Sailing amonst coral reefs

John and Anne on Bali Hai <hollamby@...>

We spent five years in the South Pacific 1995/2000. Luckily this
period saw the start of the GPS era which made a huge difference to
safety. I have just read the Ocean Navigator article which Richard
has posted and would agree that currents are a big danger for the
The prevailing winds and currents make it very difficult to
backtrack eastwards and can and do cause boats to be wrecked
especially at night whilst waiting for daylight to enter an atoll or
whilst anchored insecurely. During our time out there we heard of
several yachts had broken anchor winches as a result of anchoring in
atolls without realising that the bottom has many mushroom shaped
pillars of coral which the Aussies call bommies.
A boat is anchored facing the prevailing trade wind and current.
However at night the wind and/or current may drop or change
direction which causes the boat to drift around which may wind the
chain around one of these. After a few days this may take up all the
slack in the chain and thus if the wind and waves build up the winch
is damaged or perhaps a cleat is ripped out of the deck. This
happened to us but luckily we realised it and avoided damage by
letting out more chain and then putting out another anchor so that
we could let out more chain and then scubad down about 60 feet and
unwound the chain which was twice around a bommy. Many years ago
mariners used to bouy their chain with bamboo logs so that rose more
or less vertically and was in a series of loops between logs to
avoid this problem. We used fenders from then on. Perhaps a stern
anchor would also work.
We had an Echopilot forward looking echosounder which was good and
bad. It worked very well for motoring very slowly around coral areas
but was pretty well useless with flat bottoms, especially soft ones.
This was because the echos were not reflected. I suspect that the
other make would suffer th same effects. One thing that we did with
it occasionally was to turn the transducer around slowly after
anchoring to see whether there were any nasties on either side. The
defects in the Echopilot were that the LCD is polarised at 90degrees
to polarised sunglasses and thus the screen appears black until you
put your eyes at 90 degrees to the vertical!Also the screen goes
blank if subjected to direct sunlight/heat.
If we were doing the trip again we would carry extra fuel pobably in
plastic containers stored in the locker in the deck on the port side
which would put weight in the right place for the prevailing trades.
We had a spare Whale Gulper elctric pump which we used to move fuel
from the two 100 litre containers which were lashed to the mast and
granny bars on our boat which was an Oyster 435.
We enjoyed great hospitality from the Polynesians where ever we went
and in retrospect we should have taken gifts such as masks and fins
and other things for these people who cannot buy them locally even
if they had the money. Some places have so called yacht clubs that
we were invited to join....we should have done so as it is a
comfortable way of giving them money. Also most places have a dire
shortage of fresh water and if you have a good water maker I am sure
some water would be appreciated by these gentle folk.
There is a great website being produced by a young American couple
recording their experiences cruising the A free and easy to use site is
available from This site was set up by George
who is a friend of the young couple who bought my Oyster and you can
see their voyage at They got as far as
Panama from the UK when Jason developed a brain tumour and had to
fly back to the UK for treatment oover a year ago.They had a
delivery crew bring the boat back and they are now living on it in
Poplar Docks in East London whilst, I imagine, he is still under
If you only have one rudder drive I highly recommend taking a set of
spare brushes and gears for it. Such thing are not available before
getting to NZ or OZ and possibly not even there as
Raymarine/Autohelm change the motor suppliers from time to time and
stop stocking spares. In Fiji my drive stopped working reporting no
power on the control.When I opened up the motor it was full of
carbon dust from the badly worn brushes.None were available from
Aussie agents and Raymarine UK told me they had none as they had
switched suppliers not even giving me a contact for the previous
suppliers. Luckily the previous owner had left a set in the stores
otherwise I suppose one would have to make some from larger brushes
if found!
Any questions?

Regards, Anne and John SM 319

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