Indian Ocean crossing

Fri Aug 12 2022 departure , Bali Indonesia - Seychelles Islands 3700NM ocean crossing

After 3 months of being land bound, it was time to test out the new deck in some open ocean ! The passage was going to take around 21days, so we provisioned well, stowed everything away nicely, and double checked we had everything onboard.

We cast the lines at 10 am on the Friday morning and motored out of Benoa harbour, gracefully hoisted the sails, and performed a few tacks to warm up the crew. With new crew on board we played out a couple of man overboard drills to make sure all were comfortable and capable with the procedure. We turned the corner around Uluwatu point with 10 to 12knots of breeze filling our sails from the SE and then headed for the horizon. We were on a point of sail of around 120  degrees off the breeze, with some long period swell, hot air and sunshine following us. A nice easy start to a long voyage.

The first night for Eve and her crew was magical. We had switched the headsail onto the pole and sailed at 154º off the breeze goose wing style ! The moon was full and the wind had stayed constant between 9 to 13 knots all night.

During the first two days at sea, one of our crew members wasn’t feeling well and up to the crossing, so we made a quick call to alter course and drop them off at Christmas Island , as it was only 100NM north of us. A slight detour but nothing compared to the 3500NM we had left of the passage. It was a sad moment to be saying goodbye but we knew it was for the best.

After dropping off our crew and setting sail again, we had decided to put a little bit of South in our route West as the forecast showed a line of cloud all along the Indian ocean around the 4º S of latitude - a mini doldrum type of phenomenon close to the equator, where there is less wind, more rain and more chances of squalls.

So we aimed toward the Coco’s keeling and used them as a turning point before pointing our bow straight to the West toward the Seychelles and hoped to stay dry and moving the whole way.

Day 4 into the voyage and everything was running smoothly. A very good night of sailing, where we managed to fly the kite under the stars until mid morning the next day. The wind slowly died and

we manage to do a small tear in our GoSource symmetrical kite on the second set of spreader just as we were walking forward to take it down. But nothing a bit of tape and needle and thread couldn’t  fix.

We also notice the second batten from the top of the main was coming out and found out that the batten had gone through the batten pocket ( on the leach side ). With the help of a calm sea state we managed to drop the main and have it fixed before the sun set…A little epoxy mix and a bit of fibreglass didn’t take long to cure in the heat! It was a great feeling to be well prepared for a passage knowing you have all the tools to fix almost anything onboard. Especially when embarking on such a big crossing.

The ocean was glassy with a long period Swell from the South, big enough to steady the boat in the water with no roll. The sky that evening was a vibrant array of warm colours as we sat on deck eating our dinner, whilst gently motoring toward the next patch of wind. Later on that same evening at around midnight, we had a courtesy VHF call from Australian Border Force, asking if we saw anything of interest. We told them that besides coming across 3 fishing boats attached to an offshore mooring in over 3000meters of depth, we saw nothing at all .

Everyone on board seemed to be settled into the offshore routine quite well and looked forward to get the boat moving again with the new breeze the following day.

The wind and waves of the Indian Ocean -

Day 6 at sea had been quite uncomfortable. We had a weird mix of SW long period swell mixed with a new short period SE Swell which made for some big 5 metre waves. The current was also pushing us SW against the swell making everything a little messy and the big girl very roly. Luckily no one got sea sick and it was definitely a good test on the stomach. The wind was blowing at around 25knots and we had covered 235nm in 24 h which was some of our best work ever! We were flying along with a first reefed main, poled out headsail and a staysail. Luckily the sea state improved over the course of a few days and we were back to comfortable downwind sailing.

Day 10 was the halfway mark between Bali and the Seychelles, and we had already travelled 1700NM. We had been clocking over 230 nm everyday since stoping off in Christmas Island with a breeze blowing constantly from 20 to 25 knots shifting between 120 and 140 of direction.

Meg and Iain had to dodge what looked like on AIS a 10 boat fleet of fishing boats during the night. They could only see one ship with a very bright light bouncing between the troughs in the swell. We suspected that there was only one boat with some AIS transmitter on their nets/lines ( no name display only MMSI ) anyway, weird things to see that far off everything, and we still haven’t worked out what it was!

By day 11, the Chagos were only 675 miles in front of us, so we had in mind to avoid re-enacting  what Bernard Moitessier did by crashing his Marie Therese on the Diego garcia atoll.

It was still a bit overcast from all the wind and clouds from the south and the temperature had dropped a few degrees, but that wasn’t a bad thing, as the tropical heat could be a bit too much sometimes.

The days blurred into one another as the time and miles dragged on. About half way through the crossing we started finding lots of flying fish scattered all over the boat every morning. At one point we picked up a total of 15 flying fish off the deck, and even had one stuck in one of the cockpit winch handle holder . He must have been stuck in there for a few days because the smell betrayed him…

We Celebrated week two at sea, with a nice spinnaker Day ! The wind was blowing between 12 to 15 knots and the closer we got to the Seychelles the more traffic we started to see. Quite a lot of cargo ships were showing up on our AIS, and we had communicated with a few of them to confirm we both had the same idea to not run into each other .

Due to our well provisioned boat, we didn’t feel the need to fish everyday as we didn’t want to waste food.. But when the time was right and our meat supplies were running low, we eagerly cast the lines off the back of the boat and caught a very nice Wahoo which made up a few meals ! We enjoyed some sashimi and tartar for lunch and ate an entire chocolate cake to celebrate the milestone of the “ less than 1000nm to go “ mark .

We had the same routine for every sunset and sunrise - The kite got packed away just before the last light, and then relaunched again in the morning as soon as the sun finished its colourful rising performance. The reason why we didn’t fly the kite through the night is because we never felt the need to take the risk… unless we were racing. It also gave our crew of 4 a chance to fully rest and relax through the night watches, with the boat still moving along nicely at around 8-9knots in an average of 18knots of breeze. It is great to push the boat and tests the limits of your sail power and speed, and we highly recommend it, however there is a time and a place, and for us we were extremely happy and content to be cruising at our own pace, thousands of miles offshore with limited crew… Even if that did mean arriving a day later.

Day 20 - Wed Aug 31 2022 - Arrival day!

The last day of sailing was picture perfect. Blue skies, a steady sea state and of course the postcard view of the Seychelles slowly coming into focus.

The wind didn’t know which way it wanted shift and it made us hesitated between plugging in a code zero at 145 true wind angle or hoisting a symmetrical kite to run more square . We decided to go with the code Zero which ended up being a pretty good option… Until the wind shifted back around, so we packed it up and poled out the headsail again .

Entering the Seychelles lagoon, with a nice 18knots of wind at a 100° TWA, made the whole voyage worth it. It was the most upwind we had been for 3600 miles and it almost felt strange to be slightly heeled over after running downwind for so long. Eve was charging between the islands at 9.5 knots towards Mahé (the main island ) .

Our arrival and clearance procedure required us to anchor in a special quarantine bay and call the  authorities once we had arrived. The view was spectacular , being surrounded by lushes islands and warm turquoise water in the bay made the clearance a lot more pleasant. As usually the authorities came and went, stamping passports and checking paper work as they do. It wasn’t a long process and all very easy. Finally we were free to go and get a well deserved beer on land!

Overall , the whole 21 days at sea were very relaxing and easy. We ate lots of food, read lots of books and played lots of music. It felt like the 3700NM flew by, and with no land to see or reef to hit, the days blurred into one another, and before we knew it we had crossed an entire ocean and landed in paradise! The cruising world was still in hibernation from the pandemic and it seemed like we had all the islands to ourselves. Uncrowded anchorages, untouched beaches, abandoned landscapes, and trade winds that were still blowing for another month, left us with the perfect cruising ground.

Symmetrical kite drop using a sock on a swan65 - Here’s how we set it up for the ones who wonder.

On the windward side, we use the brace through the beak ( normal ) and the lazy sheet clipped to the pole itself.

On the Leeward side, we have a normal setup with active sheet and lazy brace on the clew.

When the crew our ready to drop, we sheet on the active sheet, as we ease most of the active brace. The sheet comes all the way down to the barber and the kite flags behind the main, which allows the sock to come down very easily, the windward lazy sheet allows the pole to stay in place while easing the brace instead of smashing into the forestay et voila!

We also have the lazy brace setup as a letterbox in case the snuffer decided to stay stuck at the top. It is safe back up method as we only had 4 crew onboard !

Meg Niblett, Aug 2022