After several weeks ashore at Gondwana Marine Services, Pipistrelle was splashed, and with the help of Tony of Sage we made our way back to the Yacht Club at Victoria, where we anchored.
Earlier in the month, Elaine had returned home for family reasons, so in case she could not get back in time, Bob organised crew with the help of New Zealand sailing friends, Ian and Wendy. They put us in touch with Tony Miller, and Bob very quickly found they both shared the same sense of humour. Unfortunately Tony’s arrival was delayed by illness though Elaine was able re-join from the UK. They arrived within a day of each other; we immediately checked out, did some last minute provisioning, and left for Anse de la Mouche on the west coast of Mahé.
The wind and squalls decided to thwart our attempt and we put into Port Launay, a bay further up the island, to complete the passage the following morning. There we found the electronics engineer who had checked the autopilot in Victoria had inadvertently left the compass 180 degrees out of sync! The wind instrument had also failed. We met up with Tony and Connie of Sage who were waiting there for us so we could depart together, and after more compass swinging we finally set off on passage to Madagascar the next day, Sept. 6th.
The weather we had been experiencing in the Seychelles was truly horrible; strong SE winds plus frequent torrential rain and squalls. With one reef in the main and the staysail set, we were on our way, and within 24 hours had thankfully left the rain and squalls behind.
We managed to hold a course sailing 60 degrees on the wind, and keeping to the east of all the islands on our route, crucially the Farquhar Islands. But by midnight on the 8th we had to put a 2nd reef in, with a reduced staysail, and had waves continually breaking over the boat, with some water ingress down below, purely from the force of the waves. We were still achieving 170nm over a 24 hour period. On the night of the 9th as we approached Cap d’Ambre the wind was not just howling through the rigging, it was screaming. Never heard anything like that before! Bob considered a 3rd reef, but with the set of the sails and the boat speed, Pipistrelle still seemed to be taking it ok.
Tony found the conditions hilarious, and could be heard laughing in the cockpit as wave after wave crashed over Pipistrelle! We made it to the east of Cap d’Ambre, the northern most tip of Madagascar, and then altered course to run west across the headland 1nm offshore, Tony on the helm and loving it, us asleep below! Later that morning we reached Nosy Hara and shared the anchorage with Pakea Tea, a Wharram catamaran with Tom, Sonja and their lovely little son, Keanu on board, who we had last seen in the Maldives.
To summarise, this passage was definitely not just a walk in the park though our first steps ashore in Madagascar were just that! Weather conditions on this 4 day passage were unquestionably the worst and most challenging we have encountered since setting off from the Hamble in 2008. In fact at times it was rather like being in a washing machine! But we arrived safely, Pipistrelle coped remarkably well, with very little damage, but our staysail will certainly need replacing in South Africa.
Our first stop in Madagascar was Nosy Hara at 12 14.66S 49 00.34E where we anchored in sand in 7.4m. We then sailed on to Nosy Mitoi which is a beautiful protected bay at 12 54.41S 48 34.68E. From there we sailed on to Hellville on Nosy Be at 13 24.50S 48 17.07E where we initially anchored in 14.4m, but moved the following day to a more protected part of the bay.