Crossing the Indian Ocean

If you are reading this, you must want some details about our passage from Cocos Keeling to Madagascar. Happy to provide as this was one of the most interesting ocean crossings I have experienced.

We waited an extra day in Cocos Keeling because we knew some weather was going to be blowing in, and it most certainly did… Our final day in Cocos Keeling was a nasty, raining affair, with plenty of wind as well: We were able to fill all of our water bottles and water tanks throughout the day.

And then came departure day. We rigged up the storm sail, anticipating some serious wind and we were not let down: as some as we got out of the lee of Cocos Keeling we saw some huge waves (we were completely knocked sideways early on by a “rogue” 25 footer) and the winds were howling. After about 5 hours, I was nearly ready to turn around and wait for a better window!

I would like to say that things then settled down, and we began a really enjoyable transit across the Indian Ocean, but that it not what happened at all. We had five straight days of too much wind, big seas, and all kinds of crashing and banging about on Alyosha. There was no sunshine and there was no break from the squalls constantly passing through. Almost a month later, it is not hard to conjure up my emotions each morning when I would see the sun rise on yet another grim day at sea.

Eventually things did settle out, and we had a pretty enjoyable stretch of weather that lasted another full week. At one point we did a 220nm day under our spinnaker, even though we often had to take it down for small squalls. The crew passed the time by reading, playing games (chess, Risk and cards, mainly) and some enjoyable debates (religion and politics were in play!)

An absolute highlight of the trip occurred one morning during the second half of the passage when a pod of pilot whales joined us for awhile. These whales were about 4-5 times the size of the dolphins and porpoises that typically play around the boat and watching them surface, breathe and even breach was spectacular.

Look closely to see the smiling pilot whale after trick!

Some other highlights of the passage were the phenomenal meals cooked up by our chef, Stu. We had everything from beer battered fish and chips to pumpkin and every meal was terrific.

A lowlight of the trip was our “MTV Real World”-like discussion about food and rationing which just seems hilarious in retrospect!

As is very typical with my experience on these crossings, the Indian Ocean did not want to give us up easily and our last day and a half featured very strong winds and a triple reefed main and jib. Unfortunately, the many days of heavy winds have really taken their toll on our sails which are now both properly ripped and feature some unrepairable sections!

As I mentioned in another blog, the rounding of Cape D’Ambre after such a long passage will stay with me a long time, with the sun coming up perfectly to present Madagascar in the best light. The Indian Ocean was done.

Author: Sailing Alyosha

family of 5 sailing Baltimore to New Zealand

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