S/V Nereida sails around the world

16Nov07 Day11 from Reunion to S. Africa - end of Indian Ocean crossing close!

Friday 16th November '07 - end of Indian Ocean crossing in sight

I'm very close to making landfall - always exciting to arrive at a new place, but especially at the completion of such a big ocean crossing!!

What a difference a few hours can make in the weather!! Around noon yesterday, it was hot & sunny with light NNE winds. By just after sunrise, there were dark grey skies - and rain!! I'd not long spoken to the cargo ship 'Maple Ace' to check they knew my position to stay clear of me as they passed me by on their way to Durban, when I realized that the wind, which had backed to the SSW earlier but was still light at 11 knots, was suddenly gusting up... All was busy activity in the cockpit for
a time after, in the wind & rain, the 'Maple Ace' having a grandstand view as she passed very close by, as I hurriedly put two reefs in the mains'l. I also furled an equivalent amount in the genoa, as the wind rose to 25 knots. No complaints now about not being able to sail well! We were making excellent speed close-hauled with stays'l & reefed mains'l, having furled the genoa to under half in the strong wind and big seas. The wind stayed up for a couple of hours, although backing into the SSE,
but gradually slackened until by afternoon, & in to the evening, it was around 15 knots. Nice sailing - I let out all reefs and enjoyed the sailing conditions.
A major frustration since early today has been a complete failure to connect with shore radio stations to send/receive emails & weather info despite constant efforts to do so. Only late tonight was a connection finally made.
At 1700 today, after yesterday having had light winds forecast for Saturday, I spoke to Fred on the 'Peri Peri' Radio Net & it now seems there's a 'blow' due later tomorrow - so I've turned on the motor to help my speed & I'm now motor-sailing as fast as I can, hoping to get in early enough to avoid the problem of a strong S wind against the S-going Agulhas Current (dangerous conditions!) as I close the coast headed for Richards Bay, at the end of this ocean passage... I may yet have to heave to
& wait for the strong S wind to abate, if things don't turn out as I hope!

P.S. At 0600 (SA time), Saturday morning, the sky is clearing up, the sun is getting out & we're leaving the leaden grey clouds of night behind ... The wind is from the SW at 7 knots, having backed all around the compass overnight with rain coming through!! As I write this, I've about 50 miles to go.

14/15th Nov07 Days 9&10 on passage to S. Africa

Wed 14th Nov

Very pleasant, relaxed day but again, motor-sailing all day in around 6 knots of NE wind.

Ran the desalinator to fill water tank, had a lovely shower, washed clothes, etc - all to lots of music!!

Another beautiful sunset with delicate crescent moon hanging high above. Sky has been mainly clear all day and sea has been fairly calm. Forecast is for more of same light wind for next day or two... then stronger wind from S on Saturday and even stronger from N on Sunday. Had hoped to make landfall late Saturday, but have to be careful of S wind if crossing Agulhas current... will have to see how weather works out nearer time.

Noon distance to go: 451 n.ml.

Thurs 15th Nov

There's just not quite enough breeze to move me nicely W against strong S-going current.. I'm having to point really high, even helping our forward speed under full canvas & stays'l with the motor... The good news is that I probably needn't worry about crossing the Agulhas current - the cold front has moved off to the east and the forecast for Saturday is for more light winds, albeit from the S. I've given up hoping to make Saturday landfall - looks like Sunday, for sure, possibly very early, even if I have to motorsail gently most of the way - which with the forecast of light winds over next couple of days is probably what will happen - nothing up to around 15 knots expected until noon Saturday maybe... Will do some more fuel transfer this afternoon (from deep in cockpit locker)....

Another hot, bright & sunny day today out here!! Things are definitely tough on "Nereida" at present!!!

.....INCREDIBLE!!! Just had a VHF call from a singlehander on a boat ("Friendship" - Amel53) I'd heard on the Peri Peri Net this morning - but he's about 400 miles away!!! (He's at 22S, 37E, I'm at 28S, 38E) He'd heard me talking to a container ship a short while earlier (there's LOTS of shipping around) so thought he'd try calling me!! We chatted for ages...!! I couldn't believe his position initially!! All the more amazing since getting a connection to Winlink on the SSB (HF) radio seems to be so very difficult at the moment & I can't understand why... maybe it's the combination of the high pressure system and the heat..?

Noon distance to go: 320 n. ml.

Day8 to S.Africa: 13thNov07 Clear sky, flat calm, motoring!!

Tuesday 13th November

Not a lot you can do about 2-4 knots of wind - except motor gently and check your fuel reserves!!

Good news is that the sea lies right down - so refuelling becomes perfectly safe in the gentle swell. I've calculated I've enough in the tanks (~190l) at the moment to motor gently for at least 84 hrs, or 3 and a half days!!! Having said that, it does look as though we may have very little wind for 3 days .... so I may yet need all that fuel since I don't expect to make landfall until Sunday or Monday at this speed. I could dig out my deep reserves - another 4x20l buried deep in my cockpit locker but what I'll do in the meantime is to pump out 30l into my smaller jerry cans to have ready to use, just in case.

Just had a look in the engine compartment to check on things there.... partly because I'm hearing a slight regular 'knocking' noise, which I don't think I should, from the prop or propshaft region. Found, lying beside the engine mounting, the same big nut off the top of the port-side forward engine mount which I'd replaced & tightened not that long ago .... why is it repeatedly working loose & coming off?? Something else I'd noticed, yesterday, in fact, is that I'd lost the starboard nav light fitting - torn off its cable and holder - presumably when the genoa fell into the sea on that side...

I'm feeling much happier today with my computer situation.... I'd trashed the dongle I have to use in order to access the Nobeltec world charts on my computer - or to be more precise, the computer fell about in big seas a few days ago and the dongle in its side got bent & so stopped working, despite my attempted repair which worked for a short time! With my AIS stand-alone unit not functioning, I was using the Nobeltec software to show AIS information whilst on passage overnight. Knowing that if any big ship comes within 15-20 mls of "Nereida" an alarm will go off to warn me means I can get much better sleep at night, so to be without the AIS completely was a nuisance, to say the least. I've had to run my radar instead, which uses far more power & gives some warning but also goes off with storm & rain clouds and doesn't give anything like as much detail - like name of ship etc. So, having emailed Jeppesen Marine to explain my problem, I was delighted to get an almost immediate response with a simple solution - I had on board another time-expired dongle which I was told could be activated to enable me to open up the Nobeltec world charts to display my AIS info. I've been pleased with the accuracy of the charts when arriving close to harbours & I like them a lot for passage planning (it's a nice, 'user-friendly', simple and clear program).

So today has been excellent: sun, calm sea, lots of battery power (so lots of music played!) ... but not many miles covered. Ambling along at 3.6 knots SOG only equates to just over 85 mls per day... instead of the 150 mls I'd got used to in 20 knots of wind. So arrival time in Richards Bay recedes even further away.... ho, hum...!!

Distance to go at noon today: 566 n.ml.

Day7 to S.Africa - lovely, sunny, relaxed sailing.

Actually have a SSW-going current at the moment which is excellent news! (Boatspeed 4.9, SOG 6.1, in 12kn of E wind!) Picture-book Tradewind sailing all day today - bright, clear blue sky, wind astern, rolly (!!) but making my course with current helping - probably one of my last 'Tradewind'-type days on this passage & until S. Atlantic crossing in January. It actually feels warm, as well! It's calm enough to b able to have opened all the hatches to air the boat. Was sitting up in the sunny cockpit earlier, finishing the last delicious Reunion pineapple after Brie for lunch accompanied by lovely fresh coffee made with a newly-opened packet from Cairns. It's been a very pleasant and relaxing day - especially by contrast with yesterday!

Glad to say my genoa is functioning OK after yesterday's excitement although having to be careful not to unfurl it too much!! Fridge has a short somewhere (thermostat possibly??) so will not stay on - circuit breaker cuts power supply whenever I try to switch on, so having to plan my eating carefully to avoid wastage!!

Distance to Richards Bay at noon today: 683 n.ml.

11th Nov07 - genoa falls into sea!! Day6 of passage to S. Africa

Sunday 11th Nov

This has been an active 24 hrs!! Overnight, the wind backed, as expected. First, at around 1 a.m., the sails started flapping madly as it increased to 22knots and went to NW from N, heading us. I hurriedly furled the genoa but happily left the small stays'l up and adjusted our course slightly more to S, off the wind. I'd already taken in the first reef in the mains'l late last night so left that alone. The SE current seemed to have reduced as we actually ended up making the same (roughly SSW) course as during the evening before. Then I had to get up hurriedly into the cockpit again just before sunrise, with the wind having backed now to SW, to change onto port tack and unfurl some genoa, the wind having reduced slightly to under 20 knots, but a big SW swell developing. Stayed up a bit and enjoyed the sunrise and generally calm, sunny day but finally decided to get some more sleep during the morning.

Was just getting ready to make my regular noon log entry and was unfurling the last bit of genoa, having noticed I'd not let it all out, when, in disbelief, I saw genoa going slack and head of sail falling away, taking rest of sail with it into the sea... I hurriedly got to the winch & took in a bit more on the sheet to prevent too much sail going under water (I wondered if it would make us broach!) & slowly, with great difficulty, pulled the sail, bit by bit, over the rail and onto the side deck. The foil was still standing but when I looked at the shackle at the head of the sail, I found two sharp metal edges - the metal had sheared off at the connection between the shackle and the top furler fitting - which I then realized was still sitting up near the mast top, held by the halyard... and seemed determined to stay there when I released the halyard.... what to do??

The swell was big & frequent - I wasn't sure it was a good idea to go up the mast just then, better to think over carefully all my options - after all, I still had the two small hanked-on sails and maybe I should consider moving the inner (moveable) forestay forward to the base of the forestay... On the other hand, light winds were forecast for several days ahead and there was good wind at present, albeit on the nose .... definitely thinking time for coffee and a very late breakfast/lunch!! It seemed to me that a lot depended on whether or not I could fix the broken fitting to make use of the genoa, as I'd prefer to (it being so much larger than the small sails).

Initially, I'd switched on the motor to head gently upwind to help in recovering the sail & then to make way in the right direction, but later turned it off and sailed, but very slowly...1.5kn. I now realized that the swell had died down a lot and the sea was reasonably calm - time to go up the mast & retrieve that fitting - I got all kitted up & found the spool of strong seine twine which would be more than long enough for the purpose & went forward. I was just about to get up onto the first step when I noticed that the top furler fitting had slid of its own accord down to near deck level, with my having left the halyard free... excellent news! On examining the broken part, it seemed that a second shackle was all that was needed to make a temporary repair - I soon found one in my spares that was big enough and attached it, 'mousing' the pin with wire for security. Then came the difficult job of pulling the big, stiff, heavy sail forward, checking it wasn't twisted, and attaching the head to the furler fitting on the halyard. Finally, I made use of the pre-feeder given to me by Mark Butler in San Diego earlier this year. I'd not come across this item before - a very simple device, without which I'd have found it almost impossible to raise the genoa in its groove up the forestay foil by winching the halyard from the mast. Eventually, the sail was up - but wouldn't go high enough to tension the luff properly. Much as I tried to winch more, it didn't seem to want to go any further - I wonder if the luff of the sail has become stretched, or maybe my 'fix' has made it a bit longer than it was, or a bit of both. Either way, I had to pleat the foot of the sail while furling it a few turns, bit by bit, to get anything like a decent shape in the sail with the wind in it under sheet tension - means I cannot make full use of the sail but must keep it slightly furled at all times - small price to pay for having the use of the genoa once again!! By 6 o'clock 'radio net' time, all was finished and we were making good speed on our course ... I felt much happier!! I was very lucky this didn't happen at night &/or in strong winds &/or in really heavy seas!!!

10th Nov07 Struggling to get around Madagascar

Sat 10th Nov

Spent a lot of time on deck today, gazing at the big seas and absorbing the scene.... A lot of sail-trimming & course adjustment needed also.

I was able to cut the motor around 1am and have sailed ever since all day - in increasingly strong winds and big seas under overcast skies and some rain - found the front Fred was talking about!! Lightning is flickering ahead now (10pm) in the darkness. We're trying to round the S end of Madagascar against a VERY strong SE current - proving very difficult despite 6-7 knots of boatspeed! Quite a bumpy ride all day... and very frustrating to be making 7 knots through the water, but only 2-3 knots over the ground, not even making our course but being taken further south.... At one time, I was needing to head 285, trying to make 230!! I decided to cut my losses and head more off the wind, and hence also the current, to increase speed over the ground - that seems to have worked even though it's not quite in the direction I would have liked - but it's near enough for now... Let's see what the wind does overnight and tomorrow - forecast is for it to back completely around by tomorrow evening. "Stenella" have been hit by 40 knot winds (a SW 'buster'), as expected - I could well get something similar by the time I reach where they are, not too far off the coast.

I spent most of the afternoon taking my computer to bits and giving the fans & surrounding area a thorough cleaning - all very dusty. The good news is that when I finished, the computer still worked & I had no screws over & none missing!!! I suspect one of the two fans isn't working - seemed way too new-looking and dustless...

I'm expecting a disturbed night - with the wind expected to back steadily, sails will need trimming/checking and we may have to tack around at some point. I'm running the radar on 'guardwatch' and 'waking' it up every 10 minutes to check for shipping.

Time to get some sleep while all is calm....

Distance to go at noon today: 877 n.ml.

8-9th Nov07: Days 3&4 to South Africa from Reunion

Friday 9th Nov

Having had a great sail for most of Thursday, the wind died a little by nightfall, so I motor-sailed while charging the batteries for around 3 hrs but then was able to cut the engine & sail overnight at around 4 knots, which is fine ...can't afford to motor unnecessarily since still a long way to go!! Today we lost the bright sunny skies & it became overcast soon after sunrise, but I managed to sail most of the time until near dusk when speed dropped to around 2.5-3 knots - time to motorsail ...Winds
yesterday were NNE just under 15kn but today were mostly N around 10kn.

The current is having a big effect on our speed & direction - reducing our boatspeed by over a knot & making it often difficult to maintain our rhumbline course to a waypoint 160mls off the S coast of Madagascar. It's not a good idea to get much closer to the coast since the seas there can get rather nasty in strong SW winds because of big seamounts rising up abruptly from the deep seabed. The forecast is actually for W-SW winds of 13-18 knots exactly around the time I expect to reach that area
early Sunday morning... not good news! Hopefully the forecast strength is correct though - another boat ("Stenella") is expecting SW 30-40 knots tomorrow but they're much nearer to S. Africa than "Nereida". ('SW Busters' are regular features of S. African weather, coming up the east coast from the Southern Ocean and making the strong SW-flowing Agulhas current a dangerous area to be in... Fortunately, there is good weather info available to avoid being caught out - the main reason I'm making daily
radio contact with the 'weather guru' Fred on the 'Piri Piri Net'.)

I've been trying to figure out what my best tactic should be in the meantime - I clearly don't want to head any further north & will maintain my course for the time being, expecting to have to sail S for a time when the W wind heads us before tacking around eventually when the wind backs more to the S later in the day - by which time I'll be wanting to make a course almost due W anyway towards Richards Bay. Hopefully that will all work out fine - but we'll see what actually happens to the wind speed
& direction at the time - often quite different from the predictions! I raised my little staysail (inner foresail) yesterday afternoon partly for fun, partly to try to give us a bit more 'push' but partly also to make sure I had the sheets leading correctly- it's still a fairly new thing to "Nereida" and it's nice to have it ready in case of those strong winds.

Just popped out on deck to adjust sails and see what would happen without the motor - 2.5knots!! Pitch black with no moon and total overcast...

The good news from yesterday is there is no sign of any water in the starboard tank fuel - and the bad news is that my main laptop decided to die... as well as my back-up already behaving erratically... so communications became a bit of a nightmare scenario... Trying to get the 2nd laptop to do things it couldn't or didn't want to wasted a lot of time and led to a lot of frustrated effort... like trying to get AIS input with GPS input as well (not possible). Today, the main laptop decided maybe
it wasn't ready to give up the ghost just yet... or not quite so... it's clearly overheating, although I did detect slight sign of a fan working at one point. Anyway, I was galvanized into backing up my emails and other important data files onto my external hard drive. Other good news is that, for the moment, the AIS display is working - I'm watching the 'Bulk Leher' (24 mls off) slowly making its way west to the north of us. Only problem is I don't know if I can rely on the screen to keep up the
display so I can use the alarm function to enable longer sleep .....

5-8th Nov07: Days 1-3 to South Africa from Reunion

Mon 5th November

Weather forecast is consistently showing light winds for several days at start of passage to Richards Bay - so I decided to get starboard fuel tank seen to in view of expected motoring. Pumped out some fuel from bottom of tank - as expected, had a fair amount of water but next lot of fuel showed very little water so I filled tank with fresh diesel and replaced gasket etc. Must keep a good eye on sight glass - but that being very clean now, it should be easy to see if there's a water problem. I'd
already replaced a spade terminal on the fridge power supply - it kept failing to start up & the wire at that terminal was getting very hot. Boat is now fairly sorted ready for passage - 7 boats on evening radio Net, 1 boat ('Megusta') almost arrived (3 knots of S-going current 450 miles off Durban!!), another one on passage and rest of us starting tomorrow or by later in week - looks as though most of us will meet up again in Richards Bay. Must try to contact Fred on 'Piri-Piri Net' tomorrow or
day or so after (9am LT on 8108).

Tues-Thurs 6-8th November

Left 8am Tuesday in warm haze with NNE wind around 10 knots, which made for gentle sailing initially but by early afternoon it had dropped to 5kn (from astern!) - so motor on... Motor-sailed on & off overnight, wind veering SE for a short while in the evening before backing to E and increasing to ~12-15 kn which meant motor could be cut, but only for a short while since wind died early Wed morning and backed into NE. With a SW course, we were doing around 2knots - so on with the motor yet again...until
the next time the wind increased enough to sail - lots of periods of motor-sailing mixed in with gentle sailing in a calm sea & in bright sunshine.

I had a busy night up & down on Thursday - lots of ships - clearly in a busy shipping lane & had to call up a couple to make sure they knew I was on their path, to avoid me. Having to run the computer to get AIS (Automatic Identification System) input there, since Nasa Marine display has been playing up - only showing ships around when first switched on - then it seems to lose them & screen goes blank. Must be faulty instrument since AIS input via VHF aerial & the Milltech 'smart splitter' is working
fine into Nobeltec charting. The good thing about the Nobeltec software, apart from its charting & positioning having been excellent in & around most islands & all major harbours, is that it shows all possible AIS info, as well as giving both audible & visual warnings of ships likely to get too close..

We're actually sailing beautifully now with a helpful current (as I write this around noon Thursday) in NNE-N 5 (~16kn). Swell is up a bit but not too bad - only the occasional 'bash'! Expecting SW swell soon but NNE at present. Spoke to Fred on the 'Piri Piri Net' again this morning - he expects 10-20kn N/NNE wind for next two days, which would be nice...he didn't indicate what was to come after...!

Switched over to port fuel tank when st'bd one got to halfway when motoring yesterday. Need to drain a little from filter sight-glass to check it's OK before using any more - don't want to take any risks...! Yesterday, I also finally organized my second preventer line - so now have one on each side, leading to a dedicated jammer & then via a block on the quarter to a winch. Should make life easier when gybing in future.

Was sitting out this morning enjoying a lovely grapefruit in the warm sun when I had to jump to the wheel to avoid a yellow marker buoy with what looked like a transmitter aerial attached - weather or fishing...?? There seemed to be a second small buoy a short distance away downwind and we were headed directly between - didn't want to take any chances!!

Distance to go to Richards Bay at noon on Thursday: 1120 n.ml. 24 hr distances run noon-to-noon (local time) Wed & Thurs: 125 n.ml. & 130 n.ml.

2nd-4th November Back to "Nereida"(Photo: Tree ferns & mountains near Col de Fourche)

2nd-4th November Back to "Nereida"(Photo: Tree ferns & mountains near Col de Fourche)

Over the weekend, I've provisioned, got fuel & generally been getting 'Nereida' ready for
the next leg - to South Africa, which will complete my Indian Ocean crossing. A lot of time
has been spent at the local Internet cafe, trying to get weather information (and emailing)
- not so easy when the service provider keeps going down...!!
Both Friday and Saturday, there have been people out & about at the marina relaxing - a live
band on the opposite side of the marina... lots of people playing music from their car while
they enjoy a barbecue or picnic food - all very sociable!
The winds look as though they may be rather light, but I'm hoping not to have to motor too
much. We'll see....

Life is precious - make the most of it!

Thurs 1st Nov (cont) - Patrick & son make music

Thurs 1st Nov (cont) - Patrick & son make music

I'd met a couple along the path who were also making for Hellbourg & in chatting to them,
I'd commented about my feet giving me a problem. As the afternoon wore on, the air started
to feel very moist with the clouds being so close and finally it started spitting. To my
surprised delight, when I got to the beginning of the final section - a dirt road leading to
a steep, zig-zagging made-up road - I found them waiting for me in their car.... wonder of
wonders! How kind some people are...they'd waited in order to take me (the easy way!) down to Hellbourg and my 'gite' for the night.

Patrick, the owner of the 'gite', entertained us royally during our meal with his Creole
guitar-playing and his sons accompanied on 'tambour' (drums).. it was a very pleasant
evening in good company.

Life is precious - make the most of it!

Thurs 1st November (All Saints) - Over the Col de Fourche to Hellbourg

Thurs 1st November (All Saints) - Over the Col de Fourche to Hellbourg

It was a beautiful clear morning, as usual here in Reunion, when I started out at 8am for
Hellbourg in the Cirque de Salizies. My route was over the Col de Fourche, rather than the
easier Col de Boeuf which would have meant a longer route... Stunning scenery and views,
lovely woods with a variety of trees and plants depending on the height ..and even steeper
paths!! I took my time and made the most of my magnificent surroundings. It was a Public
Holiday, so I occasionally met others along the way - but mostly I was by myself again, in
wild countryside - but stunning views as I climbed higher and higher.
Eventually, around midday, clouds began to form and by one o'clock it was quite grey -
absolutely normal for the mountainous area in Reunion. It was much more thickly wooded
along a lot of this route than yesterday's had been and there were plenty of birds & their
song as well as an abundance of pretty flowers and shrubs. The birds were not at all shy,
often perching very close and gazing at me... I also caught sight of a kind of hedgehog...
as well as a black rat!!

Wed 31st Oct Col de Taibit path starts here! (Cirque de Cilaos)

Wed 31st Oct Col de Taibit path starts here! (Cirque de Cilaos)

Up early to make for the little town of Cilaos and the footpath to the Col de Taibit. The
talk the previous night was of clouds forming usually by midday on the mountains - so it was
important to get an early start if I wanted to get a good view from the top of the col
before the cloud formed. As I got to the beginning of the path, I was surprised at the
steepness of it, with logs across forming steps - little did I realize that this was to be
the norm for my next two days of hiking!!
It was certainly a tough climb and I was very happy when I came across a hut selling a
herbal infusion a short time later - I needed it!! That hut was unusual - all the rest of
my walking was along paths in otherwise virgin countryside with the occasional other hikers
met with along the way. The paths are generally well-marked, so a map wasn't needed, but I
had much further to walk than I expected and got very worried by the afternoon that I might
be stranded in the woods overnight... especially when, in crossing a river, I lost sight of
the marks for a time!!
The area I was walking in was basically made up of three huge old craters with steep walls
between them - on which were the cols I had to cross. To get from Cilaos to La Nouvelle, in
the Cirque de Mafate, I had to climb up to the Col de Taibit... and, of course, down the
other side to the tiny hamlet of Marla, after which I followed a deep ravine for quite a
way, zig-zagging down along its sides and occasionally crossing the river in its bottom....
With shoes clearly not adequate for the test I was putting them to, my toes & nails decided
they were not happy - which slowed me down rather... I eventually reached my 'gite' by
5.30pm - a very pleasant experience, meeting with others at dinner after a gorgeous, long,
hot shower. I've not slept in a dormitory for quite a number of years, so that was an
amusing experience also!!

Life is precious - make the most of it!

Tues 30th Oct - a difficult harbour entrance at lovely St Pierre

Tues 30th Oct - a difficult harbour entrance at lovely St Pierre

To St Paul Tourist Office in morning (actually tucked away in St Gilles) to organize my
walks up in the mountains, staying at pre-booked 'gites' overnight over Wed & Thurs. The
girl in the office clearly didn't know a lot about the distances and times involved in my
proposed 'randonnees' - which would later cause me a major problem!! Then we drove down the coast to St Pierre - a lovely harbour town with a beautiful park area stretching behind the
seafront - but a difficult harbour entrance, which becomes positively dangerous in times of
SW swell. 3 fishermen died this year trying to enter in those conditions (see photo!).
Later had sundowners with English-teachers David & Martine (met in Rodrigues) by the little
harbour at St Leu before driving to their house perched high up on the mountainside, with
lovely views over the coast, for a thoroughly enjoyable dinner & evening - but late to bed!

Life is precious - make the most of it!

Mon 29th Oct Reunion west coast

Mon 29th Oct Reunion west coast

Having settled in nicely to a slip on arrival on Sunday morning, it turned out that the slip
owners were due in at any time from Madagascar so I had to move to the now-empty visitors'
dock - with the bonus of no berthing charges & free electricity & water!! "Bowtie Lady" was
berthed adjacent to "Nereida" & we later walked into Le Port (NOT St Denis, as I'd thought!)
and, having heard that buses are not convenient for getting about the island, shared the
cost of car hire for 4 days at 100 Euros (seemed really cheap although the car was very
knocked about & in need of some basic maintenance - but it kept going OK, apart from
developing a flat tyre!).
An immediate short tour of the coast south of Le Port seemed in order - dramatic black
basalt rocky coastline somewhat reminiscent of Cornwall but not so high) alternating with
sandy beaches backed by tamarind trees. Went down to Salines-les-Bains - nice beach with
windsurfers & kitesurfers - and then back up to St-Gilles-les-Bains - little harbour crammed
with small fishing boats and with surfers off beach to north of entrance. (Had grilled fish
& chips at 'Chez Joseph' - well-known local fisherman) Took a wrong turn at one point early
on and ended up on a raised little windy road going uphill - gets rather worrying when cars
come at you at speed around bends - nowhere really to go to get out of their way without
ending up toppling over a very steep edge into a deep ditch!! Lots of motorbikers also,
overtaking at breakneck speed on the main roads, weaving in & out of the busy traffic.
It seemed very odd to me to be in such French surroundings - Reunion very recently became a 'departement' of France and switched to the Euro from the Franc - with a consequent 50% hike in living costs! A big new motorway is being built with EC funding to relieve the major traffic jams regularly encountered along the coast. The small towns and villages are a mix of gaily painted old Creole buildings, with 'gingerbread' wooden latticework adorning the facades & interesting small-paned windows, & modern French buildings & houses with many resort hotels.

Life is precious - make the most of it!

To Reunion from Mauritius Sat/Sun 27/28th Oct07

Wow! What a rough but fast ride that was!!

I left Port Louis around 11am Saturday in near-calm conditions and arrived off Port des Galets ("Le Port") by 8am Sunday - nearly 150 mls in twenty-one hrs, averaging just over 7 knots. Winds backed from SSW 4-5 soon after leaving Mauritius to S6 by evening & SE 6-7 as we approached Reunion (being around 25kn, gusting over 30kn, most of the evening & night) with a swell which increased as the evening wore on and was regularly breaking on deck and into the cockpit. We really heeled over as each large wave passed & were also hit by breaking crests which caused quite a few things to fall about down below (Note to self: check those items are secured before start of next long passage to S. Africa!!) I had also omitted to close off the dorades, not expecting such a rough passage, so we shipped some water down below also... a lesson not to be forgotten for future ocean passages, however short...

As I finally took in a 3rd reef at 4am, I was drenched from head to toe by a mass of water! But it did reduce our heeling a bit without reducing our speed by much. At the time, the impressive volcanic slopes of Reunion were in sight, made clear in the darkness by village lights & the almost-full moon. I was concerned to ensure I stayed well offshore until daylight, partly in case of chart error - which turned out to be around three miles out in the case of the northern coast - until arriving just off Le Port, when it was suddenly spot-on.

On arriving, the Capitainerie was closed (Sunday!) and the nearby visitors' dock was busy but someone kindly found me an empty slip to come into. Everything here is so French!! Almost as soon as I was docked, I went down below to catch up on sleep - I'd been awake from about 3.30am.... I understand that the formalities here are minimal - unlike in Mauritius where the need for Customs & Immigration paperwork led to my departure being delayed by quite a bit due to certain officials not arriving until later in the morning.

I was pleased to have finally got to the Public Market before leaving Port Louis - a crowded, lively place crammed full with piles of inexpensive fresh fruit and vegetables- I even found some broccoli there! And on Friday evening, all the cruisers got together for an enjoyable time - this time on 'Bowtie Lady', who also made the passage over to Reunion at the same time as 'Nereida'. A lot of the other boats are bypassing Reunion to make directly for S. Africa where we hope to meet up over the coming months.

All the people on the dock here in Port des Galets have been extremely friendly - and given my French a good testing! One lent me his water hose so I could give 'Nereida' a thorough freshwater rinse and another offered to help with my shorepower connection, seeing I had a problem with that. The evening was rounded off very nicely by finding a little restaurant a short walk away in St Denis serving delicious but inexpensive Madagascar food - it got quite crowded with friendly locals who were very happy to chat to me.

Ganga Talao- Hindu temple in Mauritius

Friday 26Oct07

Busy day yesterday working on fuel system, having spent Tuesday changing the engine oil and filter. (I'd also discovered, whilst looking around the engine compartment, that an engine mount nut was sitting beside the mount - completely adrift...!) I'd started with simple refuelling of the port tank from jerry cans & thought I'd better drain starboard fuel tank filter to check for water - found lots of water and dirt also so decided I'd better change the filter and clean the housing and sight glass,
all of which took quite a time. Then did the same for the other (port) fuel tank filter - in doing that, I discovered that the fuel intake pipe was splitting - so that meant it had to be cut back and re-attached.

Fortunately, having lots of other cruiser friends around meant I had no problem getting help pushing the pipe back onto the slightly over-sized fitting - not something I could have managed by myself! My helper was Heiko from 'Stenella' who, with Dianna & their two boys Stefan & Oliver, had invited me over for a fish meal that evening, along with the other cruisers from Cocos Keeling who are now all in Mauritius - very sociable evenings I'm having just now!! I'd spent all day with the smell of diesel
fuel, so it was nice to clean up and relax in company!

Today, I've spent a lot of time at the Internet cafe - but never enough time to do all I want... then I've a few more boat jobs to do, ready for leaving for Reunion tomorrow. I'd hoped to make for St. Pierre but if the expected SW swell is too bad by the time I get there on Sunday, it won't be possible to enter the harbour & I'll have to to the 'Le Port' (Galets) instead - I'll head for St Pierre initially & hope...

View from extinct volcano in Mauritius, 24Oct07

Wed 24Oct07

Took a day off to go on a day tour around southern Mauritius to see something of the island - towering, steep mountains, with lush greenery on their lower slopes, sugar cane galore, an extinct volcano crater filled with greenery and bright red cardinals flitting around, a fascinating tour around the tea processing plant in the plantation at Bois Cherie, fields of pineapple, a sacred Hindu site beside a lovely lake shrouded in mist (it rained hard frequently while up in the mountains!), two impressive
waterfalls cascading a long, long way down the mountainside, rainbow-coloured rocks,...ending at a bay with a lovely beach backed by trees before returning to Port Louis past salt pans and lots of beach resorts. A very enjoyable day - I was impressed with the variety of plants and trees all around and the visits were all worthwhile in their different ways.
Tomorrow, it's fuelling and boat jobs and another visit to the Internet cafe to try to upload some photos while I have good access...

Mauritius 20th/21stOct07

Mauritius

Had a lovely final sail down towards Pt Louis from the north of the island in bright sunshine. I took the pole down & was able to broad reach for a few relaxing hours until needing to get ready for the port entrance. I didn't have too much trouble finding the markers for the beginning of the channel in towards the Customs quay, took the sails down & contacted Port Control, for the second time, on the radio. When I saw the high, unfriendly quayside, I was happy that two cruisers had come to help
me by taking my lines - it would have been difficult to manage tying up by myself to the few rings high up, especially with the offshore wind. As it was, I managed to manoevre close to the wall & pass my lines up to them, before using one of the big tyres hanging there to climb up the quay.

Five o'clock on a Saturday evening was perfect timing for the most speedy filling in of forms I've ever encountered1!! Quarantine, Customs, Immigration, Port Authority.... lots of forms - but also lots of help from the officials to fill them in quickly. So I was able to move over within twenty minutes to the marina dock nearby (another concrete wall!) where there were a few more forms to fill in at the office- all was completed & I was settled in by twenty to six - amazing!! Then it was a sociable
Saturday evening get-together for the crews of five boats (3 of us single-handers). Two were boats I'd spoken to on our 'Cocos' Net but not previously met face to face. Unfortunately, while we were chatting, some lads came by & kicked some of our sandals off the dockside & into the water - my favourite, comfortable Reefs included... we retrieved one sandal but mine had disappeared from sight... Later, some of us went over to a nearby bar/restaurant for the England/S.Africa Rugby World Cup final
- no (allowable) tries and all the score coming from penalties - but a very all-out, hard-fought game. Pity we lost.... Late to bed.... & late up next morning - but it was Sunday....

Sunday 21st Oct

Had a lovely long shower, using heaps of water!!! Then warped the boat along the quay so it was beside a power point before setting off to explore a bit - Mauritius is quite different from Rodrigues in that it's larger, far more up-scale & they've recently developed the harbour area - so there are lots of 'eateries' of all kinds & shops selling a wide variety of goods, as well as supermarkets to complement the street and public (indoor) markets. I wandered up Farquar Street crowded with street
vendors - fruit, veg, DVDs, clothing, shoes... & finally crossed over to the big bus terminal before coming back via the Post Office and an Internet place - with a fast connection - wonder of wonders!!

When I got back to the boat, I gathered that one of my sandals was floating in the water nearby - we managed to retrieve it with a boathook - but so far, no sign of the other. The rest of the afternoon was spent tidying the boat & sorting out a shorepower problem (turned out the cable & plug were corroded) before we all got together for more socialising - on "Nereida" this time. To wrap up the evening, I went for dinner with a couple of others, on the way, passing a live jazz band - an excellent
dancing opportunity... but no-one was dancing! I soon had a little girl for a dancing partner - we had a great time and I later chatted to her Mauritian parents. After dinner, as we were walking back to the boats, there was a marquee with the sound of music coming from it - an Urdu group from N. India were performing excellent, lively songs with accompaniment to a very enthusiastic audience - great stuff!! Mauritius has many people of Indian origin whose forbears were brought to the island as
indentured labour to work the sugar-cane plantations after the slaves originally working them were set free - & transported to Rodrigues...

To Mauritius from Rodrigues - Thurs/Fri 18/19th Oct07

Thurs 18th Oct

Everything went fine this morning, with very friendly farewells to everyone & no hiccups over paperwork! I was up well before 6am, cast off around 6.30 & was away after the big supply ship around 7am. I kept looking behind for the transit (showing the line to take through the outer reef) as I left - but both triangular structures are painted white & they've just put up white marquees behind the front one for this weekend's agricultural event in Port Mathurin - so it wasn't possible to see it at
all! But I made the exit through the reef without too much problem, even though the ship was way too fast and far ahead of me by the time I'd raised my mains'l. The wind had been gusty in harbour & I left raising the sail a bit too late to stay close behind the ship as intended!

The wind was excellent all day & overnight - I was making 7-7.5 kn regularly - SOG! Swell is big but not too bad..

I'd had a nice 'Mine' (noodles with chicken & vegetables) at a little inexpensive lunch place by the Tourist Office yesterday and came away with a 'doggy bag' - so that made a simple, tasty lunch for today!

Fri 19th Oct

Still making great time goosewinged - while the wind holds up... it's forecast to lessen by tomorrow. I've been under full canvas since this morning when I realised the wind was down to around 15-18kn. Swell is still fairly big at around 3m or so - & being on almost a dead run we're often rolling quite a lot which isn't too comfortable - but it's not all the time! Weather has been fine - sunny with quite a bit of light cumulus & high stratus.

I've made use of my new 'preventer extension' line to run it through a jammer & then optionally onto a winch via a block on the quarter - so I can keep the preventer nicely tensioned now without it taking up winch space all the time.

I also sewed tape onto the little courtesy flag kindly sent to me via the Quay Superintendent on Wed night by Mariana of the Rodrigues Tourist Office - so I'm now flying that ready for my arrival in Mauritius (which Rodrigues is part of).

Another job has been re-laying the frayed end of one of my favourite mooring lines - it was looking very sorry for itself..! More whipping to be done to complete the job.

A great 24hr noon-to-noon run, measured from midday GPS positions: 165 n.ml. (173 n.ml. by the log) By 4 o'clock this afternoon, less than 130 n.ml. to go to Port Louis on Mauritius - so looking good for an early afternoon arrival, even if the wind drops.

Wed 17Oct07 Last day in Rodrigues

Wed 17th Oct07 I found the reef nearby...!

I knew the weekly supply ship was due in & I'd have to move very early in the morning to allow it room to manoevre when docking. The dock superintendant had promised to give a wake-up call to make sure there was no problem - so by 6.15 I was up & soon after let lines go & moved away to the far side of the harbour area with the intention of circling around until the big ship I could see approaching in the distance was safely docked.

All went fine until I went close to what I thought was a crabpot which I tried to keep my propeller well clear of.... 4m depth suddenly became 1.4m.... and I found myself aground on the reef edge.... seems that the crabpot was a 'marker buoy' warning of the reef very close by! Oops!! Revved up the engine & slowly tried to edge my way off - but wind and current were taking me further on.... eventually, the Coast Guard inflatable came by, took a line from me and passed it to one of the two tugs also circling who pulled me free.... phew!!
So much easier to have the friendly crew of the tug (who'd been inshore of me on the dock & knew me) help me rather than struggle unaided - no guarantee I'd have freed myself although I think I might have been doing so - but at a snail's pace...!

I'd expected a large ship - but this was enormous!! During all this, the weather had turned horrible and we were all drenched in heavy rain with strong gusty winds. But by 7 o'clock, the ship was docked, taking up the greater part of a very long dock, and we were all able to return to the far end of the dock - two tugs, 'Bowtie Lady' and 'Nereida' all rafted up together in a very small area!!

Then came a visit to Immigration to organize, as I thought, Clearance ready for Thursday morning departure .... Oh no! Not so simple - they insisted that it had to be done on the day of departure...... despite the fact that Customs weren't normally available until after 7 or 8 o'clock and the ship was scheduled to leave at 7 a.m. - which meant that, again, we all had to be clear of the dock so it could get away unhindered... Complications.... finally resolved by a very kindly Customs 'chief' who made lots of phone calls & arranged for his official to see us early without the normal 'out of hours' charge - around 6a.m., as soon as Immigration have been to complete their Clearance formalities. The Coast Guard will also be coming by at the same time. So hopefully,I'll be able to follow the ship out through the reef on the basis that where it goes, I can safely follow! (To be honest, having got in OK, I should be able to leave OK ... and it's quite a wide reef opening... and I now know where the transit is that I couldn't find when entering last Saturday)

Then I did final shopping, said farewell to helpful Mariana at the Tourist Office (who later sent me a Rodrigues/Mauritius courtesy flag to the dockside), visited the local Internet centre (to find it kept going down & was painfully slow), walked up the steep road to the Weather Centre for a useful and highly interesting visit there and finally got a bus over to the lovely sandy bay fringed with reef at Cotton Point on the far NE side of the island - worth a second visit, even if only a short one.

So I'm now all set to leave for Mauritius - assuming there are no more hiccups over the 'Clearance Out' paperwork before leaving!!..... I'd better got to sleep!!