Day 357, Year 5 Passage to Ile Europa, Day 3

Day 357, Year 5 Passage to Ile Europa, Day 3
Date: Monday, October 18, 2010
Weather: Most Sunny Day, Winds SSW 15-20 am, WSW 10-15 pm
Latitude: 20 30.718 S
Longitude: 042 01.282 E
Miles Traveled: 206 (miles made good-159)
Miles to Go: ~ 141 to Europa

In two days and few hours we have only gone 159 miles toward our destination. We can that many miles in one good day sail, so this is a slow slog to the southwest. The other miles we have traveled were spent zig-zagging around. We are no longer zig-zagging as the winds have allowed us to almost be on our direct course. After a rough night with winds up to 25 knots, we finally double-reefed all sails and went even slower. But at least I didn’t think I was going to die! And I started writing this log I was thinking that the sailing has been a bit slow and rough but at least we haven’t had to worry about squalls. Well, I no sooner had that thought until gray clouds magically appeared to the southwest. Constance is a few miles ahead of us and a they just called to say they were hit by a squall, but with only 20 knots of wind-not 35 like we had further north in the Indian Ocean. So we are watching and waiting. If the squall comes with rain that would be welcome. Last night we had wave spray going over the top of our dodger and onto the back deck spraying into the cockpit. Yuck! So a little fresh water wash would be nice. I’ll end this as it is time to batten down the hatches.

Day 356, Year 5 Passage to Ile Europa, Day 2

Day 356, Year 5 Passage to Ile Europa, Day 2
Date: Sunday, October 17, 2010
Weather: Clear Day, Winds WSW 15-20
Latitude: 19 35.877 S
Longitude: 042 45.391 E
Miles Traveled: 117 (miles made good-91)
Miles to go: ~ 210 to Europa

Jimmy Buffet needs to write a new sailing song for us about zig-zaggin’ across the Mozambique Channel. Yesterday I said that it was 341 miles to Europa, and that was taking into account that we can’t go on a straight rhumb line, but it may well end up to be many more miles for us. I said yesterday the winds were predicted to come from the south, the southwest, and the south-southwest, but I didn’t know at the time that we were going to have strong west southwest winds all day today. We traveled south, then west, then south through early morning and have been on a slightly north of west course all day running tight to the wind. Of course we need to be going southwest. The winds have been strong all day and are predicted to get even stronger tonight. At some point, we will turn south to southeast, and then back to northwest. Our track really does look like a zig-zag, but eventually we will reach Ile Europa or somewhere! Running so tight to the wind makes us heel over quite a bit, but we have reefed the main and headsail to make things a little more comfortable and are moving along at about three and a half knots. There’s nothing dangerous about any of this. It just isn’t the most relaxing passage. And we always worry about the strain on Windbird, but she seems to roll with the punches. We love this boat. Constance is about ten miles south of us and they are in a strong setting south current. We have between one and half to a knot of current against us since leaving Nosy Andrano, but unfortunately we are not being set south like Constance. Odulphus is a bigger and heavier boat than Constance or Windbird and is a ketch, so she could not point as high to wind as we could and had to turn back. We expect to hear them on the net tonight reporting they are back in Nosy Andrano waiting for favorable winds. So it is once again just Constance and Windbird on passage. Odulphus having to turn back reminded us just how well matched Constance and Windbird are at sea. At the current rate, we will reach Europa on Wednesday, making it a four-day instead of a two- to three-day passage, but right now that is fine with us as long as we make it there safely.

Day 355, Year 5 Passage to Ile Europa, Day 1

Day 355, Year 5 Passage to Ile Europa, Day 1
Date: Saturday, October 16, 2010
Weather: Clear Day, Winds N 5 am, W 12-15 pm
Latitude: 19 01.783 S
Longitude: 043 43.034 E
Miles Traveled: 31 nautical miles (341 to Europa)

Chances are you have never heard of Ile Europa. It is a tiny dot of an island in the center of the Mozambique Channel and it happens to be on our path to South Africa. So we have made that our next destination. We are hoping to stop there briefly to reassess the weather before traveling on to South Africa. There is nothing there but sand dunes surrounded by a fringing reef. On the island there is a French military presence and a meteorological station. It is not supposed to be a very comfortable anchorage unless the weather is very calm, but better to be uncomfortable there than to head on into the fast running Agulhas current if the winds are blowing from the south. The current heads south at around 4 knots the closer you get to Richards Bay and if the wind is blowing from the south you can get huge waves. So we certainly want to avoid that. Constance, Odulphus, and Windbird left the Barren Islands mid-day with 341 miles to go to Europa. We are allowed to go ashore there to get our passports stamped at the meteorological station, but there is nothing else there in terms of supplies. We have also read that there are so many turtles around the little island that you sometimes have to clear a space for your anchor. The diving there is supposed to be fantastic, but only if you like sharks because they are prolific. So I don’t think you will find me in the water there!

We decided to leave today even though we know we are going to have adverse winds. The forecast is for winds coming from the south, southwest, and south southwest for the entire three days it should take to get to Ile Europa-and we are traveling southwest. But at least we will have wind. If we waited until mid-week we would have almost no wind and have to motor, so the captains opted to sail the winds. We all laughed saying we might end up in Mozambique instead of South Africa, but if so, we’ll just have to enjoy Mozambique.

101016 Day 355 Barren Islands, Madagascar–Islands Androtara, Andrano, and Lava

Day 354, Year 5 The Troops Are Gathering

Day 354, Year 5 The Troops Are Gathering
Date: Friday, October 15, 2010
Weather: Clear Day, Winds NNW 0-7 am, NW 12-15 pm
Location: Nosy Andrano, Barren Islands, W Madagascar

This anchorage is growing with boats headed to South Africa. Roland and Judine on Samarcande left today, but Nora Simrod, Odulphus and Dream Catcher arrived. Nora Simrod is a multiple-owner time-share boat. We saw this boat in Cochin or Chagos, can’t remember which, but with a different crew. Right now there is a Norwegian captain and crew onboard and they are headed to Richards Bay. Dream Catcher is a South African catamaran that we know well and tonight Odulphus, Constance, and Windbird gathered on Dream Catcher to talk about the passage to Richards Bay. Dream Catcher has sailed the African coast from Richards Bay to Mozambique and back a couple of times, but this will be their first time crossing from Madagascar to Africa. Barry had a wealth of information to share and confirmed that he has always used BUOY WEATHER to do his routing up and down the East African coast and has found it to be spot on within a four-day period. He shared with us how he orders detailed reports. Now that we are back on Windbird, Mark is at work on the computer ordering more BUOY reports. Until we get those reports back we will not make a decision on what we are doing tomorrow. We are back to making the decision of whether or not to go as we have conflicting weather reports. Hopefully the more detailed reports that Barry suggested we order will help make the decision.

We spent our morning taking the dinghy over to Nosy Lava and walking the beach. There is a huge fishing camp over there-looks more like a village. Evidently Japanese fishing boats come in and buy the fish, mostly shark, from the fishermen. We had to dinghy half-way around the island in order to find a suitable place to land the dinghy as the waves were rolling in. We found a spot on the western side of the island and then had a nice walk along the shore looking for shells. The East Africa Pilot says that there is a “treasure trove of rare shells” on Nosy Lava, but that is not what we found. Maybe the people in the fishing village make the rounds and pick up the shells at low tide. We arrived closer to high tide and did find some shells, but no treasures. Still it was a wonderful walk along a white sand beach with beautiful turquoise water providing a beautiful view. I often wonder how much we are going to miss such beautiful, tropical islands when we return home. I’m taking lots of photos and guess I’ll just have to survive on the memories. There’s only one thing more beautiful than these islands and that is grandchildren. And we’re hoping to see lots of them once we return.

101005 Day 354– Down the Madagascar Coast to Baly Bay

Day 353, Year 5 Nosy Androtara to Nosy Andrano

Day 353, Year 5 Nosy Androtara to Nosy Andrano
Date: Thursday, October 14, 2010
Weather: Clear Day, Winds W 5 in am, 16 in pm
Latitude: 18 33.079 S
Longitude: 43 54.183 E
Location: Nosy Andrano, Barren Islands, W Madagascar

We did move today, but only seven miles. But before moving, we spent the entire morning continuing to study the various weather reports. What a tedious job and we don’t know any more than we did this morning. We played out scenarios leaving today, tomorrow morning, and Saturday morning, and none of the three options really worked because of some strong W and SW winds coming in a couple of days out in the Mozambique Channel. Soooooo, this job continues. Another complication is that we don’t seem to have good radio reception here. We have not been able to get a clear report from either South African net since arriving here. We don’t know if we are in a skip zone (simply a dead spot where the transmissions skip over) or if weather conditions have just made for bad propagation. Mark is receiving new BUOY WEATHER reports right now via email and we will take another look at those. All we have decided is not to leave today. Who knows about tomorrow? We did talk to Odulphus and they plan to arrive here tomorrow. Maybe getting the heads of three captains together will be better than two. Ed and Lynne did decide to not to leave today, but they are still holding out hope for tomorrow morning. This whole process of looking for a weather window could drive a person crazy. It has made this feel like the longest day of the year.

We left Nosy Androtara and sailed the seven miles to Nosy Andrano around noon. We just put up the headsail and had a delightful slow sail across. I had hoped to dinghy over to another island, Nosy Lava, to walk the beach at low tide, but it is about three miles and very windy so it would be a bouncy, wet dinghy ride. We have decided to go over early in the morning when there is no wind. Low tide is at 9 am so we will leave here just after the 8 am net. Even if we are going to leave tomorrow morning, we’ll have time to do this first. When we got to Nosy Andrano were a bit surprised to find two very new looking dhows at anchor right where we had hoped to put the hook down. Constance and Samancande also sailed over, so this tiny little island now has five boats at anchor. Roland explained the people on this island are brought out here from the mainland to dig sand out of the middle of the island and then carry the 60 kilo (120 pound) bags down to the beach to be loaded on the boats. The sand is used for construction but there is so much sand along the mainland coast, I can’t figure out why they have to take it from this tiny island. Maybe it has some special properties. Evidently the local workers are brought out here for three months, taken back to the mainland for one week off, and then back out again. Roland says the pay is very low and the working conditions are not the best so he calls it Slave Island. He and Judine came by Windbird on their way to shore this afternoon. Roland asked if we had any old men’s clothing that we could send in for the men. Well, all of the men’s clothing on this boat is old, but when its all you’ve got you can’t afford to give too much away. But we managed to find a couple of pair of well-worn shorts and a couple of shirts that Mark hasn’t worn in five years. I figure that makes them ‘donatable.’ Then when Roland came back he was looking for an antibiotic for a one-year old that has a huge abscess on the side of her face and for eye drops for a man who can’t open his eye. After a search that has our aft bathroom and bed looking like a cyclone hit, I did find an antibiotic that can be given to a baby and some cleansing eye drops. When Roland and Judine came over to get the things they brought with them what looked like the whole Malagash fleet. There were four pirogues full of men and young boys. The man with the swollen eye was in one canoe and Judine gave him directions for the eye drops. The father of the baby with the abscess was also in that pirogue and Judine gave him specific directions for giving the antibiotic along with water and crackers I was giving him for the baby. Evidently these people have almost no drinking water. I just hope that what we were able to give helps the baby.

Day 352, Year 5 Weather, Whether

Day 352, Year 5 Weather, Whether
Date: Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Weather: Clear Day, Winds NNW 5 in am, 12-14 in pm
Location: Nosy Androtara, Barren Islands, W Madagascar

The ‘weather’ dominated our day as we tried to figure out ‘whether’ to leave tomorrow or next day or the next. We use GRIB reports and BUOY WEATHER reports that we get in via email along with the weather we get from the Peri-Peri Net at 8 am and 6 pm each day and the South African Maritime Mobile Net weather we get each day at 2:30 pm. It is quite complicated to try and compare all of these different sources and figure out what the weather will be like at various points along the way. And from this far out, it is virtually impossible to predict what the winds will be like in Richards Bay by the time we get there. So right now I don’t know when we will leave. It’s looking like tomorrow or Friday would be a good choice, but Odulphus is not here yet and won’t be until Friday or Saturday. And we had really hoped to move to another island tomorrow and explore there. So more studying and comparing will happen tonight and Mark and Ed will have to come to an agreement on what to do. Hopefully we will have made a decision by this time tomorrow night.

In the meantime, we enjoyed another great snorkel this afternoon. The coral here is mostly staghorn and there is certainly lots of it. But it is not particularly colorful. But the water is clear and we enjoyed the fish. There are not very many big fish as I think the men in the fishing camp do a thorough job of catching those, but the small fish were abundant and beautiful. We saw the first Powderblue Surgeonfish we have seen since Chagos and the array of colorful wrasses was quite impressive. We saw a number of male and female Bridled Parrotfish which are also quite beautiful and I saw three species of fish I have never seen before. So I call that a successful snorkel.

Another boat came in today, Samarcande, with Roland and Judine aboard. Roland is French but has been sailing in the Indian Ocean for the past few years and Judine is Malagasy from Nosy Be. They came over late this afternoon and we had a nice time sharing sailing adventures. Samarcande is heading much further south along Madagascar’s west coast before heading straight for Cape Town. Maybe we’ll see them again when we get there.