Monday, November 09, 2009

November 9, 2009 - Inhambane, Mozambique

Yesterday we did something completely out of character. We faced with a decision whether to tuck into a safe anchorage or continue on and put miles in the bank, we did the prudent thing. That was a mistake.

Rather than racing the coastal low to Inhaca, we decided to give ourselves a big margin and wait out the low at Inhambane. The two anchorages at Inhambane are both behind sandbars, which are only passable at high tide. The tide was too low to cross the bar when we arrived here yesterday afternoon, so we dropped anchor outside. There was so much swell and jostle that we both had to take a Stugeron while we tidied up the boat. We were going to try to get across the bar before sunset on the rising tide, but then we sat and watched a catamaran spend an hour trying to exit the bar. At times they seemed to be aground. Eventually, the breaking waves caused them to turn back. If a catamaran, which draws half as much as we do, couldn't get out, there was no way we were going to risk trying to get in. So we spent the night hitchin and jivin, herkin and jerkin at anchor. Not dangerous, but not pleasant either.

The trouble with many of the anchorages along the coast of Mozambique is that you have to cross a sand or mud bar to get to them. These bars are too shallow to cross at all but high tide. If there is a swell running or enough windchop, they break all the way across and it is impossible to pick out the safe route across. So, when you really need to get in, often you can't. As hidey holes, they are illusory.

We planned to try crossing the bar at high tide this morning, but then on the Peri Peri net last night we got word that there is a cold front pushing up the coast from Cape Town. It is going to arrive in Richard's Bay on the 13th. After that, the winds are forecast to stay southerly for several days. So it looks like we should have pushed on to Inhaca, where we would have only been a one day hop from Richard's Bay and could do it on the 12th, after the low passed through and before the cold front arrived. The conservative move wasn't the right one in this case.

Faced with a choice of sitting here for up to a week, or figuring out a way to get ourselves into Richard's Bay before the cold front arrived, we decided to find ourselves a weather window, or manufacture one. The good thing about the coastal lows are that they stay on the coast. If we leave here today we could sail south until tomorrow morning, staying east of 35 degrees East, to keep ourselves well off the coast. Then, we will have to heave-to for a while to wait for the coastal low dissipate. After the low dissipates, we could ride the favorable winds into Richard's Bay on the 12th, getting us into safe harbor before the cold front arrives on the 13th. We've been really conservative with our diesel so we have enough fuel to motor for a day or two, if need be. So that's the new plan. We are playing the cards we've been dealt, even if they aren't particularly good.

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