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Seychelles to Madagascar

September 15, 2015

Departed Anse La Mouche, September,  2015 and arrived Hellville, Madagascar September 14,  2015

Summation of damages incurred during this period:
1 – clogged fuel filters –

2 – broken forward handrails –

3 – dislodged mainsheet track from mast
4 – bucket lost overboard
5 -torn jib
6 – shredded Canadian flag –

7 – all towels, linen etc salt encrusted –

8 – bent stanchions –

9 – torn drifter –

10 – bruised egos

Neither of us want to repeat this kind of trip.


In the winter season the south-east trades blow with a great deal of strength and we witnessed that from our sail around some of the islands in the Seychelles. So, we were not looking forward to what’s well-known as a ‘slog to windward’ to get to Madagascar.

We checked out from Victoria and went to an anchorage to await a propitious weather window in which to start of on the 800 mile jump south, south-west to be exact.

As fate would have it, getting to the anchorage to await the weather window we blew out our mainsail. Yes, a squall, and an older mainsail, caught us off guard and we tore off the leach of the sail. That took a lot of mending and have to say a big thank you to Dave and Marcia on Strider who came to the rescue with a sewing machine. After a number of hours of hard sewing the job was done but then an eye infection put another halt to our plans while I went to the docs. Needless to say with all this happening it took more than a few days.

In company with Strider we headed to the last scheduled anchorage on the west coast of Mahe, Anse La Mouche. On the way there we were motoring in some very choppy seas when the engine stopped – clogged fuel filters. However, due to weather conditions we ran back to an anchorage for the night and tried to effect a change of filters. This didn’t solve the problem as engine must have had an air leak. The following morning we headed up to Anse La Mouche under sail thinking no problem as there has been plenty of wind here for the last three months. Well, the one and only time we have seen no wind happened. We were left bobbing around with no steerage and a non functioning engine. Strider came to the rescue again and towed us the last 2 miles into the anchorage.

The next day we managed to expel the air lock and got the engine going. This left some time for final departure and at least a bit of a break in the constant squalls and incessant rain.

After a few days of hanging around in the bay and after some vicious scrabble games it was time to go. Boat’s ready but we’re not and never will be having an inkling of what this trip would entail. We hanked on a small working jib, double reefed the main and slipped out of Anse La Mouche under the threat of more rain and squalls. We smoothly lifted the anchor and with no engine slid out of the bay and out of the protection (?) of Mahe.

Departing Anse La Mouche (photo by Marcia Reck)

Departing Anse La Mouche (photo by Marcia Reck)

Once clear of Mahe the wind steadied and the squalls dissipated and left us with winds of 20 knots and on a very close reach in order to maintain our course line. Needless to say the seas were rough and movement on board uncomfortable but we were finally on our way.

I won’t go into more details of the actual sail south other than to say we think it was the most difficult sailing trip in all the years we have sailed offshore. The main reason for this is due to the fact it was not downwind sailing. We struggled to keep on course at times where the wind was over 30 knots and where the wind never dropped below 20 knots until we got into the wind shadow formed by Madagascar. And even there the only break we got was a decrease in the wind but we had to tack back and forth for the last 150 miles to get to Hellville, Nosy Be.

Needless to say we had a rough time. We found a tiny portion of the cockpit that was out of the spray but at times with waves crashing over the boat every so often everything eventually got soaked both outside and inside. Once things get salt water on them they never dry in those conditions so eventually the dampness permeates below and one just has to accept putting on damp cool clothing when heading out for ones watch.

The one very dramatic moment came one evening when, just after a watch change, and after the sunset, I was below having fallen asleep, when suddenly the boat made a hugely violent motion and salt water was pouring in on top of me through the dorade vents. Connie was screaming, I was confused but I knew it was imperative to get out on deck and assess the situation. We weren’t hurt, we weren’t sinking, the mast had not come down, we were alive. We lost a few things, broke a handrail, damaged the mainsail track, tore a sail, bent a stanchion and added a few bruises to our battered bodies. Like a lot in sailing we shook ourselves, hoped that this type of incident would not happen again and carried on.

Approaching our destination, Nosy Be, we were not left without incident. Not wanting to try to start the engine until the very last moment of arrival we sailed into an anchorage 5nm from Nosy Be at 0330hrs and anchored in 15m of water. We got up at 0700hrs to be greeted by overcast skies and light rain with little wind. We went to use the windlass and it was frozen. We affected a quick repair and ghosted out of the anchorage. We sailed on to Nosy Be and in the process blew out another sail.

Does this sound like fun!

The two things gained from this experience are:
1 – an increased confidence in Sage to carry on
2 – an incredible respect for our wind-driven self steering system built by Hydrovane. In reality we set our wind vane to work on leaving the Seychelles  and virtually never adjusted its settings for the entire trip prior to hitting the Madagascar wind shadow.

In retrospect we made a mistake in choosing the route to the Seychelles from Chagos. We loved the Seychelles but…The problem with the routing from the Seychelles is there are no options other than through the pirate infested waters between the Seychelles and Mombassa. It’s not like the movement of highs and lows where one can heave-to for a day or two and wait for the wind to decrease. The wind blows like this for three + months. Once one makes the decision to leave the only option is to turn around and head back to wait out the season or, if you are lucky watch for a weather window and GO. For us, South Africa beckoned.

A big thanks to Dave and Marcia on Strider for their help in repairing our mainsail in the Seychelles. While many things got broken the mainsail stayed up through it all and survived

16 Comments leave one →
  1. John Middleton permalink
    September 15, 2015 21:48

    What an adventure! Glad it all worked out in the end. Enjoy your time in Madagascar and look forward to hearing about that part of the world. Meanwhile we are finally heading into seasonal weather after “a summer to remember”.

  2. Sue Donaldson permalink
    September 15, 2015 22:15

    Whooooeeee what a passage! Now I know why you were originally unsure about visiting the Seychelles. Very glad to hear of no broken bones & that you’re in lemur-land. xxxxx

  3. Louise permalink
    September 15, 2015 23:32

    Holy cow. Stressful. You both look thin. Take some time to relax and put some flesh on your bones in Madagascar. Looking forward to the next blog with some flora and fauna pics.

  4. Raewyn permalink
    September 16, 2015 00:12

    Give yourselves a break – yeah right – with all the repairs to do! Say hello to Dave and Marcia from us too. My recollection of sailing that part of the world was likened to being in a washing machine! Glad to hear of your arrival in battered condition, but one piece. Here in Alaska we are battening down for winter. Days shorter, nights longer and seas rougher! No more fishing for now.

  5. September 16, 2015 00:31

    What an experience !!!! glad you made and your faith in SAGE you have gained in her handling of the crossing. . Recoup and enjoy your new surroundings ,
    I will raise a libation to you both for your continuation with fair winds from ALEOUS with sunny skies,
    Cheers for now, VICTORIA BILL
    Dale will be impressed too.

  6. Wayno permalink
    September 16, 2015 05:00

    Guess I won’t call you a couple of pussies anymore. So very glad you got through it. Bless you both. Raise a large glass of your favourite libation and put it on my tab. Eat some meat. Onward to Africa you champions!

  7. Annie Boldt permalink
    September 16, 2015 05:55


    And I don’t even believe in God!
    Is the worst now behind you? like Pirate and Weather worst?

    This story makes our lives seem boring, boring boring if you know what I mean.

    Are Dave and Marcia still with you or are you going solo now?

    I am so happy you are safe and sound for now.

    Annie B.

  8. September 16, 2015 08:57

    Tony, Connie:
    Kudos on your safe arrival. Lesser folks would have turned back. Now I know why you’re waxing nostalgic about the North Coast of BC. Well you’re there, and I’m still here and i admire you bot.h immensely.


  9. Darrel and Loretta Smith permalink
    September 16, 2015 10:01

    Wow you guys are tough! Wishing you calmer passages. Thanks again for sharing your incredible stories. L&D xx

  10. Judi permalink
    September 16, 2015 23:00

    ….and if I was to tell you the things that have given me immense amounts of stress (probably over the same time frame as yours) people would say I was complaining….but somehow yours sounds like an adventure. Which it is…. ! (Plus you are a very good writer) So glad you are safe, my tummy is still upset from reading about 30 knot winds, heaving and hoing. Do you have a layer of merino to resort to when everything gets wet? Hopefully the repairs go smoothly, thank heavens your friends were there to assist you. Stay safe and enjoy the rewards of this ‘adventure’

  11. September 17, 2015 01:46

    OK, got it, cross off the Seychells from the strategic planning:) Hope your time in Madagascar goes well.
    Paul & Chris on Georgia

  12. Donald Innes permalink
    September 17, 2015 03:42

    Wow !!!

  13. archer brown permalink
    September 17, 2015 11:04

    Hope things get better……….It was nothing like that in Seattle today……..65 and sunny………..Archer

  14. Ann & Chris permalink
    September 25, 2015 20:45

    Hey Tony – didn’t think anything could bruise that ego of yours but good that you arrived safely. PS that Canadian flag looked like that when it left Chagos!

  15. July 21, 2016 06:21

    Hi there, have you a contact for Dave and Marcia on Strider? We were friends while they were aboard their previous yacht MANANA and spent time with them in canals Chile – we were crew on SY MERTSI LOUISE. Would be great to be in touch again. Thank you. Nigel & Dale Philips nigelanddale&

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