Thanks to Somalian pirates the traditional and much easier northern ‘Milk Run’ route through south East Asia, India and the Suez Canal is no longer an option, and it was armed with this foreknowledge on the possible conditions to be faced that we commenced our first Oceanic crossing.
For many geographical and climatic reasons, the Indian Ocean is one of the most difficult of the great oceanic crossings on the trade routes.
Attempting a summer season crossing is tantamount to committing suicide as destructive cyclones develop here at will. Some months into the future, as we were readying our departure from South Africa, we heard of a crew who had attempted an Indian Ocean crossing from South Africa to Asia at this time of year. Since meeting with a cyclone crossing their path just off of Madagascar they hadn’t been in contact – and that was a good month since. So, in the southern Hemisphere it’s a winter crossing.
An immense expanse of water, the effects of massive winter storms set deep within the Antarctic wend their way north eastward and present as wave and swell which regularly attain 15 meters below latitude 35°S and 4 – 5 metres between latitudes 12°S and 22°S where we were to sail. To this mix add the strong easterly winds that blow off the northern half of West Australia which are coupled up with the predominant south easterly trade winds and you have the perfect recipe for a washing machine! The intrepid mariner has a powerful combination with which he must contend.
Unlike sailors of old, we at least had the assistance of modern technology.