While every time we get to a new port of entry we learn more about what we are supposed to do to clear in, it is very different in each place and so, mostly, we don’t know what to do… i.e. what to give to whom and where (the when is basically as soon as you come in, assuming it is not a weekend, public holiday or lunch time!) You may have read about our last experience….. dealing with the officials in our pj’s over cereal in the boat! But it is not just official procedures. Where do we shop for what and what is the benchmark price? How do we get around? Which beaches/islands can we visit and put down anchor and what do they offer? Where can we afford to eat, if we choose to eat out?
More importantly… how will we deal with our new circumstances, when will we adjust and when will new circumstances seem normal to us? In an e-mail I told a friend that things were settling down to normal, then followed up by telling her I took advantage of a good rain to put my cossie on and go outside to clean the whole boat down and thereby use the fresh-water rinse on offer. Well, this apparently caused my friend much mirth and exclamations of “Normal!!??” Well, it seemed normal to me…. Am I going “bossies” …?!
With this in mind we set to and developed a list of our new “normal”.
To help you visualise our current circumstances, to which we have grown fairly accustomed but cannot say we love them all, here is what we deal with daily: wet feet and wet floors (humidity), wet bums and pants (dinghy travel… and Rolf’s race-car driving!), being permanently sodden and streaming (no lovely “glow” in this heat and humidity!); always acknowledging the elements to be in control (sun… there is not enough suncream in the world, wind… which decides on how we will get there, water(sea state) … dictates the ease and comfort of the ride and the sleep); sleeping with no bed sheet deliberately so that we feel the rain as it falls through the hatch onto our legs (and then we know it is raining…. and can leap up and run around and close all the hatches, which were kept open for air); sore, tired muscles from doing work at odd angles, lots of walking to get anywhere, and getting chores done in an environment of stairs, constant movement, limited space, pull starting the outboard motor instead of turning an ignition key - everything is transported by dinghy which involves lots of multiple handling on unstable surfaces; endlessly monitoring our use of resources (when last did you check or limit your water consumption during a shower/gas consumption whilst cooking/fuel consumption while driving/battery condition when using lights/plastic bag consumption for garbage disposal?); regular inconvenience of accessing stuff (either you cannot remember which locker it is in or it is at the back/bottom of the locker); changing our land view even when not travelling – while swinging at anchor or on a mooring (very disorientating at night and when trying to figure out if the anchor is holding); sailing and its attendant sail work and on arrival evaluating options and then executing a mooring or berthing or anchoring – generally resulting in even shorter or broken finger nails. These are not complaints, merely observations of how different and physical our life has become.
Then there are the different standards in presenting oneself (well, for starters, if we are both happy with the other as hair stylist, our standards must have changed…!); different expectations of yourself (if there is a problem… Just fix it!) and of your day (it will be unpredictable: Murphy is a demon operator on boats) and of your life (deal with what comes your way and don’t expect to have much control… A funny one: the tall red postbox outside the café at Inhambane received Laura’s postcards and we happily moved on having completed a little task. Wrong! Walking past the BACK of same postbox the next day revealed it to be a dustbin… silly us to assume all was exactly what it seemed. Happily the postcards, on top of the pile of rubbish, were fine and able to be posted again… at the post office this time.)
So, that is the current “norm” about us. What is the norm in the Seychelles and how does this early days perspective differ from Madagascar?
The Seychellois: friendly, helpful, with a strong environmental consciousness. They have strict rules regarding litter and use of resources, including who may use their islands and beaches. Madagascans, also friendly and helpful but more naive, appear less environmentally-aware; they have no facility for dealing with litter, for example: the backs of their villages are liberally strewn with debris and if a helpful boat-man in a harbour offers to take your rubbish packet, you will return to find it strewn over the dock or in the water (however he will have scanned it for useful things like bottles, a precious commodity). When looking over Madagascar you will see telltale smoke from at least one fire at any time; the belief is that burning forests will help to enrich the soil with its coal/ash. A consequence? Only about 15% of their forests remain and land is not becoming enriched. Only Sakatia Island has a ‘no-burning’ policy, due to strong ex-pat influence, and it is regarded as the richest island for the communities.
However, the Madagascan attitude assists yachties in that we are allowed access virtually anywhere: cruising is an absolute dream with freedom of access to the beaches and islands (unless a luxury lodge frowns at you for blocking their view). In the Seychelles we are disappointingly restricted: many of the islands are privately owned or fall under National Parks, the latter resulting in a daily fee of approximately R150.00 (SA Rand) per person, and another R200 for the yacht (and no facilities for this except access). In fact, here is another normal for our life as we live it in the Seychelles….COST!!!! My first cappuccino since Cape Town was bought by a kind Rolf at a cost of almost R50 (last cappuccino!); we paid R80 for a (large) pineapple the other day…. a bit ripped off as they are normally R60; soft tomatoes from R6 to R8 each and I passed on the Walker’s Christmas mince pies at about R15 per pie. However, some of the Creole cooking takeaways from the street vendors are tasty and cheap at about R20 – R30; but then need to be washed down with beer (local) at R20 and up to R45 in restaurants.
Nonetheless, the Seychelles islands are beautiful. Victoria (on Mahe) is one of the tiniest capitals in the world and has lots of charm – similar to Pietermaritzburg 40 years ago, but is busy and vibrant during the season; Mahe Island has some lovely spots but plays second fiddle to Praslin and La Digue, the main tourist islands… and the other 102 islands! The photo shows Chauve Souris, a private island off Praslin.
We look forward to visiting about 10 of them in our stay before we leave for Chagos and the Maldives at the end of Feb: many islands to the SW of Mahe will be avoided since they are privately owned, many are declared National Parks (and we will not often pay their fees) and many thanks to the pirates (although we have already seen two US Navy warships in Port Victoria… pirate patrol),.
The Seychellois are a colourful people (those on the smaller islands often adopting a Bob Marley-way, complete with accent) and are a range of colour themselves. To paraphrase a local guide book… in the Seychelles, “marriage is not a restrictive institution”! In Madagascar, meanwhile, a young French artist who had worked there for three years told me he was approached by a village chief to please spread his seed and increase the local gene pool (a problem in the small villages).
Rolf is presently drinking a toast (with his cheap Madagascan beer at a mere R12) and paying tribute to one of his favourite items of equipment – a 3 metre scaffold plank that found its way aboard in Richards Bay and has adorned our stern ever since. It has served as a gangplank; a fish cutting board; a coconut chopping platform; a workbench; a fender board; a fixture to secure additional diesel jerry cans on the trip from Madagascar; a washboard (to prevent big following seas from breaking directly into the cockpit); as a lever and as a jacking base to lift the starboard engine, weighing in at a couple of hundred kgs, back onto its mounting bolts (from which it had jumped at some time after a securing nut had unthreaded itself – your engine has not done this after a couple of months use?); and most recently as a scaffold plank to reach an otherwise unreachable light fitting in the cockpit roof (in order to drain the water from the fitting – see above for the new “normal”)
This second photo (also displaying the beauty of the plank)shows an example of interesting mooring practice undertaken by a couple in the charter yacht on the left… gave us a few moments of tension as we watched from the bank!
Today was boat cleaning day and putting up the canvas cockpit screens to enclose the large cockpit and effectively add an additional living space – useful when it rains, which it does a lot of in the current rainy season here! Particularly valuable because our children arrive in the next two days to fill the boat, share Christmas, New Year, interesting experiences, beautiful beaches, a lovely sea and a new look on our world.