On the 28th of April, after a couple of tense hours on the RCYC slipway, the Mhadei was slipped out and taken out for trials to check her propeller pitch. That was followed by fuelling after which we returned to our usual mooring at the marina marking the end of a month of work that had gone into preparations for the return to India. We reserved the next day for rest and some final cleanship, settling accounts and such sundry work. Sudheesh, who had come from the High Commission at Pretoria helped with most of the work on the boat, almost as if he were crew.
On the last day of April, we were seen off by a small crowd of South African friends who had gathered to make sure I did not overstay. Fifteen minutes past the noon gun, with the help of Cdr Donde, we manoeuvred out of the marina and I set sail on a voyage that would cover nearly five and a half thousand miles. By the time I had crossed Sea Point, the sails were fully set for the mild south-easterly that was blowing. We had hardly sailed for a couple of hours before the south easterly went up from a breeze to a gale. I was busy taking in a couple of reefs when the wind indicators knocked off taking the autopilot with it. With all the shipping in and around the harbour, it was not an easy time. I worked on the connectors for a while and the instruments began to show some sign of life again. I sailed the entire night maintaining a distrust for the wind instruments, half awake and ready to get into action in case anything further went wrong. In Cdr Donde’s words “the instruments needed to grow sealegs.”
The strong south easterly helped us put distance between the Cape and us and we were well clear of the Agulhas bank within a day. Wind turned southerly and that helped us gather speed eastward. A swing back to south easterly saw me curve north eastward but then finally when the winds settled a few days later, I was tracking a great circle course to Mauritius. The first seven days of sailing were not easy, with the gale abating only for six hours to allow time for it to swing around and blow another gale. I used that minor interruption to change the genoa which had earlier torn in very mild wind conditions. Swell would more often than not range between three to four and half metres and winds would often shoot up to 40 knots. Cooking was as difficult as eating and I subsisted mostly on fresh fruits, bread and milk for the first couple of days.
It has been three days since the winds calmed. The boat did pretty well and got out of it more or less unscathed. The list of damages were mostly minor- a parted preventer which gave up in a crash tack, one lost easy stow batten and a little bit of water in the bilges. We did make some good speed though and put miles behind us at the rate of 180-200 miles a day.
That was how my first solo voyage began.
Cdr Donde looks on as we leave
The voyage so far- Mandar has been tracking all the voyages of the Mhadei so far.