We are about 200 miles east of Christmas Island. I don’t know when the mail leaves there, but if I write now there will be a letter ready to post when we arrive.
We left Darwin with six other boats who cleared with Customs on the same day. They were all in sight until nightfall. The next morning there was no-one in sight. We had a pleasant sail in light winds for four days to Ashmore reef, although we tore the spinnaker, and wrapped a sail around the forestay.
The reef was one of those deserted islands that are inhabited. There was an ex-fishing boat at anchor. It was on contract to the Government to stay at the reef to ward off the Indonesians who visit to collect birds and eggs. These they take in baskets holding thousands of eggs, and birds with their wings broken. They also raid the reefs for shells. What do they eat now!
The ex-fishing boat is very luxurious with all modern conveniences including video and air conditioning, but it is a lonely life for the skipper and his two crew. People do some different things in life to make a living.
We visited one of the islets where the bird population is building up now the Indonesians are being kept away. There were thousands of birds. The ground was covered with them. It was either black or brown or grey, as noddies, terns and boobies mind their eggs. The eggs are sitting just in small depressions. There were frigate bird chicks in nests in a few shrubs on one side of the islet. At another place a few other shrubs sheltered some tern chicks. A cloud of adult terns hovered overhead, protecting their chicks from the frigate birds that were looking for food for their chicks. It was an incredible, memorable sight.
On another islet is a hut housing two guys and some radio gear used by the oil rigs to position themselves. These two are not so well set up as those on the Government boat. They have a small hut for their equipment and beds. No air conditioning or video. Not even a boat. If they had a boat they might go fishing and drown or go to Indonesia for some company! So, they just sit there. If the equipment doesn’t work, they advise their base by radio and a replacement part is flown out by helicopter. They are very bored.
However, they were a windfall for us. Just before we left they gave us a frozen chicken. How were they going to cook a whole chicken on a two-burner gas stove with only a saucepan and a frypan? When we left we roasted the chicken very nicely with vegetables and had one of our last bottles of wine as we celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary.
We have only caught one fish so far. The lures are going rusty.
Love from us both B and M