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Crossing the Indian Ocean Guide 2015

By Jason Trautz — last modified Jul 04, 2017 11:15 PM
A useful report by Jason Trautz on his experiences while taking a 10 month cruise from Thailand to South Africa in 2015.

Published: 2016-01-05 00:00:00
Topics: Indian Ocean
Countries: Madagascar , BIOT (Chagos) , Maldives , Mauritius , Mozambique , Reunion Island , South Africa , Sri Lanka , Thailand

The following information is provided to help sailors crossing the Indian Ocean. This information is based on two U.S.A. citizens on the 42 foot catamaran YOLO.  Consider the navigational information as suggestions, and rely on your own sailing skills for accuracy and safety.

INTRODUCTION

I'm inherently lazy, hate the four letter word "plan," tend to error on the side of perfectionism, and love a good adventure.  So there you go...I'm like many other cruisers, burp!  The goal of this article is to save you time and money, and to increase your safety and pleasure.  The YOLO Indian Ocean Crossing Plan required over a hundred hours to collect weather, wind, current, port, travel, and Google Earth shot information.

The YOLO Indian Ocean Crossing Guide was created with several goals in mind.  "Goal," another four letter word that reminds we of "work."  Please, put a flare gun to my head before I type further...

1.  Travel with the trade winds.

2.  Seek good weather while on passage and in port.

3.  Avoid fighting wind, waves, and currents.

4.  Maximize my exposure to Indian Ocean cultures and nations.

5.  Minimize provisioning, fuel, and clearance costs.

6.  Minimize the number of offshore passage miles and the minimize the number of long offshore passages.

7.  Keep my Admiral happy.

THREE OCEAN CROSSING OPTIONS

In general there are three options for those crossing the Indian Ocean:

1.  Northern Route:  If you plan to head off to Europe via the Red Sea most cruisers leave from Malaysia or Thailand.  They often visit Sri Lanka, India, and a couple of other northern Indian Ocean countries before entering the Red Sea.

2.  Southern Route:  You plan to leave Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, or Australia during the second half of the calendar year and sail to South Africa.  This route requires longer passages which often times includes several stops at places like Christmas Island, Cocos Keeling Island, Mauritius, and/or Reunion.  This is sometimes a quick-paced jump across the Indian Ocean, via the express lane.

3.  Northern Then Southern Route:  Most cruisers start in Malaysia or Thailand, then sail off to most of these locations:  Sri Lanka, India, Maldives, Chagos, Rodriques Island (Mauritius), Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar, and down the Mozambique coast to South Africa.  Historically, some yachts have modified this route by leaving the Maldives and visiting the Seychelles Islands and skipping Rodriques, Mauritius, and Reunion, then picking up the route at Madagascar.  This crossing is often started early in the calendar year and typically has a relaxed pace of ten or more months.

I started my Northern Then Southern Route crossing in Thailand in mid-January and reached Richards Bay, South Africa in mid-November.  With a few minor exceptions, my goals were achieved.  A summary of the YOLO Indian Ocean Crossing Plan is noted below.  You can follow in my wake to the "T," or modify your travels like a rational planet explorer.

USER GUIDE

This information is an overview.  If you want to peel-the-onion and dig into the nauseous details concerning each Indian Ocean country and port I visited, you will have to type YOLO or Jason Trautz into the Noonsite Search box.  Then select the country in question.  Warning, I documented about two hundred pages of clearance and cruising information in 13 articles concerning my Indian Ocean experiences.

Distance To This Port:  The number of nautical miles along the rhumb line from the last port-of-call.  Wind, weather, current, and other factors will probably increase this figure.

Heading To This Port:  The true degrees along the rhumb line from the last port-of-call.  In some cases nasty things like land (another four letter word) would compromise your route, such as going around the southern tip of Sri Lanka.  In these cases I listed the heading of the longest distance traveled between two ports.

1ST - DEPARTURE POINT - THAILAND

DEPARTURE PORT:  Phuket, 07.49 North and 098.21 East

DEPARTURE DATE:  Mid-January

COMMENTS AND HIGHLIGHTS:  Get out of southeast Asia early in the year, there is plenty to see and do while crossing the Indian Ocean.  Try to avoid the typical light winds of the northern Indian Ocean.  Leave with a strong trade wind from the northeast.  When in SE Asia most cruisers find it difficult to secure a visa in advance for visiting India, which is a requirement.  Consequently, most cruisers skipped India and the Andamans, in 2015.  If your heart is set on visiting mainland India, get your India visas in Sri Lanka.  Make sure you make contact with your Sri Lanka agent BEFORE you depart for Trincomalee, Sri Lanka.  Also finish off the British Indian Ocean Territory application process for visiting Chagos BEFORE you leave SE Asia.

2ND  - SRI LANKA

ARRIVAL PORT:  Trincomalee, 08.34 N and 081.14 E

ARRIVAL  DATE:  Late January

DISTANCE TO THIS PORT:  1,155 nm

HEADING TO THIS PORT: 256 T

DEPARTURE PORT:  Trincomalee

DEPARTURE DATE:  30 days after arrival, late February.

COMMENTS AND HIGHLIGHTS:  Sri Lanka's multi-culturalism is the best.  If you are going to India, get your visa while in Sri Lanka, in most cases it will be quickly approved.  Also make sure you arrange for a Maldives agent in advance.  Plan on spending at least 10 days doing Sri Lanka land travel.  Enjoy the thrill of the public buses and crowded trains, ride an Asian elephant, and absorb the beautiful country side.

3RD - MALDIVES

ARRIVAL PORT:  Uligamu on Haa Alifu Island, 07.05 N and 072.56 E

ARRIVAL  DATE:  Early March

DISTANCE TO THIS PORT:  705 nm

HEADING TO THIS PORT:  280 T

DEPARTURE PORT:  Gan, on Addoo Atoll, 00.41 S and 073.09 E

DEPARTURE DATE:  60 days after arrival, early May

COMMENTS AND HIGHLIGHTS:  The Maldives covers a huge territory, don't rush you cruising experience into a short time period.  Spending 60 days in the Maldives will barely scratch the surface of this aquatic nation.  The longer your stay, the lower your cost per day will be.  Expect a lot of motoring, good winds seldom occur at the equator.  The snorkeling and diving is excellent.  Just before clearing out at Gan, provision for the upcoming passages and visit to Chagos,  Also, contact the British Indian Ocean Territory office and give them your new ETA for the Salomon Islands, Chagos.

4TH - CHAGOS, BRITISH INDIAN OCEAN TERRITORY

ARRIVAL PORT:  Solomon Islands, 05.20 S and 072.15 E

ARRIVAL  DATE:  Early May

DISTANCE TO THIS PORT:  290

HEADING TO THIS PORT:  290 T

DEPARTURE PORT:  Salomon Islands, 05.20 S and 072.15 E

DEPARTURE DATE:  28 days after arrival, which is the maximum allowed, early June

COMMENTS AND HIGHLIGHTS:  Enjoy paradise, Chagos is a cruiser's dream.  Mother Nature oozes all around you.  When the winds are from the north, northeast, or east, start your passage to Rodrigues.  Make sure you head south or southeast, and then go further south when leaving Chagos and heading to Rodrigues.  To be comfortable during your passage you must approach Rodrigues from the east, NOT the northeast or north.  If you are going to skip Rodrigues, Mauritius, and Reunion, and go to the Seychelles instead, you might be required to do a lot of motoring.  Hint:  In 2015 almost all of the yachts traveling from the Seychelles to Madagascar found it extremely difficult in terms of sailing (wind, current, and seas on-the-noise), and most limped into Madagascar with boat damage.

5TH - RODRIGUES ISLAND, MAURITIUS

ARRIVAL PORT:  Port Mathurin, 19.41 S and 063.25 E

ARRIVAL  DATE:  Mid June

DISTANCE TO THIS PORT:  950 nm

HEADING TO THIS PORT:  210 by the rhumb line, final approach measured in days should be 260 degrees T

DEPARTURE PORT:  Port Mathurin, 19.41 S and 063.25 E

DEPARTURE DATE:  After a month,   Mid to late July

COMMENTS AND HIGHLIGHTS:  Just about everyone loves Rodrigues and they tend to stay longer than planned.  The island and it's wonderful people just look, feel, and smell right.  You will certainly enjoy stepping back in time, approximately 20 years at least, while exploring the island via bus.  Miles of hiking trails (tracks) will take you to every corner of this paradise island.  This is one of the few places on earth that haven't been exploited for tourism.  Tie-up at the town wharf for free.  Wonderful eggs, fresh produce, and baguettes were very welcomed, after the last few passages.

6TH - MAURITIUS

ARRIVAL PORT:  Port Louis, 20.09 S and 57.29 E

ARRIVAL  DATE:  Late July

DISTANCE TO THIS PORT:  260 nm

HEADING TO THIS PORT:  209 T

DEPARTURE PORT:  Port Louis, 20.09 S and 57.29 E

DEPARTURE DATE:  Late August

COMMENTS AND HIGHLIGHTS:  A good place to start easing back into the first world.  Contact the Offshore Island Development Corporation if you plan on heading to Saint Brandon, a clone of Chagos.  Enjoy the marina and the big city of Port Louis, or anchor with most of the fleet in Grand Baie on the northwest corner of the island.  PRIOR to sailing to Reunion you must have a marina berth reservation, so plan accordingly.

7TH - REUNION

ARRIVAL PORT:  Le Port, 21.03 S and 053.13 E

ARRIVAL  DATE:  Late August

DISTANCE TO THIS PORT:  145 nm

HEADING TO THIS PORT:  250 T

DEPARTURE PORT:  Le Port, 21.03 S and 053.13 E

DEPARTURE DATE:  Early September.  Because of marina costs I only spent 2 weeks in Reunion.

COMMENTS AND HIGHLIGHTS:  Reunion offers outdoor activities on steroids.  Make sure your camera batteries are fully charged for the volcano, mountain, and valley photos.  What a relief to be in a true first world country again, though doing so comes at a monetary price.  Yacht service companies abound, rental cars are cheap, and who can pass up the huge wine and cheese selection?

8TH - MADAGASCAR

ARRIVAL PORT:   Ambodifotatra, on Ile Sainte Marie on the east coast of Madagascar, 17.00 S and 049.51 E

ARRIVAL  DATE:  Early September

DISTANCE TO THIS PORT:  390 nm

HEADING TO THIS PORT:  306 T

DEPARTURE PORT:  Clear out of Hellville, on Nosy Be (13.25 S and 048.17 E) or at Mahajanga 15.44 S and 046.18 E

DEPARTURE DATE:   Early November

COMMENTS AND HIGHLIGHTS:  Make sure you pick your weather window when approaching the cape at the northeast corner of Madagascar.  Madagascar is VERY big, there are a ton of things to do, and you will need plenty of time to enjoy your first African country.  Sit back and watch the whales, often up close and personal.  Your fishing lures will certainly get a workout while cruising the northern coast.  Caution should be exercised when picking weather window for your Mozambique Channel crossing.  Some governmental officials will ask you for money and it is truly up to you to pay, or not pay.  While sailing to South Africa many yachts hop down the Mozambique coast without clearing-in.

9TH - SOUTH AFRICA

ARRIVAL PORT:  Richards Bay, 28.49 S and 032.07 E

ARRIVAL  DATE:  Mid-November

DISTANCE TO THIS PORT:  1,200 nm

HEADING TO THIS PORT:  223 T

COMMENTS AND HIGHLIGHTS:  Welcome to Africa, your India Ocean crossing is nearly complete.  Enjoy the holidays and explore the wild kingdom.  Skipping down the coast of South Africa requires good weather windows.  Most voyages are swift and enjoyable.  Your primary concern in South Africa is personal safety while on land, which is closely followed by the loss of personal property.  Rental cars are dirt cheap, so grab one for three weeks and take a 6 nation tour full of mountains, caves, rivers, and wild game parks.  Tourists are only permitted to stay in the country 90 days, so plan accordingly, FYI the coast line of over 1,200 nm long.

SUMMARY

My adventure crossing the Indian Ocean was wonderful.  Winds seldom reached the high 20s and the seas were typically in the one to two meter range (widely spaced). I saved a great deal by provisioning and pumping fuel at the right locations (see Noonsite articles for details).  The cultural experiences along the way will bless me for years to come.

If only I knew then (while in southeast Asia) what I know now, I could have saved hundreds of hours focused on four letter words such as...plan, work, goal, land, beer...burp!!!  I hope this helps make your Indian Ocean crossing a safe and memorable experience.

SUBMITTED BY:  Jason Trautz, s/v “YOLO” (You Only Live Once, life is not a rehearsal)

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nadireberker
nadireberker says:
Jul 04, 2017 01:08 PM

Selim Yalcin and Nadire Berker of SY Keyif have followed in Yolo's wake and crossed the Indian Ocean from Thailand to South Africa from March 2016 to December 2016. We would like to thank Mr. Trautz and crew of Yolo for putting together such invaluable, accurate and correct information of their voyage, which has helped us immensely. almost every word was trueö except for the wind strengths which we experienced to be a bit stronger and the sea conditions to be a bit harsher. Thank you Yolo, for all the hard work, much appreciated.

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