Friday, November 23, 2012


Reunion Island to Richard's Bay, South Africa

The short version:  12 days, no gales.

The long version:

Wednesday November 14
Twister departed St. Pierre the afternoon of November 10, an hour or two after Rebellion, with a fresh southeasterly breeze and lumpy, confused seas. We made pretty good time the first two days. The highlight of the first two days was finally getting the last piece of sea urchin out of my big toe. 
 On day three, the wind eased and backed to the north-northeast. With Madagascar out of the way, we tacked and set a direct course for Richard's Bay.  We are currently on a broad reach with 15-20 knots from north-northeast. I had expected to pick up the southern part of the equatorial current here, but instead I find a 1-2 knot counter-current, so we are only doing 4.5 knots when we should be doing at least 6. Maybe all those people who said give Madagascar a wide berth knew what they were talking about. 

Friday November 16
Currently about 50 miles due south of Cape Sainte Marie, the southern tip of Madagascar (ca halfway between St. Pierre and Richard's Bay). Thursday morning we finally picked up the portion of The South Equatorial off southern Madagascar, which gave us a 2 knot boost for a while. Unfortunately we were becalmed (took the opportunity for a swim. Some sardine-like fish had taken up residence under Twister, and I saw several tuna farther down) and then had light winds most of the day, but in the evening they picked up and Twister was cruising along downwind at around 7 knots. Now the current is gone, but we're heading a bit south of the direct course to Richard's Bay to try to pick it up again. Also yesterday, a big tanker appeared to be bearing down on me, so I hailed them on the VHF. They actually answered and said that they did see me and wouldn't run me down (often the ships just ignore me when I hail them.  I don't know their names, so I say, "ship in approximate position …). Just after I spotted the tanker, a school of tuna gathered in Twister's bow wave and were playing and cavorting much in the manner of dolphins. I think I could've speared one from the bow had I tried, but that would've been the height of bad manners toward my guests. 30 minutes later or so when the ship was abeam, I unexpectedly heard Paul from Rebellion hail the ship on VHF channel 16. He was, I guess, about 10-15 miles to my southwest. My VHF radio does not transmit that far, so he couldn't hear me, but I was glad to know that I've kept up with him so far. 
Since The Great Barrier Reef, I've been following in the footsteps of Joshua Slocum (and Charles Darwin) who sailed past Cape Sainte Marie October 31, 1897. He was, of course, the first person to sail around the world alone. I would highly recommend his book, Sailing Alone Around The World. I hope I don't encounter the same weather he had between here and Durban (numerous southwesterly gales). 

Afternoon, same day:  becalmed again. Well there is enough wind to sail, but not in this swell which is coming from several directions so the sails flog incessantly which is maddening as well as destroying the sails. So I've dropped the sails and am bobbing and rolling and pitching in the swell. Went for a dip in the ocean and felt better. Spotted my first albatross on this passage (26° 32' S 44° 52' E). Black-browed one I think. 

Wednesday 21 November, 28° 24' S  35° 04' E.
About 160 miles to go to Richard's Bay. I've enjoyed the company of one, then two, and now three (what I think are) White-chinned Petrels for the last 5-6 days. That's by far the longest duration any seabirds have followed Twister. Just as I was writing this, I looked out of the companionway to see the second albatross of this passage—maybe a Yellow-nosed Albatross. I have continued to see several ships per day, except today when I haven't seen any. I'm currently going 6 knots, and at this pace I will arrive Richard's Bay tomorrow (Thursday) evening. I may encounter strong southwesterly winds this evening, though.  Apparently it's a good idea to stay out of the Agulhas Current (which flows down the South African SW coast) in strong southwesterlies, as that combination can produce big, steep, breaking waves. So I may end up waiting offshore until the easterlies return. 

Friday 23 November
Twister arrived Richard's Bay last night (Thursday the 22nd), making it a 12 day passage from Reunion. I was far enough away from the front to avoid the strong southwesterlies, but there was an impressive electrical storm Wednesday night.  My entourage of White-chinned Petrels stayed with me until I sighted land. There are several boats here I have met before in various places in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Departing Reunion

I plan to set sail for Richard's Bay, South Africa this (Saturday the 10th) afternoon. The ~1400 nm passage should take around 14 days, but could be longer if I get headwinds on the second half of the passage. I've had a wonderful time in Reunion and met some lovely people. I have aspirations of knowing some French next time I'm here. During the last several days I got to explore a little of the island's interior--canyons, volcanoes, and waterfalls. I also managed to get in a few more surf sessions at the break next to the marina. Yesterday, three more solo sailors arrived St. Pierre. I've never seen so many in one place. At the moment we are 5 (with two more having departed for South Africa).
I've uploaded a few more photos from Reunion:
See you in South Africa.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Still in Reunion

I am still in Reunion and still enjoying it. There is good surf, hiking, food, drink, and music. But it's about time to move on. At the moment, the forecast looks promising for a Sunday (Nov 11th) departure. It's ca 1400 miles to Richard's Bay on the northeast coast. Since this passage will take me out of the trade winds, I can expect winds from pretty much any direction.  I will be happy if I average 100 miles per day. So, hopefully the passage will take around 14 days.
I have replaced the jury-rigged forestay with a new one I had made at a shop nearby. I'll continue to sail with hank-on jibs until I get to South Africa where I'll be able to buy some parts for the roller furler.
Oh, by the way, I'm famous:  I was interviewed by a local TV reporter who was looking for Americans (there aren't very many in Reunion) to talk about the presidential election. Here is the program.  I hope I didn't say anything stupid.