Cocos Islands II
At Cocos Islands, the yachts anchor in the protection of an uninhabited island, Direction Island. Only two of the islands in the atoll are inhabited. Home Island, the closest to the anchorage is inhabited by Malay muslims. West Island, a further 30 minute ferry ride across the lagoon (from Home Island) is the administrative center for the atoll and has a the school, a big runway and a small town. Both places have grocery stores, though alcohol is only available on West Island. As supplies dwindled on Marcy, we planned a shopping trip to the closer island, Home Island. The two-mile dinghy trip involves an unprotected lagoon crossing of a half mile or so – we arrived safe but damp.
Giant spiders guard the shore.
Home Island is as neat as a pin.
A central feature of the island is a large elevated cyclone shelter. A system of lights would alert the population to go inside in stages, starting with young and old people.
A narrow gunter rigged traditional sailboat was displayed on the waterfront. Peter was interested, but disappointed not to see any of them sailing.
To top off our diesel tank, we waited in line with jerry cans behind some ATVs, the island’s main type of vehicle.
We headed back to the dinghy with our supplies. A shopping trip is a major event at Cocos.
We were lucky to see one of the little local boats sailing in the lagoon, and happy to know that they are still sailed.
When cruising boats arrive at Cocos, it is mandatory to call the local Australian Federal Police on the VHF radio to be checked in. The police arrive in a fast launch from West Island and handle customs duties. One of the friendly officers invited us for an overnight visit to his home, so we geared up for an expedition – to get to West Island we needed to take the dinghy to Home Island, then the ferry to West Island, then the bus to town.
After the crossing to Home Island, we carefully covered Sniffy for protection from the fierce sun.
The ferry skipper welcomed us onboard.
The ferry is powered by twin jets – a very good thing considering the many coral heads in the lagoon. On the West Island end of the commute, the ferry is left idling in gear to counteract the force of the trades on the lee shore.
The town West Island is also very neat. There is a small tourist industry and a commercial flight from Australia once a week. We met Sergeant Dave and his wife Annette, and had a wonderful visit. They even offered the use of their washer and dryer so we were able to wash and dry our sheets!
Annette is a painter, and is working on a Cocos landscape.
Dave allowed us to tag along on his visit to the Meteorological Office so we could meet the weatherman and learn more about Cocos weather.
Most cruisers, certainly us, are nervous spending the night (what if, what if) off of the ship. As comfortable as we were in town, it was something of a relief to head back to Marcy. As an added stress, there was a tsunami alert the morning we returned to the anchorage! On the ferry ride back to Home Island, we shared the boat with school children. Moms were waiting to give the school kids a ride home.
Back at the boat, we prepared for the return to sea. We dismantled the wind generator, took the sail cover off, secured the loose gear, tied the lee cloths on the bunks. Also, we needed to leave a mark of our passing through, so we made a last trip ashore to tie a bouy in the rafters.
We gathered more coconuts for the passage.
We will never forget the white coral sand and blue water of Cocos.