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Leaving Madagascar

Saturday, 15 August 2009, at sea

Just us, Mpaninabo Bay, northern Madagascar
Just us, at the tip of Madagascar

Dear Friends and Family,

At 6:30 this morning we fired up our engines and pulled our anchor out of the mud of our little bay at the northern tip of Madagascar.  We dodged the reefs to get out of the bay and set sail for the Seychelles.

The winds in this 600 mile channel blow predominantly from the southeast and they can be ugly.  When we came down from the Seychelles in 2007 we actually had to pull into tiny Farquhar atoll for several days to wait for calmer and/or more easterly winds.  Now that we're going northeast, we want more southerly winds.

Passing Cap d'Ambre lighthouse, Madagascar
Passing Cap d'Ambre lighthouse, Madagascar

Several days ago we noticed that we might have a good weather window for the channel, with lighter winds from the SSE.  So we sailed around to Hellville, cleared out (had to pay a bribe), bought our final provisions (fruits, veggies, and Madagascar rum), said our goodbye's to our cruising friends and started island hopping up the coast.  We made it to the north tip of Madagascar in 3 day-sails and then waited a day doing final projects.

We were expecting quite rough conditions just off the tip of Madagascar but so far the winds have been 18‑23 knots from the SSE.  However, the sea is very confused here, which makes for a bumpy ride.  There are several sea-mounts on our course and even though the tops of them are 1,000m (3,000') below us, they can create confused seas.

The main complication is that there's a general westerly current in the southern Indian that has to flow around Madagascar, and that flow is concentrated at the ends.  We've had as much as 3.3 knots of current trying to push us northwest when we want to go northeast.  So we're having to steer 20 higher than we want just to keep our course of 50 magnetic.  Hopefully this current will die down as we get further away from Madagascar.

At noon we were at 1136'S 4934'E, 34 miles from Madagascar with about 550 miles to go to the Seychelles.  The sea seems to be flattening out, the sky is clear, and we're all well on board (but missing our extra crew!)

Fair Winds and Calm Seas -- Jon and Sue


Sunday, 16 August 2009, heading for the Seychelles

Dear Friends and Family,

Only 1 ship passed near us, north of Madagascar
Only 1 ship passed near us

The first night at sea is usually difficult as we get used to the motion of Ocelot but we had a reasonable night last night.  The wind stayed at 60‑80 apparent at 18‑24 knots so we had 1 reef in the main and the full jib and Ocelot sailed along happily as the stars blazed overhead.

This morning we sailed past Farquhar, the tiny atoll we ducked into in 2007 to wait out some high winds.  Jon threw out the fishing line and before he'd even tied it off he had a nice fat tuna, which will no doubt feature at dinner time.

Today the winds have both backed and lightened a bit, with commensurate flattening of the seas.  I hesitate to mention this, as I don't want to jinx anything - especially when the GRIBs said the winds were moving forward.  So we shook the reef out of the main and let the sails out a bit.  Ocelot's happily frolicking along under pale blue skies.

At noon we were at 949'S 5118'E, or 183 miles from Madagascar with 396 miles to the Seychelles.  We covered 150 miles yesterday but we actually sailed much further as these currents we're in are stealing a good knot off our speed.  It's somewhat frustrating to be sailing so well, making over 8 knots through the water but only covering 6+ knots over the bottom.  The GPS says that our maximum speed so far was 10.3 knots over the bottom, so we must have been doing over 11 knots through the water at some point.

The current has died down a bit (1.4 knots at noon) but it's also turned somewhat south of west so it's more in our face (we're heading northeast).  We don't remember such strong currents in 2007 - maybe they're seasonal.

Fair Winds and Calm Seas -- Jon and Sue

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