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Tanzania, Zanzibar to NW Australia - Season & Route

By doina — last modified May 14, 2008 07:13 PM

Published: 2008-05-14 19:13:08
Topics: Indian Ocean
Countries: Australia , Indonesia , Tanzania

Can you tell me whether this a viable route across the Indian Ocean from Zanzibar to Darwin, and what would be the best time of year for it?

Not an easy route at all, as the time of year when you may have better winds south of Indonesia (NW monsoon) is also the cyclone season (December to March). Sailing this route in the safe season (April to November) would be extremely hard as you'd have to beat into the SE trades. When are you planning to go?

Jimmy Cornell, Noonsite

I am going to sail from Thailand sometime very early next year aboard a custom-built Wharram Tiki 38 (http://tiki38.blogspot). I am trying to devise something like the Indian Ocean equivalent of an Atlantic circuit. Getting down to Zanzibar is, relatively, a piece of cake. Getting back... well, that's interesting!

I have no time strictures, and even my return destination is open (my choice of Darwin was pretty arbitrary). If it would be easier to make for the Kerala coast of India, Sumatra or elsewhere, before going further east, I am open to it.

btw, your book arrived into the window of my local, small bookseller on the Barrenjoey Peninsula, north of Sydney, yesterday. I bought it and look forward to reading it! Thank you for your response!

Happy to help... and I hope you do enjoy my book (I presume it is my latest - A Passion for the Sea).

Your plan to do a circuit of the Indian Ocean is great, but why not do a complete circuit. Your mistake (very common!) is to think of a route that includes all the places you want to visit then link them with a line... and presto, here is your route. Wrong!

First you should look at the area you wish to visit generally and find out: prevailing winds, ocean currents, safe and dangerous seasons, dangerous areas (piracy, robberies,etc), countries to avoid, facilities available. Once you have assimilated this information you start planning your voyage in earnest. You will soon discover that while it looks like a good idea to, say, sail from Zanzibar to Darwin... the reality is very different.

OK to sail west or SW from Thailand, visit all interesting places in the North Indian Ocean as far as the east coat of Africa, then continue south, possibly via Seychelles, Madagascar, or more direct, through the Mozambique Channel and on to South Africa. With good planning you should be able to sail from there to Perth taking advantage of the prevailing westerly winds... but I am not sure that this rather ambitious route is suitable for your boat. And, I am sorry to say, this is your main limitation, so a less ambitious route is probably the best answer.

However, the route you outlined is not an easy one, not even on a different boat, that sails well to windward... and going from Zanzibar to Darwin (or anywhere else in Australia) is not something that I would recommend or do myself.