Day 348, Year 5 Leaving Tomorrow, Wind or No Wind
Date: Saturday, October 9, 2010
Weather: Clear Day, Winds 10 Knots Northerly
Latitude: 16 00.675 S
Longitude: 45 17.294 E
Location: Baly Bay, NW Madagascar
It was a quiet day here, just waiting. We have decided to move tomorrow because the winds don’t seem to get much better even if we wait for another week. Once we get out of Baly Bay we turn to the west for about 90 miles and then we turn south, basically following Madagascar’s west coast. If we just keep moving, using whatever wind we get, we should reach the Barren Islands on Tuesday. As we get closer we will make a decision to either stop there or head west across the Mozambique Channel to Richards Bay in South Africa. From the Barrens we have about 900 miles to go to Richards Bay. That is roughly a week of sailing, day and night. It will feel good to get started tomorrow morning and then just see how it goes. Odulphus and Constance will be leaving with us and we heard today that Dream Catcher left Majunga today and will be in this area by tomorrow morning. They don’t plan on stopping, however, so we will probably be on the same track. And Muneera will leave Majunga early this week and could catch up with us if we stop in the Barren Islands. Mark just reminded me that tomorrow is 10/10/10. That sounds like a perfect ’10’ to me and maybe it bodes well for our journey. I’m really hoping that we get to stop in the Barren Islands as the snorkeling there is supposed to be fantastic.
We made a few phone calls late this afternoon since this will be our last chance until we reach South Africa. We have been so lucky that calls to the US are so very cheap from Madagascar. We pay about 30 cents a minute for a call to the US. That means a ten-minute call costs about $3.00. Not bad. We talked to our daughter Heather, our good friends Linda, Mike, and Garrett Stuart and Alan and Helaine Kanegsberg in New Hampshire, and Mark’s sister Mary Ellen in Florida. It is still early in California, so we will call our son Justin a little later this evening. It was great to talk to everyone. Our daughter’s new science blog site is going great and she and Jed and the boys are adjusting to a full-time working mom. Jed’s parents are visiting this weekend and Sam sounded like he was in heaven with all the new wooden train parts Papa G and Grammie brought from Maine. Jonah made animals noises when I told him we were going to see elephants and lions in South Africa and sent us his Dinah Shore kisses–“mmmm-wah.” We had hoped the Kanegsbergs would be coming to Richards Bay to tour the game parks with us, but the invitation from us came just a little too late for them to be able to use any frequent flyer miles-and otherwise the trip is just too expensive. Linda and Mike have a little over three years of working before they leave on their biking trip around the world, so they are doing their 1,000-plus day count-down. Their son Garrett was filling out college applications as we talked. When they visited us in Rarotonga in 2006, Garrett was in middle school. Time sure flies by quickly.
Day 347, Year 5 Stuck in Baly Bay
Date: Friday, October 8, 2010
Weather: Clear Day, Light Winds, Then 15-20 Knots WNW
Location: Baly Bay, NW Madagascar
It looks like we might be stuck here in Baly Bay until Monday. Winds are coming alternately from the west and then from south at times that make it difficult for us to travel the 90 miles west before we can head south down the coast. And over the weekend there are times with no wind at all, so we are probably going to just stay here unless the forecast changes. And, of course, the forecast is always changing, so who knows when we will travel on.
In the meantime, we are enjoying the time here. This morning we took Ed and Lynne with us to the closest beach for a morning walk. We went about an hour before low tide and it was a REALLY low tide. As we got closer to shore, we saw that the bottom was covered in grass and we were still very far away from the shore when it got so shallow that we had to get out and stick an oar in the sand to tie to the dinghy to and muck our way to shore. Mark made the comment that if people back home could see us now, with our feet being sucked into the sand as we tried to walk to shore, they would question our sanity. But this is what we do for fun. We had a great beach walk and saw many birds, but not much else. By the time we got back to the dinghy the tide was coming in and we had to wade in knee deep water to get back to it. But at least we didn’t have to swim. I spent the early afternoon doing more South Africa research in order to decide which of the many wonderful things we will be able to see while we are there. At 2:30 pm the South Africa Maritime Mobile Net comes on and we turned it on to get the weather update. We were trying desperately to record the forecast when we heard Pieter on Odulphus call us on the VHF. We figured that he wouldn’t mind waiting until we were finished recording the weather report, so we turned down the VHF. As soon as there was a break in the weather report, we turned the VHF volume back up to call Odulphus and we heard Carla yelling, “M &J, M & J, you are dragging down on Constance.” We leaped up into the cockpit to see that we were very close, way too close, to Constance so we turned the motor on and started motoring forward slowly while we prepared to raise anchor. We got ourselves re-anchored and tried to figure out why we would drag for the second time in two days when it has rarely happened to us before. All we can figure is that we didn’t have enough chain out and with the northwesterly winds of 20 knots blowing up breaking waves in the anchorage, our anchor was literally pulled out of the sand. We got ourselves settled down after this little panic and I started getting things ready for the zebu steak dinner we had promised Constance and Odulphus. Just as I was starting to get things under control, Pieter called making the suggestion that we all move four miles across the bay to a calmer anchorage. So up went the anchor again and across the bay we went. By this time the winds were a good 20 knots and we had to motor into the wind to get across. But it was a great idea as it is much calmer over here.
We had such a fun evening on Windbird tonight. The dinner worked out great although it took a bit of ingenuity to figure out how to use an umbrella to shield the grill from the wind in order to cook the steak. Carla brought her accordion and played for us and Pieter brought his song sheets with words to many sea chanties so we could all sing along. Pieter and Carla can really sing and the rest of us just enjoyed trying. Everyone has gone back to their boats now and Mark was able to call Buoy Weather in California to get us signed up for their services during our passage to South Africa. We just could not get to the place on their website where we could make payment, but the phone call did it. A young woman named Madison was most helpful and now we will be able to get detailed weather reports from yet one more source. Tomorrow should be a quiet day, but you just never know what might come up. As Pieter left tonight, he said he might try to sail out of here tomorrow. If he actually does this, who knows if we will follow? To be continued.
Day 346, Year 5 Village Visit
Date: Thursday, October 7, 2010
Weather: Mostly Sunny, Winds 15 Knots-When There is Wind
Location: Baly Bay, NW Madagascar
In between the sponge stage and the punch down stage of baking bread, we took off in the dinghy to visit a village that Pieter and Carla on Odulphus discovered yesterday. They said they women needed clothing, so I picked through my threadbare wardrobe and came up with some things to take. Mark did the same. So with a backpack full of clothes and a plastic bag of empty glass jars, off we went. It is new moon and it was low tide and we were going into a shallow mangrove area with lots of sandbanks, so we had to go slowly. Once there we saw the village was much larger than we expected. And it was different from any village we have visited in Madagascar. It looked a bit like a stick fort with every hut surrounded by pole fence. I think that was to keep the goats out of the huts. It must be easier to fence the goats out than to fence them in. This village looked like an African kraal (fortified village) and the huge baobab that greeted us on the beach was definitely an African baobab. It was the biggest in terms of circumference that we have seen, but it was very short compared to its girth. We landed the dinghy and went to the area where we saw many young men and children gathered under the shade trees. We started pulling things out of my backpack to give away and young women came running from who knows where to partake. There were squeals of delight as they doled out the clothing deciding who should get what. We also took some school journals and colored pencils for the children and a few t-shirts and shorts of Mark’s for the men. An elderly gentleman approached us and motioned for us to follow him to see more baobab trees. These villagers speak no French except Bon Jour and we speak no Malagasi, but as in other parts of the world, we somehow communicate.
We returned from our village explore and Mark changed the oil, changed the Raycor fuel filter, and changed all the water filters. That part was easy, but the other half of his day was spent trying to get online with Buoy Weather to renew our subscription so we can get their weather reports for our Mozambique Channel crossing. That was not so easy and did not work. When we try to call all we get is an answering service that says they will call us back. I don’t think so. And they have not yet answered our emails. So we might have to continue on without Buoy Weather. And that brings up the point that we will not be continuing on tomorrow as planned. The weather reports we are getting from the South Africa nets match with what we are seeing here. There is no wind during the early morning to mid-morning hours and then when the winds do come they are from the WNW-the direction in which we need to go from here. And then they turn to the SW which is the direction we want to go once we are around Madagascar’s western cape. We met with Odulphus and Constance on Constance tonight and talked about our options. We decided to hang here one more day, watch the weather, and meet on Windbird tomorrow night to make a decision about moving on. Tomorrow we might go deeper into this huge bay to a larger village that is noted on the charts. That will be tomorrow’s explore.
Day 345, Year 5 Winds Backing, Anchor Dragging
Date: Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Weather: Partly Cloudy, Winds 15 Knots
Latitude: 16 00.347 S
Longitude: 045 20.741 E
Location: Baly Bay, NW Madagascar
The winds were SW yesterday which is unusual and then during the night it starting backing SW to E by morning. And sometime during that counter-clockwise rotation our anchor decided to drag. Thankfully Mark felt the movement and got up just in time to find the anchor resettling about 500 feet from where it started, closer to shore. The depth was fine and all was well, so we stayed in that position until morning and then moved back out a bit. Our anchor is very reliable and we know we were solidly anchored when we arrived, so we are thinking that our anchor was caught under a rock and when we turned during the night the anchor just slipped out. We are just hoping we don’t have a repeat performance tonight.
Today was a low-key work day. We have a cell signal here so Mark visited the other two boats to discuss route planning and did some internet searching on South African weather and I did a huge laundry. We then worked together on some route planning for the trip down the west coast of Madagascar and then across to South Africa. Somehow the day slipped away but we do have a little better idea of when we will move on from here. Right now we plan to leave on Friday morning and go 45 miles on down the coast Then on Saturday morning we will start our trek down the west coast of Madagascar. Odulphus is planning to day hop down even though we have very little information about the anchorages along the way. Constance is thinking they might go to the coastal anchorage on Friday and then do an overnight to the Barren Islands. We are listening to the weather reports on the South African radio nets and will make a decision by tomorrow evening. Looking for those “weather windows” is always a time consuming job.
Day 344, Year 5 Arrival in Baly Bay
Date: Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Weather: Mostly Cloudy, Winds from the SW–Not the Norm
Latitude: 16 00.515 S
Longitude: 045 20.833 E
Location: Baly Bay, NW Madagascar
We made it to Baly Bay despite the winds not fully cooperating. We sailed two-thirds of the way here, but we had to use the motor more than we had hoped. The weather is not the usual Madagascar beautiful, so we think a couple of deep lows down south are the cause of our problem. Pieter and Carla on Odulphus were here waiting for us and we went to their boat for sundowners tonight. Constance was there as well and we did a little bit of trip planning. We have more to discuss, but it seems like we might leave here on Thursday or Friday and do a stop along the coast and then a stop at Chesterfield Reef the next night. We had thought we might do a two night passage, but Odulphus would rather do day hops. Mark and I both realized last night that we are terribly out of practice on overnight passages and much prefer to do them in the open sea and not near land. So the captains will have more discussion tomorrow and we will come up with a plan. In the meantime, we will try to make it ashore tomorrow to see what is here. It is a barren land, but beautiful in its starkness.
Day 343, Year 5 Overnight Passage to Baly Bay
Date: Monday, October 4, 2010
Weather: Same, Same.Beautiful; Winds SE am, NW pm
Latitude: 15 35.289 S
Longitude: 046 20.830 E
Location: Near Majunga on Passage to Baly Bay, Madagascar
Miles to Go: 71.5
The anchor spot we chose in Mahajamba Bay was a bit bouncy last night, but not bouncy enough to keep Mark and me awake. We slept like babies and took off this morning at 7 am. Mark had the day planned perfectly. I wanted to see the red cliffs near a place on land called Cirque Rouge. I figured that the coast must look a little like the area just inland and he planned to get me here to take photos by 5 pm. Well, it is 5 pm and we just finished taking pictures. Doing this required us to stay close to the coast all day and now we are heading off in westerly direction to Baly Bay. The entire fifty miles from Mahajamba to here was one long white sand beach. That in itself was amazing. The beach is backed by bush and once in a while we would see a bit of erosion with white, pink, and rouge colors mixed with the green of the bushes. What we just saw at the red cliffs was just more of that and it reminded us so much of New Mexico mesas. It also looks a little like those layers of colored sand they sell in bottles out West in the US, just more beautiful.
Depending on wind direction, we will reach Baly Bay early morning or no later than early afternoon. So far we have been able to sail the whole way (except for an hour of charging the batteries). The winds will probably lighten up tonight and we might have to motor, but we have all night and all day tomorrow to go the 71 miles, so we are in no hurry. We have been in contact with Pieter and Carla of Odulphus who have been in Baly Bay for a few days. We will meet up with them there and then Odulphus, Constance, and Windbird will continue on down Madagascar’s west coast, hopefully after a three or four day stay in Baly Bay.