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

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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At 1:32 AM, Blogger Parag said...

I am amazed by the clarity of the ocean. The pictures are as beautiful as the Madagascar island itself.


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