Day 354, Year 5 The Troops Are Gathering

Day 354, Year 5 The Troops Are Gathering
Date: Friday, October 15, 2010
Weather: Clear Day, Winds NNW 0-7 am, NW 12-15 pm
Location: Nosy Andrano, Barren Islands, W Madagascar

This anchorage is growing with boats headed to South Africa. Roland and Judine on Samarcande left today, but Nora Simrod, Odulphus and Dream Catcher arrived. Nora Simrod is a multiple-owner time-share boat. We saw this boat in Cochin or Chagos, can’t remember which, but with a different crew. Right now there is a Norwegian captain and crew onboard and they are headed to Richards Bay. Dream Catcher is a South African catamaran that we know well and tonight Odulphus, Constance, and Windbird gathered on Dream Catcher to talk about the passage to Richards Bay. Dream Catcher has sailed the African coast from Richards Bay to Mozambique and back a couple of times, but this will be their first time crossing from Madagascar to Africa. Barry had a wealth of information to share and confirmed that he has always used BUOY WEATHER to do his routing up and down the East African coast and has found it to be spot on within a four-day period. He shared with us how he orders detailed reports. Now that we are back on Windbird, Mark is at work on the computer ordering more BUOY reports. Until we get those reports back we will not make a decision on what we are doing tomorrow. We are back to making the decision of whether or not to go as we have conflicting weather reports. Hopefully the more detailed reports that Barry suggested we order will help make the decision.

We spent our morning taking the dinghy over to Nosy Lava and walking the beach. There is a huge fishing camp over there-looks more like a village. Evidently Japanese fishing boats come in and buy the fish, mostly shark, from the fishermen. We had to dinghy half-way around the island in order to find a suitable place to land the dinghy as the waves were rolling in. We found a spot on the western side of the island and then had a nice walk along the shore looking for shells. The East Africa Pilot says that there is a “treasure trove of rare shells” on Nosy Lava, but that is not what we found. Maybe the people in the fishing village make the rounds and pick up the shells at low tide. We arrived closer to high tide and did find some shells, but no treasures. Still it was a wonderful walk along a white sand beach with beautiful turquoise water providing a beautiful view. I often wonder how much we are going to miss such beautiful, tropical islands when we return home. I’m taking lots of photos and guess I’ll just have to survive on the memories. There’s only one thing more beautiful than these islands and that is grandchildren. And we’re hoping to see lots of them once we return.

101005 Day 354– Down the Madagascar Coast to Baly Bay

Day 353, Year 5 Nosy Androtara to Nosy Andrano

Day 353, Year 5 Nosy Androtara to Nosy Andrano
Date: Thursday, October 14, 2010
Weather: Clear Day, Winds W 5 in am, 16 in pm
Latitude: 18 33.079 S
Longitude: 43 54.183 E
Location: Nosy Andrano, Barren Islands, W Madagascar

We did move today, but only seven miles. But before moving, we spent the entire morning continuing to study the various weather reports. What a tedious job and we don’t know any more than we did this morning. We played out scenarios leaving today, tomorrow morning, and Saturday morning, and none of the three options really worked because of some strong W and SW winds coming in a couple of days out in the Mozambique Channel. Soooooo, this job continues. Another complication is that we don’t seem to have good radio reception here. We have not been able to get a clear report from either South African net since arriving here. We don’t know if we are in a skip zone (simply a dead spot where the transmissions skip over) or if weather conditions have just made for bad propagation. Mark is receiving new BUOY WEATHER reports right now via email and we will take another look at those. All we have decided is not to leave today. Who knows about tomorrow? We did talk to Odulphus and they plan to arrive here tomorrow. Maybe getting the heads of three captains together will be better than two. Ed and Lynne did decide to not to leave today, but they are still holding out hope for tomorrow morning. This whole process of looking for a weather window could drive a person crazy. It has made this feel like the longest day of the year.

We left Nosy Androtara and sailed the seven miles to Nosy Andrano around noon. We just put up the headsail and had a delightful slow sail across. I had hoped to dinghy over to another island, Nosy Lava, to walk the beach at low tide, but it is about three miles and very windy so it would be a bouncy, wet dinghy ride. We have decided to go over early in the morning when there is no wind. Low tide is at 9 am so we will leave here just after the 8 am net. Even if we are going to leave tomorrow morning, we’ll have time to do this first. When we got to Nosy Andrano were a bit surprised to find two very new looking dhows at anchor right where we had hoped to put the hook down. Constance and Samancande also sailed over, so this tiny little island now has five boats at anchor. Roland explained the people on this island are brought out here from the mainland to dig sand out of the middle of the island and then carry the 60 kilo (120 pound) bags down to the beach to be loaded on the boats. The sand is used for construction but there is so much sand along the mainland coast, I can’t figure out why they have to take it from this tiny island. Maybe it has some special properties. Evidently the local workers are brought out here for three months, taken back to the mainland for one week off, and then back out again. Roland says the pay is very low and the working conditions are not the best so he calls it Slave Island. He and Judine came by Windbird on their way to shore this afternoon. Roland asked if we had any old men’s clothing that we could send in for the men. Well, all of the men’s clothing on this boat is old, but when its all you’ve got you can’t afford to give too much away. But we managed to find a couple of pair of well-worn shorts and a couple of shirts that Mark hasn’t worn in five years. I figure that makes them ‘donatable.’ Then when Roland came back he was looking for an antibiotic for a one-year old that has a huge abscess on the side of her face and for eye drops for a man who can’t open his eye. After a search that has our aft bathroom and bed looking like a cyclone hit, I did find an antibiotic that can be given to a baby and some cleansing eye drops. When Roland and Judine came over to get the things they brought with them what looked like the whole Malagash fleet. There were four pirogues full of men and young boys. The man with the swollen eye was in one canoe and Judine gave him directions for the eye drops. The father of the baby with the abscess was also in that pirogue and Judine gave him specific directions for giving the antibiotic along with water and crackers I was giving him for the baby. Evidently these people have almost no drinking water. I just hope that what we were able to give helps the baby.

Day 352, Year 5 Weather, Whether

Day 352, Year 5 Weather, Whether
Date: Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Weather: Clear Day, Winds NNW 5 in am, 12-14 in pm
Location: Nosy Androtara, Barren Islands, W Madagascar

The ‘weather’ dominated our day as we tried to figure out ‘whether’ to leave tomorrow or next day or the next. We use GRIB reports and BUOY WEATHER reports that we get in via email along with the weather we get from the Peri-Peri Net at 8 am and 6 pm each day and the South African Maritime Mobile Net weather we get each day at 2:30 pm. It is quite complicated to try and compare all of these different sources and figure out what the weather will be like at various points along the way. And from this far out, it is virtually impossible to predict what the winds will be like in Richards Bay by the time we get there. So right now I don’t know when we will leave. It’s looking like tomorrow or Friday would be a good choice, but Odulphus is not here yet and won’t be until Friday or Saturday. And we had really hoped to move to another island tomorrow and explore there. So more studying and comparing will happen tonight and Mark and Ed will have to come to an agreement on what to do. Hopefully we will have made a decision by this time tomorrow night.

In the meantime, we enjoyed another great snorkel this afternoon. The coral here is mostly staghorn and there is certainly lots of it. But it is not particularly colorful. But the water is clear and we enjoyed the fish. There are not very many big fish as I think the men in the fishing camp do a thorough job of catching those, but the small fish were abundant and beautiful. We saw the first Powderblue Surgeonfish we have seen since Chagos and the array of colorful wrasses was quite impressive. We saw a number of male and female Bridled Parrotfish which are also quite beautiful and I saw three species of fish I have never seen before. So I call that a successful snorkel.

Another boat came in today, Samarcande, with Roland and Judine aboard. Roland is French but has been sailing in the Indian Ocean for the past few years and Judine is Malagasy from Nosy Be. They came over late this afternoon and we had a nice time sharing sailing adventures. Samarcande is heading much further south along Madagascar’s west coast before heading straight for Cape Town. Maybe we’ll see them again when we get there.

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 . . . ?”