_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Marcy home Walvis Bay Angling Club club AFASyn Ushuaia Marcy and crew

Friday, October 31, 2008

Southbound Madagascar

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.


Friday, October 24, 2008


Our first anchorage in Madagascar was Nosy Mitsio. Nosy means island in Malagasy so we anchored at "Mitzi Island" our first night. It was beautiful and peaceful. Our sail to Nosy Be and the town of Hellville was uneventful and we spent most of Tuesday October 14 clearing in to the country. Fortunately we had been warned about a "boat boy" situation (aggressive young men) and as we approached the hectic quai we were not surprised to have several people vying to watch our dinghy. We've rested,
explored the town, enjoyed a weekend anchorage out of town, seen lemurs and even had an adventure aboard a traditional Malagasy sailing vessel. The internet is too slow here to post photos, in fact the phone lines yesterday were so slow we couldn't get any cash out of the cash machine. We tried to call the bank in the US but the phone lines kept cutting off the call. We switched to another phone which shocked Ginger (as in AC current) several times as she tried to make another call. Finally when
it seemed the calls were getting through a little bit we ran back to the cash machine and were successful. The lines were up long enough for the cash machine to get the info it needed. We're now refueled, we have veggies on board and we'll be heading out of the port as soon as we're allowed. There was a tropical storm "Asma" that we'd been watching for a few days. At the peak 4 days ago it looked like it was going to go over Mauritius with 55 knot winds. Then it turned and headed straight for
the north end of Madagascar, where we are. As it continued west it decreased in intensity until it only had 25 knot winds and some rain squalls. What's left of that storm passed last night with little drama and just enough rain for us to put 15 gallons of water in our tanks that we collected off our awning. This morning the head of the port authority office told us because of the storm his port was closed and our boat couldn't leave. So, tomorrow morning, Saturday, we'll go ashore and see if
he thinks it's safe to go. Otherwise, we'll stay on the boat and wait for the all clear from ashore.


Sunday, October 12, 2008


We rounded Cape d'Ambre the north cape of Madagascar in light winds yesterday afternoon. The area is notorious rough spot, so we were grateful to spared getting knocked about. There were whales to greet us and fortunately for us that was all the drama of our trip around the cape. We actually had to motor most of the afternoon and night - an unusual experience for Marcy . The whales were spectacular. The first one was spotted by Peter and it had it's tail in the air. We saw it and wondered what
it could be. It looked like a low sail. white too! We were quite surprised when it sank and then it spouted leaving no doubt what we'd seen. An hour later a mother and baby humpback passed us within a few hundred feet. As we approached they were diving and showing their tails with much flair. When we got close enough for a good photo they got shy, took one last breath and swam on by.
The land we've seen is brown and dry on the west side of the island. The clouds pile up on the east side and the dividing line of green and brown was quite obvious when we were looking directly south down the center of the island. The trees are pure "Africa" and look just like the photos. Sparse, wind swept with just a bit of green. We motored through most of the night and shut the engine off this morning for our radio net. The land breeze we were hoping would blow us the last 14 miles to an
anchorage was very light, but in the flat calm water we were able to average 2 knots over the next few hours. Finally it was time to fire up the engine and get in the last mile to drop the hook. The water is teeming with life, we saw no less than 4 marlins flying through the air and tail hopping about as they hunted bait fish. There was a huge tuna feeding frenzy and turtles to greet us as we prepared to anchor. There are a couple of villages ashore which are barely visible with the naked eye
as the brown huts blend in with the scrub. The water is pristine, the beach white sand and the bird calls from ashore are new and enticing.
The awnings are installed to keep the sun off the decks as the engine cools after all that motoring. Down below in Marcy the thermometer is reading a comfortable 85 degrees this afternoon. This evening the mosquito screens will be deployed and we'll enjoy that delicious first full night of sleep after a not-long, but long-enough passage.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Day 3 Mauritius to Madagascar

We seem to have good weather luck on this passage, as we get closer to the north cape of Madagascar the wind is moderating and the seas are growing calm. As this area is known for huge seas and higher than average winds, we are looking forward to the light winds that have been forecast when we round the cape in 2 days. Our last full day in Mauritius was spent touring the island with Swedes Jan and Christina from the boat Christina. It was a full day and we enjoyed seeing much of the island. Leaving
Mauritius was uneventful except for the tedium of dealing with too many officials but all was handled in under 2 hours and we were on our way. We'd been a bit under the weather on Mauritius and the head colds we have been fighting made us both more prone to sea sickness as we put to sea. It's bad enough to have one crew member sick but both crew members sick at the same time is tough. By the second day we were both feeling a bit better though Peter's ability to recover quickly with an amazing
ability to eat steak and other hearty meals continues to be astonishing to Ginger who has only now graduated from saltines to rice. The weather is getting warmer as we head north and we're starting to anticipate great swimming conditions when we anchor at Nosy Be. Blue skies, small seas and steady 12 knots of wind are making for a fairly comfortable passage. Happily, this is nothing like our last few Indian Ocean hops. As our charts say "Madagasikara" here we come!


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Rodrigues Island

sunset pirogue Rodrigues

Our passage to Rodrigues Island was wet and wild. The motion was enough cause an explosion in Peter’s expresso pot, further degrading an already compromised standard of living. Lucky no one was burned as the pot shot forward, spraying hot coffee as it went. Instant coffee was served the rest of the trip. At one point we sailed for 24 hours, at speed, covering 180 miles, with only 2 feet of the jib unrolled - otherwise showing no sail at all. As a big wave came on board, we lost our trusty storm jib overboard and suffered a rip in the dodger. The same wave managed to defeat our air vent plugs on the inadequate flying saucer vents and send gallons of salt water onto Ginger as she slept in her bunk. What a rude awakening!

blown coffee pot

wet Indian Ocean

wetter Indian Ocean

You can imagine how happy we were to see the port of Mathurin appear behind our wounded dodger.

dodger hole

After formalities, and the confiscation of our speargun, we eagerly explored. As it turned out, the pretty little town easily furnished all that we needed. Peter was pleased to learn that local fishing is daily done under pole and sail on the nearby reef.

poling reef Rodrigues

The lateen rigged boats show the influence of Africa . With our front row seat (Marcy was anchored within feet of the reef) we were able to observe the techniques of tacking and jibing, and saw how the rig is reefed. These boats went out in all sorts of serious wind.

sail Rodrigues

The town has wonderful little shops.

shop Rodrigues shop Rodrigues 2

shop Rodrigues 5 shop Rodrigues 3

shop Rodrigues 4 street Rodrigues

Ginger enjoyed the open air food market. It was crowded, bustling, and full of delicious food.

Ginger carrots Rodrigues

paying for eggs Rodrigues

She even braved the meat market – and Peter appreciated that very much.

meat market Rodrigues

A little bit of everything is sold here. People could not be friendlier, and most spoke English as well as French and Creole.

tv for sale Rodrigues basket vendor Rodrigues

Like us, a local dog is exhausted watching all the activity.

dog Rodrigues

To get back to Marcy, we needed to walk to the quai.

quai Rodrigues

Then jump at least 3 feet down to the tug.

tug Rodrigues tug 2 Rodrigues

Then hop into Sniffy and head out to Marcy.

sniffy at tug Rodrigues

Back onboard, Ginger tries to figure out what to do with the cucumber the size of a small watermelon.

big cuke Rodrigues

So she tackled the dodger repair.

dodger repair Rodrigues

After rest and repair, we decided we were ready for the hop to Mauritius. The Coast Guard gives Ginger a ride back to Marcy after clearing out. She carries our speargun, and we are free to depart.

coast guard Rodrigues

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