Madagascar



October 15 - Underway to South Africa

Weather forecast looks ok, so we are setting out on the 12-day or so passage to Richards Bay, South Africa, leaving Le Port, Reunion. There are several other boats underway to keep us company. Conditions look light at first, so we may burn through some fuel, but that's ok, giving us a chance to regain our sealegs.


October 16 - 22 22 S 053 12 E

Baraka is gliding along in fairly calm seas and light winds - 10 knots, still making 5 or so, on a beam reach, vane steering. Wish every passage were like this! It started rough, beating our way out from Reunion's wind shadow in 25-28 knots, but settled down after a few hours as we got away. Dave shared his dinner with Neptune, and I was having similar trouble adjusting, but now both of us are fine, already into the passage mode. There's a radio sched with other boats underway, and we will check in nightly with the very helpful Peri-Peri net. Latest GRIB shows very light winds the next several days, with some motoring likely. All is well.


October 17 - 23 55 S 051 32 E

Slow progress in light winds... We flew Fat Albert, our spinnaker, much of the day, then motored a bit, and are again sailing with poled out jib on a broad reach. Last night we crossed a freighter lane with some traffic, but nothing since then. All is well.


October 18 - 24 37 S 050 11 E

Two boats underway came to a full stop after apparently hitting whales at night! The boats ahead report seeing many.

We had our own bit of drama today when the upper stopper broke on the pole track, and the pole swung free while we were trying to stow it. We got it under control and back on the track. Shortly after, the working sheet on the jib decided to untie! We rolled it back up, brought the lazy sheet around into play, and retied the loose sheet. Fortunately these events were in daylight in calm seas.

We are making slow progress - only 100 mile days - in light winds. The good news is that we are mostly able to sail. Seas are fairly flat, and we are comfortable. In another day we will be approaching the SE coast of Madagascar to make our first turn. We will then decide whether to hug the coast or swing wide, depending on winds at that time.


October 20- Rounding Madagascar

Night before last we got a workout without visiting the gym. We went from sailing to motoring several times, when the winds lagged, and once to run away from a fishing boat chasing us from his nets. He charged at us for a half hour. We ran perpendicular from our course, and eventually he turned away. Each time we start the motor, we disengage the windvane, engage the autopilot, release the shaft brake, set the batteries to both banks, start the engine, bring in sails. Then do the reverse to start sailing again. One of us can do all of this except the shaft brake - that takes both of us, one to stall the boat, and the other to set the brake under the bedroom floor.

There seems to be a lot more ship traffic now as we approach SE Madagascar, running along the same course as we are, both directions. On his watch Dave had to dodge several freighters. The AIS is a big help.

As we approached the SE corner of Madagascar the winds kicked in 25-30 knots, with steep and lumpy seas, the boat speed reading 8-10 knots! with a boost from current. Both McDavitt and PeriPeri are telling us that we are not well positioned to cross over to Africa. Paul on PeriPeri suggests we find someplace along the Madagascar coast protected from S winds, and hunker down for a few days. McDavitt says we could carry on but would have to hove-to for a front. So we are headed to a good spot on the SW corner, arriving tomorrow. This morning the winds laid down, though seas are largish as we approach the Madagascar bank. Now we have an adverse current, and are motor sailing. A pod of dophins came out to greet us, cavorting in the bow wave, and I saw a whale breech twice. All is well.


October 21- Minorodo Bay, Madagascar

Whales cavorted on the south end of Madagascar, lots of tail-slapping. We motored for a day in light winds across the bottom, then sailed comfortably up to Minorodo Bay, on the SW corner, where Taipan, Contrails, Priscilla and others are anchored, all waiting for the next system to blow by before crossing the Mozambique Channel to Africa. The local fisher-folk are extremely poor and looking for handouts, or willing to trade for fish and lobster. Their shelters are made of driftwood and leaves. They come by and hang on the stern, asking for "cadeaux" (gifts). I traded 3 of Dave's shirts from the rag-bag for 3 small lobsters. The other boats have handed out food, fishing gear, line and tools, like a mini-UN delegation. We will raid our lockers and see what we can spare, though we know we are setting precedent and expectations for boats that follow.

Strong south winds will blow through Thursday. Too soon to see, but we may be able to leave after that. Meanwhile we have a nice respite, a chance to fix several minor issues.

The local Malagasy people sail out to greet us...

...in outrigger canoes with patchwork sails.

Soon they come by to trade or ask for gifts.

Skorpio is visited.


October 23 - waiting game

Matajusi showed up yesterday, so we are now 8 boats waiting to cross the Mozambique channel. It is starting to look like later this week may be favorable. Last night the light winds clocked around to the NW, making this a lee shore anchorage. Swells roll in, but winds are still light, so we are hobby-horsing a bit, though not uncomfortably so, and keeping an eye on it. By tonight it should shift SW then SE, and we will again be sheltered by the long reef.

The local people paddle out in the mornings to ask for sunscreen, clothing, fishing gear. It quickly became obvious that we are turning them into beggars, so now we only trade when they bring something to offer. Contrails traded for a necklace of fish vertebrae, and Taipan for a paddle. I got a nice cowrie shell. Taipan traded for 5 eggs, though 3 of them held chicks.


October 24 - rowdy anchorage

Last night the west winds built a bit in our lee shore anchorage, bringing bigger swells, which then hung around and rolled us like a barrel when the winds clocked to the south. Now the wind is a better direction, coming over the reef, though largish seas still curl around into the anchorage to toss us around. We have to gimble the stove at anchor, and may have to put our bed lee-board in!

Matajusi and Taipan headed north 130 miles to clear in and do a little land travel while awaiting the weather window. They then plan to jump across the Mozambique at a narrower place, for a shorter passage. Six other boats will hang out here. Each day Dave runs GRIBS and collects weather info. Saturday is shaping into a possible departure day. He struggles to connect to get weather reports - Sailmail propagation is sporadic here, and the Winlink station is apparently offline.

We are restless, wanting to get going. The World ARC is arriving now at Reunion, 30 boats just behind us, who will be competing for space in Richard's Bay, and our son arrives to visit in a couple weeks. But we still have enough buffer to wait for favorable conditions.


October 25 - challenges

Winds have built to howling gale force in the anchorage. Combined with a long fetch, Baraka is leaping about. Last night one boat's anchor snubber chafed through, and another boat drug. This morning our snubber popped off and the chain jumped off its roller, grinding our teak caprail until we could get the chain back in place, now secured with a bolt. We added a second chain hook and line, and then a third, trying to create backups for the snubber in case it pops off again. Motion is too lively for projects, so we are reading and waiting. Years ago in the Med, we were told the Mistral is considered mitigating circumstances when someone murders his spouse! We are doing ok, but our nerves are a bit frayed and we will be happy when the wind abates.

Each day Dave runs a new GRIB. It's still unclear when the interval between lows will long enough for us to jump across the channel. Boats underway are being advised to hove to. As tough as it is to sit here, we know things could be a lot more uncomfortable.

The winds start building.

We add 3 additional chain hooks and snubbing lines.

Yikes! The chain jumps off the roller and starts sawing through our caprail.

Dave motors forward to take the load off, but I am not strong enough to lift the chain back on the roller.

Dave muscles it back in place.

Later in South Africa we buy a serious chain hook.


October 26 - Headed across to Mozambique

Just when we thought things were simmering down, winds kicked up again to 45 knots, yikes! By this 3rd day of gale force plus winds, we all have some damage to ground tackle, mostly chafed-through snubbers. Elaine bailed out today, headed out to sea in 40 knots of wind. Tonight it is moderating, down to only 20 knots, and by morning the remaining 5 boats will be ready to pull our anchors and head out. Our options are to head north to Tulear on the Madagascar side, or cross to Inhambane on the Mozambique side. We are leaning toward the latter, still several days north of Richards Bay, but where we can hunker down for more strong southerlies coming on the 31st, and wait for favorable conditions to work south. This weather seems unusually unsettled, but we think we can make the 500 mile crossing in 4 days without getting too beat up. Dave and the others have been on the radio almost non-stop, pulling GRIBS and weatherfaxes and talking about options on the nets. The gales have kept us boat-bound. Every so often Dave and I go to the bow to rearrange our snubbers, getting soaked with salt spray. The worst part is hearing the hammering the boat is taking, jerking against our 10-to-1 scope. The load is distributed to 4 cleats. In all our years of voyaging this anchorage has proved the most difficult. We will be happy to escape.

Winds keep building for a last gale...

Promesa buries her bow in wind waves.

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