We have just rounded Cap D'Ambre and I can report that Madagascar looks beautiful.
After a rough and bouncy night, the sea flattened out as we approached the coast at sun rise. A favourable current and good breeze has us flying around the top at 10+kt. But now that we are here - we have decided to go to Mayotte, a French island about 240nm south west of here. Upon entry into Madagascar, we are only allowed a 90 day visa. We wish to leave Madagascar towards the end of October for South Africa. So we shall hang out in Mayotte for a month or two before going to Madagascar. It's supposed to be quite nice. (Inspite of the French, he says) 3114 NM from Padang - 18.5 days
The wind and seas have eased a bit for our final leg to the top of Madagascar. We should round Cap D'Ambre tomorrow during daylight hours. Looking forward to getting off this magic carpet (aka roller coaster!!) ride and into the calm protected waters in the lee of Madagascar.
185nm to Cap d'Ambre, north Madagascar
We had a rainy night but plenty of sunshine so far today for the solar panels. Since coming through the gap on Tues we have been angling south. Today we head west and tomorrow north west along the coast of Madagascar and then over the top Sat morning. 2782nm fromPadang, 357nm to the north end of Madagascar What was it you used to say Patricia? We can almost smell the barn!?
Yesterday afternoon we navigated our way through the Mascarene Gap, an area between two large banks or shallow areas. Not a great feat as it?s about 65 miles wide! Now we are on a more southwesterly course making our way over to the NW coast of Madagascar. The plan is to try and get as much south as we can before we reach the coast so that we have the wind and swell behind us as we go up and over the top end of Madagascar. But- in the meantime for the next couple of days we are on a more rocky rolling point of sail. With any luck and the forecast is correct, the wind and swell will start easing soon.
Still moving along quite nicely downwind with just the headsail. Hurry Up, Slow down, Hurry up!! The latest weather forecast shows the winds easing around the top end of Madagascar in time for our arrival in a few days. Hurray! Now - wouldn?t it be nice if we could get there during daylight hours. Looks like it might be time to speed up our magic carpet ride.
2415 miles from Padang, 712 miles to the top end of Madagascar
Still moving along comfortably downwind with just the headsail. We had quite a bit of rain and wind last night but things have settled down today. Heavy clouds fill the sky so the solar panels are struggling.
We expect to be at the north end of Madagascar about Fri or Sat. Currently the forecast has a lot of wind there so we have reduced our headsail in size and are trying to slow down a bit so that the weather has a chance to improve by the time we get there. Yea right!!
Still moving along quite nicely downwind with just the headsail. Have shut the freezer off today. We just have a couple of frozen made-ahead meals left. Time to get inventive with the dry stores. The freezer consumes a lot of power and with these cloudy days our solar input just isn?t enough to keep the batteries happy. Happy batteries are important to keep the Captain happy!! 2115 miles from Padang, 1029 miles to the top end of Madagascar
Still moving along quite nicely downwind with just the headsail. Saw several cargo ships on AIS last night. Now today - nothing. Maybe we passed through a shipping lane.
Chatting twice daily on our SSB radio with several other boats.
Neptune Highway at Rodrigues, AdiejeWah & Nauti Nauti at Chagos, Althea & Jaga II a couple hundred miles behind us.
We are moving along quite nicely downwind with just the headsail. The big excitement for the day has been our first AIS target since leaving Sumatra - a cargo ship heading east bound for Singapore. It was 16 miles away and too far to actually see - even when looking out while on the crest of a big wave. Maybe we'll start seeing more shipping now as we approach the north end of Madagascar.
Doesn't take much to amuse us!!
Well, what a difference another day can make!! We are now heading for Madagascar.
A weather forecast of 30+kt breezes and high seas around Rodrigues in the upcoming days made us consider our options. A special thank you to Des in South Africa and Ashley in Townsville, both with first hand experience in the area, for their advice and insights on the weather.
So Plan B is to head to the north end of Madagascar and spend the next few months exploring the NW coast. This area has been quite popular with cruisers visiting in recent years. We have tucked the mainsail away and are now just flying the headsail. We aren't going as fast as we were when the wind was on the beam but it's a nice comfortable run downwind.
1623 miles from Padang 1565 miles to the north end of Madagascar
Well, what a difference a day can make!! We have rather boisterous conditions today.
Last evening the wind picked up from the NW and we were able to sail through the night. This morning after sunrise, thank goodness, the wind dropped off as we headed into a bunch of rain clouds. A couple of hours later we were breaking our way through and starting to see blue sky ahead. Now the wind has filled in from the SE but the seas are quite confused and choppy. The wind is forecast to move more easterly and once it does things should settle down.
1572 miles from Padang 872 miles to Rodrigues
The wind dropped out and we have been motoring since midnight. We have a long lazy swell and a favourable current helping us along. The forecast has a change coming tomorrow or the next day. We will pass through a trough with some squally rain and then should find some stronger favourable SE breezes on the other side.
But in the meantime, having a pleasant relaxing birthday gazing out into the blue and we will enjoy a glass of champagne a little later.
It was a starry starry night and now it's a blue sky day. The wind and waves have eased a bit and it's lovely smooth sailing. The temperature is very pleasant and we've started to wear T-shirts instead of just swim wear. Gone are the hot humid SE Asian days. There's a pot of soup on the stove and some fresh bread in the oven!! We have today passed the half way point between Padang and Rodrigues. The second half of the journey is likely to be a mix of light and strong winds.
Had a couple of passing showers this morning. The past couple of days have been overcast with lumpy seas in the morning and then the afternoons have brightened up to make the solar panels happy. The forecast suggests lighter conditions the next couple of days. It will be disheartening to slow down but the trade off will be a little smoother ride.
The boobie birds continue to accompany us. At cocktail hour a couple tend to circle the boat and come close to the stern to look in at us. Last night we noticed one hitching a ride on the port bow. Not a problem though as he seems to be toilet trained and kept his tail feathers over the edge.
Yet another good night and no fish died on deck.
We are in SSB radio contact with several other boats we know in the area. Unfortunately propagation has not been good the past couple of days. Fortunately most also have satellite phones so we can still send emails and SMS messages and report our positions and discuss any problems.
We are in daily contact via our satellite phone with Des Cason who is in Durban, South Africa. Des is a retired yachtsman with many years and miles of sailing in this part of the world. He is very generous in sharing his experience and local weather knowledge. We send him a daily position report and within a couple of hours he sends back a two to three day outlook specific to us. He has been providing this service free of charge the past four years. Last year he guided more than a hundred boats across to South Africa and down the coast to Cape Town.
Today we are 860 miles from Padang with 1586 miles to go to Rodrigues.
Yet another good night. We had a small early morning shower which I thought might be nice to rinse the salt off the deck - but we keep getting broad sided and splashed by the occasional big wave. Today the wind has moved back of the beam so the ride is getting smoother. We are now on a rhumb line course for Rodrigues. I had a flying fish come join me on my watch last night. He landed in the cockpit and flip flopped his way to the doorway of the cabin. I was able to grab him with my silicone oven mitt and toss him overboard. Unfortunately two other flying fish were not so lucky and died on deck overnight.
We had another good night. Nice steady breeze and no rain. The wind has lessened a bit today but we are now on a beam reach and still making good time. 498 miles from Padang and 1954 miles to go to Rodrigues !! Yesterday we noticed a couple of boobie birds flying around us and today we have seen dozens. There are a few flying fish around which must be attracting them. So far no fishes or bird poop on deck- all is well on board.
We had a very good night. Nice steady breeze and no rain. AND best of all - no other boats. After the last couple of years in SE Asia maneuvering at times amongst hundreds of boats, it is awesome not to see anyone else out here.
We are still beating into the breeze and the sea is a bit lumpy but we are making good progress. 185 miles for the day. Hoping the wind turns a bit more easterly.
There are a few other boats out here that we are talking to on the SSB radio and satellite Phone. AdiejeWah at Chagos, Nauti Nauti is 700m E of Chagos, Althea and Jaga II are 400m in front of us, Starcharger left Darwin Mon, Melimila still in Phuket awaiting new sail.
We were surprised to find ourselves sailing not long after leaving Padang last evening. Had expected to spend the first couple of days motoring south to find some wind. Had several squalls through the night so we are a bit sleep deprived today. The sea is quite lumpy and we are punching into it to make as many miles south as we can. Will probably take a couple of days to get through the ITCZ and the squalls. Then hopefully we'll have the wind over our shoulder and some friendlier sea conditions.
In amongst the squalls last night we also had to dodge several brightly lit squid boats. Hoping that will be the last we see of the local fishing fleet and any boats we come across now will show up on AIS.
Nice to finally be out on the open sea and on our way.
Goodbye Indonesia, Wonderful Indonesia, Goodbye SE Asia. Lots of good times & great people we've met along the way. Looking forward to getting out there & doing some sailing & exploring new countries.
Took the better part of two days to complete the check out procedure in Padang. Incredible the paperwork!! Smiling friendly people everywhere just trying to do their job so couldn't complain.
Will probably do an update every day or two with our satellite phone - just so I can get my technology fix.
We arrived into Padang this morning after an overnight motor. Next to no wind and what there was always seemed on the nose. It was a nice moonlit night with just one passing shower. Not a real good test - but a silicone repair job on a leaky salon window may have worked.
We shall spend a couple of days here doing a bit of shopping and having a look around before checking out of Indonesia with the authorities.
Left Nias Island yesterday morning and spent last night at Sipika Island. On our way there we crossed the equator and now we find ourselves in the Southern Hemisphere again. This was our third crossing of the equator. First time was between Panama and French Polynesia. Second time was between Indonesia and Singapore. Tonight we are anchored inside of the surf break on Tanahbala Island. There is a Telkomsel tower at the head of the bay with a strong phone signal but sadly no internet. Next stop - the bright lights of Padang.
Last day of the Nias Yacht Rally and we are looking forward to a 'Farewell Party' tonight with all our guides. This was the first time they have hosted such an event and have done a great job. A lot of effort went into the preparation of the tours and dancing. For example, hundreds of children prepared for several days to show us their traditional dancing on a visit to their school. Friendly smiling people everywhere we turned. Interesting traditional villages. A big highlight was watching the stone jumping - traditionally part of the training of young men for battle. Nias Island is predominantly Christian with approximately 10% of the population Muslim. Our visit coincided with Ramadan so Nias was a good choice - food & beer available throughout the day !
Day 1 - Nias Yacht Rally - Teluk Dalam city tour - highlights included seeing the stone jumping monument, a visit to a Catholic church adorned with local wood carvings & in traditional architecture style, a cool drink with the delightful Sister Yustina Hondrö, tea & coffee with the Regent of South Nias and then a cold Bintang to complete an enjoyable day.
We moved to Lagundri Bay on the south end of Nias Island. Another world class surf location with huge surf breaking at the entrance to the bay. Unfortunately there is a lot of swell invading the bay and it's a bit rocky and rolly. Not so bad for us in our catamaran but the two monohulls anchored with us are not enjoying it. The swell is up enough throughout the bay to make it very difficult to land the dinghy on the beach and there are no piers. So tomorrow we'll probably move a few miles east to another bay and the town of Teluk Dalam. There will be five days of festival activities for us there next week.
Enjoying a pleasant stop at a small island - Pulau Asu- off the west coast of Nias Island. We spent a couple of hours walking around the island and visited three surf orientated accommodation businesses. There are also about 50 indigenous people living on the island who help support the surfing industry.
Surfers - a whole new culture of people to us. We met an interesting bunch yesterday. Professional men from all over the world travelling the world to surf. This part of Indonesia is apparently 'world renowned' in surfing circles.
We had a good trip down to Nias Island from Sabang. The first night we had a squall with 25kn breezes to liven things up between 1 and 2 am. The rest of the time there was a long gentle ocean swell with a light breeze which was NOT on the nose for a change. We even managed to turn the motor off and sail for a few hours.
Typically there is not much sailing in these equatorial waters. The other nice feature of this trip was the near absence of fishing boats and shipping - such a contrast from Malacca Strait on the east side of Sumatra.
The little black box (MDI - mechanical diesel interface) has gone on the port engine again. The Volvo guys in KL will try to get their Indonesian colleagues to come to Nias Island or Padang to replace it for us. It is still under warranty. In the meantime, Bob has attached a starter switch so that we can still use the engine. The instruments (rev counter, temp gauge, battery indicator) do not work without the MDI. Also - it seems the alternator on port engine is no longer charging. Something else for him to fix !!
In the meantime, we have anchored in behind a surf break in a nicely protected anchorage complete with communications tower. What more could a girl want!! Time for a swim and then a nap.
Just testing - sending an email via sat phone to YIT.
Our current plan is to leave Sabang tomorrow morning and make our way down the west coast of Sumatra to Nias Island. Total distance approx 400 miles.
Our five days of activities during the Sabang Marine Festival included much more than just enjoying the local food, touring the island and watching traditional dancing. The crews from twenty boats were invited to participate in many interactive experiences – joining in a parade with local children and a marching band down the main street of town, planting bougainvillea on the boulevard outside a school, wearing Acehnese traditional clothing, making mats from coconut palm fronds, line fishing in a pond stocked with an assortment of fish, picking up plastic off a section of beach, playing traditional drums made of goat skin and jackfruit wood after receiving instruction on how to ‘slap and tap’, making coffee in the Acehnese traditional manner. Kopi tarik (pulled coffee) is where the freshly brewed coffee is repeatedly poured and filtered through a cotton strainer from one container to another to enhance the flavour.
On the last day of the Marine Festival we took a ferry across to the city of Banda Aceh where we visited the Tsunami Museum. The 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake was of a magnitude greater than 9M and the epicentre was located just off the NW coast of Sumatra. It set off a series of tsunamis with a maximum height of 30 meters reported and claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people in several countries across the region. The city of Banda Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra was one of the hardest hit losing 90,000 people. Almost fifteen years after the event, driving around the rebuilt areas of Banda Aceh, it was difficult to imagine the destruction and devastation that took place. Local guides described their first hand experiences. Monuments and memorials noted the names of the dead. Pictures and video clips in the museum helped to re-enact the event. Seeing a 2600 ton barge that had been swept 5 km inland into a residential area helped to make one better appreciate the power and destruction of the tsunamis.
While at Banda Aceh, we were also treated to some more traditional dancing. The ‘Saman’ or ‘dance of a thousand hands’ is a sitting dance performed without musical instruments. The young men sit in a kneeling position, singing and clapping and slapping their hands on their shoulders and laps and swaying their torsos and heads in an ever-increasing fast paced rhythm. Quite spectacular to watch.
Still in the same place (between Pulau Rubiah & Pulau Weh) and we’ve been enjoying some lazy days. The good news is we also found some nice coral. Our daily schedule includes a leisurely breakfast, a snorkel or two – maybe a dive, reading and planning for our next few months of travel, some boat jobs, happy hour get togethers and dinners ashore.
We are sitting at anchor with four other boats that we sailed through Indonesia with in 2017. We shall all continue this year across the Indian Ocean towards South Africa. It’s been great to get together again and discuss our upcoming travel plans. We won’t all go the same way or leave at the same time but we shall continue to talk via SSB radio as we cross the Indian Ocean and meet up again in Madagascar or South Africa. We are also meeting other boats here that will transit the Indian Ocean this year. Several boats we know are taking a more northern route stopping at Sri Lanka and the Maldives and we’ll meet them again on the other side later in the year.
The weather has been rather benign - the occasional shower, mostly sunny skies and light breezes. The temperature ranges from about 33C during the day to 27C at night with high humidity. It doesn’t take much physical activity during the day to break a sweat. The best place to be is in the water!! The water temperature is about 30C so not real refreshing but very easy to soak in during the heat of the day. We often sleep the first half of the night on deck as it is just that little bit cooler than inside the boat.
We’ve been doing some diving with a local dive operation. They load up their boat with all the dive gear, pick us up from our boat and we are at a dive site within 10-20 minutes. Too easy!! Not fantastic coral or spectacular visibility but a pretty nice selection of fish and assorted sea critters. We are often diving in current making it more challenging but also beautiful with fan corals and feather stars.
There is a good selection of small restaurants onshore serving local and western food. The meals are very reasonably priced at about $3 or $4. Typically there is no alcohol served although we have found a couple that do. A few local tricks we’ve learned such as ordering ‘apple juice’ (nudge/nudge/wink/wink) and receiving an icy cold amber yeasty smelling beverage.
Several more boats will be arriving over the next few days in anticipation for a local ‘Marine Festival’ this coming weekend. We’ll be treated to local tours, dinners and sporting activities. Looking forward to it.
We changed anchorage and have moved a few miles west to Pulau (Island) Rubiah. A more touristy area with several dive shops, small hotels/guesthouses and restaurants. The water is lovely & clear with lots of fish. Haven't seen much for coral yet - will keep looking.
Forecast is for rain tomorrow but then the weather looks good for the next few days
The prices are pretty reasonable for diving here so may get the locals to take us out for a few dives.
We have arrived into Sabang after a slow motor with just a bit of sailing. Quite a steady stream of big ships coming over the top of Sumatra entering & leaving the Malacca Strait.
Two dinghy loads of officials to greet us with plenty of paperwork & smiles. Then we had to visit them in their offices to collect our paperwork & pasports. The whole check in process took about 4 hours.
Our arrival has coincided with a local festival with events & food galore.. But first we must check out the water & snorkeling. Water looks marvelous!!
Electrical and chart plotter problems sorted. A loose wire and a faulty update seemed to be the culprits.
Time to leave Malaysia and what a send off we received. Military ships galore as well as jet aircraft circling us in the sky. Or perhaps our departure just coincided with LIMA'19 (Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibiton)
So... we decide to motor over to Kuah which is the main town on Langkawi. We'll do a last grocery shop for fresh fruit & veg and then check out of Malaysia at the Harbour Master, Customs & Immigration. Right? Wrong...
First thing we notice is our one year old chart plotter/multi-function display at the navigation table doesn't want to turn on. Keeps trying, flickering and going off. No problem - we have another one at the helm station. No - it doesn't work because it is the slave and the nav table chartplotter is the master. No problem - we can navigate by eye and use the navigation programs on our ipad and iphone.
Hmmm the autopilot isn't working - it seems it can't find the GPS. No problem - we have a spare autopilot. Strange,,, there doesn't seem to be any power getting to it. Or for that matter to any of the pumps on port side (watermaker, galley sink, port head).
Well Eric - this is the cruising life at its finest - think we'll be here a few more days...
We booked Icaros into Rebak Marina for a few days and we took advantage of some cheap Air Asia flights to Penang. Bob & I visited the Indonesian Consulate to get a long stay visa. The rest of the time we enjoyed touring Penang, sampling the food and walking around historic George Town. We introduced Eric to some of the local favourites such as Cendol - an iced sweet dessert that contains worm-like green rice flour jelly, red beans, coconut milk and palm sugar.
Eric has come to visit. Most of the jobs on the 'To Do List' are done, the boat is laden with food and grog and now it's time to do some touristy fun things. Spent a few enjoyable days anchored off Cenang Beach. Nice beach to walk along with a great choice of bars and restaurants.
Painted & polished & ready to get back in the water. Looking pretty nice!!
We'll spend the next three weeks around Langkawi preparing for our next passage. Still a few more jobs on the 'To Do' list and lots of provisioning. Langkawi is a duty free island & they have some pretty good liquor prices. The waterline is going to be quite a bit lower...
Currently up out of the water at Rebak Island Marina to repaint the bottom & a few other jobs. Situated on a small island off of Langkawi Island. A nice resort next door complete with pool & swim up bar that we can use. A pleasant reward after a hard days work. We expect to be here about ten days.
Our last stop in Thailand was spent on Koh Lanta. Lovely beach full of restaurants & bars and best of all - no noisy long-tail boats. Could have spent more time here but shall take advantage of a favourable breeze & make our way to Langkawi.
A fun day yesterday. Started with a dinghy parade. Drone footage will likely appear on the Sail Thailand facebook page in a day or so.
A local boatyard hosted the day and we were treated to traditional Thai food, cocktails & beer, batik painting, vegetable carving and rope splicing. Several local boat related businesses were on hand with displays and info.
We're at a well protected anchorage/river but the murky water isn't conducive to swimming. Tomorrow night is the big finale for the rally and then we'll check out of Thailand and make our way back to Langkawi.
One of the Sail Thailand Rally activities was a beach clean up. We were joined by 20+ school children and about a dozen adults from a nearby resort. Only took an hour to fill several bags and this was quite a clean beach.
We are in Port Takola Marina near Krabi with its lovely karst landscape in the background. Have spent a bit of time enjoying their new restaurant/bar complete with live entertainment.
Ventured into Krabi town to find a shop to check that our main sail winch motor was OK. Have replaced a control box for the winches & so far so good.
Another day we rented a long tail boat with several other Rally members and visited a Muslim village community living on a nearby island. We checked out their rice farming, fish & crab farming, model boat building, wood carving, batik printing as well as one of their Seafood restaurants.
The past couple of days in Nai Harn Bay were spent socializing & saying goodbye to many. Thailand is a crossroads for our cruising friends. Some will remain in SE Asia for awhile, some will head to the Med, some will return to Australia & some like us will head across the Indian Ocean towards South Africa.
Yesterday we sailed from Nai Harn Bay towards Krabi which is the next stop on our rally schedule. We are currently anchored below one of the King's palaces. So far - no invite.
An interesting day of sailing yesterday... When raising the main sail, the electric winch struggled to get it to the top of the mast and then died - along with all the electrics. Not sure why it just didn't trip a breaker? We could get all the electrics going again but had to avoid using any of the electric winches (head sail & anchor) or they would knock out the electrics. Fun & games. Shall have to use man power until we get this winch motor sorted.
Day 2 of the Rally saw us visiting a Pearl farm in a nearby bay. About 1500 oysters hanging around in cages for 1.5 years. They don't have to feed them but they do have to clean off the barnacles & other sea growth each month. Then we were off to a rum factory... Need I say anything more !! Up to the highest point on Phuket Island to see Big Buddha and enjoy the views. The day was topped off with a terrific buffet dinner & excellent cultural theatre show at Siam Niramit.
We've come back into Ao Chalong to join up with the Sail Thailand Rally. Had a very nice lunch with everyone at the Phuket Yacht Club. There's only about a dozen boats in this Rally . We already know three of the boats. So nice to catch up with them as well as meet several others.
We have settled back into Nai Harn Bay at the South end of Phuket Island. A nice protected bay in this NE season. We're trying to have our days start with an early morning walk up to the lookout with sometimes a stop at a French Boulangerie on the way back. Lots of restaurants & fresh fruit vendors ashore to keep us happy. There's even a couple of reasonable snorkeling spots in the bay.
The Big Buddha is having a bit of trouble watching us through the clouds. An uneventful past 24 hours with not much wind or rain. The storm has passed us by but we may see a day or two of rainy conditions. We have our rain collection gear in place to try and catch some !!
Anchored at the top end of Ao Chalong under the watchful eyes of Big Buddha. The calm before the storm? Eerily quiet this morning. This bay is usually a hive of boating activity but there has been a ban placed on all boats leaving port until Tropical Storm Pabuk passes by. The eastern coast of this part of Thailand will bear the brunt of the storm & we should only feel the after effects - fingers crossed !!
We took advantage of some favourable breezes and have returned to Nai Harn Bay at Phuket. The weather forecast has a tropical storm moving into the area in the next couple of days. We shall move up the east coast of Phuket and find a snug anchorage.
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