Day 351, Year 5 Arrival in the Barren Islands

Day 351, Year 5 Arrival in the Barren Islands
Date: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Weather: Some Clouds Early, Then Clear, Winds 0 to WNW 12-14
Latitude: 18 29.570 S
Longitude: 43 48.445 E
Location: Nosy Androtara, Barren Islands, W Madagascar

Passage Statistics:
233 miles in 2 days 7.25 hours (55 hours 15 minutes)
Sailing Hours-22 hrs 05 minutes
Motor Sailing Hours-33 hours 10 minutes
Average Speed- 4.2 Knots

Motor, motor, motor was the way it was for the last twenty hours of the passage. We turned the engine just after dinner last night and didn’t turn it off until we anchored this afternoon around 2 pm. The winds did finally come up in the last two hours of the passage but they were light and directly behind us so we just motored on. Constance was about ten miles behind us and they were able to sail the last hour or so, but then when they tried to start their motor to come into the anchorage, it wouldn’t start. Ed thinks the solenoid in the starter just got too hot from too many hours of motoring and that once everything cools down, it will start again. Let’s hope his theory is correct. Pieter and Carla on Odulphus certainly made the right decision to come down the coast and anchor at night when there is no wind. They will get here in a couple of days and then we will regroup and get ready for the passage across the Mozambique Channel. In the meantime, we will enjoy the Barren Islands. This is a group of six islands. None of the islands is very big. They are just patches of sand with scrub and sometimes casuarinas. All are surrounded by coral and the snorkeling is reported to be good. So as soon as we got here, we launched the dinghy, drove it toward the coral bank that slopes up to the shore, and then jumped in the water and drifted with the current over the coral garden. It wasn’t spectacular but the water was crystal clear and very warm. There was certainly a lot of coral but it was not particularly colorful, mostly staghorn. We saw no large fish, but a nice array of smaller fish. And the water felt wonderful. The water temperature here is 85 degrees F so we didn’t even wear our dive skins. Tomorrow we will go out to the reef at low tide and try snorkeling there. There is a fisherman’s camp here which we can’t see from this side of the island, but at low tide we could see the men walking the reef and there are at least two small pirogues that kept sailing in and out. Maybe we will make it to shore tomorrow to check out the camp. Other than temporary fishing camps, however, all of the islands are uninhabited. On Thursday we will probably move to another anchorage where we will be close enough to dinghy to Nosy Lava. This island doesn’t have a good anchorage but is reported to have a “treasure trove of rare and beautiful shells.” We’ll certainly have to check that out.

Day 350, Year 5 Passage to the Barren Islands, Day 2

Day 350, Year 5 Passage to the Barren Islands, Day 2
Date: Monday, October 11, 2010
Weather: Partly Sunny, Winds Backing10-12
Latitude: 17 01.886 S
Longitude: 43 39.937 E
Miles to Go: 99

What a beautiful, calm day of sailing we have had today. There are no seas to speak of and the wind has stayed between ten to fifteen knots just behind the beam. We can see nothing but ocean in any direction. We passed a number of well lit fishing boats just off Cape St. Andre last night, but other than that we have only seen a couple of birds and the little white triangle on the horizon that is Constance. These are the kind of days that make you want to sail forever. This day will end but the memory of such a peaceful passage day will linger. Tonight we will once again have light winds and will have to motor for a few hours before the wind returns. For most of the day yesterday and today the winds have been from the NW, but as the sun dips lower in the sky in late afternoon the winds move counter-clockwise from NW to SW to SE by 3 am and then to NE in the early morning. Then around 10:30 am we get the NW wind which is perfect for our sail south. Yesterday we made the decision to change our destination from a straight run across the Mozambique Channel to Richards Bay to go south along Madagascar’s west coast to the Barren Islands. This was always in the plans if the weather didn’t look good for continuing across the Channel and now we know we want to pull in and wait for predicted high seas to settle before continuing on. So the ‘Miles to Go’ have changed dramatically since yesterday from more than a 1,000 miles to Richards Bay to just under a 100 miles to the Barrens. Constance is still sailing with us but since Odulphus stopped for the night along the coast they will be a day or more behind us depending on whether they continue to stop each night.

Day 349, Year 5 101010 and 1111

Day 349, Year 5 101010 and 1111
Date: Sunday, October 10, 2010
Weather: Another Clear Day, Winds 10 Knots NNW
Latitude: 16 02.984 S
Longitude: 44 36.714 E
Miles to Go: 1067

The Captain’s Log entry this morning reflected the date of 10/10/10 with 1111 miles to go to Richards Bay. I’m taking all of these 1’s and 0’s to be a good omen and as I write this log we have been out 11 hours and traveled 44. It has not been a fast day, but we were able to sail. The winds are coming from the NNW and we are headed W, so we have been tight on the wind all day. We are currently 10 miles from the tip of Cape St. Andre, the western most point in Madagascar, and from there we head south down the west coast of Madagascar. Constance is a couple of miles ahead of us and Odulphus has stopped on the coast to spend the night in anticipation of light winds tonight. We made the decision to travel on but we might be motoring, so we are already regretting the decision. But we’ll live with it. We rounded Cape St. Ambre at the tippy-top of Madagascar on June 12th, almost four months ago, and tonight we will round Cape St. Andre and head south. We now know that we will be making a stop in the Barren Islands on Madagascar’s west coast instead of heading directly to Richards Bay. A cold front is headed north from South Africa and will bring strong south winds and heavy seas. At least that is today’s forecast and the weather gurus we check-in with on the radio each day are saying stopping in the Barren’s is a good idea. We’ll be there on Tuesday and just have to wait and see how many days we will have to stay before traveling on. But no worries. There is supposed to be great snorkeling there, so we’ll have lots of fun while waiting. From there Richards Bay is a six or seven day sail, so we should be there sometime next week. I’m betting we stay in the Barrens until Saturday and will be in Richards Bay the following Friday, October 22. That’s Lynne’s birthday and the 23rd is Ed and Carla’s birthday. So we’ll have many reasons to celebrate once we arrive.

Last night we did get to talk to our son Justin. Justin, Jo, and Ziggy were in restaurant having lunch and we didn’t get to talk to Jo or Ziggy, but they are back in California headed for Los Angeles. They play there and then head on to Prescott, Arizona, for the last performance before returning to New Mexico. They are having a great time and love traveling in the bus. I can’t wait to see a photo of it. Jo painted it right before they left and all Justin said is, “You know there is never anything subtle about Jo’s painting.” Mark did some stainless polishing today and I continued to work on naming photos. I am now back to photos in VOW’s Year 3 that never got named and put on the website. Today I visited the three beautiful crater lakes of Kelimutu on Flores Island in Indonesia. Tomorrow I get to revisit Gili Air in Lombok. In between naming photos, I read the Lonely Planet for South Africa and make notes for our travels there. Mark’s reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about Abraham Lincoln, The Team of Rivals. He’s loving it and I’ll know everything in the book by the time he is done as he just can’t keep from saying, “Did you know . . . ?”

Day 348, Year 5 Leaving Tomorrow, Wind or No Wind

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.

101007 Day 348 Baly Bay, Madagascar–Village Visit and HH on Constance

Day 347, Year 5 Stuck in Baly Bay

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.

101008 Day 347 Baly Bay, Madagascar–Beach Walk and Evening Fun

Day 346, Year 5 Village Visit

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.