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

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi safari

Our first stop in South Africa was Richards Bay. It was a great place to catch our breath and get used to this new country. Here we were lucky to finally meet up with our friends Ian and Kathy from Ariel. They had been close throughout the Indian Ocean but we missed at each anchorage by just days. We made many walking grocery trips with the “Ariels” and explored a bit of the area together. We decided that this was the time to rent a car and go see some animals. Richards Bay is close to a very popular game park, school summer vacation had not yet begun and our boats were safely tied to docks.

Marcy at Richards Bay SA

We rented a car - a big 4 wheel drive one so we'd be safe on unfamiliar roads and off road too.

safari vehicle

We weren't sure what to expect and as we entered the park we stopped to look at every impala and warthog


and even the smallest flowers

Safari flower

It's spring here so there were lots of babies about.

warthog family

Apparently no self respecting South African stops specifically to look at warthogs or impala because as we soon found out they are so abundant it's difficult not to see them almost at every turn.

A few miles into the park we were seeing zebra and other herbivores such as springbok nyala, kudu and steenbok .



When we weren't seeing animals the scenery was enough to hold our attention.

Black Imfolozi river

As we got deeper into the park and closer to the river the animals were so concentrated it seemed almost as if we were in a zoo. We saw a baboon just as the pavement ended


and lions across the river resting in the sun. The lion find was very lucky as we had already passed the turnoff for the overlook. Peter's expert tracking instincts took over and he made a quick turn off the road to see what was at the river.


lions across river

As the afternoon heated up we came upon a wildebeest carcass with vultures

wildebeast carcas

and a group of giraffes.


We saw a stopped car ahead and pulled up behind them. Our first elephant sighting was quite exciting. We were directly in it's path and it let us know with ears out and a stamp toward the car that it was coming our way.

elephant emerging

Peter quickly pulled forward of the trail and we watched as it passed just behind the car then down the road and off the other side.

close elephant encounter


Before leaving on our trip we had heard stories of aggressive elephants sitting on cars and generally being unhappy with the tourists so we were anxious to avoid any elephant/car encounters.

There were rhinos everywhere


and with all those big animals the dung beetles had their work cut out for them.

dung beetles

At the hottest part of the day we stopped to check out a blind

Kathy and Ian in the blind

and just before sunset we raced to the other end of the park to our hotel.


We enjoyed a nice dinner

Hilltop deck with Ian and Kathy

and the view from the breakfast table was perfect the next morning.

Hilltop breakfast view

On the way out of the park we saw lots of buffalo


and were sent off in style by Zulu dancers at the gate.

gate dancers


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Marcy crew!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Danger, Danger

How dangerous is long distance ocean crossing cruising? Each year, how many boats get into trouble and are lost?

A few months ago a French yacht that we know named Isis was sunk when she dragged anchor onto a reef at Chagos during a squall. We first met Isis in 2007 in the Marquesas, and got to know Karol and Pascal better during the refit season in New Zealand where we shared a dock. Here Karol sits on the rail of Isis waiting for a salvage attempt.

Isis by David
photo by David of Jipcho

When Isis hit the reef, we were hundreds of miles south, crossing the Indian Ocean on the windy south route. We heard about the loss on the radio net and started thinking about the risks and dangers of sailing. We tried to estimate the ratio of disaster to success. In a season, in an area, how many yachts come to grief versus the number successfully cruising? What are the statistics? We know of no one that keeps track of such things.

Last season, in the Pacific, Ginger relayed radio contacts for Nereida, a Najad 36 on a singlehanded trip around the world. June 19 of this year while the skipper slept, Nerieda went up on a beach in Mexico just a few miles short of completing the circumnavigation. Jean was ok, but the boat was a total loss. (www.svnereida.com)

Recently, on Nov 21, an Amel named Sambaluka was lost on Chesterfield Reef. Well, OK, the skipper claimed the reef was uncharted on his electronic system, but the captain of the cruise ship that picked the crew up was not confused about where they were. We speculate that Sambaluka may have been using electronic charts perhaps without checking the route at the correct zoom. We've found that many electronic chart systems omit reefs and atolls at large scale zooms.




Another electronic chart assisted loss was the Finnish yacht Marika in October of last year, who's chart plotter went dark on a night approach to Suva, Fiji. Tapio and Irmalie (who we met in Tonga) spent the rest of the night in the dinghy as Marika was ground up on the reef. The next morning, Fijiian authorities arrived not to help, but to take Tapio and Irmalie ashore to meet customs, police, and immigration! By the time salvage attempts were made the boat was flooded, and the fin keel was left on the reef. This reinforces our belief that rescue and salvage services are not to be expected in much of the cruising area.


The disaster we were closest to was the sinking of Just Dessert, an American yacht we met at Suwarrow. After we arrived in Pago Pago, Just Dessert departed Pago harbor for Apia, Independent Samoa.. A couple of days later, we were shocked to hear the skipper call a mayday on VHF, a short range radio. They were taking on water at sea just a few miles from Pago. Even though Pago has a US Coast Guard presence, they do not do rescues at all. A small tanker diverted to stand by, and a police RIB picked up the couple. As it turned out, this sinking was suspicious and may have been fraud.

Timella was a New Zealand yacht that came to grief on another Fijian reef on October of this year. The people on board were rescued by the slimmest of margins, an American yacht that heard the mayday call arrived at the scene but could see nothing. With great good luck this rescue yacht finally spotted the Kiwis in the water. Timella was sunk and had punctured the inflatable as it went down.


Asolare went on Moore Reef on August 3. She was an English yacht and part of the ARC rally, a group of yachts in an organized circumnavigation.



Romance was lost on a reef on the north coast of Australia on February 12, 2008.

All of those yachts were a total loss, but the people were OK. For some, cruising is over, but some owners will continue with new boats. We would assume those boats were covered by insurance and the loss paid off, but we understand that in the case of Asolare that insurance did not pay because not enough crew were not on board at the time of loss. The skipper has ordered a new boat, though, showing us something we already knew. Some owners are in vastly different financial shape than us!

The true stuff of nightmare is unexplained loss at sea. Takaroa II departed Hawaii with a young couple aboard on September 12 of 2007 bound for Vancouver BC. By mid October of 2007 the maritime nets broadcast calls asking mariners to be on the lookout for her. The boat never arrived, and nothing is known to this day – storm, structural failure, fire, run down by freighter? All that is certain is that a pair of nice people are gone forever.

We realize that to compile statistics it would be necessary to know much more than we do. For example, how many successful passages have been made in these seasons? Have we heard about all the losses? We'll never know, so we take comfort in the fact that it seems that loss of life is rare. Another conclusion – nothing new here - land is the enemy! Reefs, beaches, and surf claimed the majority of the boats that were lost. So we triple check the navigation, use the paper charts and check the zoom, and keep a sharp lookout.

(Here are a couple of articles written by our friend Karen, who we met at Savu Savu, Fiji.


(Another reef encounter:

Our blogger is broken and the function that would allow us to add all the articles as hyper links is not working.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Madagasikara the movie

Here are the sights and sounds of Madagascar..


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Madagascar Schooners

little schooner Madagascar

As Marcy moved down the west coast of Madagascar, we often encountered the distinctive double ended cargo schooners that move much of the country's goods. This one proudly advertises the local beer on her sails.

three horse schooner Madagascar

With their housing topmasts, big loose footed foresails, and bowsprits the Madagascar schooner would not have been out of place in America, circa 1800. In truth, the cut of the topsails show the real influence, France. In any case we felt lucky to observe them, it was as if a time machine had allowed us to watch sailing that had been lost in our country for many years.

3 horse 2

The boats are rigged with a small main and a big overlapping loose footed foresail on masts of almost equal height. The masts usually have topmasts fitted, although on older boats, past their prime, the topmasts are taken off. This schooner has seen better days, but is still moving goods. The sheer shows the boat is hogged (the bow and stern are drooping) and the fastenings are bleeding rust. The sails have holes, and for her, flying topsails is nothing but a memory.

old girl Madagascar

On this small schooner, the main topmast is gone while the fore topmast remains. It's still a schooner, though it could be forgiven if someone thought it was a ketch. Note the crew, sitting on deck in front of the main mast happily waving. They were enjoying the glory of a schooner at top speed, beam reaching on a nice windy afternoon.

waving crew

Interestingly, the foresail and lug topsails have to be dropped to tack or jibe. The topsails can only be set to leeward, and there is a stay from masthead to masthead that would interfere with the fore gaff in a tack. Due to the steady breezes in Madagascar, this probably isn't much of a problem. Also, the boats are always maneuvered into and out of tight areas under jib and main alone. This keeps the speed down for entering crowded harbors, and tacking (with such long keels) is reliable with the leverage of the sails at the ends of the boat.

dropped fore sail Madagascar

A village called Belo sur Mer builds most of the schooners for the country, so of course we had to visit. The schooners are built in a lagoon that is up a river and protected by shifting bars. We tried to follow a schooner in, and promptly ran aground. Sometimes Marcy's 7 ½ foot draft is a liability. After extricating ourselves, we anchored out front and went upriver by dinghy to explore the village waterfront. This brand new freshly launched schooner was waiting to be rigged.

freshly launched Belo Sur Mer

We also saw several boats in various stages of construction. The frames are all natural crooks, hand sawed to shape.

setting up frames BSM

The planking is roughly dressed with an adze.

planking BSM

There were about a dozen schooners under construction on the beach.

schooner under const BSM

This schooner shows an attractive shape to her scuppers.

scuppers BSM

While Peter prowled around the schooners under construction, local kids kept Ginger company.

kids and Ginge BSM

Some of the kids had handmade toys, usually (and appropriate for a boatbuilding village) toy boats. One boy was so happy with his toy boat that he tried to put it in every picture we took.

toy boat BSM toy boat 2 BSM

After learning about Madagascar's schooners and exploring Belo sur Mer, we needed to prepare for the crossing to mainland Africa. Madagascar had been an amazing country to visit, full of surprises and contrasts. For example, we learned that despite being one of the world's poorest countries, the literacy rate here is higher than in the USA. Many people seemed well informed, and the recent election of Obama as US president was regarded as a great thing. So we flew our biggest ensign as we hauled anchor and headed out to sea.

big ensign BSM

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Madagascar Canoes

Marcy moved slowly down the west coast of Madagascar. Sometimes we anchored near villages of nomadic fishermen. Similar to what we saw in Mexico on the Pacific coast, these fish camps are occupied part of the year. The fishermen move out when an area is fished out, or follow seasonal fisheries. Unlike the camps in Mexico, these Madagascar villages are completely populated including women and children, not just working men. We were amazed at the number of people living on some of the small islands. From a mile out, we thought we were approaching an uninhabited island. By the time we dropped the hook we could spot many canoes on the beach and huts in the dunes behind.

fish camp Nosy Lava

Curious villagers paddled out in dugout canoes carved from a single tree, the most simple of Madagascar canoes. These boats are nicely made. Later, on the beach, we hefted one and found that is was not as heavy as you would guess.

dugout log canoe Nosy Lava

log canoe on beach Nosy Lava

Sometimes an outrigger is added, making the canoe more stable. This young couple paddled out to show us their baby.

canoe with ama Nosy Lava

These people also use a bigger type of canoe, shown here as a couple of friendly guys offer fish to trade. The man in the bow spoke a bit of English, a rare skill in this part of the world. He told us he thought we should stay for a week at least.

offering fish Nosy Lava

It seems that historical visitors to Madagascar have left certain boat types: the French left the schooner and the Arabs left the dhow. Who left this distinctive shape? It looks to me like ancient Phoenician ships as drawn on pottery.

ram canoe Nosy Lava

These canoes are log built, pieced together like the log canoes of the Chesapeake. Nicely joined and shaped, they are obviously well taken care of. Note the props to hold the outrigger float off the sand – it's important to keep it dry and light. The nets are also drying, and the carved piece in the foreground is a mast step also set out to dry.

fishing canoe Nosy Lava

drying mast step Nosy Lava

A fisherman demonstrated how the step fits precisely onto a ridge in the bottom of the canoe. There is no chance of the mast shifting.

step in boat Nosy Lava

There are clever wedges holding the float to the outriggers.

ama wedge Nosy Lava

Another fisherman shows his tools for net repair.

knife and shuttle Nosy Lava

Back on board Marcy, we were visited by a happy group of young men who offered to scrape Marcy's bottom. Of course we agreed, and had an enjoyable afternoon watching them laugh, work, and clown around. At one point the canoes they arrived in came unhitched and drifted downwind. A couple of the boys chased them down with our inflatable canoe, Red Dogfish. We wondered if it was a setup as the Dogfish was an endless source of entertainment to them.

canoe chase Nosy Lava

hull cleaning crew Nosy Lava

Our crew left happy, a few gifts of extra clothes and an old diving mask was payment enough for them.

happy guys Nosy Lava

We dove and inspected the work – they had done a very good job. As a result, we enjoyed a quicker passage to Africa. The next morning, Peter went ashore to drop off a few more clothes, take a few pictures, and say goodbye. The bottom crew posed with abandon.

posers Nosy Lava

Since Ginger didn't come ashore, some of the girls were extra friendly. Madagascar
is the westernmost Polynesian island, after all, and some girls showed an enthusiastic welcoming attitude.

come hither look Nosy Lava

Further down the coast, we encountered some of these fast and well handled canoes under sail. They carry a huge sail which is wrapped around the mast when heading upwind. It looks like a sprit rig on this point of sail. (HR)

canoe on the wind Belo sur Mer

Offwind, the sail is pulled free of the mast and the spars are adjusted. The result looks like a big square sail.

canoe off the wind Belo sur Mer

The fastest Madagascar canoes of all, at least when they are lightly loaded, are the big lateen rigged cargo canoes. They are built of planks on frames, just like the dhows. They can't carry the load of a dhow, but certainly can fly! We were passed by them reaching along at an easy 10 knots or more on some windy afternoons. This one shows graceful underwater lines as it sits on the hard.

cargo canoe on beach Hellville

A few of the mid sized outrigger canoes near Nosy Be had a plank added to mount an outboard motor. Peter checked out this example that was disassembled on the beach. It is sad to see the first step down the path to motorizing Madagascar's sailing craft and reminds us how lucky we are to see so much pure sail.

outboard canoe Nosy Komba

Even worse, we saw a couple of horrible Chinese made outboards mounted on boxy slow sloops. Ugly, loud, slow, and pathetic – this sloop made a daily trip of only 8 or 10 miles to pick up building stones. Of course, it was the only thing moving on calm days.

slow boat Hellville slow boat 2 Hellville

We moved on south in Marcy. Our destination, our final one in Madagascar, was Belo sur Mer, the center of schooner building for the whole country.

canoe reaching Belo sur Mer

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