Indian Ocean: Australia to Africa

Landfall in Africa!!!, Day 10

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016
Date: Nov. 15, 2016, noon Position: 28 28.71 S, 35 2.89 E

Our beam reach ended around sunset last night when we got to within 70 NM NE of Richard’s Bay. It is prudent to aim north of the destination, as the strong Agulhas currents sweep you to the south as you cross the main bulk of the stream. We definitely did not want to get swept south of Richard’s Bay and into the advancing low pressure system! However, the winds stayed very S and SW, despite the light E-SE winds forecast. Our last 70 NM were once again a beat to windward.

Dawn rose another red-sun-in-morning-warning day, with massive mushroom clouds marching along the shores of Africa. We sighted our first glimpse of the African continent in between a few of these cells, before the misty rains closed in again and obscured the land. There appeared to be a mixture of jungle and open savanna land. It was so amazing to think that lions and giraffes and elephants and hippos walk these shores! The lands on Privateer’s starboard beam promise adventure and mystery: Swaziland, Zululand, Mozambique, Lesotho…

The winds became very unstable near the mushroom cells, buffeting Privateer from every direction and raising a high, vigorous, and heavy chop in the Agulhas current. We lurched through steep and angular waves as hot and cool winds swirled through the rigging. The mist brought our first smells of the land–the smells of a new continent. We could smell the sweet grass, like a freshly mown lawn on a dewy morning, and I swear I could smell Elephant dung on the warm breezes as well. First smells from the sea are always the most vivid after being on the ocean for many days. The nose goes into overdrive for about an hour before the new smells become “normal” and the brain shuts them off and tells you not to notice them anymore. For that first sweet hour, my mind took me back to a time of childhood with these smells and sent shivers down my back.

We gave up on the sailing for the last 25 NM. The winds were coming from all directions, and the sooner we could make port the better. It is no joke out here in the Agulhas current. These waves are wicked, and it’s not even a windy day by South African standards. We were seeing the effects of 20 knots SW against the current, and it wasn’t pretty. I can easily see why, when met with a SW gale, the Agulhas current produces vertical waves 60 feet tall, capable of (and regularly) cracking freighters in two. A small boat would not have any chance of survival these conditions. With our SW gales to come in a day or two, there was a strong urgency not to linger here. These are considered the most dangerous seas in the world, and sailing along here today is about as fun as playing that game where you fan out your fingers and stab a dagger into the table between them. We got lucky and did not get stabbed.

Our beloved electronic tiller pilot, however, steered its last course before a nasty rogue wave smacked the boat and flooded the cockpit, submerging the precious unit and destroying the internal fluxgate compass. I was forced to hand steer the last 5 hours and it nearly ripped my arm out of the socket. As we approached the land the waters turned muddy and milky, and we had a close call with a 55-gallon barrel. It was lurking just below the surface of the waves and I noticed it only because a rainbow sheen of gasoline blossomed outwards from the hazard. A few minutes later I saw another. Despite not sleeping more than 3-4 hour stretches for the past ten days, and being up all night last night, I was very alert and aware of my surroundings–you kind of have to be!

At last, we radioed Richard’s Bay Port Control and passed in behind the massive breakwater walls that protect the bay. We made it!!!!!!! Yeah Privateer!!!!! The winds dropped to zero very politely (& luckily!) for our arrival. We found a slip in the rickety Tuzi Gazi marina docks and gingerly tied alongside. An excellent passage safely completed.

The enormity of this world voyage and the significance of the passage sunk in as we walked the docks and chatted with the other sailors. We rolled our dice with the rest of them in La Reunion and it was a good roll–Snake Eyes! The others were not so lucky. Sapphire left one week before us and came in after us, 16 days later with a shredded mainsail. Another boat neighbor in Reunion left 2 days before us and limped into port after encountering severe seas that left one crew with a broken arm and the dodger & frames stripped clean off the decks. Aliena was busy taking down here spare main, after the original one disintegrated and the spare delaminated. Looking around the harbor there were many more blown-out jibs and tales of 55-knot winds and being hove-to for four days, etc etc. Our tiller pilot failure was the least interesting story on the dock and our passage the quickest. Despite our relief and exhilaration, we kept our cards close to our chest and our poker faces on.

Finally, I would like to thank Mark on base command S/V “Tuuletar”, who provided us with detailed weather analysis several times each day while en route. His caliber of forecasting kept us in favorable currents and routed us well away from the bad weather, with safe and comfortable route alternatives in order to avoid any storms, should they come our way. Thank you a million times over, Mark! Receiving your texts and mulling over the options with you was a highlight of this passage.

Overall, we had an safe and thrilling passage. We really did have a bit of everything. We sailed every angle from wing & wing to close-hauled and everything in between. We had winds from 10-45 knots, and winds from every direction N, E, S & W. We had 4 gentle downwind days, a 186 NM distance-shattering day, a few days hard on the wind heeled over, and a big lightning storm to spice things up. We flew our storm trysail and storm jib which saved wear and tear on our working sails and kept us comfortable in the blow. We lucked out on the timing of the fronts and didn’t have to heave-to or wait for better weather. We achieved the best possible outcome after just 10 days at sea–a fast passage.

A new continent to explore now, Africa awaits…

Tough miles, Day 9

Monday, November 14th, 2016
Date: Nov. 14, 2016, noon Position: 28 28.71 S, 35 2.89 E

After the storm front passed yesterday we sailed along nicely until daybreak, but then a stiff 22-knot Westerly wind kicked in, right on the nose. This, compounded by the urge to make port before the next major storm in a few days, was a very frustrating experience. We had to crack way off to the NW, almost at a right angle to our destination.

Finally, yesterday afternoon the winds went more WSW and lightened up and we fired up the engine to improve our angle of attack toward destination. We still angled off to the NW more than I liked, but were once again making miles and still able to use the wind vane for our autopilot. I slept the rest of the day to recharge after the adrenaline and elation of the storm wore off and exhaustion kicked in.

We had to work very hard and get very wet to make our miles today, again. It was sort of a miniature repeat of yesterday, minus the front. The winds came more “annoying Westerly” again and we were forced once more to fire up the engine to keep our speed up. No lingering around here! Hammer down and get to port ASAP, by any means. We have the Agulhas current to cross and another bigger storm to beat.

In the afternoon the swells built to 5 meters, big giants coming up from the Southern Ocean. They were spaced nicely apart, however, so didn’t pose any threat. The winds filled in from the South at about 22-25 knots and we took off on a beam reach in very lively conditions. It felt more like we were going through the waves–the decks continually awash. I forgot to turn a cowl vent around–big mistake. I was here at the nav station on my computer and Kelsey was playing with Taz in the bunk. When Kelsey saw the portlights (windows) fill with green water, she knew it was going to be interesting. We took a wave wrong and the crest smacked the side of the boat hard and water shot down into the boat through the cowl vent pipe like a large-diameter fire hose. Fortunately the boat was heeled over enough that the main stream landed on the floor, but seawater still sprayed all over the bunks and into the galley.

Finally in the evening the winds shifted more to the south and we eased off onto a fantastic beam reach for about 100 NM. We are now on our final approach to Richard’s Bay. So close!

Lightning storm, Day 8

Sunday, November 13th, 2016
Date: Nov. 13, 2016, noon Position: 28 29.60 S, 39 41.65 E

We saw the wall of lightning about an hour before the front hit us. Big bolts and zaps hitting the ocean ahead. The winds were only around 15 knots and Privateer had slowed down to about 4.5 knots. It felt a bit silly to be sailing in 15 knots with storm sails. But I resisted the urge to pile on more canvas. With lightning on the horizon and Kelsey & Taz sleeping below, this was time to batten down: the calm before the storm.

Slowly, we sailed into the wall of electricity. The misty air smelled like burnt-out batteries, and my thoughts turned naturally toward what would happen if we experience total instrument failure. One GPS is always stored in a metal box, to protect against lightning strike. I’ve heard of other sailors putting their electronics in the galley oven, too. Just don’t forget to take them out before you pre-heat! I woke Kelsey up and had her wrap Taz up in the foam yoga mat, to create a total insulative barrier.

It wasn’t your average thunderstorm. Blue and purple flashes burst continually from the sky, in constant succession, the colors like the weird blue light inside a tanning booth. The ocean was a metallic purple under those strange lights, with pink white-caps…”Pink-caps!” When an extra-intense bolt would land near the boat, a perfect negative-image of Privateer was burned momentarily into my eyes. If I blinked, I could see a black image of Privateer against a white background, down to every minute detail including the wire rigging and ropes.

Thunder on the ocean is a sound to behold. There’s nothing to echo off of out here, and the thunder rushed out across the expanse of ocean like the noise of a jet engine. I can only describe it as a “circular” noise. From all directions the thunder rushed outward. Some of the lightning bolts directly overhead produced a stacatto thunderclap, but being in the epicenter with no echo to hear, that was all we heard. Once in Alaska I saw a house-sized boulder fly off a mountainside and into the ocean from thousands of feet above. The sound that rock made when it hit the water was like tonight’s overhead thunder: kind of a hollow sucking noise.

When the SW winds came, I thanked god that we had our storm trysail up and not a reefed main. I just had time to watch the wind speed instrument go from 8 knots to 35 in one second, and then I was too busy to watch it top out. The storm sails snapped-to like a rubber band (they are built to stretch) and Privateer took off like a wild animal that had just been poked in the rear. The only problem was, we were on starboard tack in NW winds before the event, and now with the winds SW we were still on starboard tack but sailing back toward Reunion! We needed to tack ASAP.

I lit up the decks and prepped for action, running down the checklist in my head: Flip air vane paddle hard over for deep port tack, let fly lazy storm trysail sheet after sails pop, secure storm try, secure storm staysail sheet & let fly lazy sheet after she backs and hammers the boat over. Simple enough. Only problem was, the winds were so intense that no matter what I did with the air vane adjustment, Privateer just surged straight ahead, unable to come to windward for the tack. I tried falling off into a jibe, same thing. At that point Captain instinct kicked in and somehow I made it work, though I cannot tell you the sequence of events because I still can’t figure out how I did it. I started the engine but couldn’t hear it over the shriek of the wind–I didn’t even know it was on until I goosed the throttle and felt a faint vibration under my feet. I was completely disoriented by the lightning flashes and waves crashing over the decks. Again, I put the air vane where I knew it had to be in the end, punched the throttle full-out, and used all my body weight to force the tiller over. And somehow the boat swung around, not sure if jibed or tacked, and I got sheets made fast. It was like trying to drive a runaway car around a sharp bend on a mountain road while eating a sandwich and texting a friend and trying to figure out how the windshield wipers work. I was thrilled to see Privateer tracking straight on her new line now, surging through the storm like a Cadillac. I whooped and howled into the wind and lightning.

Meanwhile, Taz slept peacefully down below, oblivious to the lively conditions on deck, while his Dad sang to himself at the helm. “Does anyone know where the love of god goes, when the waves turn the minutes to hours…”

Smashed the Distance Record, Day 7

Saturday, November 12th, 2016
Date: Nov. 12, 2016, noon Position: 28 29.60 S, 39 41.65 E

We did it! Privateer shattered her all time distance record. We logged a whopping 186 NM day at sea. 1/2 of this distance was sailing to windward, and the other half wing-on-wing. We probably could’ve broken 200 NM if I’d set the pole out earlier. We spent a good part of the night deep reaching with the yankee blanketed by the mainsail. However, for safety I do not set the pole in the dark if I can avoid it. At first light we rigged the pole for wing & wing and the boat accelerated another 2 knots extra speed.

My muscles ache from all the sail changes and maneuvers these past few days! Constant reefing, un-reefing, dipping the pole from port to starboard, jibing, etc. We’re playing the winds and sailing as fast as we can to beat the SW buster on Wednesday.

With the 2nd front due to hit us at 0300 hours tonight, I slept throughout the afternoon as best I could. This next one should be a bit of a doozie. We’re supposed to get a 180 degree wind shift (not in our favor) so we are running as far off the the south in anticipation for a “bounce” to the north on our track line.

Today “Aliena” popped back onto our AIS and we passed again, remarkably, within sight of each other. Of all the ocean out here what are the chances… We noticed that they had come to a full stop, and I gave them a safety call on Ch. 16, with no response. I ran down the list of possibilities: either they had landed a huge fish, were raising or lowering their main, or someone/thing had fallen overboard. Later we received a call from the tired skipper: their mainsail had torn in half! Luckily they had a spare main on board. But it was in-mast roller furling and quite a feat to thread the huge sail into the slot while hoisting in a vigorous wind & sea. The skipper told me he’d lost a lot of skin, but he did it.

Around sunset the winds piped up fresh from the North at 25 knots, higher than forecast. I had a nagging feeling about the approaching front, and decided to play it safe and hoist the storm trysail and douse the mainsail. With the boom safely and securely lashed down and trysail sheeted to the strong point in the cockpit, I felt elated. We are now ready for anything. The boat immediately went from feeling a bit over-powered to under complete control. We still have the double-reef yankee flying, and can roll it up at the first hint of strong winds. Now that the storm trysail and storm staysail were set, I noticed we were still flying our French Tricolor flag. We lowered the flag and hoisted the flag of South Africa! Here we are, on our way to Africa, with a gale on the horizon and the mighty Agulhas current ahead of us. We’re as ready as we can be.

Hauling Ass!, Day 6

Friday, November 11th, 2016
Date: Nov. 11, 2016, noon Position: 27 11.56 S, 42 52.42 E

It was flat calm in the morning, motoring across very long-period swell coming up from the SW. It was also a “Red Sun in morning, sailor’s take warning” dawn. I took advantage of the quiet conditions and topped off our fuel tank (pouring jerry cans into deck fill) and put a smart double-reef in the mainsail.

The engine stayed on until noon, when the first front arrived. Our clear skies became misty with cloud scuttle, and a fresh wind popped up instantly from the south. We sheeted the yankee and staysail and took off on Privateer’s fastest tack ever! From 12 noon to midnight tonight we sailed well over 100 NM! As winds built to 20-24 knots forward of the beam, Privateer powered into the waves making solid 9-10 knots SOG. Our highest of the day was 15.4 knots! I’m still not quite sure how we did it, but the miles in our wake tell the tale. It’s the fastest I’ve ever sailed on any 36′ boat.

Making those miles is money in the bank for us. We must reach Richards Bay by Wednesday, or face the prospect of 3 extra days at sea, hove-to in potentially very nasty conditions. Each hour we sail at those speeds is one hour less on our ETA.

We’re pressing down south of the rhumb line now, to prepare for a more vigorous front on Sunday, which should bring more S-SW winds, rain, and possibly lightning. It was a wet enough ride today, heeled into the waves, and we want to be able to crack off a bit in this next frontal system. It’s a bit of a zig-zag path toward Richard’s Bay, but it only adds a few hours and greatly increases [relative] comfort on board. It was a deck-sweeper of a day today, waves continually booming down on deck & walls of spray as Privateer disintegrated the waves in front of her.

Taz was a good boy today & held on tight to his animals–the trio of Kitty, Kanga, and Kiwi, with the newest addition of his Mauritian “toilet kitty” which has already been chucked into the sea, into the toilet, and run over by a car & lost an eye.

Rounding under Madagascar, Day 5

Thursday, November 10th, 2016
Date: Nov. 10, 2016, noon Position: 26 35.41 S, 45 36.54 E

The good currents and light winds carried us all the way past our southern waypoint, 75 NM south of Cape St. Marie, Madagascar. With sails barely filled, we glided along at 6.5 knots. All good things must come to an end, however. The wind dropped before shifting to the south. We motor-sailed for an hour or two, and then had enough wind to beam reach on a good sail for another few hours, but finally the winds went too light again and we’ve been motoring through the night.

We are putting on a full head of steam now to try and maintain a 5.5 knot average, giving us an ETA at Richards Bay on Tuesday night. An intense low is forecast to form over Durban next Wednesday-Thursday, and we don’t want to be anywhere near that! If we slow down, or the low comes earlier, we will be forced to divert north to Maputo, Mozambique. The alternative is to ride out the storm hove-to. It’s supposed to pass through quickly, but looks like a doozie with 45-knot winds. We’ll do everything we can to avoid it. I spent a few hours emailing back and forth with Mark on Tuuletar and Sam in South Africa. Eventually they both came to the same conclusion on a route, which is a direct rhumb-line course to Richards Bay.

I’ve never seen so many freighters at sea–at all times today we had anywhere between 5-8 of them on our AIS. Any time one was on a trajectory to within 1 mile of our track, we called and requested diversion. They have all been very generous in giving us a wide berth. Kelsey called one captain who freaked out because he thought we were a US warship!

We squared away the boat today in preparation for the swells & winds ahead. We’re eking out all the speed we can get, sailing and motor sailing if our speeds drop below 5.5 knots. I think I’ve reefed and un-reefed the main 5 times in the last two days! There always seems to be a patch of 25-knot winds right at sunset, and again at sunrise.

Rounding under Madagascar, Day 4

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016
Date: Nov. 9, 2016, noon Position: 25 39.69 S, 48 26.96 E

The excellent sailing continued throughout the night, and into the morning and afternoon. We made 170 NM on our noon-to-noon! All under clear skies, steady wind, and low seas. We kept pace with the 56′ sailboat “Aliena”, keeping her sail on the horizon all day long. In the morning we crossed paths to within about 1/2 NM, snapped a few photos, and watched as her sails slowly diminished under the horizon. Aliena has decided to push further south before rounding Madagascar, while Privateer is sticking closer to the coast and the favorable currents.

The morning was heavily marred by the shocking election news from the USA. We feel like we do not have a country to sail home to anymore. What a sad, sad disgrace.

We hit an area of counter-current which Mark quickly routed us away from, and were soon back to the edge of the main flow. The Indian ocean current hits Madagascar like a big fire hose, creating a line of 1-3 knot current with associated back-eddies and counter-currents, just like water hitting a rock in a giant river. It’s important to know where to go, because it’s the difference between sailing at 8 knots with the current, or at two knots against.

As we round under Madagascar we’re sailing over a broken plateau of shallower water and many sea-mounts. In rough conditions this would be a dangerous lee shore with hazardous seas. Fortunately today, she’s a sleeping giant and we’re gliding along at 8-9 knots nearer the shore (within 70 NM) in the current stream and low seas.

Tomorrow, the swells are supposed to kick up, pumping in from the intense low in the Southern Ocean. The first front should pass over us after we’ve rounded Madagascar, then a second one on Sunday, followed by a developing system over Durban that we will keep a very close eye on, as we close with the S. African coast.

For the time being, we are still charging along downwind at 8-9 knots! It feels strange to make these boat speeds with less than 15 knots of wind.

I don’t know what else to say. Our thoughts are with our family and friends in the USA, and around the world, as we stumble into dangerous and uncharted waters.

La Reunion to South Africa, Day 3

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016
Date: Nov. 8, 2016, noon Position: 24 5.02 S, 51 3.50 E

Last night the winds dropped to very light and I was surprised we had any steerage at all, but we still eked out about 3.5-4 knots. After a few hours of lurching around, however, things got old and we fired up the engine. Fortunately, the wind filled again soon after, right at sunrise, and things developed into the most fantastic sailing day as can be imagined.

With an almost flat sea, 15-18 knots abaft the beam, and sails set to wing-on-wing, Privateer achieved a fast point of sail. As soon as we poled the full yankee out to windward, we surged like a greyhound through the gentle swells, 8 knots, 9 knots, 10 knots. For the entire day and into the night now, the winds were steady and even, with a gentle heel to keep things comfortable down below-decks.

Mark is keeping us informed about where to sail to catch favorable ocean currents and stay out of the adverse currents (there are a lot of them on this route). Like clockwork, we sailed into an area of predicted favorable current and picked up a knot of boat speed.

Taz didn’t go down for his usual nap today which threw off the watch a bit. Then he took three poops in a row–no wonder he couldn’t sleep! All that food he ate when he got his ocean appetite back…

My day was somewhat shadowed by my apprehension of the next week to come. Many important decisions need to be made about how far out to round Madagascar’s southern cape, and what way-point to aim for to set ourselves up for the frontal systems. A shelf extends off Madagascar that is known for freak waves, and we want to clear by that ASAP. I will breathe a bit easier after we round Madagascar’s southern cape, when we can draw the rest of our cards and see what kind of hand we’re dealing with.

Today was also the day of the freighters–we have found the major shipping lane from Cape Town to Singapore. One by one or three by three they pop up on our AIS. If they’re in line with us we make contact with the bridge and they alter course to give us a safe 3 NM pass. We also spotted a sail on the horizon today! She is the 56-foot yacht Aliena. I was very pleased that despite her much longer waterline, she’s only gained on us by about 2 NM over the last 12 hours. We’re on a converging course and only about 3 miles away from each other now. Hopefully in the morning we will be close enough to take pictures and exchange e-mails.

La Reunion to South Africa, Day 2

Monday, November 7th, 2016
Date: Nov. 7, 2016, noon Position: 22 52.35 S, 53 2.22 E

We managed to sail 144 miles noon-to-noon in fairly light winds. At very first light, I set the pole, as the winds had swung around more to the north (behind us). The swells flattened out and a steady light wind made for some easy wing-on-wing sailing. Other boats are motoring, but Privateer did just fine, making 5-6 knots under sail most of the day. We really want to conserve our diesel as much as possible for the second half of the passage, as we close in on the South African coast. We’ll need as many cards in our hand as we can for the infamous Agulhas current.

The self-steering gear works wonderfully in light air, keeping us right on course at all times. We’ve nearly mastered the art of setting the vane, though we always learn something new each time we sail. Privateer–what a fine boat! Heavy weather, light airs, she handles them all in grace.

Taz sprang back into his sea routine today, devouring all food in sight. We had a marathon playdoh session until it devolved into Taz flicking little bits of the pink dough all around the bunk and mashing them into the cushions. Oh well…much better than yesterday’s vomit. Kelsey also has her appetite back, after turning the corner on her morning sickness (finally!)

We’ve been in constant contact with Mark (creator of this website) on “Tuuletar” and he’s devoting an extraordinary amount of time in giving us detailed weather forecasts, routing advice, and ocean current synopses. His help comes at a time when our Sailmail, GRIB, and WxFax reports are nil due to the poor SSB reception here. Thank you a million times over, Mark! We are also in contact with Sam, a local South African meteorologist who is also giving us reports (although less detailed, as he focuses primarily on HAM radio communications). And finally, another boat “Simmer Down” on passage with us has some sailor friends in Russell, NZ providing them with their synopses. We receive and trade all this info over our DeLorme inReach, a magic device that lets us text message from our iPad from anywhere on the planet. Every sailor can benefit greatly from the DeLorme inReach. “Simmer Down” uses one too, and contact with them is effortless. Repeat: every boat should have a Delorme inReach.

Right now it looks like we’ll have two frontal systems sweep past us, on Friday and Sunday, as/after we round Madagascar, with a large 4.2 meter swell arriving from the south, originating from a big low in the Southern Ocean. When we turn the corner around the bottom of Madagascar, our sailing will get a bit trickier. Luckily the first system looks to be pretty mild, and the second one more intense but moving through rapidly, with potential thunderstorms. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the barometer!

La Reunion to South Africa, Day 1

Sunday, November 6th, 2016
Date: Nov. 6, 2016, noon Position: 21 14.37 S, 54 57.22 E

Where do we want to sail today? How about Africa!! The provisions are loaded, passports stamped out to exit, and we are on our way.

It took the better part of the daylight hours to finally make it free of the wind shadow of La Reunion. Piton Des Neiges (“Peak of the Snows”) is the highest point in the Indian Ocean, so I’ve heard, which effectively blocks the normal wind direction and creates a massive lee. We had a light SW wind right on the nose for about 8 hours. With all sails set and pinching as close as possible to the wind, we eked out 4 knots in roughly the right direction.

We had to motor for several hours as well, which was fine as our batteries needed a good deep charge after being in a marina for two weeks. We left our shore power cord on the dock years and years ago, and we use only solar and wind power to charge our batteries. Ironically, marinas are poor environments for making your own power. The land and buildings and boats shadow the solar panels and block the breeze. Privateer prefers the free and open anchorage for a multitude of reasons.

Poor Taz did not enjoy motoring through confused swells near the land this morning. After two months kicking around in the Mascarenes his sea legs got a little soft, and he puked all over the bed sheets and all over his Mom. Fortunately he only gets sick with the following combo: long time away from the open sea, motoring, & confused swells. He quickly perked up when we shut the engine down, all sails drawing and windvane set. He’s wild for his orange-flavored electrolyte drink, and we had to administer it in small doses otherwise he sucks it down too fast!

Around 1500 hrs we finally broke free from the curses of the land and found the solid Easterly winds, and are now sailing the rhumb line toward our 1st southern waypoint, south of Madagascar. We reefed the main before sunset (always an assurance) as a fine 17-knot breeze developed abaft the beam, and we are clipping along at 7-8 knots with spray flying.

The first day on passage is always kind of a tough one. Particularly the first 12 hours. We have a light-wind forecast for the next week, and our doubts were raised when we encountered the contrary SW winds. But I’d spent way too many hours in the past weeks staring cross-eyed at the Windyty and Passageweather forecasts, watching them change hourly, taking my mood up or down depending on the outlook. What finally pushed us off the dock is that cyclone season is bearing down on us, the forecasts will always change, and the fact that this passage leg is a notoriously tough one, with little chance of having favorable conditions the whole way. Next week’s forecast didn’t look so hot for leaving, and a $25 per day marina bill really adds up fast. I groggily nodded to another groggy sailor in the pre-dawn morning who’s also setting out today. “You going?” he asked. “F- it, we’re going” I said. “Yeah, F- it” he said (in case you’re wondering how sailors communicate when not over the airwaves).

The decision of when to leave harbor is a deeply personal one. The fleet watches as each boat goes, on this day or that, and wonders who will be the luckiest boat with the luckiest weather. We’ve cast our dice, pushed beyond the initial first 12 hours at sea, and are now freely beam-reaching our way to Africa! Every mile sailed is another in our wake.