Sailing Yacht SEA BUNNY

Crossing the Indian Ocean

Anchorages in Cocos Keeling, Rodrigues, Mauritius and La Réunion.

After leaving Pulau Peucang (see Indonesia anchorages), we left SE Asia on our way to South Africa.

The passage - stage 1 Pulau Peucang to Cocos Keeling

4 days 7 hours 602 nM (ground) 469 nM (water)

On departure from Pulau Peucang and clearing the western end of the Sunda Strait, we sailed close to the rhumb line to Cocos Keeling, arriving in the early afternoon of the 4th day. Wind varied from E/N to ESE, mostly E and from 10-20 knots. Mostly light cloud cover - up to 60%.

Fishing boats were encountered up to 110 miles out.

Weather advice was received prior to departure from Commanders Weather. On passage we used Predictwind through the Iridium GO

The passage - stage 2 Cocos Keeling to Rodrigues

14 days 5 hours 2031 nM (ground)  2141 nM (water)

For the first week we headed just south of west, as advised by Commanders Weather to reuuce the effect of the high pressure located around 30 S. For the second week there is little choice but to steer close to the rhumb line.

Wind for the first week was generally SSE - SE, 15 - 20 knots, ocassionally 25. For the second week it went more to the E, somethime ENE and strengthened 20-25 knots. The seas also increased up to about 4 m but with wave trains coming from different directions creating confused conditions. Seas occasionly broke against the side of the boat, or onto it. We rigged our clear screens on the port side of the cockpit, which kept the cockpit reasonable dry. For much of the second week we had 3 reefs in the mainsail and storm jib replacing the genoa.

Arrival in Rodrigues was in the afternoon of the 14th day.

The passage - stage 3 Rodrigues to Mauritius

1 day 12 hours 350 nM (ground) 368 nM (water)

For this passage we sailed close to the rhumb line from the N of Rodrigues to the N of the islands north of Mauritius. As arrival was at night we opted to leave Ile des Sepents to port. During daylight in calm conditions we would probably have passed between the islands.

The wind was generally from behind, SSE-ESE, 10-20 knots. Most of the way we were sailing with the genoa poled out and with 2 reefs in both the genoa and mainsail. For some of the time this was significantly undercanvassed.

We arrived in the early hours of the the 3rd day, anchoring in Tombeau Bay, and proceeded into Port Louis later in the morning.

The passage - stage 4 Port Louis, Mauritius to La Réunion

21 hours 10 days 14 hours 138 nM (ground) 139 nM (water)

A short overnight passage in 20-25 knots of ESE wind, very rolly.

The passage - stage 5 La Réunion to Richards Bay

10 days 14 hours 1487 nM (ground) 1584 nM (water)


We knew that this leg would be challenging with strong winds and rough seas to the South of Madagascar and the Agulhus current close to the South African coast to be avoided in the event of moderate to strong southerlies.

Initially conditions were quite comfortable with winds ranging from 6 to 20 knots from directions between ESE and ENE, with a short period of NW close to the island. We opted to pass well to the south of Madagascar. By doing this we avoided severe electrical storms encountered by a boat closer in, but found more adverse current.

Winds south of Madagascar were in the range 15 - 35 knots, mainly from the east. A lot of the time we had adverse current

With about 3 days to go before our ETA to Richards Bay it became clear from weather forecasts that our arrival would coincide with that of a very strong southerly. commanders Weather, who were providing us with forecasts and routing advice termed it a "monster cold front". We calculated that, if the forecast timing was correct and if we could maintain boat speed we could just beat it in. We motored for the best part of three days to achieve this, arriving off Richards Bay in the lull before the wind changes from northerly to southerly.

Our fallback plan would have been to run before the wind up the Mozambique Channel.

Direction Island, Cocos Keeling

Anchorage location: 12° 05'.53 S, 096° 52'.98 E, 6.4 m

Direction Island

On approach Cocos Police were called on VHF 20. We were instructed to proceed to the Direction Island anchorage and to call again when anchored.

After entering the lagoon we headed towards the anchorage in 5-10 m depth leaving the red markers to port, until sighting a smaller green pole which is left to starboard. The coral is clearly visible. The shallowest patch was 3.3 m (CD) just after the green pole.

On anchoring were were immediately surrounded by 6 blacktip reef sharks. There is also apparently a large resident barracuda which has been known to take pieces of yachties.

The second welcoming committee was provided by the Cocos Police who arrived in a very smart large RIB and  quickly carried out all the formalities. We had, of course, obtained eVisas and had given the required pre-notification of arrival by email.

The anchorage is sheltered from the SE swell by the reef but is exposed to the wind, so it can get quite choppy.

Home Island, a 2 km often wet dinghy ride away, has a reasonably well-stocked, if expensive, mini-market and a doctor's surgery as well as various other shops. There is a cafe but, as it was Ramadan, it was shut. The population of Home Island is predominently Muslim of Malay origin.

There are extensive shallow reef areas between Direction and Home Island, even causing dinghy outboards to ground. If intending to make the trip or to return after dark a preliminary survey and noting a GPS route would be well advised!

To get to West island you take the dinghy to Home Island and then the ferry, which takes around 30 minutes and costs AUD 2.50 per person. A shuttle bus (AUD 0.50) takes you to the "town" centre.

Sea Bunny was here

It is a custom to make something out of driftwood to mark your vessel's passing.

Port Mathurin, Rodrigues

Location: 19° 40'.84 S, 063° 25'.22 E

Turning basin anchorage

On approach call Rodrigues Coastguard on VHF 16 for permission to enter the harbour area. If there is no ship movement this will be granted. If there is no ship in port berthing to the wall is initially required for clearance formalities.There are large tyres as fenders on the wall. Tie up alongside one, which can then be used for the climb ashore. A fender board is advisable.

Health and Customs will visit the yacht. Immigration will probably complete formalities in the security hut at the entrance to the port area. There is a fee for port clearance which has to be paid at the Regional Assembly building, where the cashier is available weekday mornings. The receipt then has to be taken to the health department offices upstairs in the market.

Ship turning

Once clearance is complete yachts can either lie at the wall or anchor out in the turning basin. When we were there at first yachts were allowed to remain at anchor during ship movements if they were sufficiently close to the reef, out of the action area. When a new port captain arrived all yachts had to leave the basin into Mathurin Bay for all ship arrivals and departures. On arrival the ship uses the turning basin and the assistance of tugs to turn to lie starboard side to the wall. On departure the ship merely has to get the bow out to head for the entrance.

Port Mathurin is a fairly small town. Small supermarkets, bakers and market are all within a short walk. 3G internet is available using SIMs from Orange or Emtel.

Fuel can be obtained from the petrol station by taking the dinghy up the creek to the west of the anchorage to a slip just before the bridge. A 20 m walk to the pumps.

Click here to view a location plan of Port Mathurin showing some of the places mentioned.

Baie de Tombeau, Mauritius

Anchorage location: 20° 06'.22 S, 057° 30'.26 E

We entered the bay at night, proceeding to the south and east of the marked cable protection/prohibited anchorage area. Nevertheless we were called up by St Louis Port Control and asked not to anchor in the area. When we said we thought we were outside it the response was "OK".

A reasonable anchorage as an alternative to entering Port Louis in the dark. With the normal offshore wind anywhere outside the reef between here and Port Louis would probably be OK.

Port Louis Customs wharf

Location: 20° 09'.59 S, 057° 30'.03 E (taken from Navionics iPad chart)

Before entering the harbour call Port Louis Port Control on VHF 14 for permission to enter. This is also required for movements within the harbour or departure from it.


The "customs wharf" involves tying to railings outside the waterfront restaurants. The jetty outside the customs office is reserved for their boats.

Health and mmigration will visit the boat. On clearance by these officials visit Customs in the office on the quay - leave the restaurants on your right - 30 m. After clearance with customs visit the Coastguard in the office opposite Customs. Numerous forms must be filled in and signed (the complete set of IMO forms supporting the General Declaration, plus a few others).

Coastguard wanted to know where we planned to visit. We were asked to contact the Coastguard on VHF 18 in each place visited.

We had to wait on the quay and were boarded by a customs officer who sealed the alcohol we had in excess of the allowance in a locker. This involved us removing a substantial amount of soft drinks and beer bought duty paid in Rodrigues which was stored in the same locker. The sealing comprised a wire with a lead seal crimped on. We then had to wait again for a rummage team of around 4 officers. Rummaging comprised the completion of another form and a quick visit below by one of the officers.

Following completion of the rummage we were free to move.

WARNING - do NOT proceed directly from the customs wharf to the Caudan Basin. There is a shallow patch on the direct route which has found a number of yachts. Instead, head towards the coastguard jetty to the west before turning.

Caudan Marina, Port Louis

Location: 20° 09'.59 S, 057° 29'.81 E

Caudan marina

Marina is probably a rather flattering term for this location. Yachts lie alongside the wall or raft up to another yacht. The latter arrangement is probably preferable as the wall has an overhang which could potentially trap gunwales on the rising tide. With a tidal range of around 0.5 m getting ashore is not really a problem though. There is space for around 15 boats rafted 2 deep with further space outside for another 6-8 depending on size. The outside berths are subject to significant wash from ship and tug movements. It can also apparently get quite lively inside if the wind swings round as the harbour entrance is completely open to the northwest.

There are some large tyres to provide fendering. Fender boards are an advantage.

Most potential berthing slots have two power points - one 16 A marina type and one 13 A UK socket. There is also a single water tap for most points.

Payment - MUR 350/day including power and water is made at the car park office. The marina in fact divides the car park in two.

The marina is within the Caudan development which is across the motorway from the centre of Port Louis. There are two pedestrian underpasses providing access to the town. These are accessed by walking through the pedestrianised area, leaving the Penny Blue museum to your right.

There are few useful shops in the Caudan area, although there is a pharmacy. The main market is reached by taking the further of the two underpasses and turning left. Bread is available in the market by turning left on entry. Several ATMs are in the town centre.

Two supermarkets are within walking distance - Winners (take the first underpass, right on President John F Kennedy Street, left on Sir Celicourt Anthelme Street) and Shoprite (1st underpass, cross JFK street and go up Dr Ferriere Street - Woolworths to your right - turn right at the end, then 1st left up Poudriere Street). Neither are particularly impressive. For major shopping get a taxi to Jumbo Hypermarket, just off the motorway going north or, if you are going to Grand Bay, wait.

Grand Bay, Mauritius

Anchorage location: 20° 00'.78 S, 057° 34'.60 E 6m

As the name suggests Grand Bay is a large expanse of water. It is shallow - but not as shallow as the chart shows. There is around 2.1 m at CD in the entrance but it then deepens to around 6 m. However a yacht found a rock close to the recommended route in.

The coastguard warn that dinghies should be locked when taken ashore. As with all ports in Mauritius you are supposed to call the coastguard on VHF 18 on arrival. We did and got no reply. The coastguard RIB did come and circle around us the next day.

The Grand Bay Yacht Club welcomes visitors and grants one-month temporary membership. The club has a restaurant (lunchtime only), bar, a fuel dock where diesel, petrol and water are available although it is apparently too shallow for most keelboats, we used jerycans to obtain fuel.

Dinghy landings are at the yacht club, at the coastguard base and at the Sunset Boulevard shopping centre. The coastguard pontoon is apparently separated from the beach even at low water so you get your feet wet. This also implies that at HW the water is more than 0.5 m deep - we didn't try it.

The Super U supermarket in town is excellent. There is also a supermarket and a "Food lover's mart" at the La Croisette mall. The latter is walkable or a MUR 200 taxi fare.

On the way to La Croisett is the "Famous Butcher" with good quality meats which can be vacuum packed to your requirements.

We found the Fortis Darne private clinic at La Croisette to be excellent and modern.

le Port, La Réunion

Berth location : 20° 56'.37 S 055° 17'.26 E

The new marina in Le Port had only been open for a few weeks.

It is situated within easy walking distance of the town of le Port with bars, restaurants (many are not open evenings), mini-markets and an excellent producers' market on Wednesday mornings.

The old marina with the marina management office and laundry are a short walk in the opposite direction. A longer walk, around the old marina takes you to small chandleries, a sail and canvas repairer and other services. WiFi is available in the marina office and in parts of the old marina.

There is a travel-lift and hardstanding at the old marina

Despite being at the head of the harbour and protected by a substantial sea wall the new marina is subject to a surprising amount of surge if there is swell outside.

When we visited in 2015  disadvantage with the new marina is that the grassy terraces outside the security gates are popular with local families for evening picnics and with local youths for noisy late-night revelling often gong into the small hours. The family picnics are no problem; even if they leave rubbish it is cleared up by the staff in the morning. The late night revellers are a significant problem both from noise and security as they have been known to climb round the gate and remove boats'hoses in search of water.

At the time of our visit there were a few start-up issues in the new marina - hopefully these will have been resolved in the fullness of time.

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Updated from Henstridge, UK on 18 December 2018

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