A Travellerspoint blog

The turnaround

Fifty miles off the Equator

all seasons in one day 25 °C

“No more coffee??” You could almost see the blood leaving Gerd’s face. We were fifty miles north of the equator, yet still far from the coast of Sumatra. It was a fine day, gentle wind blue sky. The date, January the 3rd.

One of those days

One of those days

Since morning, Gerd had been in what Tiho and I had taken to call ‘the mood’. That is, when he gets haggard, quiet, and tries to do everything at once. He becomes very rude and difficult to be around. During this spells of inefficient activity he uses very few words and barks directions at everyone, with always a sneer and a smartass reply at the ready. But after ten weeks with the guy we were used to this; we just stayed out of his way, of did as he said. This day turned out different thogh. This day his musings led him to do the one big thing he had postponed for almost a month now: he decided to weigh the gas bottle.
Our 16 kilo gas bottle had been refilled in India, after two failed attempts at getting a good local cooking device. It had done a good job. But we were six people back then, and there’d been cooking aplenty. The original estimate had been that the full bottle would last eight weeks. By this the 3rd of January , seven of those weeks had already slipped by. So neither Tihomir nor I were the least surprised when we found out we had around two kilos left of propane. We had urged Gerd to weigh the bottle while still in India. We had strongly advised at getting a second one. The Captain had dismissed our concerns, “It will last, it will last” he would say. Yet we weren't even nearly half way to our destination, yet less than a fifth of the gas remained. That day at sea, when confronted with the facts, for once Gerd became speechless.
We the crew had long since made our minds to a life of rice and explained thus to Gerd. How, if we wanted to make last ten days’ worth of gas into another forty, drastic changes would ensue. One big pot of rice a day, maybe pasta or potatoes on the pressure cooker, and specially, he would have no more coffee. “I just make hot water! And everyone benefits from it!” he cried defensively, knowing it was not true. Tihomir could very well live without his tea, and it’d been at least a week since I’d given up coffee... After some more talking and thinking, he came up with a solution. “I don’t want to go into full survival mode. Rice like a monastery, and no coffee! No. I think we change course, go to Malaysia...”

Now THAT caught us unprepared. This would effectively cut the journey by half, the new estimate being ten days! Our minds filled with swirling images or land, people and pizza. Merely ten days!!

Weather changes quickly down there!

Weather changes quickly down there!

But Gerd’s decisions are as stable as the equatorial weather. By that very evening he called us out to the pilot house. It was squally outside, on and off showers and sudden gusts of wind. While he steered and we stood in the bleary, wet cabin, he monologued at will. After much thought it turned out, he had decided that having no means to cook our food ‘could’ actually be considered an emergency. No matter he'd nearly call me an idiot for mentioning that earlier, huh? He now saw no real reason to leave our course, especially with this wonderful wind we were having. In fact we should try to make the most of it, go as fast as possible. We should probably reef the sails, go the safe way and have a pleasant sail. Or better yet, set a watch and hand steer through the night! Thus I was left at the wheel, mood as dark as the weather, cursing our lack of cheese for the hundredth time.
A squall passed. Another came. Then there was no wind. Slowly the wind came back. We gained speed: 1.1 knots, 1.3, 1.7, 2. Then it picked up, from three knots we jumped to 4 and five. I had just eased the mainsail a bit when a gust brought us up to a good seven knots. We heeled so suddenly and heavily that there was no need for me to call out to Gerd and Tiho. As I fully released the main, Gerd tried to steer downwind, to ease the pressure on the sails. But no, the wind was to strong, the sails had to come down. As Tiho steered Gerd released the halyard, and I ran to the bow, caught the sail and brought it down, lashing it to the deck, trying not to get blown off the ship by the wind or flooding waves. We brought the mainsail down as well, just leaving a small foresail on. Even then, with almost no canvas up, we were making a good 3.8 knots. So we set the self-steering and went to bed, thinking all was fine. Yet morning had another story to tell.
With the first light, we tried hoisting the sails, but the main had a big hole where a baton no longer stood, and the foresail was even worse. Two big gashes looked back at us, each a full arm's lenght (the pictures died with my iphone, but that's another story). It tore as soon as it was released... We could temporarily mend the holes by hand, we could, but to properly fix them, a good sewing machine would be required. Even a sailmaker maybe. The thing is, Gerd had spent a good six months in Dili and found none to speak of… So we looked at each other. It was decided for sure then. We set up the reserve mainsail (which was the better one anyway), and turned north. We never reached the Equator.

And we rounded Sumatra...

And we rounded Sumatra...

We had no more technical issues, and plenty of pancakes, potato salads and noodles. We rounded the tip of Sumatra and crossed the Strait of Malacca. A good 17 days later we arrived at the Malaysian port of Lumut, after much toil and motoring. And on January the 20th, after a night anchored in quarantine, Gerd got up and put the kettle on. But surely, as expected, there was no more gas.

Posted by Zaspirucho 18:53 Archived in Indonesia Tagged food boat sailing plans wind equator liberty emergency

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Hoaaa!!! What a story! Interesting read! I've checked your blog once in a while during the past weeks. My surprise about your experience is limited. Chaos seemed to reign from the outset. Reading between the lines (and looking straight at the lines in Gerd's FB) I get a feeling that this must have been rather difficult weeks. Will you look back some more in your thoughts from afar? And are you (both) leaving the Liberty now? It seems you may have to catch up with some coffee drinking first... Enjoy!

by Tom

Oh boy, I am SO glad we met you guys, it has been so entertaining from the outset!!!

Wanna come with us instead? Show us the way, so to speak!!!

by Saucy Sailoress

Again you are right, Tom! I've had at least two coffees a day, I'm drinking some now, and earlier I found a proper and not too overpriced espresso. I had a double!
And of course, this trip doesn't end here, far from it! I will continue exploring this beautiful world over land now. And who knows, maybe sail again later? All is possible! Maybe I can even meet the Saucy Sailoress and Co. in Thailand! Now that'd be fun!

by Zaspirucho

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