Reunion to South Africa - Day 2/3

Phil May and Andrea Twigg
Tue 6 Nov 2012 18:36
26:44.0S 045:18.8E  700 miles covered, 700 miles to go
So far, the most striking thing about this leg has been the variations in the weather.  This part of the world is dominated by low pressure systems moving up the coast of South Africa and then pushing east across Madagascar.  These can be vicious storms along the South African coast, but they die down as they move northeast. 
We encountered a small example of these depressions just off the tip of Madagascar.  It was almost spent and so all it produced was an uncomfortable night of 30-35 knot winds, rough seas and a bit of rain.  Fortunately the winds were in the right direction (south) so we just had to reef down, follow our course and wait for the depression to blow over.  Once it had passed we entered the center of the depression, where the wind dropped and we had to motor across it for a couple of hours,  Finally we reached the back side, with clear skies, relatively calm seas and a gentle breeze to move us along, together with a 2 knot current which really helps.
We passed a boat today whose AIS said it was towing and had limited maneuverability.  It was pulling a huge barge and was just about to encounter 35 knot headwinds.  I hope it had a good engine.
Tug towing some kind of barge from South Africa to Mauritius
Stop press.  The newly repaired clew ring just ripped off the mainsail.  It looks like the stitches just ripped out, but it will have to wait until daylight to see exactly what was at fault.  The rest of the trip we will have to use the mainsail reefed.  We will probably be able to switch to the parasailor for some of tomorrow.