Captain’s Log December 2007

December 2007 – Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 2008!

Checkout Rhona’s Ponderings No7 for some great shots of the Madagascan Sifaka (a kind of lemur) – more about this below.

For the rest of Rhona’s Ramblings – oops Princess’s Ponderings click No 1No 2No 3 , No 4No 5No 6 ….

Having completed our ‘World’ cruise of East Africa, we returned to Dar es Salaam with just over a week to go before we flew to Australia for a month’s visit to see family, friends and the usual doctors, dentists, accountants…… more of this later.

Continuing on from the last update from Mozambique in August, we set sail for Madagascar, however we had an unexpected stay over in Mayotte due to non-complying winds! We’re delighted to say that it was a wonderful place and we ended up spending 2 weeks there circumnavigating the main island, Grand Terre.

There were some beautiful bays to explore and great walks up through the bamboo groves and banana, vanilla and Ylang Ylang plantations which Chui absolutely loved. We even had our first experience of lemurs here, both in the bush and on an island dedicated to rehabilitating injured lemurs. If you go there with bananas they come right up and sit on your head and shoulders and take the bananas out of your hand! We experienced this with the black lemurs at Nosy Komba, Madagascar, too.

Finally we left for Madagascar and arrived at Hellville, on the Island of Nosy Be, 29th August, after a very good sail from Mayotte, a beam reach with speeds 9-10 kts for over 14 hours. Nosy Be is a tourist destination on the NW coast of Madagascar. This region has some brilliant cruising grounds with many beautiful volcanic islands, some rainforest with Lemurs, birdlife, great walking and climbing areas. People are friendly and we had good experiences clearing in and travelling around. We also caught up with an old friend Craig, who is the brother of Eric’s ex-next door neighbour from Australia. He has been driving trawlers there for past 20 yrs and is well known on Nosy Be amongst locals and yachties alike. The main language is Malagasy and if you speak French it’s a real bonus. The currency is a mixture of quotes of the old Malagasy francs or the new “Ariary” notes and if we press the right buttons, money falls out of the wall, so convenient!!. The town is old French Colonial with the dilapidated & decayed look that independence in Africa has managed to create, but with a quaint, pleasant touch, with 1960’s Renault R4’s as the run of vehicles & taxis, all a bit of a time warp.
Communications have been challenging to arrange but after 2 days in the Telma office Lynne managed to organise GPRS coverage, though it was quite limited in range & does not include a number of the areas proposed.

We ended up going to and from Nosy Mitsio twice, an island some 30 miles north of Nosy Be. First time because Lynne’s reef shoes and shorts were inadvertantly left on the beach at 

Tsara Banjina and secondly because Chui was vomiting blood! We had no idea what caused this, as he has very limited contact with other dogs but will chew & eat anything he can & we did notice he had thrown up some pieces of bone. We were delighted to see him moving around on the return sail to Nosy Be and by the time we arrived there he was his usual self and had his appetite back. Phew….

En route to Nosy Mitsio we stopped off at the stunning resort island of Tsara Banjina, which is very tastefully done and friendly to cruising yachts. It is well worth walking around the island where we saw the Paradise Flycatcher nesting amongst the rocks. The lodge uses this pretty bird as its logo on their brochure and boats. We also passed by the Four Brothers on the way, which are four large, spectacular Basalt rocks rising vertically from the sea. Lynne, Rhona and Hannes snorkelled into a cave at one of them and saw a turtle swim out.

At Nosy Mitsio we bought a small goat from the local villagers, which was delicious and fed the 4 of us (plus Chui!) 4 good meals, all for around $6 in total!

Also at Mitsio there is a magnificent rock formation similar to but smaller than the “Organ Pipes” at the entrance to Storm Bay, Hobart. We managed to scramble ashore and have our photos taken, with Chui, sitting on the “Keyboard” – there are some great shots of this on Rhona’s Ponderings No.6 (page 7). Ponderings No.6 also includes an amazing photo of Lynne kayaking next to a whale in our anchorage off Nosy Be, plus some great shots of whales and dolphins playing and Rhona’ special friend, Delbert the dolphin!

Thankfully, back at Nosy Be Chui made a remarkable recovery, and by the time we had anchored it was too late to go ashore to try to find a bar to watch Australia beat Wales 32-20, so we had our “Last Supper” of baked goat leg & shoulder, with the last 3 potatoes, the last 5 onions, the last leeks & washed down with our last bottle of wine. It was a delicious dinner and Chui had enough bones for weeks! Next day it was off to market, then a boat day cleaning and servicing. The day after was a fluids day, taking on 200 lit of fuel, a bottle of LPG as we can’t fill ours, 4 cartons of beer, some drinkable wine, 4 cartons of mixers, to go with the 10 lit of local rum, after which we had a liquid lunch at a great bar ashore called Nandipo’s, a favourite watering hole of Craig’s and the many yachties who visit Nosy Be.

Having provisioned sufficiently we set sail for Russian Bay. This is a huge bay with an interesting history behind its name. One story goes that in 1905 a Russian war ship was despatched to the Sino-Russia war.

Having arrived in Madagascar, there was no competition between the prospects of living in a pristine environment or getting slaughtered in a war so the ship and its crew absconded from the Russian fleet and built a settlement in this bay with the last of the original inhabitants surviving until 1936.

Soon after we anchored we met up with 3 Australian boats in company with about 3 more. The word was out to move 20 miles south the next day to Honey River. A wild pig hunt was on, the idea to hunt a wild pig & BBQ on the beach later. Well, poor hunting equated to no pig, but a stunning river, delicious honey, pretty beaches, bush walking, sunsets & miles of mangroves entwined with malagasy rum hangovers and great company. We had 2 nights there before heading south to the Radama Islands for a day, some reasonable diving, then on to yet another pretty island, Nosy Lava. By this time we were heading for Moramba Bay. We had one more night en route at yet another stunning location with limestone cliffs near Pointe Marimony, where we found an unfinished lodge overlooking the sea and a long creek, which we explored by dinghy, wending its way inland parallel to the ocean.

We finally arrived at the most southerly destination on our trip, Moramba Bay

, a remote inlet with breathtaking scenery, including 7 different species of Baobab Trees and numerous Coquerel Sifaka Lemurs – what an absolute treat! We also saw the best birdlife of the trip, with black parrots, fish eagles, flycatchers, crested drongoes, bulbuls, & a bunch of sunbirds & LBJ’s (little brown jobbies). We stayed 3 days, bush walking, stuffing ourselves on mudcrabs & fish, trying to make an impact on the huge amount of fish we caught on the way down. Another boat, Chant de Mer joined us there for a very memorable stay for Richard, the skipper. When trying to pull a lobster from a hole, he took 5 spikes from a stone fish. He was in serious pain with a black thumb & index finger on a hand double its normal size. Luckily he was on the mend when we departed.

There are a number of islets in Moramba bay. One had a cave with stalagmites, which was presumably a local sacred site as also there were bones, a cow & a human skull, an interesting find. This bay had to be one of the highlights of our trip with the islets, baobabs and sifakas. Wonderful!

We left there, via a few stops including a day visit to Nosy Iranja where we took photos from the top of the lighthouse and walked the sandspit which, at low tide, links the big island with the small island,

which has a luxury lodge on it. We made it back to Nosy Sakatia in time for a spit roast party with 12 other boats, to celebrate the birthday of one of the yachtie kids. It was great fun but with a downside, as 2 outboards were stolen during the night from 2 crews who had camped on the beach. We had a few more days there before Lynne & I took a land trip 300k north to visit Ankarana Special Reserve & Amber Mountain National park. It was 3 day, 2 night trip, the first at Ankarana, a “dry” forest where we went on a 3 hr walk through awesome limestone formations, caves with massive stalactite and stalagmite formations & squillions of bats. We also saw the crowned Lemur as well as the nocturnal lemur. Accommodation was basic but clean in local huts, dinner was excellent given the location but breakfast was dire. We drove 2 hrs to Amber Mtn, were booked into a lovely lodge overlooking Diego Suarez and the surrounding countryside. Then we did a 4 hr hike through a “wet” forest where we saw grey lemurs, ring tailed mongoose, plenty of birds with the highlight being 5 of the 11 species of Chameleon in the park. In both parks we had excellent guides to explain & spot the wildlife, it was a great experience, and had we known the setup, we would have taken some more time to visit Diego Suarez, as there was a lot of driving relative to the time spent in the parks.

We returned late on Friday in order to be in Hellville to watch a very disappointing (for Eric/fantastic for Lynne!) Wallabies vs England Rugby World Cup game on Sat afternoon & stayed on to see the All Blacks get the same treatment from France! So with a severe brain pain Sunday morning we set off back to Russian Bay for a few days, whilst Rhona and Hannes went off to do the National Park trip. We heard there was a guy there, Andrew, who may be able to fix the Sailmail on our HF radio. However this was not to be, as it is an equipment problem. Anyway we met Andrew & Lisa from South Africa who have set up a self sufficient hideaway in 100 acres of beautiful wilderness. They have chooks, vegies, plenty of cold beer on solar, but also Lisa is a sailmaker! So in a huge bay, with no road access, there is a fairly well set up battery operated sail loft, where we had our sail cover mended, modified our Bimini cover, & made some modifications to our MPS schute. We plan to return next year with materials to extend the Bimini, tidy up our Head & Mainsails & make a modified sailcover. As if we really need a reason to return to this wonderful place!!

We returned to Hellville to collect Rhona and Hannes from their upcountry safari and Lynne enjoyed the semi-final England vs France, whilst Hannes was delighted with the result of the South Africa vs Argentina game. Once that game was over we started our voyage back to Dar es Salaam in time for Eric & Lynne to fly back to Australia for their annual visit. Unfortunately the winds were none existent so we ended up spending a pleasant day at anchor at Geysir Reef before deciding to head to Mayotte to collect extra fuel as it looked as if we were due to do rather more motoring than we had expected. Whilst in Mayotte we stayed to watch the Rugby Final and a very happy Hannes and a not so happy Lynne returned to Amarula just after midnight to up anchor and sail back to Dar!

Arriving back on our mooring at DYC on October 24th we had just over a week to organise ourselves for our trip back to Australia.
Prior to that we had a wonderful weekend at Sinda island for the annual Dar Yacht Club Latham Fishing competition. I say this, as we were fortunate to spend it with Frank Jansen and his lovely wife Colleen, long time members of Dar Yacht Club and a wealth of historical knowledge on Tanzania. Sadly, less than a month later, Frank, who had been diagnosed with cancer sometime earlier, passed away in Dar es Salaam, whilst we were in Australia. We are so grateful to have spent that time with him and offer Colleen and family our sincere condolences at this time.

November and early December were spent in Australia with family and friends, plus the usual ‘needs must’ visits to doctors, dentists and accountants. The highlights there were getting together with family, particularly Eric’s 3 grandsons, 2 of whom had arrived on the scene since Lynne’s last visit and 1 since Eric’s!

Bayden, the eldest is now almost 4 years old, Sebastian is only 1 and Austin  was 3 months old whilst we were there. It was great to catch up with our various friends too and thanks so much to you all for your hospitality, as always, when we’re ‘home’. We were able to be in Yamba for Nicole and Jody’s birthdays too and had a walk through the Iluka rainforest and enjoyed a glass of bubbly at the Bluff with Nicole, then we had a lovely dinner together with Jody and Graeme the night before we left. We also managed to celebrate Eric’s sister, Claudette and her husband, Ralph’s 40th Wedding Anniversary, so it was time for celebrations!

We’re now in Pemba Island, Tanzania, where we have spent the past 2 Christmas’s and we have persuaded our very good (definately non-sailing) friends (Mark, Lesley & Nikki) to join us here on Dec 26th and sail back with us to Dar, so I guess you can work out that we love it here! We feel so privileged to be living the lifestyle we have worked towards for so long and we wish all of you a wonderful 2008 with many of your own dreams coming true. Our sincere thoughts are with family and friends and those who are in poor health or comforting their sick relatives or have recently lost their loved ones. Sadly it is all part of life’s cycle and knowing we have a caring community in times of support helps us come through these challenges. Please know our thoughts are with you.

Highlights of Madagascar! A beautiful cruising ground with excellent beaches, stunning scenery, good anchorages, many many turtles, plenty of dolphins and we even had whales in one anchorage and went kayaking with them, a bit spooky when the tail is wider than the kayak is long! The Sifakas and baobabs at Moramba Bay were fabulous and we could easily have spent much longer here relaxing and enjoying. There is cheap local Rum, even the premier grade costs all of $4.00 per litre so the sundowners changed from G&T to Rum & anything we fancied mixing with it.

In 2008 we plan to return to Madagascar for a longer period. We already have 2 sets of friends and relatives planning to join us there, so be quick if you’re interested!! We’re hoping to stop off in Comoros en route this time as we didn’t make it last time, but the major part of the year will be spent in Madagascar.