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An Ocelot Sailing Day

Wednesday, 28 March 2007, Indian Ocean

Amanda spliced a new bridle while we were underway.
Amanda splices on a new bridle to replace
the one that broke from the surge in Galle.

Dear Friends and Family,

This passage is so beautiful it allows me, Sue, to get on the computer without feeling queasy.  Some of you may be wondering what a day on board Ocelot is like when we're at sea so I'll give some more details.  Life on passage is a 24 hour event.  We can't stop at night and each "day" begins at midnight when we make a line in the log book and mark the new date.  Our watch rotation begins with Amanda at midnight who has usually managed to grab 4 hours of sleep since she went off at 8pm, replaced by Sue and then Jon for 2 hours each.

The person going off watch at night makes sure the next one is awake and alert enough to be left alone.  This includes a "tour" of the horizon, pointing out any squalls (visible as dark patches in the sky where the clouds or moon are obscured), ships or fishing boats (seen by their lights), or, when we're near land, any sightings of loom from towns or lighthouses.  Out here, hundreds of miles from land, we are more concerned with squalls and fishing boats.  Then instructions are passed as to course to be sailed, any changes from previous instructions, etc.

On night watch we usually sit high on the helm seat surveying our watery domain, keeping an eye on the instruments and sails.  When we're far from shipping lanes (such as now) we may read with a small flashlight or listen to music on the MP3 player.  In any case, we need to glance around the horizon at least every 10 minutes to check for ships.  We may have cups of hot peppermint tea, crackers (settles the tummy), or hot/cold milk or chocolate to drink.

Jon usually runs the watermaker and charges the batteries during his 4am watch.  Our solar panels are often shaded when sailing and don't quite keep up with the added electrical demands of a passage (autopilot, lights, instruments, etc.).  Around 7am Jon usually sends and receives email while Amanda hand-steers Ocelot to keep the auto-pilot from interfering with the radio.  This can take anywhere from 10-90 minutes.  Then we often talk by radio with other boats, which makes us feel not quite so alone out here.  Thus begins daylight on Ocelot.

Dinner in the cockpit while on passage is lovely.
Dinner on passage just before sunset.

Breakfast is usually granola and fruit for Jon and Sue, but Amanda prefers dinner leftovers.  These first few days out of port we eat according to what fruit is ripe: today we slaughtered a huge pineapple and 4 bananas off the stalk.  Yesterday we downed a papaya with lime for breakfast, avocados and tomatoes for lunch (great guacamole), then fresh greens, bell peppers and plantain to accompany dinner.  If the passage were rougher, we'd not be eating so well, but we're lucky with flatish seas so we can get creative in the cooking.  Amanda's homemade whole wheat bread is a treat every couple days.

During the day we have no set hours for standing watch.  We rotate according to who feels like sitting up top in the shade to read (we often read a book/day), who needs a nap, and who is cooking, doing dishes, or writing email.  We often have music playing on the CD player, and sometimes Sue and Amanda do exercises to the beat.  The amount of actual sail-handling that takes place depends on the wind: last night both Jon and Sue had to gibe the main (alone) 2-3 times as the wind went light and fluky behind us.  Much of the time the sails are set, and remain the same (with a few tweaks here and there) for days on end.  Repairs to Ocelot take priority and Jon is awakened no matter the time of day or night to deal with those (or any other problems).  By 4pm the sun-shower is hot, so we bathe in the cockpit.  We have enough fresh water on board to use all fresh, which feels much better than salt.  Sue and Amanda start on dinner about then so that we can finish eating before dark at 6pm.  As the sun sets we are usually all out in the cockpit together to watch for a green flash and to discuss the sailing instructions for the upcoming night.

A Bridled Tern rested on Ocelot's bow for about 10 hours..
A lovely Bridled Tern rested on the bow all night

Is passage fun?  Well ... it's not my favorite time but it's what gets us from one fascinating destination to the next.  It can be a great time for conversation, music playing, reading, just chilling out.  Amanda even manages to get some school work done.  If we've planned our passages well (and we certainly try to do so) it can be very beautiful out here.  Blue seas with few white caps, blue sky with white clouds.  A gentle roll to the boat and the sound of whooshing water under the hulls.  We've had rain just the way we like it: no wind but one good downpour to clean the grit and dirt from Galle's cement factory off the decks.

Lastly, there are the flying fish, dolphins and birds.  Yesterday we were graced for an hour by five Sooty Terns who chose to swoop and feed around Ocelot.  Then a lone Bridled Tern with its dark back, white chest and neck, and black head highlighted by a "bridle" of white settled onto Ocelot's bow pulpit for a night's rest.  We're always happy to oblige our fellow travelers at sea.

As of local noon (GMT+5) we're at 324'N 7723'E, 242 nautical miles from Galle and 350nm from our waypoint at the entrance to Addu Atoll, near the island/town of Gan in the southern Maldives.

Wishing you all fair winds and calm seas -- Sue, Jon and Amanda Hacking

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