In the northern Indian Ocean there are seasonal monsoons that blow one way, then switch 180 degrees the next month. The Southern Indian Ocean bumps right up to the Southern Ocean and has massive low-pressure systems rolling through that would make any sailor wee their foulies. Oh yeah, and then there are the tropical storms that come ripping through in both the north and south.
Not to the mention the pirates! If rounding the Cape of Good Hope and massive low-pressure systems are not your cup of tea, you can head north. But then you run the gauntlet of Somalia pirates and Yemeni militia men who would just as soon shoot or kidnap you as wave to say hello. Not fun!
So because of this you see a lot of cruising boats hang out in Asia. They meander back and forth from Thailand to Malaysia to Indonesia and back in an endless visa-extending loop. Maybe up to the Philippines for a bit if you’re feeling adventurous. It’s a warm, comfortable, and extremely easy way to spend a few years. I think there is a definite mental block when it comes to leaving this paradise. I know because I experienced it firsthand with sweaty palms while we dreamt up the easiest way to sail across to Africa.
Even if you put the crazy weather and triggerhappy pirates out of the picture, leaving Asia and heading towards Africa is a big cruising commitment, especially if you take the southern route. Doing so commits you to sailing either to Europe or to the Caribbean, which can easily add a year or two to any cruise. Once you leave and head west, it’s pretty damn hard to come back so you just keep on going and going and going until you get somewhere you can chill for a while.
All that said the Indian Ocean has a lot of things to offer. It is incredibly remote, barely traversed and has some of the best sailing we’ve ever seen. I’d venture to say that the Southeast trades in the southern Indian Ocean rival the South Pacific. Maybe even better. And the South Pacific is kind of the yardstick that we measure trade winds by.
The small specks of land – of which there are few – are spectacular and incredibly isolated. For many weeks on end we found ourselves with an entire island, atoll or anchorage all to ourselves, which is a pretty special experience.
We mention this because last season as our time in Madagascar was coming to an end we came up with a crazy idea. What if instead of sailing across the Atlantic on the normal “safe” route we try to stay in South Africa longer? What if we stayed so long that the cyclone season ended and instead of sailing west we’d sail east again and hit some of our favourite spots again?
So we pondered and pondered our options, all the pros and cons. It meant another year of cruising before we’d see the Caribbean and also our family in Florida. It meant another season with our eyes glued to the weather as we dodged low-pressure systems and ran from port to port down the Wild Coast of South Africa. But it also meant returning to some very special places that are incredibly hard to get to. You either have to sail from Asia or from South Africa to the Indian Ocean, and it would be a very long time, if ever, that Deloswould be in Asia again.
So over a delicious sushi lunch one day we sat down and made our decision. We all blurted out the same thing at the exact same time. Let’s do it! Let’s spend another year exploring the Indian Ocean and Africa.
We’ve always talked about returning to someplace we fell in love with. Like going back to Vanuatu, or New Zealand, or the Philippines. But the seasons and winds have always pushed us west. And now this is our chance to spend more time in some of the places we loved the most. Particularly Madagascar which absolutely blew us away.
So we’re gonna do it! We’re gonna leave Cape Town after the cyclones are over and turn left instead of right. It will be a crazy cool sail skirting the Southern Ocean to make enough easting before bearing off north to make for Le Reunion. But from there we will have sweet sailing for the next six or so months then return to South Africa which we also love very much for another incredible summer. So it’s a win, win, win for us. And the Caribbean isn’t going anywhere right?
Delos is a 53-foot Amel Super Marmu ketch. She is home to young adventurous souls and has been exploring the world’s oceans since 2007. Like sailing, diving, cruising and sun? Come on board and follow along at www.svdelos.com