Captain’s Log June 2008

Mid- Year 2008!

Are we already half way through 2008??!! What happened?

Since our last Captain’s Log at New Year we have been back to UK for a quick visit, bought another puppy called Scrumpy and are now back in Madagascar.

Mid- January we went to UK to spend a week with Lynne’s mum and a few days in the Lake District huddled up by a log fire in a cottage whilst the snow fell outside. What a contrast to our normal day to day lifestyle in the tropics!

 We did a couple of fell walks in icy cold temperatures, met up with friends for the day in Hawkshead and visited Barrow, which is an historical ship building city so it was of great interest to Eric. The museum was excellent. The weather however was quite extreme in late January, so much so that a ferry was blown onto the beach north of Blackpool right at the end of the road where Lynne’s mum lives, so Eric was in his element trotting down each day to photograph this awesome sight. It also brought in many tourists in what would normally be well and truly the off-season!

Only 1 week after returning to Dar in February, Lynne was at a theatre bazaar with her Pink Pals drinking Frexinet and catching up when someone told her that a lady had some very cute Jack Russell puppies for sale. Oh dear, that was that and 3 days later we had a new addition to the family!

 Meet Scrumpy, so named by the daughter of the breeder, as he is so scrumptious and we have to agree he certainly does live up to his name! Well Chui’s nose was out of joint for a little while at having to get used to a new, young ‘brother’ but despite the occasional dispute they get along extremely well and are great company for each other and for us, of course. Scrumpy adores his big brother and rarely gives him a break except when he’s sleeping, which he does quite a lot as he’s only just 6 months old (born Christmas Day 2007)

From mid- February we were on our countdown for departing Dar to return to Madagascar. Out of the blue Eric had been asked to undertake some consultancy work, but as ever, schedules were delayed and our dates constantly put back. So Eric decided to do the site visits to Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika before the various parties signed off on the jobs. The Lake Tanganyika visit was interesting as it involved sailing down and back up the lake from Kigoma in Tanzania to Mpulungu in Zambia. He had hoped to sail on the historical MV Liemba, but unfortunately she was not operating so he sailed on the MV Mwongozo and was delighted to get off safely at the end of his 4 day trip! This ship is the sister ship of the MV Bukoba, which sank on Lake Victoria in 1996 and is inherently unstable and not up to the job…..

Over Easter we had a wet but great fun Hash weekend at Lushoto in the Usumbara Mountains. We camped in a forest reserve and hiked through the very muddy terrain and were rewarded with some spectacular scenery and of course plenty of beer, good food (the camp was all set up and organised by Wild Things safaris and they did a great job – Thanks guys!) and great company.

DD – Departure Day – was set for Eric’s birthday May 1st and incredibly we did actually manage it. We had a final night out with good friends the day before and set sail early morning on May 1st. Only 3 hours out of Dar we caught our first fish of the trip – a lovely 7.5 kilo tuna. Mmm, sashimi for lunch – not a bad way to start the trip. The first night we anchored off Kwale Island just north of Mafia at 1715 hours just in time for sundowners, followed by creamed leek and prawns with garlic spinach then birthday cake. We wanted to get south as quickly as possible as our friends, Peter & Lorraine, from Australia were meeting us in Nosy Be on May 24th, so we mostly motor sailed down the coast stopping off at various islands and sandbanks en route to give the dogs a run and play on the beaches.

When we reached Mikindani we had a few days rest and managed some time for boat work, cleaning and provisioning, plus meeting up with Graham, a friend who is working in the area, for a couple of night’s eating and drinking. Of course, we also found time to get the dogs ashore daily to give them the chance to run off their excess energy with the ever popular frisbee game. Chui’s latest frisbee is now in 2 pieces but he won’t give it up and have a new one, unlike Scrumpy who will chase anything we throw. He just has to learn to bring things back now! We have a small frisbee which we bought specially but he loves to chase after and fight Chui for his bigger one, then he runs crab style along the beach with it in his mouth as it’s bigger than him.

Just prior to departing Tanzania we stopped in Mnazi Bay for a dive and this year we actually found the old Moorish style house in M’Simbati built by the eccentric retired civil servant, Latham Leslie Moore. In 1959 he ‘declared the secession of the “Sultanate of M’Simbati” from the then colony of Tanganyika.’

At Mnazi Bay Geoffrey, our Tanzanian crew from Dar, left us to make his way back to Dar, whilst we continued our sail south past Cabo del Gado and down through the northern Quirimbas in an attempt to find the right wind to change our course to head east. The wind was more elusive than last year, however we picked up a breeze just south of Vamizi island only to set our sails then get a radio call that we had to change course as we were in the way of a seismic survey vessel! Down came the sails again and on with the engines and we proceeded in a south-easterly direction away from the vessel and finally picked up some wind and headed towards St. Lazarus Bank thinking that we may have a good chance of catching a fish, however 10 miles north of there in the middle of the night we received another radio call to change course from another seismic vessel! As there was very little wind we motored to St. Lazarus Bank where we anchored in very calm water for the night.

We awoke to a stunning sunrise and dolphins swimming by the boat. We looked around to try and find a dive site but nothing looked very interesting so we attempted to catch a fish. We had 2 strikes from rainbow runners but lost both and went through a patch of tuna with no strikes, so off we went again to find wind. Nothing doing, so we motored to Mayotte to refuel (reminiscent of last year!)

We spent a couple of days in Mayotte refuelling, catching up with friends on other yachts and enjoying a few beers at the Yacht Club whilst attempting to use the internet there which was a challenge with the speed and the French keyboard, but we managed to get a few messages out and checked the share portfolios.

The weather forecast was offering almost zero wind for the next few days, but we decided to get over to Nosy Be for our rendevous rather than wait for the wind, so after 25 hours motoring we arrived in Russian Bay where we anchored for a night before heading across to Hellville on May 19th for the lengthy check in procedure.

So here we are back in Madagascar! What a pleasure to be back. This country is stunning and has so much to offer. We have been back here for 6 weeks now and our friends from Australia have been and gone. We had 2 weeks with them exploring the far north west coast from Nosy Be up as far as Nosy Hao and the Nosy Hara marine reserve past Cap St. Sebastian.

 This area is notoriously windy so few cruisers get up here, but it is well worth the visit if you have the opportunity. We were so lucky with the weather. The first couple of night’s anchored off the west coast of Nosy Hara we had bullets of wind racing past us in the night, however the anchorage was very well protected. We spent another couple of night’s anchored near to Nosy Lakandava and Nosy Andantsara where we explored this stunning archipelago. We were in awe of the spectacular rock formations here with the jagged limestone pinnacles which reminded us of of the ‘tsingy’ we saw last year in Ankarana Special Reserve.  On Andantsara we came across a simple but extremely well planned out adventure and mountain climbing camp. We later checked out their website which explained the historical and spiritual significance of the region. We climbed to the top of one of the hills opposite the more challenging rocky pinnacles and enjoyed a magnificent panorama across the islands, bays and beaches. From here we could easily see where the coral was and managed a few dives and snorkels over the next few days. The underwater life wasn’t as impressive as we had expected but there was a lot of new coral regrowth with some very pretty soft corals and plenty of small fish. Not only were the islands awesome the bird life was prolific with tropic birds, Madagascan Fish Eagles, Diamorphic Egrets to name just a few. We caught a number of Spanish Mackerel and we let a few more get away! Up in the north Nosy Hao really surprised us. It didn’t appear anything like as spectacular as the Nosy Hara group until we went ashore. We found interesting rocky cliff areas, sweeping beaches and bays looking across to pristine sandbanks and in the middle of the island we came across a mangrove forest with myriad birdlife including more of the endangered Madagascan Fish Eagles, plus Eric spotted the flightless Madagascan rail, which we assume must be indigenous to this island.

Heading back towards Nosy Be we anchored off an island called Nosy Vory close to the mainland just north of the Mitsio group. We saw Zebu (the local cattle) on the island and again plenty of birds, plus we scooped up a bucket full of white bait under the spotlight in the evening. Next day we had the most delicious lunch of wok fried white bait and a glass of cold beer, whilst anchored off the charming island of Ankarea! Later in the afternoon we went ashore and found some lovely indigenous trees and plants plus some that had possibly been planted by the owner of the tented camp that had been here some years earlier. We thought this because they were different from any that we had seen on other islands in the region and once again the bird life was stunning, as were the colours in the sky as the sun went down behind the high rocky hill on the island. Yet another day in paradise……

The last 2 days of our friends’ trip were no less exciting starting with a fabulous sail at dawn very close to the amazing ‘organ pipes‘ on Mitsio island, then past the eastern most island of the Four Brothers. Once again we were rewarded with more sightings of the seemingly rare Madagascan Fish Eagle, plus of course plenty of tropic birds and boobies. We stopped for lunch off Nosy Fanihi off the northern tip of Nosy Be and continued on to arrive after dark at Tany Kely. In the morning we kayaked and walked around this pretty little island, and later we had a fantastic dive off the south western beach. The fish life was overwhelming with so many colours and varieties including a large baracuda, tiny nudibranchs and many different kinds of reef fish, plus whip corals, black coral and again a huge variety of colours and species. Later that afternoon we motored the few miles back across to Hellville where we relaxed and had a pleasant final evening before our friends departed for Tana the next morning. It certainly was a trip to remember for all of us.

The past few weeks have been busy with cleaning, re-provisioning, meeting with Lisa at Russian Bay to make a new sail cover and tropical suncover for us. We have also been attempting to sort out our internet communications, which have been significantly less efficient this year with the one provider. We have managed to get online with another provider but it is still a slow and tedious process. The highlight however has been our fabulous 6 day land-based trip, which we have just returned from (write up will be in the next Captain’s Log!) and we can’t thank Trish & Fitz on Colombus enough for taking care of the boat and the dogs in our absence.

Until next time we wish you all the very best and welcome your comments and feedback. I will add a couple of photos below from our land-based trip.

For previous Captain’s Logs, please click here