The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Sat 14 Oct 2017 04:56



21:49S  035:27.48E


We’re anchored in Benguerra, Mozambique, waiting for a weather window to head south towards Richards Bay, which is still 500 miles away.  Here's what we did yesterday.


13 October 2017   Benguerra Island to Benguerra Sand Spit, Mozambique

We had a restless night.  The wind swung to the south before we went to bed.  It was only 5-8 knots, but we were worried that it was going to pick up and make the anchorage very uncomfortable.  It was also annoying that when the wind veered, we ended up only a couple of boat lengths directly in front of “Continuum”, but it was so dark that we couldn’t re-anchor. 


We were up at 05:15, with the wind at 10-15 knots from the south bringing 2 foot waves into the anchorage.  There was a discussion on the VHF and the consensus was to move at 06:00 - three hours before high tide.  We had some waypoints through the sand banks to our next anchorage, which were a mixture of some waypoints from previous cruisers; information from a local boat; and inspection of Google earth images in KAP Charts.


The route looked deeper than 5 metres for most of the way, with the shallowest point being at the beginning.  A local boat had told us that there’s a channel heading NE from our anchorage, but it didn’t look promising with wind waves and overcast, early morning skies.  I dropped our dinghy into the water and picked up Graham from “Red Herring” to go and look at the “channel” using our portable depth sounder.


It wasn’t good.  We recorded depths of 2.1 to 2.4 metres and it looked shallower further on.  We were at half tide with a tidal depth of 2.5m.  We’re approaching neaps at the moment and high tide is only 3.2m.  Graham and I agreed that it was too risky to head off across uncharted sand banks especially because the wind would be pushing us forward and making it hard to stop.  Not that I’m superstitious, but it’s also Friday the 13th…


There was a rapid change of plans.  “Continuum” and “Mowana” with their shallower drafts, elected to stay at an anchorage a little closer to shore (at 21°51.27S035°24.90Ein a depth of 2m LAT).  Meanwhile “Red Herring”, “Luna Blu” and we headed back north, re-tracing our route and then looping back south along what looked to be a much deeper and safer channel.  It was 15 miles, but we were hoping that our destination would be a well-protected anchorage and it’s close to the pass that we will use when we finally go out to sea.


The start of the route south goes over a shallow sand bar and we were unsure what the depth would be.  Fortunately, there was a local sport-fishing boat going out and he told us that he had a minimum depth of 3.4m over the bar.  We put a trace on his AIS and followed his track over the shallows and then down the channel - I love AIS.  The minimum depth that we saw was 3.4m (0.2m LAT) and most of the route was over 7 metres deep.


The anchorage is close to a long sand spit and there’s a shallow-looking sand bar to the west of it, so we sailed very close to the end of the sand spit and then along the shore.  The minimum depth that we saw was 7 metres (3.8m LAT), so we’ll be able to get out of the anchorage and into the pass at any state of tide.


(Our waypoints were:  21°44.68S 035°24.03E; 21°44.95S 035°24.76E; 21°45.44S 035°25.22E; 21°46.63S 035°25.23E; 21°47.23S 035°25.50E; 21°48.31S 035°26.62E; 21°48.48S 035°27.59E; 21°48.67S 035°27.60E; 21°48.92S 035°27.51E.)


We anchored at 21°49.03S 035°27.48E in 10 metres on good holding sand.  It’s a huge anchorage about 0.5 miles long by 0.2 miles wide.  The sand spit is a beautiful set of sand dunes - white coral sand, tufts of grass and nothing else.  By the time that we arrived at the anchorage, the wind was blowing 20-25 knots from the SSE, but we were very comfortable with just 1 foot wind waves and no swell.


The weather forecast was not good reading.  The SE winds will reduce tomorrow and then we will have north-east winds for 48 hours.  If we left here tomorrow, we wouldn’t quite make it to Maputo before 25 knot winds arrive on the afternoon of the 16th.  We could go down to Inhambane, but we’d then have to spend 36 uncomfortable hours in the strong southerlies in a poor anchorage and then wouldn’t be able to get to Maputo in time for the next southerly on the 19th.


Our only hope (Obiwan Kanobi) is to wait here until the afternoon of the 20th when we should have five days of favourable East and North-east winds to get us directly to Richards Bay.  Such long range weather forecasts are inaccurate, but all we can do is wait and see what develops - at least it’s a beautiful anchorage.


After lunch, we had a quiet afternoon, catching up on some sleep and reading.  Our relaxation was interrupted by some Park Rangers stopping by, wanting us to pay park fees.  We produced the receipt from the rangers at Bazaruto and they were happy.  So it is an official fee…