Trip Reports

Paradise Lost (11-Nov-2001-16-45):
8:15 PM local time, 4:45 PM local time, Monday, November 11 (1045 Nov. 11 UTC) 11 18 S 11 02 E. Temp. 86, Humidity 77%, Cloud Cover 20%. Off the southwest tip of Timor.

Warm greetings from the crew of Maverick.

We left Darwin and Beagle Gulf the morning of the 1st, having taken the womenfolk to the airport two nights previously. They had come in on long flights from the US about mid-month and we paired off and toured the Northern Territory of Australia in rented cars. There was a lot to see. The wildlife is abundant, even in downtown Darwin, and exotic birds are not hard to spot. There are no koalas or kangaroos up here, but they have wallabies and saltwater crocodiles that, according to the citizens, we'll take their word, are bigger and more aggressive than our alligators. There was Aboriginal culture to investigate. It was also hot and there were flies.

In Darwin I was able to tour a replica of His Majesty's Bark Endeavor, Captain Cook's ship, which was by coincidence in town when we were. The replica was amazing, quite a thrill. The space shuttle named after it carried one of the pegs ("trunnels") that holds the replica together into space and around the world for good luck before it was hammered into the ship. Making the tour more interesting was the fact that we know something about many of the officers and crew, so for instance, we can view not just the quarters in general, but Joseph Banks' room. Some of the actual shells from Banks' collection were displayed in his desk. We were told the interesting fact that although the modern version is quite like the original, it sails faster than Cook said his did, and the only way this can be accounted for is that Cook must have been somewhat conservative. He said in ideal conditions, 25-30 knots aft of the beam, he made 7-8 knots, which is Maverick speed. The new one does 9 knots, and tacks through 160 degrees. Darwin is the only city in the world of any size named after a major western scientist, and ironically, just like Pago Pago was never in Pago Pago, Darwin was never here, having taken Australia to starboard on his westabout circumnavigation aboard the Beagle. It is kind of odd that other than a few minor Newtons which may not after all have been named for the weird physicist and alchemist, you'll search the Atlas in vain for the towns of Aristotle, Einstein, Copernicus, and Galileo.

At Darwin we passed the 10,000-mile mark. That's a long way, but a longer stretch emotionally may be the one upon which we have now embarked as we leave the putative paradisiacal leg of our journey and head for what one could perhaps, taking a pessimistic view, call purgatory. Your Captain has been feeling an anxiety that is hard to account for. It could be he is a little sick at heart. The cruising life has many wonderful things to offer, but sweetness and tenderness, of the sort brought from home by Caroline and Theresa, cannot be counted among them. Not a few of you have written to express their concern about the direction our travels now take us, or, frankly, to suggest we're idiots, and among these are Maverick's insurance company, which has refused to provide coverage between Sri Lanka and Greece. Even Lloyd's of London will not cover this area at the current time. We have yet to learn whether it is possible to go through the Suez Canal without proof of insurance, and we sure don't want to sail all the way up the Red Sea and then have to turn around. The insurance companies seem to have lost their nerve after recent events, but the crew of Maverick has not, at least as of this moment. Better men than the Captain have had their courage fail them and his time may come, at which point he will attempt to graciously accept the I-told-you-so's.

To put things into perspective, though, we have heard of no credible stories of death or injury to cruisers at the hand of pirates or political activists in the area we're headed for during the time since we left California, and as stories like that travel fast in the cruising world, we think we'd have found out. In the same period, on the other hand, four cruisers died in the paradise of the South Pacific from perils faced by sailors from ancient times. Two were swept off boats when they were driven ashore in storms; one had a heart attack kedging his boat off a reef; and a single hander was found in the ocean with his EPIRB still strapped to his life vest and his boat nowhere to be found. Another boat, last we heard, had just disappeared. At least one person got malaria and another was lucky to survive the deadly form of dengue fever after an airlift. Innumerable boats fetched up on various reefs and some were lost.

Sailing a small boat on a big ocean, like walking to the store, is not a risk-free undertaking, and at least theoretically, we accepted that at the start. Granted, there is a new list of things to worry about. We're a bit late to be heading to Bali, the last boat as far as we know, and there has already been one early season cyclone in our latitude. We're bound to see gigantic thunderstorms between here and Phuket that will having us disconnecting our radios, computer, and GPS units just in case lightning strikes, which could of course fry more than the electronics. There will exotic weather events like incredibly heavy rain and high temperatures; last night when I woke Watch Captain Terry Shrode at 1:00 am, it was 87 degrees with 80% humidity. There will be small fishing boats, unlit at night, and fish traps and nets we can't see. Our cruising permit for Indonesia has yet to appear, the engine is behaving in a funny way we have not been able to diagnose, and yes, there are pirates, and people who may not like Americans.

We cannot know what will happen, and as they say in the NFL, that's why they play the games.

ADDENDA: 1. The marina fee at Cullen Bay was misquoted to us and we apologize for giving out an unreasonably low price. 2. I was watching TV in the apartment Theresa and I rented, and whoa! a familiar face came on. It was old friend Lucky Oceans, the original steel guitar player for Asleep at the Wheel, who moved to Australia a long time ago and now hosts an eclectic music show on Australian TV.

PS Welcome aboard to Dixie, Sabrina, Higginbotham, and the Geigers.

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