After 14 months “stuck” in the beautiful Western Sumatra islands of Nias, Tello and the Mentawai’s, it is now time for us to say goodbye to some of the wonderful people we met there, and finally move on. Our visas are due to expire in June and the SE trade winds, that we have been waiting for, are filling in nicely, so our weather window has arrived.
Diesel tanks and food lockers are full and our Iridium Phone is up and running to be able to keep in contact with friends, family, other boats and land-based stations while on passage.
Clearing out of Indonesia
We sailed to Cubadak Island just off the coast of mainland Sumatra to visit some friends. The steep hills surrounding the anchorage were such a welcome change of vista for us, as were the beautiful coloured fishing boats.
We then continued up to the city of Padang, which is where we need to visit with Customs, Immigration, Port Control and Quarantine to check out of Indonesia. Two days and lots of form filling later we were free to go.
Now that we have cleared out of Indonesia, we will make day sails through the beautiful Southern Mentawai Islands anchoring each night in one of the many anchorages along the way.
We are at the moment at 2 degrees latitude south and we need to reach at least 6 -8 degrees latitude south to find the consistent SE Trade winds. We certainly won’t miss the relentless equatorial heat, the violent electrical storms interspersed with dead calms, but we will have other challenges that the Indian Ocean will present to us.
Indian Ocean Passage
It was May 16th when we finally set sail to take on the mighty Indian Ocean (3,000 nm, +-6,000 kms). We began to motor south to pick up the winds expecting to be motoring for several days, but we were very lucky and were able to set the sails after only five hours of motoring.
After a couple of days, the seas became very confused with huge 3.5 m steep swells coming in from several directions, causing powerful waves to violently crash over the boat, sometimes filling the cockpit. Mai Tai ploughed through it all with ease, and was definitely more comfortable in these conditions than the crew. We sailed Mai Tai the whole way with double reefed main (sometimes triple reefed) and the #2 Yankee, as we were either broad reaching or running straight downwind. We also spent days with just the mainsail set and found that worked just as well and eliminated the slating of the yankee. Rain squalls (no lightening or thunder) would change the wind direction as they passed. We had to be always on the alert.
After our first week out at sea we had reached a latitude of 12 degrees S, heading for Mauritius, and we were advised through our satellite phone that Mauritius was extending its border closure until the end of July. We were told that we would have to find another port of entry. We were so gutted as Kay was hoping to visit family who live there, but it is obviously not to be this time.
We altered course to a NW direction to sail directly to the Seychelles which lie at 4 degrees south. We sailed past the southern-most island of the Chagos Islands, keeping well clear of the restricted area around Diego Garcia, where there is a US Naval base. We were expecting at least a helicopter to come check us out, but nothing. In fact, we saw only 2 ships during our whole crossing, each passing within 2 to 3 miles from us, picked up on radar and AIS.
After the 14th day at sea, the steady SE winds continued to blow at 14 to 17 knots but the seas began to calm down. We kept the same sail configuration but could now enjoy the sail without being thrown around so much. Finally, we could enjoy the sea life around us.
In the afternoon of the 23rd day at sea, the first islands of the Seychelles came into view and by 2130 we were directed by Port Control, to a quarantine anchorage in Victoria Harbour, to await arrival clearance in the morning. What a great feeling to finally stop and sleep a full night without being woken for 6 hourly watches.
The Seychelles are a group of 115 granite islands, 1000nms off the East coast of Africa. Victoria is the capital on the largest of the islands, Mahe. The population of around 98,000 is an eclectic mix of French, British, African and Indian, and therefore the 3 main languages spoken are French, English and Creole. The islands are a popular destination for tourists who come from around the world to enjoy the many luxury resorts tucked away throughout the islands, and to enjoy the spectacular diving.
We spent time visiting around the area of Victoria and another anchorage on the other side of Mahe, Beau Vallon, but we have decided to stay in the Seychelles only about 3 weeks as we are keen to keep moving to Zanzibar and Tanzania to explore some of mainland Africa for a complete change of culture and scenery.