As I was preparing to go teach at the yoga retreat, it occurred to me that when the retreat was over I had no plans for a few days. As I was weighing my options for that free time, I got a text message from Mary:
- Rach, want to sail to Singapore?
Sometimes life presents you with tough choices, go to college/don’t go to college, get married/don’t get married, separate/stay together… this was not one of those choices.
My response was immediate – uh…YEAH!
After a fantastic week a the yoga retreat I said my farewells to the students and a few hours later found myself back in the very comfortable company of Mary, Ed and Jason. The sail to Singapore is about 900 nautical miles and should take us 5-6 days of sailing, plus two days on Borneo where we are making a quick stop off to see orangutans.
Now at sea, I must admit I am smitten. I have fallen instantly in love with sailing, with my crew mates and with the boat. I really feel that I am the luckiest girl in the world!
Friends and fellow-sailors Thors (Victoria) and Brad (Bradshaw) flew in from Sydney to help with the transfer of the boat, so we are a crew of six. Mary and Ed, Thors and Brad and Jason and I are paired up for watches as we are sailing 24 hours a day.
Each pair takes three-hour shifts tending to the boat while the others sleep, or play Guitar Hero, or cook.‘Watch’ so far has required that Jason and I sit up top, chat, read books, play cards, and once in a while check the horizon and the radar for other boats, tighten something, or release something.
Actually, it mostly requires that Jason do these things, as I am the greenhorn aboard and my main skill sets lie in documenting the trip, serving cocktails and being the bikini-clad girl who waves at passing fishing vessels. I am taking my job very seriously. And it really is my kind of job! I can perform my duties from a semi-prone position while wearing my bathing suit and staring out at the horizon. Where do I find a permanent placement?
I have sailed a couple times before, never seriously, just a few day trips here, a job as a cocktail server there, a fun regatta once upon a time. This trip however, marks many sailing firsts for me. I have never spent more than one night at sea. I have never crossed the equator at less than the cruising altitude of a jet and I have never been hundreds of miles from the nearest spit of land in the middle of the Java Sea or the South China Sea.
Our first night Jason and I pulled the midnight to 3am shift. The ocean was a bit rougher than we had expected based on the forecast – 5-6’ seas, but aside from the motion of the ocean, it was as peaceful as you can imagine. The silence was profound, only our boat and the waves lapping were to be heard. The line between the heavens and the Earth was completely blurred. A sky full of stars, touching Bali in the growing distance with it’s glittering sparsely-spaced lights and the phosphorescence glittering in our wake, made it hard to tell where the sky ended and the sea began. It seemed that we were surrounded by 360 degrees of stars.
Today’s morning watch produced our first dolphin sighting and brought us upon two fishing floatillas. Each time we would see one fishing boat in the distance it would soon be joined by six, seven, ten more. What these fishing vessels lack in sea-worthiness they more than make up for in their colorful paintjobs and crewmates.
These meetings are always exciting because apparently there is piracy in these waters so whenever we see multiple boats closely spaced on the radar screen it gives reason for pause. In fact whenever we see any boat on the radar, especially at night it is cause for concern among our group. Before we left I jokingly updated my Facebook status to read “Rachel is hoping that reports of pirates in the Indian Ocean have been greatly exaggerated.” Silly me, apparently they haven’t been.
Last night we got the 3 am to 6 am shift and were treated to baby dolphins jumping along side the boat as the sun was rising off our starboard side. What a start to our day. Around noon the waters changed colors from deep navy blue to an opaque sage and we went from so deep it didn’t register to 25’ as we began to approach Kilamantan.
Kilamantan is the Indonesian side of Borneo. We are sailing the boat up the river where we will anchor and tomorrow take a speedboat further upriver to find ourselves some primates.
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