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Logs | Cruise 1995 log

Cruise 1995 log

In 1995 the family sailed with their 46 ft sloop ‘Redwings’ from San Diego, California, via the southern Pacific Ocean to Singapore, visiting quite a few beautiful places along the way. At the time they left Casper was 2 and a half and Alex was a 3-month old baby. Apart from keeping a ship’s log, they also wrote a daily ‘chatty log’ that they would copy and sent to their families to give them an idea of what they were going through.

Below is an excerpt with pictures from the 1995 chatty log which gives just a little bit of the flavour of that cruise.

San Diego to Singapore

15 March 1995 - San Diego
So this is it - finally and after much prevaricating with extra jobs, jobs never finished, or perhaps never started, an eleventh-hour scare over my health - this is the day we really left San Diego.

23 March - Baja California, Mexico
Today we found that Casper was miserably seasick. Not once, or even a handful of times, but 9 in all. Poor Casper. Each time he’d brighten and ask for a little to drink and maybe some crackers to eat. Sometimes he’d manage an hour or two. I even tried to feed him water by syringe, a few ml at a time. Nothing worked. He couldn’t keep anything down. Caroline was getting really worried that he might be seriously dehydrating. Fortunately, we were due to get to an anchorge in the evening where things would be easier for him

29 March - Baja California , Mexico

Late in the afternoon when we are getting very close to our destination we see 2 whales blow. They are pretty close and huge. We have a little whale book and identify them as blue whales. The biggest creatures on earth ever! They seem to be feeding and we see lots of little red crabs on the surface. We cut the engine and drift/sail near them. We get to within 100 yards of them. I try to film them, but it is difficult because you never know where exactly they are going to come up. But we do have a good look at them and they are very impressive. These whales are much bigger than the boat. This is the sort of experience that makes up for a lot of bad times.

9 April - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

After John comes back from getting the last few things in town we get the boat more or less ready to go. We’re anxious though, so we figure we’ll do the rest of putting away and tying down on the way. We leave at about one. We round the corner of Cabo and admire the swells crashing on the rocks. One mile later we’re crashing into big swells ourselves and all the things not properly put away are crashing on the floor. It’s gusting up to 30 knots and we bunch of idiots we’re far from prepared for it. We struggle to take the bimini off that’s flapping violently. Then the kicking strap brakes and we struggle to take the main down. Fortunately the kids are safe in their beds and it’s so noisy outside we cannot hear them! Meanwhile the dinghy flies over the side dangling half in the water, barely attached to the boat. John gets it back on board and finally we are ready to run back to Cabo with the tails between our legs. We feel pretty stupid, leaving so unprepared. Now we got to repair things again. Idiots.

11 April - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Try again! This time we are shipshape. Everything is stored away, tied down and the dinghy deflated and in its bag. There we go at 8:40 with a breeze from the east. Very nice start. John and I both do not feel like this is the start of a big ocean crossing. Strange that we are so relaxed about it. I guess we really are ready.

23 April - 00o00’N/S 129o51’W

Today is one of the better days. The crossing of the equator!
John organized a fun ceremony. Casper and I made silly hats and John made us do silly things. After all this silliness we had a special lunch of chicken salad, crackers and oysters and a bottle of white wine. We’re in real tradewind weather now. Steady winds and pretty fluffy clouds.

7 May
And I thought yesterday was bad! Today it rained all day long. There was no wind so we just motored and tried to stay dry inside. Not the sort of weather you expect in the South Pacific. We were really worried about a low pressure cell that could give us some bad winds. We started to think about all the things we had to do to get the boat ready for serious winds. Take the foresail off, deflate the dinghy, get as much as possible inside and lash everything down. Before we got into all that, John got another fax which showed that this pressure cell was moving to the south of us. Relief. At the end of the day it dried up a bit and the wind picked up.

10 May - Manihi Atoll, Tuamotus
Casper is getting into the swimming thing, with his little bumble-bee ring suit he is able to get about quite well. Ashore, Casper finds sea cucumbers a fascinating source of entertainment. You and I might think sea cucumbers rather boring, as tropical marine opportunities go, but for a two-year-old, they are entrancing. Not only can you catch them (can you think of a slower creature?) but they don’t bite and when you pick them up they have a disgusting tactile feel, pee from one end and there are stones to be pried off little sticky tentacles on their undersides. Great eh? For us, there are the crystal blue-green waters of the atoll margins, pools and refreshing saltwater streams driven by the Pacific surf breaking over the fringing coral.

13 May - Ahe village, Tuamotus
Caroline, Alex & I get a chance to go off and snorkel the nearby reefs. Alex stays in the dinghy, of course. He won’t sleep in a nice comfortable bed, oh no. He screams blue murder if you lay him down. Put him in salty wet spray in the dinghy and leave him propped uncomfortably in his rucksack while Caroline & I snorkel and he drops off to sleep without a whimper. We saw a lot of pretty reef fish, including a small black-tipped shark. Much of the reef is in very shallow water, so the colours come out brilliant and bright.

25 May - Opunohu, Moorea
Casper has become a snorkeler too. He has been watching us for weeks putting on our masks and snorkels every time we go for a swim. Now he has decided he is ready to try it also. After practicing a bit he manages quite well to get the mask on the right way up. He even spits in it just as we do! Then he wants to go see these fish we always talk about. We swim over to the beach where he can stand up and take his time getting used to putting his face in the water and breathing through his snorkel. It doesn’t take long. What a great way to look for sea cucumbers! and there is fish too!. Wow! He gets a ride back hanging over John’s shoulders, face down in the water. We can hear him talk through his snorkel about everything he’s seeing.

31 May
Still no wind. The sea is ever so calm, just a smooth long swell. Motor, motor, motor. Mid afternoon we had enough. Quit the engine, time for a swim. The water is so blue and so clear! A beautiful emptiness. Not that empty though. After about 10 minutes 3 tunas show up. John and I are hanging out in the water near the rope we have thrown over the side. Then I see a shape at the end of the line. Suddenly I’m in a rush getting out and John is not far behind. A shark has shown up. Todd gets in the water with his speargun and John with the camera hanging on to the stairs. This whitetip pelagic shark is not very shy and to be feared. Soon the men are out of the water again. Todd is determined to catch one of the tunas who are still near. The problem is that mister shark is interested in the piece of fish on the hook too. We get a good close up look at him as Todd teases him with the fish. Todd decides to catch the shark on a other hook to keep him out of the way. This doesn’t work; the shark just bites through the line. One tuna gets hooked though when the shark is busy with another piece of fish. Todd quickly reels in the fish as John is throwing little pieces of fish far away for the shark. It works, the tuna is ours. Time to get moving again. Still no wind. The sea is getting flatter. John’s entries for his watch were: Quiet indeed; Yawn; Zzzzz; and I’m looking - honest.

7 June - 18o35’S 171o43’W
Mostly we all just tried to make it through the day. No disasters, just grey seas, grey skies, rolling bump and grind, with all of us short on sleep and high on bruises. It’s been blowing around 25 (gusting 30) knots for nearly three days now and the sea is up to 10-12’, giving us rolls to over 30o and shipping the odd few tons of water over the deck when a rogue wave comes by. Add in a little rain and a shortage of good things to eat to cheer yourself up with and you have an idea. Everything is dirty and in a mess below decks, but there’s no way to clean up in this motion. It is as much as we can do to get something hot to eat.

13 June - Vava’u islands, Tonga
Casper is playing with Muriel on Mrs Jones. They get along really well and it is very good for Casper to have a playmate his own age. This gives us the opportunity to have a little walk around town. Rather poor little houses and huts, but some nice gardens. And pigs everywhere of course. The people are friendly for the most part or just disinterested. Many people are dressed quite smartly if somewhat bizarre. Many men wear dark skirts and men and women wear mats around their waists of different lengths. Some women have mats down to their ankles, others wear them more like belts. Tongan people seem always to be joking and laughing together.

14 June - Vava’u islands, Tonga
The feast turned out to be excellent, with plenty of good, tasty local food all cooked in the Umu on site. there were suckling pig, lobster, shellfish cooked in Tapa leaves, Taro, Breadfruit, Papaya cooked in coconut oil in the coconut shell (delicious, called ‘Tongan ice cream’) and many other wonderful dishes. Alex was kidnapped by the locals who touted him around and danced with him in their arms. He seemed to get over his usual fright of strangers holding him and spent a good part of the evening this way. Casper enjoyed himself enormously too, both with the good food and watching the music and dancing afterwards.

7 July - 17o52’S 171o 26’E
Overcast, some sailing and some motorsailing. a lot of sail plan changing and messing about to get her to go well. Both kids woke up at 04:45 active and hungry - a good sign that they have found their sealegs. Following yesterday’s baking success, I made some rolls this afternoon which we enjoyed very much, not having had fresh bread for a few days. We also caught a skipjack tuna, which we let go since we have some fish defrosting and really want another Dorado or yellowtail. Then there was a nasty shock to see a freighter pass us just under a mile away when we had no idea that he was there. Both of us on deck and in broad daylight too! It just goes to show that you can never be too observant.

13 July - Mele (‘Hideaway’) Island, Vanuatu
In between the diving and beach outings we busy ourselves putting up mosquito netting. Vanuatu is one of those places where malaria could be a problem, although Bruce the cook says they have eradicated it from this island. We are taking malaria prophylaxis but that is not exactly foolproof. Besides little Alex cannot take these and should defenitely not be bitten. His net has been up since we arrived, but it be nice to protect the whole boat. So John makes removable nets to put over the hatch openings and I stick nets over the portholes.

17 July - Vanuatu
Ashore for the last time for a while, since we leave today for Cairns. We are not really looking forward to the trip, it will be quite long (9-10 days) and could be miserable if the weather is poor and we have to keep the kids happy. The beach and weather are beautiful and Casper has a wonderful time, having invented a jumping game. Finally we drag ourselves reluctantly off the beach and prepare to set off. By midday we have exited ‘Little channel’ into the Pacific, and three hours later Alex throws up. He really does get seasick. By dinnertime the score was Alex 4, John 1. I feel pretty rough, and I’m certainly not used to being out of commision when we put to sea.

26 July - Cairns, Queensland
A bright and crisp dawn reveals a beautiful green mountainous coastline, hardly touched by man. Only a few miles outside of Cairns one can see no roads, no sign of the land being impacted at all by inhabitation. Staggering, the amount of space that surrounds us. We make our way down the narrow entrance channel into Cairns Harbour proper and are directed to tie up at a marina key for clearance. Once cleared in we anchor off the north end of some pilings in the harbour, within easy dinghy ride of the ‘Pier’ shopping complex, which turns out to be a very attractive touristy/shopping area.
We soon discover that the town is largely oriented to the tourist industry. There’s all sorts of wonderful clothes, arts and crafts that we would love to buy, many items with Aboriginal ‘dot art’ designs - ‘T’ shirts, leather goods, even shoes. What a great place to holiday in and buy souvenirs! Alex loves it, sitting (and sometimes standing) in his rucksack on my back, being walked around all these new sights, sounds and smells. Casper benefits from the space and adventure too, needing to let off some steam after 9 days at sea. The last leg was over 1200 miles and was a bit long for them, us too. At least we have no more really long stages left.

8 August
Finally early afternoon we are ready enough to leave Cairns. It’s not easy; the longer you spend in a place the more difficult to leave and get back on the road. Once you are on the way, however, you start looking forward to seeing new places, the one you just left already forgotten. We were lucky to get out of Cairns channel in one piece. There was more wind than we expected and some things were not tied down well enough (we’ll never learn!). John was working on deck and I was steering the boat and thinking about the oranges in the hammock down below bashing against the wall. So, I stuck the autopilot on duty , grabbed a bungy and went down below to save the oranges. When I climb back up the companionway I see this dark shape through the dodger and we are about to hit a channel marker. Impact looks imminent. I rush out, take it off the autopilot and throw around the wheel and wait for the crash. I cannot believe it doesn’t happen, there cannot have been more than a whisker between the boat and this big steel marker. So far, John has been blissfully ignorant of the situation, still busy tying down the watertanks with his back to the marker. I change that by shouting “Did you see how close we got?” The marker is now at our stern and looks as though we have come right through it. So, now we are both shaking. It’s very frightening to realize how close we came to losing the boat and maybe worse. And how easily and quickly it can happen.

13 August - Lizard Island, Great Barrier reef

A better night’s sleep, the wind somewhat abated. Determined to have some fun, We all set off around midday to climb ‘Cook’s Lookout’, 380m high and likely too much for young Casper but we thought we’d see how far we got. Well, we got to the top. And what a view! The walk is beautiful too, with panoramas of the anchorage opening up as one climbs, then the spectacular vantage point of the lookout summit with command of both the island and its lagoon as well as a clear view of the Great Barrier Reef offshore. Indeed, one can identify the gaps in the reef through which a boat might pass, including ‘Cooks Passage’. Such a treat, after days of foul weather. Casper was very proud of himself, as we were for him too. Seeing a brass dial with various places and directions marked, including Singapore at some 4850 km, reminded us that we had no time to loose and so we hurried down to be back on board before dark.

24 August - 11o27’S 136o03’E
In the morning we see what a wild place this is. A huge chunk of the coast here is aboriginal land. You’re not allowed to land without a permit. There is nothing there; it’s all open space and inhospitable. Northern Queensland was outback, but there you always saw a shrimper or a freighter. Here it is very lonely, we must be the only people for many miles. It’s a strange feeling and I find it slightly uncomfortable. Off we go again still working our way to Darwin. The idea is to do one overnighter and then find an anchorage again. The going is slow now that we are out of the trades and it has become hot.

3 September - Darwin
A day of rest, or at least recreation. We have arranged a rental car to be delivered at 09:00 and so we set off inland to a wildlife park 60 km away. There is only one road out of town. To give you an idea of the space and sparcity of human impact, it is signposted to Alice Springs, half-way across this enormous continent. It feels great to be zipping along again in a car at 80 km/hr with the airco on, looking out at the outback scenery. The park turns out to be quite good, with a flock of ducks and Pelicans that we visit at feeding time. A great hit with Casper. Next to the wildlife park is a recreational park with a wonderful shaded swimming hole, complete with small waterfall that you can duck under. A great family place. On the way back we stop off and get a load of shopping in, while we have the use of the car. After a Pizza at a nearby Italian place we are faced with getting the entire family entourage, support equipment (stroller, Alex’s rucksack, toys, hats, bags, cameras, etc., etc.) and a big load of shopping back on board in the dark. Two dinghy trips and it’s done, though we are very tired.

10 September - 11o31’S, 126o40’E
A very calm night, motoring along. Come morning, we felt that we had burnt so much of our diesel that we must cut the engine and wait for wind. We waited all day, the occasional light breath of air giving us steerage for a while.
While we drifted along in the blazing heat on an oily sea, Caroline and Casper started to take an interest in the things floating by. It turns out that there are all sorts of jellyfish at the surface, and some things looking like cuttlefish bone plates. Caroline scooped up a jellyfish in a bucket and Casper admired it. Gelatinous, diaphanous, yet with colourful fringes.
We Drifted all night. We made about 20 miles progress in 22 hours. So much for being in Bali in 6 days!

20 September - Benoa Harbour, Bali
On an exploratory drive around the side roads, Caroline spots a beautiful scene of terraced rice paddies by the side of the road, and we stop to take a photo. After buying a sarong to appease the local street sellers who ambush me, I wander off to photograph. I have to submit to a ‘guide’ who wants to tag along and take me down a path, where he promises there is a waterfall. Indeed, there is an attractive-looking walk and so Caroline & I set off, minus the guide. We are immediately rewarded with wonderful scenes of ancient terraced rice paddies, local folk working the fields, and a profusion of tropical fertility which crowds the path. There is, if not an actual waterfall, at least a dam and irrigation system which supplies all the rice fields. By the time we get back to the car we are hot and tired from the climb back up the path, but very glad to have stopped and found an opportunity to explore away from the road and into the rich fertile volcanic hills.

06 October - 00o15’N, 105o04’E
Hurrah! We crossed the equator from south to north at 06:11 this morning, back in the northern hemisphere for the first time in a long while. No fanfares or ceremony this time, but we are getting really close to our destination now. With any luck we’ve just done our last night watch.
Towards the end of the day we motor at close to maximum revs, hoping to make it into an anchorage for the night just off Bintan island. Even though we start to get some wind, we motorsail and keep the engine going to maintain progress. We really need the night’s sleep. Shortly before sunset we pull in to a small island which indeed offers some protected anchorage, better than we had hoped. Gratefully we set the anchor and have a nice cold bottle of white with dinner to celebrate. To bed, for once with no worries about being run down.

08 October - Singapore straits

Our goal today: Singapore! Finally after all these months when it always seemed so far away, it’s only a daysail. A lousy 45 miles. It’s hot, there’s no wind and it’s pouring down either side of the boat. I’m hoping the sky will pour some buckets on Redwings to clean her decks, but our path leads us between the downpours and we stay dry. Early afternoon we round the corner of Batam and there in the haze we see the Singapore skyline. It’s an odd place really. I wonder what goes through the mind of the Indonesian fishermen in their little dugout canoes with oars, catching a few tiny fish, looking at this little island with all the skyscrapers. To get there we have to cross the shipping channels. There is an unbelievable amount of freighters. Most of them are for anchor, but plenty of them are moving. The radar screen must show a hundred little blobs. Once we’re through the maze we make our way to St. Johns Island, a little island where we thought it would be a nice idea to anchor there for the night. It’s a calm lovely spot with view of the pretty island on one side of the boat as if this is just another anchorage, and the Singapore skyline on the other to remind us that we are at the end of our journey. We made it!


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