Off the Coast of India

Passage from Maldives to Oman, Day Five

Enroute to Salalah, 409 miles done, 1182 to go

We left Uligan late in the day on Friday, April 9, and have been at sea for four complete days, working on our fifth.

It has been a good passage so far. We’ve been sailing up along the coast of India, with winds that have been on again/off again. But it has been pleasant and easy. When the winds do pick up, they reach 8-12 knots, mostly out of the northwest. As we’re sailing north, that requires that we beat, which is usually uncomfortable. But these winds are so pleasant and fair that we are pulled along in an easy fashion. In fact, we wouldn’t want the winds in any other place, especially when they drop down into the 8 knot range, because the ship’s forward motion combines with the light wind to create just enough apparent wind to keep us moving at a good pace.

When the wind slackens, we turn on Westy Westerbeke, and run him at a low 1200 RPMs (rather than the typical 1800), and nose along at about 4 knots. We are treating the engine with kid gloves both because we need to conserve fuel on this very long, light-winded, 1600 mile trip, and because the engine is less likely to suffer mechanical breakdowns at the lower revs.

We’ve packed an extra 50 gallons of fuel, such that we now have 100 gallons in jerry cans on the deck, and an additional 125 gallons in the tanks below, giving us about 9 days of motoring. We may well need it all. So far, however, we’ve used just less than two motoring days of diesel, and we’re ahead of our fuel consumption pace.

Just now we’re ghosting along at 2.5 knots, with India about 100 to our right, or east. We can pick up FM radio stations, and listened to some Bollywood-like Indian music yesterday, as well as the ubiquitous western stations, where we got our fill of Katie Perry and Lady Gaga (well, can you really get your fill of that?!). There’s something magical about picking up stations from new countries, and it made us wish that we could have fit exotic India into our itinerary. Next time.

We’ve had only one mechanical failure so far, and it was a terrible one. Paul kneeled on the cockpit cushions when he was throwing some garbage overboard, and, when the boat rolled, felt something stiff under right right knee make a slight crackle noise. Uh oh. It was Sima’s Kindle, inside its carrying case. A Kindle, of course, is an electronic tablet on which one can read books downloaded from the Internet. The quality of the screen is excellent, such that it comes pretty close to replicating ink on paper. It is with Senor Kindle that Sima spends upwards of 99 percent of her waking time on passage (yes, really, upwards), devouring books like candy. It was an incredibly gracious gift to us from Paul’s friend Janice Fahey, and just as boat projects help Paul pass the day, so the Kindle is Sima’s constant companion.

Paul’s knee had caught the Kindle’s corner, and the top right hand corner of the screen has now become illegible. Sima was heartbroken, and so was Paul. Fortunately, the device is still useable, but Sima must now press a bunch of function keys to flip each page upside-down so that she can read the top, and then flip it so that she can read the bottom. Not quite as easy as it used to be. Paul tried to console her by telling her how Abraham Lincoln did his lessons by the light of the fireplace, but Sima retorted that Ol’ Abe had Mary Todd was never around to inadvertently douse half the fire. Touche.

We had researched this route pretty intently before we left, and learned that many boats have become ensnared in fishing nets, sometimes stopping them dead in their tracks in the middle of the night, until daylight allows them to dive overboard and cut away the mess. We used to have a line cutter, a scissor-like device that chops to shreds such offending lines (we know, as it did a job on our stern anchor when we accidentally backed down on it in the Galapagos, even though it was offending no one at the time), but electrolysis got the better of it, and we were forced to remove it when it was reduced to a chattering jumble of junk, doing more damage to the shaft, prop, and our sleep, than to unsuspecting fishing nets.

We had given it to a metal worker to try to repair when we were in New Zealand, but it was too much for him, and it came back in even worse shape than when we gave it to him.

Enter Paul’s brother-in-law, Andy Krebs. When we started down the U.S. East Coast a couple of years ago, Andy and Paul’s sister Joanne hiked all the way out to Cape May in New Jersey to visit Leander and treat us to dinner out. Paul and Sima talked about all the mechanical challenges they were facing as new boat owners. Andy, who owns and operates a tool and parts manufacturing company called “Ronal Tools,” offered his services should we ever need them.

Two years later, Paul offered up the mangled line-cutter. Could Andy save it? Andy and his expert craftsmen took on the project, and had it ready for Paul when he arrived home this past holiday season in a tidy Christmas package. It was a thing of beauty, as Ronal had machined new cutter parts that looked like they be as comfortable in an art gallery as they would searching for stray lines from the end of our shaft.

We had intended to install the line cutter when we hauled the boat in Thailand, at the same time we’d bd re-installing our also-repaired feathering prop, but determined that it made no sense to haulout then, when we’d have to come out of the water again in several months to recondition the bottom and do the rest of our annual hard-stand work. So the new prop and line cutter sat idle.

But as we prepared to leave Uligan, a friend of ours, Martin Ernstbrunner, an Austrian fellow aboard his newly built catamaran Wild One, asked us to come diving with him. We had done a couple of favors for him, and so didn’t mind asking for one in return. Could we use a tank to install the line cutter? Sure!

So Paul geared-up and, being very careful not to drop any of the small parts and tinier nuts and bolts to the ocean floor, put the line cutter on. It fit on the shaft differently than it had with our feathering prop, but we were able to make it work. We started up the engine, and tested to make sure that it turned properly. Not a sound from the new, machined-to-perfection parts. Now Leander churns through coastal Indian waters looking to cut a swath through nettlesome nets. If it finds some, we’ll never know.

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