Sunday, 21 June 2015

Indian Ocean Passage Making - Character Building

At some risk of understatement, we refer to our recent Indian Ocean passage to Rodrigues as "character building". It was perhaps a little more than that....

We departed Chagos with a reasonable seven day forecast, expecting the winds to build as we moved further south.  Many large sea birds followed us very closely for the first 24 hours, before sensibly leaving us before we moved south into heavier conditions.

The first three days were hard on the wind, heading generally south into a 15 knot SSE wind.  We then slowly angled off, reaching south of the rhumb line to put the wind behind the beam for the expected heavier conditions for the last two days.  However by day four we were already in 30 knots and for the last two days we had over 40 knots, a solid 45 for the final day.

The usual Indian Ocean multi-direction wave trains made the ride very aggressive.  I had expected these to merge into a single, more predictable, swell as the conditions built, however this was not to be.  After 24 hours with over 40 knots we still had waves from three directions.  When they coincided the inevitable peaks were enormous curling breakers that broached us several times.

Sail Bag & Mainsail, A Real Mess On Arrival
One wave broke higher than the boom, taking the sail bag away, pulling the pop riveted bolt rope track right off the boom in an instant.  From that point on we ran on staysail alone, still averaging 7 to 8 knots.   In a curious twist, our Life Sling rescue system itself needed to be rescued when a breaking wave took it off the railings.

Approaching Rodrigues in thick conditions and constant rain squalls, as expected the waves built higher as we came onto the 60 meter deep continental shelf around the island.  Now it felt like we were skiing !  Slanting off across the huge wave fronts, many at 10-12 meters in height, was exhilarating.  The new autopilot steered the entire distance without fault, thank you Raymarine !

For the final 12 hours we also ran the engine at cruising RPM, which made only a small difference to the boat speed but gave the rudder more bite in the frothy disturbed water on the wave crests.  It also kept us moving in the troughs, when the wind was masked by the height of the waves behind us.

It was a very big week in the Indian Ocean - one boat ahead of us was dismasted, another yacht behind us lost it's rudder and was abandoned, the crew being rescued by a nearby cruising boat.  Another yacht at Chagos dragged onto the reef in a night time squall.  All character building experiences. 

Cruising friends were ready to take our lines at the dock in Port Mathurin, and even handed over fresh baguettes as we tied the lines off.

We have now repaired the boom and sail bag, and cleaned the salt water out of all those places you never expect to see it - the cockpit was filled with green water so many times, but no water came below into the cabin.

Physically we were both sore for days, arms and shoulders aching from the constant load of hanging on.  The bruises were spectacular (sorry no pics folks) but have now faded.

Rodrigues is a delight, a fantastic destination, and we'll be here for several weeks.  We ate and slept like royalty for a full week, before feeling truly "normal" again.

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