Hōkūleʻa and her crew are changing course; we are now sailing towards Maputo, Mozambique. We recently diverted away from Madagascar towards Richards Bay, South Africa; for several reasons we are now heading to Maputo.
There is a severe low pressure system moving north towards the Richards Bay vicinity, which would directly intersect our the heading we were on to Richards Bay. Staying on course for Richards Bay, there is no way we could have avoided the low pressure system. The winds from the system would blow south to north, or directly in the direction we would be sailing in, making it impossible for us to make our way towards Richards Bay.
Another consideration is the Agulhas Current, which flows north to south down the east coast of Africa. When the two opposing forces collide – the south flowing current and the north blowing wind – they produce the largest rogue waves in the world, forming the “Perfect Storm” scenario we have been hoping to avoid.
We have been training for this leg for six years, and have done intense meteorological research as part of the preparation process. The key elements for decision-making on this global journey is accurate weather forecast, prudence, and patience. We have multiple international weather services advising us, the most reliable for this region being the South African Weather Service, who are aware of and eager to assist us in our Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage.
Based on the strong advice from the South African Weather Service, the decision was made – for the safety of Hōkūleʻa, our escort vessel, Gershon II, and both crews – that we should alter course to a prearranged safety anchorage to the north, Maputo. The strong winds will eventually reach Maputo, but we should beat the developing conditions into an anchorage and be able to wait for the weather to settle before resuming our sail south to Richards Bay.
We are currently under sail, with Gershon II upwind and to our stern. Both vessels and crews are safe, enjoying the excellent sailing weather for the time being, but alert and anticipating a weather shift.