Friday, October 30, 2009


Well, we are here at our (first) destination at last! We have cleared in to Madagascar and are formally allowed to stay for a month, after which time we will be heading up to the Seychelles. We have been in Madagascar for about 4 days as our clear-in destination was Nosy Be, on the NW tip of the country, so we enjoyed some of the islands and river anchorages on the way up. “Paradise” about sums it up …!

Anyway, we can summarise our life since 15 September as: 2822 nautical miles from CT to Madagascar, extended sojourn in Richard’s Bay (whoopee!! and twice, due to our aborted first departure…), stops at Inhambane (Moz) and Bassas da India (atoll in the middle of the Moz channel) and safe arrival at our first major “destination”.
However, this trip is not about the destinations but rather about the journey; the latter has provided a great wealth of opportunities to learn, experience and see the watery side of our planet. We have learned about sailing (fortunately… but I am still very nervous of storms and we still need much more experience, although they say if you have sailed up from Cape Town you are no longer novices!) and the amazing marine world (we stopped to swim in the middle of the channel on a very still day then while eating lunch saw birds diving nearby…. they soon came calling and wheeling over us and our boat was surrounded by jumping fish and prowling sharks!). We have also learned about fishing (huge fish just attach themselves to your two lines simultaneously as it turns out, causing you to learn how to gut and fillet them and store them in an already-full tiny freezer) … while in Irene’s case, learning has included cutting Rolf’s hair!
The pictures and memories we have in our heads are just astounding, from incredible and (REALLY) awesome whale interactions (one blew alongside us as we were sitting on the trampoline at twilight, so close it went under our bowsprit, while another resulted in Shane hopping into the dinghy to rescue us from our scuba dive … a whale was coming alarmingly close) to exhausting (and sometimes scary, particularly when associated with sleep-deprived hallucinations…) watch-keeping to the beauty of night skies with no ambient light but with incredible phosphorescence in the water below.

We have seen SUCH beautiful areas: Bassas da India, an atoll surrounded by hundreds of miles of sea and only above the water a few hours a day which provided incredible snorkeling and diving from the boat (beautiful reef fish shaded themselves from the sun under us); Nosy Iranje (turtle island) and Sakatia, two very different Madagascan islands (the former with white beaches and turquoise seas; the latter with forested headlands and sheltered coves).
The local people are friendly and interested in us (and tolerant of Irene’s French fumblings) and we have been approached on the boat by fishermen (or their children sometimes) and traders selling fruit, octopus, the HUGEST crabs and a turtle (different eating patterns here… we went for the fruit!)
We are so privileged to be able to have these opportunities, but it comes at a cost… that being, of course, missing our friends and family and simply sitting over a meal or a drink with them and sharing in the stories of their lives too. But the time for that will come again…. maybe here with us!
Shane and Laura (the crew who came with us from R Bay) left us yesterday; they were great to have on board, helped a lot on the exhausting passage and we all got on well together. We now have a month in Madagascar, sharing part of that time with friends coming to spend a week with us later in November.
I have no idea how we will run this month of exploring the area… being two fairly driven, busy personalities it will be interesting to see if we can slip into the role of being “cruiser yachties”… whatever that might mean. But we will certainly get all we can out of it, and take our home (and intrepid dinghy) around to as many places as possible!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Richards Bay to Moz

A week ago we were sitting in Richard’s Bay for the second round of repairs etc. Now we are anchored in the Inhambane harbour, with their dhows and ferries, big and small, working their way around this unusual sight of a yacht in harbour. This is Mocambique: hot, flat, humid, endless beaches, brilliant white diamond reflections dancing off the water, coconut palms, mostly-derelict buildings, friendly people who try happily to communicate with us (and sign language just does not always work, does it!?).

In RB, after finding the source of (some of) the problems to be water in the fuel, Rolf found the source of THAT to be the yacht builder’s innovative way of draining water from the runnels around the deck lockers via a pipe that met up with the overflow pipes from the fuel and water tanks. On paper, this looked fine, since on paper the yacht is always horizontal and thus the pipes all drained down and out. Reality check: yachts rock and roll in the sea and steep seas mean water over the top, into the runnels, into the overflow pipes… and back into the water and fuel tanks! AAARGH!! So we had slightly salty water to drink and engines refusing to do their work. Of course, this summary takes 2 minutes to read, giving no hint of the time and thinking effort that went into the final identification of this problem! So we dumped a whole tank-load of diesel and Rolf concocted his own special way of dealing with the deck water run-off (disconnect the offending pipes and make them drain into the lockers, which drain out anyway!) and plugged the overflow hoses so they stopped getting a sip of sea water every time the sea hit their outlet. We still have (other) problems in the port engine, which did not go away, so Rolf is yet again in discussion with the suppliers… and SO TIRED of all this admin, particularly as communicating with them is so difficult (from the point of view of signal… Vodacom went on the blink for days and the sat phone is imperfect … and the supplier’s attitude!)

On departure from RB, we must have amused the onlookers, with an extra motor and diesel jerry cans strapped on the back (being delivered for others), fenders tied on where we could and a stalk of bananas swinging on the davits over the dinghy (which caught the ripe crop well). Note: Bananas ripen rapidly when swinging freely on big seas, basted with sea water and warmed in the sun. Bananas go down well whole / in fruit salad / on toasted sandwiches with bacon as well as with tomato and cheese. We loved our bananas but if you have any other banana-based ideas, please send them to us…!

The trip up was uneventful in terms of the sailing: fairly good weather conditions, no illness, able to prepare reasonable meals / shower / sleep but nonetheless we all became exhausted by the constant physically tiring motion and rotating watch system, which also had to be overlapped with other boat duties, particularly in Rolf’s case.

Fortunately the entry into Inhambane was also uneventful, considering the fact that the 10mile stretch on the charts, reference books and chart plotter all show buoyage (about 7 buoys were supposedly there to guide us to and through the few deep-ish channels in this flat, shallow expanse) … and there was not a single one in place!! This also had impact on our anchoring: tried to pull up anchor to find a massive chain over it (that we had dragged into) attached to a concrete bock; no doubt the chain also used to have a buoy at the top of it…. Anyway, during anchoring we also pulled up a thick barnacle-encrusted rope, so have been dredging the harbour for them.

A wait in the Inhambane area for their weekend and public holiday time-off before we checked through port procedures and immigration and did the shopping gave us a great time to rest and relax. The ferries in this part of the world are most interesting (Rolf getting into one in the photo)… are you surprised that the engine of this one cut out and we ended up being towed to land by another one, just as derelict!!??

We also anchored off Linga Linga, a pretty peninsula jutting into the channel to Inhambane. Linga Linga particularly is isolated and rustic, fairly abundant with dhows with their amazing centuries-old sail structures and small fish traps in the water. We took the dinghy into the shallows and up little estuaries and walked inland, glimpsing the lives of those in this poor, primitive area of the country.

We were absolutely delighted by the marine life on the way up. We stopped counting the whales but never tired of them: swimming alongside us, breaching with water streaming off their massive bodies and falling back with almighty crashes, waving at us (say, 10m from the boat…) on their backs with fins in the air, calling over the top of the sea with deep, hollow, melodious calls… a sound we had never heard, being more familiar with their normal call heard underwater (and in our cabins). Then, of course, the sunsets and sunrises. Always beautiful… and always enhanced by their reflection on the water.

We really enjoy getting your news, telling of your lives, joys, frustrations …. I recently told a friend that our reasons for not sleeping are so different from yours.... bad seas/engines playing up/sat phone sms system not working/typical African admin hassles when clearing in and out of new country/worries about power, food, water management on the boat/worries about family and friends and so limited in our ability to talk with them.... but nonetheless this life provides so much learning and so many ways of seeing the world through new eyes, so we will stick with it for a while!

We plan to spend another day or so anchored as in the photo (previous!) in the Inhambane area (depending on weather and final preparations), hopefully fit in a dive then head off for the big push: Nosy Be (Madagascar) with little stopping en route except for a possible anchorage at Bassas or Europa to sleep. However, sleep is not easy at anchor: our first night at anchor in the exposed Inhambane Bay proved enlightening in that the motion was totally new to us: forward and back rock and roll combined with sideways swinging and many a jitter on the water made us feel highly odd and disorientated, although fortunately not ill. The best thing to do was go to bed! Anchorages in sheltered bays are sought if we need to sleep and really rest… so hope we find some in the next few weeks…

Monday, October 5, 2009

As we were...!


After leaving Richard's Bay with great enthusiasm yesterday (late in the day as the winds were due to be on the nose but then diminishing around midnight) we met the seas on the nose quite happily and proceeded to settle down into a routine when... engine trouble on the port side reared its head; some anxiety and uncertainty followed but we decided since cats have two engines we would proceed cautiously and attempt to fix this one.

In terms of the fixing: for "we" read newly-experienced diesel mechanic Rolf! In fact, he got the port engine up to pace again but within 5 hours of departure the port engine was out completely and starboard was showing signs of trouble. So we turned through 180 and set off "home"!

Happily we were able to get in some good sailing for a while, and the quiet swooshing sounds accompanied by full moon reflections dancing on the water were wonderfully rewarding. Sadly the weather guys were right... the wind DID die down! So now we were left wallowing a bit, being carried at a bit over 2 knots by the current alone. Happily Diesel Rolf managed to get the S/B engine going so we were able to motor onto our previous wall berth and 2:45 am.... very weary souls.

So today is fixing day; hopefully all will be sorted so that we can leave again tomorrow or wednesday. Watch this space...!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A stop in Richards Bay

So here we are, happily bobbing around at the Zululand Yacht Club in Richards Bay… and about to leave again! We have been very settled here, enjoying the green lawns, coconut palms, laundry, proximity to shops (everything is very close in this little town!), access to chandlery (yacht retail goods) and competent help and Yacht Club pub with fine fare at a very low price!

We are delighted to have on board Laura and Shane, both recently-qualified coastal skippers from Cape Town who need their miles before they can go for their yacht masters qualifications. They will remain with us until we reach Nosy Be in Madagascar, and share all ships’ duties with us – this will certainly reduce the load on us and hopefully make a pleasant trip for all.

Ketoro is docked up against the wall at the yacht club, a very interesting and new situation as we have previously been alongside ‘walk-on’ jetties, which rise and fall along with the boats as dictated by the tides. The wall, of course, is not as obliging, and on top of this it is spring tides (full moon), resulting in the following challenges to getting on and off the boat using our tatty wooden “gangplanks” (the high-tide situation demonstrated by Shane and Laura …. and Rolf, carrying Irene’s handbag!)…

This has also been a lovely place to receive visitors: family from Durban and the kids from Pretoria who gave us an excuse for play-time in the middle of the working!

So we are off tomorrow; the weather is not going to be perfect (wind on the nose, so we will bump our way uncomfortably into the seas) but if we wait for perfect we will wait forever. Rolf read somewhere that whilst sailing, one in three sailing days is excellent (i.e. the weather, dolphins, water-maker and bilges all behave, I guess!!) so the sooner we get going, the sooner we will find them!