Across the south Indian Ocean in 30 days - a family story

Anasazi at speed in the Southern Ocean
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The Burwick-Sao family are four and they are circumnavigating the world in their Finot-Conq Open 40 sailing boat. They are James and Somiro, with their two children, Tormentina(2), and Raivo(1).

Their most recent journey has been 30 days across the Indian Ocean from Simons Town in South Africa to Fremantle in Australia, and here James tell the story:


We arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia on 12 May 1012 after 30 days from Simons Town, South Africa.

Boat preparation was long and detailed. This was to be one of those trips where it was better to send a report in after we arrived safely, not before.

It was late in the season for sailing in the Southern Ocean in many minds, but not mine. I felt I could go above 40S, avoid ice, and avoid low pressure cells dropping off of the Indian Ocean summer cyclones. Leaving in mid-April just meant more darkness. Well, it always seems to happen at night, so with longer nights, maybe the possibility of more bad stuff to deal with.

After approximately 1200 hours of boat preparations by myself, after sailing solo 32,000nm and with the family aboard 13,000nm, I felt the risk could be managed.

We left at 9 pm April 12. I left some of the dock lines on the dock and rest of the lines went to our friends who let us stay on their boat while Anasazi was out on the hard. I love to do this, leave at night, and leave the lines.

Three hours of motoring got us to the Cape of Good Hope at midnight, Friday 13th of April. I pushed hard as the family slept below to get in front of a fast moving low pressure system forecasted by Brynn Campbell at Commanders Weather. It was uncomfortable with the wind still in front of the beam, but we made it, and soon were going diagonal to 40S.

Anasazi sailing by Bryan Traylor
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I cut the corner of the Agulhas too tight and the seas were just a mess of confusion along with one close call with a freighter coming up from deeper than I could understand. Fortunately, that was the last of the ships we saw for the next month.

The idea for making it across was to keep the highs on our right and the lows on our left. Just once did a high slip under us and it was not pretty, giving us three days of Easterlies. Our only option was to go south with it all on the beam, which is not on the beam on my boat, it is in your face as the apparent goes forward fast.

The Easterlies eventually passed and the cold fronts progressed. Snow was forecast for down south and rain for where we were. We had dark long nights, and our typical sail combination became a norm of 3 to 4 reefs and only my storm jib, which is full spectra with full battens, and all white.

Anasazi Girl Raivo in crib
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The storm jib is called a 'Tormentina' in Spanish. Before my daughter was born, I called it my white wedding. For the first time, I had my Tormentina on deck and my other Tormentina (3 ½ years old) down below, who was aboard with her brother Raivo (1 ½ years old), which is a Finnish name meaning 'fury.'

We passed below St. Paul and Amsterdam just in time, as a 982mb low we were surfing finally caught up with and rolled over us. We were 100 miles past the Islands when the gusty shift nastiness of SW air came and we gybed port tack.

In the dark (always), I made the one big mistake of the trip. My daughter fell asleep on my lap at the nav station bench. I picked her up and swiveled around to set her in the quarter berth. A rogue wave knocked on us, and my knee hit the main battery switch.

All the power went out. The boat rounded up and laid on her side. The Espacher heater didn't like it either, and filled the cabin with smoke.

This was not the first time I have been on my side at night in the Southern Ocean going backwards with 1700 liters of ballast in the side, but it was the first time with my family. Fortunately Tormentina and the rest of the family were safe in the berths before we were on our side. Everything was in order so nothing flew anywhere. I couldn't open the door so I cracked it a few inches and turned on the fans.

I felt like such a loser and looked at my sleeping family. Somira said, 'We trust you,' and winked at me. I got on my foulies, boots, headlamp, and harness & entered the world that I felt comfortable in. The world where I never think about money.

You can follow the exploits of the Burwick-Sao family by www.anasaziracing.blogspot.com!clicking_here.