Having now been at sea for five days ,the crew of FPB 64-3 have raised their first Line Island, and determined to make it Christmas, even if it is still August. Mark Fritzer continues his reporting:
We arrived in Christmas Island last night around 1850 hours. Our current location is 1°58.78N by 157°28.392W. The sea conditions are mild with waves heights at or below .5 M and the wind out of the E at 10 knots. An interesting fact about Christmas Island: it is the largest purely coral atoll in the world, and rises just 12M/39.3′ above sea level. From the looks of it, I’d say that measurement was taken from the top of a palm tree. I can hardly imagine the considerable effort it would have taken to find this spot of land in the days of purely celestial navigation, when from a few miles away seeing it when looking out over the water would have been almost impossible in all but the best conditions. We anchored in the small boat anchorage on the lee side of the island in 20M of water. It really is quite amazing to see this piece of coral and sand peek up out of the ocean in the middle of nowhere.
In the morning we were finally able to get ahold of immigration, who informed us we would need to come pick up their contingent from the dock and transport them out to the boat which was going to cost $50 Australian. After waiting almost an hour for Steve to return, the port authority called on the VHF to notify us of the need to be able to transport the local police, immigration, animal control, quarantine and other locals out to the boat for our ‘check-in’. Smelling a rat, Pete was close to calling Steve back and leaving without setting foot on the island. Fortunately, our effervescent captain talked them down to 3 officials and, after two hours, everyone made it on board, looked through the documentation and cleared us both in and out again in the same visit.
We then jumped in the dink and headed in to check out the atoll. The scenery is quite beautiful and the structures that are still standing and in use from WWII are amazing. After an afternoon spent ashore, it was decided we should head north directly for Palmyra, bypassing Fanning Island.
Last night while sitting at anchor sipping our beers, we had time to reflect about some of the little ‘creature comfort’ things really appreciated, or that we have noticed would improve the boat. One of the first things that comes to mind is adding fiddle to the back, inside shelf of the reefer unit. Sometimes in a sea, things all slide to the back of the shelf and then “lean” against the door making for a juggling act when opened. This is highlighted due to the judicious use of tall fiddles throughout the galley, that keep things from sliding off countertops while at sea.
Another small, but fairly significant, item is the need to raise the galley reefer and freezer doors up off the sole by another 13-25 mm. Currently they are just high enough that when the boat moves, and you take a step to balance yourself while opening one of the doors, they pass right over the top of your foot/toes removing skin and hurting like you know what. A little more clearance would make getting into and out of them far less precarious.
In order to keep the countertops clear, one has to have plenty of storage. Both Pete and Steve are amazed at how much gear can be stored aboard the boat. Because of the basement layout and well thought out drawer, locker and bin layout, you don’t have to live with gear lashed down in your living spaces. One of the things that could add to that is some holes in the tank top angle extrusions in the basement. Currently what is there works well, but by adding some more, the options for lashing things in place become even greater.
One of the things I’ve really appreciated as we’ve been on passage is how well things are placed and thought out. One can’t take a step without there being an available handhold or something to brace yourself against. I can’t remember the last time I was at sea for 5 days when I wasn’t absolutely chomping at the bit to get off the boat and stretch my legs. Fortunately, this size is big enough and the concept open enough for me to not feel like the passage is something I’ve had to endure, or that I’ve been stuck in a cocoon.
It is interesting to note that a lot of the suggestions I heard are actually incorporated into the design of the Mark II boats. Things like better wet locker, better protection for the entryway door and more system monitoring for the Maretron are all now part of the standard vessel.