Archive for 'Mayotte to Mozambique'


Lat: 14 53.895′ S
Lon: 41 19.938′ E

The last couple of days have been two of the slowest of the entire trip. We’ve had light winds and a contrary current running at 1-2 knots. The wind has been too far forward to put up a spinnaker, so we’ve inched along on the main and jib, with both of them flapping loudly when the light swell that’s often on the beam rolls underneath us and rocks the boat from side-to-side. Yesterday we somehow managed to make 80 nm and didn’t even have to use the engine, so maybe it’s not as bad as all that, but with the sails flapping and 3+ knots being a good speed for two days, it gets a little annoying. There have been a few squalls, mostly in the evening, with a bit of lightning both times and the sound of thunder once or twice. Luckily the lightning passed well away from us.

The day before yesterday we were sitting in the salon when we heard the unmistakable sound of a jet airplane buzzing us. We ran outside to see an unmarked twin-engine jet, about the size of a small commuter or corporate plane zooming away. We were a little concerned, but a few seconds later a French voice came on the radio; it was a French Navy plane patrolling the area and checking on shipping traffic. We provided the typical information and they were able to confirm that there had been no pirate activity in the area. It was a bit unexpected, but definitely nice to know that they were out there. In general, we haven’t seen much shipping traffic since crossing into the Mozambique channel, although a number of the ships we have seen, even since well before Madagascar, have had their AIS transmitter turned off. It makes watches a little more exciting, but I can definitely understand not wanting to advertise the position, heading, speed, destination, etc. in this part of the world. The only ship we’ve seen since leaving Mayotte did have its AIS transmitter turned on, and it showed that they were headed to Dar-es-Salam, this week’s hot spot. I’m definitely glad we’re headed the opposite direction and should be well clear of the pirate region by now. You can see a live Google Map of piracy incidents by going to and clicking on “Live Piracy Map”. If the link doesn’t work, just Google “IMB Piracy Reporting Centre”. Their maps helped us settle on a route across the Indian Ocean that we thought would be reasonably free from the risk of a pirate attack.

Life aboard has fallen back into the familiar at-sea routine. I’ve found that with the absence of a long night of sleep a 4th meal sometime between 3am and 6am makes a big difference in terms of not feeling seasick and staying in a good mood. Lauren usually makes a little extra for dinner and I finish it off sometime around sunrise. Last night’s dinner was tortilla pizzas. I’m happy to report that just like regular pizzas, tortilla pizzas make a great breakfast the next morning.

In the last couple of days we’ve also been able to make contact with the Peri Peri net out of South Africa. The net provides a free service to sailors, allowing us to check in and get localized weather forecasts once or twice a day. The net operators are really nice and offer whatever help they can to the boats that call in. Back in the states, Wes is helping us by keeping an eye out for tropical storms that we wouldn’t see in the localized GRIB weather files that we download.

The general plan for getting to South Africa is to take advantage of weather windows when the wind is blowing from the north or east and try to be anchored somewhere when the wind blows from the south. Although we were headed for Ilha Mozambique, it looks like our window is going to last 2-3 more days, so we’ve just changed course for Ilha Casurina. Ilha Casurina is uninhabited except for the possibility of a few fishermen, so we’re just planning to anchor off the island and wait for the next window to head down to the Bazaruto archipelago.

Changing course let me put the spinnaker up this morning, and now we’re finally making good speed. Although it’s definitely easier with two people, it’s not too much trouble to take advantage of our wide, stable deck to raise and lower the spinnaker by myself in light winds. Now that we’re nearing the west side of the channel we’ve left the contrary current behind and should pick up the helpful Mozambique current soon. Our pace of late has definitely reminded us that a 2-year circumnavigation, essentially the fastest possible tradewind circumnavigation, requires a lot of time on the move. Between being at sea more than a third of the time and dealing with the check-in/provision/fuel/water/repairs/check-out routine at each stop, a lot of the 2 years is spent keeping the boat moving.

Safe and Southbound

Lat: 13 44.681′ S
Long: 43 44.363′ E

We’re back at it again, ticking off the miles toward Mozambique. Our stay in Mayotte was short but productive, and Pura Vida’s in much better shape now than when she arrived there. The part that we needed arrived on schedule on Monday and turned out to be the correct one. Dallas tensioned up the rigging to his satisfaction, and we are currently sailing on it with both the main and the jib.

We did a lot of walking in our 5 days in Mayotte, but Monday took the cake. We walked from end to end of the island taking care of last-day chores, mostly related to clearing out. The port captain, customs, and immigration officials need to be visited in their respective offices, and putting them all in one place would be far too sensible for the French. Then around 2:00 in the afternoon, the electricity went out. (We later learned that it was a nationwide problem, meaning that it was out on the big island as well.) We hadn’t considered the implications of this for our check-out paperwork as we were walking back to the port captain’s office, but Ronan, the port captain, happened to ride by on his scooter and informed us that he coud not print our clearance papers. However, he told us in his broken English (much better than our French!) that he could probably use the Navy’s generator-powered computer and assured us, "I try my maximum!" He was by far the friendliest person that we met on the island and seemed invested in his role as a public servant.

Another example of this was Ronan’s consultation with us about piracy. He told us the Somali pirates were thought to have hijacked a cruising boat near Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania) last week and showed us photos of the yacht in an effort to get more info about it. He acknowledged that the pirates had not come as far south as Mayotte but encouraged us to put his phone number in our satellite phone just in case, as he is only a phone call away from the French Navy based there in Mayotte. Needless to say, we now have Ronan on our speed dial.

However, there’s no need to worry! (Do you hear that, Mom?!) As I write, we are almost 100 miles southwest of Mayotte and are steadily increasing our pirate buffer zone. But I would be lying if I said we didn’t have pirates on the brain yesterday as we left Mayotte. I devised a couple of hair-brained schemes for what we might do if we saw them approaching (apart from calling Ronan and setting off our Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)), one involving scuba gear. Dallas wasn’t opposed to either of them but reminded me that we aren’t Green Berets or action movie heroes and might have trouble actually pulling it off. I guess we’ll just stick to the plan and stay out of their way!

The GRIB data had predicted very light northerly winds for departure from Mayotte, and that’s exactly what we got. The sea was smooth as silk as we motored along, and we spotted a few small whale tails in the distance. We had read in another blog that whales here in the Channel sometimes appear to be standing on their head for several minutes, and that is exactly what it looked like! In the absence of wind, it was over 90 degrees in the salon but pretty pleasant in the cockpit, prompting Dallas to make up a bed on deck under a sky full of stars. The wind picked up around 2:00 a.m., allowing us to sail under the jib, and we hoisted the main around 3:00 when Dallas got up for his watch. With any luck, we’ll continue to sail the remaining 188 miles to Ilha Mozambique.