[OcelotNews] (no subject)

KD7NDG at Winlink.org KD7NDG at Winlink.org
Fri Jul 24 22:20:00 PDT 2009

Dear Friends & Family,    24 July 09, Mayotte Island

At 1pm this afternoon we dropped the anchor in Mayotte, a French atoll 200nm west of N Madagascar (in the group of islands typically called The Comoros).  Our passage up from Richards Bay covered 1,277 nautical miles (our 3rd longest passage to date!) & took us just under 9 days for an average speed of 6.2 knots.  We picked a good weather window & therefore had the wind behind us virtually the whole way.  They were somewhat stronger than expected once we jumped off from the African coast (up to 35 knots) but the last several days were delightful.

Unfortunately, our radio email refused to work so we were unable to send out our usual "Passage Notes".  However, we did WRITE those emails.  We've included them below.  We've now bought a local WiFi card so we *should* be better correspondents.

We'll probably spend a week or 2 here before heading over to Madagascar to meet our friends coming in from Chagos.

All the best  --  Jon & Sue    s/v Ocelot

Dear Friends & Family,    17 July 09, at sea

We're just at the N tip of Maputo Bay.  This is the point where the south-flowing Agulhas Current is the narrowest.  With the wind blowing out of the south, this can setup some difficult wind-against-current square-sided waves, which we'd like to minimize.  (Yes, currents are generally described by where they're GOING, while winds are described by where they're FROM - I'm not trying to be difficult :).  So tonight we plan to head off shore, away from Mozambique & Africa, to cross the current quickly.  Then we'll head up the Mozambique Channel towards the western tip of Madagascar, 720 miles away.

Last night was a bit bumpy.  We decided to cut the corner of Maputo Bay & head directly for its northernmost point.  This would give us a better angle on the wind, which was blowing 25 knots from the south.  The problem was that this is a pretty fast point of sail for Ocelot, & she took off.  With that much wind (& associated waves) the ride is wild enough that sleeping gets difficult, so we started reefing the mainsail to try to slow Ocelot down.  Eventually we ended up with all 3 reefs tucked in & Ocelot was still peaking at 8-9 knots now & then.

Africa is now giving us a beautiful send off - we have a full rainbow over breaching humpback whales.  But we hope to be back here in a year or 2.

BTW, we're having a bit of a problem connecting to our ground stations (by SSB radio) to send these missives out, so don't be worried if you don't hear from us for a bit.

Fair Winds & Calm Seas  --  Jon & Sue    s/v Ocelot

21 July 09, 250nm from westernmost tip of Madagascar (Cape St. Andre), 870nm from Richards Bay

That last line was very telling - our email has been down.  Not sure when we'll be able to send these.

While in Richards Bay (& even along the coast of South Africa) we could send & receive these emails via the internet & our little 3G modem.  Now that we're at sea we have to go back to the SSB radio - & we can't get any of the ground stations to respond to us!  VERY frustrating!  Durban has his antenna pointed away from us, Pretoria has never responded to us, & our next closest station is in Madras, India.  He was very reliable as we crossed the Indian Ocean in 2007, but now he's 3,000 miles away.  Hopefully we'll find a solution soon.

Our passage up the Mozambique Channel has been ... challenging.  We had a 1 knot current behind us as long as we hugged the coast, & could probably have ridden that all the way up to Inhambane or even Bazaruto if we'd wanted.  But we jumped off a bit south of Inhambane as we have a lot of respect for the Agulhas Current.

As it turned out, crossing the Agulhas was a non-event.  Seems it's pretty weak this time of year.  But the Mozambique Channel had more wind than expected - gusting up to 35 knots.  Ocelot can certainly take a lot more than that, but at those winds the seas get rather excited, banging against the hulls & keeping us all awake.  So we're a bit sleep deprived.

But at 10pm last night somebody found the fan switch & turned it down for us.  Since then we've had lovely sailing conditions - 18-22 knots of wind from just aft of the beam & seas flattening down nicely.  We still have a current pushing us WNW (at >2 knots!) while we're trying to sail ENE, but we can deal with that.

While our radio email may not be working, our radio itself is, & we're in daily contact with several weather & position reporting nets so we don't feel so alone out here.  As I write this (on my 4-8am watch) the sun is just trying to come over the horizon, setting all the clouds there on fire in magnificent preparation for another day.

Fair Winds & Calm Seas  --  Jon & Sue    s/v Ocelot

22 July 09, 250nm from Mayotte, 1016nm from Richards Bay

The sun has just crested the horizon & the clouds are still all rimmed with golden fire & a rosy glow - sunrises at sea are WONDERFUL!

Last night was awesomely beautiful - the stars were out in magnificent glory, the Southern Cross blazing forth as the Milky Way arched over us.  We're in the dark of the moon for the next few days so the stars are particularly brilliant.  The wind & seas have died down a lot so we're just ghosting along at 5-6 knots with the wind at a very comfortable 120° apparent.  The calm seas means that there's almost no sensation of movement down below - just the gentle swishing of water moving past the hulls to lull us to sleep.

Last night we decided to head for Mayotte, a small atoll in the Camores, 180nm west of the north end of Madagascar.  While nominally part of the Camores, it's actually administered by France.  We didn't go there on our way to Africa in 2007.  We have good friends we'd like to meet up with who are sailing from Chagos to Madagascar but they're not expected to arrive until early August, so we have a few days explore Mayotte.  And, of course, we'd like a croissant-fix!

Calm conditions make us perk up & start doing more stuff, like cleaning up all the salt that's been tracked inside over the last few days.  Yesterday Jon finally dug out our new fishing gear, put together a couple of new lures & tossed them out behind us.  Within a couple of hours we had ourselves a nice tuna - or should I say, we had the front 2/3 of a nice tuna.  Something big had taken off the tail section but there was plenty to go around.  So we shared fresh tuna & fresh salad as we watched the sun set from the helm seat.

Fair Winds & Calm Seas  --  Jon & Sue    s/v Ocelot

23 July 09, 150nm from Mayotte, 1135nm from Richards Bay

Yesterday we sailed past Cape St. Andre, the western bump of Madagascar where we jumped off from in 2007 to head for Africa.  But only a few days out on that leg we hit a huge current that pushed us SE at up to 6 knots!  We certainly didn't want to hit that again, so this time we stayed pretty close to land as we sailed north.  The problem with this is that Madagascar is high enough that it blocks the SE trades of the S Indian Ocean.  So the wind died on us & we ended up spending most of yesterday motor-sailing in flat-calm conditions.

So we decided to make the most of it.  Jon reactivated the watermaker (which has been pickled with biocide for the last 20 months).  With essentially unlimited electricity the watermaker generated ~100 gallons (380L) & essentially filled both water-tanks.  Jon also took advantage of the flat conditions to do a bit of engine maintenance.  Meanwhile Sue was digging out gear that had gotten salty during our rough passage up the Mozambique Channel, washing it in fresh water & putting it out in the sun to dry.  Ocelot looked a bit like a floating Chinese laundry!

Late in the afternoon we were visited by a huge pod of several dozen dolphins!  They were playing just under our bows & leaping up to take a look at us.  Some even pulled the old Flipper trick of sticking most of their body out of the water & swimming along backwards.  There might have been 2 pods as the ones close to us looked like Pantropical Dolphins but there were also several Spinner Dolphins leaping out of the water & spinning around several times before splashing back in.

Later, as we were eating dinner in the cockpit we got a green-flash sunset, our first in 2 years!  Then at 8pm we finally got far enough from Madagascar that the wind filled in for us & we could shut down the engine (we typically only use 1 at a time if we're not anchoring or coming through a tricky pass).  So we got to sail all night & now (6am) we've got 14 knots from the SE so Ocelot's sailing along beautifully.  The fishing lines are out, puffy little white clouds dot the vivid blue sky, the GPS says we should arrive at the outer reef of Mayotte in ~24 hours, & we've just had yet another gorgeous tropical sunrise.

Fair Winds & Calm Seas  --  Jon & Sue    s/v Ocelot

24 July 09, 30nm from Mayotte, 1243nm from Richards Bay

LAND HO!  As the sun to the east turned the clouds a fiery crimson we could make out the outline of Mayotte on the horizon - some mountains flanked by smaller undulating hills.  Our first land since leaving Africa almost 1,000 miles ago.

The entrance to Mayotte is complicated.  There are only a few entrances through the outer reef system, & some of those are not well charted or are in nature reserves.  Once inside the lagoon there are 15 miles of twists & turns to avoid coral formations.  We'd like to take the SE entrance, as it's the closest, but rumor has it that the French don't like boats entering via that channel.  If they make us go around it will add 25 miles (5 hours!) to our journey & we might not be able to get in before dark.  We Shall See...

Last night the wind died down on us, slowing us to <3 knots.  So we've been motor-sailing all night, with the starboard engine ticking over at 2000rpm.  We want to arrive with plenty of light so we can see & avoid any underwater hazards.

Had a bit of excitement last night:  Just at dusk, as we were thinking of bringing the fishing lines in, we noticed that the lighter port-side line was tight.  Jon started pulling it in & realized that we had a fish on!  As he pulled it closer we realized that it was a Sail-fish!  It's a good thing he was well hooked as it took Jon 2 tries to get him over our high life-lines ~7' or 2m above the water.  We gave him a shot of alcohol down the gills to calm him down & found that we'd landed our longest fish yet - 63" or 160cm!  So Jon had to work quickly in the fading light to fillet him while he could still see.

Later, as we were changing watch at midnight, we heard a blow off our port bow.  Walking up to the bows with a powerful lantern we saw a small pod of dolphin playing in our bows.  We rarely see (or hear) dolphin at night so these were a treat.

The Milky Way is brilliantly arched over us, pointing the way north to Mayotte.

Fair Winds & Calm Seas  --  Jon & Sue    s/v Ocelot
http://HackingFamily.com    http://svOcelot.com

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