Lat: 12 56.143′ S
Lon: 46 45.511′ E

As Lauren mentioned, sailing by north coast of Madagascar without stopping was tough. Seeing the names of the places we’d read about so close to us on the chartplotter, wanting to meet and trade with the locals, and craving a good night’s sleep left me indecisive until the last minute, but ultimately we decided to sail straight on to Mayotte. At this point, getting out of the cyclone region is our top priority.

Because there are reported to be uncharted reefs on the banks near Madagascar, we’ve kept a course that stays clear of both the near-shore and offshore banks, where depths of over 10,000 feet suddenly rise to 100′ or less. It’s not long after rounding the cape that the tradewinds change direction and then begin to disappear completely, giving way to the light and variable winds that dominate the northeastern part of the Mozambique channel. We also traded the helpful west-setting south equatorial current for a north-setting current that has slowed us down as well. All together, it’s meant that “good” speeds with our damaged rig are now around 3-3.5 knots, making our journey to Mayotte a slow but steady one.

Sunrise yesterday found us still making our way south along the western coastal bank. We were ghosting along at just over 2 knots when the thin strip of eastern sky above the mountains and below the clouds slowly became a glowing, fiery shade of red, casting the mountains as dark silhouettes. The radiant crescent moon hanging above the coastline was still shining brightly as the sky above the clouds began to take on pale shades of blue, grey, and white. Within a few hours we’d dropped below 2 knots under sail, with the wind swinging well forward of the beam. The clear dawn had given way to a hot and hazy morning. It was already hot enough when Lauren woke up that we both climbed down the port swim ladder enjoy a dip in the clear, cool water before starting the engine. “Instant gratification,” was Lauren’s response to immediately feeling cool and refreshed. By noon it was 94 degrees in the salon, about 13 degrees hotter than it was the day before at noon when we were rounding the cape.

DSC_0788 Crescent moon hanging over the fiery red skyline

DSC_0795 Beginning to brighten up

DSC_0796It was as calm as a lake when we jumped in to cool off

After an uneventful afternoon of motoring, we got a treat at sunset when I grew a little impatient, changing course early so that we passed just over the southern tip of the Castor Bank as we made for Mayotte, 145 nm due west. As we passed over the bank’s edge, with the sun a glowing ball low in the sky, dolphins started swimming toward us from several directions. At first they seemed docile, and even a little boring, but before long they were breaking the water regularly, while farther away from the boat, several of them made acrobatic leaps and spins, propelling themselves completely clear of the water. In typical fashion, 10 or so swam ahead of and between the bows, playfully jostling each other without ever touching and coming up in groups of two to four for a quick breath before darting back into small, tight, but dynamic formations. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a dolphin show like that, and we thoroughly enjoyed both the show and the timing.

DSC_0802 Six dolphins breaking the water as they swim toward us

DSC_0811 The beginning of a spinning jump

DSC_0834 I’m not sure who covered more ground today, but they were probably having more fun

DSC_0867 I counted 11 dolphins in the full-size version of this pic

In the twilight, we noticed that the wind had changed again, so we unfurled the jib, this time on a starboard tack as a NNE wind let us sail the rhumb line toward Mayotte. With 90 miles left to go this morning, it’s looking like tomorrow will be the day we finally drop the hook and end our longest passage to date.