Posted by: catamarantwooceans | October 4, 2013

Sailing in Mozambique–part 3

23.9.13 – Monday – Yesterday, when we entered the Benguerra anchorage, I marked waypoints on the approach and built a route from them, thinking of departure early in the morning with no sun above to read the bottom. This morning, at 0520, I exited the narrow channel using, for the first time in my life, the "rolling road" feature of the plotter. Now I understand what it’s good for! I felt like a pilot, performing an instrument approach although without the benefit of an autopilot.

Now, with high water, getting to the Vilankulo anchorage was child’s play; Two catamarans were there, one a Maxim boat, just like ours. We passed by to take a look and spoke to the owner, Norman, who came by later for a chat. He lives here for about 8 years, knows the place inside out and gave us a few important tips.

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The anchorage is actually quite far from the "port" and the town. We took the dinghy there and immediately had a guy who introduced himself as Anthony, come by to guard it. The dinghy landing is very shallow and as the tide goes out, the boat boys drag the dinghy and keep it in the water all the time.

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heeding Norman’s advice, we followed the road from the port to town and arrived at the "Luxus center" where the Kilimanjaro café, owned by Shaun (the right spelling is probably SEAN) who briefed me on the anchorage. The café has acceptable food and free Wifi and a lot of South African ex-pats are in attendance at all times. There is a Millennium bank with an ATM workable with Visa cards nearby and a good supermarket on the other side of the road.

Downloading the forecast was number one priority and as the grib file opened it was a big disappointment. Between the 28th and 30th the wind will be from the south sector, reaching 25 plus knots, closing the weather window for going to Richard’s bay. We will have to wait in Inhambane for a change.

The "Vilankulo Beach Resort" let us fill our jerry-cans with water at no charge; I wanted to dive with them and have dinner there; but with the state of the sea, we would have arrived at the restaurant soaking wet by the waves on the way so the idea was dropped.

24.9.13 – Tuesday – A visit to town, some more shopping for food and another visit to the Kilimanjaro for internet filled our morning. I arranged to have the supermarket car and driver take me with my fuel jerry-cans to the petrol station in the afternoon. While waiting for the car, I had a talk with Anthony, who has quite good English. He told me he was 25 years old, married with two kids; he attended school until he was 10 and then went working. His father died seven years ago, his mother not working, he was the one who supported the family. His ambition is to become a boat’s skipper. Difficult to say whether he made up the story, which coincided with a request for more money but surely his life was not too easy.

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I filled my jerry cans and set out with the dinghy to go to "Two Oceans". The wind built up and waves formed in the bay, making the ride a very wet one. After refueling I went to the resort to speak to Daniel, the dive club director, about the dive trip tomorrow. He said that the visibility was very limited by the abundance of plankton in the water and so I gave it up.

Gili voiced what we both felt: if you don’t go diving, why not sail to Inhambane next day? We decided to do just that; we had enough of Vilankulo!

Bazaruto bay disappointed us; the anchorages are shallow and do not have good protection. Apart from the bay on Benguerra’s northwest, which was too shallow even for catamarans, none of the places we stayed at was pleasing to the eye. Perhaps better charts would have made a difference, but our C-Map and Navionics did not have enough detail so sailing in the bay was a bit of "exploration" and as such not very relaxing. Keel boats beware! I hope to meet "Myriam" again and hear about their experiences.

25.9.13 – Going out of Bazaruto bay required planning; the chart showed two channels, one on the south and the other on the north of Benguerra. The former was an unknown while the latter was recommended by Norman and Daniel and was actually a continuation of the pass into the Benguerra resort we visited a few says ago. Being very shallow, we had to go there at high tide; high water being at 0640 and the pass about 8 miles from our anchorage, I started out at 0600, both engines at 2500 R.P.M and arrived there at 0730.

At the beginning all went well and we had good depths but as we progressed, a few unmarked shoals, the scariest of all being 1.5 meters, made my stress level reach new heights. As we got closer to the channel exit, it widened and deepened; by that time we had our sails open and pulling nicely. Bazaruto decided to give me some more anxiety; currents going out of the bay met the one flowing outside, making steep waves and whirlpools and if that was not enough the depth fluctuated again going up and down from 33 meters to 10, back to 25 than to a minimum of 3.4. Not a smooth ride!

Finally we were out and took up a heading to the first waypoint near Ponta the Barra Falsa. The forecast promised northeasterly at less than 10 but as always the actual wind was stronger. Then, as we distanced ourselves from land, the current kicked in. Soon we were sailing at more than 7 knots. In the afternoon the wind became even stronger and our SOG faster; the plotter showing arrival at the entry to Inhambane channel at 1 a.m. Although the forecast for the night showed the wind veering to the southeast and diminishing, I had to slow down; we needed to have good daylight for the entry.

We went trough the reefing stages all the way to third reef and still the speed was around the 7 mark. As night fell the wind abated; speed back to normal, sails fully opened.

26.9.13 – Thursday – As Gili woke me up for my 0100 – 0500 watch, the wind was southeasterly and we were doing 4.5 knots, just the right number. With good light we came up to the entry point of the bay, which is about 15 miles from Inhambane port and town. Initially I used some waypoints that were published in a cruisers website, but those ended 12 miles to port and the advise was :"across the bar the channel is very visible". Well, not so easy! I continued according to the C-Map chart, watching the depth instrument and looking all around trying to read the bottom.

The bay is huge and much prettier than Bazaruto; a lot more vegetation on shore and a few nice looking islands, including one with a lot of flamingoes, a flock of which flew past our bows.

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From the distance I could see two concrete markers and assumed they showed the way to the port. The first one did but the second tempted me into a Cul de sac and I had to turn back and rediscover the channel.

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We finally arrived at the port and anchored north of the long ferry and ship dock they have there.

Just after lunch visitors came ; a delegation of port captain people. They came aboard and started an inquisition session, during which they wanted to see my fire fighting equipment, my flares, the engines and so on. Once that was finished we had to go the port captain office. The chief there, Americo Sito assumed a very friendly attitude and sent us to one of the clerks where we had to pay 4600 meticals,  for permission to stay in the area and hopefully the outbound clearance to South Africa. He also said he wanted to visit, or was it "inspect" our boat but gladly did not show up.

We found WiFi in the Bistro Pescadore  by the ferry dock and downloaded the weather; the picture did not look good. It seems we would not be able to leave for Richard’s bay before October 1st. We’ll keep following the weather hoping a change for the better will occur.

As we came back to the boat, we decided to lift the dinghy up to its platform for the night. I was man-handling its stern into the sort of bracket it sits on, lost my balance and toppled aft into the water. Luckily no electronics on me; the only damage was losing my flip-flops.

27.9.13 – Friday – Strong northerly, up to 32 knots all day long. We stayed on the boat, doing some cleaning, resting and reading. The continuous howl of the wind can drive you to despair; we’re still waiting for the change.

28.9.134 – Saturday – As promised by the forecast, the wind died. Later in the day it was southerly up to 15 and a few drops of rain fell. We shopped at the Chinese supermarket and the Mercado Central which had good fresh produce. At the bakery in the street opposite the super we bought freshly baked bread. We will do the formalities for departure on Monday, go to a bay to the east of Ponta da Barra and set out to Richard’s bay on Tuesday.

The owner of the Bistro Pescadore allowed us to take water from the tap of his garden at no charge. We took 70 liters and will do another round tomorrow.

Internet did not work at the Bistro, so I called my friend Itzik in Israel and he looked up the forecast for me. Tuesday will start for us with southeasterly 20 going down to 15 during the day, Wednesday will bring easterly of around 10 knots increasing a bit in the evening. As we get closer to Richard’s bay the wind will go north and increase.

29.9.13 – Sunday – Early morning it started raining hard. This went on all day long, prohibiting going ashore; we just stayed on board except for a short run to the Bistro to get additional 50 liters of water. Can you believe it can become cold here? We put on fleece tops and I donned socks and shoes.

30.9.13 – Monday – At 0830 we entered the harbor master’s office; he was there, made some small talk after which we approached the desk and announced our intention to do the departure procedure. That started a frantic search for a man called Sandre, who was supposed to do it. Telephone calls were made, junior staff were sent to look for him but he was nowhere to be found.

We interjected the question of the immigration’s whereabouts; that brought about another confusion; a long discussion between all the office personnel revealed that the immigration office is in Maxixe (pronounced Masheesh) on the other side of the bay. The harbor master suggested that we go there first and when we come back our document will be ready. You go to Maxixe by ferry but as we entered the ferry "terminal" it turned out there was only a motor boat going there. The motorboat, belonging to a company with an unusual name by western standards.

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It was packed to capacity and then some more people came on. We found ourselves on the second row; I aimed my camera backwards and this is what it caught.

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When rain started falling, a marinero covered the front of the boat with the blue roof tarpaulin and we were delivered to Maxixe in a well wrapped package.

We found the immigrations office; a woman, with which we had no common language, took our passports and tried to understand our need, a local guy helped translating. The outcome was bizarre; they said that since we had multiple entries visa, we did not require to stamp the passport when we leave. I simply couldn’t believe it and insisted on getting our passport stamped; the immigrations clerk shook her head negatively. She may have also said that they did not have a departure stamp at all.

We took our passports back and made our way to the ferry; this time the motorboat was so heavily loaded that I genuinely feared to ride it. From time to time you hear about a ferry capsizing somewhere in the third world and people drowning; I really wouldn’t like to participate in such an event! We breathed with relief as we disembarked in Inhambane. Back at the harbor master’s, our presence caused a heated argument between the now found Sandre and the other workers. Finally a document was produced, stamped and signed; I snatched it and wanted to leave but was stopped twice, each time they found that they forgot something; first the name of the boat and then the tonnage. We were happy to escape with the Maritime Clearance in hand.

A short stop at the Bistro for downloading the forecast stretched when the coffees we ordered did not arrive. We left without drinking and got back to Two Oceans at 1215. Our plan was to go to a small bay near Ponta da Barra, which would have saved us 21 miles on the way to Richards Bay. Those 21 miles could take four hours so we’ll get to the bay around 1600 – 1630, marginally late for a place that we never been to and to which the chart is not too good. The wind was blowing from the southeast at 25 knots with gusts producing short waves; I understood that the 8 miles we had to go against the wind would take us a lot more than planned and decided on an alternate – the bay behind Ponta de Linga Linga, which was recommended by a yachtie who stayed there a few times and found it to be "a good place to hide from any oncoming weather fronts".

We anchored at 23 42.892 S 35 23.515 E, 3.5 meters on sand; the waves were still there but much smaller and the tidal current fought the wind for supremacy in pointing our bows this and that way, resulting in a merry go round. Our main concern is that the wind and sea conditions would be benign tomorrow.


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