Toward Cocos (Keeling) Islands
After the not so nice meeting with a female representative for the Australian immigrations in Darwin, we had to hurry up. The lady claimed that it was impossible to extend Heidi`s Australia visa. One thing was that the lady obviously did not know what she was talking about - she had to run around to everybody else to find answers to our questions. In addition she was not customer related at all. We felt like criminals, even though we came to the immigration office to get advice. Anyway – we decided to spend the last part of Heidi`s Australia visa in Cocos (Keeling) Islands – if we were able to make it there before the expiry date…
Heading for our ”last” atoll
When the decision was made to ”hurry” to Cocos (Keeling) Islands, we cancelled all plans for further sightseeing in and around Darwin. We hired a tiny car and filled Empire to her gunwales. In two days we managed to shop and stow away everything needed. Conservatives for the whole Indian Ocean, as much fresh produce as reasonable due to durability, in addition to everything else needed for a long voyage. Most probably this was a “world record” in stocking up for a long voyage – considering that we during the shopping rounds also had two small children to take care of!!! And all the goods had to be transported in the rubber dinghy from the beach out to Empire where she was anchored far out in the shallow bay off Fanny Bay Yacht Club.
Empire was again heavily loaded when we 24th of June hoisted the anchor and set sail for Cocos (Keeling) Islands – about 2000 nm further west. We were a bit anxious since this would be the first looong sail with two small kids onboard. Eirik was already an experienced sailor, but Marius had only been doing "small" jumps along the Australian east- and north coast. This time the four of us were heading out to the big ocean for “real”.
A bumpy ocean
The Indian Ocean is known to be very “splashy”. The first leg from Darwin did not turn out to be discouraging. The voyage itself was no trouble. The challenge was to get all four of us into the ”long voyaging rhythm”. During the 14 day long sail to Cocos Marius had four new teeth – and Eirik decided to be in his ”terrible 2`s”. On a few occasions we dreamt about the time when we were only three… Luckily, in the end everything will be OK. After one week`s sail we were all in the long voyaging mode. A little bit of extra training had to be done before we got into the right mode being four on board. Unfortunately this was not the last time finding the “long voyaging mode” to take some extra time…
When we sailed toward the anchorage inside Direction Island at Cocos (Keeling) Islands, we were anxious to find out how long time we were allowed to stayl. Heidi`s visa was expiring three days later.
Luckily they did not bother too much with issues like this at Cocos (Keeling) Islands. When the Custom Officer arrived in the anchorage from Home Island he asked us how many days we wanted to stay. Without mentioning Heidi`s visa-issue, Eivind said that ”around 14 days would be fine”. We never heard more about that matter...
Cocos (Keeling) Islands turned out to be a gathering point for everybody crossing the Indian Ocean. With the pirates from Somalia spread over the whole north western corner of this ocean, “everybody” that were heading westward over the Indian Ocean in 2011, whether they departed from Australia or Asia, had planned their route via Cocos (Keeling). We got to know many new sailor friends and there were many barbecue evenings on Direction Island.
Crystal clear water with excellent conditions for skin diving or scuba diving met us at Cocos. Unlike Australia there were no crocodiles, and the beautiful conditions could be enjoyed to full extent.
Two of the islands in the atoll were inhabited. The Australians had clumped together on West Island and the Asians (mainly Malaysians) lived on Home Island. Home Island was definitively the island with most “soul”.
We enjoyed the days at Cocos (Keeling) Islands. If we were going to stick to the plan, Cocos would be the last atoll on our looong journey.
The cargo ship delivering goods to Cocos normally arrives every fourth week. When we visited the atoll the ship was one month late. There was suddenly a lot of action when the ship anchored in the atoll. All the people on Home Island suddenly had a lot to do – and in the few shops there were things to buy. There were no signs of crises on the island because of the delayed ship, but we could feel the local people`s happiness when it finally arrived!
Thanks for now
We were lucky that no one cared about Heidi`s visa for Australia expiring the 13th August. When we checked out with the Australian authorities` representative – the police at Home Island – the 21th August, they wished us a “pleasant sail and welcome back”. And we definitely hope to sail back one day. We had a great time in Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and it is far of the beaten tourist track. With the anchor back on Empire`s deck we set the course further west over the Indian Ocean…