Indian Ocean – West to East

Published 15 years ago, updated 4 years ago

3 entries

We are currently moored in Aden, Yemen. Having transited the Red Sea southwards through the summer, we originally intended to cross to Cochin, then Sri Lanka to Malaysia in September – October on the failing SW Monsoon. However, for a number of reasons we have been delayed in Aden and it is now too late to arrive in Cochin this side of Christmas. We have therefore to make decision with regards to carrying on eastwards across the Indian Ocean in January or beat a retreat to one of the Egyptian marinas and wait until later in the new year. Waiting would cause a long delay and may scupper our plans entirely.

Rod Heikell’s Indian Ocean Cruising Pilot recommends the passage Aden to Cochin/Sri Lanka in January in the NE Monsoon but there is not much information relating to the crossing of the Andaman Sea eastwards to Malaysia in February in the same NE Monsoon. Your own cruising guide discusses making the passage in the SW Monsoon but not the NE. Our Ocean 50 yacht is quite good making to wind but we don’t want to attempt two months of uncomfortable passage for a crew of two. Your opinion would be welcomed before we make our final decision?

An eastbound passage across the North Indian Ocean is never easy, so retreating, as you say, to an Egyptian marina would not make much sense. So if you are determined to make it to SE Asia, sooner or later you need to bite the bullet… and go. Waiting for the SW monsoon would make sense, but if you do decide to leave earlier, perhaps wait until the NE monsoon gets lighter. Whatever time you leave, you will need to tack. The problem is compounded by the fact that a port tack will take you dangerously close into Somali waters, so you need to take short tacks until you are well past the Horn of Africa. From there you may take a long tack towards the equator (forget Cochin!), then make your way east in what could be lighter winds (take a lot of fuel with you), stop if convenient in the Maldives, then continue east. However, if you find better conditions that take you south of the Maldives, carry on in low latitudes and only turn NE once close to Sumatra.

Good luck!!!

Jimmy Cornell, noonsite

We are looking to take our sailboat from Turkey to Australia in 2008. We are aware there is no such thing as a “good” time to do a west-east crossing of Indian Ocean, but are totally flexible on departure dates and have no time pressure on completing journey. We have no real desire to sight-see on way, our priority is to get boat safely and comfortably across. Even thinking Thailand might be better first destination. Our initial and basic thought is to depart Turkey Med about mid-August, transit Suez Canal, and Red Sea and aim towards Indian coast on tail of SW monsoons, trying to reach Thailand before Christmas, pausing there a few months before heading off via Indonesia to Darwin or thereabouts.

I’m sure there are many things that we have yet to discover and consider. Would be most grateful for your initial comments on timing and route or would you recommend a different approach?

Yes, going W to E across the Ind Ocean is never easy. The other alternative to going on the tail of the SW monsoon (which is the stronger monsoon) is to do it early in the year, say late March or April and head east then. A boat did just that last year, went close, but not too close, to the Yemeni coast to Oman, and so on east, around India, etc. As I said, it is not an easy route. I do hope you have my World Cruising Routes that gives details of any of those options (new edition out in March).

I’m planning on going from Durban, South Africa to Brisbane, Australia in a 34-foot cat. After reading World Cruising Routes it looks like going via Sri Lanka is the best option and then on to Darwin, Australia. Please, could you send me some more information on the best route.

You have not picked the easiest route, but you have no real choice. So yes, you are right, the best way to tackle this is to make a long detour via SE Asia. The route from Durban to Seychelles should be OK, but you must make sure to do it outside the cyclone season. A stop in Sri Lanka may be advisable, but as you need to do that section in the N. Indian Ocean during the SW monsoon (April to October) to have reasonable winds, you may not have to stop in Sri Lanka and should be able to set a course for the top end of Sumatra.

However, as I see it, your real problem will not be getting to Singapore, but the rest of the journey.

As you will see, from Singapore onwards, and certainly once you have reached Bali, you will have to choose your timing carefully so as to, once again, avoid the cyclone season (December to April) which will mean that you may end up sailing down the E. coast of Australia during the SE trades (safe but probably hard on the wind).

The above sounds quite daunting, so is there an alternative? It is difficult to advise anyone on taking a more risky route, so all I am prepared to say is that with my experience, and if I had 100% confidence in both crew and the boat, I would most probably bite the bullet and sail direct. I would pick the most favourable month (probably January, but look into this more carefully), and stay far enough south to catch the favourable Westerlies, but not too far south… better to be too far north, and dip down when winds get fluky. I am sure it can be done, and it’s a route that is possibly even safer than the roundabout one.

Jimmy Cornell, noonsite

Related to the following Cruising Resources: ,

You must Login or Register to submit comments.

  1. September 10, 2021 at 7:17 PM
    spiv says:

    I am currently in Turkey, I am finishing refurbishments to my Lagoon 380 and I expect to be seaworthy by end Oct ’21.
    Given the Australian Air travel ban, I am considering going home (Fremantle) with my boat.
    A stop in the Cocos would be preferable to comply with quarantine there rather than in Fremantle, but if the route is not favorable, then I’d use a direct route to Freo.
    Do you think it is possible to leave Turkey around mid to end of October, do Suez and then go to Fremantle or should I wait for some other time.

    I do have the World Cruising Routes, but it is in storage while I am working on the boat…

  2. December 26, 2018 at 9:18 PM
    Noonsite Team says:

    Chris – best bet is to try the weather and routing forum (left-hand side of noonsite), or even better the North Indian Ocean and Red Sea facebook pages – see the noonsite piracy and security page for details.

  3. December 25, 2018 at 3:32 PM
    Noonsite Team says:

    Currently looking a doing a circumnavigation in the Indian ocean starting from Phuket in Jan. The idea is to go east to west: stopping at Andaman Is. Sri Lanka (Feb), Maldives(March), Chagos (May) arriving in Rod/Mauritius in June. Then Madagascar, Tanzania & Kenya (July, Aug, Sep, Oct) arriving in Seychelles in Nov.

    The question/problem is how to get back up to India for “Red sea passage” in early March. Thinking to go back to Chagos and then up to India via the Maldives… I have just started the planning/research, so I am sure there are many things to discover & consider – Would be grateful for any initial comments on timings and route. Thanks