d 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490 Najad 490



2nd Report for  2007:        

Seychelles, Madagascar and Mozambique

(May 29th-October 23rd)


Most people know the Seychelles as one of the more exclusive tourist destinations and consequently sailors like us expect it to be one of the more expensive places to spend some time. 

But as it turned out for us, the world of luxury resorts is yet a separate one from ours, and cruisers like us quickly change their view in favor of the place and the nice people. 

Like some other remote places, the Seychelles were a place that grew on us and it didn't take too long and we really liked it there and in the end it was no wonder that we stood for two and a half months.



The area of the Seychelles is in fact rather huge and spans a range of 750 miles covering a number of quite differing islands and atolls. The heart of the Seychelles are the so called "Inner Islands" that all sit on a plateau of about 150 miles length. The rest, the "Outer Islands" are spread far apart to the South and Southwest of this plateau.

It was just those Inner Islands where we spent all our time, as going to the Outer Islands means going several 100 miles with the wind, and then one would have to go back to Victoria, the same length against strong trade winds. One would have to do so, as Victoria is the only place where one can legally clear in and out of the country. While illegal, it is practically possible to visit uninhabited atolls, like Cosmoledo, after clearing out, en-route to say Mayotte and we had something like that in mind. Yet, when it came to finally leave the Seychelles, wind and weather were favorable enough to go straight for the northern tip of Madagascar, a gift one should not turn down.

The logistics of clearing in and out, or renewing visas is arduous and from our perspective the only complaint we may have about the place. Yet, all officials were extremely friendly and helpful.

Arriving from abroad is in fact the easiest task, just check in on VHF with Port Control, and be guided either to an anchorage or a pier where all relevant officials show up and get their job done quickly.  After that you may anchor in the old inner harbor, which they now call Yacht Basin.

It may be hard to find this basin, as right outside freighters and packs of huge trawlers are parked densely, often hiding the entrance.

Port Victoria is a very busy place where most fishing fleets from all over the Indian Ocean call, to unload tuna to one of the biggest fish processing plants in the world.

Also holding in the Yacht Basin is poor, and when you add noise and dirt, it isn't the greatest place to stay.

But this is only one side of Victoria, the other one is a nice little town with good shops providing for most supplies a yacht may need, friendly people and a welcoming yacht club. Whenever we were in Victoria, we had dinner at the yacht club - simple but good food at a price were you wouldn't consider cooking on board. 

As mentioned before, most things are not expensive in the Seychelles, especially when you change Dollars or Euros on the black market, which seems so common that one wonders how 'black' it actually is. Yet, the difference to the bank rate is about 2:3. 

It seems though, that this little country has found a good formula for a fast track into a more prosperous future. Much different than say in the Maldives where the visitor instantly feels the imminent oppression by the regime.

So when sailing in the Seychelles, Victoria is the place to occasionally return to for topping up with fresh produce and many other niceties. Still, while you can get everything here, you cannot all the time and if you see something good, do buy it as on your next visit it will most likely not be available. 

Then of course, Victoria is just one aspect of the Seychelles and there are many other very pretty places to visit by boat.

After coming from Chagos, it was a tough call for any place to impress us and with respect to the under water world we now seem indeed spoiled forever. 

But above the water, the Seychelles are a different story, not the typical tropical Motu, flat and full of palm trees, but rather nice green mountains with impressive rock structures: Unlike almost all other small islands, the Seychelles are of solid granite. 

These beautiful rocks, together with the lush green of the vegetation make the Inner Islands one of the prettiest sights. 

This hasn't gone unnoticed and a certain limited up-market tourism has evolved. Aside of a few very exclusive resorts this includes quite a few charter yachts, bare boat or with crew, that circle the islands with us cruisers being the minority. And admittedly, the Seychelles are a very nice destination for a two week sailing vacation. 

Staying just in the Inner Islands there is a nice round trip that would take about two weeks if leisurely done, that would lead you to all the nice places in the Inner Islands. Direction and anchorages would vary a bit depending on the season.



While we were in the islands, the weather was dominated by fairly strong south-easterly trades. So the round trip would go to a few nice destinations on the NW-side of Mahe, then a pleasant day sail to the North of Praslin, from there with some memorable stops in between to La Digue and from there back to Mahe. 

We ended up doing this round trip four times, with some slight variations. Our son Markus and his wife Astrid joined us for one of those trips and we enjoyed having their nice company on board for a change. Here in this report, we will combine the four trips and their highlights into one trip around the Inner Islands:

Mahe, Beau Vallon Bay:

This beautiful Bay with a very long sand beach is just across the hill from Victoria on the other side of the Mahe Island. A short trip by taxi or bus, and even by boat around the northern end of Mahe it takes less then two hours to reach.

Aside of several hotels and restaurants it features the best Pizzaria in this hemisphere and a superb food market on Wednesdays.

The anchorage is huge, the holding good and the protection from SE excellent.



Beau Vallon is certainly a fine alternative to Port Victoria, with clean water, vast beaches, but still close to facilities and the main town. 

One day we rented a car there to explore the inner parts of Mahe, while our boat was meanwhile safely anchored in a good place. 

On the negative side there are days when it is a bit rolly and one has to live with the jet-skies that love to circle anchored yachts.


Beau Vallon is also a good base for day tours to the more exposed anchorages further south.

The first of these is Anse Major, a beautiful cove, with another unnamed even prettier cove immediately south of it. This later anchorage we visited a couple of times and enjoyed the impressive rock structures at the southern limit of the little bay. 

Less than a mile further south from here is the Baie Ternay, also very pretty and with good mooring buoys in the northern indentation, but too shoal for most boats deeper into the bay. At this point it is time to mention that in the Seychelles there are several so called nature parks where boats are charged $20 per person per day, and it has to be paid in foreign money. Given that it is no surprise that one hardly sees any boats moored or anchored in these parks.

Just south of Baie Ternay is the westernmost cape of Mahe, called Pointe Matoopa. We had some of the best scuba diving along this area, were the typical rock structures continue on under water and form a maze of little canyons. This is certainly special, and with no lack of small fish, it feels like diving in an archtitected underwater garden.


During the Southeast Monsoon season, the shore gets unfriendly beyond this point, as the wind is blowing along the shore throwing up a serious chop, thus making most anchorages untenable. But there are still some sheltered corners, one in the so called Port Launay, the other just behind Ile Therese.




When leaving Mahe from Beau Vallon Bay it is usually easy to lay course from the northern end of Mahe to to northern end of Praslin and we have done so three times during our stay. Just on our last round trip we felt we wanted some variation and so we first sailed to Ile Silhouette, which thus far we had seen at sunset as what the name suggests.


Silhouette is round and fairly high, so that it can been seen from quite a distance. In the past, before GPS days, it has been the leading landmark for the Seycheloire fishermen.



Today it is a nature reserve and has just one seemingly nice resort at the northeastern corner. There is also a small harbor just south of that resort and that is where the ferry from Victoria lands. During our stay it was all on the windward side and the harbor seemed rather small and so we sailed around to the northwest side and anchored at Anse Mondon. It is Seychelles pure: All saturated green with gray and black rocks interspersed. A path seems to lead to the other side, but we only followed it for a short distance and rather enjoyed the quite clear water and snorkeled together with a nice turtle for some time.





The next day we thought about also checking out Ile du Nord, just 5 miles north of Silhouette, but the angle to Praslin is already a lot closer to the wind than from Mahe and the wind was backing, so that we decided to skip Ile Du Nord and head straight for Praslin. Praslin is the second largest of the islands and features many lovely bays and inland the famous Valée-de-Mai, where the giant Coco-de-Mer grow.




During the south-east monsoon, Anse Lazio in the north-west is by far the best anchorage and a most beautiful one in addition. It is the inner part of what is Baie Chevalier on some charts. It has space for a large number of boats over perfect sand and the beach, all sand divided into private coves by those typical rock formations, is one of the nicest in the islands.




With Astrid and Markus we spent many days there, scuba diving, body boarding in the surf or behind the dinghy, or simply on the great beach.


Anse Lazio also features two restaurants, open during the day for all the day visitors, but there is no hotel nearby and so it becomes a remote and lone place during the night.


While it was lately connected by a good road, there is no scheduled bus service and thus exploring the island from here may involve walking a few kilometers to Anse Boudin. 


When we hoped to maybe find a cab, to take us to the Valée-de-Mai, there was none, but a friendly driver of a hotel bus said he would drive the four of us for about Euro 10. We had a nice ride in the fully air-conditioned and comfortable bus.





Valée-de-Mai is one of these places, that every visitor to Praslin has to go to. Off course it is a natural park, and off course the entrance fee of about $20 needs to be paid in anything but seychellois money. But it is a very nice walk through a tropical forest with impressive trees and plants. The highlight of course is the Coco-de-Mer palm trees with their unusual and huge nut. A tree that only grows in Valée-de-Mai and on the neighboring island of Curieuse.



The fruits, which grow on the female trees are huge, weighing some 20-30 kg, and their form appears to resemble e female butt. If you want to take one home, it gets of course emptied, numbered and registered and you pay a lot as they are very limited. To make the fuss about these trees complete, the male tree has a phallus like stem that holds the seeds. Oh well.



Later we toured the island by regular bus and private car looking for an internet cafe. We found all of it a nice and friendly place. Then back to Anse Lazio for some more of the fun activities.










The island of Cousin, with our boat about 40 minutes from Anse Lazio, is a bird sanctuary. Access is only allowed once a day at 10 am, when guided tours are conducted. 


At that time many day boats arrive from the various resorts, a few charter yachts and the odd cruising yacht like us.





One has to pick up one of the provided moorings and a longboat with a skillful driver will come to pick you up and drive you through the surf.


We enjoyed the trip, the many birds and the view from the top.


Around the corner from Anse Lazio is the canal between Curieuse and Praslin. Since Curieuse is yet another nature park, they have declared the whole channel and the Praslin shore opposite as nature park, and thus anchoring or mooring there could be expensive and isn't worth while. During the south-east trades the whole area is rough except for the moorings and anchorages in Anse Petite Cour in front of the the big resort. Staying over night is ok though if you leave early.



That may be a good choice as the anchorages around the corner near Anse Volbert tend to be to rolly for the night. But there are good day anchorages there right off the little Chauve Souris island. Further in it shoals very quickly.  The thing to do there is to take the dinghy to the extremely beautiful St. Pierre Islet, and if possible snorkel around it. It is probably among the best snorkeling places in the Seychelles and the views above water are stunning.








From this place in Praslin it is best to go straight east, (weather permitting), and sail to the northwest corner of the island of Félicité. It is a resort island, manged by the La Digue Island Lodge and landing isn't really allowed. But anchoring there is fine and the view onto the rocky hillside of Félicité is quite impressive.
 The real thing however is the snorkeling at Cocos islands right across. 




Many excursion boats from La Digue have the same idea, so you will not be alone unless you go very early in the day. 


The reef is full of fish and we enjoyed a nice turtle that seemed to want to play along with us and almost crept into the camera.


Pick the tide carefully though: At high tide the waves go over the reef and the nice snorkeling area there gets untenable. At very low tide it is however simply to shallow to get even the dinghy into the pool.

From Félicité it is only a short hop to our favorite island of La Digue. If we had to choose an island in the Seychelles as regular tourists, this would be it. Life is slow and easy there, the larger number of tourists only visits during the day per boat from Praslin, or the fast ferry from Mahe. There are only very few cars on the island, but bikes can be rented everywhere and there is also a choice of transport per ox-wagon. This place is simply charming and peaceful. 


One of the highlights of La Digue is the famous beach at Anse Source D'Argent. Brilliant clear water, white sand and a never ending assortment of rock formations looking like sculptures, which separate little private beaches.



The harbor of La Passe in La Digue is quite a special place. It is very sheltered behind the reef and even if a huge swell is running outside, the harbor is like calm.


It is nice to lay in this little village, but it has a few snags. First of all one needs to drop the bow anchor way out in the basin and then fall back towards the shore. But not too far as it shoals quickly and long lines (50m) are needed at the stern. They need to be brought out by dinghy and then you need to pull into the slot you chose.

Then there are only about three places where Taniwani has enough depth at low water and two of these are off the commercial ramp, which is fine as long as there isn't one of the little freighters unloading gravel and boulders for the whole night. We had that once.


Finally there are the other boats. Early in the season they were mostly crewed and know how to park their boats without entangling with other anchors or hitting other boats.


Later, in July and August,  it shifted to inexperienced bare boat charters who get their lines in the props and drift into each other. It is entertaining to watch as long as you are not affected yourself.


On all our visits to the little island we returned to the La Digue Island lodge for lunch. It has a lovely terrace, very friendly personnel and nice food for a fair price in local currency.


Our favorite dinner place is a restaurant at the northern tip of the island, just above the street. That is also the place that we had been invited to, for the golden wedding of Joao's parents, which was the reason for our fourth and last visit to La Digue.




Our friends from Mahi Mahi kept busy with ongoing inflow of visiting friends and family and we kept meeting them on and on in different configurations. The last visiting group was Joao's parents and his sister. We were so privileged to be the only non family members to be invited to the golden wedding. 


Again we rent bikes and explore La Digue for a last time.


After all this fun in La Digue it is time to sail back to Mahe and get ready for the trip to Madagascar. But there are a few things that need to be done in Victoria aside of a lot of shopping. The whole rig needs to be checked for the usually rough trip to Madagascar and our generator has failed again, by blowing a hose, loosing all coolant and then badly overheating. With this goes the main bearing and windings develop new shorts.


We are lucky to actually find not only a shop that would have a suitable lacquered wire for rewinding the generator in a quiet anchorage over a few days, rather we find a twin brother of our generator being rewound in the fishing harbor. They promise to wind ours in three days.  Not particularly cheap, as this business is run by some clever Indians who certainly do not take Seychelles money, but at least we have it working again, just in time for a good weather window to open for the trip to Madagascar.




Originally Mahi Mahi wanted to come right along with us, but then delayed to explore staying for some time in the Seychelles where they found a good school for the kids.


As they said, it wasn't likely that they would stay, but rather wanted to complete their investigation and follow with the next weather window to Madagascar.


We then didn't know that we woudn't see Mahi Mahi again.



The trip from the Seychelles to Madagascar has a bad reputation as it is close on the predominant and strong south easterly wind and the area north of Madagascar is notorious for rough and steep waves. Consequently the rule is to bear off and sail to Mayotte instead and then motor back some 170 miles in the lee of Madagascar. As the 'experts' told us, sailing straight to the north tip of Madagascar is impossible.


After some hours of delay, waiting for our passports, we left Mahe in driving rain.


The weather did not look very inviting and we sailed into a night with squalls and thunderstorms. But it had to be if we wanted to use an expected lighter and more easterly phase in the southeast monsoon. 


Given the fast changing conditions we sailed the first night rather conservative with shortened sails.


But then, as promised we got a steady wind the next day and off we took.


Our plan now was to sail for Cape Ambre, the northern tip of Madagascar and bear off if necessary - we felt that should always be possible.



Despite repeated cleaning, our bottom was in a very poor state from just the stay in La Digue and Mahe and this cost us at least a knot. The good news was that we had a knot of current with us and thus broke even.





Close reaching in 20 kts of wind gave us over 190 miles every day.


We sailed between the atolls of Providence and Farquhar. Places we would have liked to visit, but legally this is only possible if you return to Mahe afterwards to clear out of the Seychelles. Some people still stop at some of the uninhabited places like Cosmoledo and now Providence would have been a possibility as it was vacated after a strong cyclone destroyed everything there in March.


But we had already spent more than our planned time in the Seychelles and the wind was good, so we went on.


Eventually the dreaded Cape Ambre showed on the horizon and the sea state got a bit rougher, but nothing that would bother us and we kept going straight for the corner and a large bay behind the cape, where we planned to stay for the night and relax.


After 594 miles and 3 days 3 hours, we anchored in a bay called Ampanasina, in the lee of the northern tip of Madagascar. But a lee it only is for the sea; the wind was howling and more so in the next morning.


The next morning the wind was in the 40ties and our friends on Nordlys, who had arrived shortly after us and also stayed for the night were dragging and decided to leave.





As always our trusty Bruce was holding fine and we had breakfast before thinking about moving on.



The very northern end of Madagascar is usually very windy, but there are phases when the area is very nice for cruising. This wasn't now: 


You can't really enjoy snorkeling and exploring little islands when it blows forty knots plus. So we just had a fast sail, with lots of wind and little sea, through this area and on the way caught a big red snapper. - We chose to just cut out the filets and not bother with scaling it.


Behind the next cape it gets calmer and we spent the next night reasonably comfortable in an indent in that Cape St. Sebastien.

In the morning we picked up a radio conversation between La Barca and Abracadabra, old friends from the great Chagos times and we rendezvoused in a large bay called Baie Ampamonti. Soon we were back in Chagos mode, cooking dinner on the beach. 



It is also where we met the first Malagasy, father and sun in a dug-out, offering as mud crabs. We traded for some fishing line and some hooks. It was still quite windy, with gusts shrieking down the hillsides and so the next day we moved behind a little island in that same bay where we spent two more nights. 


The next bigger island south is Nosy Mitsio, a barren, but rather beautiful island. It is V-shaped with the longer arm to the east, thus giving quite good protection from the easterly winds. But it is also at the beginning of a zone reaching down almost the whole west coast of Madagascar, where there is a distinct land-breeze sea-breeze daily pattern. Consequently the calmest anchorage is down in the corner of the V, in Maribe Bay, where there are also the 'bigger' villages. 

Yet, this isn't the most comfortable anchorage as one lays in the east or west wind direction, but a remaining swell comes in from the north.


After one night there we sailed up inside the Mitsio V to a round island called Nosy Ankarea. 





Ankarea  has a steep rock cliff and spectacular vegetation and beaches just beneath. We anchored with a strong onshore breeze, but no sea and went to explore by dinghy. We found a derelict and abandoned little tourist place, that was sort of a simple resort, but nobody there.


After all the exploring we re-anchored on the Mitsio side behind the long arm. We were alone now on this endless stretch of beautiful beach. As it shoals gradually and we wanted to make sure we would be safe if the sea breeze sets in, we anchored quite a bit off the shore in 10m.


Going ashore there we were rewarded with many more magnificent views and endless sandy beaches. Quite an unspoiled place and only a few huts here and there on the horizon. We look down at Taniwani in the clear blue water and Ankarea in the back and think that we are missing Mahi-Mahi anchored next to us. When will they come and join us here?



Back on the boat we talk via Iridium and are shocked to hear, that while they decided to not settle in the Seychelles, they got an offer for Mahi-Mahi that would be very hard to resist on logical grounds. 


Once back in South Africa, they had planned to sell the boat anyway, well aware that the market might not be that good and that a fast dash to the Caribbean may be needed to find a buyer.






But now they had come across this young family on the Seychelles that wanted to do a similar world tour and thought the perfect boat had just arrived. Tears and shock as the reality set in and the five year cruising life came to a sudden end. We feel sad, we will be missing this nice family on Mahi-Mahi, always near by. Now we have to continue to explore Madagascar without our expert friends.



For us it was time to head a bit further south to get to Nosy Be and eventually clear into Madagascar officially. But not without a stop at Tsara Bajina, that we heard to be a lovely spot. It yet is one of the few places in Madgascar to feature a fancy resort, otherwise tourism is not very much developed. Normally we sailors don't go to resort places, but we were told there are several laces aside of the resort that one can land and enjoy, and also snorkeling should be good all around the little island.


There are two possible anchorages, one on the north side and one west of the main island. Between the two it is shallow so that one needs to go east around the island. That is what we did after inspecting the northern anchorage which we found exposed and rolly at the current wind situation. As there are little islands and reefs west of the western anchorage it gets some reasonable protection from the sea breeze as well. We anchored and went to explore.


We walked around the southern part of the island and then went snorkeling. That was when for unknown reasons, our new watertight Olympus µ770 camera  filled up with water. We had really liked this little camera as it is so robust and great to come along in the dinghy. (It was replaced later on warranty). 


The snorkeling was ok, but not overwhelming. It seemed that since Chagos we were not impressed in the Seychelles and had some hope for Madagascar, but in the end the result was the same.


The supposedly real good dives are out at the 4 brothers, not far from Tsara Bajina, but we didn't do these, now that we didn't have Mahi-Mahi and Joao around for the scuba tours we got so used to do together. 


Still Tsara Bajina is a nice little place and a highlight in the already spectacular area.



A day there and we sailed on down to Nosy Be and it's main town of Hellville. Hellville is the center of the nice north western area, the area with some tourism as one can fly into Nosy Be. But Hellville also has a bad reputation for crime and the recommendation was to not stay longer than you need for clearing in. Also corrupt officials were quoted as a problem.






We found no such problems and it seems the new government had stated to crack down on some of these issues. All officials were correct and helpful. Though the dinghy of our friends on Kyena had been stolen over night, and their offer of a $1000 reward, had the local police instantly raiding the place of the prime suspect and successfully recovering it complete with outboard. 


When we now met them in Hellville again, they were happily united with their dinghy and enjoyed the place.



Hellville has its very own charm with derelict colonial buildings and the friendly Malagasy. Good fresh produce is available at the market and there is an excellent bakery and two reasonable super markets. There was work going on all along Helleville's main road adding to the chaotic look, but one could see that once done it will look a whole lot better. It seems the town has been through its low and is on a fast improving track, a good sign for the future of Madagascar.




We much enjoyed strolling up and down the street through that picturesque little town and just take in the impressions.


It is a bustling place, whether at the market or down at the harbor. 





The harbor, really is just one old stone wharf and it is overcrowded with fishermen, and trading dhows or barges unloading from an anchored freighter.


There is hardly any motorized boat and all goods are carried on sailing dhows between islands and the main shore in the rhythm of the land and sea breeze.


There is no good way to dock even a dinghy, and so the only choice is to have a boat boy tend to it. 


These boat boys too, used to have not the best reputation and already in Thailand had we been warned not to use a guy named "Toopack". 


When we were in Hellville  Toopack was still in business, but seemed to have learned and was trying to improve his reputation. 

Yet we and others avoided him and we couldn't have been more pleased by the relyable and good service we received from Frank and his younger brother John. We used him every time we returned to Hellville, to tend our dinghy and to fill our jerry-cans with perfectly clean diesel. 




So, despite its name, for us Hellville was a place that we enjoyed returning to during our stay in the area. 


That area around Nosy Be is special, with many excellent and beautiful anchorages and regardless of the strength of the main trade winds, it seems that it always has its rhythm of land and  sea breeze, none getting too exciting strong, so that it is easy and pleasant to sail in and out and up and down in the area.





It was so deceiving that we thought the strong trades had subsided and we might be able to explore the islands north of Cape Sebastian, that we had passed through in a rush. And so we left Hellville heading back up to Mitsio, with the plan to continue up north. In the end we never made it further as during our second stay in Mitsio it started blowing again.








This time in Mitsio, we went ashore in that village in the middle of the V, in Maribe Bay, where we were met by 69 year old Ali who spoke some French, having been in their army for a few years. He offered to tour as around the island and we accepted happily. 


In the heat of the day he took us up the hill where we had a fantastic view and then down the other side to the southern beach which was high and dry at the extreme low water.


One village seems to equal one family and may be from 2 to 20 little huts. We passed several such villages. Ali is the head of the village in the bay where we landed and it is a bigger one, maybe some 50 people live there.


Back at his place we gave him all those things that are so valuable in Madagascar: Fishing line, rope, reading glasses etc.


We stood a few more days at Mitsio; Further up at our favorite beach and also way up north across from Ankarea which seemed the best place.



As the wind was blowing again at full throttle, we gave up on the idea to head back north and turned south again to stop at Tsara Bajina again for one night. Same anchorage, but this time we woke early morning  to a 25-30 SE blowing straight into the anchorage. With a 20 mile fetch from the mainland the sea that went with it was uncomfortable enough for us to leave right away.


This time we sailed west around Nosy Be, to a small pass between Nosy Be and Sakatia. And again, the crazy wind died once we got closer to Nosy Be.

Sakatia is a small island at the northwest corner of the much larger Nosy Be. It has several beautiful and secluded beaches, and while the tide runs through the channel between the islands, it is at modest speed and the shelter from wind is perfect. However, Sakatia was on our list of places to avoid as several yachts caught malaria there a few years ago. Now people claimed it was low risk, but never the less we had planned for malaria prophylaxis during our stay in Madagascar anyway. 


When we arrived there, we found our friends on Kyena II and Titom there and had a fine evening on the beach.


The next day we all went to have dinner at "John's Place", a little B&B place owned and run by a South African ex-pat.  It was a long and interesting evening on his terrace, and we learned that he also offers boat watching service, for  folks who want to leave their boat to tour the inner parts of Madagascar, or a shopping shuttle service down into Hellville and back. 


Intriguing as such an inland tour sounds, we decided to stick with Taniwani and a day later we sailed down to Hellville to obtain fresh provisions. 

Again, sailing down the west coast of Nosy Be we were right in the midst of numerous local sailing crafts, from small canoes with square sails, to the larger Latin rigged dhows. It felt like we were beamed back to a time before steam or engine power.


The area around Nosy Be is actually an ideal cruising ground and it seems just a matter of time before some worldwide charter company like Moorings will open a base there. 


Now there are not many yachts in the area: It is just the world cruisers like us on their way through, a few low budget crewed charter boats of ex-pats that settled there, and a small number of boats that struggle up from South Africa in the southern spring, as they have really no cruising ground at home.


Barren as the islands are and with the blue mountains of the Madagascar mainland as a backdrop, it does look a bit like the Croatian islands. While the eastern coast of Madagascar is mostly uninviting, it offers interesting cruising all along its northwestern shore, from Cape D'Ambre in the north to Cape St. Andre some 380 miles further south. The ideal cruising ground however is around Nosy Be, from Mitsio in the north down to the Baramahamy river, generally known as Honey River. This stretch of about 75 miles has hundreds of lovely and sheltered anchorages, and a reliable sea-breeze land-breeze system that allows for easy and pleasant sailing between them. As can be seem from our tracks, we spent quite some time in the area.


After some quick shopping we we made our first visit to Russian Bay, named for a Russian Warship that deserted and hid in this place in 1905.


 The bay is rather big and in itself has many smaller bays that provide for various anchorages. Again, there is another South African ex-pat by name of Andrew, right in the narrows in the middle of the bay. He is trying to build a little "Yacht Club" and offer some basic services to the cruising folks. When we arrived we found  Kyena, Abracadabra and Strong-Legs; they had been here for a few days already.

Now all of us were waiting for La Barca to show up, as Amy's 3rd birthday, together with the usual Chagos style beach party was imminent and we all thought that we would celebrate on the beach in Russian Bay. But then the message came that it will be at a place on Nosy Be that was named Waterfall Bay. 


Never heard of it, but off course got GPS coordinates and so all of us headed back the next day, Abracadabra last, waiting for mud crabs to be delivered from the village deep in Russian Bay.



The "fleet" gathered around water-fall bay and two days of beach barbeque and partying followed. This time the famous Madagascar Mud Crabs were served in a spicy sauce, prepared by Angelina of Kyena II. It was excellent but really messy, luckily the water was close by.



We liked this place so much that we stayed for a few more days after the gang left again into various directions. The anchorage actually has no name, and was just coined water-fall bay by La Barca, as they used the one meter drop of the little river for doing their laundry. Situated at the southeastern part of Nosy Be, it is right at the beginning of the nature preserve, which is the last little piece of rain forest left in the area. 





The anchorage is perfect, and just gets a little bit choppy in the late afternoon sea-breeze. The view in all directions is sensational: To the west there is the rain forest shore, with the big sand bar that the little river had piled up, visible at low tide. This shore continues to the north and swings to the north-east; all nature reserve. Then comes the best, the view to the east: A few small islands and then the backdrop of the mainland with its blue mountains. Finally, to the south is Nosy Komba, the island that we will explore next.

Just two miles across from this lovely anchorage is Nosy Komba, a circular island, famous for its artists. We did a day trip across, to inspect it and came away with many wonderful impressions. Every house of the little fishing village is a workshop of some sort, and the folks obviously live mostly on selling their artwork to the few tourists that get ferried over from Nosy Be. The whole beach is just a big display ground. It is mostly embroidery, but also carving, paintings, model boats and many other items.


But it doesn't come easy for those folks: A big table cloth takes a women about two moths to produce and then sells for about Euro 30 including twelve napkins. We spent almost a day there and didn't see many shoppers and were probably responsible for most of the turnover of the day.






The other big attraction on Nosy Komba are the Lemurs. They live just outside the village and for a small entrance fee to the so called "Park" a young boy with a bunch of bananas will accompany one, a little bit up the hill. He hands you some banana and calls "Maki Maki". It doesn't take long and out of the bush the little guys appear and jump several meters onto your shoulder, with a very gentle touch down, to get their banana.

After enjoying this corner for a few days, it was time for another round trip. With a shopping stop at Hellville we went on to Russian Bay again.


Off course we caught up again with some of the notorious gang and soon found ourselves on the beach again, feasting on Mud Crabs.


That was followed by a long evening with drinks on board of the Dutch boat "Fides".


Unable to keep up with the partying pace of the younger folks, we had to take off eventually for some exploring on our own, just to recover. Out we went of Russian Bay and on to Nosy Kisimani and on the next day on to Nosy Mamoko.


There we met up with Nordlys again and were invited over for dinner. So the hard life went on.

Our tour continued to the southeastern end of Nosy Komba and on in the early morning to the famous little island "Tany Kely". It is supposed to have the best snorkeling and diving in the area. We were first to arrive but soon the anchorage was filling with tour and dive boats. Apparently this is the place where one can still find coral and good visibility, and that may well be true as we were generally not overwhelmed with the underwater world in Madagascar. We found Tany Kelly just OK, but not great, but this may well be subjective as we are now infinitely spoiled by Chagos.

We sailed on, back to Hellville for one last time.  This time to stock up provisions, top up diesel and to clear out of Madagascar. After clearing out, we would still be in the country for over two weeks, slowly sailing down the coast. Given our route south, the more logical place to clear out would have been Majunga, (also called Mahajanga), some 180 miles further south, but that larger town has a very bad reputation: Poor and dirty anchorage, time consuming clearing process, theft and piracy.


Like Hellville, it may have changed to the better, but then we now knew Hellville, and clearing out was easy and friendly, and our good boat boys, Frank and his young brother John did a fine job using our dinghy to lug some 180 liters of diesel in jerry cans. We can only recommend them.


But before leaving Hellville we had to receive the late arrivals from the Seychelles:


Northern Star and Archibald who brought us memorable or useful items from Mahi Mahi. 

And arriving from the route from Australia, Belle Brise with Wilhelm and Angela, who we last saw in Tonga two years ago. For that purpose Taniwani was converted into a party ship. 




The obvious next stop, going south from Hellville is again Russian Bay and a last rendezvous with our friends. This time we anchored just west of the entrance in front of a nice beach. Later our friends came racing in from Honey river in the south. Kyena II, La Barca, Abarcadabra and Strong Legs. 


They all had different plans from here on after one more gathering in Sakatia, which we decided to skip after all. Strong Legs will spend a season in Tanzania, La Barca wanted to sail west to Majotte and the Ilha Mozambique and then from there down the Mozambique coast.



Keyna II was undecided, about going to Tanzania or South Africa, and Abracadabra wanted to spend another month in the Nosy Be area.


This time the gang had organized half a big and this was then grilled on stick on the beach. Before that, Keyena's water-maker was repaired on Taniwani's aft deck where we could cut some stainless steel reinforcements with the angle grinder.



Eventually it was time to move on. Not far from Russian Bay is Nosy Iranja, a rarely beautiful island. It actually is two islands at high water and at low water a golden sandbar connects the two. The southern island looks like any of the tropical islands, fairly flat and wooded with palm trees - it is home to a luxury resort. The northern island is bigger and higher and has an old, now defunct lighthouse on its top. It also has a fishing village and its own school in the old lighthouse keepers home.


A large shoal area extends to the west of the islands. It is possible to come in through some deeper patches and anchor still well away from the islands. It is an uncomfortable anchorage and quite rough during the sea breeze. The water is deeper on the east side, but equally rough during land breeze and generally choppy due to current. In short there is no real good anchorage. In the days that we were cruising the area, we had quite strong land- and sea breezes, that were unpredictable in strength, direction and timing. So, reluctantly we had to forget the idea of staying over night.





But we still managed to sail in from the west, anchor off the long sand bar, run the dinghy ashore and explore the larger island. It was well worth it. 


The picturesque village with the boats on the beach was true Madagascar and the view from the old lighthouse was just great. The lighthouse is an old steel construction and a rusty circular staircase leads up to the balcony. Lenses are broken, the mechanism gone. This is also Madagascar, there are no working lighthouses except for the big capes.


Later, back at the boat we weighed anchor and motored around the southern island, just to check the situation on the eastern side.


It didn't seem any better and so we sailed on to an opening on the land, the entrance to the Baramahamy river.




Amongst the sailors, the river is commonly known as the "Honey River" because of the honey production in the two villages on either side of the river. The river is navigable at least to miles in, where it forks into dense mangroves. The nicest anchorage is about half way in.





Once anchored, it doesn't take long for some canoe to show up, offering honey in big 1.5 liter plastic bottles, ex coke or water. Unfiltered, with no sugar added and from the wild flowers of Madagascar this is some of the finest honey one can get. We bought loads of it, still unable to spend all the left over local money and other goodies, like rope and fishing line.





The anchorage is nice and well protected and a side lagoon, that dries out during low water is great to explore by dinghy. It serves a the local shipyard with tide operated dry-dock.



South of Honey River there are several nice little islands called the "Radama Islands", about 8 miles off the shore. Unfortunately they all suffer from exposed anchorages and with the wind shifting 180 degrees every 12 hours, there isn't one anchorage for any time of day.


We found that since leaving the Nosy Be area, the strength of the wind has gone up and it wasn't unusual any more, for either land or sea breeze to blow at 25+ knots. Also the direction wasn't necessarily the expected east or west often SSE and NNW.


Well we gave the next island a try and anchored off Nosy Kalakajoro with enough room to allow for 30 knots of wind from any direction. This is another quite nice island, again with a little village and this time a lower end resort.


We managed to explore it a bit and then stay put over night.


Yes the wind did come around and pick up, but it was from almost south and  the fetch from Nosy Ovy, the next island in the chain is less than two miles. So it was just a bit choppy through part of the night.


The next morning the land breeze was still on and almost against us. So we didn't go very far, just to another island called Nosy Valiha where we picked a spot in the north, that gave shelter from NW via SW to ESE. This time we guessed right and the land breeze didn't back enough to come into our bay.


We thought of doing the same thing the next day at Nosy Lava. This is a somewhat bigger island 30 miles south from Nosy Valiha. It has a large bay on its NE-side. 


Until 4 or 5 years ago, this was a prison island and anchoring there was not recommended. There had been an incident, when a cruising yacht was boarded by escaping prisoners. They murdered the crew and tried to escape with the yacht.


Now one can just see the ruins of the old prison, and there are one or two of the usual small villages on the island. It is an interesting looking island though, with some steep sandstone cliffs on one end and unusual hill contours.


It seemed like a place to explore. Arriving in the evening, we made plans for checking out the prison and the island the next morning. It shouldn't be: Late in the evening the land breeze was setting in strongly. Our bay, the main anchorage of the island was protected to about southeast, but if the wind went on further east we would be exposed. 


Well, it did turn further east and went to 30+ knots. The wind now had about 8 miles to throw up some surf and it did seem to do a good job of it.


While we wanted to just sit it out, having plenty of room and good anchor gear, we gave up on that idea when the waves started to come over the deck. So, by eleven in the night we picked up our anchor and motored 6 miles to the main shore to re-anchor there just off the shore.



In the morning the wind was still onshore to Nosy Lava and so we left it unexplored and sailed on for 40 miles to reach one of the most exotic places on earth: Moramba Bay. It is a place like from another world. In this bay there are numerous smaller and bigger mushroom shaped islets which are densely covered with vegetation and sticking out of it these weird Baobab trees.




        Moramba Bay was so nice a place that we spent several days exploring it, before we finally moved on.






Good overnight stops are getting scarce now when going further south. There are no offshore islands any more and the shore has no sheltered places, though, with the usual late evening land breeze it would be possible to anchor just off the shore. There is however a large bay, too large to give good shelter some 25 miles further from Moramba Bay. It is called Mahajamba Bay and is 20 miles deep, yet quite flat further in. We anchored on the northern shore of it, soon after the entrance and while not a particularly interesting place, it served for a rest.


Very early, at three in the morning we weight anchor again and moved on. We had a long stretch in front of us, as we wanted to go as far as Baia Boina. Before that is the entrance to Majunga, the place where we could have cleared out, but we now wanted to avoid. Maybe we are missing a nice place after all, we thought when we sailed by, but now that we had cleared out there was no way to go back in there.


It was only two weeks later, that we heard over the radio from a Canadian couple that got robbed at anchor in Majunga, they had to go to the hospital and need several days with a policeman on board to recover before moving on.


So we sailed past, and when we came to Boina Bay, it looked like not such a good anchorage worth the detour in. The anchorages outside, around Nosy Makamby were untenable in the current wind and so we decided to sail further to Bali Bay. While strong sea-breeze made us move fast, we were well aware that we would arrive in the dark. 

Having done this for about every location  since in Madagascar, we didn't see a problem verifying our position on the notoriously offset charts via radar.  And so we anchored in a slowly dying sea breeze, just off the northern shore of the entrance to the large bay.


As expected we woke to a strong 25-30 knot land breeze and then worked our way deep into the shallow bay. We finally anchored of a tiny village called Ampampamena. We gave all our last goodies, school books, pens, etc.  to the family there and heard later from and American Peace Corps couple, that these really poor folks were a good choice. 



We found that young and nice American couple in the larger village of Soalala, deeper in the Bay and too shoal for Taniwani. We went there with the dinghy and a man on the beach walked us right to the house of the peace corps folks. We were led through "town" and to the market where a small selection of fresh produce could be bought. 


We learn just how remote that village is: In the rainy season there is no possible land connection and access is just by boat from Majunga. In the dry season it is a 14 hours drive on poor roads. After shopping a few veggies, we leave our remaining Madagascar money with the young couple and start the wet drive back against the now fully developed sea breeze.




On the way we meet one of those little sailing outriggers with a bunch of young people, they are zooming along in the stiff breeze as fast as we with our dinghy. We take pictures and they pose even more eventually overpowering the fragile rig,  the gaff breaks and the lads on the outrigger have to jump into the sea to avoid capsizing the little boat. We pick up one of them and bring him back to his boat. Then we undo Dolly's old anchor line and pass it on to them. They wave happily and make for the shore under jury rig.




Later the pictures are delivered to the shore via another canoe that came out to trade some crabs and fruits for lines and hooks.


One more turn with the scuba tanks to clean our bottom, then decanting the last jerry cans into the diesel tanks and we are ready for leaving Madagascar the next morning.

Since our arrival in Madagascar, almost two months ago, we have sailed just 700 miles, now we had exactly that distance ahead of us, crossing the Mozambique Channel to Bazaruto. At almost twice the size of the North Sea, the word channel seems a bit of an understatement. We had chosen Bazaruto for three reasons: One was that it is supposed to be a really nice place, second it is said that you can easily cruise in the area for a few weeks without clearing into Mozambique and third was that the weather in the southern Mozambique Channel is already dominated by fronts of depressions passing further south. Thus it is easier and safer to make south along the Mozambique coast where shelter can be found.

From now on we tried to listen into Fred's Peri-Peri weather net twice a day. Fred's service is a godsend for all yachts cruising in this area and his specialty is to guide boats safely along the South African east coast in the dreaded Agulhas Current. Unfortunately, our ICOM 710, with remote head has a very poor reception on voice, a problem that other remote head units seem to share. So we need to listen to Fred on the weather-receiver, which unfortunately needs several seconds to recover gain, once we have transmitted. So, it is a bit cumbersome, all can hear us very well, but we can barely hear other boats. Fortunately it doesn't seem to bother the Pactor reception, as the modem is directly wired into the black box. 


Anyway, Fred tells us that we will have the predictably unpredictable land-breeze / sea-breeze system of Madagascar until about 100 miles off the shore. But we would not get the more regular SE winds until longitude 40 W, which is about half way across.


And indeed a strong sea-breeze carried us through the first day and almost to the little French island of Juan de Nova. While possible, we decided to not stop there but to carry on. Soon the fast ride was over and we were in very light winds, trying to make some progress with our spinnaker. 


The screen shot from our navigation system shows it all: In the lower right box the red line shows how our speed through the water dropped from 7-8 knots down to 4. But the blue line shows the true speed over ground which drops to 2 knots caused by a strong current going against us.


You can also see that we have just 5 knots of apparent wind from behind and that the system thinks we will need another 7 days to arrive. You can also see that by trying to avoid running dead down wind in these light conditions, we have ended up some 30 miles south of the rhumbline. At that point we had been dealing with this strong counter current for two days, certainly not what we had expected. Still in the end these 7 days became just two, when for the last 30 hours the very light easterlies changed to 30kts from SE and gave us fast final run into Bazaruto with the wind turning SW at last.

Bazaruto is quite a special and unusual area. It is a lagoon, that is closed off by a series of lengthy islands of pure sand; in a way a sand bar grown tall. 


And it isn't a small area: It is over 40 miles from the north tip of Bazaruto island to the south end of the lagoon. Of the sandy islands that fence of the area, Bazaruto Island is by far the largest with a length of 18 miles.

Some vegetation has managed to settle on the sand in the lower sections and with the bright tops the islands sometimes seem like they were covered with snow.

We passed the northern tip of Bazaruto in the first light of the morning and headed on to the only island in the middle of the lagoon: The small island of Santa Carolina.


Already in this northern part one has to navigate careful as many areas are shoal and one has to follow the deeper drenches.


As the wind was now from the SW we thought we best anchor in the lee of the island, just off its northeastern shore.


It didn't take long and a tiny row boat was launched and a man in camouflage suit came out to us. He turned out to be a warden of the nature preserve and he wanted to collect the park fee of US $10 each person and the boat.


We had already heard that this $30 would be all unless we got to close to the main village of Vilanculos, where you would have to officially clear into Mozambique at some extra cost.


Also Fred has referred us to a South African catamaran called "Rigel" who was now cruising in the Bazaruto area for the last three years. Norman, the owner was really very helpful in giving us all the useful information in the radio. 



What we had not considered enough when anchoring, was the strong tidal current that sweep by the island as water flows in and out of the lagoon. It managed to push us around against over 20 knots of wind. While this didn't cause any serious trouble, the chop slapping at our transom was a bit uncomfortable and more so, once the wind turned back to its favorite SE direction.


So as the first thing the next morning we went around the island and anchored off its west side which is less exposed to current and the more beautiful anchorage. Now we had the position and the time to explore the island.

First we took our dinghy to the south end for some rather nice snorkeling. We found that this is also the place that the guests of the fine resorts across on Bazaruto island are taken to. But it is only three or four small boats a day that come across.




Apparently there are a few very fine resorts on the islands and the main land around Bazaruto, the first signs of a slowly developing tourism in Mozambique - the country is now slowly recovering from several decades of civil war. Both, investors and guests are mostly from South Africa right now, but one can easily see this area to develop into a nice international tourist destination.



On Ilha Carolina, there is not yet a new hotel or resort, though it has once hosted the finest luxury resort of the old days, when Portugal still ruled Mozambique.









The ruins of that and the even older ruins of an Portuguese Fort can now be seen exploring the island. This is what we did next.

Despite the ruins, or maybe because of them it is a rather nice island to stroll around on. It looks a bit raffled as not only the houses are decaying, but many of the palm trees had been broken or thrown over by the passing of a severe tropical cyclone in March of this year.


All is laying quiet, there is no tourism yet and just a few care takers, like the park ranger who visited us, live in some patched up old buildings. The anchorage, with the occasional dolphins playing around the boat is simply great. We could stay here for some time.



When we entered the lagoon, we called a Dutch singlehander who was anchored just off the north tip of Bazaruto Island; he didn't answer, but instead we heard Christa's excited voice: "Hello Taniwani, this is Titom, so great to hear you!" They were heading south in the lagoon at that time and we said we would follow down a few days later.



And so we did. Carefully following the deeper trenches we had a nice and easy sail down the lagoon, from Santa Carolina, to Ilha Santo Antonio, the next island south of Bazaruto Island. We anchored near Titom and soon met for some drinks. We heard that Titom's autopilot had failed and the had to hand steer most of the trip from Madagascar. As usual Harald went over to fix it.



We spent two more days at this place, checking out the construction of a new resort with the traditional thatched roofs. We also found a shipyard on the island and when we asked some locals whether they could organize some of the famous blue crabs, that the Mahi Mahi family had always marveled about, they told us they would bring them along the next day.





And sure they did. They brought such a huge sack, that we filled all of our now almost empty freezer and still had an extensive crab dinner together with the crew of Titom. Later in South Africa we fed 2 times 10 people with it. The boys wanted 20 Euros for the crabs, dollars seemed out. The price, at about one Euro per Kilo seemed fine too.




In the mean time some of our friends, Nordlys and Aquila,  had arrived at the northern end of Bazaruto and per our coordinates anchored off Santa Carolina. They planned to come down here the next day to join us. Nordlys, like us had followed the straight line to Bazaruto and had suffered from similar adverse currents. Aquila, crossing about a hundred miles further north had no such problem.



All of us, who were enjoying Bazaruto now, had an eye on the weather and an ear to Fred. From now on, one needed to catch a slot in the weather pattern to make it south. The pattern at that time is one of passing depressions, with the fronts extending up as far as Bazaruto. In practical terms that meant that winds would change between NE and SW about every two to three days. But there is also a delay from south to north, so that when further south at Richards Bay, our destination, a SW had passed, we would just start to get it. And by the time we would have favorable winds, the next SW would approach Richrds Bay - and so on.



We had further been warned that one should never even think about sailing in a SW anywhere south of the South African border. The later warning is because even a mild SW, with say 25 kts would throw up tremendous seas as it blows against the fast running Aguilhas current. The word is that conditions become life threatening within minutes.



As a result there is hardly a time slot long enough to make the 520 miles to Richards Bay in one go, at least not at that time of the year. Luckily there are two convenient stops along the way: The 1st in Inhambane some 140-170 miles depending on where you leave Bazaruto from, and then another 220 miles further is Ilhaca, just outside of Maputo.


So, when the next morning, the sea in Bazaruto was calm without a ripple and high tide pending in about an hour, we made the quick decision to leave for Inhambane. We needed high tide and calm conditions to even consider leaving Bazaruto via its southernmost pass. Going back up north and around would have meant an extra 50 miles. Light southerly winds were expected, but even with tacking south we would arrive in Inhambane the next day.



We called the other boats and told them that we would be leaving, and amazingly all others decided to do the same. Nordlys and Aquila left in the north, and Titom followed us at some distance through the southern exit. 


It turned out much more hair raising than we thought it would be. It was 15 miles and about three hours from the anchorage all the way out into deep water. While the charts are quite accurate inside the lagoon, we found them completely off at the pass and the sand bars.
 Apparently all this gets rearranged when a major cyclone passes through. High tide was soon reached and after that we were driven out by the outgoing tide. 


Just north of Santa Isabel we seemed to be caught in the cul-de-sack, the water shoaling all around us. Despite our forward looking sonar, or maybe because of it, we felt trapped. Turning left and right, scanning the sea bed, the tide drove us closer and closer to the sand bar, the ocean swell drove in against the tide. Just before we had to turn 180 degrees, we found a drench that lead us through the inner bar.


From here we should have 4 miles of relatively deep water before reaching the outer bar. We soon concluded that this deep drench was also not exactly where charted. We called up good old Rigel again; Norman had gone through that pass a couple of times and gave us a waypoint further north to go for. It was good advise and we remained in the deep channel nicely until at the bar which we passed with still 4m of water as advised. 


At Inhambane, our destination, there are some choices. One can enter the river mouth over the sand bar and then anchor inside near Linga-Linga, but in southerly wind directions there is quite some chop at that place. Going further upriver to the actual town of Inhambane inevitable means dealing with all the officialdom and cost. The third option is to anchor northwest of Ponta Barra, a cape that protrudes out just slightly south of the river. It has a large reef extending north, so that one has protection from any wind south of east. With northerly or northeasterly wind you would like to move on anyway.


We reached this anchorage the next morning. A bit rolly, but quite acceptable. There is a long beach with a number of hotels and it would have been possible to go ashore or go for a dive on the reef. We didn't want to launch our dinghy just for that and stayed on board. During the day the other boats came in, Aquila, Nordlys and Titom from Bazaruto and Belle Brise joined the gang directly from Madgascar, skipping Bazaruto altogether.


Titom launched the dinghy, just to pick up Harald to have another look at the autopilot. It turned out Pascal had switched the hydraulic hoses to the tram, he thought we had put them on the wrong way. As a result the autopilot steered away from where it intended to. Luckly we didn't have to switch the hoses, as the pilot can be programmed either way and from then on it was really OK.


All of us waited two nights, and then after consulting Fred in the evening, we all took off in the early morning. We went 10 miles out hoping to catch the current, but found none. But this also put us high enough windward to stay on the tack south for the rest of the day. 



We had loaded all possible weather files and forecasts and had talked to Fred, and from all that we thought it should take us pretty exactly two days for the 380 miles, and we should arrive about 10-12 hours BEFORE the next SW would hit. Titom is a smaller and heavy steel boat and they decided to play it safe and pull into Inhaca. The other four of us were all going straight for Richards Bay.


On the second day we had a phase of rather light wind, but given the fast progress the previous night we didn't revert to motoring and eventually the wind came back. We still managed 195 miles from midnight to midnight, but now the current started helping and we went into the last night with a strong and increasing NE.


By midnight we were doing 9-10 knots over ground, with increasing current and a NE in the mid thirties. With just 50 miles to go, we started thinking about slowing down a bit to not arrive in the dark. Until one in the morning we thought everything was fine and going as planned. 


Over time the four boats had spread over about 4-5 hours. Aquila, the ultra light Santa Cruz 53 was about two hours ahead of us, Nordlys a Swan 47 about an hour behind, and Belle Brise, a Van de Stadt 47 a further two hours behind. But we all had still reasonable radio contact.


It was at one in the morning that we heard Aquila talk to harbor control in Richards Bay - we could only hear Aquila and them saying "We are concerned about our safety, we might not be able to make Richards Bay in time..."


We called Aquila and asked what was going on, and heard that the SW was apparently imminent  and they were not sure they could make it into RB in time. They were 1 1/2 hours out and we 3 1/2 ! Aquila informed Richards Bay about the other three yachts, and so harbor control came on Ch16 which has a repeater chain up along the coast.


Peter, a sailor himself was on watch in the control center and told us that the SW had already hit Durban and that they had closed the harbor in hail storms and 70 knots of wind. The severe weather was now expected any moment to reach Richards Bay. At the same time we saw dark clouds, lightning and showers ahead.


We looked at each other, what should we do now? With some caution, good planning and a fast boat we had steered clear of trouble so far, but now it seemed like it would get us. We could head out to sea, way off shore where there is no current and weather the storm there. That would allow us to heave too or run under autopilot so that we could rest. We could go inshore, very close, but also out of the current and you get some protection. But you wouldn't be able to enter the harbor over the shoal areas where the seas would break violently and you would have to steer the boat all the time that close to shore.


We finally decided to try to make it to Richardsbay as fast as possible and revert to the close to shore version if needed. So we stood in the current, reefed the sails enough to deal with the expected squalls, but ride the still increasing NE as good as possible, and we added the engine to make good for the somewhat conservative sail surface. That way we were now doing 9 knots through the water and 14 knots over ground. As requested we checked in with Richardsbay every half hour, giving position and distance left. And every time the tower told us, keep going, we still have northeast here.


Well, all boats made it. We were alongside of Aquila by 4:30 and when the others showed up we all had a stiff drink, seems we were all too wound up to sleep right away. The SW didn't set in until the afternoon, much as originally predicted. Would it have been Madagascar or many other places we have been to, that do not have coast guards or other useful authorities, we would not have known we were in danger after all and it would have been a trip like many others.


Now we were in South Africa, a place we came to like very much. But all about it in the next report.

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NAjad 490 round the world