The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Sat 7 Oct 2017 04:51



20:29S  037:28E


So far we've done 552 miles with 430 miles to go to Maputo (25°57S 32°59E). We did 165 miles in the last 24 hours.  We have blue skies and 5 knot East winds.  We’re motor-sailing on a broad reach at 5 knots with 1.5 metre seas.   We’ve finally found the Mozambique Current, which is pushing us along at 1 to 2 knots.  Here's what we did yesterday and overnight.


6 October 2017   Madagascar to South Africa (Day 4)

The wind picked up at dawn again, so Glenys was able to get us sailing on a port broad reach.  Last night’s cunning plan didn’t go as well as I expected. – we had a favourable current this morning, but it was only 0.5-1.0 knot rather than the 2 knots that we were expecting.  Still, mustn’t grumble.


Interestingly, at 08:00, we had small “puff ball” cumulus clouds, which are caused by the convection rising from the warmer south-flowing current, but by 10:00 we were back to solid blue skies.  We’re only 6 miles east of the position where “Wairima” reported 2 knot currents, but we can’t find these elusive strong currents.


The weather forecast this morning shows that the strong southerlies, which were expected to arrive in Inhambane at 01:00 on Tuesday 10th (Monday night) are not going to arrive until 18:00 on Tuesday 10th.  This gives us an opportunity to try to get to Maputo, which is 210 miles further down the coast.  To achieve this we’re going to have to average 6 knots over the next 4 days, which is achievable if we continue to get favourable currents.


Mid-way through the morning, the wind backed, going more behind us and reduced in strength, so I poled the genoa out to port.  This worked for a couple of hours, but the wind dropped even more to 5-8 knots, so we dragged out the spinnaker, but even with the main sail and the spinnaker, our boat speed dropped to 3-4 knots.  We took advantage of the calm conditions to run our water maker.


While we were bobbing along, a huge pod of dolphins joined us to swim in our bow wave.  It wasn’t terribly exciting for them because we were drifting along at only 4 knots, so they entertained themselves by making huge leaps out of the water, spinning 2 or 3 times.  Unfortunately, they did this at random times and places, so I have many photos of huge splashes, but none of dolphins spinning in the air.


At 15:00, our water tanks were full and we needed to get a move on, so we dropped the spinnaker and turned on the engine.  In these calm conditions, our boat speed was 5.7 knots at 1700 rpm and we were doing 6.7 knots over the ground.  Maputo here we come...


Glenys produced a Zebu Curry and rice for dinner and we watched another lovely sunset, by which time, the wind had picked up to SE 10.  We pulled out the sails and set off on a close reach, which in these calm seas, gave us a boat speed of 5.4 knots.  The current has picked up to 1.5 to 2 knots so we were doing 7.0 knots over the ground - I’m so glad that we’ve found the current.


With nothing else better to do on my night watch, I did a little analysis of our performance compared to “Wairima”, which is a similar sized monohull.


Alan and Vicky took the “classic” route by heading west until they found the Mozambique Current at about 16°15S 41°10E and then followed the current along the coast. They had 1 knot of against them for 130 miles from the drop off at Cap St Andre across the Mozambique Channel, but after that had 1 to 2 knots of current with them.


We “cut the corner” trying to go a shorter distance and use the Current data in grib files to make the best use of the currents.  This strategy didn’t work very well because we had adverse currents of between 0.5 to 3 knots for 250 miles from the drop off at Cap St Andre.  Our route was only 20 miles shorter than “Wairima’s”.


“Wairima” left Baly Bay 24 hours ahead of us, but at 0800 this morning, they were 250 miles ahead of us.  Assume that for the last 24 hours, they have done 6.5 knots average with the current, then they have gained 94 miles in 3 days (and shortened their passage by 14 hours.)  If I ever do this passage again, I will definitely be heading west until I find the current.


The first half of the night was idyllic, sailing in flat seas with a full moon, clocking speeds of up to 8 knots over the ground.  After midnight, the wind increased slightly to ESE 15, so we were screaming along at 7 knots. In the 12 hours up to dawn, we covered 95 miles, which is an average of 7.9 knots over the ground – probably one of the best overnight sails we’ve had in ten years of cruising.


Unfortunately, just after dawn, the wind suddenly dropped to 6 knots and backed to the East, so we had to turn on the engine.