La Reunion to South Africa, Day 1

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.

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