Posted by: adventuressetravels | March 22, 2013

Motoring the Indian Ocean

Plowing through the inky Indian Ocean the boat left a wake of starlight, shimmering banners of bioluminescence

The cheddar-orange slice of moon rose late, spreading his dim light so richly colored by the thick layers of atmosphere.  Today was not his day.  The spangled blanket of constellations took center stage.  Lighting up the night, the powdered-sugar dusting of the Milky Way shaken across the velvety-black backdrop.

motoringMany people don’t like long passages, and I must admit that when the seas are rough and the wind and waves shake your boat to bits, I too long for the safety of shore.  But there is something magical about night watch on long passages.    Sailing miles from other boats just you, the crew, the boat, and the water’s denizens, the boat being pulled along by the wind calls to mind a deep harmony with nature.   There is something wonderful about sailing on the ocean.  If you can sail it.

This passage was anything but rough.  Rally control, the World ARC administration, had warned us that winds might be light, and they weren’t exaggerating.   The sail from Darwin to Bali rarely has more than a breath of wind.  We had motored almost 5 days straight for Bali, “the island of paying homage”.

Gentle zephyrs of wind, caressed the boat from every direction.  2 knots, 3 knots, less than a knot…The few times the breeze had stabilized it was invariably directly ahead of us (on the nose), an impossible point of sail for any boat.  The other option was too far behind us, and without a spinnaker, parasail, or anything for light downwind runs we were relying on our motor.

With high hopes we had set the gennaker several times, and we had even gotten a few hours of real sailing, but in 5 days that wasn’t anything to brag about.  As much as I don’t mind long passages,  I can only take so much monotonous motoring, no wind, no fish, no dolphins visitors.  The days started to drag on as I watched the nautical miles creep by.

00000990I was just happy that we had a motor.  What would these conditions have been like when boats had to sail using winds alone?   What were mere days for us could very well have stretched to weeks.   There might even have been a question of if the boat would ever reach land.  Without the comfort of motors to fall back on and electronic devices to tick off the miles what was a short but boring passage motoring today would undoubtedly have taken on a terrifying quality.  Admiring the stunning  night sky or the magnificent sunsets would be the last thing on a sailor’s mind.

Though motoring into the sunset does not have the same romantic ring to it, as much as I would preferred to sail, thinking of the alternative I was overjoyed to be motoring for my first leg of the capricious Indian Ocean.


  1. Excellent essay, interweaving description & reflection.

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