Passage to Cocos Part 4 – By Babs


I woke up this morning rolling back and forth in my bunk. I went up into the cockpit and noticed no wind. We were motoring along and swaying with the waves. The past few days were really cloudy, but today was quite sunny, so I decided to sit at the bow. I love sitting at the bow when we’re sailing. There’s something so cool about it. It’s a great way to see Delos from that perspective. Watch her lean and drift with the waves. I look up and see the sails fill up. I started listening to some “TED” podcasts, leaning back, watching with the waves crash below my dangling feet.

I could see some clouds in the distance, so I got up and walked back to the cockpit. All of a sudden there was 20 knots of wind, and Delos was cruising at a smooth 6 knots. It was my cooking day, so I started preparing dinner. Left over lentils, with Maggie noodles, and some fresh vegetables. It’s great having 7 people, 7 days a week, so you have one cooking day a week, and 6 days off! For some reason there were high spirits on Delos, maybe because it was a Friday or something.. I lost track of the days! Josje noticed Brian through the hatch, watching a film eating his dinner, kneeling down, with his bowl and phone on a chair. It was a hilarious sight. She started filming him, walking through the “love tunnel”. “What are you doing Breeeyawn?”, he looks up in shock and noticed Brady, Frida and I spying on him through the hatch. He looked so funny and we couldn’t help but laugh.

The night sail was really good. Steady wind out of west, perfect 15 knots and making really good speed. It wasn’t rolling anymore, it was very comfortable. The moon was out again and brighter than ever. I fell asleep rocking in my bunk listening to Ed Sheeran in one ear.

I woke up to the voices of Max and Josje and I could hear my ipod faintly playing Erykah Badu under my pillow. I must have left it playing. Josje and Max were discussing house music and how it was created. Max loves making music and was telling her about Avicii and how he came about.

I could hear rain drops as I walked over to the head. “Close the hatches!”, I heard Brady say from the cockpit. I closed the hatch above the head and went up to check out the conditions. It was wet, windy and raining from all directions. We closed everything off and we were nice and dry inside. Frida in the lovers tunnel, Manskraft working on his music, Josje Rama and I working in the saloon, Braidster having a nap and Breeyawn and Kazza on watch. We were leaning a lot and it was a moving quite a bit inside so I decided to stop working behind the screen for a while.

All of a sudden we were hit by a big squall. The wind picked up to 35 knots and it was still raining. Everyone put their waterproof jackets on and helped take the genoa in. All fingers were crossed hoping for the squall to disappear.

The night was crazy and I don’t think anyone slept well. I remember being tossed around in my bunk. Hitting my shoulders on the wood. I woke up quite early, exhausted and went for a tinkle. Jesus, it was a mission! Firstly you have to keep the lid up without it smacking on your back! Then once you’re done, grab the shower head, put it over the bowl, turn it on while holding the flush button for 5 seconds, turn it off, all while trying to balance and not fall over!

I went out in the cockpit and start my morning watch. Brady was about wearing his waterproof jacket. He looked like a drowned rat and was swaying about with his harness on. “Wow, it’s crazy out here!”, I said to him as I swayed around, gripping onto the helm rails. “The wind is really shifty, so we’re hand steering ok?”, Brady says. I sat at the helm as he explained the conditions. I started hand steering while the boat was crashing at the bow, rocking and rolling in these massive waves. The wind was shifting so much, so I focused on the sails to keep Delos on course. Splashes of water hit my cheeks, my legs far apart trying to keep balance. We were leaning so much to starboard, it was insane! The wind was a strong westerly, and we were cruising 8-9 knots south-east. The waves seemed confused, coming from all directions. I was a little scared at first, getting used to hand steering, but after a while I got confident and fear turned to focus. I stayed on my game and it felt good to be controlling Delos through these crazy conditions. The waves were hitting the bow, sounding like an explosion going off, and you felt butterflies in your stomach to what it seemed like flying through mid air before hitting the next wave. It was such a rush, and my heart was pounding!

Brian was in the kitchen all morning through the insane squalls making bread. The wind calmed down a bit, and he handed up some bread to me. Rosemary, garlic and rock salt focaccia bread. Yum! “It’s so delicious Bri! Thank you! You could sell this stuff in cafe’s!”, I said loudly while he cleans up the galley below. “I’m glad you like it”, he said proudly. It was still early in the morning, and everyone was sleeping through the squalls. There’s not much you can do in a moving boat. Even making a cup of tea is a 10 minute task, as everything goes flying everywhere. I was feeling a little sea sick, so I decided to try my “sea-legs”. I lay down, rolling back… and forth from the waves and the pill must have worked a treat because I woke up 3 hours later feeling so rested!

Brian had made lunch and the bread just topped off the meal. We had run out of most fruit and vege’s, so it was nice having some freshly baked bread. The wind died from 35 to 6 knots from the south east. It was changing so much, and we were going a lot slower than before, but it was so much more comfortable. I was able to sit in the cockpit without getting soaked. I felt a little musically inspired, so I decided to have a jam on the guitar. Time flew by, and it was already late afternoon. Max was on watch, Frida and Karin watching the “Mentalist”, Brian making dinner, Josje and Brady in the saloon, and I was working on my laptop in the cockpit enjoying another beautiful sunset.

I was thinking how much I have learnt already being on Delos with sailing. When I first arrived I only knew “port, starboard, stern and bow”, and even with those, I was getting them mixed up! At first I would say things like “to the left! I mean.. PORT!”, but you slowly learn all the technical words and what certain things do. When Brady explains things after his watch like “the wind is coming from the north-east, and we got the genoa out, reefed in once, and the wind is quite shifty, so just keep the apparent wind angle between 45-50 degrees. If it goes over 60, just turn a few degree’s to starboard, and keep it above 40 degree’s, so the sail doesn’t luff. And watch the radar for cargo ships, every 10 minutes to save power on the navigation monitor. If there’s a squall or the wind picks up, just wake me up”. If he told me this when I first arrived on Delos, I would have had no idea what he was talking about! haha. Being a new-be, there’s an over-load of things to learn. And everything is so interesting. So while I was steering on my own, I smiled to myself knowing I had a better understanding of sailing.

Brian made a concoction of left over lentils, Brady’s leftover soup and some delicious focaccia bread. We could all comfortably sit in the cockpit without getting waves splashed on us.

I woke up in the morning remembering my strange dreams. Like running away from weird creatures. I think dreams are so fascinating. What you fill your conscious mind with, your subconscious mind works wonders in the night while you dream. If you are pondering on a question or trying to work something out, it’s like your subconscious mind figures it out for you. Answers your conscious mind in a way. It’s so interesting, and our minds are more connected than you realise.

This morning was super nice. I felt really rested. We were motoring along as there was no wind.  Even though we wanted the wind to pick up again, it was a nice change compared to yesterday. Yesterday Brian said it was the biggest waves Delos has seen so far and winds up to 40 knots! So it was nice to have some calm conditions for a change.

I was sitting in the cockpit eating some cereal while Brady was on watch. Today was so beautiful, clear, flat and shiny water, blue skies and white puffy clouds in the distance. We were a few hours from the equator, and I felt a little nervous, but excited. I noticed a lot of rubbish drifting past in the ocean. Plastic, card-board, jandals, drift wood, even a TV frame! We were pretty close to the western side of Sumatra, and we could see a hazy glimpse of land, but we weren’t stopping there. We kept sailing south, getting closer and closer to the equator. I was reading my book in the sun and could see Brian, Brady, Karin and Josje rushing in and out of the companion way organising the equator crossing ceremony. I knew they had something evil and nasty in store for us.

We all noticed this huge squall coming towards us and it didn’t look very inviting. The wind started picking up, so we prepared the boat and started putting away stuff from below. We were so close to the equator and then this massive wall of craziness hit us. The wind picked up to 30 knots and started raining, so well geared up on waterproof jackets. I thought it was crazy how fast the weather changed! We had the engine off, no sails up and we were still doing over 6 knots! How crazy is that!

We decided to practice “heaving to” which means we get the bow and boat up into the wind, get a tiny bit of the genoa out, and then back wind the genoa on purpose, then put out a tiny bit of the mizzen, and then go helm hard over, so the genoa will try and blow the bow down, and the mizzen and the rudder will try and force it into the wind. That way, it will hopefully stay in one place and slow down. It was really cool to see how this worked and how Delos slowed down. The “heave to” creates a slick ripple in the water to stop the waves from breaking. It was a successful drill and we were 5 minutes from the equator. Brady decided to put on “Pirate’s of the Caribbean” soundtrack to add suspense to the vibe. We were all jumping around, Frida and I danced in the cockpit in our soaking wet jackets, trying not to slip over. The spirits were high and I was really excited! It was like a countdown for New Year’s!

“We’re almost there!”, Brian yells! “BRIAN FILM THE POSITION ON THE MONITOR WITH THE GO-PRO!”, Karin yelled from the galley as she got cups for shots. “I’m trying to change it to narrow mode”, he said, fidgeting with it. “HURRY UP!”, Karin screamed and laughed at the same time. We were all laughing and ready for this invisible line in the ocean.

“AND WE’VE CROSSED THE EQUATOR!”, Brian yells. We were all jumping around excitedly. “WOOOOHOOOO!”, I screamed, while grabbing a cup off Brady. “This is strong shit”, Brady said pouring the last few cups. We all had a cup in our hands. “CHEERS!”, we all cheered and clinked our plastic cups in the middle of the cockpit. It was strong turkish liquor and burnt my mouth and down my throat. “Woah, that’s strong!”, Frida said giving the cup back to Brady. “After you do the ceremony, you will become shellbacks”, Brady said with a smirk on his face.

We all followed the shellbacks to the forward deck where we find “King Neptune”, which they made from stuffed pillows, wearing a shirt, Thai pants, and a drawn on face. Brady put on the “Pirate’s of the Caribbean” soundtrack again which added a bit of humour to the whole situation.

“ORDER! KEEP ORDER I SAY!”, Brady yells at us all lined up. We all laughed at his silly old school british accent. “You are hereby commanded to appear before the Royal Court of the Realm of Neptune, in the District of Delos” he screamed above us. Josje took his place holding a beer, “It has been brought to the attention of His Highness, Neptune Rex, Ruler of the watery underworld, that you are nothing but lowly pollywogs!”.

Then Brian stood in front of us, “Charge One! You are lowly pollywogs and never crossed the equator by ship! Charge Two! Disregard the Traditons of the Sea! You have failed to pay proper respect to His Majesty Neptunus Rex, crowned master of the oceans, while sailing in his domain, nor have you made any sacrifice to incur in his good favour! Charge Three! Taking Liberties with his piscatorial subjects!”, he yelled. Josje took his place “How do you plead to these charges?!”, she yelled at us. “Guilty”, Max said. “Well done, good choice”, Brady said. “How do YOU plead to these charges?”, Josje yelled at Frida. “Guilty”, she said laughing. “How do YOU plead to these charges?”, Josje yelled at me. “Guilty”, I said pretending to cry. “Oh, I thought the Leyten’s were the none guilty types”, Brady said jokingly. Karin stood in front of us, holding on to the beam, “The good ship Delos has crossed the equator! Lucky you are with experienced shellbacks that can guide you through the initiation ceremony and back in the good graces of His Majesty Neptunus Rex, Almighty Master of the sea. Will you do what it takes to become a shellback?!”, she yelled at us. “YES!”, the three of us screamed.

“To prove your worthiness as shellbacks, you must complete the following tasks”, Brian said. “Consume alcoholic beverages through a snorkel!”, they gave each of us some beer and turkish liquor as we all had a turn drinking from the snorkel. I felt like I couldn’t breath, and then I had to down all this stuff. “Good work!”, they all cheered.

“Apply the magical healing scoby to your body, lay it upon the floor, then lick it to cleanse your tongue”, Brady said handing us a piece of the mother cake. We all rubbed it on our chests. “Don’t forget to rub your armpits, and the other one”, he said while the others laughed. “Go as far down to please Neptune!”, Brady said seriously. We threw it on the deck  and licked it. Then we had to eat raw mushrooms, which was really difficult as it was chewy and hard to swallow.

“Now, cleanse yourself in the bucket of health”, Brady said while getting a bucket. Suddenly he chucked some on my head and the smell was disgusting! It smelt like rotten food and eggs mixed with off milk. Max got bits stuck in his beard and hair, and just embraced it, while Frida and I were disgusted trying to dodge the splashes. “Now you must get doused with hair from the body of a shellback”, Josje yelled. She got a ziplock bag filled with hair and threw it on us. “That’s my pubes”, Brady said cheekily. “Ew, that’s gross!”, I yelled, trying to dodge the hair being thrown at me.

“Now you must swim by the stern of Delos… naked!”, Josje yelled. So we all walked toward the back dripping with bits of food. We all stripped down to our bare bums and jumped into the big blue. The water was so warm and it was so nice getting that stuff off our bodies. I scrubbed my hair in the sea getting all the crap out of it. There were still some swells, but really small ones. We all climbed up the ladder and Karin gave us a coin. “What are you thankful for Babs?”, Josje asked me while filming. “I am thankful for the friends and family around us, this amazing opportunity, the beautiful big blue ocean and the positive vibrations!”, I said as I threw my coin in the water. “Now we are shellbacks!”, I yelled, giving Max and Frida a high-five. “Not yet… you have to beg Neptune for forgiveness”, Josje said. So us three bowed down to the stuffed Neptunus Rex and begged for his forgiveness. “I love you Neptune!”, I screamed, jumping back into the ocean. We all ended up having a naked swim and it was the best swim I have ever had. Maybe because we had been at sea for so long! We all dried off and we all shook hands congratulating each other for becoming shellbacks.

Josje made a vegetable stir-fry for dinner with some spices. We were all sitting in the cockpit eating  and realised our mouths were all burning like crazy. You know it’s super spicy when both the  Trautman’s guys have hiccups! Max suggested to add some of his favourite coconut milk, which actually worked a treat and the spiciness went down a lot. It actually ended up tasting better.

Brian made some popcorn and suggested we have a movie night. So we watched a film called “All is Lost”, which ended up being such a long movie, and the guy in it was a little ridiculous. His boat was sinking, and he decided it was a good idea to start shaving. It was one of those movies where we ended up yelling at the screen.. ”Why are you doing that?!”, or “Come on man!”. It was quite funny. The ending was especially brilliant, but you’ll have to watch it yourself to find out.

Oh, it feels good to be a shellback!

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