The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Sun 8 Oct 2017 04:40



21:23S  035:39E


So far we've done 675 miles with 15 miles to go to Bazaruto (21°39S 35°26E). We did 120 miles in the last 24 hours.  We have 50% cloud cover and 15 knot NE winds.  We’re sailing on a broad reach at 3 knots with 1 metre seas.   We’re slowly approaching Bazaruto, waiting for a rising tide to work our way through the sand bars.  Here's what we did yesterday and overnight.


7 October 2017   Madagascar to South Africa (Day 5)

With very light winds, we spent the morning motoring south, achieving 6.5 knots over the ground.

Today’s weather forecast shows that gale-force southerly winds are expected in Maputo on the 10th at 15:00 - a few hours earlier than forecast yesterday and the low pressure system causing the southerlies has also deepened bringing stronger winds.


Des Cason has been sending me an email every day and today he said,  “The small cut-off low which would have brought light SE to Inhambane/Maputo on the 10th has intensified. A high pressure has ridged in behind it bringing some pretty hectic SW/S winds along the coast. 40+ knot winds are expected off Richards Bay on the 10th. This will spread up the coast to Bazaruto and persist up to the 13th at least in the 25kts range. At 21:00 on the 10th, the low will be at 30S 37E, 1007 Mba with SSW/S 40kts at the epicenter. By the 11th it has moved to 29S 42E, 1003mba, SSW/S 30 kts.“


Our plan was to head for Maputo and then dive into Inhambane if we thought that we weren’t going to make it before the front. However, Des has warned us that after a few days of NE winds, the outside anchorage at Barra Point, Inhambane will “not be fun with 1.5 to 2 metre swell”. The inner anchorage at Linga Linga doesn’t sound good either because there’s a shallow 0.4m sand bar at the entrance, which means that we can only enter and leave at 2 hours before high tide, which is very restricting.


So, we had two options:

1.     Head for Maputo, which at 07:00 this morning was 430 miles away.  If we give ourselves an 8 hour safety margin and aim to get to Maputo at 07:00 on the 10th, then for the next 3 days, we will still have to average 6.0 knots (143 miles per day).  We have averaged 150 miles per day for the last two days and the last 24 hours was 168 miles. If we retain the favourable current and have good winds, then we should make it.


2.     Head for Bazaruto, which is 115 miles away. We could be there tomorrow morning without any problem.  We then hide there, leaving after the system goes away, probably on the 13th.


The risks of heading for Maputo are that we may lose the favourable current and the low pressure system may develop faster.  If we have light winds, we’ll have to motor hard for up to 3 days and if the engine has a problem, we’re doomed.  If something doesn’t go as planned, then we will be trapped at sea in a serious storm (up to 40 knot winds and 6 metre waves) for several days.


The only disadvantage with going to Bazaruto is that we’ll be delayed getting into Richard’s Bay by at least a week, but we’re in no hurry – our son isn’t coming out to visit until the 17th October, so we have plenty of time.


So, we either have three days of stress, racing to beat a big storm or we chill out in a secure anchorage for five days with some other cruisers.  It was a no-brainer - at midday, we turned west towards Bazaruto. 


I chatted to “Red Herring” on the SSB radio and they have also turned back to Bazaruto. “Luna Blu”, “Continuum”, and “Moana” are already on their way. “Wairima” are now south of Inhambane, so they will make it to Richards Bay.  My only concern is that we might not have enough beer...


We had a very relaxing afternoon, sailing along at 3-4 knots in the light north winds, which carried on into the night.  After midnight, with only 40 miles to go, the wind picked up to NE15, so Glenys rolled away the main and we ran on a reefed genoa at 3 knots until dawn. Unfortunately, we had confused,  sharp 1.5 metre waves, which made us rock and roll all night.


We encountered some strong currents in this area, which would suddenly change direction and alter our course through the water by 20 degrees. There were also noticeable changes in the sea state as we went from wind-with-current to wind-against-current.  I guess that these are eddies being generated at the edge of the continental shelf.