Indian Ocean Crossing, part III Mauritius > Durban

In Voyages on 06/11/2012 at 16:54

Mattys special fish

Helena is underway again and with a new crew! Rolf and Matty have said goodbye to Rikard and Maurizio and are now sailing with Neil Bryan. They left Mauritius on the 6th and are hoping to arrive in Durban in less than two weeks. We’ll keep you up-to-date on their progress right here. For daily location updates you can check Pangolin.

Tuesday 6 November

Local time: 17.30 Position: 20.14S 57.12E, Course 247 T, speed 4.0 kts, True Wind speed 7.2 kts E-NE

We have spent a lovely time in the north of Mauritius in a place called Grand Baye where there are a few resorts, but mostly very nice people and lots of nice weather. We have done some snorkelling and diving with David and Peter from the Dolce-thingy, a beautiful catamaran of 63 ft long and about 3 kilometres wide!!! (well I think it was about 32 ft, but it seemed a lot more!) Since Neil was flying into Mauritius, we picked him up from the airport last Sunday and we made a nice road trip along the west coast of the island before introducing him to his new home.

This morning we have finished our clearance and we have a nice window of very light weather ahead of us, at least for the next week or so, so we’ve decided to take our chances and go straight for Durban instead of stopping at Reunion Island.

Neil is slowly getting into the boat routine, Matty is slowly getting out of the shore routine and I just don’t do routines at all. Tonight we’ll kick off with a big Dutch stamppot with Dutch meatballs so we’re all well fed for the night.

We anticipate motoring a lot along the way due to the light weather, so we may start the engine soon since the wind is pretty much dying out on us at the moment.

Wednesday 7 November

Local time: 20.00 Position: 21.02S  55.13E, Course 022 T, speed 0.0 kts, True Wind speed 3.7 kts from E-SE

Oops… We’ve just passed by Reunion Island and since we were motoring anyway without any wind, we decided to follow the coast and check out the beaches a bit closer by. We did not want to stop on Reunion since we do not want to spend time with all the formalities and just want to get to Durban quickly.

Now, the strangest thing happened. While we were just moving very close along the shoreline, we noticed some objects in the water. These objects turned out to be floating buoys with some lines attached to them and when we stopped alongside one to investigate, one of those lines just jumped on deck and tied itself to the cleat on the foredeck!!! Really, we had nothing to do with it!!!

We are technically still underway, but this object is causing so much drag that we’re just floating off the beach here without any movement whatsoever.

We think that it may actually be attached to the bottom or something. This means sadly that we will be forced to spend the night in another beautiful and quiet place, because it is of course a bit tricky to try and untie a rope after sunset. We may have to get wet tomorrow morning to investigate the area around the ship, just to make sure that all that blue stuff is actually clear ocean water. While we’re at it, we may have to do a thorough check for reefs and such as well. The things we do for our safety…

By the way, Matty has fought a tremendous battle with a mahi-mahi this morning while he was not supposed to be fishing since Neil and I were still asleep. Since he did not want us to find out about his secret catch, he gently cohersed the Mahi-mahi to make less noise and flap around the deck more softly. However, he had managed to wake us up anyway with his own evil laughter while he was cutting up this fish. Neil is just getting it prepped for dinner now and for the rest we’re having a great time and all is very very well.

We’re looking forward to a night of sleep on this mooring… ehhhrrr… the strange object which has attached itself to the ship.

Thursday 8 November

Local time: 19.30 Position: 21.09S  54.53E, Course 033 T, speed 3.0 kts, True Wind speed 11 kts from N

Ok, this morning we had a hard job figuring out what had happened, but eventually, the object which had lashed itself on our foredeck suddenly freed itself up after we investigated the surrounding area for pretty fish and nice corals. However, the weird stuff did not end there. Somehow the currents and the winds drifted us into Pointe des Galets, the main harbour of Reunion. While we were powerless and left to the mercy of the elements, they very precisely stopped pulling on the ship in front of a fuel dock where somehow a leaking fuel tank was spraying out clean diesel directly into our tanks. As soon as that happened, I noticed that there was money missing from my wallet (we think we saw some notes flying in the wind) and this is where we decided that enough was enough. We regained control of the situation and skilfully steered the ship out of the control of the elements to finally resume our course to Durban.

I need to tell you all though about the dinner we had last night. Neil has made such an awful creation that both Matty and I were seriously doubting whether he should be on board any longer. Well, truth be told, we were a bit jealous. You have to understand that we both think highly of our cooking skills and with his first prepared meal with this beautiful Mahi-mahi (also called Dorado or Dolphin fish) he had created the very best dish which has ever been cooked on Helena!!! Matty and I have officially never tasted any fish this good in our lives. We are now bowing to the new master of the galley while wearing funny hats, lighting candles, bowing and humming “hail to the chef”.

For the rest, the weather is still very easy on us and we’re having light winds again. We’ll be running on engine a lot in the next few days.

Friday 9 November

Local time: 20.30 Position: 22.26S  52.30E, Course 249 T, speed 5.3 kts, True Wind speed 9 kts from N

Hello all!

Keeping it short today because it is bedtime for me. Had a nice day of sailing and motoring. The weather is still calm and we have almost no wind.

We expect to pick up some wind by tomorrow evening when we should encounter an area with some rain.

Today we have probably insulted our dearly missed crewmember, Maurizio. We have finally made some pizza’s, but they were absolutely not to his standards. Sorry Maurizio!!! From what we learned from Maurizio is that a proper pizza should be thin and with minimal toppings to keep the pizza nice and crunchy. We’ve loaded them with toppings, about 1 meter high with half a kilo of cheese, tons of salami, anchovies, Tabasco, vegetables and tuna.

We’re sinners, but we loved it! We can only hope that we will be forgiven by our good Italian friend.

Saturday 10 November

Local time: 20.00 Position: 23.37S  50.16E, Course 240 T, speed 6.4 kts, True Wind speed 18 kts from E

We have found the wind! This morning the wind picked up as forecasted and with this weather we should be able to sail on for the next 2 days or so. We are now fully into the passage routines again and Neil is finally getting used to sleeping on board.

Today we have started the poll for our arrival in Durban. Our estimates are 18, 19 or 20th of November for our arrival in Durban. Since we liked the idea of polls we estimate that there will be 1, 2 or 0 birds landing on the ship along the way, we will see 4, 5 or 6 whales, however they will all be swimming together, we will have to change course for one single ship along the way and we will sail through 783647098,3 waves along the way. (how we’re going to keep track of this last one remains to be decided though)

For the rest there is not much to tell really. It is more of the usual and not much different. The ocean is a lot calmer compared to the previous passages and we are enjoying that as long as it lasts. We expect to be south of Madagascar in two days from now so then we expect to change course towards Durban.

Sunday 11 November

Local time: 18.30 Position: 24.55S  48.03E, Course 235 T, speed 7.2 kts, True Wind speed 21 kts from E

It’s a rainy day! We’ve hit a system which we were tracking for a while now and it should take us this evening to get clear of it. It is a ridge of squalls and somewhat changing winds, although mostly easterly so we’re doing lots of sailing today! However, we’re doing most of it inside since the cockpit is a bit moist…

Neil’s making a Mexican chilli chicken tonight and is now hooked on a TV show called The Walking Dead. Matty has finished this today and I am into a computer game these days, combined with my new e-reader which Neil has brought along for me.

All is well still and we will be within 30 miles of the South-east coast of Madagascar tonight. With a bit of luck, the weather will clear up a bit so we can see the lights of Taolanaro, a port not far from us. Tomorrow night we expect to be south of Madagascar and we should be changing our course to head for Durban.

Monday 12 November

Local time: 18.30 Position: 26.49S  44.34E, Course 263 T, speed 8.3 kts, True Wind speed 21 kts from E

The rain has gone and we’re a little sad about something. We’re sad about the first line in this message… Yes, the position information! Yes, I know, we’re doing good and we’ve got a nice speed and all, but still we’re sad about it. Why? Well, since 01.30 last night up to just about 2 hours ago we’ve had a continuous speed of well over 10 knots!!! What??? Yes, indeed!

We’ve had some good winds of about 30 knots and we’ve had a constant current of about 2,5 knots the entire day so we were quite looking forward to putting it into the daily update position report! Sadly, the wind has dropped a bit and we’re now “only” having 2 knots of current to help us on our way, so it will have to do with the 8.3 knots. Still, we have set a record between yesterday’s email and today of 225 miles!!! Wow! (the old record was 210 on the Pacific) Ok, for the sailors among you who are plotting the waypoints and actually start measuring, we had to make a bit of a d-tour so we have added 5 miles to the distance to account for the course change along the way. It averages at 9.4 knots and that’s pretty good.

This good news will probably not last since the wind is already slowing down a bit and we expect to run out of wind somewhere during the night. That’s when the motoring will start again. This may sound sad or silly, but it is really not. Since this area is known for some rough weather, we have chosen this time for this passage to avoid any seriously bad weather and since the alternative is almost no wind at all, we’re quite happy with it. Besides, so far we’ve been quite lucky with the wind we have had anyway!

We have been looking more closely at our planning for the next few days as well and there seems to be a new weather system with southerly winds coming into the area in about 5 days. Since we would be getting closer to Durban by then, we would be arriving together with these winds and that is not advisable due to some specific sea conditions around the coast of South Africa. We are now confronted with a choice. We can make a run for Richard’s bay or we can take it slow and “heave to” far off shore until this system passes. Now it seems that we have been pushed so well by this beautiful current that we may actually make it to Richard’s Bay in time before this system hits and now that is our new plan. This means that if all goes well, we may be arriving in 4 days already.

Tuesday 13 November

Local time: 19.30 Position: 17.22S  41.27E, Course 259 T, speed 7.2 kts, True Wind speed 11 kts from E-SE

A sunny, sunny day and the sea has calmed down completely. There are hardly any waves to speak of and there is a light breeze from the east. The waves are strange because it is really very rare to see so little waves in the middle of an ocean, but you will not hear us complaining about it! We’re happily motor sailing today and have used the calm seas to top up the fuel tanks from the drums which we carry on deck. We have plenty of fuel on board since we prepared for many days of motoring but the additional 325 litres of fuel is carried on deck. Therefore we topped up the main tank up with 150L and we will be able to reach South Africa on this tank easily (we can motor on it for about 6 days). We tend to take every opportunity on the ocean with calm waves for keeping all the tanks fully loaded since bad weather can always occur and you never know when the next opportunity presents itself.

Just after we finished filling up the tanks we were a bit distracted by a large flock of birds circling a small patch of ocean right next to the ship.

We had a closer look and then we saw the first gust of water, blowing out of the ocean… Whales!!! Apparently they were feeding right next to our position, so we took in the sails and immediately changed course to where we saw them. What followed was nothing less than a cat-and-mouse game between us and the whales with the birds as indicators where we would be able to find them. We moved from patch to patch, only to find out that whenever we got close, the whales and the birds would be moving away to a different spot. After about one hour we finally gave up and settled for a few glimpsed of dorsal fins and lots of waterspouts from these magnificent animals. However, we did see them!!!

Anyway, it is looking good for our run towards Richards Bay. We have about

500 miles to go, but with motor sailing we can maintain good speed so we hope to be able to reach Richards Bay on Friday (evening?). On the way there we will have moved through 2 time zones and we have just set our ship clocks back with one hour and the other hour will be taken off our clocks just before we arrive. This means that we should be able to make phone calls again when we arrive and we should be pretty close to the time back home.

Wednesday 14 November

Local time: 19.30 Position: 27.37S  38.07E, Course 275 T, speed 6.9 kts, True Wind speed 18 kts from S

This morning we witnessed a very rare event. We had no wind whatsoever and the ocean did not have a single ripple on it. We were the only cause for our own waves, but the ocean itself was completely flat. Now, if you have never been on an ocean it may not sound that special. However, believe me, it is a really extraordinary thing. You have to understand that the ocean is always moving from any weather anywhere on this great body of water. We really enjoyed it and we have been going as steady as if we were at anchor in a quiet bay, except for the engine sound. This was a good sign of another very nice day!

Later in the morning the wind picked up again (well, a bit) and we could do some motor sailing again. We are now 320 miles away from Richards bay and it seems that we really will be able to make it on Friday. We’re looking forward to a beer in the nearest pub!

Another nice thing happened today. We have got a stowaway! Yes, it is a nice small feathery animal, called a bird… 🙂 He flew around the ship this afternoon and then started making passes through the cockpit. After flying in and out the cockpit, he eventually decided that he preferred to be inside and set himself comfortably on our fresh fruit hammock in the main cabin.

This is where he started grooming himself and started checking out the ship on the inside. We tried to make him as comfortable as possible by showing our interest with bright camera flashes and pushing breadcrumbs towards him.

He did not really appreciate all this attention so he moved to the front cabin for a nap. He made himself at home and flew in and out of the ship a few times. We are not sure where he is now (he might have flown away) but we hope that he has found a nice hiding place on board until we arrive in South Africa.

Thursday 15 November

Local time: 19.30 Position: 27.55S  34.59E, Course 250 T, speed 7.0 kts, True Wind speed 13 kts from NE

We had a bad night… Not because anything happened, but just because last night the wind picked up and it was accompanied by an annoying swell which kept swinging the ship just out of rhythm. Therefore we spent the day doing lazy stuff like sunbathing and doing as little as possible. The sun was shining throughout the day and the annoying waves eased out during the day so we’re back at the calm ocean now. Later tonight we expect the wind to pick up again, this time from the north with good strength so we can continue sailing again tonight.

We have 165 miles to go to Richards Bay, so we do expect to arrive safely tomorrow end of the day. If you do not get a sailmail tomorrow, it means that we’ve hit the booze and are simply forgetting that the people back home want to hear from us… Instead, you can try and call us as of tomorrow end of the day since we should be in range of the South African telephone network by then. Oh yeah, we also just changed the clocks to the local South Africa time which is UTC +2 so almost no time difference with home!

Right now, Neil is preparing the other half of the Mahi-mahi so we’ll probably be in for another delicious meal tonight! Matty and I are curious whether he can live up to his previous established standards again. We’ll let you know!!!

Friday 16 November

We have arrived in Richard’s bay safely and are now getting acquainted with the local booze.

  1. Hi there, great trip. I am interested in crewing the last leg from SA to Europe if you need the help. I have 3000 miles sailed in Med and I have crossed the Atlantic last year from Gibraltar to Salvador. I can send you resumé. Fair winds. Rafael.

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