Fast track out of the Indian Ocean

Dick and Irene Craig
Tue 9 Nov 2010 12:26

The night before we left Reunion, the rally presentation and party took
place in the Dodo bar. It was great fun, with plenty of Creole style food,
alcohol and entertainment, by way of music with girls singing and dancing.
Prior to the party, late afternoon, we attended the skippers meeting for the
leg to Richards Bay, South Africa and then handed our passports to
Immigration for checking. Rally control dealt with all of the other
The leg started at 11am but no sooner had we unfurled our genoa, it became
clear that something was very wrong. We turned the boat into the wind and as
the rest of the fleet sailed off into the distance, had to rethread the
lines to the boom. They had been put back incorrectly after being washed in
Mauritius and as we hadn’t sailed on a starboard tack since then, the
problem hadn’t been noticed. Dick blamed himself for not having checked the
work after it had been done.
We were sad to see that on the day that we set sail, a grasshopper had
stowed away on our boat. Not that it had hidden itself very well as it was
in full view on the starboard deck. Next day it had disappeared. I like to
think that it had flown to land.
The wind was no more than 6 to 10knots and as we were sailing more north
westerly than the rest of the fleet, we had a little more wind than them and
managed to average a sailing speed of just slightly less than 5 knots.
Next morning on the net, we learned that other than us and one other boat,
the rest of the fleet had all resorted to the iron sail. One of the boats
had even motored for 17 out of 22 hours. This all changed and we also
started to motor each day. On the fourth day, we motored for the entire
24hour period.
Some of the boats are getting a bit short on fuel, not expecting to have to
motor for such extended periods. I am getting a bit anxious about getting to
Richards bay in time for the safari booked for 3 days after the initial
estimated time of arrival. In fact, my ETA had been just one hour short of
the close of the leg, when boats not arrived by then would be considered to
have not finished. In the last WARC, the first boat finished in 7 days and
used the engine for only 5 hours.
We had a 3.3knot current against us and were still over a hundred miles from
the waypoint from which we make passage across the south of Madagascar. The
pilot books show nothing of adverse currents at any time of year. My guess
is that it has to be connected to the abnormally early start to the cyclone
It seems that the bad weather we experienced crossing from Cocos Keeling to
Mauritius, was building for the start of this abnormally early cyclone
season. Soon after we had left the area, a cyclone fizzled out half way
between Cocos Keeling and Mauritius. While we are struggling to make headway
from Reunion towards Richards Bay, we hear that a cyclone has probably just
hit Cocos Keeling. On a positive front however, we are advised that the
Mozambique channel is supposed to be benign, due to conditions causing the
early cyclone season.
For entertainment, we had a few Striped dolphin cavorting around the bow
around 5.30 one morning. There have also been a few flying fish but nowhere
near the number we have spotted in other oceans. These have been quite a bit
larger than those seen hitherto and have tended to be no more than three at
any one time, often just Biggles on his own.
We passed fishing boats, 260nautical miles from the nearest land but
equipped with AIS. This is certainly a first.
Many boats display only the barest minimum amount of information but some
also display incorrect information such as stating that they are sailing
rather than under engine.
We appear to be in or close to a shipping lane, as a number of big ships
pass us, in both directions. The closest encountered to date was a tanker,
over 1000 feet in length and only 0.4nautical miles to starboard. This was
just a tiny bit close for comfort.
Moe’s 36th birthday on Wednesday, 3rd November was celebrated with a special
dinner and a birthday cake. We all wore silly hats.
A couple of the boats seem to have dirty fuel which has been causing them
We encountered a gale around 80nm off the south west tip of Madagascar. This
was not altogether unexpected as it had shown up on the GRIB files we were
monitoring before we left Reunion. With our disabled mainsail, Tucanon
performs beautifully in these conditions. The sky is cloudless and the sun
is shining.
A storm has been forecast to hit Richards Bay on Saturday and we have all
been advised to stay well clear by 100 nm for up to 12 hours after the front
has passed. Freak waves are expected.
Destiny, which left Reunion several days before the rest of the fleet,
arrived in Richards Bay on Friday. Grande Filou having received the latest
weather information, slowed down to ensure that they will stay out of the
danger zone until it is safe to enter.
Friday morning, we had 10knots of wind reducing, so dropped the mainsail,
furled in the genoa and raised the parasailor. Within a couple of hours,
just as lunch was ready, we lost the wind and the parasailor collapsed. We
took it down and switched on the engines. The moderate sea has now become
slight and the sky is covered with light clouds, visibility is not as good
as it might be due to the haze.