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Miracle Repairs for Zac in Cocos Keeling

by Nancy Knudsen on 22 Oct 2008
Home Island in Cocos Keeling where a fine wood worker has made repairs to Zac’s boat BW Media
With the cyclone season commencing in just a few weeks, teenage adventure sailor Zac Sunderland arrived into Cocos Keeling in the Indian Ocean last week, sailing under genoa alone and with multiple breakages aboard his 36 ft boat, Intrepid. Apart from the fuel problems which have dogged him since Port Moresby, he had broken his tiller and a 'snapped' boom.

The damage had occurred in the heavy following seas and 25 knot winds which are typical of the trade winds in that part of the ocean. Attempting to become the youngest person to sail around the globe, 16-year-old Zac from Los Angeles, needed to make the necessary repairs as quickly as possible to avoid the upcoming cyclone season.

This was to be no easy challenge in Cocos Keeling, which has a population of merely 600 and no formal marine repair facilities as we know them. Fishing boats operate from Home Island, the 'home' island of the local Malay community, but almost the only other inhabitants of the remote community are the administrative community from Australia, on West Island.

'Two nights ago his tiller broke coming off a big wave,' Zac's mom Marianne said at the time, explaining the incident. 'It happened, of course, in the middle of the night while it was raining. He managed to jury-rig it and was making decent progress with the tiller autopilot occasionally slipping off. At about 5am, the autopilot came off the tiller, he jibed and his boom broke clean in half!'


However, Zac found out that the other cruising sailors anchored at Direction Island and an expert wood worker of Home Island would come to his aid. Zac arrived into Cocos Keeling when there were just three long range cruising yachts there, all headed in the same direction as Zac, to Mauritius, east of Madagascar, which is to mark the half-way mark in his voyage..


The wood worker, who normally works on the fine fishing boats which operate from the island, has been able to fashion a new tiller, and mend the broken boom. However, with the constant following winds, Zac can continue on headsail alone without much loss of speed on his way to Mauritius, where he may be able to obtain a new boom. He has also set up a daily 'sched' with the other cruising boats.

Zac departed Los Angeles on June 14 and sailed via Hawaii and Majuro, capital of the Marshall Islands, to Darwin, with an unplanned stop in Port Moresby because of fuel problems.. '(Port Moresby was) my least favorite part of the trip,' he wrote. 'Even though I had some great people there assisting me, I felt stuck there because of my engine problems and the limited parts and service available there. Every extra day I spent there was a day I could not spend exploring Australia.'

Zac will turn 17 on November 29, and is hoping to spend it in Durban.

Australia's David Dicks currently holds the record for the being the youngest person to sail around the world, having finished his circumnavigation in 1996 aged 18 years and 41 days.

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