While we were a bit disappointed that we have had to delay landfall and could not indeed lay Durban as planned, we just received news that Durban is no longer an option for landfall. The storm we just sailed through hit Durban hard 2 days ago, completely wiping out the marina there, and destroying over 100 boats. Whatever we just experienced on the open ocean was probably nothing compared to being in that harbor with boats ripped from docks, docks ripped from land. Once again, we feel lucky and looked out for by the man upstairs.
On the chart just offshore of the SA coast the chart notes "ABNORMAL WAVES of up to 20m in height, preceded by a deep trough, may be encountered to the seaward edge of the Continental Shelf" ... these waves are caused when the L pressure SWly winds go up against the up to 6kt S-Swly Agulhas Current. This is why we have to be so careful about timing our crossing of the current and make it safely to the 100 fathom line along the coast before the heart of the SWly hits. Right now it is forecast to hit early Friday morning. We are aiming to arrive in the wee hours of Friday morning too. Oh yeah, did we mention that Friday is the 13th? Good thing we aren't superstitious aboard Kailani!
1800 nm PASSAGE from COCOS KEELING to CHAGOS DAY 1 Fri Aug 11 16:51 2017 NZST 1436 nm to Chagos. With all requisite repairs done to Kailani, we were ready to leave Cocos ... we further delayed departure for a few more days however due to a gorgeous change in weather and the arrival of a kid boat. Sophia was delighted to play with Paul and Antoine from Toomai for a few days. We up anchored yesterday at 1630 local, and have been rolling along between DDW and now off the wind but significantly south of our rhumbline, as the winds have gone lighter than expected. For now, enjoying the relative calm, which is easing us all into our sea legs. To read more of adventures on Cocos Keeling, go to our website LaughterJourney.com Heading 240T Speed 5.1 kts Weather 2-3m S swell, 10-12kt E DAY 2 Sat Aug 12 19:18 2017 NZST 1379 nm to Chagos. Yesterday afternoon a commercial airplane dropped down and buzzed our mast - then flew off, banked left and up ... weird! We suppose it might have been the air freight plane departing Cocos Keeling and returning to Perth, and since we have known some air freight pilots we know they might have done it just for the fun of it! Anyway, that was the most exciting thing in the last 24 hours, as we continue to sail SW to make it to the top of the High pressure system south of us that will give us favorable wind so we can turn NW toward Chagos ... all well on board Heading 224T Speed 5.4 kts Weather 2-3m S swell, 10-12kt ESE DAY 3 Sun Aug 13 19:51 2017 NZST 1254 nm to Chagos. This morning at 0900 we modified the sails to turn and go DDW - at first a great 9.5 kt ride directly on the rhumbline .... alas, that only lasted for about 30 mins. Many many squalls for the last 12 hours sucking most of the wind out and making us chase it so we did not have to laboriously change our sail plan ... The seas are up and now and the winds are down so the ride is rough and wobbly. But the rain has stopped now and we anticipate wind filling in by evening to make the ride smoother. Heading 290T Speed 6.5 kts Weather 2-3m S swell, 13kt ESE DAY 4 Mon Aug 14 18:15 2017 NZST 1080 nm to Chagos. Still poled out wing and wing on port tack, making our DDW run much more on the rhumbline. Last night was a long rough one constant rain and squalls, with winds gusting to 35kts ... we had decided NOT to shorten sail before sun down as we wanted to make some speed. Well, we did, surfing the waves and generally running down wind at high speeds. Hit 15.5kts on one surf! It was a constant helm management situation to keep from rounding up or back-winding the main when we rolled off of these giant S Ocean swells every 10 secs or so. We had had constant rain, squalls and cloud cover for almost 24 hours, but this morning it dawned blue as we are getting more northerly, riding the top of that high... all in all, it is a much smoother ride today, still the wallowing DDW motion, but manageable and consistent winds. Fingers crossed, now it looks like we should be able to maintain this sail plan and heading with weather consistently in the 15-20 kt range. Heading 308T Speed 10.1 kts Weather 3-4m S swell, 18-20kt SE DAY 5 Tue Aug 15 18:30 2017 NZST 872 nm to Chagos. We are riding the top edge of the southern ocean high below us, and have a low that has developed to the north of us, feeding the winds (otherwise known as a "squash zone"). The weather is a constant grey with rain and wind squalls providing variable wind direction and wind speeds from 10 to 35 kts. The seas have increased in size and frequency, making it one surf to the next. Hit 16.4 kts last night, but in truth, it is a bit on the scary edge.... at 0530 this morning our autopilot stopped working. The main got backwinded, we had a heck of time turning Kailani back to DDW, but did, then quickly furled the jib, hove to with the staysail, and started to work the problem. With some coordinated US shoreside support through sat phone texts (thank you Ann and Bill!!) the manufacturer was able to relay some suggestions for a fix (love that Will Hamm @ WH Autopilots answers his cell phone from 6am to 12 midnight 365 days a year!!). Turns out it was our new remote for the system, sending wonky signals to the AP unit ... when we disconnected it, the problem was fixed. Now she is back to running with the autopilot working. Only challenge now without a remote in the cockpit is that we can steer only from down below, and to turn on or off the AP, one person has to be at the helm, and one person has to be down below, 20 feet and 7 companionway stairs away. With Jen's knee replacement too fresh, she is in a knee brace for added stability, but it is a bit of dance in these sea states. The sun came up, there was a tiny hint of rainbow off to the south, and the whole thing took less than 2 hours. Jen got back to the rack to finish her off-watch, and we thanked the spirits once more for looking out for we sailors on the high seas. All well on board. Heading 300T Speed 10.8 kts Weather 4-5m S swell, 20-25kt SE, squally, rain DAY 6 Wed Aug 16 17:54 2017 NZST 693 nm to Chagos. A long night of constant wind-sucking squalls made for s slow night of sailing, with us driving around in circles to keep the main and jib full. We spent a lot of time with a NE wind which made for especially rolly times since we were side on to the otherwise surf-providing swell. But the sun always comes up in the morning when things look better! We are now back more or less headed directly to Chagos, making good speed and riding with the waves. Yesterday afternoon Kailani hit her passage surf record of 18.7kts - woohoo! Altho it is only noon local now for us, feels like first light of morning - fresh bread in the oven, and all well on board. Heading 294T Speed 9.7 kts Weather 3-4m S swell, 15-20kt SE, squalls ahead, cc 100% DAY 7 Thu Aug 17 17:51 2017 NZST 512 nm to Chagos. Yesterday afternoon for a brief bit we saw a small blue hole in the otherwise grey and dismal sky - a fleeting glance of sunshine ... Not to last though, as we have had almost constant deluges of rain with wind shifting squalls for the last 18 hours. But the miles are ticking off ... Heading 294T Speed 10.3 kts Weather 3-4m S swell, 15-20kt SE, squalls, cc 100% DAY 8 Fri Aug 18 17:33 2017 NZST 305 nm to Chagos. We are surfing our way down the waves with a steady 20kt SE wind that settled in around midnight last night. The previous 56 hours or so of squalls, wind shifts, wind speeds ranging from 4 kts to 35 kts, took its toll on our rig. Yesterday at dusk, the jib sheet parted at the spin pole, leaving our jib flying out forward ... we quickly furled the jib, then unfurled a little bit to starboard so Harl could reattach a new port side sheet, furled it up again; lowered the spin pole, attached the new sheet, unfurled the jib - then the furling line started to chafe. It snapped off its cover, we managed to get the sail all the way out and now are just praying we can furl the headsail without incident when needed with that partially chafed furling line. Sophia was down below at the chart table, as this was an "all hands on deck" situation, and she stood by to turn our AP unit on and off as needed so that Jen could steer Kailani through the seas and wind shifts and Harl could work the foredeck. All of this took about 1 1/2 hours, and of course while the wind was building to 35kts and another squall was coming from behind. But, we got it all settled and looked off to the west and could see the sky & clouds all turning red with a sunset... Down below as we regrouped (aka de-stressed), Sophia reminded u sky at night, sailor's delight..."... Heading 294T Speed 10.3 kts Weather 2-3m S swell, 18-22kt SE DAY 9 Sat Aug 19 17:42 2017 NZST 120 nm to Chagos. This morning we furled our jib without event and are sailing with the single reefed main hard on the wind to Chagos. Wind is supposed to lighten, but if not we will have to further reduce sail to slow down to time our arrival for sun up. Heading 255T Speed 8.1 kts Weather 2-3m SE swell, 20-22kt SE DAY 10 Aug 20 23:12 2017 NZST At anchor Ile Fouquet, Salomon Islands, Chagos Archipelago. At last ... Yesterday when we wrote we talked about needing to slow down to make it here in the daylight hours ... well Mother Nature took care of that for us, as no sooner had we sent that update that it seemed we had arrived in a trough of no wind, lots of rain. Bound and determined not to use any of our precious diesel, we broke a new passage record for Kailani under sail - 1.2kts. We had carefully decreased the sail plan for the remaining 120 nm to slow the continued rocket ride, but instead started to wonder if we would make it by sundown the next day!! Well, wind filled in last night with some squalls, so we chased it around and had almost constant rain. The day dawned with some sun, and a light SE breeze, so we pulled into the lagoon pass by 1200 local. We were greeted by a huge 30kt squall bearing down from windward. But this time we had a working engine and confirmed waypoints! So we did not hesitate, once the sails were down, Kailani turned into the downpour with no visibility ahead, and we threw out the fishing line! 30 secs later we had a nice tuna on the hook. Anyway, all turned out well as we navigated to the anchorage. Two other boats are here, so within 20 mins of our hook down they were over here to chat. One leaves this afternoon on passage to Mauritius, but has not been able to pull gribs, so we downloaded wx for them. The other are some friends from Cocos who wanted to share their harrowing passage stories... Anyway, here we are, finally. We sailed just under 1,800 nm to go 1,500 on the rhumbline. The repair list is long, but we are all well on board and can't wait to see what this place looks like in the sunshine. Weather 12kts SE, 100%cc NOTES FROM OUR TIME IN CHAGOS Mon Aug 28 16:18 2017 NZST At anchor Ile Fouquet, Salomon Islands, Chagos Archipelago. Since arriving we have had mostly rainy, windy, cloudy weather, with the occasional side of sunshine. We have taken full advantage of any positive weather swings with dinghy and kayak rides to explore, exercise and access great snorkeling. It is wonderful to be in a place where the marine life is abundant again. Snorkeling visits to the reef we see rays, turtles, sharks, unique brain coral and even some fish we have never seen before - an Oriental Sweetlips graced our presence the other day -look it up! Spectacular outfit for a fish!! We take particular pleasure in kayaking the island shore at high tide, as there is no real beach then, and instead we kayak through the tops of leaning palm trees and find ourselves staring eye to eye with boobies and their young chicks, their nests only a couple feet from the surface of the water in this land of no predators for them. During one morning kayak we were graced by a pod of 80-100 feeding porpoise, making their way through the lagoon as we made our way through the pouring rain. Felt more like the PNW than the tropics .
A couple days ago we took our big dinghy down to Ile Boddam, to the old settlement of Chagosians who were evicted ... there is now a "yacht club" of sorts, each passing cruiser leaving its mark by steadying a shelter, organizing the various plastic trash so prevalent on every windward shore. There was a wheelbarrow made from plastic jugs and flip flops ... mostly it was a bit eery, not much left of the former islanders except some old structure walls and a memorial placed by some Chagossian descendants who were granted permission by the BIOT to come place a memorial for their loved ones at rest that they had to leave behind. We spent a quick morning, as the weather changed dramatically and a frontal system moved in 6 hours ahead of the weather forecast ... (generally true here, weather has not been as forecast... not even close!) . We sheltered on the beach for one downpour, then in the yacht club shelter for the next, before we thought we had a clear enough window to make it back the 3.5 nm north to Kailani. Home never felt so good than that day arriving back safely to Kailani.
We have been the only boat here now for the last 6 days - glorious! We are extra careful with all things we do, as the nearest people are 100+ miles to the south, our "lee shore" in the SE winds is an open ocean cut, and when the wind shifts we have lee shores all around with the tiny sand spit just enough for us to have comfortable 360 degree swing room. We are humbled by the many many shipwrecks surrounding us (so far we have snorkeled 2 submerged ones, explored 2 beach bound ones). Today at low tide we are venturing to do a hike around the entire island of Ile Fouquet. At high tide most islands in this group have no real beach - just lush dense jungle, mostly coconut palms and mangroves. When we are near land, it sounds like Jurassic Park with all kinds of crazy and exotic bird (and other??) sounds emitting from the dense woods, with occasional movement in the lower fronds seemingly (hopefully?) linked to the wind moving across the island. Basically, hiking ashore here is the kind of place one needs a machete and an epi-pen to traverse. So off we go, machete & epi-pen packed, to explore for the day. Weather 12kts SE Sun Sep 3 21:15 2017 NZST At anchor Ile Boddam, Salomon Islands, Chagos Archipelago. The beauty of this place is certainly in its isolation. We have now been here two weeks, getting to know the "rhythm of the reef", so to speak. We have snorkeled the same spots so frequently that we felt we were getting to know the moods of the fish, which bommies had resident turtles or rays, etc. One day we noticed that the fish seemed "jumpy", and then a black tip reef shark appeared and was quite aggressive in his behavior. Looking off toward the deep we could see 4-5 more sharks lined up facing the reef ... a glance at our watches and we realized it was indeed "shark o'clock"- too late to be out on the reef! We had just seen our Oriental Sweetlips, and Harl spotted a juvenile Oriental Sweetlips doing its "hula", so we were excited to continue, but we decided the pool was closed for the day for us ...
Two days ago we had the most glorious weather when the sun came out full strength, the seas calmed down, and we supplemented our typical daily snorkel and kayak with a full afternoon of tropical beach "r&r" - eating coconuts, riding the incoming rip between Ile Fouquet and Ile Takamaka, relaxing in the shade of palm trees, and taking a ride on a very dynamic tree swing. The wind went light two nights ago, making our anchorage extremely rolly with exposure to an uncomfortable SW swell, so we have taken advantage of this light wind situation to move south to the Ile Boddam anchorage, where we are on a mooring. Anchoring is prohibited in this section of the lagoon as it is all coral bommies, so cruisers have developed moorings over time - a mixture of chain, line, shackles, mooring balls - all attached to pieces of coral. Compared to where we were at Ile Fouquet, there is relatively little current (and no roll). This makes for the perfect weather to further explore, but more importantly, finish our various sail repairs and boat prep prior to passage. Off we go to clean the bottom, a welcome relief from the heat and humidity ... We are looking at departing in 4 days (Thursday) for our passage to Mauritius. Weather 3kts SSW, sunny 92F, humidity 77% 1250nm PASSAGE CHAGOS to MAURITIUS DAY 1 Sat Sep 9 15:45 2017 NZST 1250 nm to Mauritius. Trying to optimize our wx window, we have delayed a couple days from our planned departure of Thursday. However, the time has come, so today in 3 hours we will up anchor and exit the lagoon on the rising tide, bound for Mauritius. Yesterday we moved back up to Ile Fouquet, as once the wind filled in we were not feeling too comfortable on the mooring at Ile Boddam (... surrounded by reefs, not much room to remedy a broken mooring line) and consequently we did not sleep too well. So after one last kayak of the bathtub like low tide waters between Ile Poule and Ile du Sel, it was off the mooring and back to the lovely Ile Fouquet anchorage. On the way up the lagoon, we were greeted by a large pod of dolphins that played on our bow - we drove around in circles to extend their stay as Sophia declared this the "best thing that has ever happened!". An afternoon of beach play wrapped up our time here, and now we are in the final efforts to ready Kailani down below and topsides for our 1250 nm beam reach / close reach passage. Weather 12kts SSE, cc40%, 83F, humidity 75% DAY 2 Sun Sep 10 19:06 2017 NZST 1070 nm to Mauritius. Close reaching through a slightly confused sea with a southerly 2m swell and SE wind waves which makes our motion a bit uncomfortable. We shortened sail last night furling the genoa and deploying the staysail which has cost us a couple of knots in boat speed but it no longer feels like we are holding on to a running horse that smells the barn. Even with a single reef in the main and the staysail we are making 47 nm every 6 hours which still works out well for an early morning arrival next Saturday. 1070 nm to Port Louis in Mauritius and all well on board. Heading 220 T Speed 8.2kts Weather 16 kts SE, seas 2.5m, 1010 mb, 65% cc DAY 3 Mon Sep 11 18:06 2017 NZST 884 nm to Mauritius. A beam reach ... sailor's dream. Seas are less confused so the ride is pretty comfortable. Dare we say that? We are still maintaining a shortened sail plan (1st reef main + staysail) to keep things comfortable. All well on board. Heading 220T Speed 8.2kts Weather 18kts ESE, seas 2.5m, 1013mb, 15%cc DAY 4 Tue Sep 12 18:18 2017 NZST 708 nm to Mauritius. Wind has veered and strengthened, making it more of close reach, with all of its "sporty" riding aspects in play ... . May put in a 2nd reef if the wind keeps up to prioritize comfort. Saw our first ship last night on AIS - 24 nm away. Otherwise, just us and the seabirds out here. All well on board. Heading 220T Speed 8.7kts Weather 20-24 kts SE, seas 2-3m, 1014 mb, 20% cc DAY 5 Wed Sep 13 18:15 2017 NZST 516 nm to Mauritius. Waiting for the wind to back a little which should happen sometime this afternoon. Last 12 hours has been a bucking bronco ride into the seas but thankfully squall free. Yesterday afternoon we crossed paths with a giant offshore oil rig being towed by a tug boat. It looked like a giant 5 turreted castle being pulled by a mouse! Hailing from the Netherlands, and bound for Singapore, a long way for it to travel at 4 kts ... What a strange sight on the open ocean ...Heading 233 T Speed 9.5kts Weather 20-22 kts SE, seas 2-3m, 1017 mb, 10% cc DAY 6 Thu Sep 14 18:18 NZST 2017 NZST 309 nm to Mauritius. A long night of squall on squall wind shifts, we saw lots of rain and winds sustained at 38kts for a while. We have been pushed a little west of our rhumbline so will be pinching to windward as much as possible today to keep us clear from the shoals to the west of us. The weather is cooling, relatively, as we finally had temperatures just under 80F down below this morning, first time since leaving New Caledonia back in 2015! Great to be getting further south! Heading 226 T Speed 7.2kts Weather 15-17 kts SE, seas 2m, 1018 mb, 60% cc DAY 7 Fri Sep 15 18:09 2017 NZST 118 nm to Mauritius. Well, last night at o-dark-thirty, with 190 nm to go to Mauritius, the wind died. About 24 hours sooner than anticipated in the gribs, but that's how it goes. We have been conservative with our diesel since last filling up in Singapore in June, and thankfully got an additional 100 liters during our stopover at Cocos Keeling (not a simple process, involving dinghying 3 nm into 25 kts, hitchhiking / walking to and from the fuel station, that was, incidentally, only open for 1 hour two days a week, and then dinghying back with two jerry cans ready to be dumped into our tanks). Anyway, we have been conservative, and with the promise of more diesel to be had in Mauritius, we turned on our engine and have been motorsailing for 9 hours. We have another 12-14 hours to go, at which time we will anchor off of Port Louis in Mauritius as the port captain does not allow ships to enter at night. For now it is like a spring day down below, hatches open, sun's out, fresh air is moving through the boat and there are calm seas. Who could ask for more? At the moment we are motoring over a very impressive sea mount - the Soudan Bank - where the sea floor rises to a depth of only 100 feet from 9,000 feet, sure to be rich with fish. So to keep our smallest sailor (who is also quite the fisher-girl) happy, as well as to not disappoint our kiwi friends, out we have thrown a lure. Meanwhile, just before approaching the sea mount, we had to divert our course for a container ship. We came upon him on our rhumbline, and the AIS info said "Cargo Ship. Not Under Command" moving at 1.4kts, clearly just drifting northward ... Hmmm, what does that mean exactly? Pirates? Disabled engine? Out of fuel? We considered calling them up and offering to see if they needed assistance, or perhaps some provisions - after all, we have 1 cabbage leaf, 3 carrots, 2 onions, 6 garlic cloves and 4 eggs left, and could even spare about 5 liters of diesel ... hah!! Our considered opinion, however, is that the ship, out of France and bound for Reunion, has a specified ETA and needs to wait it out to time his arrival. So many times we have done the same thing!! But alas, we are not a 334m long hunk of metal in everyone's way! Anyway, it is either fresh fish or Spaghetti Carbonara for our last dinner at sea (note, we did not even consider offering up our last 1/4 kilo of bacon to the cargo ship...). Tee hee. Heading 217 Speed 7.9kts motorsailing Weather 3 kts N, seas 0.5m, 1017 mb, 5% cc DAY 8 Sat Sept 16 20:30 2017 NZST On the dock, La Caudan Marina, Port Louis, Mauritius. The wind resumed last night, filling in from the west, which meant our plan to anchor off of Port Louis until sunrise was void. It is a very busy port and would be a lee shore. So we sailed Kailani with a single reefed main on starboard tack for the last 9 hours, enjoying watching the increasing traffic all around us and the "glow" of civilization on the horizon. We arrived into the port this morning to much "busy ness". Since we were here in 2005 things have changed quite a bit. It appears, like Fiji and other countries, the fishing rights to these waters have been bought by the Chinese, as there were almost 50 Chinese fishing boats tied cheek by jowl to each other, most of the time at least 10-15 to a single mooring. All making for a busy entrance, as we also had a 2 m swell from the open ocean providing a following sea... (and not the kind we sailors cavalierly wish for!) But helped onto the dock by some other cruisers, we were able to safely tie Kailani alongside the concrete dock here at La Caudon Marina waterfront. Within minutes of arrival we met someone who will take all of our laundry, a taxi driver offering his services, and photos of Jen and Sophia are certainly already posted on facebook by the many tourists who came by with so much enthusiasm wanting photos of foreign yachts (we even met some of those Chinese fishermen!!) ... Harl was able to procure lattes, pastries, and wonderful fresh sandwiches on his walk to the office, all before we have even checked into the country! Feels good to be back in civilization. Weather 15 kts W, 1014 mb, 25% cc