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Date: 28 Mar 2009 04:55:46
Title: Record-breaking passage

Port Victoria 04:37.57S 55:27.47E


The northernmost Maldive

We left Uligamu on Friday the 13th, accompanied by our friends, Jean-Louis and Denise on their yacht, Alero.  After 2 days of motoring in calm conditions we were pondering the wisdom of leaving on such an inauspicious day.  We only carry enough diesel to motor for 6 days (approx 600 miles) and needed to leave enough in hand for the expected calm at the equator and arrival at Port Victoria (Seychelles).

The prevailing north-easterly winds set in on the third day.  We hoisted the gennaker (our new light weather sail) and left it up for most of the rest of the trip.  Generally we had enough wind to sail comfortably though on some days we were rolling a lot.  Rolling makes doing everything from watch-keeping to sleeping hard going.  Everything falls out of the lockers, making drinks and meals becomes a major operation, you are thrown around in your bunk when trying to sleep, and you have to brace yourself when sitting or moving around in the cockpit or on deck.   It can be just a little trying...


Stormy weather

We had scattered thunderclouds around us most of the time, with occasional rain, lightning and thunder.  Alero spent one night surrounded by lightning and didn't enjoy the experience one bit!  By that time they had dropped behind us, partly because they don't have a gennaker and were sometimes struggling in the light winds.  When out of VHF range we kept in touch with them on the HF radio, twice a day.

Our route took us across a remote part of the Indian ocean.  For over a week we saw no other ships.  Occasionally our active radar reflector would alert us to a vessel tracking us on their radar but we had no sight of them.  Even our satphone stopped functioning, telling us we were in an "invalid position", so we were not able to download emails and GRIB (weather) files.  Apart from our twice daily chats with Alero, our only distractions were some hitch-hiking birds and regular visits from dolphins.  


The morning welcome

An Orca, about 20 feet long with a long dorsal fin, came close as we left Uligamu.  It was a beautiful sight, but the antics of the dolphins takes some beating in terms of entertainment.  They often came in large groups (30 or so), darting here and there in and around the bow wave, then charging off perhaps half a mile away, racing back, leaping out of the water at regular intervals, sometimes pointing up and doing pirouettes, and splashing loudly to get our attention. They seemed more interested in us when we had the gennaker flying.  They must like its bright blue and yellow colours.

We left Uligamu without any fresh meat so were keen to catch some fish to vary our diet and supplement our stocks of tinned meat.  Our total catch was not very big: 1 dolphin fish, 1 little tunny and 1 silver scabbard fish.   All were tasty but the scabbard fish was very bony.


Sunset (or possibly sunrise)

The expected lull at the equator didn't happen.  We crossed it at 7.30 in the morning and opened up a bottle of Cypriot sparkling wine to celebrate.  It wasn't very good, which is not surprising considering the conditions it's been stored in over the last 18 months!  King Neptune had most of it.  We were really excited to cross over into the southern hemisphere for the first time of our lives.  We also have to get used to writing S not N when noting our latitude in the ship's log.


Courtesy flag production

Most of the time we made good speed, with a helpful current as well.  In the last few days before reaching Port Victoria we were averaging over 5 knots.   We  covered  1402 miles in just over 12 days, 1075 of them under sail.  20 miles from Port Victoria our gennaker halyard broke from chafe.  We were lucky it didn't happen sooner.

The formalities on arriving at Port Victoria were straight-forward.  We arrived late on Wednesday afternoon and were instructed to anchor outside the harbour at first.  We were then visited by various officials.  After 20 minutes or so of form filling, passport stamping, etc. we were allowed to move into the old port, where there is a yacht anchorage.  The following morning we had to visit the port authorities, pay some money, and that was it. 


Port Victoria - yacht anchorage with Seychelles Yacht Club at the far right

This has been our longest continuous sail yet, topping our crossing of the Arabian Sea by about 230 miles, and we're now looking forward to a bit of R&R in Port Victoria.  First impressions are good.  The island is very pretty (mountainous and green), the town is very clean and the people very friendly.  We have to make only a short trip in the dinghy to get the shore and the facilities of the Seychelles Yacht Club are luxurious compared to anything we've experienced for a long time.


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