Maldives to Oman-NE Monsoon and Lanah's first Ocean Crossing.

To give a different perspective, I asked Lanah (who is a public health
expert from Indiana and Colorado currently living in NZ) to describe her
first ever ocean crossing on Intrepid, 1350 miles from Maldives to Oman:

9th March 2007, 5 days into the crossing:
Let me make the context short and sweet: I am a total newbie. I took a short
intro to sailing course and learned some basics and got some harbour time in
40 knot winds, but am really still at the beginning. Prior to arriving on Intrepid
February 27th in Male, Maldives, I had never spent the night on a moving boat, sailed in
open water (i.e. not a harbour or bay), thought of my directions in degrees
on a compass or been off land for more than a day.

As one might expect, my learning curve has been huge and almost, literally,
everything is new to me like a 5 year old learning her ABC's and 1, 2, 3's.
So, 360 degrees equals north, 90 is east, okay, I can practice thinking that
way. When in "Auto" mode on the autopilot, work with the wind and adjust the
degrees to ensure a 90 to 120 degree angle to maximize the VMG, okay, I can
do that. Radar, try to decipher what lines are boats, squalls, or waves over
a 145 square mile area. okay, I can try and do that although it is
surprisingly stressful. Keep an eye on the sails and let the genoa sail out
if you need to. okay, wait, shoot, it is now 15 knots gusting to 18 but we
are going at 7.0 VMG (velocity made good towards our destination of Salalah)
and our new ETA has dropped from 38 days on my watch yesterday to 5 days
now. what do I do? Oh, shite, now I hear a fishing line rolling out but Andy
and Nicky are asleep, do I wake them? Of course, we haven't had fish in a
week!!!

Okay, I am not doing a great advertisement for my crewing skills here, but
this truly has already been amazingly educational to me. My watches from
5:30 am to 9 have been great practicals for putting the many pieces of
information Andy and Nicky give me during the day to work (and great
time to practice my knots as, again EVERYTHING is new to me!).

I have realized I have a true love for sailing even outside the harbour,
watching the waves. who knew they were in such amazing rhythmic patterns? .
and for the dolphins. Oh, the dolphins! Before we left Maldives, a big group
swam around Intrepid in gorgeous water as Andy was checking the top of the
mast. Then, more than 200 miles off the coast of the Goidhoo Atoll in the
Maldives, another huge pod of dolphins appear at our bow jumping in and out
from in front of the boat. This was the 3rd big set we had seen - heck,
maybe it is the same dolphin party from Maldives checking in on us. Then,
Andy spotted another group a few days ago. I find it fascinating to see wild
creatures so close up and their behaviour is nothing short of
inspirationally playful. The fact that the whole pod first comes over and 45
of the 50 swim off within 10 minutes yet 4 of them stay for another 10
minutes intrigues me. To me, I can just imagine these are the teen dolphins
trying to get an extra adrenaline rush in before dinner and their moms are
off 50 miles away, saying come on guys.

Well, I digress, but all in all the last 9 days on Intrepid have been great
and I am so glad I took the plunge and added this adventure to my round the
world ticket (or, used it as an excuse to do one big RTW trip before age
30!). Sitting up front on the bow and looking out to the deep blue ocean
while watching the sun set, and reading a great book, is a unique experience
I would conjecture could not be matched elsewhere. In addition, the lull of
the boat to sleep is so relaxing I feel I am inside one of those soothing
clock radios that lulls you to sleep, or the womb, with perfect wave sounds
in addition to a gentle rocking. Oh, and where else can you do a quick swim
in shark infested (okay, Andy said 1 per square mile but I saw the movie
Jaws at an impressionable age) waters that are 4000 Meters deep? I
hesitantly hopped in hanging off the buoy after Andy checked for
fish/sharks, and soon enough told Nicky that I now felt like a big flippin
lure. I soon hopped out but am proud I can say I did it.! (baby steps)

The crossing has also giving me a sincere appreciation for the skills that
both Andy and Nicky have related to sailing whether it be the actual
technical sailing, navigation, fishing, water quality, currents, weather,
etc.. oh, or cooking which has been delicious!

We currently have about 10 knots of wind and hope it increases a bit for a
great ETA to Oman in the next week. We have about 900 miles to go and I am
already looking forward to getting on some more boats back in Wellington.
Here is hoping that sentiment doesn't change between now and Oman! Lastly, a
great perk of this trip might be that all of Andy's human resource and
psychology expertise can maybe help me figure out what the heck I do once I
land back in New Zealand in a few weeks!

March 14th, 2007, 13 deg N, 61 deg E, ten days into the crossing:
On March 10th, we were sitting out under the bimini enjoying the morning
when Nicky and I realize a boat is coming in our direction. Soon, very soon
we realize it is on full power coming directly at us.. "ANDY!" is soon
declared to the skipper below. Andy presents himself from his sleep and we
soon realize yes, it is a boat coming to visit. Now, I don't have much
experience, but I have heard enough real life pirate stories to have a bit
of trepidation and we are 700 miles from the nearest land. Immediately a few
questions run through your head 1) What do they want? 2) Where are they
from? 3) What if we don't have what they want and they hop on the boat,
ransack the place, take hostages, force us to walk the plank.. Oh, wait that
was Pirates of the Caribbean and I have to admit deep down that would be
grand if Johnny Depp was still in charge. Back to reality, the boat
approaches and we see smiling faces. They immediately ask for cigarettes, we
see fruit (which we desperately want!) and a new international trade event
(they are from Sri Lanka) takes place. Granted, even with a friendly face
and smiling crew, these guys have been out on the boat maybe months so still
risky. Fortunately, Andy has a long rod that can be extended out a few
meters from the boat to reduce risk of the boats banging into each other.
They drop the $5 and first two packs of ethically incorrect cigarettes
noting they are a very viable currency here (sorry), and we give it a second
go. The second time works and we soon have our two watermelons. Ah,
international trade can be fair and fun. Wait, is passing on carcinogenic
cigs fair? Okay, maybe not, but we shared many smiles.

Feeling as though this was a pinnacle of entertainment for the day, we soon
realized we were wrong. By the end of the day, we saw another 6 fishing
boats on radar, one of which tried to aggressively chase us but couldn't
catch up, another asked for water which we obliged and the third, and last
boat, was very friendly informing us they had indeed been on the boat for a
month, were from Sri Lanka. After we shared some final cigarettes, they kept
waving, dancing on the deck saying thank you and goodbye. These men/boys in
particular seemed genuinely sweet up on their bow in the traditional
skirt/wraps worn by men in India (and I assume Sri Lanka). As they sailed
away, I couldn't help but wonder what our conversations could have been if
we could all sit around a table, a fire, etc. and communicate freely. How
old were they? Will they fish their whole life? How many fish, and what type
do they catch? Do they have kids? and so on. It may seem silly, but it is
these kinds of moments that really enlighten my spirit, because no matter
how different your worlds, travelling gives you these little glimpses of
commonality through a smile, a wave, or a thank you and it just makes me
authentically happy (Hmmm. has Andy been recommending self-help psychology
books??? i.e. one is  named "Authentic Happiness" ) J

Other highlights included 5 more watches without hitting any boats, so proud
of myself on that one. I also have learned to actually interact with the
sails a bit and am gaining a beginning understanding of the theory behind
decreasing/increasing angles of wind to sail by hand or autopilot. Sounds
basic, but remember, for me, thinking of East as 90 degrees is new! Oh, and
I have almost mastered my reef knot with my bowline and double turn half
hitch (I think) in process. And, I actually have a bit of a role when we
raise or lower the pole, adjust sails in and out, and put up the BGM. Most
importantly, I ensure I am the most well-rested crew member so that I can
live up to my "Loquacious Lanah" or "Lulled Lanah" pseudonym.

We also did another deep sea swim at 4000 meters, caught a gorgeous, plump,
thrashing skipjack tuna weighing in at about 5 Kg. Oh, and you might think
catching a fish is easy. Contrare mon frere. Over our drinks just as the sun
had dipped down, and Andy was concluding a Neuro-Linguistic Programming
exercise on Nicky and me, the reel goes "zzzzzzzzzz". I gather dishes and
store the table away, Andy grabs the reel, and Nicky takes charge of the
boat to stop it. We pull the sails in, I run down and get the alcohol and
filet knife. Nicky grabs the gaff, Andy reels the fighting tuna in for at
least 5 minutes, with the crazy, I don't want to die fish tactic of diving
under the boat. Finally, as I am honing in with my zoom lens on my video
camera (after my duties are completed of course), a glimpse of the glorious
tuna. Ah, I can taste it already. Nicky now has the reel, Andy strikes the
gaff into the fish, drags it onto the back of the boat, all the while
standing on the back ladder. Nicky pours some alcohol on the thrasher to
anesthetize and allow it a euthenised fast death I think, and Andy starts
cutting. Plastic zip locks are retrieved and now we have at least 5
kilograms of the freshest, tastiest, most amazing fish to eat for the next 4
days. Although my video lacks any skill, I did feel, as I have during the
two prior catches, I am immediately thrown into a national geographic
adventure series watching "man vs. fish" as they make it look so easy and I
am sure it is far from that for the vast majority.

Andy seared the tasty tuna, served with salad and sweet corn. As my Dad
would say, in an altered version for the circumstance, it was the best meal
on the Arabian Sea.

All in all, it's a great cruise package. I never would have expected the
mirror like water in the middle of the Arabian Sea to be dotted all of the
sudden with 20 chilled out pilot whales meandering around. Then, the food.
Gourmet Galley is all I can say, Andy seriously should start a restaurant
and every meal would start with Nicky's delicious homemade bread.

I wasn't sure what I was signing up for, but boy, I couldn't be blamed for
thinking (still!) that this was a top of the line, niche, adventure/gourmet
world cruise line with very personalized focus that just happens to go under
the name Intrepid of Dover.

We had to stop Lanah at this stage as she was so excited we thought she
might bounce right off the boat! She has handled her watches well, a great
enthusiast, a pleasure to sail with. I hope it gives an idea of what a first
2 week ocean crossing feels like.

Most yachts in front of us had very little wind. 'I have only 4 knots of
wind' moaned one. 'I envy you 4 knots, we haven't any wind at all' responded
the next yacht. The 'transition period' between the NE and SW Monsoons seems
to have come early this year, and high pressure at the mouth of the Gulf is
cancelling out any wind we might have. At times been inching along at 1.2
knots under sail towards Oman, as we only have fuel for 750 miles - but we
also have periods of 20 knot winds when we do 7 knots.

Today we received this message from a NZ/British yacht 100 miles ahead of
us:
 'Hi Andy and Nicky, we were caught in a fishing net last night and had to
wait 5 hours until they came to our rescue! A big fishing boat from Iran,
They used unlit floating nets 7 miles long, we think for Tuna, and two
fishermen had to dive down to cut the propeller and the rudder free. Later:
Caught in another fishing net! Just now! Please listen on frequency 4420
every hour and channel 16, in case we need support. Thank you'.

4420 is SSB short wave radio, not all yachts have it, but we spoke to
Pathfinder on the hour just as it was getting dark. They were severely
stressed, the Iranian fishermen had cut them free again, didn't ask for
money but did take a bottle of rum and whiskey, and told them there were 200
Iranian fishing boats each with 7 mile floating nets between us and Oman!

These nets on the surface are illegal and dangerous - dolphins get entangled
in them - but I didn't care to swap legal niceties with Iranian fishermen at
night if I could avoid it. We decided that our best chance was to sail if we
could hoping that nets would scrape under our keel avoid our folding
propeller and miss the rudder; also to divert round anything looking like a
pair of radar echoes (boat and buoy marking the end of the net). An anxious
night, pitch black as the moon didn't rise until 5am, but OK then at 10 am
we saw 3 large wooden boats full of people altering course to cross our
track. We continued sailing, and they turned out to be a type of India/Yemen
ferry, everyone waving,

Next night Pathfinder confirmed more floating nets, and we spotted 2 pairs
of echoes, (nets?) diverted round them, but as we did so under full sail
heard an eerie scraping sound as what I think must have been a net (there is
no way of telling at night) scraped under Intrepid and missed our rudder. If
it had caught we would have stopped abruptly, messily and dangerously. The
rest of the night each of took turns to peer at the radar, and the dark sea
ahead, diverting as necessary.

The reports on piracy from the SW of Oman through the entrance to the Red
Sea are currently reassuring, maybe Aden Coast Guard  have dissuaded them
from attacking yachts. However there has been an unconfirmed incident of a
yacht being fired on. The American coordinator of the 'anti piracy convoys'
rushed the entire Indian Ocean, ignored their own advice, and sailed by
themselves through the 'piracy' area. Rumour has it that they are so
unbearable that no-one would sail with them!

We now have 240 miles to go, 1100 completed, seems like we are almost there,
but its still 2 days to go. We send our best wishes to you all

From the crew of Intrepid, Lanah, Nicky, Andy

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