Posted by: catamarantwooceans | August 27, 2013

Sailing to Mayotte

25.8.13 – Sunday – Mayotte is a French reef enclosed island which geographically is part of the Comoros group. It is about 180 miles from Nosy Be and 300 miles from Pemba, Mozambique in the west; hence – a good place to stop and rest a few days. Mayotte has a some interesting features: easy bureaucracy, baguettes and reportedly great diving, all of which I hope to experience. Who knows, they may have marine batteries too!

I went out at 0530, when light was already good; it was flat calm and windless. Later we had nice wind for two hours and then we had to motor. The wind veered from the southwest to become a westerly – right on the nose. That meant lower speed as the mainsail was not contributing any driving power while producing drag. Take the main down? surely the wind will change direction instantly!

As night approached I calculated that if I wanted to reach Dzaouzi, the port of entry of Mayotte, I have no choice but to use two engines. I hate it, but the thought of reaching the pass into Mayotte at night and going into a holding pattern was not appealing at all. With both engines at cruise power I normally get about six knots but now a counter current entered the picture; we only did 4-4.5.

After dinner I started my single-handed sleep program, going for 20 minutes naps, kitchen timer waking me up for a quick look around and back to bed.

26.8.13 – Monday – Around 0100 a change in the engines noise woke me up; the alarm, which I could barely discern also sounded. Reaching the cockpit very quickly I saw that the port engine stopped. I checked the engine room and found it very hot, coolant sloshing in the bilge. Looking aft I saw a belt on the floor; replacing the water pump belt is relatively easy but first I had to let the engine cool down as to be able to work on it.

I waited until 0200 and entered the engine room with a belt and the necessary tools. Surprise! the belt that broke was one of the two alternator belts! So where did the coolant come from? As I added water to the heat exchanger the answer became obvious; there was a leak from the general area of the sweet cooling water pump. Hey! this is the one Abdull Razzak refurbished in the Maldives about four months ago. A closer inspection determined that the culprit was a rubber pipe and not the pump. Do I have a spare for that pipe? NO! I decided to take the pipe out and try to fix it.

After 90 minutes in the cramped engine room I became tired and took a rest until morning. Then, I removed the pipe, found a small cut and using High Temp RTV Silicone, made a patch which I believe will temporarily do the job.


While all this was going on we were doing only about 3.5 knots SOG; It seemed we could reach the pass late in the evening but I wouldn’t dare navigate the lagoon at night. Maybe I’ll call the coast guard, explain my situation and ask permission to anchor near the pass.

Around 0900 the wind came – 12, 13 knots, speed and spirit rise; dolphins come by, the first in a very long time. We may yet get to Dzaouzi today!


I write the blog, not in the tranquility of an enchanted bay or a marina; I write as we go along, sometimes in real time. This is one of those cases. Happy for a little while? Downfall waits around the corner. The wind direction found our nose and aimed right at it. At least the velocity decreased. Once again arrival in daylight was not so sure. It was clear that if we could use the second engine, we will make it. But I was waiting for the Silicone to cure…it requires 24 hours!

At a certain point I decided to put the pipe back in place; if it works – fine, if it doesn’t – our situation will not worsen. The problem was that to reinstall it, the pipe has to be twisted and pushed into position. Sadly this opened the lamination and I had to declare defeat. Working on the engine is a messy job, I got very dirty and walking around the boat left greasy smudges all over the place. I cleaned everything and washed myself too.

As we got closer to the island the wind increased from 3-5 to 8-10 knots. That and adding some more revs to the operating engine were enough to assure a daylight arrival to Bandrele pass. On the way I tried calling the port on V.H.F. No reply. Tried it in French – same, same. I finally called the harbor master’s office (noonsite gave the number) by Iridium. The man on the other side was very cooperative, even agreeing to speak English. He said I could come in, find an anchorage and report the next day.

I selected a spot to anchor, where the charted depth was 10 meters; went round in circles but couldn’t find anything less than 18. I don’t anchor in 18 meters, period! I opened the throttle wide and motored to Amora bay, two miles away, where with darkness falling quickly, I found my 15 meters spot and anchored. A frustrating and difficult trip.

27.8.13 – Tuesday – I had a really good night sleep, interrupted for a time as light rain started falling. Morning greeted me with a stiff 20-25 knots wind from the southeast; where were you when I needed you? With just 8.5 miles to go to Dzaouzi I just opened the jib and we glided in the lagoon towards the anchoring area. Most of the boats there were local, tied to moorings they take all the space with relatively shallow water near shore.

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I found what I thought was a good spot, but was told later that in low water and a possible northwesterly I was in danger of hitting a reef. I moved away to deeper water, anchoring in 13 meters at low tide.

I went ashore looking for the Port Captain to start the entry procedure. When I found the man, he said that I needed to go what to my ears sounded like: AH SE ASHEM. It took a while for me to understand that this was the French way of pronouncing A.C.H.M, Association des Croiseurs Hauturiers de Mayotte which is the local yacht club. That establishment has internet connection, bar and lunch service. Jean Francois, who is presumably the man in charge, greeted me in his formal dress and gave me the necessary form.

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Next stop – customs, 10 minutes walk away, where in less than 5 minutes my form was stamped. A shared taxi ride to the airport (1.2 euro per person) where the immigration men and women who probably never saw an Israeli passport before, thought I needed a visa. Quick check made, my passport stamped and I was free to go.

On the taxi ride back the driver, who had his radio tuned to a Muslim religious program, agreed to stop at the boulangerie for baguettes. Back at the A.C.H.M I found out that there was no Yanmar engine agent on the island; if I wanted to get the pipe that will render my port engine serviceable, it must be sent by courier. Let’s see how that will transpire. In any case, it seems that I’ll stay here longer than I initially planned.



  1. sorry I can’t join you for the trip to SA,
    I am sure you thought of a local volunteer to join you?.

    Shana Tova

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