At Sea

Across the Coral Sea Part Two

Day 9 and all is well on Bob. It’s been long enough now that the days have rolled together, and I had to go and have a look at the ship’s log to figure out how many days we’d been at sea. Most of those days recently have been grey and drizzly, but we’re happy with that because the alternative wouldn’t have been much fun at all. Our decision to stay well South appears to have paid off – just 100 miles to our North yesterday was an area of intense thunder storms with light winds that had organised themselves into a well-defined cyclonic motion. The Coral Sea, where we are now, is the birthplace of South Pacific cyclones. We’re here at the wrong time of year (or the right time of year depending on how you look at it!) and the sea temperatures are too low for cyclone development but if that hadn’t been the case we might have just witnessed the formation of one of those infamous beasts.

In other news we finally struck gold on the fishing front a few days ago. Having caught nothing in quite some time (except a barracuda in Vanuatu which we put back due to the risk of Ciguatera poisoning) we got a Mahi Mahi and a yellowfin tuna three days ago. The freezer is full (thank you Jonathan Baxter and Roger Beach for the freezer!) and we have been enjoying tuna sashimi, fish steaks and fish stew for our meals. I think we will both struggle when we return to the ‘developed’ world and fish and coconuts become exorbitantly expensive.

It is 0845 on Sunday morning, August 19th (UTC+11). Our position is 13 41’S, 151 37’E. That puts us 370 miles from our destination. We have turned to head there directly now and are rolling along under a reefed mainsail almost directly down-wind. We’re looking provisionally at a Wednesday afternoon arrival in Port Moresby, which suits us very well as it will allow us to clear customs on the same day with a bit of luck, without having to pay any extra fees for a weekend arrival. As I send this off I will be downloading a weather forecast, which I generally do every two days. At one stage the computer models were predicting 30-knot winds and we were anticipating a rough ride into Port Moresby. The one I got two days ago showed a much more moderate 22 knots, which is a good amount of wind when one is sailing with it. Fingers crossed that this one will show something similar.

There is a fair bit of bird life out here, which I suppose is to be expected given our proximity to various land masses. Three times on this voyage a bird has chosen Bob as it’s roosting spot for the night, which Sarah thinks is wonderful and I will tolerate so long as it’s not in the cockpit. Last night we had a particularly stubborn Booby that wouldn’t go away, move forward or even turn around so that it’s bum was pointing outwards. Despite my every effort to make it understand that it was not welcome – including prodding it firmly with bits of wood – I came on deck this morning to find that our starboard secondary cockpit winch had received what looked like a poorly-administered coat of white paint. Of course, I was the one to clean it up. If ever there was a case for carrying guns on board this would be it! A large portion of my day today will be devoted to devising a plan of defence for this evening. Electrified lifelines? A trip wire attached to a butane torch? Perhaps a potato cannon with some sort of bird homing system?……….. That reminds me of a wonderful story about pigeons in the Second World War: Apparently they constructed and tested prototypes for early guided bombs using pigeons. A pigeon was strapped into the front of a bomb behind a Perspex nose cone. It would try to home in on a target and the bomb would detect which way the pigeon wanted to fly and adjust the aero foils to turn in that direction. It was a great success (for the guidance, not for the pigeon) but was eventually scrapped because of the shortage of pigeons that would home to the desired targets. Apologies, I digress! I shall mull over the problem of Booby poo today. I suspect, though, that the weapon of choice will once again be a wet cloth.

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