National Geographic : 1968 Oct
but still I was anxious, aiming at tiny island dots scattered in the emptiness of the Indian Ocean. To fetch my first two landfalls required precise, giant steps: 1,900 miles to Cocos, then 2,400 miles to Mauritius. Consistent trade winds pushed me along at about 100 miles a day. To while away the monotony, I enjoyed my own orchestra-a family of crickets that had stowed away with me. One night some flying fish landed aboard, but the cat beat me to them. What a feast he had! Later windfalls I shared, for a meal of fresh fish offered a welcome change from my canned diet. When several squid jetted aboard Dove, I marinated them, then dried them for future snacks. During these weeks at sea I constantly worked on projects: making leather sandals, tying patterned rope belts, drawing charts of island groups in my log, sewing sails, and re pairing gear. Every day I took pictures. Some times I rigged a camera forward or aft, tied a string to it, then tripped the shutter from the other end of the boat. Coconut Kingdom of Cocos Atoll You can imagine my exhilaration the day Cocos rose from the ocean-right on the nose! I had sped those 1,900 miles in 18 days-darn good time for little Dove. Cocos, a sizable atoll administered by Aus tralia, is a kind of fief of the Clunies-Ross family. The first John Clunies-Ross, a sea cap tain born in the Shetland Islands, settled on the atoll in 1827. He colonized it with Malay workers and lived out his life there. The pres ent John Clunies-Ross, his great-great-grand son, still harvests the island's coconuts for copra and directs the lives of today's 450-odd Cocos Islanders. An idyllic community to this day, Cocos rarely experiences crime. Everyone is pro vided with food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care. When the Malay inhabitants marry, the couple is presented with a house and furniture. Eighteen hours out of Cocos I was running under reefed mainsail and reefed genoa jib in rain and squally weather. I wasn't sleeping well. At 2 a.m. a weird rumble brought me scrambling topside. Dismasted in stormy seas, Robin falls overboard during his Indian Ocean crossing (pages 446-8). For once unprotected by his safety harness, and fearing sharks, Robin quickly scrambled back aboard Dove. 484 There was nothing on deck-it was swept clean. As I taped: The mast was knocked down into the sea. It didn't break, but bent over six feet off the deck, two feet below the old weld. Everything was in the water except the part of the mast which lay athwart the deck. I had been wearing my lifeline harness while sleeping. When I came on deck, I de tached the harness, because it was rigged to the boom which was overboard. I struggled, getting all cut up, to clear the lines andget the mast andriggingback aboard and lashed down. Suddenly the boat lurched, and for the first time in my life I fell over board at sea-and without my lifeline.