Arabian Sea Day 8 – Thursday 27 February

This time last week we were waking up ready to depart Cochin, now we have under 500 nm left until the Gulf of Aden having covered something over 900nm in seven days. It’s been a slowish passage and looks like continuing in that vein. The NE Monsoon is weak, as I write Temptress’ speed varies between three and four knots, barely walking pace on land. At times the breeze is so light the boom bounces with the slight seas, the sails flap frustratingly.

We motored for a couple of hours around midnight when there was no wind at all. The skipper who was on watch became aware of an odd jerky movement or dull thump below the cockpit, felt rather than heard. Something round the prop? After some tactics like trying reverse gear all that was achieved was waking the first mate who grumpily stuck her head up. It was decided to sail instead, leaving the problem for the morning.

In compensation the mate was allowed a couple of extra hours in her bunk for which she was grateful. Sleep for both of us has become a weird experience with extremely vivid dreams, sometimes it feels we haven’t slept at all. Under six hours sleep a night achieved in two three hour off watches plus an hour or two during daylight hours. The first few days at sea are spent in a bit of a fog as our bodies adjust, then the brain clears and reluctantly adapts to the pattern. The dreaming seems to be revenge for not having eight contiguous hours of sleep.

Sadly the breeze didn’t last more than a couple of hours, it was back to motoring. We’ve plenty of fuel still; over half a tank plus all the jerrycans on deck means we could probably motor all the way to the next port. The thumps continued at irregular intervals, a couple at a time but nothing you could tie in with boat movement. Was it the recently emptied gas bottle moving? In the darkness I worried over every disaster it could be from propellor to rudder to keel, however it certainly wasn’t slowing us down as we motored nor was water leaking in. Then as the sun came up it stopped. My money is on sea life hitching a ride during the night.

On the chart about 150nm ahead is marked the ‘Owen Fracture Zone’, intriguing on several fronts; first because we know a couple of Owen’s who presumably should avoid the area, second who gave their name to this (a question I have about many of the often English sounding names on charts) and most importantly, what is it? Djibouti sits astride I believe several tectonic plates, it’s where that great feature of British geography lessons, the Rift Valley starts, though when I was at school Djibouti didn’t exist. Now it’s a week’s sailing away!

A couple of large birds took an avid interest in our splashing troll, over flying it several times before deciding it didn’t offer them a meal. Difficult to identify at a distance but likely to be boobies judging by the wingspan and behaviour. Our first sighting since the Pacific where they often kept us amused by their antics.

Another day alternating sailing with motoring, by noon we’d 440nm to run to the Transit Corridor and were motoring again at six knots. Sailing we have been averaging four or less. The noonday run was the second slowest of the trip, mostly because we resolutely tried to sail during the night and spent various periods lolling around at a couple of knots.

Passed our first potentially suspicious object, a vessel not under command (ie drifting) according to the AIS; red hull, white superstructure with an aft deck containing at least two large ribs. About the size of a deep sea trawler it was bristling with aerials. A guy watched us from the stern. After a brief discussion whether to call UKMTO Watchkeepers we decided not to unless they launched one of those ribs, twenty minutes later it was drifting over the horizon astern. No danger to us then. Later we wondered if it is used to load armed guards onto ships.

Mid afternoon we hauled in our first catch, having had tuna sarnies for lunch, supper was grilled fresh blue fin just big enough to feed the two of us. Kevin also spent half an hour hanging upside down in the anchor well photographing the underside of the furling drum (its set below the deck). It rattles like a bag of nuts and bolts when turning but we are none the wiser as to why. Meanwhile I cast on and completed section one of the second jumper sleeve. And at nightfall those odd thumps came back for a bit then stopped.

Noonday Run: 127nm
Noon Distance to Suez: 2490nm approx


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