frame, effectively fusing all the parts together. I am pretty satisfied with the outcome, and I am knocking on wood that this holds for our Indian Ocean crossing. Next I dove over the side and scrubbed the whole bottom of the hull, back to bright blue bottom paint. The fish gathered under me to eat the barnacles as they sifted down through the clear waters. With some sadness, we leave this coral atoll with it's white powdery sand bottom behind. It's amazing to be anchored in this turquoise aquarium.

We made one last trip to shore to clip our nails, as it is bad luck to do at sea and forbidden on board. It'll be at least two more weeks until we can clip them again, so better to start the voyage well-trimmed. Taz ran along the beach and into the surf, and swung in a hammock under the coconut trees. After returning to the boat we ran down the list of all that needs to be done to prepare the boat for the open sea. We're getting pretty good at it now. Here at Cocos, the transition from enjoying the placid anchorage to heaving through the swells under full sail only takes about ten minutes, so you'd better be prepared. The most amazing thing was that Taz went down for his afternoon nap just before we weighed anchor, and remained sound asleep all the way until we were clear of the atoll, flying along under Monitor vane and out to sea. It was the perfect scenario! It allowed Mom and Dad to give full attention to navigating out the lagoon, hoisting the sails, and setting our course.

Privateer is rolling along at 8 knots on a beam reach, in 18 knots of wind with #2 reef Main, Storm Staysail, and #2 reef Yankee. We leave the Main sheeted loose on a beam reach, almost luffing, and the helm balances out nicely. The Monitor then just acts to keep the boat on course. We're steering a bit south of the rhumb line to set ourselves up for an Easterly approach to Rodrigues, 2,000 miles distant. The GRIB reports look great, but we'll see how much they can change.

We're starting the anticipated 2-week passage on the new moon, so we should enjoy a full moon approach to the Mascarene archipelago. It'll be a dark first few nights this week. Privateer is looking good, all squared away and ready for sea work. The wind generator is putting out good amperage on the beam reach, charging up our battery bank and keeping us going day and night. The motion is slightly uncomfortable as the swells from the great Southern Ocean roll up from the S, broadside to Privateer on this passage. But we are making great speed and can't complain for now. Just settling back into the sea routine.

P.S. Just a quick note regarding e-mails: If you are receiving this log to your e-mail inbox, hitting "reply" to the admin@svlogbook address sends your message to the website administrator (our friend Mark on s/v "Tuuletar") and not to us. You can log onto the website and leave a comment on a log post if you like (visible to all). Otherwise, just send e-mails to our regular Gmail inboxes: and/or We are able to check our emails pretty regularly when we are on shore in this age of iPhones and SIM cards. Mark has forwarded the lost batch of e-mails to us which we have just read. To Bruce & Deb and everyone else that has sent us emails to the admin@svlogbook address, we love to hear from you and will answer you soon! Please keep your comments/e-mails coming.

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Snug in the inner lagoon, Cocos Keeling

Date:Aug. 17, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:12 6.67 S, 97 8.33 E

Our good winds continued, and with it our speed, and we knocked out 165 miles in 24 hours on a 20-knot beam reach, reefed sails. In the early afternoon she got pretty boisterous, with a swell filling in from the South and wind waves building a foamy sea. Privateer rocketed through the swells. In the late morning, the white superstructure of a freighter loomed up from behind the swell, ironically approaching on a dead collision course. We radioed the freighter and they altered course 10 degrees to pass astern of us. It's quite striking to go days without seeing anything, and suddenly there's this huge ship right next to you! We were sailing along on our beam reach, keeping right on our rhumb line, to insure we didn't get blown north of Cocos Keeling, fast approaching.

Our approach to Cocos Keeling atoll was a rough and windy one--the seas were dancing as the palm trees popped up on the horizon. It was all a bit surreal. I am extremely thankful for the daylight entrance. We got there at 1430 hrs! Plenty of daylight to see the many, many hazards. We were throttled by the wind as we dropped our sails and motored straight into the the entrance. Kelsey wrestled the staysail down on the foredeck, and got a complete and thorough soaking. Taz wailed from his perch below, while I was at the helm shouting commands above the winds. Our little hand-held radios we normally use to communicate from bow to helm weren't sufficient against the shriek of the wind. Every landfall is a bit different, but each one always requires quite a bit of work to go from open-ocean sailing one mile, to motoring into the anchorage the next mile. It's a quick change of scene.

The water here is clear as crystal, and when the boat passes over a coral patch, it looks like you're sailing over the rocks--very unnerving. It was all very short-lived, however, and we are now anchored safely in 13 feet of water in the inner lagoon at Direction Island, white sand bottom. I dove down to the bottom and kissed the anchor, buried in the sand. The anchor was holding fast--how cool is that to be able to dive down and touch the anchor? A visual check like that ensures a very good sleep. I also dove down and stood on the snow-white lagoon bottom with my hands pushing up on the bottom of the keel. It's like swimming around in a giant aquarium!

We have the whole anchorage to ourselves, except for one other single-hander from Canada on a Westsail 32. This place is what we call the "Screen-saver" anchorage--glowing turquiose waters, thick strings of coconut palms growing along the perfect sandy beach. We are very grateful to be safe in harbor, making it in just before things got wild on the ocean! I enjoyed watching the swells smash up and vaporize into the air from the protection behind the reef, snug in the inner lagoon. It was a really great 3.5 day sail from Christmas Island. Solid beam reaches, and our southern dogleg strategy worked out perfectly for the wind shift we experienced on the final 24 hours of the passage.

And now--time to rest and pause, think about how far we've come, and to put our minds to readying the boat for the next major leg of the voyage across the Indian Ocean. (And snorkel and swim and drink coconuts!)

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Warm front approaching

Date:Aug. 16, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:12 1.19 S, 99 59.25 E

Early this morning we reached our southern waypoint, on latitude with Cocos Keeling. The strategy is that this will allow us a better wind angle when the winds shift more southerly in the afternoon. We ran down the latitude wing-on-wing throughout the morning and into the afternoon. I was a bit disappointed with our speed--still in the high 5s but we need to average 6.2 knots to make the entrance to Cocos in daylight. It was a major concern, and I spent the morning fiddling with the calculator and fretting about our speed. We normally heave-to and wait offshore if approaching land at night, however the winds and seas are forecast to continue building up to 30 knots during that night. We'd rather be sitting in the duck-pond lagoon at Direction Island and recounting our passage, rather than remaining offshore in building seas.

In the afternoon we saw the classic high mare's tails clouds and a giant halo around the sun--a sure indication that a warm front is approaching. I pulled out my weather books and read up on what to expect. Luckily, the associated low is to the north of us, and in the Southern Hemisphere this means that we are on the side that should experience little rain and not much temperature difference. Despite the lighter winds this afternoon, we kept a double-reef in the main. Kelsey made an excellent Falafel for lunch, our "last supper" at sea she called it, as it will likely be too rough to cook tomorrow.

Sure enough, in the late afternoon the winds shifted 90 degrees to the south and freshened to 18-20 knots. Our routing strategy has paid off, and we are able to hold a beam reach. As the front drags through the winds will build more, but should back more to the SE again, and we can have the winds abaft the beam (more comfortable sailing). The Monitor vane bracket seems to be holding fine for the moment, but there is still movement at the bracket. I'm going to try and stabilize the brackets with hose clamps and bolts when we get to Cocos Keeling. Just keeping my fingers crossed that I don't have to do hand steering if we have another bracket failure. These brackets are a major weak point on an otherwise robust design.

We're into the 8s now on boat speed, making "piles of miles" as I'm calling it. With the improved speed, we are targeted to arrive around 1500 hrs tomorrow afternoon, which should give us a good daylight entrance. Fingers crossed!


Amy Vose: Love following your adventures and your ingenious solutions to the constant problems. Hope all goes smoothly and you get your daylight arrival. Aug. 18, 2016, 11:32 p.m.

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Beam Reaching

Date:Aug. 15, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:11 29.50 S, 102 25.32 E

We spent the whole day and night beam reaching in 15-18 knots of wind. It was perfect sailing, other than the fact that we had to keep all the hatches and portholes battened down as the spray shot over the rails. Any time the wind is on the beam or forward of the beam, it can get stifling hot down below in the cabin in the middle of the day. Today was no exception, as we are still only 11 degrees away from the Equator. We clocked out a whopping 165 miles since yesterday's noon, and I feel a bit better about our approach to Cocos Keeling now.

I can't believe the amount of plastic we are seeing in the Indian Ocean. At any one point, within one boat-length of us, a flipflop or oil can or plastic bag will drift by the hull. We passed through a few garbage gyres where I could see about 500 separate chunks of plastic floating within view on the horizon. Truly, the ocean has become completely saturated with plastic--it is a witness-less tragedy. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that we're still relatively close to Indonesia. It's a strange feeling, being this far out here, and seeing manmade objects everywhere you look. Akin to skiing to the South Pole and finding a field of Snicker's bar wrappers and bottle-caps there, I suppose.

We've been using the electric tiller-pilot in lieu of the Monitor these past two days, in order to save wear and tear on our jury-rigged repair of the broken Monitor bracket. The tiller pilot complained a but today, however, and decided to unscrew itself both at the end-cap tiller attachment point and also inside the unit at the recirculating ball-screw drive. Both detachments required a quick "all hands on deck" moment. Kelsey quickly plopped Taz into his high-chair with a jar of applesauce, and took the helm while I set up the Monitor vane and fixed the electric tiller pilot. We're back to using the Monitor now, but I am unhappy with the bracket still--there's a bit of deflection that will eventually lead to another failure in the future. Our friends on the "Beguine" are sailing two spare brackets to us in Cocos Keeling, but in the meantime I may try to rig up a more solid turning block attachment by bolting the blocks directly to the caprail. Ahh, the joys of circumnavigating...

We're really looking forward to Cocos Keeling! It's one of those places we dreamed about as we planned our voyage route. We'll use our time there to rest up and put Privateer in top shape for the big sail across the Indian Ocean to Rodrigues.

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Sailing for Cocos Keeling

Date:Aug. 14, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:10 35.42 S, 105 4.20 E

It was hard to leave Christmas Island, after spending two weeks among the trillions of crabs that swarm the island and meeting some of the friendliest island folks we've encountered on the whole voyage! We'll post journals soon of our exceptional adventures there.

We slipped the mooring lines before first light and sailed out into the Java Trench. Within several hundred feet from the anchorage, the depths plunged off into 1000 feet, and then to 15,000 feet just a few miles from the island. For the 530 NM passage to Cocos Keeling, we are sailing over a massive chain of extinct underwater volcanoes. Christmas Island is the only summit in the chain that breaks the surface, and it is said that it is taller than the mass of Mt. Everest, when measured up from the sea floor. From underwater, Christmas Island would look something like the scale of Mt Rainier, "Privateer" anchoring on the rim of the summit.

As we left the lee of Christmas island we picked up the swells and got battered by a few gentle squalls and heavy rainfall. It actually worked out pretty well, as the hard rain washed the yellow phosphate dust off the boat, which we had a heavy dusting of after anchoring downwind from the mine loading operation in Flying Fish Cove. The winds went light in the wake of the squalls so we did an hour or two of motor-sailing, topping up our battery banks and making more water with the water-maker. The gloomy morning finally gave way to a sunny afternoon and the trade winds have filled in nicely now. We've been making 7-8 knots with 15 knots of wind on the beam all day and into the night.

We're angling down to the south right now as the trades are predicted to intensify and veer more S-SE on Tuesday evening. We're hoping to keep the wind aft of the beam on our final approach to Cocos Keeling by using this tactic. Hopefully, we will keep up the good speeds through the passage in order to arrive at Cocos in daylight. I had originally wanted to leave Christmas Island at sunset for better timing of a morning Cocos arrival, however the winds at sunset yesterday were strong with a ferocious sea tearing past the island. Presently, we are looking at an evening Cocos arrival, which is less than ideal. We may have to heave-to and spend another night at sea if we cannot make the entrance in daylight. Time will tell--we're still 400 NM away. Such are the thoughts and worries that a ship's captain bears...

I've been growing out my beard again, as this gives me friendly reception with the Muslim populations on the islands. Today Kelsey looked up at me from the companionway and noted many grey hairs on my chin! I suppose it's from looking out at all the swells and "greybeard" seas in my sailing career. I'm glad to be growing older out here at sea, with my family, bounding over the waves.


Katrina: What a great way to go grey!! We miss your friendly faces in the Christmas Island Visitor Information Centre and especially Taz and his "Oh no"!! Aug. 16, 2016, 3:42 p.m.

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The Crabs of Christmas

Date:Aug. 1, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:10 25.00 S, 105 43.00 E

Christmas Island unquestionably belongs to the crabs. They occupy nearly every nook and cranny across the island, tucking themselves into the naturally occurring holes of pockmarked volcanic rock, clawing over the curved roots of the Tahitian chestnut tree, ducking into hollow, decaying tree trunks, and generally scurrying about the musty rainforest across a carpet of moss, fungi, a mess of leaves and a landscape of well fertilized dirt. The forest understory is scant as the land has little defense against these creatures. They've tilled and softened the earth with trillions of holes so that each step is an uncertain one.

The vibrantly colored reddish-orange crabs, of cross-island mass migration fame, are conspicuous against the forest floor while other crabs in shades of brown, blue and gray are often somewhat camouflaged. There are some 20 crab species on the island, including robber crabs (known previously to us as coconut crabs), nearly as big as basketballs and dwarfing the ones we'd seen in Fiji. Here they grow larger than anywhere else of earth. Immense, a bit intimidating, and apparently opportunistic, they live up to their name if personal effects are left unattended. Around these parts, you wouldn't dare sleep out under the stars for a night.

Days of sporadic downpours brought the crabs out in hordes, to our delight. We'd been under the impression that we had to seek them out but, as it turns out, the crabs were simply everywhere and unavoidable. A few months shy of the November red crab migration, we got a sense of what a spectacular phenomenon it must be, undoubtedly one of the great wonders of the natural world. Looking ahead on the trail with a panoramic sweep revealed the forest floor alive with minute movements. Hiking about required a constant eye to the ground as we gingerly zig-zagged our way through the staggered line of crabs. Similarly, out on the roads we found ourselves cautiously swerving around them despite the foot-high metal barrier in place to keep the crabs out of harm's way. Shame falls upon anyone who accidentally hits an enormous robber crab while driving. The fatality is added to the month's total and broadcast on the community chalkboard, stationed prominently in the main roundabout for all to see as they drive into town. Crabs clearly rule here.

Outside of the town area, the island is nearly all national park, a rugged landscape of steep, jagged cliffs, remote beaches and interior rainforest home to many endemic plant and animal species. Without a 4WD little of the island's thick jungle can be accessed, so we were lucky that some generous locals loaned us their Land Cruiser (even outfitted with a car seat), fit to navigate steep roads of loose gravel, skirt potholes, and straddle washouts. Initially we traveled along extra wide, flat gravel roads laid for the "land trains," the multi-bed semi-trucks that transport the island's phosphate reserves to the loading dock. Drooping vines gently swept across our windshield even along these more manicured roads. Pockets of trees rising tall and as wild looking as Dr. Seuss' Lorax trees forced our view upwards along their spindly trunks. Spurs off of the main roads led to the island's natural attractions and some of the most rugged driving we've ever done, with signs everywhere clearly indicating 4WD ONLY. Fortunately, our vehicle performed like a monster truck, tackling any potential obstacle with appropriate vigor.

Taz was a happy camper riding around in a car for a change, with a front seat (and very illegal) view. During our island tour he splashed around in the shallow waters at the base of a moss-laden waterfall, got misted by salt spray at the lively local blowholes, and poked into countless crab holes with his stick. Although he's terrified of his wind-up crab on the boat, he showed no fear in approaching the real thing. Under the canopy of Arenga palms, and from the vantage point of his hiking backpack, Taz enjoyed spotting the obvious red crabs and counting them, "One, two!" or "Many!" We mistakenly left our mosquito repellant behind and he looked a bit worse for the wear at the day's end, like the survivor of some backwoods boot camp. Fortunately we were more bothered by our negligence than he by the bites!

Along the roadsides, a strange sight caught our eyes--stakes with dangling sausages. From our conversations with park employees, we knew that these sausages were injected with a poison known as 1080, with the purpose of killing off the feral cats that are a threat to the endemic bird population. This long-term eradication program involves many employed in the day-to-day work of "cat baiting." In a strange and disconcerting twist, we saw a coconut crab at one of the bait stations, aggressively swatting at the sausages. With its apparent determination and physical prowess, the crab likely made quick work of the poisoned meat.

Long live the crabs!

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Date:July 30, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:10 25.71 S, 105 40.12 E

We hare safely anchored down at Christmas Island! Our 1,025 NM passage from Ashmore Reef took us almost 7 days, with our 12-hour heave-to stop included. Not bad! All under sail with no motoring. Heaving-to in the gale was also good for our battery bank, as the wind generator pumped out the amps once we stopped running downwind.

Daybreak revealed 25 knot winds and squalls--the first solid squalls on this passage. We knew our weather luck would run out at some point on this ideal passage... Taz was still sleeping soundly at 6 AM when we let the staysail sheets fly, jibed the boat around, and got under way again. We quickly accelerated and set up our downwind sail configuration again. The seas were big, but the electric pilot gave them everything she had, and thankfully spared me from 6 hours of what would have been tiring hand-steering. Geez I'm such a wimp on the hand-steering now! But really, I've had my hand chained to a tiller for years, and I'm happy to give the autopilot some practice now :)

As we approached Christmas Island the seas built to sharp peaks and the swells sort of "zippered" together from 2 different directions. The color of the sea and the leaping foam at the wave-tops looked exactly like that famous Japanese painting of the wave. About 15 miles away, a bright-green Christmas Island emerged from the waves, and as we sailed toward her coast we watched massive plumes of spray as the swells pounded into the cliffs. Blow-holes shot plumes of vapor hundreds of feet into the air, like dragons breath.

The ever-present Australian Border Force aircraft swept in from out of nowhere as we neared the island, buzzing overhead and asking for our details yet again. This is now the 4th time we've been buzzed.

We quickly rounded the lee of the island and struck sails as we glided into Flying Fish cove, aptly named as we've had more flying fish on this passage than any other that I can recount. Remarkably, the anchorage is the one calm pocket amid the boisterous trade winds. The Island looks completely fascinating and we can't wait to explore. We are definitely in a foreign land now. It feels like the Marquesas almost, with the vertical volcanic cliffs. The waters are crystal-clear and we can see at least 150 feet down to the bottom. There's a mosque nearby with a loudspeaker broadcasting ghostly prayers every few hours throughout the day and night. More to come soon... For now, sailor's rest. Another passage successfully complete!


Cheryl Brockman: So glad you are at Chrystmas Island....zen joy your exploring & your time on land! Aug. 1, 2016, 2:04 a.m.

Mike & Mona: We hope you enjoyed your visit to Christmas Island as you expressed you did. We certainly enjoyed your company and welcomed your international knowledge of your journey and your lives back home. We will follow your journey with great interest and look forward to your comments about Cocos Is, were we are sure you will experience another great place on the Indian Ocean. Don't forget to try the local dishes of Gong Gong and fish balls (Wednesday night on Home Island) and if you get the chance catch up with Kylie & Ashley whom do a canoe trip within the Islands which is recommended. Aug. 14, 2016, 4:35 a.m.

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Building Seas, Hove-to

Date:July 29, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:10 48.95 S, 107 7.65 E

Good thing we reefed early! The winds built to 25 knots and the seas are starting to stack up. The electric pilot is holding our course well and not too overworked yet, because our sails are well balanced. The boat is rolling again like a metronome, and we feel like we're back on the Coral Sea passage. We could only fill Taz's bathtub about 1/4 full as the water sloshed from side-to-side. He loves his sea baths and relaxed in the tub for hours and hours, becoming increasingly fascinated with his now-shriveled toes and fingers.

At sunset it was decision time. Even with our slower speeds with reefed sails, we still made 150 miles today, and our ETA at Chistmas Island is during the middle of the night. When you are passage-making and sailing to new lands, it is never a good idea to arrive somewhere new after dark. Even more so because our electronic charts on the GPS do not give any detail for Christmas Island (we've literally sailed off our charts). The winds were a comfortable 17 knots at the moment, but forecast to build to 25 knots after midnight with increasing seas from a system to our south. We had 2 choices: 1. Sail into the lee behind Christmas Island and heave-to around 2 AM and reach the anchorage at first light, or, 2. Heave-to after sunset and start sailing again at 2 AM, so that we could see the Island as we approached, but in higher winds.

We opted for the prudent approach, and hove-to shortly after sunset. The winds filled in and built right up to 30 knots with heavy squalls, but we were "parked" safely and relaxing as the squalls blew past. I can't imagine the nightmare we would have faced if we had tried to fumble around with a radar approach to Christmas Island on this black night. We were so comfortable, in fact, that we stayed hove-to for the entire night, until after daybreak the next day. And so we spent our last night at sea, 30 NM from Christmas Island, with plenty of sea room to drift, and got a good rest before our final approach. It's a wonderful feeling to know that Privateer heaves-to so nicely. When the weather goes sour we can just park the boat on the ocean and get a good sleep!

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Sunset demon

Date:July 28, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:11 1.72 S, 109 41.05 E

We had yet another big mileage day--165 miles in the last 24 hours. For the past three days we've had 169, 168, and 165 NM. We are now fully 1 day ahead of "schedule" and may have to heave-to so as not to arrive at Christmas Island in the night.

We had another scare with a fishing boat today, when suddenly straight ahead it looked like we were on collision course with a dead whale! I quickly grabbed the Monitor vane line and altered course at the last minute. The whale turned out to be a massive styrofoam float with a rotten palm frond sticking out the top, with a smaller buoy attached. It wasn't until after we passed that I looked back and saw another one of those pesky open boats attached to the buoy, several hundred yards away. We had sailed right in between the boat and the buoy, and presumably right over their net! The swells were large and the light blue boat camouflaged well in the waves. At this point, Kelsey and I are quite rattled by all the small boats out here, and almost expect to see one every time we scan the horizon. We're on constant 24-hr watch.

It was shaping up to be another fantastic sunset and I was feeling very relaxed and good about the passage, when our good angels left and a little demon hopped aboard for the night. First, I re-broke my toe while climbing into the cockpit and lurching into a wave. Not sure if I wrote about it earlier, but on passage in the Coral Sea I slipped and cracked my "pointer" toe. It's been catching on things because it hangs down slightly lower than the rest of them now. Re-breaking it was more painful than the initial injury! Let's just say that Taz unfortunately learned a few new words from the experience, and at random intervals repeats the "F" word to me. We'll try to ignore that one... "Yes Taz, we're having FUN! FFFUN!"

Next, our propane ran out right at sunset, in the middle of dinner prep. Not a disaster, but the prospect of changing out the propane tank on the bow while at sea in big swell is a wet one at best. And my mind was a bit foggy from the pain-killers I had just taken. I opted to pop on one of our spare Coleman cylinders which will give us 2 days of usage, rather than wrestle with lashing the larger spare tank. As I was doing all that up on the bow, we heard a strange bang, and the boat started veering off course. I rushed back to the stern and saw that out Monitor line--the one we had just re-set--had parted again. Strange. And then I discovered a problem: one of the turning block brackets had bent and sheared off at the base. This was definitely a problem that couldn't be solved at sunset, and a fix that will require some SS metal work. Our beloved Monitor, steering us faithfully for tens of thousands of miles, has suffered her first (minor) breakage. Fortunately, we are only 200 NM from Christamas Island, but we now must rely on our small electric tiller pilot.

Kelsey and I had a meeting at the beginning of the night watch: The reality is that if the winds build (which they are forecast to do) the inferior electric autopilot will become overwhelmed, and we will need to hand-steer for 2 days. We were not happy about that prospect after our Nelson to Opua experience in NZ... We decided to double-reef the main and reef the Yankee, to make a nice small sail plan that the electric pilot could handle easier. The biggest drawback to electric autopilots is that they steer a perfect course, but do not allow for changes in wind direction. This means that if the winds shift and get behind the mainsail, the boom could unexpectedly jibe over. The Monitor vane automatically keeps us on the course our sails are trimmed for, whereas the electric pilot will require constant attention to wind angle and a new course will have to be punched in manually every time the wind shifts. Since we are wing-on-wing the main is already sheeted out, so very little adjustment can be made to sail trim. We just have to maintain the tricky line to avoid a jibe. We cracked off a bit to the south, so that the winds favored the downwind pole side of the boat, rather than the boom side.

The bad luck happened in a quick set of three, so hopefully things will return to normal. We never did see that sunset...too busy adjusting to our new set of passage rules. Kelsey woke me up at 2330 hrs to tell me she'd seen a light. Somewhere up ahead of us, I saw it too. A flashing red and white light of some sort. I guessed it was a fishing buoy but I'll have to look it up. We saw it flash a few more times up ahead, and then nothing. Needless to say, it had us very worried. It was almost as if the lights were there just to scare and annoy us! After all these fishing boats and clutter in the water, we're feeling pretty rattled about collision at sea.

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Pirate Threat

Date:July 27, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:11 22.23 S, 112 27.79 E

We smashed out another 168 NM since yesterday. The decks are completely plastered with flying fish scales. Each night a dozen or so flying fish make their last leap onto Privateer and end up stunned in the scuppers. By early afternoon their bodies have hardened into little cooked sausages, seared by the tropical sun. I make the rounds on deck each day to un-glue the unfortunate creatures from the deck and toss them back into the sea. I suppose it's the same concept as driving and collecting many bugs on the windshield and radiator screen. No bugs out here--just millions upon millions of flying fish. Vast swarms of them leap from the waves all day long, bouncing over the swells like skipping stones.

The motion of the sea changed in the afternoon, when we sailed over and between the summits of two 11,000 foot underwater peaks. Suddenly the seas got choppy and confused, and we rolled from side-to-side very annoyingly all afternoon. It turned into one of those days where you just get comfortable and do as little as possible.

Suddenly Kelsey shouted down below to me "Pete, oh my god there's a boat right next to us!" I shot above decks in a quarter-second and instantly saw an open boat not more than 15 feet off the side of our boat, and a man on the bow with a long line coiled in his hand! The bastard had snuck right up on us in the 3-meter swells and had approached us. In the second instant I saw two more boats, surrounding Privateer. "Get below and stay down--HIDE!" I urgently hissed to Kelsey. In that moment, we both assumed that we were under pirate attack. It was a terrible shock. I frantically tore open the sat phone case and emerged into the cockpit with phone on and radio in hand, to let them know I was talking with the outside world. The boat alongside caught a glimpse of me and fell away. The three boats gathered at our stern while the men shouted to each other, and circled their bows back toward Privateer. It was a very tense moment. We continued sailing along at 7 knots, wing-on-wing. And... we slowly sailed away. The boats did not come back toward us.

There are numerous reports of small fishing boats approaching sailboats and asking for booze, cigarettes, or medicine. But we were 200 NM off the coast of Java. These guys were way offshore for the tiny boats they were in. Also, 1/2 mile is considered a very close distance for vessels to pass at sea. These guys were looking into our portholes! There is no way a boat could safely come alongside in 3-meter seas. Their boats were low and small and impossible to see even from a few swells away--they simply vanished behind the walls of water. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they were just overly-curious. But there's no way around having suspicion--we are sailing astride some of the most notoriously pirated waters in the world, where even Indonesian Customs officers have been known to turn rogue.

We're all settled down now, but have blacked out our lights tonight and are running dark, to avoid revealing our position. I can't even imagine what a hard life it must be for those fishermen way out here in those tiny, crude boats. I don't even know how they can carry enough fuel to make it out here, fish, and back! Thank god they didn't try to board us. What a shock, to feel like you're the only people on earth while sailing at sea, to be suddenly face-to-face with an unknown entity.


Robynne: Well this is terrifying! I hope that there aren't any other encounters like this. Is there a place for you to report incidents like this? Sending hugs to all three of you! -Robynne July 29, 2016, 9:19 p.m.

Eulalie: Keep your posts coming! We look forward to every one of your posts and essays. Eric and Eulalie on sv Elizabeth Jean July 29, 2016, 10:12 p.m.

Catherine Watts: Eish! Wishing you a safe comfortable and lonely rest of the passage July 30, 2016, 8:52 p.m.

Scott Fleming: Grim business! I second Cat's comments, a lonely voyage is a good voyage in this case! All the best, Scott (Singita) Aug. 2, 2016, 2:10 a.m.

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Clocking Sea Time in the Shipping Lanes

Date:July 25, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:11 44.90 S, 118 10.73 E

Another day smashing out the miles in ideal conditions. At the moment we've got 15 knots just aft of the beam and Privateer is cranking along at 8 knots, smooth as a train riding on the rails. We had a bit of wobbly wing-on-wing in lighter breezes today but the trades are filling in nicely now, and (knock on wood) it looks as if they're here to stay, based on the latest GRIB reports. It's almost as if the instruments are lying--just glanced at the GPS showing 9.2 knots...

Around mid-day a pod of very large brown dolphins visited us. We're out over the deepest parts of the Java Trench now, with 22,000 feet of water under the keel.

The excitement of the night watch came at around 2 AM when we crossed the shipping lanes from Perth to Singapore. Suddenly a few ships popped up on our AIS (Ship Identification System) as we sailed wing-on-wing across the freighter highway. The first two freighters were no problem--we passed astern of the first one and well of the bow of the second. But then the Helga Oldendorff popped into the corner of the screen, coming from the opposite direction and on a converging collision course. Our sail configuration didn't allow us any course change, and our speed was dependent entirely on the wind. Privateer and Helga's speeds were almost matched at 8.5 knots, and we were 12 NM away from each other. It's times like these that AIS is an invaluable tool on board. We radioed the ship, reported our position to the bridge, and worked out a plan with the captain to safely pass each other. The Helga swung to port and did a huge "s" curve in order to pass behind our stern. At the closest point we were 3 NM from each other. It's great that a 1,000 foot ship will alter course by a few miles to give our little ship some sea room!

Using the AIS is exactly like playing the old computer game "Frogger". We have to cross multiple "lanes" and decide whether to pass in front or behind the ships, judging speeds of each and taking into account wind direction, currents, etc for us. I can see that just now four new ships have popped up ahead of us, so our game of Frogger continues on into the morning hours... Good grief another 3 just appeared ahead too. The one of most concern is literally called the "Dong-a-Leto". Time for a cup of coffee...

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Date:July 24, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:11 58.81 S, 120 48.67 E

We're back on the Trade Wind Gravy Train, slugging back the ocean miles. Unbelievably the GPS is pegged at 8 knots, up to 9 knots of solid, smooth sailing. We've got low seas, 18 knots of breeze, and nice puffy little trade wind clouds dotting the sky. Currently the moon is bright and it's the perfect temperature to carry out the night watch in a pair of underwear. The sails are full and stretched wing-and-wing, and our Monitor steers a true course directly on the rhumb line for Christmas Island, now 800 miles away.

Belowdecks, a nice easy motion promotes a good sleep on the off-watch, and it's actually smoother now than many of our nights at anchor. Kelsey seared up some fresh Tuna steaks for dinner, and Taz had a good afternoon of running back and forth across the cabin, one hand clutching his bouncy ball and the other hand to steady himself in the seas. He's got true sea legs now, with nice firm musculature to them, with an anticipation of movement for the next swell ahead.

Spent most of the day listening to music while watching an endless cascade of flying fish leap out of our bow wave.

Basically, this is what it's all about!


Amy Vose: Peter, I love reading all about your journey. You are a wonderful writer and have realized at a very young age what life is all about. I love how you share all the precautions you are taking and are always thinking or have already thought about what could go wrong. You are on a wonderful journey of discovery of the world and of yourself. Please stay safe and keep doing what you are doing. Jim and I send our love to all of you. Amy July 25, 2016, 12:42 p.m.

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Date:July 24, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:11 30.09 S, 115 19.02 E

We smashed out 169 NM on our noon-to-noon distance since yesterday. It's as if Privateer is on an invisible conveyor belt. And in the 12 hours preceding the noon position, we covered a whopping 92 NM. If we could keep this speed up, we'd have a 184 NM day... Alas, we've slowed down a bit because we reefed the main at sunset. Safety and comfort come before any kind of record-breaking attempts. It looks like the winds will build a bit all the way through until we near Christmas Island.

Last night and all the way into this afternoon we continued to cross paths with the north and southbound freighters. At one point, Privateer was surrounded by a circle of 7 freighters! We'd read that Australia has the highest per capita level of consumerism in the world (even more than the USA), and here was the visual proof. We could smell the bunker fuel on the sea air. "Frontier Explorer", "Dong-a Leto", "Ocean Garlic", and "Shin Heir" were just a handful of the eclectic freighter names that crossed our bow.

We're back in quieter waters now and dealing with just a few odd fishing vessels. Around noon one of our Monitor control lines parted, frayed apart by continual use. Kelsey grabbed the helm while I quickly trimmed off the frayed end and re-set the gear, and we were back on our way again. We continue the wing-and-wing sail plan, occasionally tacking the Yankee over when the winds go more southerly.

Kelsey had a bit of a rough day with Taz. He was all ramped up and trying to run around the cabin, but she had to restrict his movements in the seaway, and he wouldn't take his nap. He's cutting his 11th tooth now, with 4 breaking the surface at once, and his face is a continuous slather of drool.

Every day we pull the sun over our stern and she sets just off the starboard bow. Every day we pull the moon over our stern and she sets off the port bow. Like a giant celestial backstroke, the heavenly bodies are our arms dipping into the seas and guiding us across the Indian Ocean. One glance is all it takes to know what time it is and what direction we are heading. We briefly got blown off course today and I immediately recognized that the sun was shining on a different part of the bulkhead down below, as I was napping. Such is the way your senses become attuned at sea. There's almost no need for a compass.


Amy Vose: What a wonderfully descriptive writer you are! I worry about all of you each day but am reassured by your faithful entries. Glad you are having good conditions and that you are so well prepared for mishaps. I wish you a safe journey as you continue on your amazing adventure. Xo July 28, 2016, 12:27 p.m.

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Mysterious Indian

Date:July 23, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:12 14.13 S, 122 59.21 E

We exited Ashmore Reef this afternoon after a morning snorkel and the usual tidy-up before sea. We quickly dropped away from the Australian continental shelf and into deep water. Our course will take us along the Java Trench, the deepest part of the Indian Ocean where we'll see depths of 22,000 feet. After the murky Arafura and Timor Sea, we are finally back into the crystal waters again. There were quite a few currents along the shelf and an enormous amount of plastic debris is strung out along the eddy lines as far as the eye can see. Also floating along the eddies were thousands of shark eggs. Hopefully a plastic-eating shark will evolve to take advantage of its new habitat.

A few hours before sunset we spotted a strange object on the horizon and sailed over for a closer look. From a distance it looked like a shipping container floating on its end like a deadhead, half out of the water. Or a submarine conning tower. The mystery intensified as we drew closer, and when we came to within a few boat-lengths panic ensued! It was a white object of which the the top ten feet were out of the water, but it was attached to something heavy and unseen underwater, and the scariest thing was that it appeared to be moving against the current. My first thought was that it was a life raft attached to a ship, but in hindsight I think it was the end of an enormous fishing trawl net. There were no ships on the horizon, though, so perhaps it was one of those 15-mile long nets. Either way, we got the hell away from it as fast as possible. It gives me the willies just writing about it. Approaching any unknown object at sea is tense and creepy, but this thing was moving.

We are taking a very conservative route across the Indian Ocean, pirate-wise. By avoiding the northern Indian Ocean altogether, we basically eliminate the risk. However, we are still taking a few precautions, even if they are a bit romantic. We've furled up the Stars and Stripes while at sea so as not to be recognized as a US boat, and we are keeping a large bottle of Jack Daniels and a case of beer near the companionway hatch. Booze is a better gesture than a gun. Also at hand are our canisters of bear spray from Alaska, as a last resort. We keep our radios on and visually conspicuous at the helm, along with the sat phone, so that we can look like we are talking to somebody if approached. It's all a bit over-reactionary, but we've always played it as safe as we can. We're a US boat sailing near lands that our government has royally screwed.

I've put a new air vane on the Monitor. The old one was slightly bent after the thousands upon thousands of miles of steering us, day and night, from Alaska. If we ever have a house, the old air vane will be prominently displayed on the wall.

The perfect breeze has developed and we are sailing along wing-on-wing, making easy miles. At sunset we landed a "6-dinner for 2" Tuna, and at that point in time Kelsey and I reflected on how much work we've done to get to this point in our lives--casually setting out across the Indian Ocean as a giant sun melts into the waves, our son sleeping peacefully, tucked behind his lee cloth. We can never lead rational lives after this. It's too good out here.

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Ashmore Reef: Mid-ocean respite

Date:July 20, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:12 14.26 S, 122 59.02 E

July 20-22, 2016 Kelsey

Taz unknowingly did us a huge favor and slept the whole time as we somewhat tensely threaded our way through the entrance to the Ashmore Reef Marine Reserve, then affixed ourselves to a mooring buoy. He must have sensed that the motion had evened out a bit and woke up just as the important business of securing the boat had been tended to. Prepared to slip out of his berth on his backside rather than on his tummy, he declared, "Ready!" We promptly let down the lee cloth and he hit the floor running like a racehorse out of its stall, nostrils flaring.

When flat conditions allow, Taz gallops tirelessly to and fro between main and aft cabin. Wet curls form as his head becomes drenched with sweat. Lately he is keen to announce, "I'm coming!" as he paces back and forth, intermittently throwing his arms up and pausing to jump along the way. He is expert at exhibiting the freedom and joy of uninhibited movement! With a sudden change in current, the boat was soon being tossed about more inside the reef than in outside waters, so Taz was forced to time his transit a bit, lest he lose his footing and end up tossed onto the floor. He managed to continue along his predictable route without incidence as life afloat is getting to be old hat for him.

In these militarized waters it was no surprise to be paid a visit by the Australian Border Force, stationed in the outer reef during the dry (non-cyclone) season. Their tender arrived with a couple of friendly officers who boarded Privateer to have us fill out minimal paperwork and brief us on protocol at the reserve. At our request, the kind (and likely bored-out-of-their-gourd) officers used their tender to help us tie our stern line to a nearby mooring buoy. We were hoping this would ease the uncomfortable motion and, while it did a bit, our concerns turned to the real possibility of the stern line slipping under our rudder as the current shifted. In the end, we moved across the mooring field to a buoy clear of the current.

Four colorful wooden Indonesian fishing boats share the mooring field alongside Privateer, all boarded up. Our neighboring boat has the name "Cha" spray-painted near her bow and its puts a smile on our faces as we think of our friend of the same name. It is strange to have this absentee company but we are glad to be the only humans out here. The confiscated Indonesian boats are being held in limbo as their fate is decided in court for failure to comply with "fishing regulations." Pete suspects that these boats may be those of asylum seekers from Timor, the presence of which was not uncommon here a few years back.

We note the tell-tale dorsal fin of a shark hunting its way along the nearby reef at low tide. Sea turtles are bountiful, floating close to the surface and occasionally bobbing their lime green heads above water to survey the scene. In all of our past South Pacific wanderings, we've seen only a few sea turtles while snorkeling. This reef is remarkable for its turtle population alone, clearly owing to its lack of a human population. Turtles are still a food source for many South Pacific islanders, though the practice of hunting is illegal in many countries now. On our first snorkel here, Pete encountered ten turtles! To see a sea turtle swimming is something special, a serene creature with the most graceful skill at underwater flight! Pete and I take turns snorkeling the bommie (coral head) not far off our bow. We're glad to finally be dipping into friendlier tropical waters again, as we kept our limbs well within the confines of the boat all the way across northern Australia's murky, croc infested waters.

Underwater, most fish are familiar but I notice one that seems new to me, with a gingham-like pattern from its head to mid-section, brownish purple tic-tac-toe marks over white skin. I'm lucky enough to glimpse the yellow fish that Pete mentioned-dramatic black circles dotting its face-as it darts out from underneath a ledge, then retreats. Most impressive ia the size of a fish akin to an angel fish, its muted colors and stripes lost on me in lieu of its enormity. It appears a gigantic pancake, a few feet in diameter, and slightly inflated like a hot water bladder.

This reef is a strange and wonderful place. Not far off the boat, we have our own private island (never mind the lurking military presence and the empty fishing boats). Two other scraps of land in the far distance are also cays that barely rise above sea level, lonely strips of sand to the faraway eye. While the lagoon offers us protection, the unobstructed view out onto the big blue tells another story-that we are vulnerably and incomprehensibly anchored in the middle of the ocean. And, in a way, we are. So it is that this place, like the coral atolls of the Tuamotus, plays with your senses.

West Island, the island closest to the boat and the only one where we are permitted to go ashore, begged a visit. We did weigh whether it was worth unpacking the dinghy for the sake of only an hour or two ashore, only to repack it later that night. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in a remote place like this, the answer is always a resounding, "Yes, it is worth it!" In the end we decided to row the dinghy instead of mounting the engine. At low tide, a finger of sand pointed far enough in our direction to make the cumbersome task of rowing an inflatable dinghy do-able.

A flock of vulture-size black birds greeted us ashore. These scant bits of land sustain massive bird populations. The expanse at low tide revealed a scalloped sandy landscape, the pattern of ridges and trenches carved by wavelets. Taz especially loved crouching in the trenches where a bit of water lingered. We were all quite giddy to have this break of passage, to work our toes into the soft, finely ground coral sand and to run about freely in this wide-open space. If only the island offered a speck of shade, we could have arranged to stay all day. From the boat, Taz had been quick to notice the one lone remaining "co-kee-nut palm" on the island, last man standing. A castaway would be remiss to find themselves on this particular tropical island with a sore lack of coconut hydration and sustenance!

The brutal sun not one to contend with, we'd planned a late afternoon visit in line with low tide. As such, the clock ticked as sunset approached and we made haste for a shipwreck in the sand ahead, a blackened wooden carcass that was the remains from an unfortunate story Pete recounted about a Timorian attempt on Australian soil. Up the beach, where sand met sporadic grass and green vegetation, we found gigantic pits with animal tracks clearly leading up to their edges. The use of the pits had us stumped for a bit until we realized the obvious-that sea turtles laid their eggs in these wells. Skirting the island's edge, we combed the high tide line for treasures. Pete found enormous spiraling nautilus shells, the likes of which we'd never seen. There were thousands of pristine and fragile sand dollars, nearly weightless and appearing as though they'd been blown into little round shapes. Shark eggs, white pucks like flattened footballs that measured 4 or 5 inches, littered the beach.

The interior of the island was off limits to us, a sacred space that is home to Indonesian burial grounds. We did get a glimpse of her at sunset through an opening in the trees, a shockingly expansive savannah teeming with bird life. Even from the beach, we never would have guessed what lay just beyond the line of unassuming scrubby trees. We wished for more time to explore this magical place, an isolated and thriving ecosystem straddling the Timor Sea and Indian Ocean. As darkness descended, we literally had to run back to the dinghy, knowing that the moon would not cast her glow for another two hours.

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Flat seas, easy sailing

Date:July 19, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:12 11.54 S, 124 16.05 E

Before dawn a magnified orange moon dropped from the clouds and dipped into the ocean, in what was the most fantastic moonset I've ever seen. It looked like it was melting into the ocean swells. And it was so orange that the unexpected observer would take it for a perfectly formed atomic mushroom cloud--a startling apparition on the horizon. At sunrise a tug passed within a mile of Privateer, towing what appeared to be a large Indonesian fishing boat. Ashmore reef is a popular spot for asylum seekers arriving in Australia, and my guess is that they were towing the boat into Darwin.

Another day of effortless sailing as we glided along at 6 knots. It was rougher in the anchorage in Darwin than it is out here at sea today. Hardly even a whitecap out here. I tried to whistle up a little more wind, but my efforts failed and by midnight the winds dropped to about 3 knots variable direction. Luckily, we are only 15 NM from the entrance to Ashmore Reef. It's been a great 500 NM sail but all good things must come to an end. We're currently motoring in 800 foot deep waters at the edge of the Australian continental shelf, making water, and charging up the batteries. We're moving very slow so that we can time our reef entrance for daylight, when we can see the coral heads underwater.

There are thousands of birds as we near the reef, and we saw a sea snake swimming aggressively along the surface of the water. It was well over a meter long and as thick as my wrist. The sea snake is one of the most venomous snakes, but their fangs cannot pierce human skin easily, so we should be relatively safe. I'm hoping for a good snorkel when we get to Ashmore--we've read that the coral is "magnificent" around the reef, and that there is a genetically unique species of Dugong that feeds there.

Taz had a funny moment today when he climbed in between the two lee cloths and cocooned himself in the mesh, suspended. He reclined and got quite comfortable, telling us "night night!" He's getting 4 new teeth now--must be rough having those things slice through your gums. We gave him some frozen mangoes and yoghurt which he let linger in his mouth to numb the pain. I took the winch drum cover off the mainsail winch today, and confirmed my worst fears when half a broken gear dropped out of the casing. Damn! It would be potentially dangerous to continue using the windlass to hoist the main, especially reefing in bad weather. As necessity is the mother of invention, I jury-rigged the halyard to lead past the broken winch and into the cockpit, using the lazy jib sheet drum to take the tension up on the main halyard. All it took was a few snatch blocks and some spectra webbing and voila! I almost like the setup better than winching it on the mast, which is always kind of awkward. At least we have a working solution to safely reef the mainsail as we cross the Indian Ocean, if we can't get a part shipped in to Christmas Island or Cocos Keeling. Despite the frustrations of breaking gear, it's satisfying to come up with an on-board solution. It's what pioneering (or Privateering) is all about!

We're going to rest up for a few days at Ashmore reef and wait for some solid trade-winds to develop, so we can have another fast downwind run to Christmas Island, now only 1,000 NM away.

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Offshore Sailing with a Baby

Date:July 18, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:12 10.00 S, 126 15.00 E

Kelsey and I just found out through the modern marvel of the DeLorme InReach that a few of our friends just had babies! I thought I'd share an essay I wrote awhile back, after Taz was born but before we really started covering the ocean miles with him. --Peter Babies vs. Offshore Sailing

Offshore sailing and caring for the needs of a newborn baby are very close cousins. I'm a new father now, and the captain of our ship. My wife Kelsey is now the captain of our baby (and the Captain of the captain, I might add). Our blue-water sailing adventures have prepared us well for raising a baby. We both perform our respective duties knowing full well the critical role each of us plays toward our ultimate goal-a loving unit, safely sailing together, as a family. The changing of the diapers-- to state an obvious similarity--is exactly like making sail changes: it can happen during any one of the 24 hours in the day (worse yet every hour of the day) and it's usually after you've just tucked into your berth, exhausted, for the precious off-watch. You're liable to get a little wet too. The boat's now sailing on a more even keel with the new sail plan, which is her way of thanking you for your attention to her needs. Baby's got a smile with a crisp new nappy, too. You can smile about it all, despite the one odd wave that just soaked your last fresh clean t-shirt while you were wrestling canvas up there on the foredeck. At sea it's difficult to keep from soiling even yourself, to be honest (and I am talking about #2 here). The marine head is a specially engineered demon, designed to sling your waste right back at you, through any number of devilish ways that only a sailor -or parent with an unruly baby!-- can truly understand. A sea captain can never fully relax. Even on a quiet night, every subtle creak of the ship and flutter of the sails keeps them awake and fretting. As your crew-mate snores their way through a deep refreshing slumber, you are left worrying about the tensioning of the rigging or the trim of your sails. A new mother can never fully relax either. She is attuned to her child's every breath, and will snap to attention at the slightest irregularity. The baby is cold and needs another layer on, or he's trying to poop. Mama casts a jealous eye at her partner who sleeps through all the crying, all the late-night breast-feeds. That bastard is getting the sleep that I need--how can they sleep through that?! The more carefree attitude of being 2nd in command is not lost on either of us, for we know we are in good hands. The periodic crushing responsibility of being captain of child, or a ship, is recognized by the other as well. Life hangs in the balance of good decision-making after all. The 2nd in command works heartily and seriously in times of stress, placing complete trust and confidence in the captain. We all rely on each other to keep one another safe and comfortable. Every mother's child is the most perfect, beautiful child in the world. She sees all the love and magic within for what that baby truly is. A sailor will cast a similar eye toward their boat--the beauty of the anchorage. An age-old feeling among mariners is that a ship is so much more than an assembly of fiberglass and wood. The ship has a soul, a memory, she's a living thing... "Privateer" is a very real member of our family, too. Babies of course have all of these qualities and so much more. Cooking in the galley at sea is often a messy business. Onions fly off counter-tops and silverware flings itself into the bilge because you took your finger off them for 1/8th of a second as you lurch crosswise in the swell. Even when we're cooking on land (meaning: not weightless-one-second-and-5g-force-the-next-second) a baby can make a pretty good mess of his galley. The physics of an ocean wave and a baby's exploratory gestures are two separate laws of nature that achieve the same end-they both chuck food across the boat, unpredictably.

Sailing safely on the high seas requires: Love, constant maintenance, 24-hr a day attention, large monetary investments, to have her bottom cleaned often, ability to handle stress, recognizing dangers before they develop, and not least the ability to laugh heartily when suddenly doused with [Circle all answers that apply] salt water, dinner, urine, feces, diesel fuel.

There's a saying that sailing is 99% boredom punctuated by 1% terror. It doesn't quite work for us, though, and the poor sap who coined the phrase had a dim imagination. We're not the type that gets bored. Especially when there's the endless magic of silently barreling along with the trade-winds week after week, stars above and swirling galaxies of phosphorescence below. I won't deny the 1% terror part, though-- it does happen. But at the end of each voyage, we gold-plate the terror (it always makes for a good story) and fixate instead on the joys of sailing! We happily drink up the bitter moments-- it's all part of the package-because sailing's got a real smooth aftertaste=85 Substitute "caring for a baby" with "sailing" in the above two paragraphs. Ditto. Were we ready to be parents? Definitely not-even though we thought we were! But I'd say we had a pretty good inkling of what was to come, though. Offshore sailing unwittingly helped us adjust to this new tack, offering a unique portal into the joys and rigors of bringing a new Pirate into this world before it even happened. I like to entertain the idea that Mothering is something close to being in command of a ship. Kelsey certainly knows deep-down what it truly means to be a captain now. She gets to live both sides of the lucky coin. To all mothers: you are all sea captains. And to all prospective parents: go offshore!


Vicky: Beautiful Pete! Here's hoping that Taz and "Miss Mirah" get to meet soon! xo July 19, 2016, 12:05 p.m.

Cheryl Brockman: Gorgeous read & you have oodles of book material when you so desire! July 19, 2016, 12:55 p.m.

Mary Beth: Love this post, Pete! Shows so much maturity, selflessness and the loving family unit that you and Kelsey have created! July 19, 2016, 12:55 p.m.

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Smooth sailing and another visit from above

Date:July 18, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:12 10.00 S, 126 15.00 E

A very pleasant day of sailing today. It was almost too perfect! We had to continually glance at the GPS to believe that we were really making 7 knots of speed over felt almost like we were standing still. With a gentle 14 knots of wind from behind we only had 7 knots of apparent wind in the cockpit. The sails stayed filled and we enjoyed about 12 hours of broad reaching and 12 hours of wing-on-wing.

Just one more day of sailing now until we clear the continental shelf and get back into deep water again. The Arafura and Timor Sea are so shallow--just a few hundred feet on average. The waters are therefore a disturbing muddy shade, and we long for our electric purple sea. Our watermaker filters will be happier too--we've been putting off making water here due to all the biological bits floating around in the water. It looks like our timing on Ashmore Reef might not work out so well, with an ETA at the reef entrance for just after sunset. We don't necessarily want to heave-to for 12 hours, especially if these sailing conditions continue. The long-range GRIBs look really great and we may just continue on with this relaxing run, under the full moon.

We've really gotten into a good sea routine now. This year is all about making the sea miles. On this leg to Christmas Island we'll pass the 1/3 the way around the world longitudinally from our easternmost point of Oakland, California. However since leaving Alaska we have already covered well over halfway around the world if we were to sail along the equator. And a short month or two from now, we'll be closer to Alaska if we keep sailing west! It feels really good making the miles out here, with Privateer doing what she does best. Life is good on the long blue highway.

We are away from the land and all the troubles brewing about. We hear that it's dim times in many corners of the world, and we fell fortunate to be removed from it all and visiting the lands with the friendliest people (Vanuatu, Fiji, Marquesas, etc) where happiness and wealth are measured by the size of the family and not the bank account, and the monetary economy and poverty are just abstract concepts. The ghost of Trump haunts us all and Privateer will be sailing en-route to Africa when America decides whether or not to take the plunge into darkness. Privateer is not only our magic carpet ride but also our escape pod! Perhaps not escaping from America, but bringing some of the "escapism" we've learned in the South Pacific back to our own families. The USA desperately needs an escape from the maddening, narrow rut that so much of the world seems stuck in. As one keen observer in Vanuatu asked me--"Why the rush? What happens after you rush?" Our generation is looking for its JFK and Martin Luther King but we are overexposed by the media. We can't see the diamonds in the rough when each rock and murderer is amplified and sensationalized. We seem to be in such a rush that even bullets aren't fast enough.

We're loping along at 3.5 knots in very light winds now and enjoying this pace. Our "rush" today happened when we sailed through a massive school of leaping tuna. We frantically looked for the fishing line but alas it was buried in the locker that we cannot get into when the Monitor wind vane is engaged. Thoughts of fresh sushi tantalized us until we gave up in disgust. We had another visit from the surveillance in the sky again today. This time the plane buzzed us head-on with a radio call afterward. It's quite odd to be out here in the watery wilderness and suddenly have a very brief and unexpected encounter with another human.

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Petty Breakages and a visit from Big Brother

Date:July 17, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:12 11.00 S, 128 35.00 E

We had a good day of sailing in light breezes--sometimes wing-on-wing, sometimes on a beam reach. We've had the downwind pole set out to Port ever since leaving Vanuatu and it makes switching the sail plan very easy. We just keep the pole out when we tack the Yankee. It the winds go Easterly, we pull the Yankee out to the pole, and if the winds go southerly, we slip the Yankee back over to the Starboard side of the boat (port tack) leaving the lazy sheet running all the way out to the end of the pole. It looks a bit funny but its very convenient. Right now the winds have gone pretty light and we are ghosting along at about 3 knots. The moon is dazzling, almost like a second daylight, and we can do all of our deck work at night without having to use headlamps or turn on the LED spreader lights.

Over the past few days we've had a few very annoying breakages of our gear. One of our dinghy floorboard connectors snapped (thankfully our friend Tom brought 2 spares to NZ for us!) and then one of the Monitor thumb pegs sheared off. I dug around in the spares bag and found an extra one of these too. Both of these pieces of gear are made out of plastic, which is a very poor material to use on anything marine-related as the UV rays quickly make it brittle. But today's breakage was a bit more serious. As we un-reefed the main and took halyard tension back up, the mainsheet winch made an unpleasant breaking-metal "ka-CHUNK" and ceased working. We quickly improvised by taking a turn around the broken winch and leading the halyard forward to the anchor windlass drum. While Kelsey worked the lever for the windlass I was able to tail the halyard, and we got the Main sail hoisted full again. We will have to do this 2-person process until we anchor on flat water next and I can have a good look at the inside of the winch. Fingers crossed. They say that bad luck comes in sets of three so hopefully that is it for a little while. It dawned on me today just how far we've sailed these past few years, and with the intense usage our gear receives, it's amazing that everything has held up as well as it has (I'm knocking on wood right now).

Today we had our first encounter with the Australian Border Force aircraft. First, a VHF radio call came out of nowhere, and we were asked for our voyage plan details. Then about 5 minutes later, a rather large aircraft flying only 100 feet off the surface of the water buzzed the boat. It was all a bit surreal and a very strange way for me to get woken up from my afternoon nap. I'm sure they snapped some photos of the boat as they whooshed by. If the Border Force wanted to recoup some of the astronomical costs of their surveillance state (aside from the initial sky-high Quarantine entry fees), they could offer to sell the pics to the yachties! I'd buy one for sure. We looked good out there today sailing along wing-on-wing. I made sure to give the pilot the "full view" as I clambered out into the cockpit buck naked :)


Mark Pitman: Take care with the Aussie Border Force guys! It's a known thing that they pin up a "best of" selection of nude yachties from that part of the world. Catching a yachtie couple in a compromising act on the foredeck earns you extra points. Their camera equipment is pretty good, they have read our boat name from 20+ miles away before. Congratulations, seems like you might have made the lunchroom pin-up board Pete! July 18, 2016, 7:22 p.m.

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Into the Indian

Date:July 16, 2016, 4 a.m.
Position:12 24.00 S, 130 46.00 E

We are headed out into the fabled Indian Ocean at last!! We are slicing along at 6.5 knots under full sail and flat seas. A friendly almost-full moon will keep us company on this passage. We are standing out into the Indian Ocean and sailing for Christmas Island, 1,500 NM away. In about 450 NM we'll pass near Ashmore Reef, and may break passage there for a few days if the winds are light. We've heard there are sea snakes and dugongs at Ashmore, so hopefully it works out that we can check it out.

We had really wanted to sail the Kimberley coast, but decided against it due to Taz. Aside from feeling like crocodile bait every time we step down into the rubber dinghy, it's just too difficult and exhausting to day-sail with a baby. Shore-side excursions are complicated when naps, diaper changes, etc come into play. Sometimes it takes us an entire day to spend just an hour or two on shore, once all the Taz prep work and logistics are taken care of. It's much easier to make big offshore passages, and then spend a few relaxing weeks in one place once we get there, rather than going through the motions of navigating, anchoring, and launching the dinghy every day (all while Taz screams at us from down below because he's missing out on the action). And so, as a sacrifice in the name of good parenting, we will sail by this incredible coast at our fingertips.

We left Darwin in our wake, and when the low land quickly slipped under the horizon all the that remained was the white condominium skyline of the city, rising out of the Timor Sea like a set of teeth. Also visible were the massive columns of smoke from the many bushfires. Charred grasses fell from the sky and onto Privateer when we sailed away from the coast.

Forecast is for light breezes for the next week, which is hopefully a welcome change from our past few heavy-air passages. If the wind goes too light it wreaks havoc on the sails and rigging as they slat around, and counter-intuitively a light wind passage can almost be more tiring than a heavy weather passage due to all the finicky tweaks and sail changes needed in light air. In heavy weather you can just hoist a scrap of sail and peg the monitor on course and just hold on. But fickle winds demand constant attention, if you want to go anywhere besides in circles.

For now, we've just put a reef in the main as the trades are freshening up after dark. During the day the heat of the land sucks in all the air, but at night the ocean pattern re-establishes itself. The trick about reefing is to always do it right away when you first start thinking about it. I don't mind shaking it back out if I feel I've jumped the gun, but that is way better than the feeling you get when the winds build and you wish you'd done it an hour ago, with scary prospects ahead. We're still making 7 knots now with our reef, and it always makes me feel better to have a reef in after dark. All we need to do is roll in the Yankee and we have our instant small sail plan.

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