FROM THE LOG #79

Last Passage of the Season
From Chagos to Mauritius

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Sundown through a leaking port hole
(Click on any photo or map for a blow up)

We arrived in Port Louis, Mauritius, on the 19th of May, a Saturday. The photo below is taken at 8 o'clock on the final approach. We had left the Salomon Islands in Chagos 9 days and 20 hours earlier. At times it was a very fast passage, we had three days when we logged more than 170 nautical miles. But there were also three days with very little wind, especially in the early stages, when we were still closer to the Equator and the Intratropical Convergence.

The straight route from Salomon atoll to Mauritius would be leaving Chagos Bank to port (to the east), indicated by line 1 on the chart below, left. However, the prevailing wind in May is SE and it can be a close-hauled trip, particularly if it is blowing hard when the apparent wind will be even more on the nose as the speed of the vessel increases. The wind angle will be even more unfavourable if you plan to stop at Rodrigues on the way. Therefore we decided to go east of Chagos Bank, which would put us 100 nm more to the east after the first day, compared to route 1. After Diego Garcia one can decide, during the trip and depending on the direction of the wind, how to proceed. The further south, sailing along line 3, one makes the decision to steer towards Mauritius, the more favourable the wind angle. Going east of Chagos Bank will increase the distance to Mauritius with more than 100 nm, but instead of likely going with hard sheeted sails and spray all over the deck, you will probably be reaching all the way after rounding the banks. In both cases you will probably be motoring the first day anyway, being so close to the Equator. Also, going east, you have the bonus of an easier sail to Rodrigues, which is reported to be worth a stop.


Left and above:
Strategies between Chagos and Mauritius.
See body text above and below,
and click on the maps for larger copies.

The maps above indicate that Scorpio decided to skip Rodrigues after all, but we delayed the decision until the day before our estimated arrival, when we had only 129 nm to go. Instead we set course for Mauritius 400 nm to the WSW. Our strategy proved to be a good one, as the wind turned south and we were on a beam reach. The last two days the wind was so light, however, that we had to motor-sail.

All in all, it was a good trip although, on the second day, we received a warning because of a cyclone-alert, which caused a lot of concern. Read more about this dilemma in Cyclone Alert - Executive Decisions between Chagos and Mauritius.

Fishing boats rafted in Port Louis harbour

Our only mechanical problem during the trip was a leaking port hole (maritime word for 'window') in the hull. Replacing the acrylics of the port holes was one of the few jobs we did not do during our recent refit in Phuket. The bonding of the 'glass' to the frame was coming apart and as this particular port hole is located on the starboard side and we were constantly on a port tack (wind blowing from port = left), the window was washed by waves several times á minute, letting in sea water. This port hole is next to the navigation table and I had some concerns for the electronic connections. Fortunately I managed to make a temporary repair with silicone, which cured in a few hours. It wasn't pretty, but who cares (photo at the top of this page - click on it for the full picture).

The word port-hole is a bit confusing as the 'window' is a port hole on the starboard side as well as on the port side:)

The broken-down alternator, which I had managed to repair temporarily at Salomon, worked fine all the way (more about this repair in a separate story later). Before we left Salomon I also inspected the strainer of the engine cooling circuit and found it completely stuffed with sea weed (photo above right). I also inspected the emergency steering arrangement, and found to my horror, that the extension of the rudder shaft had ´popped out' of the shaft (photo above left) which meant that steering by the emergency tiller would have been impossible. The correct assembly is shown in the centre photo above.

Scorpio is here tied alongside the Customs Quay in Port Louis harbour. Sailing vessels in Caudan Marina can be seen in the background.
Port Louis harbour seen from the Citadelle above. Compare with the approach-photo at the top of the page.

Scorpio's sailing season 2011-2012 has now come to an end. We will stay in Mauritius until mid September before the journey resumes. However, that doesn't mean that our reports are over. Our next report, about Mauritius, will be posted very soon.

Stay tuned.

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