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Choosing the Southern African Route

Posted by on March 11, 2011

Several Reasons for Choosing the Southern African Route Instead of Risking Your Life and Boat in the Approaches to the Red Sea

When we sailed down the Red Sea on Seraffyn back in 1977, we vowed never again to sail in this part of the world. Though “piracy” was low tech and low powered back then, We heeded all warnings and never went near the shores of Eritrea, Somalia, southern Saudi Arabia or South Yemen. When we departed from Aden we sailed an extra 200 miles to keep at least 150 miles between us and Socotra. Remember, so called pirates in those days were using 10 horsepower outboards if they could get outboards at all.  Today we feel anyone even contemplating this route is making a big mistake. (We hesitate to call the brigands and low lives that now attack ships in these areas pirates. The word “pirates” has been romanticized by movies. This is a rotten mob of heavily armed blackmailers, kidnappers and gangsters.) But many cruisers answer us by saying the route around South Africa is daunting and less interesting.

Here’s some things to consider: 

  1. By sailing to Rodriquez, Mauritius and then Reunion, you will, once you leave the often reinforced trades near the equator, find some of the nicest sailing we’ve had. 
  2. If you stay 100 miles south of Madagascar, then heave to if strong winds are forecast when you approach the Agulhas current off South Africa, you will probably have reaching winds averaging force 4 or 5. (We give some hints for comfortable passagemaking to Africa in our DVD, Get Ready to Cross Oceans)
  3. Southern Africa is possibly the most interesting country we have ever visited. Almost everyone who takes some time to explore on shore here says it was the highlight of their voyage. (Details of how we made the trip from Durban around to Capetown plus why we enjoyed it so much are shown in the DVD Cruising has No Limits)
  4. There are no tropical cyclones in the South Atlantic and some of the best passage making we have ever encountered. Fast, easy and not too much shipping.
  5. There are some great places to stop.  You can see a fun DVD about this route, done by an old friend of ours from Seraffyn. Antoine, who created his Once upon an Island video (see below) is a well-known French folk singer who ran away to sea.  We loved the islands south of Rio De Janeiro around isla Grande and would never have discovered them if we’d taken another route.
  6. If you are trying to get back to the U.S.A quickly after a voyage across the Pacific and into Asia, it can often be quicker to take the southern route as seasons work better.  It is definitely less expensive – no port fees, rarely a need to pay for a marina berth, no problems with VAT.
  7. Heading into the Mediterranean from the Atlantic will give you a higher chance of favorable winds as you cruise these waters. Furthermore Spain and Gibraltar offer far better places to refit after a passage than Egypt.

Hope that gives you some food for thought. Even if it wasn’t dangerous to head up the Red Sea, we’d still feel the South African/ South Atlantic route is more fun. 

Our DVD’s and Antoine’s program are now available for download from, our DVD’s can also be purchased online HERE, and Antoine’s can be found at


One Response to Choosing the Southern African Route

  1. Yoye

    Hi Guys,

    About the pirates, don’t forget that these people formed them self from a vacuum and performed an ecological service by keeping out radiation and toxic dumping in their waters as well as fishing of industrial size vessels in their waters, which went on for decades allowed by industrialized countries which were all too happy to allow this dumping to go on since it was not on their shores.

    It just happened that the business model was too successful and they got powerful, now everyone is worried.

    Other than that I completely agree South Africa is an amazing place to sail, its got the infrastructure and the geography.


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