08/31/2014, Cosmoledo Island, Seychelles
I thought I understood swells and how they are generated and travel. However, I must admit, I am now a bit confused. During our two day passage here we were bashed for about 24 hours by big, short period swells that made the ride most uncomfortable. They were short period waves of about 6 seconds with heights that went up 4 + meters. Given the short periods, this tells me that they were generated locally which make sense since they did not appear until the wind piped up to 25+ knots. They were large, mean and ugly as they would break with surf rolling down from their peaks into their troughs. One wave caught Leu Cat on it port stern quarter right as it was breaking and threw our bow 60 degrees to the south. As it turns out, Steve was just coming out of the salon into the stern cockpit when the wave hit us and was dosed when a lot of water poured into the cockpit. A little bit even ran into the salon.
Shortly after I posted yesterday's blog the wind dropped to about 18 to 20 knots and the seas mellowed a bit so that the swells were just 2 to 3 meters. While they still broke, the surf was tame compared to before. After an hour the winds returned to 25 + knots but the seas stayed the same and kept that way until this morning when we sailed behind the Cosmoledo Atoll and the protection it offered. Why the seas did not rebuild is a mystery to me.
Steve thinks it is because there is a sea ridge about 150 nm to the east of us which supports a few islands. That may be the likely reason but if the swells were wind generated locally then I am not sure that ridge would have much to do with it. I guess it will just remain a mystery to me┬...
We are now anchored on the leeward side of Cosmoledo Island and our position is 9┬░ 42.362'S: 47┬░ 30.342'E. We are in 39 feet of water and anchored in what we believe is sand. The winds are still blowing 20 + knots and will stay that way until tomorrow however the seas are relatively flat which makes this a very nice anchorage. At times, some swells make their way around the atoll but for the most part, the seas are flat.
We have decided to stay here for the next few days. The winds are supposed to calm down at bit but they will be coming from the south. That is the wrong direction for us as they would blow us too far north so we will wait until the winds turn more southeasterly, which they are predicted to do in three days. We will be inspecting the GRIB files each day to see if that predictions holds and our last segment of our run to Madagascar will be based on the better winds. It is just a two to three day passage depending how far to the northwest the winds push you. We hope to get into the wind shadow at the NE tip of Madagascar makes, which is about 120 or so nm from our position. When we get into that, we will drop the sails, and turn south to make a beeline for Nosy Be.
Meanwhile, we will enjoy this anchorage. Steve and I will make some sail repairs (the second reef line needs to be replaced) and Mary Margaret will be cooking up a storm for our next passage. She already has made a large pot of beef stew and will be making her killer lasagna. Yum!
08/30/2014, Heading Toward Cosmoledo Island, Seychelles
We were having such a great sail throughout yesterday and into last night. When I took my watch at 1000 the sky was clear, the stars were shining in their magnificence, the wind were a nice 16 knots and the seas, while a bit bumpy, were tolerable. However, only 1.5 hours into my watch I glanced up at the sky and discovered the stars were complete gone from one horizon to the other. Oh, Oh┬...
I turned on the radar and spied a line of squalls making their way toward us. Fortunately, the squalls did not hit us as they passed by but the winds piped up a bit and were now on the high side of 20 knots. When Portia came up to relieve me at 0100 they had increased to 25 knots and another squall was about to hit. We put in a second reef in the head sail as we already had a reef in the main. I stayed up at the helm with Portia until the squall had passed us and then bid her a good night in hopes that the squalls were now over and the winds would return to their more benevolent behavior.
I was woken up from my sleep by a call on our walkie talkies from Steve. We have one walkie talkie up at the helm and one in each of the master suites. We use them to get people up if we need help at the helm. I got dressed and ran up to the helm to see what the problem was.
The winds had not calmed down as they were still blowing 25 knots, the seas were now just plain ugly and another large squall was about to hit us. Steve and Portia had wisely decided to put another reef in the main and wanted my help.
We quickly pulled in the head sail, turned the engines on and turned into the wind to put in the second reef. It went in very smoothly and soon the winds were blowing 35 knots. Whew, just in the nick of time!
I was wet and tired so I went back to bed looking forward to some more sleep. At 0630 we got another call from Portia and Steve saying that the second reef line had failed. Damn.
Soon we once again rolling up the head sail, turned on the engines, turned into the wind and now reefed the main sail down to the third reef. With three reefs in the Main and two in the head sail we slowed down from doing 10 to 11 knots to doing between 8 and 9 knots. The ride was a bit more comfortable with the lower speed but the swells were massive and with the winds howling at 25 knots they were breaking and, at times, crashing against our windward hull, throwing water and spume over the deck and cascading against our bimini and its side panels.
Since it was now time for my watch Portia went below for a well-earned rest but Steve stayed up with me at the helm for a while. It was nice to have his company as the waves pounded us and the wind howled.
It has stayed this way all through today. The winds varied between 20 and 28 knots and the seas were typically 4 plus meters and steep with only 6 second periods. Ugh. As Portia told me this afternoon, they remind her as to why she no longer likes the rides at fairs.
We are trying to slow Leu Cat down as much as we can so we will arrive at Cosmoledo Island in daylight tomorrow morning. This evening we will throw in a third reef to match the three reefs that are in the main to do that. Once anchored we hope to make repairs and then may consider leaving the next day as the winds are predicted to mellow a bit and be more from the ESE. That would be good a thing as it would let us steer more toward Madagascar instead of to the north, toward Mayotte. We shall see┬...
As of 1730 our position is 08 50.20'S:049 07.44'E, our course is 244 degrees T, our speed is 8 knots. We have made 248 nm, our average speed is just under 8 knots and we have 105 nm to go. The winds are from the SE (150 degrees T) at 25 knots. The seas are just plain ugly.
08/29/2014, Heading Toward Cosmoledo Island, Seychelles
Before I forget again, I want to give our anchoring position at Alphonse Island. With the different people writing the blog lately, I plum forgot to give it. I did report our position such that it shows in the GoogleEarth map that you can pull up from our blog but I did not give it in the actual blog. We were anchored within the lagoon at 07┬░ 00.85'S:052┬░43.82'E in 28 feet of water over a sandy bottom.
We weighed anchor this morning around 0930. We wanted to leave during a higher tide and when the sun was high enough in the sky to see the bommies. We left on a +4.8 foot tide that was falling. I am glad we waited a bit for good lighting since we had to move around a few bommies as we made our way across the lagoon to the channel that goes through the reef. We had a 3 knot current pushing us through the channel but made it out just fine. When we get Internet access in Madagascar I will load the various waypoints into this new cruiser's website called Good Anchorages (http://www.goodanchorage.com). It has been created by a friend of ours and it is still in the testing stage but a number of us are loading our various anchorage positions and information into it and I believe anyone can now sign up for it. It is free and is a very powerful tool for cruisers. It now has anchorage information for places all around the world and is growing every day.
Once we were outside the reefs that surround the atoll we were greeted by a whale. Steve was first to spy it waterspout and soon we were all seeing it. It only was near the surface for a short time but we were heartened by that good luck sighting.
The wind blew all day between 15 and 25 knots with most of the time being in the 16 to 18 knot range. Since we are only going about 350 nm and we wish to arrive at Cosmoledo Atoll around 1000 on the 31st, we are trying hard to keep our speed to around 7.5 knots. We are sailing with a reef in the main and when our speeds jump above 8.5 knots we throw in another reef in the head sail. So far that strategy is working because after 10 hours of sailing, we are averaging 7.4 knots.
The winds have been favorable coming from the ESE (about 120 degrees T) so the apparent wind is just off our beam. I had been worried that it would be more southerly which would bring the apparent wind forward toward our bow making it a more uncomfortable sail. However, that has not happened so far and I have my fingers crossed that it holds. The Indian Ocean seas have been their typical bouncy selves with swells coming from the SE and the S with heights up to 3 to 3.5 meters. However, the ride has not been too bad: certainly much nicer that what I had expected. Apparently sitting out yesterday at Alphones was a good thing to do as the front that passed over us yesterday is gone and we have had sunny skies, reasonable seas and nice winds.
We fished today but did not have any luck. We hope for better things tomorrow. With no fish for dinner, Mary Margaret made pasta with her killer spaghetti sauce for dinner, which we all slurped down with big smiles on our faces.
As of 1920 our position is 07 33.29'S:051 42.24'E, our course is 242 degrees T, our speed is 7.2 knots, the winds are 16 knots for the ESE and the seas are 2 to 3 meters from the SE and S. We have made 74 nm and have 277 nm to go. Our average speed has been 7.4 knots.
08/28/2014, Alphones Island, Outer Island Group, Seychelles
We awoke to overcast skies and occasionally gusting winds with accompanying rocking seas. We amused ourselves by listening to music while reading, playing sudoku, chatting, and struggling through Mexican Train with Mary Margaret, the ultimate winner.
In the afternoon when the skies lightened a little and the winds calmed down, Steve and Portia swam from the boat to a nearby coral reef close to the island shore which turned out to be connected to more healthy coral reefs that ran 300' perpendicular to the SW side of the island. We snorkeled the length of this reef, and although the water had been churned up by the winds, we were able to see the large coral bommies and numerous schools of large fish plus batfish, a giant trevalle (maybe four feet long), large Moorish angelfish, very large white angelfish, big groupers, and hundreds of snappers of several varieties, many very large. Steve looked longingly at these "good eating" sized fish, but the fish were lucky because he does not have a speargun with him on this trip. We certainly got our aerobic exercise for the day when we swam back to Leu Cat against the wind and choppy waves that had come up during our snorkel.
David made water and charged the batteries, David and Steve secured the dinghy and its motor; Mary Margaret did a load of wash; and we all mentally prepared for the 2-day crossing to Cosmoledo Island. Because we will leave Alfonse Island and its lagoon tomorrow morning, we boiled eggs, defrosted some spaghetti sauce and thought about other food which we can easily prepare during the crossing. When making a crossing, charting a course and checking the weather may be important, but food has a high priority for the crew of Leu Cat.
08/27/2014, Alphones Island, Outer Island Group, Seychelles
44 years ago today, I met the love of my life. 43 years ago today, my dreams came true as we were married in a little church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. We were so young back then. Mary Margaret had just finished her sophomore year at the University of Michigan and I had just finished my junior year. And as they say: "The rest is history!"
We spent the day in paradise with the highlight of the afternoon snorkeling on another large bommie. The reefs here at Alphones are so very nice, especially when compared to the dismal snorkeling we had in the Inner Island Group of Mahe and Praslin. The visibility is also much better as we can see maybe between 40 and 50 feet. While not spectacular, it is a great improvement and the water is clear enough where we can appreciate the unique beauty that the reefs and numerous fish offer.
While diving, Portia and Steve pointed out an old giant clam shell that was filled with large cowry shells. There had to be four or five of them inside and they were all alive. Each was the size of a child's fist.
As we were diving, a skiff motored up and we talked with a woman and man who are staying on Alphones while they are conducting research of the health of the reefs. They acknowledged that the reefs were very healthy here, especially as compared to the Inner Island Group.
To perfectly end a perfect day, Portia and Steve prepared a special anniversary dinner for us; all of which was home made. They started with Thai spring rolls stuffed with crab and accompanied with peanut sauce and Thai sweet chili sauce. The main course was chicken cacciatore with fettuccine pasta and for dessert, they made crepes any way we wanted them. Mary Margaret had hers stuffed with Nutella while I opted for raspberry jam and slivered almonds and a splash of chocolate sauce on top. Ooooooooooo, this meal was sooooooo gooooooood! It was hard to believe that we were by ourselves, anchored on a lonely island in the middle of the Indian Ocean and eating so well.
We have decided to stay one more day here since the snorkeling is so good. This will also allow the winds to strengthen a bit as the weather grib file indicates that the winds will slowly return over the next couple of days.