Posted by: catamarantwooceans | August 21, 2013

Sailing in Madagascar–part 2

14.8.13 – Wednesday – Today’s destination is Nosi Mitsio which some people described as "a must" mentioning the availability of lobsters from local fishermen. Good sailing to start with but quickly the wind went forward an down to less than 10 knots so it was motoring again. At least the batteries get charged.

Approaching the northern entry to Mitsio we saw a yacht, a Privilege catamaran at anchor near a nice sandy beach; we went on to Maribe bay in the south which is protected from all directions except the north. We saw a village on shore, with some huts looking as if they were part of a resort.

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Not a lot of people on shore but we did get visitors; three young kids on a canoe with a colorful sail came by to ask for anything we could give. Gili gave them some of her old cloths.

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A single man came and offered "Langouste" but he could only deliver next evening. Instead we accepted his offer of coconuts and papaya. He went ashore for the goods, came back with four small coconuts and a big shell. We didn’t want the shell and when I offered to pay for the nuts he made it clear that money was of no use for him. He actually wanted a spear for his old gun. That I didn’t have but decided to let him have one of my old diving masks. This made him happy.

Three men passed by on a relatively large wooden boat, maneuvering expertly with their lateen sail.

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The Privilege left her anchorage and found a place near us; their dinghy came over with a young Malagasy, Anselm, who was one of a two man crew on it. They work for a charter company and I used the opportunity to ask him about repair facilities on Nosi Be. After a bit of a palaver he went and brought two useful telephone numbers, a fiberglass repairman and an official of the Maritime authority who is maybe a relative. "Tell them Anselm gave you the number".

15.8.13 – Thursday – A short trip today- to Tsarabanjina, a resort island about 10 miles away. We first went to the southeast side, where the snorkeling is supposed to be good. For the first time since we came to Madagascar we were able to enjoy clear water and nice, healthy reef. We then went back to the northwest side, where the resort is located. Anchored at 13 01.474 S 48 32.776 E 8 meters on sand, good holding. The C Map is not so accurate here as you can see from what it showed as we were passing the island northeast corner.

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In the late afternoon we went ashore for a beer and internet. Succeeded in getting the forecast and our e mails but could not publish to the blog, the internet was so slow! Oh well, tomorrow we go to the big town, Hellville and do it from there.

Here is another "suddenly" story: A few days ago, as Gili was preparing dinner and I was sitting in the saloon, two things happened simultaneously; I saw the port bilge pump light come on and Gili exclaimed:"There’s no water!". First thought was that there was a leak in the port sweet water system; I opened the bilge cover and verified that water was coming in from the front, where the tank and pipes are located. Opened that space, which is under our bed and discovered that a pipe came loose from a fitting in the outlet of the salt water pump, resulting in the whole of the Indian ocean trying to get into our boat.

As I am writing this it suddenly happens again! same as the last time, I tightened the hose some more, closed the pump switch and will change the fitting to a suitable one when we get to Hellville.

As night fell the wind changed direction and became easterly; this seems to be the rule here. In a short time it raised waves at our anchorage. A traditional looking schooner, which came in just as we were sitting at the resort’s bar, anchored on the west side of the island, about 13 01.57 S 48 32.69 E which seems to be the better place to take.

16.8.13 – Friday – We rolled through the night with the wind topping at 28 knots. I was happy to leave at 0700; the sea outside was smoother than in the bay! After about two hours the wind started the diurnal change and moved to the south, losing strength. As we approached the pass between Nosi Be and  Nosi Komba we had to roll the jib and resort to motoring. Both islands have a lot more vegetation than the ones we saw in the north.

We came into Hellville’s bay and started looking for yachties to ask for information about the place to fill up water and to put the dinghy when going ashore. The only people we noticed were two young Malagasies on a Dutch flagged ketch; when we presented our questions they said:"Just anchor, we’ll come and give you all the information". They came by with the ketch’s dinghy, jumped on board before we could say "NO!" and pointed the dock where water could be had. Those two were our introduction to the Hellville boat boys, who will energetically do everything to earn their livelihood.

We squeezed between a barge which was being filled with beer crates and a dilapidated cargo boat. More boat boys showed up trying to take a part in the operation and hopefully the gains.

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After our tanks were full we went back to anchor. Abdou, who also calls himself Jacques, called when we were on the way to the bay. Anselm, who gave us his number called at least three times to make sure we contacted his man. We put a big laundry bag and our garbage in the dinghy and rowed ashore. Everybody we met warned us about outboard theft and so we followed the advice and left ours inside the boat. We could see that all of the yachts in the bay were doing the same thing.

On shore we met Jacques, who came ready with a lad to take care of the dinghy and a taxi driver to take us to wherever we needed to go.

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First to the Air Madagascar office to try a arrange a place for Gili on a flight from Nosy Be to Antananarivo; we tried that in Antsiranana but were told all the flights were full and the only one we could only get was Antsiranana to Tana. Again, no success. Jacques suggested the way Gili should go, which is take a fast ferry to the nearest town on the mainland and then go by taxi 5-6 hours to the airport. He called a friend from Antsiranana who would be able to do the trip. Gili is not pleased at all but that’s the only option.

Next the ATM for more Ariary, the "Shampion" supermarket, which is supposed to be the best in town, the local market for fruit and veg and back to the port. The boy with the dinghy appeared mysteriously and we rowed back to the boat. Gili hoped for dinner ashore but that operation is so complicated, we gave it up for a pasta dish "at home".

17.8.13 – Saturday – Did I mention the problem with the house batteries? Those are the ones I had to buy in Palau; they are marine grade ones but not deep cycle. I had to get used to the idea of them not keeping voltage as deep cycle ones do. In the last few days their performance deteriorated, they became hot after charging and a smell of acid was felt. I was hoping to be able to drag them all the way to South Africa but that sentiment died this morning as I got up and saw 10.6 volts on the gauge. They were simply DEAD.

Could I get new, deep cycle batteries here? I didn’t think so and saw myself having to buy new, unsuitable batteries to carry me for the 45 days until I get to Richards Bay, ZA. This was a DOWN moment. I then had an idea; I separated the six batteries and checked each of them for voltage. I found out that three were between 8.5 to 10.6 volts (clinical death) and three 12.15 to 11.85. Those were good then! I connected them in parallel (plus to plus, minus to minus) and had me a bank of 345 amps. Not ideal but operable, I’ll probably need to charge more often, that’s all.

I called Rudi, who runs a charter company named Madavoile and is helpful to yachties and he said that I could get good batteries in Nosy Be. So with brighter spirit we went out towards Nosi Komba, an island that became a tourist trap but everybody says you should go there in spite of it. Nice island with a lemur "park" and a lot of "authentic Malagasy items" on display.

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                              Me playing tourist

The local ladies ornament their faces in various ways, ochre paint for skin treatment and white designs for beauty.

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Visit finished, we turned west towards Crater bay, where Rudi’s business was located. I played a bit with "pure sailing" going through a tack to windward, but as the wind turned more and more to the west northwest, I acknowledged defeat and started an engine.

Crater bay is full of yachts and the atmosphere is more relaxed than that in Hellville. Still, most of the yachties hide their outboards in the yacht and row ashore.

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                        Rudi’s base behind his catamaran

In the evening we went to Ambatoloaka for dinner. We were lucky to take a taxi; the road from the "marina" to that small touristic town is unpaved and passes through unlighted neighborhood.The place is known for sex tourism and you can see a lot of European men, clearly past their prime, walking around proudly with young local girls, "dressed to kill"; not a pleasant picture. The restaurant, "Chez Angeline" was nice but the food and the service a joke. Our main dishes arrived before the starters and were mediocre. Best food is on the boat!

18.8.13 – Sunday – We sailed to Russian bay, a huge one full of potential anchorages. Going by a blog we read and following the example of a few other yachts, we anchored just past the entrance on the west side. The snorkeling was supposed to be good but maybe our standards were spoilt by some other places we’ve been to so we were not impressed. I decided to preempt the nightly easterlies and went to one of the bays on the east. Peace and quiet here; big fish broke our line and disappeared and a small one went into our freezer.

19.8.13 – Monday – Tanikely is a small island and a marine park which is popular for its beauty and the reef around it.

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                           Tanikely from the west

We anchored on a patch with white sand on the island’s south and went into the water. This time the bloggers had it right; the snorkeling IS good. Apart from the usual tropical fish we were glad to see two turtles grazing, seemingly unafraid of the two humans above them. Park boat came to collect the 10000 ariary fee for each of us.

Gili (AKA SWMBO – she who must be obeyed) says I should mention that we had Pizza, salad and beer for lunch. "You should put more stuff about life on the boat and the people, not only pictures of boats and sailing information"

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As the afternoon sea breeze came we realized that there was no real protection around the island and chose to go back to Hellville. Encouraged by the example set by the local mariners I came into the anchorage under sail only, using the engine just for batteries charging.

A word about Hellville – no connection to the hell Dante wrote about but rather to a certain French admiral De Hell whom I have no information about.

20.8.13 – At dawn the local boats bringing goods from the mainland started flocking into the harbor; engineless and using sails only, they glided into the bay, dropping the lateen sails and coasting to rest on the muddy bottom which the falling tide revealed.

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We went Ashore for a few things we wanted to do. Jacques was waiting for us and together we went to the harbor master for what I expected to be a courtesy visit. It turned out to be a very different matter. The HM wanted to see my papers and especially my port clearance from Diego (Antsiranana). I had a paper that I believed to be the right one on which the words:"Valid for all ports" etc. appeared. The HM said this was not enough and that I had to have a clearance to leave Diego. I was very upset, because I specifically told the lady at Diego port control I was going south and she assured me I had all the papers I needed.

The harbor master, with Jacques helping in translation, showed us a document which stated that if you go out without the required document you have to pay a fine of 1.000.000 Ariary. Yes! one million! That’s about 430$ U.S! A long discussion ensued, with calls to the chief in Diego; it took quite a while until Gili succeeded softening the man in Diego. We ended up by having to write a letter of explanation of the mistake or misunderstanding that occurred and just paid the 35000 for the clearance we should have gotten in Diego. You can never be too careful with the authorities in countries like that, especially when the language is a challenge.

Then to the market, where Jacques took us to meet his wife, who works in a food stall in the market; it was nice to see the way he related to her. "She works more than most men" he said.

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                             Jacques and Lisa

He also took us to see his home, where we collected our laundry, which he took care of. The way people live here stresses how fortunate we are with our standard of living and our way of life. We got Jacques’ phone number as a fiberglass repairman, but he turned out to be a general guide about town and a great facilitator in all our needs. If anybody needs a helping hand around Hellville – I warmly recommend him. His phone number is 0320415896.

Gili is leaving the boat tomorrow, going to Antananarivo and catching a flight home via Johannesburg the next day. Her taxi to Diego will pick her up from a place called Enkify. We decided to sail and pass the night there. We had difficulty finding it; our C-Map chart was a bit confusing. Following local boats we finally got there and anchored near that uniquely looking place, a terminal of wooden huts built on stilts at the end of the main road leading inland.

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