As we make our way slowly (very slowly at times against the current with no wind) down the coast we have been treated to beautiful views of red cliffs, beaches and small villages almost invisible in the mangroves and trees. We just passed one of the major cities on the west coast, Majunga, which is known for it's crime and specifically mentioned in guide book after guide book not to be visited. We declined to stop and passed by safely off shore dodging anchored fishing pirogues on the banks at
the river mouth.
We know many of the boats who crossed the Indian Ocean with us but in Madagascar we found a new mix of cruisers from South Africa and other areas. Among those we met was one family just beginning their cruising headed to the Seychelles. The father and skipper is a container ship captain by profession and while not aboard his big ship they will be living aboard their sailboat in the Seychelles. Incidentally his container ship route is to the Mediterranean through the Suez canal and the Red Sea.
He confirmed for us that given the current situation in the Gulf of Aden he wouldn't consider taking his sail boat there right now. Stories of pirates in that area have increased recently in the cruising community and it seems that people are really taking great care with the Gulf of Aden right now. We met a French single sailor who received a message from home to divert from the Red Sea due to the dangers. He has extended his sail by several months to go around Africa to get back to France.
We also met a crew member on an Italian mega yacht who just finished a sailboat delivery through the Red Sea. The boat was approached by pirates who got within 60 feet of them before help arrived. As soon as pirates were spotted the crew of the sailboat increased their speed to max (13 knots) and sent a mayday call via VHF radio. Airplanes and helicopters responded and chased the pirates away while a military escort vessel got into position to accompany them for the next 6 hours. They were able
to pass through the area without further problem but it was a close call. All of the pirate stories make us glad we are not faced with having to decide whether to risk a trip through the Red Sea or to head south. We prefer dodging weather to dodging pirates.
We also met a boat we haven't seen since Santa Cruz California. The boat is a Japanese boat "Emu II". When we arrived in Santa Cruz, California, our first stop ashore since Neah Bay, Washington, the fishermen there told us that the Japanese boat in the marina had just arrived non-stop from Osaka Japan. They were all impressed that he had come so far on a small boat and made Santa Cruz his first landfall. Anyway, we may have seen his boat on the way to Mexico but had not seen or heard of him since.
It turns out he went east through the Panama Canal, the Med and around Africa while we went west. This is the only time our paths will cross as he's on his way across the Indian Ocean and then on to Japan. We visited with him and remarked on the unlikely chance that we would meet again in Nosy Be, exactly half way around the world from Santa Cruz!
The nature of cruising is such that no matter what country you are visiting the common community of cruisers is always welcoming and ready to accept new members. From mega yachts to the smallest boats there is always someone ready for a chat or a beer. As we hop down the coast in search of more traditional Madagascar boats we look forward to joining our South Africa cruising community in a few weeks to see old friends and meet new ones.
Labels: 2008 - 10 - 11 Madagascar