For the last few days we've been sailing across the ocean swell. Once an hour or so, a wave will rear-up and crash against the side of the hull. You can normally hear the rush of water then the slap as the wave hits and have just enough time to duck before the resulting spray arrives in the cockpit. This evening I wedged myself behind the wheel, normally a dry location, at the start of my three hour stint on night-watch. I'd just started reading when, without the usual warning, the drenching commenced. This wasn't the usual spray, instead it felt as though someone had set a fire-hose on me and went on and on. Eventually the water stopped, I could take a breath again, and found myself knee deep in water still holding the now pulped remains of my book. The cockpit drains were doing their best, but still taking an agonisingly long time to clear the water. Fortunately most of the hatches were closed, so the cabin remained relatively dry, until I squelched down the companionway to find a towel and change of clothes.
It wasn't a relaxing night. All night boats crossed our path. Fortunately most kept a respectful distant, but there were a couple that felt a little too close for comfort and required a change in course to avoid.
At dawn we studied the chart - how to escape from what felt like a major shipping route. It appeared that the traffic was heading from the Red Sea via the south coast of Sri Lanka and making for the Malaka straight via the Great Channel we'd passed through a few days earlier. We could have chosen a pass further north in the Nicobar islands that I think would have kept us out of the traffic - still it's easy to be retrospectively wise. Instead we've chosen to head further south and so far the plan seems to be working; we see an occasional boat to the north, but no longer feel like a rabbit caught in the middle of a major highway.
So far we've had strong winds 25kt+ making for a fast, sometimes exhilarating, but also tiring passage. The conditions haven't been exactly as anticipated; the pilot guide describes: "This passage uses the NE monsoon to cross from SE Asia to the Red Sea. Mostly the NE monsoon blows at Force 4-5(10-20kt) over most of the northern Indian Ocean making for very pleasant passage making." Still at least we're not becalmed.
As ever, we've a bunch of bananas which have all over-ripened at the same time. Today's solution - banana cake with dried cranberries and pine-nuts. Delicious and it seems to be keeping the mutinous crew quiet about the continued lack of fresh fish.
Position @ 23:00 (GMT +7) 17/1/2008: N5deg 17.9' E84deg 15.5
Distance to Sri Lanka: 221
Daily run: 162