Saturday, 31 October 2015

Richards Bay Inbound Day 10

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 28 53S 34 47E and motor-saillng at 6.5 knots on a course of 300M. The wind is N at 8-10 knots with a small sea from the NNE. We have the full main hoisted and the yankee unfurled - they're giving us about 5 knots of our speed with the engine just "topping up". Our day's run on the log was 153nm and we have 145nm to go.

It "does one's head in" living on a small boat with the engine running, but it beats having to ride out the gale which is coming our way. We're making better progress than expected and our ETA is now late tomorrow morning. The gale isn't predicted to arrive until Sunday evening. Unlike many weather systems, southerly busters go from no wind to gale in minutes, so we won't have to cope with a building wind. In fact we'll probably have a good NE sailing breeze to take us in.

Yesterday afternoon was mainly cloudy with occasional periods of sun. Overnight the cloud cleared away and we enjoyed the moonlit sky. Unsurprisingly, we listen to a lot of music when motoring. It partially drowns out the engine noise and when seas are low we have been known to "get up and boogie". For long passages we try to exercise on every watch. When it's rough it's pushups and squats, not to mention just plain hanging on. When it's calm it's "disco". ;) Sorry, no video and no demos!

This morning we transferred three jerry cans of fuel into the main fuel tanks to ensure we have plenty of fuel to get in. Turned out to be a very straight-forward operation since the seas are quite low.

Over the last 24 hours we've had as much negative as positive current. We're now heading into an area where we should get positive current. Hopefully that will come to pass.

We spoke with Sam of the South African Maritime Mobile Network on 14316kHz this morning. He was extremely helpful, checking for us that the SA Weather Service forecasts match the GRIB files we're downloading. SAMMNet is for licenced amateur radio operators and it appears to offer a much better service than Peri Peri. That may be partly due to Peri Peri's main frequency being "jammed" by someone transmitting morse code over the top of them. Who ever is doing that needs something explosive up their antenna.

We are back in the coverage area of the BBC World Service so can get world news. Seems nothing's changed, but we do like to know that's the case!

Friday, 30 October 2015

Richards Bay Inbound Day 9

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 29 00S 37 39E and motor-saillng at 6 knots on a course of 300M. The wind is NE at 6-10 knots with a 1.5m left-over sea from the E. We have the full main hoisted but it isn't adding much to our speed. Our day's run was 149nm and we have 290nm to go.

Yesterday afternoon we had quite a nice sail, broad reaching to the SSW in a 20-25 knot E breeze. We headed SSW to try to position ourselves for as much positive current as possible over the next 2 days. In the evening the wind started backing around towards the NE and lightening off. We gybed at our 2100 watch change, shook out one reef at 0000 and another at 0300. By dawn the wind was down to 8-10 knots and our course was directly towards Richards Bay.

Since yesterday we've been pretty confident a "southerly buster" is going to run up the SA coast on Monday. All the models show the buster arriving at Richards Bay in the early hours of Monday morning. So we're now on a mission to reach RIchards Bay before then. That's why we're motor-sailing now. The engine went on at 0730 this morning and we're making steady progress directly towards RB. We hope to arrive on Sunday afternoon but it may be Sunday evening.

The HF skeds over the last couple of days have focussed on the developing weather. One yacht 100nm behind us in now motoring hard to catch us and get to RB with us. They're bigger so can motor faster. Others much further back and still E of Madagascar are slowing down to let the front pass. Boats working another sked, most of whom are in the Mozambique Channel have been discussing whether to take shelter near Maputu in Mozambique rather than press on to RB. 3 or 4 of them are past Maputu and will get to RB easily.

We're not pushing our engine hard since there doesn't appear necessary at the moment. We could motor a little faster but use much more fuel. We're keeping a very close eye on the weather forecasts. We believe we should have some assistance from current but aren't banking on it.

For much of the last few days the skies have been either completely overcast or with only a few breaks in the cloud. Mostly the cloud has been low cumulostratus (I think that's what it's called). The moon shone through it last night so it isn't thick. An hour ago the sky cleared and we now have only scattered cumulus and alto-cumulus. Damp gear is arrayed around the cockpit to dry off. Nice to be catching some rays!

Trust all's well where you are!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Richards Bay Inbound Day 8

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 28 30S 40 00E and saillng at 6.5 knots on a course of 250M. The wind is E at 20-25 knots with a 2m sea from the E and a swell from the S. We are sailing under double-reefed main and staysail. Our day's run was 134nm and we have 415nm to go.

We had a pretty cruisy night last night, sailing under staysail alone. We were doing 5.5 to 6.0 knots even under this reduced canvas. The wind was 25-30, possibly higher at times. Below the ride was very comfortable although a little rolly at times. We caught up on lost sleep from the previous exciting/restless night.

This morning the winds moderated somewhat and we rehoisted the double-reefed main. We're back into our "munching the miles" / fast-cruising mode and the boat is loving it. Apart from occasional minor "sideswipes" from the S swell she's very comfortable below.

We aim to reach Richards Bay before the next southerly comes through. We should get there on Sunday which is a day before one is predicted. We're not pushing the boat hard, just letting her eat up the miles for us. Not much left of that elephant!!! If we are delayed then we'll just have to heave-to off the coast until conditions allow us to cross the Agulhas current. We know Zen Again is happy doing that too!

On the HF sked this morning Alfred from the abandoned OCC yacht Ironhorse joined us from the radio room of his rescue ship. It was very nice of the skipper to allow him to do so and we all enjoyed hearing him. He sounded relaxed and healthy. He briefly explained the multiple problems which caused him to declare an emergency. It must be terrible to suffer the loss of such a well loved and well travelled boat, but the main thing is that the crew are safe and unharmed. Alfred and Rosemary will be on the ship until she docks at Singapore.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Richards Bay Inbound Day 7

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 27 20S 42 08E and saillng at 6 knots on a course of 340M. Our course over the gound is 310M so we still have a significant W-flowing current. We're heading NW since the GRIBs show we should get into lighter wind and it's a toss-up as to which gybe is getting us towards Richards Bay quickest. The wind is E at 20-25 knots with a short 2m swell from the E. The wind does seem to be slowly moderating. We are sailing under double-reefed main and staysail. Our day's run was 130nm and we have 540nm to go. Not bad considering we were hove-to for 4 hours!

As my previous blog this morning noted, we had an exciting night. We were hove-to so we could check everything on deck in daylight before resuming our course. We also got some needed rest. During that time I got the AIS's GPS working again by restarting the AIS. So the only damage was to the primary autopilot or our log/depth instrument - both share our main Seatalk bus and the bus is not working at present. That's something to fix in harbour given our backup autopilot (which uses NMEA not Seatalk) is functioning well.

On reflection I don't think we were actually struck by lightning, we just had a very near miss. The lightning generated enough energy in some of our wiring to kill some circuitry. A lucky escape.

The electrical storms last night were the worst I've ever encountered at sea. The extensive sheet lightning was something I've never seen anywhere before. They were going off like faulty flourescent tubes all around us for 8 hours. During the peak hour there was nearly as much light as dark. The lightning bolts were impressive too. They did their flash-bang thing every few minutes but mostly there was a pause between the two. At the peak the flash-bangs became "flasang"s then a few "flang"s and finally one big BANG. I'm amazed we suffered so little damage.

At the HF sked this morning we learned that one vessel at the back of our group was abandonned at sea yesterday. The crew were taken off by a cargo ship and we understand them to be safe and well. Apparently they suffered multiple failures aboard and had to declare an emergency. Worldwide coverage of cargo ship positions via satellite AIS and other systems certainly seems to make rescue coordination very efficient. Everyone else in our group is doing OK with two additional boat having departed Reunion yesterday.

It's a tough road to Africa. Zen Again is taking it in her stride. Our respect for ST10.4 designer Ken Hayashi, builder Yamazaki Yachts and refitter Precision Shipwrights grows and grows.

Richards Bay Inbound - Hove-To

Hi everyone,
For those who follow our position closely, please note that our slow movement over the last few hours is due to our being hove-to.

We hove-to in dramatic style at about 0300 this morning when we took a lightning strike. Our autopilot tripped out and the boat gybed all-standing, putting us in a hove-to position on the other gybe. After a bit of tidying up we decided the boat knows best and let her take a rest, and we did too.

The lightning strike was the crescendo of 6 hours sailing through a massive system of thunderstorms. From about 2100 we had frequent sheet lightning and occasional bolts of lightning. The wind stayed around 25 knots until 0300 when it jumped up to 35 or so and we became the "focus of attention".

As far as I can tell the only damage is to the SeaTalk network used by the primary autopilot, plus the AIS's GPS is not working so the unit can't transmit. We're still receiving AIS info. We've checked our VHF with a passing ship and will shortly test the HF.

We've just had a cuppa and breakfast. The morning HF sked is coming up so I'll warn boats downwind of the approaching excitement. Then we'll see about getting underway again using the backup autopilot which seems to be OK.

Trust all's well where you are.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Richards Bay Inbound Day 6

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 27 26S 044 20E and saillng at 6 knots on a course of 320M. Our course over the gound is 300M so we have a significant W-flowing current. We're heading NW to get well into the W flowing current. The wind is E at 20-25 knots with a short 2m swell from the E. We are sailing under double-reefed main and triple-furled yankee. There are broken cumulus and currus clouds overhead, or there were before one large cumulus moved overhead and started raining on us! Our day's run was 153nm and we have 660nm to go.

We've had a busy 24 hours, made so by the weather and sea conditions off the south of Madagascar. The area is notorious for big, dangerous seas, due to both currents and the extended continental shelf. It is also notorious for accelerated winds around the south of the island. Jimmy Cornell's "bible" of world cruisng recommends staying about 150nm offshore. We cut that down to 70nm since the winds were easterly and the current was setting SW to W.

Overnight we had winds up to 30 knots, gusting a little higher. The seas/swell were 3-4 m and in some areas were breaking frequently, perhaps due to the cross current. The current seems very variable locally but does seem to match the overall predictions well. Overall it was a bit of a washing machine but Zen Again handled it brilliantly under double-reefed main and staysail (= storm jib). We had the washboards in which says it was a tad rough.

Early in the morning we gybed to the SW to stay off the continental shelf. That course gave a much quieter ride with the swell almost behind us. After breakfast we replaced the staysail with the triple-furled yankee as the wind decreased to 20-25. The main reason we didn't go further south was the current down there was predicted to be running to the E. That would NOT have been fun!

To make life even more interesting there was a steady stream of traffic. Happily we only had to call one ship and she altered course by 20 degrees to stay clear. That was late yesterday evening and it was interesting watching this big ship giong through the big seas and thinking so's our little boat! :)

With Madagascar now rounded we finally feel that we really are heading for Africa. Amazing!

Monday, 26 October 2015

Reunion Outbound Day 5

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 26 42S 46 42E and saillng at 6.5 knots on a course of 320M. Our course over the gound is 300M so we have a significant SW-flowing current. The wind is ENE at 18-22 knots with 2m seas and the remnants of the S swell from yesterday. We are sailing under double-reefed main and triple-furled yankee. There are scattered cumulus and currus clouds overhead. Our day's run was 150nm and we have 790nm to run.

Our day's run wasn't bad considering the light winds we had yesterday afternoon. The engine was shut down at 1600 and we then sailed at about 4 knots until 1900 when a new SE breeze came in. It gradually built up to 20-25 knots with occasional rain showers.

For most of the night we were under single-reefed main and triple-reefed yankee. It was great to be sailing fast again with the wind just behind the beam. We had current with us and I saw 10 knots of ground speed once. This morning a line of cloud came through with rain and a wind change to the ENE. We tucked in the second reef in the main and then gybed. We had 25-30 knots of wind for a while.

I got a free salty shower on deck while freeing the lazy jib sheet and disconnecting the boom downhaul prior to the gybe and then refitting the downhaul and reorienting the dorade vents after. I'm well clipped on while doing so but going up to the bow to free the lazy sheet is always wet. The sheet stickss under the staysail furler. Must find a way to prevent that.

We are judging our course very carefully as we round Madagascar. The currents are strong in places and we don't want to find ourselves with a strong E wind against a strong E current. That wouldn't be fun. So far we've picked it quite well, which really means the current and wind data we're downloading has been quite accurate - in direction if not so good on strength.

We've seen a steady stream of cargo ships over the last 24 hours. The shipping lanes converge here so that's no surprise. We only had to hail one ship to ensure separation and he was very helpful. He made a change of course of 2 degrees which kept him 1.5nm clear.

The temperature is very pleasant hereabouts. A few degrees cooler than E of Madagascar which makes the days mild and the nights slightly cool. Perfect for off-watch resting.

Trust all's well where you are.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Reunion Outbound Day 4

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 25 14S 048 46E and motorlng at 5.0 knots on a course of 240M. The wind is ENE at 5 knots with negligible sea and long 1.5m SSW swell. There's barely a cloud in the sky and it is a lovely day, except for the lack of wind! Our day's run was 117nm and we have 940nm to run.

We've had very little wind since mid-afternoon yesterday. The 15 knot breeze gradually died away to 6-8 knots from the NNE. We sailed along at around 3 knots for a while but motored from 1600 to 1900. Then the breeze shifted to the E and we could once again sail. The sails were slatting a lot but not violently. Gradually a new swell from the SSW came in which increased tha slatting. We've been motoring since 0530 this morning.

We initially motored W this morning to ensure we stayed in the SW current flow we've been enjoying for the last day or more. We're now heading for our waypoint SE of Madagasacar with 0.5 to 1.0 knot current with us. We expect the wind to pick up from the E over the next 12 hours.

We've been busy on the radio this morning. The usual sked at 0300UTC on 6227kHz showed everyone is making progress, but those of us still E of Madagascar are having a slow time. Those who have rounded Madagascar have good wind. Our friends on Vulcan Spirit, who left Reunion 10 days ago reported "Africa in sight". We also tried SAMnet (South African Maritime network) at 0630UTC on 14316kHz. We had been in contact with them via email and Sam swung his antenna in our direction. We could hear them quite well and reported our position, receiving a weather forecast for our area in return. We helpful!

Looking forward to having a sailing breeze soon. No doubt we'll have plenty of wind in due course!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Reunion Outbound Day3

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 23 45S 50 12E and sailng at 5.5 knots on a course of 260M.  The wind is NNE at 15 knots with a 1m sea and shortish 1m E swell.  There are scattered low cumulus clouds about and it is a lovely day. We are sailing under full main and double-furled yankee.  The yankee is partly furled to keep it setting while heading on a broader reach.  Our day's run was 127nm and we have 1055nm to run.

Last night we had good sailing conditions and had to put a reef in for several hours when the wind got up to around 20 knots and the sea became confused for a while.  I think we went through an area with strong current against the wind which increased our apparent wind and created a "wind over tide" sea state.  We had a couple of very light rain showers as large cumulus came by, but generally it was a very pleasant night.

This morning the wind moderated to 15 knots and has gradually backed around to the NNE.  This is allowing us to set a much better course.  Note that magnetic variation is 22W here, so 260M is 238T.  We expect the wind to start veering back towards the east over the next day or so.  When this happens we'll gybe again.

Although our course is 260M our COG is 240M.  That's due to a SW current flow we've been heading west to find.  It is the broad orange area closest to the Madagascar coast in the image below.  Touch wood, our cunning plan is working out so far.  Previously we had been stuck in the northerly flow SSW of Reunion before gybing to escape.

Ocean Current GRIB data (Madagascar on left)

We saw our first fishing boat today.  It had no AIS transmitter and got closer than we'd have preferred.  We'll be looking out more frequently for them now - this one was heading E at some speed.  After we passed him we also passed a field of fishing bouys.  They weren't in a line so have no idea of their purpose.

We're now reporting in on two HF radio nets.  Each morning we're on the southern Indian Ocean crossers net and in the afternoon we're on the northern Indian Ocean crossers net.  The latter was originally for those yachts which went from SE Asia to Sri Lanka, Maldives, Chagos etc but those boats are now mostly in Madagascar or the Mozambique Channel.  Everyone's heading for Richard's Bay or Durban at the moment, although many in the Mozambique Channel are running for shelter in Mozambique as a southerly change approaches.

It's a big ocean out here and HF radio provides a fantastic means of position/situation reporting and just chatting with sailors in your area.  This morning we chatted to US yacht Apogee.  We met them during their stay in Fremantle.  They are now in the Mozambique Channel and we could hear each other very clearly on 6227kHz this morning.

Trust all's well where you are!

Friday, 23 October 2015

Reunion Outbound Day 2

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 23 39S 52 20E sailing at 5 knots on a course of 320M. The wind is around 10 knots from the NE with slight sea and swell. There is about 1/8 cloud and it is a nice sunny day. We are sailing under full main and single-furled yankee. Shame we are heading at right angles to where we wish to go! Our day's run was 126nm and we have 1150nm to run to Richards Bay.

The conditions out here are very pleasant but also very frustrating. The wind is blowing directly towards our next waypoint south of Madagascar so we are having to zigzag our way there. Our first zig was misjudged and took us far enough east to get into an area of contrary current. For most of last night we were doing 5 knots through the water but only 3.5 over the ground. Ugly.

At dawn this morning we gybed and headed NW. For several hours we were only making 3.5 knots of boat speed in about 6 knots of wind, but at least our speed over the ground was also 3.5 knots. In the last hour or two the wind has filled in to 10-12 knots and is slowly backing. Hopefully our course will gradually change to the W.

This morning's sked had a fleet of 10 vessels reporting in. There are now two boats at sea behind us which is always good. One will probably overtake us but we hope to stay ahead of the other. Here's hoping our heading W to get into better current (and wind) will pay off!

We've seen a steady stream of cargo ships passing by. So far none have come closer than 3-4 miles. We expect to see more as we approach the lanes around the south of Madagascar.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Reunion Outbound Day 1

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 22 35S 53 25E sailing at 5.5 knots on a course of 230M. The wind is 10-12 knots from the E with a low sea and a 1m E swell. We are under single-furled yankee and full main. Our day's run was 152nm and we have 1234nm of this 140nm passage to go.

Yesterday afternoon the wind gradually went around to the E as we cleared the island. It held in at around 15 knots all night. The only variation was during two small squalls which went through with 20 knots of wind and light rain. Apart from the squall clouds we had a very nice half-moonlit night until around midnight and then a starlit night thereafter. For most of the night we had a single-reefed main and double-furled yankee.

This morning the wind has gradually weakened. We've been gradually heading more south to keep our apparent wind up. It looks like we're going to have a couple of days of light winds. Hopefully the wind won't fail completely.

There are at least six other yachts on passage from Reunion to either Richards Bay or Durban. They are all ahead of us but two additional boats are due to depart Reunion soon so we'll have boats behind us for a while too. The boats up ahead are reporting the currents they're experiencing which is helpful for us to avoid the worst of the adverse currents. There are some strong currents on this passage, and not only the Agulhas currrent.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Reunion Departure

Hi everyone,
We departed Le Port at 1100 this morning after clearing out at 0800. We actually left the pen at 1000 but the engine's water flow alarm went off. We pulled into another pen and set to work replacing the raw water pump impeller. I hadn't replaced the impeller on this engine previously so it took half an hour. The new impeller certainly improved water flow and after a 15 minute test run we headed off - for Africa!

We have logged 47nm so far and have a nice 15-18 knot SE breeze with a 1-2m sea. We are beam reaching under single-reefed main and 3-furled yankee, making about 6.5 knots. It's a nice way to start a passage. We're also giving the Aires wind vane a run and it's coping with these mild conditions well.

When we initially departed Le Port the wind was from the W. We were close-hauled on port, heading NW for an hour. Then we tacked onto stbd and headed SW. As we came out of the islands large lee the wind went around to the SW, S and finally SE. As the wind changed direction it went light each time. This gave us two opportunities to run the engine to assure ourelves all is well. It does appear to be!

We enjoyed La Reunion very much. Unfortunately we were both suffering with flu for naerly half of our stay. It certainly is a spectacular place.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Reunion Day 14

Hi everyone,
We've now been in La Reunion for two weeks.  We had planned to depart on Thursday but I came down with the flu.  We now plan to depart on Monday.

On Tuesday we headed off on our road trip.  We drove to the town of Plaine de Palmistes and from there up the forestry road towards Belouve.  We did a 4km roundtrip walk through the forest which was quite nice.

Creek in the rain forest
After the walk we drove back to Plaine de Palmistes then to Takamaka.  From there we did another short walk.  There is a hydroelectric plant in this area and one can see why - there are many tall waterfalls.

View from Takamaka
Two of many waterfalls near Takamaka
From Takamaka we returned to Plain des Palmistes and drove all the way up the forestry road to Belouve.  The Belouve forest is primarily comprised of tamarind trees which are a type of acacia.  Apparently the tamarind evolved from an acacia found in Hawaii which in turn evolved from Australian acacias.  No one knows precisely how they got from A to B.

"View" from the gite on Tuesday afternoon
The Belouve gite (hostel) is very nicely situated at the top of a mountain.  When we arrived the mountain was shrouded in cloud.  There is a good boardwalk display area which explains the history of forestry and conservation in the area.  There is an excellent display at the old cable car hut which describes the cable car which used to run from Belouve down to near Hell Bourg in the valley below.

Our dormitory building at the gite
We had an excellent dinner at the gite.  The dormitories were clean and the beds comfortable.  With my flu developing rapidly we decided to cut short our trip so headed back to Le Port on Wednesday morning.

View from the gite on Wednesday morning
Boats are departing the marina regularly now - one or two each day.  It's fun saying "see you in Africa".

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Reunion Day 9

Hi everyone,
We've been busily exploring La Reunion over the last few days.  Where previously we had been exploring on Car Jaune busses we moved on to local buses and then to a hire car.

On Thursday morning we took the Kar Ouest No 8A bus from Le Port to the village of Dos D'Ane.  This small bus climbs about 1000m, with many hairpin turns along the way.  Due to a misunderstanding the bus driver dropped us off early, so we had to walk the last km to the village and from there up to the start of the Cap Noir track.  It was a nice walk along the road but once on the walking track the views became truly spectacular.

View of Dos D'Ane while walking up to the start of the Cap Noir track
The walk to Cap Noir and then on to Roche Boteille Verre was hard work - we're clearly out of shape after weeks aboard.  It was also exhilarating with jaw-dropping views.  In places there are ladders and in others there are wire ropes to hold on to as you walk along narrow cliff-top paths.

View of Cirque de Mafate from Cap Noir

From Roche Boteille Verre (Glass Bottle Rock) we took the shorter path direct down to Dos D'Ane where we had a nice lunch.  We then caught a bus back to Le Port from where we took the Car Jaune bus to St Paul.

In St Paul we caught the Kar Ouest No 2 bus to Maido.  This is a minibus and it climbs 2000m.  The last part of the ride is in a National Park with many picnic spots along the road.  The ride was made interesting by the cloud which had built up.  We emerged from the top of the cloud at Piton Maido.

Piton Maido

The cloud actually enveloped the entire mountain about an hour after we arrived.  Visibility reduced to 50m or so.  Before that we had a great walk around the top of the mountain.  Afterwards we walked down the mountain for several kilometres.  It's interesting how one's attention shifts as one's horizon shrinks.  Instead of admiring the jaw-dropping views we admired the shrubs, trees and birds.  Also the occasional cattle and horses which strolled by! 

On Friday we had a rest day.  We did some boat work but mainly rested since we were both suffering with colds.

On Saturday we had the use of a hire car.  We drove down the west coast to St Pierre, inland to Bourg Murat and then along the forestry road to Pas de Bellecombe.  The latter road is spectacular, with several great viewpoints along the way.  We were lucky with the weather, with a practially clear sky all morning.

View to W from Nez de Boeuf

View into canyon from Nez de Boeuf

The eastern half of the forestry road is across a volcanic landscape.  The tarmac road becomes a dusty dirt track and the scenery actually reminded us of parts of the Pilbara.  From the end of the road we walked several km to a viewpoint overlooking the island's active volcano - Piton de la Fournaise.  We could see lava oozing from several places on the volcano's flanks.  Another track to the rim of the volcano's crater was closed since the volcano is quite active at present.

Enclosure of Foucque (an old collapsed caldera which surrounds today's volcano)

Le Piton de la Fournaise - the volcano!

As we drove back to Bourg Murat the cloud was rapidly building up from lower altitudes.  As we went past Nez de Boeuf the canyon shown above was overflowing with cloud - very spectacular.  In Bourg Murat we had lunch and then spent an hour in the excellent Maison de Volcano which explains volcanos in general and the birth and growth of La Reunion through volcanic action in detail.  The same (static) volcanic hotspot created the Maldives, Rodrigues, Mauritius and La Reunion over the ages.

La Cite du Volcan (Bourg Murat)

From Bourg Murat we drove back to St Pierre and then eastwards along the coast road.  The coast road had been closed recently due to a landslide.  Happily it opened a few days ago.  The lava tubes which flowed from Piton de Fournaise to the sea in recent eruptions are spectacular.  The rapidity with which plant life returns is amazing.

Lava tube on SE coast

Yesterday we had another rest day, doing a few boat jobs.  The latter mainly involved s/s polishing and a stocktake of food supplies followed by a trip to the Leader Price supermarket in Le Port.  Today we topped up our water tanks and serviced the wind vane.

We have a hire car for Tuesday and Wednesday.  We plan to explore the Cirque de Salazie.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Reunion Day 4

Hi everyone,
We've been very busy touring La Reunion since arriving.  The island is a spectacular place.  You know the mountains are tall when GRIB files show a lee extending for 100nm+ downwind of the island!  Reunion, being part of metropolitan France, is also clearly part of a "first world" nation.  That said, there is a definite African feel to the place with (as examples) many Creole women traditionally dressed, African trees and colourful lizards and birds.

On Sunday we spent all day on the excellent Car Jaune bus network with the crew of Happy Bird.  We bussed around the entire island - except for the SE coast.  From Le Port we took busses around the north and east coasts via St Denis and St Benoit.  Spectacular views into the hills.

Car Jaune bus at St Denis station
From St Benoit we took the bus across the island to St Pierre on the south coast.  Very spectacular.  Lots of hairpin bends which were interesting in a full sized bus.  In St Pierre we spent several hours exploring the marina and having lunch.

Mountainous Interior
From St Pierre we bussed up the west coast home to Le Port via St Paul.  The west coast has lots of beaches and was busy.  

St Pierre Marina with the town beyond
On Monday we were cleared in by customs.  The two officers didn't come aboard, they simply examined the single page arrival form, stamped it and stamped our passports.  Our quickest clearance ever!  We moved Zen Again into a pen and spent the afternoon doing a few boat jobs.  We also reconfigured Y Not's HF radio so they too can use DSC routine calling.

Yesterday we took the bus to St Denis and spent the day exploring the town.  It has an array of impressive residences with nice parks.  We visited the Natural History Museum which was quite good, especially the shark and lemur exhibits.  We found a shop selling Breton goods and bought a couple of bottles of cider - very nice!

View through Parc de L'Etat to Natural History Museum
Interior of Natural History Museum
Dodo (left) and Solitaire (right)
One nice building
Hotel de Ville
This morning we're "staying home" so we can use the free WiFi at the marina office and do a few more boat jobs.  We looked into getting local SIM cards for our phones but they and pre-paid data are expensive.  We'll get by the with WiFi.

We plan to spend another week or so here.  Over the next few days we hope to do some walks which are accessible by bus.  We also want to visit the volcano museum and possibly the periphery of the volcano itself.  Next week we plan to use a hire car for a couple of days to get to some walks up in the hills.  Some of the cruisers are taking helicopter trips which they say are amazing.  We did a similar flight in Hawaii some years ago so have decided to preserve our funds for African adventures.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Reunion Arrival

Hi everyone,
We arrived at Le Port on Reunion Island at 1330 today.  We are moored in the new marina.  We are here in company with Vulcan Spirit, Impala, Y Not, Sea Bunny and Minnie B, plus many local boats.  It seems that the marina staff and customs people have knocked-off for the afternoon so we'll try to find them tomorrow.

Approaching Reunion
An hour after my preceding post the wind filled in enough for us to sail.  From then we had a nice sail in an 8-12 knot ESE breeze.  As we sailed along the north side of the island the breeze funnelled along the coast and gave us a fast finish.  We logged 150nm (147nm over the ground) in 27 hours for an average of 5.5knots.  We had 12 hours with wind and rain, 6 hours with neither and then 9 hours good sailing.

One unusual event overnight was seeing the volcano on the SE corner of the island erupting.  There was a very clear and substantial red glow which varied in intensity.  It was well above the horizon which made sense when I looked at a map of the island.

Here are the usual graphics…

Zen Again track

Zen Again speed
The new marina is not shown on charts yet but GoogleEarth is up to date.  The entrance to the marina isn't immediately obvious.  On entering Le Port head towards the orange portacabin/container.  There are several red teardrop bouys immediately outside the new marina entrance.  Initially they don't make sense but as you close them they form a "funnel" into the entrance.  Unless advised otherwise visitors seem to moor port side to at the head of the first jetty you see.

GoogleEarth view of Le Port showing new marina and our track

Mauritius Departure

Hi everyone,
We departed Port Louis yesterday at 1030. Clearing out took an hour visiting Immigration at the Capitainerie; Customs at their new building; and finally Customs and Coastguard desks at the Customs Dock.

Zen Again in Le Caudan Marina
We are currently at 20 28S 56 10E, motoring at 4.5 knots on a course of 260M in a 5 knot ESE wind. A 5 knot wind blowing directly towards your destination isn't ideal! We have logged 90nm so far and have about 50nm to go to Le Port on Reunion Island.

We departed Port Louis in light rain which continued until the wind died at around midnight. At least while it was raining we had wind. It ranged from 15 to 25 knots from the ENE so we made good time.  Complete overcast since departure to now, although the cloud base has lifted from very low to mid level now.

We're looking forward to arriving at Reunion. No doubt it will be another very different destination!