Posted by: catamarantwooceans | August 17, 2013

Sailing in Madagascar

11.8.13 – Sunday – After two days in Antsiranana we were ready to go around the top of Madagascar to the cruising area on the northwest of the island. The northeast part is notorious for the strong winds blowing there; the forecast gave 22 knots but we were ready for more. The leg from the exit of Antsi bay to Amber cape in the north is about 15 miles so even if you suffer bad wind and seas you know it’ll only last about two hours.

We went out with two reefs in the main and one reef in the jib. Going out of the bay with out flowing tide against the southeasterly wind was the opposite of smooth ride. As we turned to the northwest the wind and waves went astern; we poled out the jib and the roller-coaster began. The autopilot had difficulty keeping the course so I steered manually, surfing down waves with the wind maxing at 37 knots and boat speed passing upward of 10 knots from time to time.

Once around the top the wind moderated somewhat and the sea became completely flat. Taking the pole down was quite a chore and after it was done we headed towards the entrance to Mpaninabo , an uninhabited and well protected bay. It was low water as we entered; tidal range in this area is about 3 meters and the fact was reflected in the shapes of the rocks in the entrance.

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We found a spot we liked and dropped the anchor; I watched the GPS plotter and it showed we were moving. It’s supposed to be a muddy bottom here so maybe I should put down two anchors in tandem. Once I did that we were stationary.Last time I took the anchor up in Ile de Tromelin, the windlass was moving as if not secured in place. I suspected the nuts of the bolts fastening it to the boat’s structure became loose; now, as I was bringing the anchor up to  connect the second one, I noticed that the panel, which is the base for the windlass, has cracks in it and in its joint to the bulkhead. Bad news! I hope I’ll be able to make a repair with the materials I have on board.

Gili made another gourmet fish dinner, are we going to need a stringent diet after she goes home?

12.8.13 – Monday – The wind blew hard all night; taking the anchors out was a tricky operation, working with the engines to make sure there was as little pressure on the windlass as possible. It was high water and going out presented no problems, except of course for the wind which blew out of the southeast at 30 knots and more. As we went out of the bay I showed Gili the flat water to the south and promised it’ll be calm in about 200 meters.

We opted for a conservative sail-plan: main and jib in second reef. We could always open up when the situation becomes clear. The wind, which abated for a while came back and we had to reef the main to the third position. Still, with flat water, we sailed fast, around 7-8 knots.

Our destination for the day was a waypoint where according to some report on a marina and a boatyard were located. My curiosity, as well as the need for the windlass base repair, made me decide to go and see for myself. The C-Map electronic charts were quite accurate and we skirted reefs, passed shoals of 4 meters depth and finally reached the target. Eagerly I watched the shore with my binoculars but could not find anything like a marina. A hint of a boatyard emerged when we saw a beached catamaran near a small village just a bit to the south of the given coordinates.

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The bay was open and not appealing at all so we turned towards Nosi Hara, 5.5 miles away. The wind was still from the southeast as we sat down for lunch. I was focused on a point where the chart showed 2.7 meters depth when the wind suddenly turned to the west, reaching a velocity of 17 knots. We planned on anchoring on the west side of the island in order to be protected from the prevailing south-easterlies but that anchorage was open to the west. At one point I asked Gili to take out the trolling gear; the the very same moment a fish was caught. I pulled it out to find a tail-less bluefish, a shark taking its share of the booty. We made a quick pass through the bay and went back to the east side, anchoring at 12 14.022 S 049 01.353 E.

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I wanted to do something about the windlass and had an idea to clamp a strengthening piece of wood to the broken panel. This was done quickly enough and next time we use the windlass will show whether it was any good.

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As evening arrived, the westerly died down and a light easterly sprang up. Memories of yesterday’s southeasterly surfaced and we quickly raised the anchor, seeing that my little trick was in fact improving the situation and motored to the bay on the west, where we noticed two fishermen boats on shore. Not long after dropping our anchor, one of them came over; it turned out this island is a part of a national marine park and there is a payment of 10000 ariary for each person on board.

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Oh, well…The anchorage on the west side was at 12 14.659 S 049 00.368 E.

We had T Bone steaks for dinner, we really eat well on this boat!

13.8.13 – Tuesday – We left Nosi Hara to the south; trying to keep a daily distance of not more than 30 miles, we found a long protected bay called Andranoaombi. Three villages were shown on the chart in the bay and we saw ourselves going ashore, doing some shopping for things we needed, like eggs, veggies and beer. On the way we passed the islands west of Hara and some of them were a real pretty sight.

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This cannot be said about Andranoaombi, which had no charm at all. With difficulty we spotted a single village, poor dwellings hiding behind the shrubbery. A small dugout canoe with three girls came for a visit. Interestingly they have a stabilizing outrigger on them here, just like in Micronesia.

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We really need to get to a place where we could fill up water and do some provisioning. The day after tomorrow we’ll reach Tsarabanjina, a small island with an upscale resort, maybe we can take water there, maybe even internet?


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