Day 223, Year 5 Passage to Madagascar, Day 4
Date: Sunday, June 6, 2010
Weather: Sunny Day; SSE Winds 12-16 Knots
Latitude: 08 degrees 18.381 minutes S
Longitude: 064 degrees 16.696 minutes E
Miles to Go: 940

One-third of the way there, but things do happen. Both Windbird and Constance were sailing along on a fast track to Madagascar when Ed noticed that the headstay on Constance had broken at the top. The headstay is the heavy wire around which the roller furler and head sail are attached. The halyard holding up the headsail was holding up the whole mechanism, so thankfully nothing came down. He and Lynne were able to roll in the sail and reinforce the halyard with the spinnaker halyards that are not in use. For those of you who are not sailors, the halyards are the lines that pull sails up and down and in this case are being used like a wire stay. Constance is a cutter rig, so there is an inner staysail which helps support the mast, but the sail itself is very tiny. But they rolled that sail out and are sailing along about a knot to a knot and half slower than they were. Not wanting to leave them behind, we rolled in our headsail and put out the staysail. It was then that we noticed that the stay that holds our staysail roller furler and sail has somehow gotten very loose. So we rolled that in and went back to a double-reefed headsail. All of this happened about four hours ago and we are still about the same distance from Constance, so it looks like we have found a way to stay with them. They insist that we fly on, but we’ll continue like this through the night and make a final decision tomorrow on whether or not to go on or stay behind. We are still moving at 5.8 knots which is as fast as we normally go. This trip is faster because the winds are just right and we have a half to a knot of current going with us. The winds are less today, down to 12 to 16 knots, but they are a bit more southerly which puts us on a broad reach. So all is well and Ed thinks once he gets to a quiet anchorage in Madagascar that he can repair the damages. That’s good because there are basically no marine services in Madagascar and you don’t want to head to South Africa without strong rigging. Our friends Peppe and Bob on Far Niente have been in Madagascar for a few days now and they have found the northern anchorages to be VERY windy. So Ed might have to wait until we get down the coast a bit before attempting the repairs.

Another cargo ship passed about six miles in front of us early this morning, but we have seen no other fishing boats, cargo ships, or even birds today. During the night, I used my watch time to read a Bradt Visitor’s Guide to Madagascar Wildlife and the hours passed so quickly. I’ve always known that Madagascar is home to unique plants and animals that exist no where on earth, but I really didn’t know why until last night. If you feel a lesson in evolutionary biology coming, you are right. I’m no biologist, but I just have to share what I learned. We just left the atolls in Chagos which in their current form are very young, only thousands of years. For Madagascar, we have to go back MYA’s (millions of years ago). The Bradt Guide (the only one I have) uses the MYA abbreviation, so I will use that as well. If we go back 200mya to the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the huge land mass of Gondwana was just starting to break apart. This land mass broke apart to form South America, Africa, Antarctica, and Australia. Fast forward to 165mya and scientists say Madagascar, with India still attached, broke away from Africa. Then a ‘mere’ 80mya, India migrated north and left Madagascar as an isolated island. It would have been populated by dinosaurs as they didn’t start to die away for another 15 million years. So Madagascar has been isolated for a very long time and in that time some of the earth’s most interesting creatures have arrived and evolved in isolation. By the way, the oldest dinosaur bones discovered to date come from southern Madagascar. They date back 230 million years, before the break-up of Gondwanaland. So that’s the science lesson for today. I’ll wait to get a correction email from our daughter who is an evolutionary biologist to see just how far off these facts gathered in my wildlife book might be.