The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Sat 29 Apr 2017 02:43



04:02S 072:09E


So far we've done 213 miles with 75 miles to go. We did 105 miles in the last 24 hours.  We have 100% cloud cover and 5-20 knot winds.  We’re motor-sailing, dodging squalls in 1 metre seas.   Here's what we did yesterday and overnight


28 April 2017   Gan to Chagos (Day 2)

At dawn, we were greeted by lovely blue skies and fluffy white clouds, but the winds had dropped to 6 knots – we’re definitely in the Doldrums now.  We had a go at sailing, but we were forced 40 degrees off course and our boat speed dropped to less than 2 knots, so it was back to motoring on a SSW course directly towards Chagos.  We’ve had a poor start to the passage, only doing 108 miles in 24 hours.  With 180 miles to go, we’ve resigned ourselves to three nights at sea.


One of my major concerns is that we only have 500 litres of fuel on board and we won’t be able to buy any more until we get to Rodrigues, which is 1,200 miles and six weeks away.  I have figures for our engine fuel consumption and know that we use more fuel if the engine revs are higher, so I grabbed my calculator and worked out what our ideal engine revs should be for the remainder of this passage.


At 08:00 on Friday, we have 170 miles to go:




Speed over ground

No. Hours


Fuel Used



3.7 knots


Sun 06:00




4.6 knots


Sat 21:00




5.3 knots


Sat 15:00



Running the engine at 2,000 rpm means that we’ve got a chance at arriving tomorrow afternoon, but there will be pressure on us to maintain 5.3 knots and if anything goes wrong, then we risk having to heave-to on Saturday night.  If we go at 1,800 rpm then we’ll arrive at night and have to heave-to. So, the best plan is to run the engine at 1,500 rpm, which will get us there early on Sunday morning and will use less fuel.  Another advantage is that if the wind picks up enough, we’ll have time to sail slowly and save even more fuel.


After breakfast, we picked up the AIS signal from “Atea” who were 14 miles away. I tried calling them on the VHF radio, but didn’t get an answer.  They’ve been having problems with their radio, so we altered course to intercept them.  Around midday, we were within 4 miles of them and were able to chat via their portable VHF radio.


They left 12 hours before us, but with 1,200 miles to go to the Seychelles, they’ve been conserving fuel and sailing whenever they can. They managed to miss the nasty squalls that we had yesterday, so they’ve had a comfortable if slow passage so far.  They’re heading south-west past Chagos looking for the south-east trade winds to take them west.  We wished them well on the remaining 1,100 miles and turned back on course for Chagos.


It was a hot, boring day motoring at 4 knots in very calm seas. By the late afternoon, we were surrounded by large squalls and at one point, took a 50 degree detour to skirt a 6 mile long system.  Fortunately, it fizzled out and didn’t give us any strong winds, but we kept the radar on as night fell, so that we could try to spot any still lurking about.


We had a very quiet night – motoring and motoring.  It was very dark, but there were lots of stars around with a few big cloud systems occasionally becoming visible as they were lit by lightning flashes.  I flicked the radar on a few times, but there wasn’t any rain within range.