Sorry, I posted the wrong country code. Below is the corrected number:
I have a local mobile phone if anyone wants to give me a call: +262 (0)692146850.
I think anyone dialing from outside France Reunion should omit the first zero in parentheses (33 262 is the country code for France Reunion). Call anytime. Here is a photo taken this morning from the marina in St. Pierre:
One step closer to Africa. I arrived St. Pierre on the southwest coast of Reunion Island yesterday afternoon. Check in with customs, immigration, etc. was a breeze. Again I'm wishing I knew French. This would be a place where I think I would enjoy spending several months and working on that (learning French). I left Port Mathurin, Rodrigues Friday the 19th (I think) in the company of Hadar and Rebellion. They soon left me behind as I was sailing with a considerably smaller jib than normal (kindly lent to me by the lovely people on Ocean Lady) and I didn't want to push the rig too much by putting up the big asymmetrical spinnaker. It was an uneventful passage (though I did see many ships along the way--apropos that, I was told that ships sailing towards the Suez Canal stop in Mauritius to pick up armed mercenary type men to fight off potential pirates off Somalia, so maybe that's why I saw so many ships on this passage). Couldn't be bothered to put out the fishing line, and by time I arrived Reunion, my remaining provisions were becoming rather unexciting (rice, lentils, etc). Rebellion beat me here by half a day. I'm hoping we can have another competition when Twister is at full power. I'm planning to stay here ten-ish days before the final push to South Africa. Like sailing down to New Zealand from the tropics, the passage to South Africa and then around The Cape Of Good Hope has a reputation for being potentially rough.
Reunion is a volcanic island somewhat similar to Tahiti--green and lush with dramatic canyons cutting through the mountain slopes, but Reunion has a less extensive barrier reef than Tahiti. Speaking of reefs, there is a nice (reef) surf break about 100 meters from where Twister is docked, so I plan to take full advantage of that. Went for my first session this morning. Got worked in the 8-10 foot waves. Gave the lungs a good workout with a couple of good hold-downs. The locals were friendly. No hint of the territorial bullshit you see every day surfing in Southern California. That probably has something to do with this being a smaller place and that it's apparently very sharky (8 "attacks" this year I was told)--so another body in the water reduces everyone else's chance of being shark lunch.
Apparently I did not make the recent photos I posted accessible, so here is the link again.
Well, the cyclone was a bit of an anti-climax here in Rodrigues. We had 25-30 knots at the worst of it. Closer to the center of the storm it was a different story, I'm sure. The anchorage here in Port Mathurin will soon be a lonely place as all the other 5 yachts are leaving today along with me. I think the early-season cyclone has everyone wanting to get to South Africa, and out of the cyclone belt, as soon as possible. I've enjoyed my time in Rodrigues. I think this is the most laid-back, happy, friendly, safe-feeling place I've been to, and I've been to a few places that deserve those adjectives over the last year and a half. It is a small place with a population (mostly of African deescent and speaking Creole) of only 36 000, so it doesn't take long to see the sights, but I could easily spend a month or more here (but I'm also concerned about cyclones). Speaking of the sights--the best known one here is a Tortoise sanctuary which I visited with a couple of my cruising friends (Dino and Shasha from Hadar, and Paul from Rebellion) and some of my new friends from Rodrigues. They (the tortoises, not my friends) are impressively large (up to 100 kg) and surprisingly friendly--as soon as they spot you, they walk right up, demanding to be scratched under their chins which they obviously enjoy. Back in the day, whaling ships used to stop here and stock up on tortoises as they could be stored alive for a long time before being eaten.
It's about 440 nm to the southwest corner of Reunion Island. I would normally expect to do that in 4 days or less, but the forecast is calling for light winds after 2 days of 15-20 knots, so it may take me 5 or even 6 days to get there. No big deal after two 2000 mile passages in a row. I'll be sailing with a hank-on jib (which is a bit more work than the roller furler I had been using. More on that another time) that the folks on Ocean Lady were kind enough to lend me until I get to South Africa.
If things go according to plan, I'l have my forestay repaired by this evening. With some help from my fellow cruisers here in Rodrigues, I think I've figured out a way to reattach the wire to the mast I've also been offered the use of some hank-on sails to get me to South Africa where I'll get new rigging and reassemble the roller-furler. Meanwhile, there is a category 3 (intense) tropical cyclone (named Anais, maximum sustained surface winds estimated 105 knots, gusting to 130 knots) about 400 miles north of us, making its way southwest toward Mauritius. The current predictions have the eye of the storm passing no closer than 340 miles from us in about 24 hours. It is still almost a month before the official start of the Southwest Indian Ocean cyclone season. Glad to be in harbor and not out sailing at the moment. Hoping to be on my way to Reunion in 3-4 days (I expect a 4-day passage) where I'll probably stay around a week while I wait for a good weather window for sailing to South Africa. But I just looked at the forecast, and now it looks like I may be here a bit more than 3-4 days while I wait for the tradewinds to reestablish after the passage of the cyclone.
Twister covered the ca 2000 nautical miles in 17 days. Had a 150-mile day (24 hrs). The forestay parted (broke) 570 miles from Rodriguez, but fortunately mast stayed up and was able to keep sailing with jib until the jib halyard parted about 130 nm from Rodrigues. Motored the last 130 nm. Photos from Indian Ocean.
The long version:
Thursday September 27 0800 UTC
Departed the Direction Island anchorage (which by this time was full of big, expensive boats taking part in the ARC rally) around 1000 local time. The English boat, Ocean Lady, followed maybe 30 minutes later (also heading to Rodrigues). Conditions were ideal: 10-15 knots from the southeast, pushing Twister along on a broad reach at 5-6 knots under full mainsail and genoa. Twister did a good job staying just ahead of Ocean Lady (who is 40 feet to Twister's 28) the rest of the day. A few hours after departing, the Australian Customs cutter made an announcement on the VHF radio that they would shortly be destroying the two Indonesian refugee boats a few miles offshore from Cocos Keeling. As I looked back toward Ocean Lady, I could see two big plumes of black smoke rising from the horizon.
Wednesday October 3, 0400 UTC, 14°35' S, 84°38' E.
Lots of flying fish on deck every morning on this passage. Found a fresh one this AM that was also big enough to bother cooking. First flying fish breakfast for me. Not bad, a little oily. Twister covered 152 nautical miles from 0400 – 0400 October 1-2 and 295 miles October 1-3. Ocean Lady opened up a lead on days 2 and 3, but we've been staying with her since then and remain about 65 miles behind her. 1233 miles to Rodrigues. Hope those go as fast the the first 732. The crew on Ocean Lady had suggested we keep in touch on the SSB radio, and we have been having a brief chat every morning and evening. Good having someone to talk to, albeit briefly, and it's always nice to have another task/point in the daily routine (which is one reason I enjoy practicing celestial navigation).
Saturday October 6, 0145 UTC, 16°42' S, 78°09' E.
Ca 2000 nm from Australian mainland, 1480 nm from India, 2150 nm from Africa, and 2950 nm from Antarctica (860 to Rodrigues). Pretty much the middle of The Indian Ocean (aka the middle of nowhere). The wind picked up last night and is now blowing 30-35 knots. Glad to be going downwind. Every 10 minutes or so a wave smack Twister with a bang (but no harm).
Monday October 8, 0345 UTC, 17°31' S, 73°11' E.
As I was lying in my bunk, I heard a bang I had not heard before. My fears were confirmed when I found the forestay (one of the 8 steel cables that hold the mast up—one stay each at the bow and stern, 3 shrouds on each side) broken where it connects to the mast. Fortunately we're sailing downwind and the mast did not fall down and the genoa remained hanging by its halyard. I attached all the unused halyards (lines used to pull sails and other things up the mast) to the bow and tightened them to support the mast and Twister kept sailing as if it were no big deal. The genoa is now hanging like an asymmetrical spinnaker.
Thursday October 11, 0800 UTC, 18°59' S, 67°21' E.
No major problems sailing downwind with the broken forestay. Feel feckless and a low-level kind of anxiety or despair. I'm sure there's more I could and should be doing while I'm just sitting here waiting to get to Rodrigues or for the mast to fall down. When I do get there, I'll have a look at the top of the mast to see how the forestay broke (kinda curious about that) and how it can be fixed. If we keep up this pace, we'll arrive Saturday (the 13th) afternoon. The winds have been moderate to light since Monday which is good. Ocean Lady is probably arriving Rodriguez about now. The radio contact has been spotty the last few days.
Friday October 12, 0530 UTC, 19°18' S, 65°40' E (130 nm from Rodrigues).
Another bang and the jib halyard parted about an hour ago, dropping the sail and the roller furler (I was pretty much expecting that to happen at some point. Very fortunate I was able to keep sailing with it as long as I was). The whole thing remained attached to the bow, so I was able to haul it aboard and lash it to the side of the boat. I contemplated raising another jib (with or without using another of the remaining 3 halyards as a forestay), but decided that, since I have more than enough fuel, motoring the rest of the way is probably the most prudent thing to do (also requiring the least effort). Going about 4.2 knots, with the engine at 1200 rpm (Glad to have the wind and seas pushing us along). At this rate, will arrive Saturday around 1600 local time.