A secondary problem is how close to pass the southern tip of Madagascar since there are seamounts there that can cause nasty waves when the winds get up. Some books say you should stay 200 miles offshore, others 100 miles, while others just say you should avoid the seamounts. We started aiming 150 miles south and gradually crept closer we found ourselves in a foul current that was close to three knots - and this in a location that should have had a favourable current of about a knot according to the Pilot Chart.. The Peri-Peri Net was suggesting that the timing was not right for getting near the coast and we considered anchoring in a bay in SE Madagascar to await developments, but the system coming looked to have southerly winds rather than SW and the bay look open to the south so we kept going. Similarly we considered heading to a bay in SW Madagascar where about a dozen boats went to anchor, but the conditions did not look bad at all so again we kept going. Some of the anchored boats waited for almost two weeks for a weather window and still ended up with 40 knots plus on their crossing of the Mozambique Channel.
Our plan was to head at least half way across the Channel and then either go for coast or kill time (perhaps by heaving-to) to await a wind change. It turned out to be the former as the PPNet was suggesting that there was a window if we could average something like 6.5 knots for 48 hours - although the window turned out to be shorter than expected - but that was OK because we were able to go faster than that.
Our tactic of keeping going worked out just fine. We had a lot of winds in the 25 to 35 knots range but only a few hours with gusts higher than that. For this part of the ocean that is considered good going since most boats had winds over 40 knots and we talked to one catamaran that laid to its sea anchor for two days with waves breaking onto the foredeck. I can't imagine what this coast must be like in the winter.
The last 11 hours of our passage are worthy of mention. I came on watch at 0300 when it was blowing in the low 30s and as dark as the inside of a cow. About three minutes into the watch a wave landed in my lap (have I mentioned that my foulies leak?) which certainly finished the waking up process. Shortly after this it started to pour which at least replaced the salt water with fresh. About 0530 the wind came up with gusts to more than 40 and steady winds in the 35 to 38 knot range. We had to reef even more and this was harder than normal since our furling line was badly chafed so only the core was there. As a result we had tied off the drums at the bow with another line. Kristian went forward to release and retie this line after we furled down to about 60% with virtually no main on a broad reach. Needless to say he had an opportunity to get fully awake with waves landing on him. Through all this I am thinking - is this really fun? Then it all changed, the sun came up and we could see the coast of Africa (the coast of Africa, how cool is that?) as we had aimed well north of Richards Bay because we had been told not to miss to the south and the weather window would not have lasted until we got to Durban 80 miles to the SW. We had probably the nicest sail I have ever had (40+ years).. IT was still blowing in the high 20s and he had a good current helping us. Our speed over the ground was 8+ to 9+ and we saw whales (see pics below) and lovely seabirds. It was magical.
BTW, in preparation for this part of the trip we made our heavy weather preps. We had the inner stay set with its staysail. Also, we had our storm trysail in a bag on deck ready to go in its own mast track. Below, we had our parachute anchor and all its gear set up as per the Pardey's storm tactics book ready to go. We were happy to say that it stayed where it started on the cabin floor behind the dining table.
|On our last morning before arriving in Richards Bay we passed two pods of whales. These are humpbacks who were playing (or mating) on the surface. It was incredible to watch.|