Annual Summary of 2011

"Arctracer" crossed the Indian Ocean in 2011, traveling 5730 miles. We started from Thailand in January, stopped in Sri Lanka for a month, stopped briefly at Addu Atoll at the south end of the Maldives, stayed three months in the Chagos Archipelago, spent five months in northern Madagascar, crossed the Mozambique Channel and arrived in South Africa at the end of November. This is a summary. There are more details in other letters.

Thailand to Sri Lanka - We spent considerable time and effort in Malaysia and Thailand getting the boat ready and stocking it with food for many months away from all stores. We departed from Phuket on January 19 after the northeast monsoon was well-established. Our route went south of Great Nicobar Island and north of Sumatra through the "Great Channel" connecting the Indian Ocean to the Strait of Malacca. Then we paralleled the main shipping route, staying a few miles north of most ships. We had occasional squalls but the wind was very consistently northeast and usually in the 20-30 knot range. Waves thumped our starboard quarter and kept us rocking much of the time. We used nothing but our roller-furling jib after passing Great Nicobar and never needed to gybe. We arrived in Galle, Sri Lanka on January 27 after 1107 miles in 8 and 1/2 days without any problems.

Sri Lanka - Sri Lankan officials are notorious but we had only minor problems with them. We saw the sights of Galle and took a 12-day tour to see the old capitals, Sigiriya, the Hill Country and Yala National Park. It was an interesting country with a mix of cultures, scenery and wildlife. We did "last-chance" provisioning and departed towards Chagos on February 26.

Sri Lanka to Chagos - The passage south from Sri Lanka was almost entirely in light and variable winds. We used our spinnaker frequently, preferring to sail slowly rather than motor. Unfortunately, both our old spinnaker and our old roller-furling jib got torn. The spinnaker was beyond repair but we did not expect to need it before South Africa. We did need a good jib so stopped at Addu Atoll at the south end of the Maldives to order a new sail from sailmaker friends in Australia. We spent only a week in the Maldives and were not favorably impressed by anything except their clear waters. Our four-day passage to Chagos was very squally but we arrived in good shape on March 16 after 928 miles from Sri Lanka.

Chagos - We stayed March 6 to May 16 at several anchorages in Peros Banhos Atoll while the prevailing winds backed from west through south. Then we moved to Salomon Atoll where we found somewhat better protection from the southeast trade winds which gradually established themselves. Both atolls were very beautiful with excellent fishing and snorkeling. Anchoring was constrained by British officials to just a few areas so boats were clustered together and there was much socializing. We also explored the coconut plantations and villages from which all local people were removed by the British after the United States leased Diego Garcia for a military base in 1966. During our stay in these isolated islands Jerry's wonderful father passed away. We were very sad that there was no possible way for us to get to his memorial services which were attended by his large family and many friends. We departed towards Madagascar on June 13.

Chagos to Madagascar - Our course for five days was southwest to a point between shoal areas of the Saya de Malha Bank on the Mascarene Plateau. During that leg of the passage we had trade winds on our beam so made good speed in sometimes uncomfortable seas. We had one fierce squall with gusts over 40 knots but no real problems. Once past the turn we had the wind on our quarter and quite comfortably made good speed using only our jib. We worried about possibly strong currents and winds around the northern tip of Madagascar but did not encounter those and had a very good passage of 1512 miles in 10 days.

Madagascar - We arrived in Madagascar on June 23 and did not leave until November 13. The officials gave us visas for only three months but we were slow in getting down to Nosy Be to check-in and worked our way slowly down the coast towards Cap Saint Andre after checking-out in Nosy Be. We very much enjoyed this country, its people, its sailing conditions, its plants and its animals. There were just enough supplies and services available on Nosy Be to keep most cruisers happy. In addition to exploring coastal areas we took an inland tour using public transportation to Ankarana and Mt. Ambre National Parks and Diego Suarez. We did considerable trading with people in outlying coastal villages who did not have much money or access to stores. The numerous boats fishing and carrying cargo along the coast entirely under sail were a constant delight.

Madagascar to South Africa - The Mozambique Channel poses challenges which we tackled in November as the southern hemisphere summer warmed up. We sailed nearly straight west from Cap Saint Andre in northerly breezes until we encountered the south-flowing Mozambique current near the African Coast. Then we rode the current southwest for several days, seeking shelter in Maputo when the forecast was for strong southerly winds. We stayed for a week until the winds turned again to the northeast and we could complete our passage of 1275 miles to Richards Bay, South Africa.

South Africa - Arriving on November 28 we were looking forward to "first world" facilities after many months in isolated and undeveloped places. We found very good supermarkets, good communications systems, professional officials who did not ask for presents, adequate marinas, good highways and game parks with spectacular wildlife. Most locals spoke English, though with accents sometimes difficult for us to understand. We found some services very hard to obtain and many products more expensive than in the USA. "Arctracer" stayed in this country for a full year.