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Smoke and Roses - Understanding the Indian Oceans' Reputation

Logged 1380 Nautical Miles

140 Hours Sailing 62.75 Hours Motoring

8 Days 10 Hours 45 Minutes

November 3 – 11

Reunion to Richards Bay, South Africa

I expected this last offshore leg of the Indian Ocean to be the most challenging of our circumnavigation as we will sail nearly 1400 nautical miles from Reunion around the southern tip of Madagascar to Richards Bay, South Africa. We had very inconsistent weather during the 8 ½ day passage with lots of sail changes. From hot and sunny skies with no wind to grey skies, rain, lightening and squalls with 35 knots of wind.

The first couple days were hot and sunny with no wind. I baked and cleaned while we were motoring.

On the fourth evening while I was doing dishes, I heard Dan say “big wave”, suddenly everything went flying from starboard to port; tea kettle, cutting board, cell phone, clipboard, notebooks, log book and a full glass of water all over the floor as Smoke and Roses coast down the wave hitting 19 knots of speed over ground. The wind built to 35 knots and we sailed with a reefed genoa and no mainsail. The next day, south of Madagascar we had a 2 to 2.5 knot current against us and lighter wind, it was slow going at 4 knots of speed over ground. That night got rough, pounding into waves with 25 knots of wind on our nose. We sailed farther off our rhum line than usual to avoid motoring and get out of the adverse current.

On the sixth evening under grey skies and with wind building over 30 knots we put a second reef in the main. Just after I stood up to ease the genoa sheet for a reef, the clevis holding the mainsheet to the traveler broke and the boom swung out just over my head. We roll the genoa in completely, start the engines and as I am trying to steer head to wind, Dan is tying a preventer to the boom. In the big, lumpy sea with the main sail still up and full of wind it starts to swing out over the port side taking Dan with it. Sean was getting ready to clip his safety harness onto the boat when he sees Dan’s toes leave the upper level of the cockpit; he grabs Dan’s safety harness with one hand and a handrail on the boat with the other hand. One of Dan’s legs is wrapped outside the lifeline and his body is over the water, he said “I’m not letting go!” Sean said “I’m not letting go of you!” The boom comes back to center and no one is hurt. Sean drops the main sail, I steer the boat, and Dan secures the preventer and replaces the clevis. We are back sailing with the genoa.

During the last couple days things change from inconsistent high wind and grey skies with waves and swell coming from different directions causing lots of bouncing and pounding, to light wind from behind us and motoring. On the second to last day we caught a Mahi and put some nice fillets in the freezer. Getting near the coast, we got into the Agulhas current that flows south following the continental shelf along Africa’s’ east coast and had a 2.5 to 3 knot current helping us get to Richards Bay. Calling Richards Bay Port Control for traffic clearance we were given permission to enter the shipping channel. Rally control met us in a dinghy to escort us thru the Mzingazi Canal to the Zululand Yacht Club docks. We made it!

Our next big challenge will be sailing around South Africa’s Southern tip, Cape Agulhas and The Cape of Good Hope, where the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet. The major factors are the sudden and immediate changes that can happen in South African waters, the Agulhas Current of up to 6 knots at the 200 meter depth line and the fronts that happen every five to seven days.

With our daughter coming to visit, who booked a full touring itinerary for us in Cape Town as well as the safari booked in a game reserve near Richards Bay, we are really looking forward to our visit in South Africa.

Agnes Long

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