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Day 1447
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Passage Log: La Reunion to Tulear, Madagascar 11/16/12

Nov 24

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11/24/2012 10:28 PM  RssIcon



Day 1 - All I can feel is the sensation of being pulled.  Lifted from a deep slumber by the sounds and words from another time.  The music that filled a life in Texas is playing through my stereo alarm and rousing me from my slumber.  As a slow, lagging consciousness takes hold I feel the warmth next to me.  The velvety smooth sensation of this woman’s sun browned skin next to mine reminds me she is still here.  I am days late departing for Africa.  Smiling I draw her near savoring this last morning’s caress before I put to sea, alone again.

She sleeps while I prepare coffee, soft boiled eggs, and toast.  Sleep leaves her slowly and I begin stripping sail covers.  Breakfast.  There is no rush, but a steady determination resides behind the conversation.  This time, I really am setting sail.

The distance from Reunion to Tulear, Madagascar is 960 nautical miles.  The wind is light and Jargo rolls along in the mild swell.  The waves are just big enough to occasionally dump the wind from my sails when rolling one direction only to snap the sails taught on the opposite roll.  Nevertheless, it is begun.

Day 2 - Light airs, Limbo, and a Mahi Mahi.  At 08:00 hours this morning I tuned up the old Kenwood TS-440 HAM radio.  I’ve no license to operate this machine.  That makes me one more in a long line of pirate radio stations.  Using the SSB bands dedicated for marine use I contact the sailing vessels Mooneshine and Octopussy.  The Spaniard on Octopussy has blown his head gasket leaving his engine useless.  That makes entering reef strewn ports and charging batteries more than a little complicated.  Chris on Mooneshine left Reunion without a plan.  Today the three of us continue West undecided on what port we will next enter.  My only navigation to date for the passage is to aim at the Southern tip of Madagascar.  Wind, waves, and current will dictate my next destination.

The winds continue to ease, but fortunately the seas have done so as well.  The roll of Jargo is mild and only rarely do the sails dump their wind only to slam full on the opposite roll.  After a few small squalls and rain this morning the sun has appeared and warms my skin.  Its heat is welcome and penetrating in quality.

The largest mahi mahi I’ve caught since the Pacific took my cheapest lure today.  That ends a long fishing dry spell.  Dispatching this fish emotions welled up surrounding the passing of my mother.  I spoke to the big bull as his colors flashed and eventually faded.  Extra time was spent preparing him.  What a strange surrogate, letting me do for him what I was not present to do for her.

Day 3: Laziness.  Some days just don’t require as much as others.  Today is one of those allowing me to sleep, read, or watch a movie at will.  For three days now the winds has slowly, but steadly, shifted from the East southeast to the North northwest.  With a the occasional mild squall I’ve shifted from running wing on wing to a mild beat.  One of my cousins was a navy man.  When a friend of mine once asked what it meant to be wing on wing hi described it something like this.  Imagine yourself standing in a brisk breeze with your back to the wind.  Let the wind push you forward and feel it drive you from one foot onto another.  Now raise your hands perpendicular to the ground and turn your palms to face and catch the wind.  Increase your pace until you are, “running before the wind”.  I do the very same on Jargo only the palms of my hands are instead the sails of my boat.

My battery bank is shot.  More than two years ago now I was forced to buy some cheap replacement batteries on the island of Rarotonga in the Pacific Ocean.  They were cheap only in manufacturer and were dear to the sailing purse.  Today they are nearly dead and I must charge twice a day to keep enough battery power to drive both navigation lights, autopilot, and HAM radio.  The engine is droning in the background in preparation for an important call to the South African mainland.  I am looking for weather.  I had hoped to be able to send and receive basic emails, but my instillation has been unsuccessful.  Now I must rely on voice.  Some 1200 miles is a long contact, but workable.  It should only improve as I close that gap.  I need a full charge to give the radio maximum power to transmit.

Day 5:  I am spooked and uncomfortable.  I haven’t been this uneasy at sea in longer than I can remember.  Yesterday evening I made contact with radio Peri Peri out of South Africa.  It was great to finally make the contact as they will be my weather source for the next ten days and more.  While the contact was good, the forecast was not.  Only some 30 miles South of my position at the time of contact was a “small” low pressure center.  I was advised to make preparations, but that the next days sail should be a good one.

I hate hitting foul weather at night.  Everything is more complicated.  While the winds were still light I doused the mizzen sail and took a reef in the main.  Typical preparations for a coming squall.  Unbeknown to me this wasn’t just a squall.  Around 02:00 in the morning I was awoken by the sails having gone flat.  Coming on deck I couldn’t find the wind.  In my dreary mind I didn’t make the connection fast enough.  Boom!  40 knots of wind laid Jargo over on her side.  The main sail was flapping itself to death quickly and there was so much pressure in the jib I couldn’t furl her in. 

40 knots is a mountain of wind coming down.  I could not turn the boat broadside on to start running down wind.  My only choice was to close reach into the wind just on the verge of stalling the sails.  This accomplished I engaged the autopilot and checked to ensure it could hold the force of the boat.  It did.  Naked, cold, and scared I worked forward to the mast.  Releasing the halyard I clawed the mainsail down to the boom.  Releasing the halyard shackle I lost the line.  Unable to see it in the dark, wind driven rain I let it go to be retrieved another time.  The sail too was shredded, but no time for that now.

Back to the cockpit I secured the boom and focused on the jib.  Way too much sail still.  Luckily I was on the port tack freeing up the winch on the starboard where the furling line runs.  With the furling line on the winch and easing sheet on the port sheet winch I worked the sail down to a handkerchief.  Finally, I could turn the boat and start the down wind run.

It seemed to take forever to get the boat stabilized, but eventually it happened.  Exhausted with the wind still howling I fell in soaking wet into my sea birth and fitfully dozed.  At eight this morning I forced myself up to survey the damage.  Everything was a huge mess, but except for the torn main sail, everything could be put back right. 

The wind howled today at 20 - 25 knots from the southeast.  Not at all uncommon winds.  Still, I feel on edge.  The boat is flying at 6.7 knots with nothing but a 80% jib and single reefed mizzen.  It is still 900 miles to Richards Bay, South Africa and more heavy weather is coming.  Madagascar will have to wait.

Day 6:  What a difference a day makes.  I had a very good contact with Peri Peri radio last night.  I instantly felt better after the conversation.  There is a big “buster” blowing up from the southwest.  It is forecast to hit the Mozambique channel between Madagascar and South Africa Saturday night.  This is the type of storm that makes these waters notorious.  My options are few.  One, sail on for Richards Bay and get my ass handed to me again.  Two, run 200 miles North to my original destination of Tulear, Madagascar and drop the anchor safely behind the reef.  What is it about prudence being the better part of valor? 

At current speed I should make Tulear sometime Friday afternoon.  That gives me a good 24 hours to ready the boat, set the hook, and prepare to ride out the storm safely anchored.  That sounds a whole hell of a lot better to me than riding out 35 - 45 knot winds in five to eight meter swell for a day and a half.  So after an Olympic level display of waffling I am carrying on with my original plan.  Spirits lifted even as my engine failed me.  Kind of.

These HF radios use lots of juice considering they transmit at 100 watts.  My battery bank has been shot for six months or more.  Since I am now monitoring two nets up to four times a day the batteries are taking a beating on top of the sailing instruments, autopilot, and navigation lights.  Just before I tuned in last night to catch my friends on Octopussy and Mooneshine I heard something change in the engine as I was charging.  It was so loud I actually ran on deck to see if I was about to get run down by a freighter.  No boat in sight I throttled down and threw open the engine hatch.  Inside it was clear the stainless steel exhaust elbow had snapped in two.  Think of a car with no muffler, but now all the raw cooling water was being pumped into Jargo.  Needless to say I shut her down pretty quick. 

Having no welding supplies or even the requisite electricity to weld on board I had to figure another solution.  This is where sailing and especially single handed sailing gets interesting.  Given the limited store of supplies and materials on board how do you repair a 2.5 inch diameter exhaust pipe/manifold that sheared in two?   My personal solution was a combination of hose clamps, heavy duty paper gasket material, and high temp black silicon.  Once the fracture was cleaned it was liberally covered with high temp silicon to fill any voids.  The break was then sleeved with the gasket material by wrapping it around it two full turns.  Four hose clamps locked it all together and so far so good.  I won’t be falling asleep in the cabin with the engine running, but I see no visible leaks and smell no exhaust.  Easy passage fix.  Now to add that to the long, long list of repairs to undertake once I do make landfall in South Africa. 

Day 7:  Is it Thanksgiving?  I hope not.  I love thanksgiving and I don’t even have a chicken on board I can pretend is a turkey.  The mahi mahi still seems good, but I am no longer eating it as sushi.  From here on in it is only to be cooked well done.  I don’t really want to roast it for a dinner so I am thinking about making some kind of hearty soup with mahi, potatoes, carrots, and cabbage.  Not exactly traditional thanksgiving fare, but if it is thanksgiving I don’t want to let it pass without some kind of a nice meal.

I got another nice surprise today as well.  Even though I felt better about having made the decision to go to Tulear, I wasn’t sure I’d go onshore as theft can be a problem.  Via the trusty HF I found out the Spaniard, Gaspar, on Octopussy has bailed out of South Africa and is now only one mile behind me.  Since we are only 70 miles South of Tulear I predict cold beers and good times in Madagascar.  It was our original plan to come to Tulear to surf and after trying every other possible alternative we are in fact going to Tulear.  We may not surf, but we will be repairing our boats.  Both our main sails got shredded this trip.  With luck we can find a seamstress with a big sewing machine who can help us patch these big rotten sails together for one more big passage.

It is blowing stink outside, but who cares.  Almost into port.  The island nation of Madagascar is just 10 miles to the East of me, but I see no sign of land.  It is a bit eerie.  A whole nation is right there and I can’t see it.  That is ok too.  I am going to scream, “land ho” at the top of my lungs come sunrise.  Now to see to that turkey fish dinner.


Days later:  I made port and had a good party.  Details to come.  This place is incredible.

Location: Blogs Parent Separator Ship's Log

4 comment(s) so far...


Re: Passage Log: La Reunion to Tulear, Madagascar 11/16/12

Lee, Awesome job on the repair man. Reading this update sent shivers down my spine.

If and when you might get to Richards Bay make sure you find the Sailing Conductors, Benny and Hannes. They are on the hard there atm. The Boat is a Rawson 30 called SVMarianne.

Hope you are well mate !
I always look forward to reading the next post. Keep up the good work.

Best wishes

By Chris on   11/25/2012 5:21 AM

Re: Passage Log: La Reunion to Tulear, Madagascar 11/16/12

Congratulations, I think that you could love my Toyota now, The same on wich I have repaired Per's mizzen and some more in new Caledonia. Take care mate

By Karolina on   11/25/2012 11:03 AM

Re: Passage Log: La Reunion to Tulear, Madagascar 11/16/12

Glad to see you made a safe, if interesting passage. That knockdown did not sound like fun. I got hit with an out-of nowhere thundersquall coming back from Bermuda in July that had a similar effect on my adrenaline level and boat, except it got our #4 jib instead of the main (thak God it didn't get the main as we did not have enough fuel to motorsail the 400 miles back to Connectcut). I have no idea what it was blowing, other than a lot. At least the torrential rain helped to flatten the sea a bit.

Hope you get Jargo back in shape with a minimum of expense. At least its summer down there. Its blowing a good 30kn out the north with temps in the upper 30's here in southern New England. I could handle Madagascar right now.

Best wishes for your passage to South Africa. Cape Town I assume? Then on to the Atlantic. Almost home.


John M

By John Meyer on   11/25/2012 1:07 PM

Re: Passage Log: La Reunion to Tulear, Madagascar 11/16/12

Lee, Awesome job on the repair man. Reading this update sent shivers down my spine.

If and when you might get to Richards Bay make sure you find the Sailing Conductors, Benny and Hannes. They are on the hard there atm. The Boat is a Rawson 30 called SVMarianne.

Hope you are well mate !
I always look forward to reading the next post. Keep up the good work.

Best wishes

By Chris on   11/25/2012 4:30 PM

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