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|Chapter 29: Meetings|
Surrounded by the smell of dust and old paper, Lisa browsed through the archives at the county courthouse, pursuing her newfound cause: investigating anything and everything to do with Dirk Carlson. A great deal of information is available to the public, including title filings for property and vehicles, which, under Florida law, includes boats.
Flicking through the microfiche pages, Lisa found one she’d been looking for; the title transfer for Atlantis. Her eyebrows arched slightly in surprise when she noticed that it had been an all-cash deal, and that Trevor, in spite of being a small child, had been registered as the sole and separate owner of Atlantis: the boat had never been in his mother’s name.
Lisa’s eyes narrowed. ‘That makes sense, if Trevor’s mom was planning a divorce even back then. Put it in Trevor’s name, and then when she got custody of him, they’d have a good chance to get the boat too. That’s an extra motive for murder,’ Lisa thought.
Lisa studied the rest of the record, and did a double-take when she saw a familiar name listed as the seller.
Hoping that what she’d found would help the case against Dirk, Lisa obtained a printout, and then, in the parking lot, she hesitated. Her first impulse had been to take the document to Officer Gonzalez, but as she climbed into her truck, she decided that she’d go see Bridget and ask her what was going on.
Lisa drove to Bridget’s house, and hoping that she wouldn’t catch her at a bad time, rang the doorbell.
Lisa waited, then rang again, and was just about ready to give up when Bridget, looking slightly harried, opened the door.
“Sorry if I’ve come at a bad time, but I thought you’d want to see this. It’s about Dirk Carlson,” Lisa said, handing Bridget the printout of Atlantis’s original title transfer.
Bridget took the paper without reading it. “You are always welcome here, Lisa. I can assure you that anything to do with prosecuting Dirk takes priority over everything else. I had some guests but they were just leaving,” Bridget said, a little loudly, making no move to stand aside. Bridget studied the paper for a few moments, and then led Lisa inside.
When they reached Bridget’s study, which did not overlook the dock, Lisa sat down and said, “The Atlantis was never in Trevor’s Mom’s name, it was always in his. My guess is she was planning a divorce even then, and did that to keep Atlantis from being considered dividable property. I was going to take this to Officer Gonzalez, but I saw the seller’s name, too. You never told me that you used to own the Atlantis?”
Bridget sat down and smiled primly. “I see your point. To be honest, I’d forgotten. You see, one of the businesses my late husband and I were in was selling yachts. We ended up with quite a few over the years, mainly as a result of his legal work – boats taken in lieu of fees, or purchased at a discount during divorces, that sort of thing. I am surprised I did not recognize her when Trevor was here, though after Arnold’s death, my brother handled winding down that business. It’s possible I never saw her, or perhaps I’d confused her with Ares, a boat I sailed on many times. At one point, we were taking and selling at least a dozen boats a year, and my memory isn’t what it used to be,” Bridget said, giving Lisa a sweet smile before pointing at the document and adding, “As you can see, the boat’s name is not part of the title, only the registration number is. Most owners, upon purchasing a yacht, give it a new name. The Carlsons were no different in that regard: They kept the name ‘Ares’, but I don’t recall ‘Atlantis’ as being the original name. I’m usually quite good with names.”
Lisa wasn’t overly surprised by Bridget’s story. She’d known from the document that Bridget was registered as the prior owner, and Bridget’s explanation made sense to Lisa, especially as it seemed to Lisa to mesh with Arnold Bellevue being the seller of the Ares. Bridget’s knowledge of yachting had long been evident to Lisa, and Lisa also knew that Bridget was still deeply involved in the boating world, a fact drummed home to her by the sudden rumble of twin diesel engines starting up.
“If Atlantis had a different name, no wonder you didn’t remember. What I’m worried about is; do we take this to Officer Gonzalez? Does having your name on the title hurt the case against Mr. Carlson?” Lisa asked.
Seeing Lisa react to the engine noise, Bridget said, “That’s just my friends leaving. I know a great many people, many of whom have boats. It seems like there is always someone stopping by. Now, on to the serious matter: taking your find to the police. I think it is an excellent idea. Your theory makes sense, and I’d wager that the police are unaware of this, in spite of it being a public record. Their investigations have hardly been marked by competence thus far, after all. They had no clue that my late husband sold the Ares to the Carlsons until I gave them the paperwork, so by all means, see Officer Gonzalez about this. If my name as the seller brings him around asking questions again, I shall be delighted. I have nothing to hide. Incidentally, you should be proud of yourself; you’ve unearthed something that the police have most likely overlooked.”
Lisa smiled and nodded. “Thanks. I’ll keep digging. I don’t have much time; once Trevor transits the Suez Canal, he won’t turn back. He’ll keep going, all the way around the world.”
“He’s transiting soon is he? You might advise him to call me; I’ve been through the Suez in a yacht before and for the uninitiated, it can be daunting indeed. My first trip was an utter nightmare of fees and red tape.”
“It’ll be a couple of weeks or so, but I’ll sure have him call you, thanks.”
Bridget smiled. “Seeing as you are here anyway, let’s hit the courts. I could use a good game.”
Trevor and Joel took turns conning Atlantis through the night, through the narrow, busy straits and into the Aegean Sea. Trevor took care to ensure that he had the last watch, and once he was alone, promptly laid in a course for the destination he’d been keeping secret from Joel.
Joel staggered into the cockpit at sunup, and stood, dumbstruck, in just his boxers, staring out at the towering cliffs. “Holy fuck... Where are we?” he mumbled, glancing around again at the cliffs – many of which were over a thousand feet tall – and the five-mile-wide bay they almost encircled.
Trevor looked around, grinning. He’d seen many pictures, but none could equal the feel of being anchored in the enormous caldera. Trevor looked at the low lava island in its center, and then turned to tell Joel, “We’re in the heart of an active volcano. Where we’re anchored used to be in the center of an island, which was blasted out in a gigantic eruption. The island in the center grew up much later.”
Joel stood looking at the eastern cliffs, which were topped by buildings. “Wow. It’s goddamn huge...”
“It’s even bigger than it looks. The depth here in the caldera is over a thousand feet deep in places. I had to anchor us close in to the lava island to find shallow water. This lava island is where the most recent eruptions have happened, the last one about fifty years ago. Nothing like the big eruption though.”
“Yeah... something like that would wipe out everything for miles around.”
“It did... when it blew, three thousand eight hundred years ago, there was a civilization here and in Crete, called the Minoan. The eruption and the tidal waves it caused devastated them. There are ruins here that were buried in the eruption, which I’d love to see but they’re not open to the public. The Minoans were pretty advanced... they had indoor plumbing, flush toilets, and hot and cold running water, plus ocean-going ships, all kinds of stuff.”
“You’re not a history nut... how come you know so much about this place?”
Trevor patted the railing. “Because this place, Santorini, is thought by a lot of people to be the real place behind a very famous legend, one that started with Plato.”
Joel watched Trevor’s hand on the boat’s railing, and then the light dawned. “Atlantis... Figures you would read up on that. So you’re saying this used to be the lost continent of Atlantis?”
Trevor shrugged. “No one knows, but it fits in a lot of ways. A very advanced civilization wiped out in a cataclysm. It was never a continent, but Plato said his account was based on something someone was told in Egypt, so who knows if it changed in the telling. The description Plato gave of Atlantis matches in other ways though... A set of concentric rings for a harbor. Before the eruption, this place was already a caldera from a prior one, just shallower. The eruption made it bigger and deeper, and there was probably an island in the middle, like now, so it fits his description, kinda. A lot better than anywhere else so far. ”
Joel looked at a part of a town at the base of the cliff. “I can see an aerial tramway going up the cliff, to the top. Is that where we’re going?”
Trevor nodded. “Yeah, that’s pretty much the only way up on this side, that or the walkway that zigzags up to the right of the aerial tramway. We can lock the Zodiac up on that dock and then take the aerial tramway up. They’ve got a mule ride up too, but it takes a while.”
“Can we skate down?” Joel asked.
Trevor shook his head. “I think we might as well leave our boards here this time. I’ve seen pictures, and that walkway is mainly stairs, plus it gets pretty crowded. Cruise ships pull in here almost every day, so we’d better take the aerial tramway up before one arrives or we’ll have to wait in a queue.”
Joel grinned. “Let’s grab some cereal and then head in.”
They ate quickly, and then tugged on shorts and T-shirts before dashing into the cockpit, eager to get ashore.
Trevor pointed at the massive cruise ship entering the caldera via the south pass. “That’s a big one, probably near a hundred thousand tons, and a thousand feet long. That’ll have around three thousand tourists on board, so we’d better beat them ashore.”
Joel watched as the massive ocean liner – the Star Princess – slowly entered the caldera. “Is it deep enough for them to dock?”
Trevor shook his head. “Nope, they’ll use tenders and run a continuous shuttle all day. It’ll take ‘em a while to anchor and get all that set up; I’ve seen them do it in the Bahamas.”
Trevor and Joel locked Atlantis up and deployed the Zodiac. The outboard coughed once, and then fired up, and with Joel at the helm, they motored in towards the dock, bouncing across the light chop, looking around at the almost surreal sights around them.
They tied up at the seawall and secured the zodiac with a bike chain. They walked north, with the looming cliffs on their right, watching the tender dock and boats making ready to service the cruise tourists.
Arriving at the aerial tramway, Joel watched it for a moment, seeing the unusual configuration. “That’s weird. The gondolas are all in a bunch, one set going up while the other comes down. When they go through the towers, they look kinda like a giant caterpillar.”
Trevor looked and nodded. “That does look weird.”
After paying for one-way fares, they found that a queue had already formed, and joined it. Due to the configuration of the tramway, each of the two clusters of gondolas acted as a single large tramway car, one pulling into the lower station at the same time as the other pulled into the upper station.
With about ten minutes to kill, Trevor and Joel began talking about where to go next in the Aegean. Joel had no preferences, so Trevor said, “We’ve got just under two weeks before your flight home from Cyprus. So, I thought we’d see Rhodes last because then it’s just a straight run to Cyprus. From there, I’ll be at the Suez Canal in a couple of days. After we sail from Santorini, I thought we could head north, to near Mykonos, and hang out for a few days on one of the islands.”
As the snaking line moved forward, Trevor and Joel drew even with a man in his twenties, along with his wife. The man turned to face Trevor and, with a pleasant smile, said, “I heard your accents and mention of a boat. This is the first stop in the Med for my wife Melanie and me – my name is Bob, by the way – on our westbound circumnavigation out of Vancouver, Canada, and we thought we’d stop by and compare notes, eh? Mind if we join you?”
“Sure,” Trevor nodded, and moved aside to let Melanie and Bob join the line, as the couple gave up their space twenty people ahead. “Always great to meet other cruisers. My name’s Trev and this is Joel. We’ve been in the Mediterranean for a few weeks, eastbound.”
Melanie smiled. “We’re heading for Corfu next, and then heading for Italy and then France. After we leave the Med, we’re stopping in the Canaries and then the Caribbean before transiting the Panama Canal and heading home via Hawaii. We’ll stay in the Caribbean for the winter, probably.”
Trevor nodded. “I’m doing an eastbound circumnavigation, from Florida.”
The next cluster of gondolas arrived, and the four took one to themselves, with Trevor and Joel on the uphill side. The door hissed shut, and then, with a rumble, the aerial tramway ride began.
“How was the Suez Canal? I’ve read about it, but I can’t seem to find any reliable info on exactly how much it will cost, or the procedure,” Trevor asked.
Bob turned to look over his shoulder at the view, and then returned his gaze to Trevor. “I did a lot of research, but all I found were contradictory stories. The one thing I did learn was to get an agent, and make contact at least a week prior to transit. That way they’ll handle the paperwork, and get you booked for the first yacht convoy after you arrive, probably the next morning. The agent will cost you an extra hundred to two hundred, but they’re worth it. It cost us just over seventeen hundred U.S. dollars for the transit.”
Trevor cringed. “That’s a lot more than I was hoping for. What kind of yacht do you have?”
Melanie looked over her shoulder and pointed at a yacht moored near the sea wall. “The Great White North, an Oyster 72. What are you two in?”
Trevor looked at the soaring view for a moment, and as the gondola continued its ascent, pointed at Atlantis, moored two miles away off the lava island in the center of the caldera. “A Lagoon 55 catamaran, Atlantis.”
Bob arched an eyebrow. “They measure length, depth, and under-the-hull girth to calculate volume, so you’ll likely pay a bit more than we did for the toll itself, but it’s all the other fees that rack it up; some of them are per person. We have a crewman aboard, so there were three of us. Besides the two of you, how many are aboard Atlantis?”
“It’ll just be me; Joel has to go home before I transit.”
Bob and Melanie exchanged a surprise glance. “A solo circumnavigation? That’s quite a challenge at any age, let alone in your teens. However, having just yourself aboard might cut the canal fees down a bit, but maybe not. From what I’ve heard from others we met there, prices seem to vary by the whim of the officials, to a degree. One couple, in a smaller boat than ours, said it cost them over two thousand. Oh, before I forget, make sure you have a large supply of small bills in American currency, plus several cartons of cigarettes, for baksheesh,” Bob said.
“Baksheesh?” Trevor asked.
“That’s Arabic for ‘bribe’, more or less,” Melanie replied with a sour look, and then explained, “Bribery is endemic there. You’ll need small bills though, because they never, ever have change. Also, if you don’t bribe them, bad things can happen. For example, one boat we were with refused to give any money or cigarettes to the pilot or the pilot boat. The pilot boat then rammed them, doing a fair amount of damage.”
Bob nodded, and then added, “You’ll have to have a pilot aboard; all transit boats do. However, don’t let him actually con your boat. They’ll sometimes try shortcuts in shallow-draft vessels and have been known to run them aground. The channels are well marked, so beware if they try to take you out of one. Just give the pilot his bribe first, then let him sit back while you steer. It’s pretty simple, just stay in convoy and follow the pilot boat.”
Joel glanced at Trevor, and then asked, “Will he be okay on his own?”
Bob nodded. “He’ll be fine, as long as his boat is up to it. There will be plenty of other yachters waiting, so he won’t be alone.” Bob then looked at Trevor. “You’ll need to transit under power, not under sail, and you need to be able to make five knots. That was a bit of a push for us because we had a bit of a headwind, but we were okay. I’m guessing a catamaran like yours can do nine to ten knots under power?”
“Fifteen,” Trevor replied, with a smile. “I saw some agents listed in my port guide, so I’ll call one, unless you have a recommendation?”
Bob nodded. “I do, but I can’t remember the name. I’ve got it aboard though...” He glanced at his wife, who nodded at the unspoken question. “Would you guys like to join us for dinner? Our crewman, François, is one hell of a cook, and I’ll dig up all the info on Suez for you that I can. We’d also like to pick your brains about Italy and points west.”
Trevor glanced at Joel, and then they both nodded, and Trevor replied, “Thanks, that’d be great. Give us a time and we’ll be there.”
“How about six?” Melanie asked.
Trevor shared a glance with Joel, and seeing agreement, he replied, “We’ll be there.”
After disembarking the gondolas, Melanie and Bob went their own way, intending to do some shopping. Trevor and Joel headed north through the town of Fira, stopping to look at the views every few dozen yards.
“They’ve got a seventy-two foot yacht and a French chef. That sounds like serious money. Any idea what we should wear? Maybe we need to go clothes shopping,” Joel said, with an angelic smile.
Trevor laughed, and then smirked at Joel. “An Oyster 72 would go for well over a million, so you’re right about the money. Don’t worry about the invite though; shorts and polo shirts will be fine. Cruisers are generally pretty casual aboard, and if not, they’d have said so.”
“I don’t have a polo shirt, just T’s and tanks,” Joel said, with a mock pout.
“You can borrow one of mine. I have several aboard, because I need to dress up a little for greeting customers.”
Joel gave Trevor a disgusted look. “Wear your clothes? Dude, I want to look good, not look like a dork.”
Trevor rolled his eyes. “In other words, you just want to go shopping and this is your excuse, right?”
“You catch on slowly but you get there eventually,” Joel replied, snickering.
“Okay, we’ll hit any shops we see,” Trevor replied, with a wince.
They didn’t have long to wait; encountering a small tourist shop a few yards up the road, they found a selection of souvenir T-shirts and little else in the way of clothes. After looking in a few more shops with similar results, Joel said, “Okay, nothing but tourist stuff here, so I’ll spare you and resign myself to looking like a dork tonight.”
Trevor laughed and gave Joel a punch in the arm. “You ass. Okay, what do you want to do now?”
“Keep walking, and then hit up somewhere for lunch, maybe a bar.”
“Sounds good to me,” Trevor replied, as they zigzagged along the narrow walkways, heading north parallel to the cliffs, stopping every once in a while to look at the whitewashed buildings clinging precariously to the slopes.
After half a mile, they stopped at an overlook, seeing the vast caldera laid out before them, feeling the wind, and listening to the murmur of the wind in the Tamarisk trees. Trevor pointed at the water and said, “There are two cruise ships in now.”
Joel whipped out his phone and took a picture. “This is incredible... I’m sure glad we stopped here.”
They spent the next few hours exploring the cliff top town and its outskirts, working their way north along the cliff.
When it was time to return, they headed slightly inland to the main pedestrian streets, and stopped in a bar for some dolmas and beer.
As they neared the aerial tramway and the walkway down, they stopped at a corner market to buy some beer and a small bottle of ouzo. As they came out, Trevor asked with a grin, “I’ll bet you’re feeling better now that you know for sure you can buy in Greece.”
Joel grinned and laughed. “Hell yeah. Gotta have my beer.”
Trevor smirked. “Yeah, and you get to carry it all the way down to the Zodiac. That walkway has something like three thousand steps.”
Joel shrugged as they rounded a corner in a small square, surrounded by whitewashed buildings. “Yeah, that’s why I only bought a few. We’ve got to try Greek beer.”
Trevor rolled his eyes. “You mean Greek beer like we just had with lunch?”
Joel shrugged. “That was a while ago; I’ve gotta refresh my memory.”
Laughing, the two friends reached the top of the walkway and looked down at the sea far below. It was four in the afternoon, and stifling hot. Trevor checked his watch and said, “We’d better hurry, we’ve got to get to Atlantis and then to the Great White North in two hours.”
Joel looked down, and then handed Trevor both heavy grocery bags. “Yeah, maybe we should jog down.”
Trevor glanced at the bags in his hands. “You’re going to make me carry both of them?”
Joel laughed. “Nope, I just wanted to do this,” he said, and pulled off his shirt.
Trevor put the bags down and tugged off his own shirt, “Yeah, but you didn’t have to hand me the bags to do that.”
Joel snatched up one bag and took off down the walkway at a jog, calling back over his shoulder, “But this way it was easier to leave you with one.”
Laughing, Trevor took off after Joel, and they made their way down the switchbacked brick walkway, alternating between jogging and walking.
It took them half an hour to reach the Zodiac, and covered in sweat, they piled in and raced for Atlantis, enjoying the feel of the wind on their wet skin.
After fast showers, Trevor and Joel, in khaki shorts and a matching pair of Trevor’s sky-blue polo shirts, set out across the caldera in the Zodiac, heading for the Great White North.
As they tied up alongside the stern ladder, Bob called down to them, “Welcome to our home on the sea.”
Trevor and Joel scrambled up the ladder, and Bob continued, “Dinner will be in a couple of hours; we tend to eat late. Let me show you around.”
Bob gave Trevor and Joel a quick tour of the Great White North, a high-end luxury yacht with four cabins.
When they returned to the salon, Bob said, “This is the saloon, the main room. In it, we have the second most important system aboard; the bar.”
Trevor raised an eyebrow, grinning as he asked, “What’s the first, the sails?”
Bob shook his head vigorously, and Melanie joined them, declaring, “Hell no, it’s the coffeemaker. Welcome aboard, by the way.”
Trevor and Joel laughed and nodded, then a puzzled look crossed Joel’s face, and he asked, “Trev, you call your main room a salon, but on this boat it’s a saloon. What’s the difference?”
Trevor chuckled. “They mean the same thing, but I run Atlantis as a charter, and most of my customers are American. ‘Saloon’ tends to make Americans think of bars with swinging doors in the Old West, so like a lot of American charter boats, I call it the salon because it sounds better to my primary customers.”
“And I call it the saloon because that’s what it said on the brochure’s deck layout,” Bob added, chuckling, and then he added, “I don’t actually know your ages, nor the drinking age here, but I’m going to assume that if you can sail a yacht across an ocean, you’re mature enough to make your own choice on alcohol, so can I offer you a drink? I’m fond of microbrews, so I’ve got a large selection aboard.”
Joel beamed, and Trevor shook his head sadly before saying, “Joel loves good beer, but I crossed the Atlantic solo; he flew out and joined me in Gibraltar, so maybe he shouldn’t be allowed to drink.”
Joel gave Trevor a mock glare. “Trev, I can always do some solo sailing of my own by tripping you and tossing you overboard. Stand not between me and beer!”
Bob and Melanie laughed, and Bob reached behind the bar. “No need for mutiny. Try these; they’re ale from a tiny brewery near Kamloops, a few hundred miles from our home in Vancouver.” Bob produced four bottles, and proceeded to open them on the mahogany bar’s built-in bottle opener. Handing the bottles around, he said, “Let’s head on deck so we can enjoy this spectacular scenery. François is in the galley and doesn’t like to be disturbed when cooking, so I’ll introduce you to him later.”
They took seats on deck, and Melanie asked, “Trev, you look awfully young to run a charter...That’s impressive, and crossing the Atlantic solo is quite a feat. The Indian Ocean will be too. It took us two months.”
Trevor shook his head. “I don’t think it will take me that long. I’ll be doing a reach across the southeast trade winds for the Seychelles, then from there heading south until I pick up the westbound winds to Perth, Australia.”
Bob nodded, and then said, “We came through the Timor Strait to Broome, Western Australia, and then we ran before the southeast trades to Cocos Island, then Sri Lanka, and then to the Red Sea. We averaged five knots while at sea, and you’ve got a longer route due to the detour south.”
“Atlantis is pretty fast. I’ve had her over twenty knots, and on a reach across the trades I can maintain sixteen knots, easy,” Trevor replied.
Bob blinked. “That’s fast. The Great White North’s hull speed is eleven knots, and we’ve had her that fast exactly once, in perfect conditions. We could have done nine knots for a lot of our run across the Indian Ocean, but only if we’d wanted to sink. You try it at sixteen knots and you won’t have a hull left before long. Remember the Indian Ocean Tsunami a year and a half ago?”
Trevor nodded, and exchanged a puzzled glance with Joel.
Bob gave them a sad smile. “When the waves hit along thousands of miles of coast, they pulled massive amounts of debris out to sea, including millions of trees. There’s still a lot floating around out there; big, heavy waterlogged logs. In any kind of a chop, they’re just below the surface; you can’t see ‘em in time to avoid them. We hit at least two, and at six knots it damaged our bow, so we slowed down, a lot. We hit another at four knots a couple of weeks later, and it dinged the bow some more, but nothing serious. I’d wager the worst of them are in the Indian Ocean Gyre, a vast area of counter-clockwise rotating currents, and your course takes you right through it. If I were you, I wouldn’t try it at speed unless you’ve got solid steel prows.”
Trevor blanched slightly; this was the first time he’d heard of that particular peril, and he had been planning to make a speed run across the Indian Ocean, just as he had the Atlantic. “My bows are Kevlar reinforced fiberglass, like the rest of my hulls. There’s some extra bracing, but they won’t take a heavy impact. I guess I’ll have to go slow. My course once I enter the Indian Ocean is about six thousand miles, and at four knots, that’ll take me over two months, and that’ll put me in Australia in November, which is late spring down there, so the weather will be gradually getting better, not worse.” Trevor said, adding the part about the weather for Joel’s benefit.
Bob scratched his chin. “That’s probably for the best. Your route takes you through the southern Indian Ocean, and that’s one of the emptiest, stormiest stretches of ocean on the planet. You’ll have to watch the weather closely, and wait for a weather window, if there is one. You don’t want to get caught in a storm out there; they can be fierce.”
“I’m not too worried about storms; Atlantis is fast enough that I can outrun most anything... oh, but I can’t, not with that debris problem,” Trevor said.
“If you’re careful, you can get out of the way; most of the storms through there are low pressure systems that track due west to east, so if you change course to the northeast a few days before they reach you, you’ll be north of the worst of it, even at four knots. That might put you out of the westerlies, in which case you might have to motor for a while, but if you have enough fuel capacity, it would be advisable to do so to get clear of storms. What’s your motoring range?”
“Fifteen hundred miles at low speed, and I’ll make sure I top up. That won’t get me across from near Mauritius to Australia, that’s over three thousand, but it’ll keep me moving if I need to cut north to avoid storms,” Trevor said.
Joel gave Trevor a puzzled look. “Why not just stop and refuel if you need to?”
Melanie chuckled. “He can’t, there’s no land on that run. From where he’s thinking of entering the westerlies, it’s nearly four thousand miles of open water to Australia’s west coast. The only land he’ll pass anywhere near will be Amsterdam Island, which is tiny and about six hundred miles south of his course, and it’s deep in the Roaring Forties. It’s also uninhabited, so it wouldn’t be of much use to him.”
Bob stood and walked two paces to the port helm station, and flicked on the navigation display. He pulled up the Indian Ocean charts, and zoomed out for an overview. Motioning Trevor over, he said, “Are you familiar with this sort of nav system? It can chart a multi-waypoint course, and it’s tied in with weather forecasts, so I wanted to see if we could find a way to shorten your route, eh?”
Trevor nodded. “That’s the Garmin set, same one I have. I haven’t done a full course yet, because I don’t have the Indian Ocean chart and data cartridge. My dad runs a chandlery, so I’m going to ask him to send me one, or I’ll buy one at the Suez Canal.”
Bob shook his head. “Forget buying things at Suez; they’ll skin you alive, if my experience at the yacht club there was anything to go by. We won’t be needing it, so
I’ll give you my cartridge when you leave; don’t let me forget. That way you can start working up a detailed course right away. Okay, let’s look at what we have here. You’re heading south from the mouth of the Red Sea to the Seychelles. You pretty much have to, because a direct course to Australia would take you directly against the northeast trades, and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to beat and bash by tacking for five thousand miles. That’d pretty much double your ground track anyway. So, from the Seychelles, you’re planning on heading due south until you pick up the westerlies at around twenty-five degrees south, somewhere roughly south of Mauritius, and then running before them all the way to Australia. Okay...” Bob set a few waypoints, and then hit recalculate, “If you cut the corner, and head southeast from the Seychelles, you’ll be in either unfavorable or no winds for a while, but you’ve got the range to motorsail through it. So, if you head south by southeast from the Seychelles, you can make for Rodrigues Island, which is nearly four hundred miles east of Mauritius, and refuel. It’s the easternmost island anywhere near your course. Then, head southeast until you hit the westerlies and then do a great circle route to Australia. You’ll save a few hundred miles that way, in exchange for a few days under engines. It won’t save you a lot, but you’ll shave off four hundred miles from your southern ocean run.”
Trevor studied the display for few moments, and nodded in agreement. “That’d work, thanks. I’ll try it. I could wait in Rodrigues for a weather window.”
Melanie and Joel joined them at the display, and Melanie said, “I read up on Rodrigues Island, in case we decided to round Cape Horn instead of going through the Suez. It’s remote and primitive in some ways. The guidebook warned not to expect good phone service or to be able to get much in the way of parts. However, you can get diesel there, and probably fresh food. It’s supposed to be beautiful and tropical, with some great dive sites. A good place to wait for a weather window.”
Bob looked thoughtful for a second, and then said, “You’ll be there in the local springtime, so if you have to wait, you’ll just be getting closer to the Australian summer and better weather. Are you familiar with the Southern Ocean?”
Trevor nodded, but Joel asked, “I’ve never heard of it. What is it?”
Bob tapped at the screen and turned to tell Joel, “Near where Trev is heading is what’s called the Southern Ocean: at forty degrees south, the sea circles the globe virtually uninterrupted by land, and this, combined with the westerly winds, creates some of the fiercest conditions that a sailor can face. It’s not to be taken lightly, but with caution and preparation, it can be done safely.”
Trevor sat down. “Thanks for all this. I’ve learned a lot; I had no idea about the floating logs, and your idea for cutting the corner on my course is a good one. Anything you can tell me about the Suez, the Red Sea, or Australia, I’d love to hear. There’s nothing like firsthand knowledge.”
Melanie sat down and smiled. “What about pirates? Do you know much about them?”
Trevor blinked. “Uh, no. I remember seeing a few news reports, about freighters off the Somali coast, but not a lot.”
Bob glanced at the chart again, before shutting it off. “Neither had we, until we got to Sri Lanka. The piracy problem is serious, and the world press has been slow to cover it. However, the pirates seem to be mainly hitting freighters at the moment. What we did was join up with some other yachts and convoy. In Suez, you’ll find this very easy; get there a day before your transit and find a group heading for the Seychelles to join. It’s a popular destination for cruisers, so you should have no problem.”
“I’d be limited to the speed of the slowest yacht, but the debris problem means I’d be going slow anyway, so I’ll make sure to do that,” Trevor said.
“According to the reports, they come at you in small skiffs, usually several. Those can only do about ten knots, and with your speed under power, you could outrun them easily. So, if you see any locals in skiffs, head away at top speed and start calling out maydays on VHF 16. As long as you’re careful, you should be fine,” Bob said, and then added as an afterthought, “They rarely operate more than a couple of hundred miles from their coast, so your convoy will probably pass north of Socotra Island before turning south for the Seychelles. That will keep you well clear of the east coast of Somalia.”
Joel gave Trevor a worried look, but decided to keep his concerns to himself until he and Trevor were alone.
© 2010 C James
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Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.
Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice.
Thanks also to Talonrider and MikeL for beta reading.
A big Thank You to RedA for Beta reading and advice, and to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice.
Any remaining errors are mine alone.