Posted by: catamarantwooceans | August 27, 2013

Single-Handing again

21.8.13 – Wednesday – Gili left in the morning; a Renault 4 taxi, which was driven like a getaway car after a bank heist, so she told me later on the phone, took her to Diego airport.

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So there I was, single-handing again. Quite a few people wanted to come along for all or a part of the Madagascar to South Africa sector but one by one they dropped out, each for his own good reasons, be it health, familial or financial.The bottom line – I was left without crew. This is not the first time for me. In 2007 I sailed by myself from the U.S Virgin islands to Grenada; easy, because no overnights required. In 2008 – from Honduras to Panama, doing two separate overnight legs. This time I will have a few legs of one or two overnights in sequence. Although recognizing that having crew is much safer, the lack of crew will not stop me. I will go on prudently and reach my goals. A lady by the name of Jean Socrates, whom I met in Cape Town when I joined Zulu and Miri for the Cape to Brazil leg, just completed a single handed, non stop, round the world voyage; she did something like 250 overnights and she is about my age. (Google s/v Nereida for details).

Back to Entify – I was in a bit of a quandary; the tide was two hours from its lowest and there are some shallow areas to cross before reaching deep, safe water. The reasonable thing was perhaps to wait until high water in the afternoon. Fast motor boats were going out and coming in all the time and a relatively large ferry was in preparations for departure. I decided to wait and follow it.

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I waited and waited some more but although a lot of passengers were on board and the front platform closed – it stayed put.

I decided to follow one of the smaller boats and all went well; reaching the river’s bar was a bit "exciting" as the depth went to less than 2 meters for a while but soon I was in deep water and heading to Crater bay. Rudi, of Madavoile, told me that Gel Batteries were available from a guy called Christophe, in Ambotoloaka; I was determined to check this out and hoped the price would be reasonable enough to buy.

I motored inside Crater bay, weaving between moored yachts, looking for the mooring allocated to me when SUDDENLY a sickening crunching sound was heard and the boat stopped in its tracks. A reef! in the middle of the bay! How could I not see it? The answer is: 1. concentrating on finding the mooring 2. murky water in the bay.   The tide was at its lowest so I decided to wait for the water to go up; until it does I opened up all the taps and emptied the port tank since the port hull seemed to be stuck harder than the starboard one.

I was in the middle of preparing a kedge anchor to keep the boat from grinding itself on the reef when I felt her move away from it. What a relief! I took the mooring and went into the water to check for damage. Lucky again! just a bit of paint removed from the keels.

I dismantled the windlass in preparation for its base’s repair; although I thought I could do something on my own as an interim solution, I decided to see whether Jacques could do a professional job at a reasonable price. We agreed to meet in the morning.

In the afternoon I marched to Christophe’s place. Looking at the bay from the Malagasy angle was interesting, traditional boats with the background of all those modern yachts.

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Christophe did not have any gel batteries. The one and only ATM in town was not operational. I decided to go back to Hellville, where facilities are better, next morning.

22.8.13 – Thursday – I woke up very early and at 0800 entered the Hellville bay. Called Jacques, who thought he might be able to arrange a mooring for me but there was no answer. I had no choice but to anchor and as the windlass was not there I had to lower the anchor and chain by hand and connect the bridle to hold them in place. This meant I was practically stuck until the windlass was operational again.

Right then Jacques called and I rowed ashore to take him to inspect the required work. I could see that the man knew his job; he suggested replacing the whole base panel, manufacturing a new one and glassing it in place using fiberglass epoxy. He sat down to calculate the cost, figuring about two hours of labor plus the materials. The man’s hourly rate is 10 euro, which is incredibly cheap. Thinking he underestimated the time needed,I rounded the figure up and took him ashore to bring his tools.

The need to use power tools necessitated a small generator, which I do not have. Jacques arranged for us to bring "Two Oceans" alongside a motorboat which had one. To do this, I had to put all my chain and rope into the water with a fender as a float to be able to recover them.

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               Jacques on the job alongside "Moana"

When the use of power tools was finished, we went back to our chain and anchor. I returned Jacques to his shop. "I will call you to come and pick up when the part is ready. It’s 1717 as I write this… I need to be patient.

23.8.13 – Friday –  A little after eight o’clock communication was resumed. I picked Jacques up from his atelier with the new base panel and we boarded "Two Oceans" eager to see whether the part he manufactured fitted. We agreed that instead of having a separate back-plate for the windlass, he will glass one to the panel; now that we were on the boat I saw that he glassed it on the upper, not the lower side of the panel. Measuring the thickness of the panel showed that it shouldn’t be a problem. Jacques glued the panel and glassed it in place. "How long will the epoxy take to cure?" "three hours" said Jacques. " Let’s wait until tomorrow, I want to make sure it reaches its maximum strength" said I.

In the afternoon we went to the Capitainerie, the harbormaster’s office, to get the clearance to go out of the country. To make sure we will encounter no difficulty, Jacques suggested that a gift to the harbormaster was the right thing to do. As much as I hate this practice, I acquiesced. The office is 1950’s style and a mechanical typewriter is still in use.

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Later in the day I passed the time relaxing and reading; I’m reading a book called "The Cuckoo’s calling" by a certain Robert Galbraith, who is actually a pseudonym for J.K Rowling. In a way it’s a pity that I knew beforehand the real identity of the author; it would have been interesting to see whether I would’ve enjoyed it the same way, thinking the man who wrote it was previously unknown. I’d like to think I would…

Looking around me I saw some newcomers to the bay: "Ambika" a Swedish monohull, which I saw in Mauritius, "Wakataites" a Wharram cat I met in the Solomon islands about two years ago and another Swedish ketch "Mary" with two sweet, blond, very young children, who liked nothing better than spending their time on the mizzen boom.

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23.8.13 – Friday – The big day; windlass base will be finished, fuel will be taken on board, passport will be stamped and I will sail to Mayotte. Well… To get to Mayotte in good daylight I need to leave here at first light; that will only happen tomorrow morning and I will spend the night on the sly in an anchorage on the east coast of Skatia island.

While Jacques was working on the windlass base, sanding and painting it, I did the fueling operation; leaking jerry-cans supplied by the vendor made a terrible mess of the front deck. All work was finished at 1300. I hinted to Jacques that I thought the work took more time than he expected and that a re-calculation was in order. He wouldn’t have any of it! I did add some money for his help with the authorities.

I had some local left money and decided to spend it all in the "Shampions" supermarket. After that I still had a bit of local cash and we (Jacques et Moi) traipsed to the market to buy some peppers. Entering the it through a side gate, I saw they had some nice shrimps there. "What a pity, had I known, I would have left some money for those" I said. Jacques bought them for me as well as a bottle of pickled lemon and chili for Gili! What a nice guy!

By the way – here’s a correction regarding the local money rate: 1$ U.S 2000 Ariary. 1 Euro – 2800.

Back at the port, we went to the police and my passport was ceremoniously stamped. Jacques and I shook hands and I boarded the dinghy and went to the boat. I started the engines and went out of the bay; wind on the nose, but as I passed Crater bay the island’s coast veered to the north and I could use my sails. I entered the channel between Nosy Be and Skatia, the water became absolutely calm; a beautiful bay awaited me, some yachts, one of them, "Grace" a big, beautiful Wharram cat, already anchoring.

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I washed the front deck to get rid of the marks the spilt fuel left and then went into the water for a refreshing swim. Dinner was spaghetti with shrimps in tomato sauce. Absolute quietness in this bay. Bliss!

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