Day 246, Year 5 Contact!
Date: Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Weather: Ninth Straight Gorgeous Day, Winds 5-10
Location: Crater Bay, Nosy Be, NW Madagascar

The last twenty four hours have been all about communication. While in Hell-ville yesterday, Mark bought a SIM card for the Sierra USB modem that we bought in Thailand. This looks just like a flash drive but you can replace the SIM card in it with one from a current provider and be on the internet. We used it in Thailand, then in India, and how it is working for us in Madagascar. This means we can have internet on the boat anywhere we have a cell phone signal, and evidently that is most places we will be stopping along the coast. The only issue is how much it will cost us to use it. We have service for a month, but we think we have limited usage. We’ll just have to figure this out over time. As I mentioned in yesterday’s log, we were able to see photos on the Picasa websites of our children and grandchildren, but we are having trouble getting Skype to work. Our cell phone does work, however, and should cost us only 20 cents per minute to all the US, but SHOULD is the operative word here. It seems to be costing more than that as we have already gone through three or four top-up cards. But in doing so, we have talked to my sister in North Carolina, to our daughter Heather in Massachusetts, and to our son Justin who is in England. We heard our grandsons–Sam talking on and on about what he was doing and Jonah and Ziggy squealing and squawking as one-year olds do. It was delightful. So we have made contact, albeit without Skype video, and for now we are happy cruisers. If the only contact we can have is by phone, we will have to send photos back and forth so we can see each other. But that is certainly better than waiting months for a letter that might not ever arrive. It has not been that many years since that was the only way cruisers could connect with family, so we are elated that we can have reasonably priced phone and internet connection. It will probably be the end of October before we reach Richard’s Bay in South Africa where we hope to have an internet connection good enough for Skype video. So for the next four months, we will have to make do with what we have.

Ed and Lynne picked us up this morning and we all went to shore and got a taxi into Hell-ville. Ed and Lynne went to buy a modem so they can get on the internet and to get some papers notarized. Mark and I went along to check the prices of groceries at the Shampion Super Marche and at Akhem Oliver’s, known as the Chinese store. We did buy a few more items at the fresh food market and took a few photos, but we were rushed as things start closing at 12 noon and don’t reopen until 3 pm. We learned that the SuperMarche only closes from 1 pm to 3 pm, but we forget to ask about hours at Akhem Oliver’s. We got back to Crater Bay to find that Constance’s dinghy was full of water. Something had hit their transom and broken the ball that keeps water from coming into their dinghy. Yikes! We bailed out the boat and went back out to our boats. Ed fixed the problem, so hopefully Constance will no longer have a dinghy full of water. Tomorrow Constance goes onto the wall at 5:30 am at high tide and will have fiberglass work done on the hull during the day when the tide goes out. We will probably hang out just in case they need help and not go back into Hell-ville until Thursday. Just hanging out here is most interesting as there is a lot of local fishing going on just around our boats. Huge nets are set out and brought in, dhows are sailing by all the time, and huge schools of small fish thrash through the water. The dhows are old wooden boats built like huge row boats with a single mast that holds a yardarm that raises a giant triangular sail. They move along so smoothly through the water sometimes are almost within arm’s reach of Windbird. It is a downwind boat so they sail out in the morning with the land breeze and back in the afternoon with the sea breeze. We are enjoying the views.

100629 Day 246 Nosy Be, Madagascar–Day Trip to Hell-ville