Day 336, Year 5 Mora, Mora (slowly, slowly)
Date: Monday, September 27, 2010
Weather: Dark Clouds Early, Clearing to Sunny Skies; Wind NW 10
Latitude: 13 42.778 S
Longitude: 047 54.102E
Location: Baramahamay Bay, NW Madagascar
We have started our trek south but we will be going “mora, mora”-the Madagascar phrase that means slowly, slowly as that is the way of life here. We are going mora, mora trying to bide time until mid-October which should be a better time for crossing the Mozambique Channel to South Africa’s east coast. That passage will take anywhere from seven to ten days depending on where we start across. So for the next two weeks we will just meander down the Madagascar coast. Tonight we are back in Baramahamay Bay which is known locally as Honey River. The chief of the village on the south side of the bay sells local honey, thus the name. Tomorrow we will visit that village to buy honey and visit the village on the north side to try and see the school there with children in it. Children have been on winter vacation since we arrived in Madagascar and I’d love to see a school alive with children before leaving here.
On Saturday I wrote “one more snorkeling day” but it ends up that we had two more snorkeling days. We snorkeled yesterday morning before John’s birthday party and on our way south today, we reached a small island that has a mooring that you can pick up for a short period of time. We got to snorkel what cruisers call Passage Island and others call it the Italian Island as there is a resort owned by an Italian on the island. The reason for the nicknames is that the real name of the island is impossible to pronounce. It is Nosy Ankazoberavina, thus Passage Island. The only thing on the island is the resort and Private Property signs are posted on the land and there was even one on a float in the water! That’s a new one on me. We had been able to sail in the early morning but then the wind totally died. So when we reached the island it was the perfect time to stop and snorkel while waiting for the afternoon wind to pick up. We took the dinghy around a rocky point, anchored it, and snorkeled against the tide so we would have a free ride back to the dinghy. At first we thought we had been misled by our good friends who told us about the amazing snorkeling at this spot. Both Ed and Lynne on Constance and Bruce, Nadine, and Tristen on Pioneer had great snorkeling experiences then. Just about the time we were ready to give up, we saw why they have raved about it. The Bluebarred Parrotfish (Scarus ghobban) and Snubnose Pompanos (Trachinotus blochii) were HUMONGOUS. Both were more than two feet in length and that is just about their maximum size. Usually what we see is half that size or even smaller. And there were hundreds of False Moorish Idols (Heniochus diphreutes), huge Ringtail Surgeonfish (Acanthurus blochii) and Yellowfin Surgeonfish (Acanthurus xanthopterus), and even one Palate Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus), a spectacular fish we have only seen previously in the Komodos in Indonesia. This is a bright blue fish with a darker blue design on its body that looks like an artist’s palette topped off with a bright yellow tail. And then we saw the prize of the day. Swimming along on the sand below us was a moray eel longer than either of us. It was the color of the sand with tiny speckles all over. We aren’t sure what species, but we think it might have been a Laced Moray (Gymnothorax favaineus). Whatever it was, it was quite a treat to swim along with it. As it led us to shallower water, however, we backed off not wanting it to feel cornered. That ended a very successful snorkel. We won’t have another chance until southern Madagascar (if we get that far south before crossing), so the snorkeling gear is drying is will be stored for the next couple of weeks.
Just after we left Nosy Ankazoberavina the cell phone rang. It was John back at Sakatia Towers wanting to thank us once again for our birthday gift to him. We had ninety-nine underwater photos from Sakatia snorkeling forays copied at the Kodak shop in Hell-ville and put them in a photo album for him to share with his guests. The photo album was a quite a hit and John and Heidi really appreciated it. It made us a bit homesick to get a call from John but we were so glad to hear from him. We are out of cell phone range now and will be for a few days, so he called just in time.
Day 335, Year 5 Happy Birthday to Commodore John
Date: Sunday, September 26, 2010
Weather: Beautiful Day
Location: Nosy Sakatia, NW Madagascar
We were told when we arrived in Madagascar that there is no yacht club here. But that is not correct. John at Sakatia Towers on Nosy Sakatia has an anchorage area and his Sakatia Towers deck offers a haven for sailors. So we are calling the deck the Sakatia Yacht Club and have christened John as the Commodore. He is a center of information for sailors and has become a good friend. Today was his 47th birthday and we spent the afternoon on the deck with many friends. Joanne, Wendy, and Manfred from the Rotary Club were there as well as other friends from around Nosy Be that we had not met before. And there were the cruisers from the anchorage. So we had a festive afternoon with a great lunch provided by John as his birthday gift to us. It was hard to say farewell at the end of the day, but after being in and out of here for three months, it is time to move on. We will be forever grateful to John for his hospitality and somehow I keep thinking that our paths will cross again sometime in the future. But for now we must say farewell . Thank you, John, and to all of your staff for making our stay here so comfortable.
Day 334, Year 5 One More Snorkeling Day
Date: Saturday, September 25, 2010
Weather: Rain Overnight, Beautiful Day
Location: Nosy Sakatia, NW Madagascar
It was a Sakatia happening this morning out in the channel. An hour before low tide, Mark took Peppe of Far Niente and me out and dropped us off. He then went to get John and Heidi from Sakatia Towers. John came with Mark, but Heidi swam all the way out. Ed and Lynne of Constance joined us, so we had a great group snorkel. One person would call out, “Octopus over here.” And then someone else would call out, “Nudibranch over here.” And then someone would call out, “Starfish here.” So we were zigzagging all over the place looking at great sea life. We snorkeled for almost two hours. Mark and I were on a mission to see the strange fish that we have seen in this area twice. It has a head that looks a little like a black and white polka-dotted grouper with a motley-designed red body. I did see it again momentarily and then we saw a much smaller fish that had the same black and white polka-dotted pattern all over its greenish body. It sits on the coral in the same manner as the larger fish and we wonder if it is the juvenile stage. I again searched the fish identification book and the closest thing I can come up with is some sort of scorpion fish. We’ll try one more time tomorrow to make a positive identification. We saw the same Nudibranch that we have seen before, but the two we saw today were slightly smaller. Mark and I differ on the size, but I would say that both were about the size of his whole thumb. He thinks they were smaller. A nudibranch is like a very colorful flat snail without a shell. The ones we saw today were black with patches of baby blue that have bright yellow tips. If I have identified it correctly its scientific name is Phyllidia varicosa. I enjoyed following what I think are Blue-and-Yellow Snapper which are neon blue with a bright yellow zone all across the top. They are about eight inches long, bullet-shaped, and just stunning. We also saw a lot of a fish I call a Smiling Gregory. They are just five-inch long black oval fish with a wide white stripe down the center and a thin horizontal white stripe forward that looks like a mouth. They do look like they are smiling. We’ll snorkel the channel one more time tomorrow and make sure the image stabilizer is ON in the underwater camera. Many of the photos from the past two days have been out of focus and when we checked the camera after today’s snorkel we discovered the problem. We still have some good photos, but not as many as we should. Electronics!
Tomorrow we will celebrate John’s (owner of Sakatia Towers) forty-seventh birthday up on the deck. He is providing lunch for a huge crowd of friends and we are invited to join in the celebration. It is going to be very hard to say our goodbyes at the end of the birthday party, but we must move on. We leave on Monday morning for ports south and then west.
We talked to our children this evening. Justin, Jo, and Ziggy should have been in Reno last night for a Silvermouse performance, but the ‘bus’ ran out of bio-diesel in a small town south of Reno and they have not be able to get it started. Mechanics are working on it, but they had to cancel the Friday night performance in Reno but are still hoping to make the Portland, Oregon performance. We’ll just have to stay tuned and see what happens with the bus. Heather, Jed, Jonah, and Sam are doing fine. Jonah is so funny. Whatever Sam says to us on the phone, Jonah repeats. So we heard “Love You” in Jonahese over and over. It is fall on Cape Cod and the weather is turning cool. We will be there this time next year and I’m wondering if I will survive the cool turning to cold weather.
Day 333, Year 5 Two More Snorkeling Days
Date: Friday, September 24, 2010
Weather: Partly Cloudy and Humid
Location: Nosy Sakatia, NW Madagascar
Humid. How can it be humid in the dry season in Madagascar? I have no way of knowing that it is for sure, but after complaining about being hot all day when it is really not all that hot, I finally figured it out. The air has been so dry for so long that we’ve forgotten what it feels like when it is humid. It didn’t help that I was baking all afternoon again, but now we have lots of food in the fridge ready for the passage south.
We went snorkeling this morning with Ed and Lynne of Constance. We only have tomorrow and Sunday left, so we are cramming in every second of snorkeling that we can. The water clarity on the reef near the shore was not all that clear today, but it was clear enough to finally get photos of the Emperor and Semicircle Angelfishes. The Emperor is so beautiful with its vivid shades of blue, yellow, and white and the Semicircles we saw today were juveniles turning into an adult and it was just so special to see it. We are enjoying watching something called a Vermitid that is a type of mollusk. This creature lives in a tube-shaped shell that looks a bit like an empty toilet paper roll and it casts a mucous net to catch its food. Fascinating. We saw a new fish variety, something that always happens when we snorkel here, and then we went out in the channel in search of the magical spot we discovered last week. We found the huge pink Gorgonian fan coral, saw a gorgeous olive green reef stingray with vivid blue spots, a lionfish, and another Semicircle Angelfish all in one spot. And then I ran off with the camera trying to capture the beauty in a video when I saw the same strange fish that Mark saw last week. It has a big fat white head thickly dotted with black dots and slowly changes to a splotchy red body. And it literally just disappears as soon as you see it. Mark got a photo last week and then the fish vanished. I stopped the video mode on the camera today, pushed the photo button, and got a long-distance photo and then it vanished again. We showed Ed and Lynne the photos this afternoon and we are all going on a mission tomorrow to try and get a better look at this strange fish. The gorgeous gray Protoreaster linckii sea star with bright red designs and spikes is also in abundance out in the channel as are the bright orange Anthias females and the fushia-colored males and all of this together makes the channel a very special place to snorkel. We couldn’t identify the sea star last week but since then I have found it on the web and attached its scientific name. By the time we got out in the channel today the tide was flowing fast to the south, so tomorrow we will go out there first and hope for calmer conditions. When we snorkeled there on Monday of last week, Bruce, Nadine, and Tristen of Pioneer were out there. They are now home in South Africa, but Nadine, if you happen to be reading this log, just know that we’re enjoying the snorkeling for you and taking as many photos as we can to share with you when we see you in Cape Town. We’ll be out there again in the morning trying to catch the tides just right.
Day 332, Year 5 Back Home at Sakatia
Date: Thursday, September 23, 2010
Weather: Yet Another Beautiful, Sunny Day
Location: Nosy Sakatia, NW Madagascar
We are back in the Sakatia Towers anchorage and ready for our trip to South Africa. Our first order of business, however, is to enjoy every last minute while here. We invited John and his wife Heidi from Sakatia Towers to come to Windbird for dinner tonight and we also invited Lynne and Ed of Constance. Mark and I went up to the Sakatia Towers deck to have a beer with John while Heidi did her last afternoon swim and then we took them out to Windbird where Ed and Lynne joined us. We had a great evening watching the full moon rise. This is our fourth full moon in Madagascar and our next should be on our passage to South Africa.
While Mark and Ed completed the check out procedure this morning, I walked the streets of Hell-ville trying to capture the feel of the town by clicking away on my camera. Hell-ville is a kicky little town with so many different nationalities thrown into the mix. I did my last shopping, sent some post cards, and then met Mark and Ed on the wharf where we headed back out to our boats. We said our last goodbyes to the Hell-ville boat boys-Julian, Johnny, and Romero. And off we went.
Our hope for tomorrow is to snorkel along the headlands and try to get photos of the elusive angelfish that we see there, and then we will head out into the channel where we saw such fantastic sights during the new moon low tide. We’ll do the same on Saturday and then celebrate John’s birthday on Sunday before heading south on Monday morning.
Day 331, Year 5 Shopping Day in Hell-ville
Date: Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Weather: Another Beautiful, Sunny Day
Location: Hell-ville, Nosy Be, NW Madagascar
Shopping for the next month was not as easy as I had hoped. There was no cheese that we could afford at the super marche and the vegetables at the market today were not the best. And there was no whole meal flour at the super marche. We’ll be fine, but it made shopping difficult. When Mark and Ed go in tomorrow to check out, I am going to go with them and make one more run through town looking for cheese and green peppers. I’m also going to take my camera and just sit and take photos of people on the street. Mark noted today that people here wear the most “interesting” garb and somehow they look great in it. If you saw the same people on the street in the US it just wouldn’t work, but here where zebu carts haul goods up and down the streets, things just look different. We have all the fuel we can carry, most of the food we need, and hopefully by noon tomorrow we will have completed the check-out formalities and will head back to Nosy Sakatia to snorkel in the low, low full moon tides before heading south.
I got online this morning and checked our daughter’s new blog for the latest news in climate and oceans. She had posted an article today about the extremely warm season we have all just come through and how the higher temperatures are affecting the coral reefs around the world. In 1998 coral in many parts of the world was bleached. We have seen the re-growth of new coral in these areas during our circumnavigation and that was exciting, but unfortunately 2010 could be worse than 1998. Sadness doeth prevail.
Our son Justin and his wife Jo and son Ziggy are currently headed from New Mexico to Nevada for the first stop on their fall music tour. They bought a bus (like an old Greyhound) that they have outfitted for travel. On Sunday when we talked to Jo she was furiously painting the outside of the bus and getting ready for take-off on Monday morning. They made it to Las Vegas last night, so Reno here they come.