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.
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.