Day 342, Year 5 Fifteen Degrees South
Date: Sunday, October 3, 2010
Weather: So Beautiful; Winds SE am, NW pm
Latitude: 15 12.809 S
Longitude: 047 02.524 E
Location: Mahajamba Bay, NW Madagascar
We rounded the top of Madagascar at 12 degrees of latitude and have spent most of our time between 13 and 14 degrees of latitude. Today we made the plunge south to 15 degrees S as evidence that we are finally really moving south and west. At just about the same time that we reached 15 degrees S we could see Anjajavy, an exclusive resort and wildlife refuge. I had hoped to stop there for lunch and to see their gardens, but the only phone number we have for them is out-dated and we have been told that you just don’t “pop in” at Anjajavy. There is no way to get there except to fly in, so guests have to pay at least $750 US to fly in and out. There is a three day minimum and each costs at least $300. But the reason to go there is to travel to Moramba Bay and to see the fantastic wildlife in the gardens and walks through the forest around the resort. I didn’t really want to have lunch there. I just wanted an excuse to get into the gardens and maybe be allowed to walk through the forest, but I guess I’ll have to return here when I strike it rich.
We reluctantly left Moramba Bay this morning. It is just such a special place and no one ever wants to leave there. But South Africa calls. Tomorrow we will continue to stick close to the shore to see the sights and just before we get to Majunga, a real Madagascar city, we will head out to sea and do an overnight to Baly Bay. To get there we will be traveling to the west as the coast of Madagascar makes a turn at Majunga. Our hope is to stay in Baly Bay for at three days, maybe a week, and then do a two day run west and then south to the Barren Islands on Madagascar’s west coast. We’ll hang there until the weather is right for the six day passage to Richard’s Bay. We are moving south much faster that we’d like, but since we are officially checked-out of the country, we can’t stay in places as long as we’d like. Once we are out of the Majunga area, however, we can slow down . But then there are very few places to stop unless the weather is very calm. So we could be in Richards Bay as soon as the middle of October or closer to the end of October. It will all depend on the weather.
Exactly one year ago today Heather, Jed, Sam, and Jonah drove us to the Providence, Rhode Island airport where we got on a plane and flew to North Carolina to visit with family before heading back to Malaysia. So it has officially been a full year since we have seen Sam and Jonah and over a year since we have seen Ziggy. Once we get to South Africa, we will officially begin our sixth year of the Voyage of Windbird (VOW) and you can bet I will be counting the days until I see those grandbabies again (and their parents, of course). Year One of our voyage was our longest at 410 days, but part of that was our delay while still in the United States while we had a new motor installed. And during that time, we visited with family. And then our children flew to the Caribbean to meet us for Christmas. This cruising year will be at least 365 days and we certainly have not seen any family during that time which makes it feel so much longer. Let’s just hope that absence does make the heart grow fonder.
Day 341, Year 5 An Ancient Baobab, A Baby Lemur
Date: Saturday, October 2, 2010
Weather: So Beautiful; Winds SE am, NW pm
Location: Moramba Bay, NW Madagascar
Today was one of those crystal clear blue sky days that you would like to bottle and open on a dreary, cold, rainy day. I got up at 5:30 am to watch the sun rise and to hopefully see the birds on the nearby limestone islands come to life. And just like clockwork, they did. The sun came up and all of sudden the parrots were squawking and flying away in pairs and the black and the white Dimorphic Egrets were shaking out their wings and flying off for a day of hunting. The winds were blowing from the SE which was just about the direction we wanted to go in order to cross the bay and get to the sacred island our Rotary friend Wendy told us about. But my theory was that if we waited until 10:30, the SE winds would calm down. And sure enough, it happened that way. So we dinghied the three miles across to the sacred island. It is called sacred because there are many caves there where the Sakalava people bury their dead. For the Sakalava, it is fady (not kosher) for pigs to walk over a grave, and since there are African wild boars on the mainland, the islands are the only retreat. Probably only the most influential make it to this remote island, but we’ll never know as we didn’t visit any of the caves. We have heard that it is fady, basically forbidden to do this. So instead, we put our energy into finding the reported 2,000 year-old African baobab on the island. Without Wendy’s directions we would never have found it, but how exciting it was to see this tree with a girth of almost 50 feet. We walked around the tree counter-clockwise which we have heard brings good luck and at our height it measured 42.5 feet around. But it was actually bottle-shaped and bigger around further up, thus my estimate of 50 feet. While we were during this, our son Justin and his wife Jo and Ziggy were walking through the Redwood giants in California. We’ve been there and both experiences are overwhelming.
The wind completely died while we were on the sacred island so we had a good trip back across. We headed for Momma Lemur beach where we had seen so many lemurs when we were here before and a couple of them had wee babies. We were so looking forward to seeing them six weeks older. But were we ever in for a shock. We landed the dinghy and saw no sign of lemurs. Since they had usually been in the trees right on the beach we were a bit surprised. So we started walking back to the places where we had seen them when they weren’t on the beach and we saw that all of the bamboo forest had turned brown. At first we attributed that to dry weather, but then we saw the evidence of burning. The whole hillside above the beach had been burned and there were paths of burning all around the trees where they lemurs used to hang out. The paths were so controlled that it looked like someone walked around dripping gasoline and then lighting the area, and then someone else came along behind with sand and threw it on the fire to put it out. We went to the next beach where we had seen juvenile lemurs and found the same thing. The only burning on that beach was back around the tree where the juveniles used to hang out. We were greatly saddened, fearing that someone had started the fires to burn out the lemurs in order to catch them. Later in the afternoon we went back to the beach near where we are anchored and found the lemurs there and actually saw a mother with her baby. We were so excited. We can only hope that the other lemurs escaped the fire and found safety in a new home. At least the lemurs on Big Baobab beach are alive and well and so beautiful.
We talked to our daughter Heather late in the afternoon to continue our quick call on her birthday morning. She had a great birthday and Sam told us all about his monster truck-his favorite toy at the moment. Jonah kisses the phone and makes the Dinah Shore kissing sound of “mmumwah” and then says “bye.” How much he has grown up since this time last year.
Day 340, Year 5 Nosy Lava to Fantasy Land
Date: Friday, October 1, 2010
Weather: Beautiful, Sunny Day; Winds ESE 15 to 25
Latitude: 14 53.567 S
Longitude: 047 19.868 E
Location: Moramba Bay, NW Madagascar
We are back in one of our very favorite Madagascar anchorages–Moramba Bay. This place will certainly be in Windbird’s Top 10 anchorages in our voyage around the world. The only thing it doesn’t have is snorkeling, but the thing no other anchorage in the world has is beautiful Coquerel’s Safika lemurs hanging from the trees and limestone tsingy on the beaches along with seven of the eight types of baobabs in the world punctuating the scenery. Add to that the mushroom-shaped limestone karst islets dotting the waters and you have a definite winner. We were braver this time and brought Windbird in to anchor among the little limestone islets dotted with baobabs. We can hear constant bird sounds and watch the Sacred Ibis, Vasa Parrots, and Dimorphic Egrets landing in the trees on the islet just behind us and the slightly larger island in front of us. It is spectacular. And our trip here was spectacular because we didn’t have to motor. We are trying to conserve as much fuel as possible for the thousand mile trip across the Mozambique Channel to South Africa, so this forty-two mile sailing day contributed to the cause. We did start off motoring for the first hour to charge the batteries and get around the top of Nosy Lava, but after that we sailed for seven straight hours which was great even though it was a bit rowdy at times. We were on a beam reach all day starting out with 20 to 25 knots of wind and then settling into 15 to 20 knots with higher gusts. It was a good day and Constance caught a huge Yellowfin Tuna today and we are having some of that for dinner. The other part will be chilled for sushi tomorrow night. Our stay here will be short this time as we must continue our trek south, but we will enjoy every minute of it.
Day 339, Year 5 Happy Birthday, Heather!
Date: Thursday, September 30, 2010
Weather: Sunny Day; Winds E 5 – NNW 15-20 – NE 10
Latitude: 14 32.628 S
Longitude: 047 37.150 E
Location: Nosy Lava, NW Madagascar
Thirty-five years ago today our daughter Heather was born. My but the years pass quickly. This afternoon just before we sailed out of cell range we called to wish her a happy birthday. It was 8 am and she was leaving in twenty minutes, so the timing was perfect. We only talked long enough to wish her a happy birthday as we know how busy those morning minutes are when you are getting ready to go to work and are trying to get two little ones ready to go as well. We didn’t even find out if she has any special birthday plans. So Heather, whatever the plans, enjoy your special day!
Our day started when the alarm went off at 4:45 am. We had planned to leave at 5 am but it was still too dark. So we delayed the anchor up time by fifteen minutes and the sun cooperated. When we got out of the bay we had virtually no wind coming from the E, so we motor sailed for the first five hours of the day. Mid-morning the wind picked up to 7-10 knots on the beam and we had a good sail. And then around noon the wind picked up to 15-20. We had a great sail for the next four hours. When we had no wind we changed our destination to a closer island but when the winds picked up we changed course for our original destination of Nosy Lava which made it a 55 mile day. Mark was kept busy putting up the pole to sail wing and wing and then taking it down as the wind moved around and then putting it back up again, but all in all it was a great sailing day with less time spent motoring than many of our jaunts recently. Tomorrow we have 40 miles to go to get to Moramba Bay but that won’t require such an early start. And who knows where the wind will be coming from tomorrow. The net controller on the South African Maritime Mobile Net tells us our winds seem to go in circles here in Madagascar. And that is certainly true. The only problem is that it doesn’t start coming from the same direction any two days in row recently, so making sailing plans is a bit difficult.
It was a bread baking day for me, banana bread as well as multi-grain, and I did a fair bit of reading about South Africa. I used the Lonely Planet to start figuring out the costs of visiting the game parks and it isn’t cheap. A tent on a platform with an attached bathroom and separate kitchenette costs about $45 US per person per night. We might get by a bit cheaper, but not much. But I guess that’s not a bad price for staying right in the park where we’ll see the Big 5-buffalo, elephants, leopards, lions, and rhino. But we have to get there first, so back to the sailing plans.
Day 338, Year 5 Pink Quartz Agates
Date: Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Weather: Sunny, Clear Day; Winds NW
Location: Baramahamay Bay (Honey River), NW Madagascar
The big find of the day was a beach with beautiful little pink quartz agates. After a morning of cleaning the boat waterline and the area around the tail pipe that always has a little black from exhaust fumes around it, doing more computer spreadsheet planning for our trip down the coast of Madagascar, and finishing the naming of the last underwater photos, we took off in the dinghy for an explore. We picked up Ed and Lynne and went over to the honey village. We left the dinghy there and walked along the beach out toward the point at the entrance to the bay. It was low tide so we were able to walk most of the way to the point. All along the way there were the most beautiful little pink quartz agates. I had everyone collecting them for me. Lynne asked what I was going to do with them and I had to respond by saying that I have no idea. But I’m sure I’ll find some sort of decorative use for them. Or maybe grandchildren can just use them to sort. Whatever, I just had to take this little bit of Madagascar with me. We also saw some beautiful sandstone rocks along the shore that were partly eroded in the most unusual patterns.
Tomorrow we have a long sailing day down to Nosy Lava. We will up anchor at 5:00 am and be on our way. On our way we will pass Nosy Valiha where there is a cell tower. If it is late enough in the day, we’ll try to call our daughter Heather to wish her a happy birthday. As we walked this afternoon, Lynne and I talked about this cruising season being the toughest either of us has had in terms of not being able to go home to see family. And it really is hard. We are seeing fantastic things and meeting wonderful people, but there is no place like home. And we have nine more months before we will be home. Sigh. Deep breathe. I’m sure the 10,000 miles of sailing we have to do between now and then will take much of the time, but if we had wings, we’d certainly be flying home between now and then to see family and friends.
Tonight we watched a gorgeous sunset. Ed and Lynne swear they saw the green flash last night, but there was no green flash tonight. The sun looked like it was on fire as it set, so that was good enough without the flash.
Day 337, Year 5 Staying for Another Day in Honey River
Date: Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Weather: Same, Same-Rain Overnight, Cloudy Early, Sunny, Clear Day
Location: Baramahamay Bay (Honey River), NW Madagascar
We had a quiet day until late afternoon. At 2:30 pm we listened to the weathers on the South African Maritime Mobile Net. The net controller, Graham, says we are going to have winds from the SW tomorrow and the next day and that is exactly the direction in which we are headed. If the winds are actually from the SW, Ed has come up with a plan to sail out to sea and then tack back in so we could use the winds instead of bashing into them. We went to the “honey” village in the late afternoon to take two huge bags of glass and plastic containers that we have emptied over the last few months. We have been giving them away a bit at a time, but we decided that it was time to get rid of all of them. The villagers were delighted to get them as well as a bag of old clothing and I was delighted to get another two wine bottles full of local honey. It is a very light honey but it makes the tastiest granola ever. On our way to the village we saw that Armelle T had come in and anchored, and Dream Catcher and Muneera were looking for a space to anchor when we got back. All of these boats are headed to South Africa and I think all three are staying here tomorrow, so we have decided to do the same. I told you this trip south was going to be mora, mora, and it is certainly starting out that way.
We got emails from both of our kids this morning. Justin, Jo, and Ziggy are on the road again. They are now in California. They were finally able to get the bus started after letting it run out of fuel, but they are hoping that bio-diesel will be easier to find in California and Oregon. We also heard from our daughter Heather and her email prompted a flurry of Caribbean research. She and Jed are thinking that Brazil is just too expensive and too many hours of travel with two little ones, so now we are trying to find a spot that they might join us in the Caribbean. In order to do that we needed to get our tentative sailing schedule set up so they will know where we will be when. That took all morning but we are feeling really good about getting the next cruising season planned out now so we won’t have to think about it until time to leave South Africa. I have a feeling once we get to South Africa we are going to be very busy with inland travel to game parks and boat work that needs to be done. Not to mention the weather watching we will have to do to find our windows of opportunity for doing small hops down the coast to Cape Town.
Since we are here for another day, we hope to go back to the honey village, leave our dinghy there, and walk out to the beach at the entrance to the bay to look for quartz agates that we have heard are there. That plus an afternoon of baking bread are the big plans for tomorrow.