Passage Reunion Island to Durban, S Africa .

Day 1

This passage is the last 1460nm across the Indian Ocean .  We will be aiming to make landfall at Durban but depending on the weather conditions as we approach the coast we may have to divert to Richards bay.  This leg is potentially one of the most challenging we will ever have to do. It requires us to cross the notorious Agulhas current which runs south down the east coast of S Africa at up to 6k. The issue is when a southerly gale comes up the coast and this causes potentially huge and dangerous wind against sea conditions, which have to be avoided by a small boat. As this can happen at least once a week, we will have to keep a close eye on the weather. Richards Bay is about 65 miles closer, so offers a sort of bolt hole. The other issue on this leg is the decision on how close to go to the south tip of Madagascar , which inconveniently sits on the rhum line from Reunion . Pilot books suggest staying 140nm south to avoid the rough seas caused by strong and variable currents and intensified winds from the high land mass of the island. Unfortunately the current predictions we have, suggest we need to get in to around 50nm off the east coast then run south parallel to about 80nm off the southern end to have a strong favourable current as opposed to a strong adverse one.  Right now we are planning to work the favourable currents and run a bit closer, but need to keep an eye on the weather. We are getting some feedback from boats ahead of us via SSB and think the plan is OK at the moment.

A last minute stop at the boulangerie to stock up the freezer with baguettes and we were ready for the off.  I have pre-cooked 9 dinners which are also residing in the freezer.  Customs clearance took a few minutes so by 09.30 we sailed out of the marina.  Once we cleared the island, we had very pleasant sailing conditions – 2 sail reach with around 14 knots of wind aft of the beam and a fairly flat sea.  The sun was out and the cherry on the top was a 1 knot positive current!  Perfect.  A fairly lazy but very pleasant first day.  Fortunately the same conditions continued through the night. We had set the pole before dark last night in anticipation of the wind going further aft but we didn't have to goose the genoa until around 5am as dawn started to break.  We currently have around a 1m swell (wow!) and about 12 - 14 knots of wind with about 0.5 knots of positive current so making around 7.5 knots. 

Late in the evening we had dolphins swimming along side – as it was getting dark, we couldn't see them properly but they looked very small – we'll have to get the book out later to try to identify them.

Date and time: 22nd October 09.30 local (GMT + 4 hrs) 

Position: S22:26:175 E052:14:168 24 hours distance:  188nm

Day 2

A very pleasant, albeit a bit slow, day with seas of about 1m and winds from behind of around 10 – 14kts.  The current (as in now) ocean current (as in sea flow) forecast shows a “U” shape loop with up to 2k of current off the east coast of Madagascar. The eastern leg (about 100 nm offshore) flows north (against us) and the leg closer to shore (about 60 nm offshore) flows south. Our objective for today is to cut across the top of the north flowing leg and get into the south flowing bit – that's the plan so let's hope the grib files are correct and from reports of other boats it seems the forecast is not far out. We had around 1 knot positive current with us all day yesterday until around midnight and since then nothing.  We gybed onto starboard mid morning and have remained goose winged. 

We've seen a couple of ships on the AIS but nothing to worry about.  No cetaceans (we think yesterdays ones were probably Frasers dolphins) and just one tropic bird. Everything reported fine on the daily check and no flying fish!

Date and time: 23rd October 09.30 local (GMT + 4 hrs) 

Position:  S23:40:674 E049:46:703 24 hours distance:  163nm

Day 3

So yesterday's plan was to get to the north side of the loop in order to pick up a positive current.  We started off with 0.5 knots against and it gradually built up to around 1.2 knots against – a lesser man (me) would have decided to cut our losses and head south but (after much discussion!) we kept going.  I didn't want to get anywhere near the Madagascar coast (the cruising guides say keep 150 miles offshore) so I will admit I did keep wittering on about it.  Just before dark, the adverse current had gone down to around 0.5 knots.  We gybed and a few hours later we had positive current.  OK so I've stopped wittering!  We kept a decent speed up during the night but our daily run is down a bit.  This sea is up (around 2m) and we're rocking and rolling!  We have around 17 knots of wind from behind.  It's just after 8am and we've now gybed back and put a reef in the main – there's 100% cloud cover so looks like it may be a rainy/squally day.  Yesterday's grib files indicated that we will have to go through a front later today so we are anticipating a bumpy ride.

No cetaceans or even sea birds yesterday – quite a few ships and one we had to call up to ask to keep clear which he very obligingly did.

Date and time: 24th October 09.30 local (GMT + 4 hrs) 

Position:  S25:45:831 E047:48:576 24 hours distance:  174nm

Day 4

It was just one of those days where variety is the spice of life!  It started off with us rocking and rolling on the following seas of around 2m and a wind from behind of around 15knots – fair enough. The early threatening cloud cleared and we were left with lovely blue sky.  We were anticipating the wind to abate and to have to motor for a few hours whilst the front came through and the wind did a 180 degree turn.  However the wind never really abated until mid-afternoon when it suddenly went ahead.  The sea started to calm down a bit and gradually the wind started to die off so we shook out the reef in the main.  5 minutes later – no wind - on went the motor.  We took advantage of the lull in everything to get the pole down and away.  About 15 minutes later we were sailing again – close hauled.  Within the next 5 minutes the wind had got up – we had a couple of reefs in the main and 3 rolls in the genoa.  The seas were roaring (hades and loose are the words which spring to mind!) The sky was full of threatening rain clouds.  As the wind got up to 30+knots, away went the genoa and out came the stay sail.  It's a good thing it was Sunday – there were so many holes in the sea (think about that one!)  We were being lifted up on a wave then dropped from a great height only to be lifted again.  Even the pre-prepared dinner didn't get eaten.  We carried on like this for about 3 hours until the sea gradually calmed down a little and the wind dropped to around 25 knots.  It pretty much continued like this for the rest of the night. 

This morning the wind is around 20 knots and the seas about 2 – 3 m but we have changed course slightly so we now have the wind and seas more from behind.  We expect this to continue for the rest of today.  Leaden skies.  But we have turned the corner at the bottom of Madagascar so are now on our course for South Africa . 

There's lots of traffic on the AIS – many cargo ships plying their trade on this route.  Nothing again in the way of wildlife – mind you it would be difficult to see anything in these seas! 

Date and time: 25th October 09.30 local (GMT + 4 hrs) 

Position:  S27:10:618 E044:37:900 24 hours distance:  192nm

Day 5

The wind (around 20 – 25 knots) continued all day from the south east.  We had a swell of around 2 – 3 m so were rocking and rolling quite a bit.  The leaden skies cleared and clouds came and went for most of the day.  Mid afternoon we put the pole out again in anticipation of the wind going more to the east later in the night.  At around 7pm we were goose-winged doing over 10 knots with the positive current of around 1.5 knots even though still had 4 reefs in the main.  Too much for the night declared Jean!  So we rolled away the genoa and sailed with the reefed main during the night – still making around 7.5 – 8 knots.

This morning the wind has abated a bit but we still have the large swell so are still rocking and rolling.  Bit more of a blue sky.  We have just poled the genoa out again.  Yesterdays gribs showed the wind getting lighter today so we'll see what happens…

The dreaded volts have been low, requiring extra use of generator at night to keep up. Checked SG of all house batteries and found a dud cell on two of the four batteries. Have now re-configured down to two. This gives us much improved voltage but halves the Ah capacity. So moved all stock from fridge to freezer and turned fridge off. Situation much improved last night

Small pre-cooked dinner last night but we're still munching away at the French sticks so probably not losing any of that weight we put on over the last few weeks. You'd think that with no sundowners (and hence no snacks) the weight would be falling off us!  One thing though - these seas sure do give your internal organs a workout when you're lying down!

Many more ships now on the AIS but still no wildlife sightings.  All appears well on the daily check but no flying fish.

Date and time: 26th October 09.30 local (GMT + 4 hrs) 

Position:  S27:32:228 E040:59:292 24 hours distance:   194nm

Day 6

Very soporific day yesterday. Maybe due to lack of sleep the night before. Fairly pleasant and easy going conditions, with wind of around 15 – 20 knots all day and a 2m swell.  Lovely sunny day and last night a bright full moon with relatively flat sea.  Wind did drop slightly in the afternoon but went further ahead so we ‘de-goosed' and have been on a 2 sail reach since then.  We put another roll in the genoa and another reef in the main before dark.  During the night we picked up a positive current but now back to neutral.  Wind around 13 knots from the south east so we have just shaken out the reefs in the main. A beautiful day with clear sky.  The wind is forecast to get up again during the day, but we are in no rush. We have managed to make contact with PeriPeri radio who are based in Cape Town with a relay in Durban and will speak to them again this morning to get a better idea of what's happening with the weather and Agulhas current on the coast.  It looks from yesterday's gribs that there's a southerly on Tuesday, but that it will have cleared away by the time we approach the coast.

Less traffic on the AIS but more sea birds – I  guess if we were that way inclined we could put the rod out and maybe catch a fish or two but the freezer is full and no fridge so we won't bother (aside from the fact that we've gone off fishing anyway!)

Date and time: 27th October 09.30 local (GMT + 4 hrs) 

Position:   S28:04:030 E037:39:007 24 hours distance:  184nm

Day 7

A night of little sleep – too much bumping and grinding and slam dunk!  Most of the day we had a relatively flat sea and winds from the south east of around 20 knots – a most pleasant day 2 sail reaching.  At around 4pm it was all change!  The sky went rather dark, the wind went ahead and we put 3 rolls in the genoa and 3 reefs in the main in preparation for the heavier southerly winds shown on the gribs.  Half an hour and a cup of tea later the wind had died but the sky was still looking dark and brooding – out came the reefs – the wind got up – in went a couple of reefs.  Another half an hour and in went more reefs – by 6pm we had 3 rolls in the genoa and 4 reefs in the main. Five minutes later we were down to staysail. We did have an evening meal but partly cold as we had to put in a reef in the middle of eating!  The sea then decided it was going to join in the fun – we spent a very uncomfortable night with extremely confused ‘wind against current' seas throwing us around and dropping us into holes! In desperation of trying to cut out the noise and slamming, I wore down the battery in my MP3 player listening to podcasts – I even listened to an old ‘Farming Today' programme discussing the price of a litre of milk! 

The genoa has been slowly shedding its UV strip on the leach, but the last squall took its toll. It's now rolled up with bits hanging off blowing in the breeze looking like a wreck on a distant lee shore. It will be interesting to see if it holds together when we try to use it later today. But after listening to today's SSB net we thank our lucky stars – one boat 400 miles behind us had a lightening strike which knocked out his autopilot (but all else is well and he does have another)  and another couple who were further behind abandoned their boat (not sure of the circumstances) and are now on the way to Singapore or Reunion on a cargo ship.  Our hearts go out to them. 

This morning the wind has gone further aft so we have a slightly better motion – not too much slamming.  The seas are still confused around 2m with a large underlying swell of about 3-4m.  The conditions hopefully should ameliorate as the day goes on.  We have around 200 miles to go to.  But I've just had breakfast!! As Matt said – a couple of years ago it would have been unthinkable for me to eat anything in these conditions! 

Date and time: 28th October 09.30 local (GMT + 4 hrs) 

Position:  S28:52:352 E034:27:049 24 hours distance:   181nm

Day 8

Well the sea did eventually calm down leaving a 3m swell and we had a reasonable day – had a few squalls at around 4pm but nothing to worry about.  The wind eventually died around 2am with 60M to go so we have been motoring since then.  Fortunately the genoa was OK when we put it out – we just cut off the offending rags!  We're back to sailing now – about 6 miles off Durban and the Agulhas current is not apparent at all – no more than any of the currents we have encountered on this passage.  It's a sunny day with a gentle 15 knot breeze from the north east.  We can see the high-rise buildings – oh what a welcome sight!!

Date and time: 28th October 09.30 local (GMT + 4 hrs) 

Position:  S29:48:335 E031:12:676 24 hours distance:   180nm

Arrival 28th October 09.30 local (GMT + 2 hours)

Well here we are!  Arrived Durban a couple of hours ago and have already had our full English!  So glad to get here and looking forward to spending some time here.  It's warm and sunny!

Total time:  8 days 2 hours

Total Distance: 1468nm

Avg Speed:  7.56knots



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