Here are my passage
notes for anyone else considering this route.
Indian Ocean Passage Part One
Langkawi to Chagos
We left Langkawi on 9 June and headed across the Malacca Straits to Lhokseumawe on Sumatra, experiencing the usual horrible Malacca Straits sailing – squalls, thunderstorms, rain etc. Some fishing
boats off Malaysia
, but little large traffic until we reached the shipping
lanes near Sumatra, and then small craft near the Sumatra coast, all buzzing us and begging for beer
We rounded the top of Sumatra in the pass off Banda Aceh with 3 knots of current
behind us and 20 knots of wind
against us. Kids
, don’t try this at home! The result was 3 meter standing waves in the pass, which was very uncomfortable, with our bows going under and water racing
back over the decks. Anchor
and wait for better weather
would be our recommendation. However, it only took half an hour or so to get through and then we headed offshore
to get out of the large swell coming in.
We then motored down the coast of Sumatra (no wind
after the first day), making a few overnight stops. We didn’t have a CAIT, so kept a low profile, and had no problems. We stopped at Lahewa on Nias to get diesel
and fresh vegetables. We tried to throw ourselves on the mercy of the Port Captain
, but he pretended we didn’t exist, although his staff were really helpful in arranging diesel
for us (5500rp per litre plus delivery
fee) and showing us where the market and shops were. When we came in to the wharf to refuel, most of the town was their, including the police chief, but no-one was interested in papers or passports. Very friendly place and a great anchorage.
We then went down to Cubadak Resort south of Padang, intending to head
into town and provision up for the ocean crossing
. However the owners of this resort are incredibly friendly and helpful, and had our provisions bought out from Padang for a small fee, much cheaper than us getting taxis and buses in, and saving a day travelling. They also have a fresh water
spring where we could fill up with water, let us buy LPG form them (siphon off their bottles) and arranged diesel (5500 litre delivered). We also went over to the mainland with one of their staff on market day (Tuesdays) and he helped us at the market. The fruit and vegetables there were first rate and lasted well. I can’t praise this place highly enough – they also do great meals
, about US$20 per head
, but worth the money
Sumatra is very beautiful and unspoiled and if you have time (and a CAIT) it would be easy to spend a couple of months down there before you set out across the Indian Ocean. We found the Wings guide to be very useful (google them for their website). Charts
are not very accurate and depths may vary post tsunami, more so in the northern area. You need to be alert for tsunami sensor buoys along the coast, although frequently there are fishing
boats attached to them to alert you to their presence.
We left Cubadak on 5 July and motored out through the barrier islands until we picked up wind just past them, then we had wind all the way to Chagos. It was mainly from the S or SE and anything from 5 to 15 knots. Be aware that this is the ITCZ, so squalls abound. We only had a couple with 30 knots of wind for a brief time, the rest topped out at 20-25 knot
bursts. We had a couple of periods of extended squally weather
, being hit by squall after squall and constant torrential rain. As the Indian Ocean Cruising Guide note, do NOT underestimate the effect of this on crew morale! We were exhausted from constant sail trim and putting in and shaking out reefs
. After a particularly horrible 36 hours we ended up heaving to and getting some rest for a few hours until the worst had gone through.
After we passed the Sumatra barrier islands, we saw no shipping
(apart from one night where we passed a cluster of fishing boats) until we got to longitude 83 degrees, when we seemed to meet a shipping lane, and often had 3 or 4 ships on the AIS
at once. This also heralded the appearance of several fishing fleets. Shipping continued at a lower level until we reached the 200 mile limits of Chagos.
We spent 10 days in Chagos, first at Ile Fouquet in the Salomons until we had unsettled weather with squalls that blasted us with 30 knots of onshore wind. We then moved to Ile Boddam for a couple of days until the SE trades picked up and made it bouncy in there, so it was back to Fouquet, which was pleasant in the steady trades. Boddam has an excellent laundry
set up with barrels for washing
and rinsing and clotheslines set up. There is a well with water good for washing
, and if treated in the usual way, would also be OK for drinking. You can also dispose of rubbish here – recycle cans, bin plastics and burn other rubbish in a fire site.
The fishing is excellent and snorkelling great. The only other boat there with us kleft after a couple of days, so we got a bit lonely after that. Quite a change from the old social days! The BIOT vessel Pacific Marlin came in to Salomon atoll while we were there and they came over to check us out in a large inflatable
. All very friendly and just asked us about our permit
, but didn’t need to see it.
We are using Navionics
for our chartplotter
and found that the charting on this was very accurate, as it was satellite
derived. After a couple of trips across the lagoon
I would have been happy using it at night in an emergency
We left Chagos on 5 August and were reefed down within half an hour, which set the tone for the rest of the voyage, which was fast and furious. We had steady SE winds, generally around 20 knots, but steady 30 knots on some days and 40 knots just off the Madagascar
Coast for a few hours. Not particularly comfortable, but not too bad either. It was the fastest passage we have done, averaging over 150 miles per day (we are a 32 foot heavy displacement
boat). We headed southwest to 12 degrees 20 mins south, 62 degrees 14 minutes east to cross the Mascarene Plateau where it was narrow and about the deepest, as the seas were around 3 meters plus from the steady strong winds. We had no difficulty in crossing the plateau with 30 knots blowing. We only saw one ship between Chagos and Nosy Mitsio on Madagascar, and that was at 10 degrees 40 S, 65 degrees E. Given the lack of shipping, I think it unlikely that Somali pirates are going to head to this area, especially at this time of year.
We then headed west to come in about 15 miles south of Cap Ambre at the top of Madagascar and sailed along the coast. We kept a mile or so offshore
until we were around and experienced no problems (unlike the top of Sumatra), but we may have been lucky. We had 30 knots of SE behind us. It was lovely to come around into flat water, but we still had a lively sail until we got down to Nosy Misio where we are currently anchored.