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Old 04-03-2012, 21:56   #1
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Location: New Zealand originally, but now Malaysia & Thailand
Boat: Kendall 32, Daemon
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Crossing to North Madagascar

Hi, looking at heading from West Coast Sumatra to North Madagascar via Chagos in 2013. Has anyone done this route ( or part thereof) and can let me know about timing, conditions, etc.

Any cruising info on Madagascar/Mozambique also appreciated.

Please don't hijack this into a discussion on pirates - we'll look at the latest data nearer the time and make our own call on that.


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Old 05-03-2012, 06:16   #2
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I am assuming you plan to pull into to Nosy Be?

Do you have the indian ocean guide and the east african pilot guide? I found these immensly helpfull and they Will answer many questions. The primary issues you need to consider:

1. the direction of the monsoons during your propsed passage time
2. The issue with the different cyclone periods and windows in northern indian and southern indian ocean
3. Chagos has also gone from the last paradise to the last beurocracy and should have the latest updates.

Im envious though as chagos is still one of my favorite destinations in the world even a decade on since i was there.

Edit: you have me dreaming of the Indian ocean and it has been along time. Was googling old info and in the garage pulling out the old guides again...

Here is a great website at first glance and it looks like they did the northern route, which we did, and later the southern'ish route. Seems like a gold mine of info hope it helps

"So, rather than appear foolish afterward, I renounce seeming clever now."
William of Baskerville

"You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm."
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Old 22-08-2012, 09:55   #3
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Re: Crossing to North Madagascar

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 and cigarettes.

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.

West Coast 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 iPad 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.
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Old 13-07-2013, 13:41   #4
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Re: Crossing to North Madagascar

Hi ………..
Did that route (well, from Boat Lagoon, Thailand) to Chagos to Madagascar, departing Thailand in mid-September. Very little wind around the N. tip of Indonesia and decent sailing to Chagos. It is not the place it once was, reading accounts of previous visitors. No one there. A couple of moorings that were good, as the anchoring must have been a nightmare in the coral in the good old days.
Made Madagascar with no problems and stopped at northern tip port of Antisiranana. Watch out if you enter here. I did with about 1 hour of light left and it was a big mistake. Sun gone, no lights and wrecks everywhere. I eventually anchored in 10 m of mud but was awoken next morning by navy boat telling me to move as I was in military waters. Fine, so I moved to the dedicated ‘small boat harbour’. It should be called ‘smallest harbour for little boats’. I realized I had motored the night before over 2 wrecks (both visible at low tide in daytime). The swinging room was no hell in the small harbour so I didn’t put out a lot of chain. I think it was 10m depth and I put out 30 metres chain. All good for 3 days until a thunderstorm came by and popped me out of the mud. I drifted 2 km until I realized something was wrong, with the boat going sideways when supposedly at ‘anchor’. Tossed out all the chain I had and I was fine for the rest of the night. Woke up to see the next wreck 100 metres downwind. What woke me up was the sound of the anchor banging over 2 wrecks as I drifted, unhooked during the thunderstorm. Sheesh.
Going around the N. end of Mad was no problem and there are plenty of nice, safe anchorages on the W. side on your way down to Nosy Be (Hellville).
A couple of pics--entering Antisiranana and W. coast bay of N. Mad.
Good travels.
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