Seven Day Trip to South Africa from Madagascar

South Africa Passage

South Africa Passage

We left Mahajanga at the crack of dawn on the 17th of September from our anchorage near Katsepy in the Mahajanga Bay of Madagascar. Our destination was Richards Bay in South Africa about 1400 miles away. Our friends on Solace (Paul and Gina) got up to wave us goodbye! They are such nice people. We were sorry they couldn’t accompany us, but the weather route we had picked was suitable for a boat of our speed (we hoped). Solace wouldn’t be able to maintain the pace and would get caught in foul weather.

This post is rather lengthy, and could be a bit boring if you aren’t into what its like to sail on a multi-day passage. But, the first few paragraphs tell about the bit of adventure we had at the start!

Confident with our maintenance checks, and the repaired main halyard, we raised sail and began sailing down the 125 miles of coastline left of Madagascar before we began crossing the Mozambique channel west towards Africa. You can follow along on our track in the map shown on the right hand side of our web site. We sailed a bit slow in the morning only making 6.5 knots, but by 10ish we were doing 8+ knots. We made a brief 5 minute stop off an island along the coast to dive and check that the props were clean. We wanted maximum efficiency if we needed to motor along the passage.

The afternoon was a delightful sail and we watched many local wooden sail boats going to and fro along the coast. The winds picked up a notch and we were making 9-11 knots on mostly flat water. We were gradually getting further away from the coast as planned and were about abeam of the last bay most people stop to anchor in called Baly Bay. We had just passed a fisherman 10 miles off the coast who was at anchor when suddenly it happened. Our mainsail came down!! I looked up, and sure enough the main halyard had let loose again!

I hit my forehead realizing that the eye splice I thought was good enough when we set up the new halyard yesterday was not a load-bearing eye splice afterall. Ugh. Well, we were going to have to re-run the halyard and this time tie it off. But, we were 10 miles from Baly Bay and it was upwind. So, we immediately turned that way and began motoring. A quick calculation showed we were going to be on a race with the setting sun getting to the nearest anchorage. Ended up running both motors the last five miles to ensure our arrival by sunset.

Setting up to run halyard

Setting up to run halyard

Meanwhile, I spent the time completely prepping to go up the mast and re-run the halyard. We just went through this whole process the day before, so I knew exactly what to do. We got to the nearest anchorage spot, quickly dropped our hook, and within a minute or two I was going up the mast. As I was going up, the sun was setting. We did the job in record time – the halyard was run and we were pulling up the hook in only 20 minutes. We then motored across Baly Bay to the point as fast as possible. The entire delay cost us about 3 hours. Not too bad, I’m just really glad it happened then and not while we were crossing the channel!

Fortunately, that was probably the biggest drama of the passage. We made calls to Solace on the radio the first few nights to give them our position. But, we got out of range eventually and used our Iridium phone to e-mail them reports the rest of the way. We had downloaded detailed current maps from a source on the Internet and mapped our course accordingly. Unfortunately, it turns out the channel is highly unpredictable, and for the first two days we had contrary currents more often than not. We did find bits of the famed Aghulas current as we turned to head south. But, it was not all we hoped it to be.

Spinnaker flying

Spinnaker flying

Fortunately, our wind forecast held true (or even better than true) and we were sailing at a good rate. Enough to make up for the contrary currents we experienced. We had several days where we ran the spinnaker during the day, and used the main and jib as needed in downwind configuration at night. We had excellent sailing overall, although there was plenty of work as we had to change sails numerous times due to changing conditions and conservative sailing at night. We also had to keep watch day and night and keep alert for the many ships we passed along the way. We did go through a few rain squalls, but nothing too exciting, and no lightning.

We did run into the south east wind that had been forecasted. This meant we were more on a tight reach and we were trying to avoid being pushed too far west where we would get too close to shore. One night, as the winds were still 25+ knots, we were expected to reach an area where the aghulas current would be going opposite to the winds. This could mean the waves would get quite large. They were already 3-4 meters at this point, but the swells were far apart and Tahina was handling it fine. But, we were needing to run our generator to charge the batteries, and we didn’t want to run into the waves at night. So, we just “hove to” – we turned the boat into the wind with the sails stopped and the rudder turned the other direction. The boat then just lazily sits held into the wind and maybe drifts backward at a knot or so. It’s a great way to take a rest during a blow – its like anchoring at sea. We then fired up the generator to charge up and went to sleep.

At dawn, I started up an engine and turned us back into the wind and we started sailing again. The winds had calmed a little. Soon we were in the current, and the good news is that it helped push us more south so we weren’t going too far west. A few hours later the winds gradually clocked from the southeast to the north east. This was the last segment of the trip as we were passing Mauputo, Mozambique and were going to make the last 2 day run to Richards Bay. We did have to motor sail a bit to keep up our speed until the wind filled in. But, the rest of the way we sailed right down to Richards Bay. And we had the Aghulas current adding 2-3 knots behind us much of the way!

Final stretch

Final stretch

We had 25-30 knots of wind mostly behind us the rest of the way, and were sailing with heavily reefed sails. We were averaging 11-13 knots with a nice push from that current. At dawn that last day, we finally saw the coast of Africa for the first time. It was a momentous moment for us. The last time we will see a new continent from our boat on this trip. You can see the African coast in this photo showing our reefed sails. We were just a few hours from arriving in this photo.

As we were going down the final stretch, we saw a number of humpback whale. What a great welcome! We were very pleased, and lucky, to have made the journey without having to divert to an anchorage along the Mozambique coast to wait for weather. It is not all that common to make this run without a stop due to the fast weather changes. We made the trip in 7 days and 7 hours. That’s an average of 190+ miles per day! I’ll talk about the final arrival at Richards Bay in the next post.

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Mahajanga

Our last planned stop in Madagascar was the city of Mahajanga. We planned to do one last provisioning run there before we left to sail down the Mozambique Channel to South Africa. We had a weather window that looked good for Tahina, which indicated we might be able to sail the entire way. The weather is highly variable in the channel and you can end up with days of motoring, or having to stop along the coast of Mozambique to wait for the right weather, or get caught out in bad weather, or you can be lucky and sail the whole way.

Moramba to Mahajanga

Moramba to Mahajanga

But, first we had to get there in time. That’s why we only stayed briefly in Moramba Bay. We sailed another 25 or so miles after our morning visit at Moramba and got to the mouth of Mahajambe where we anchored in a small semi-cove. We had sundowners with Solace and discussed plans to leave at the crack of dawn the next morning. The next passage to Mahajanga was 60 miles which is a long day for Solace which doesn’t sail as fast as Tahina. The map here shows the first day in red, and the second day in green (click for larger version).

Racing local boat

Racing local boat

Thankfully, we had wind in the morning and we left shortly after Solace. We had to use our topping lift to raise the mainsail again, which took us a few minutes to get sorted. We soon sailed out the mouth of the bay. As we were rounding the headland, we saw a local boat on a converging course who had crossed the mouth of the bay. They were moving fast. We started turning along the coast so we were on a better point of sail. We had a race! They tried to catch up to pass in front of us, but I was having none of that. As we got closer to the wind our speed picked up and we were now up to 9 knots. Now they couldn’t cross in front, but they still tried to pass on our other side. The winds picked up even more and we started doing 10+ knots. That was beyond his ability and we finally gradually left him behind. I was really impressed these boats could go 9 knots like that! I think they were disappointed not to show how their boat could pass a modern boat. Later they probably passed Solace, so maybe they felt better then.

Red cliffs

Red cliffs

We had a great coastal sail the rest of the day, with a land breeze, and passed many of the local boats along the way. The coastline was interesting with sandy beaches, little fishing villages, an occasional resort hotel, river mouths, and big cliffs with lots of the classic Madagascar red soil exposed. There’s a reason they call this “The Big Red Island”.

We saw a big resort beach which we later found is called Plage du Grand Pavois or Amborovy. They had dozens of umbrellas on the beach, jet skis, sailboats, restaurants and bars. Quite the popular place. I was very tempted to divert in and stop and get a beer! We had been sailing so fast, we had plenty of time to get to our anchorage before dark.

One of the most populated cities in Madagascar, Mahajanga is on the coast on a peninsula with a big bay with several rivers leading to it. Along the sea coast side there are several resort areas and beaches. On the bay side, they have a port which is harbor for many cargo vessels. Across the bay, to the south, is a mostly muslim town called Katsepy (we took to calling it Ketchupy). There is a small cove there which we had been told is ok for anchoring. The city is too populated, with too much crime, for anchoring at night.

We continued down the coast and as we started rounding the peninsula to go to the port of Mahajanga, we had another race with a similar local boat. He was right next to shore and we were a mile off initially. There was a break wall coming up and we both converged to cross near the end of it. As we got close, Tahina was winning. But, there was a local fishing boat at anchor and I ended up having to go outside of him to avoid a collision risk. We continued racing the other boat until we reached the port, then we dropped our sails and motored into the harbor. The port looked fine for anchoring, so we re-raised sails and sailed the 5 miles or so to Katepsy. There were a lot of local boats sailing all over the bay. We anchored a fair distance away from what looked like a pretty poor town in what was flat water.

Solace arrived a while later and investigated the town. They managed to find a small cafe and got a beer. Later they came to Tahina and we discussed plans to go to town the next day. Over night, the winds changed and it got a bit bouncy in the anchorage, but it was ok.

Mahajanga harbor

Mahajanga harbor

The next morning we sailed both boats to the harbor and anchored close together. Using our bigger dinghy, Paul took Karen, Gina and I ashore and dropped us in the small boat harbor. This is a very crowded harbor as they seem to rely a great deal on these smaller sailing vessels for transporting goods in Madagascar. We found a small wooden dock and got ashore that way. Our first objective was to find the grocery store we had heard about. We went there, and it was pretty good. We got the provisions we had hoped for and then went to a fresh market and got veggies and fruits. Paul picked us up and after dropping the provisions and Gina and Karen off, Paul and I went ashore with gerry cans to get some diesel. The little motor tuk tuk had just enough room for all the cans and we soon had them filled at a gas station, and back to the boats after calling Gina to bring the dinghy to pick us up.

Later, Gina and Karen and I went ashore again to get lunch and do a bit of sightseeing. We found a little row of restaurants and picked one called “Pub Loock-ness”. We had seating in the shade next to the street. The beers were cold, but the food was only so-so. Later I had reasons to regret the food. After lunch, we walked through the city and took lots of pictures. It was early afternoon and many of the stores were closed for lunch. We stopped at some souvenir shops along the way. The photo album below shows these and other photos of our experiences in Mahajanga:


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Mahajanga reminded us some of Diego Suarez. But, it actually seemed less crowded. Perhaps because the city is bigger and more spread out. It is also more of a tourist town than Diego Suarez.

After the lunch walk, we went back to our boats and sailed back to Ketchupy. Paul came over and helped us run our halyard back up the mast. We used a gadget Paul had made to run a lead line through the mast and then pulled the halyard through. After a few system checks including oil checks on the engines, we were ready for our passage. Paul and Gina came for one last get together and to say goodbye. Their boat isn’t fast enough to keep up with us on the 1200 mile passage to South Africa. They wouldn’t make the weather window before bad weather settled in. Our plan was to leave at the crack of dawn the next morning.

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Nosy Iranja Beach 360 Panorama

Iranja from anchor

Iranja from anchor

Back in early October we mentioned we had stopped at an island for lunch that had one of the best beaches we have visited in the world. The island is called Nosy Iranja in Madagascar and has an ultra-white sand spit beach between two vegetation covered parts of the island. The bigger part has a small back-packer style resort with a small bar/cafe and local who bring souvenirs to sell on the beach every day. The side where we anchored our sailing yachts had very beautiful turquoise waters at low tide, and several small boats anchored off the beach had brought tourists from Nosy Be and other areas. On the other side of the beach was shallower water and a rocky islet that looked like a shipwreck from the distance. From the beach you looked out at the ultra clear ocean blue waters with a light breeze, clouds dotting the horizon and deep blue skies. It was heaven!

I had to take lots of pictures (some seen in the link above), and I took some 360 panoramas as well. Below is the first 360 I took and it captures the expanse of the beach and views pretty well. Click on the “expand” (four arrows pointing out) button in the upper right to get full-screen mode.

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Moramba Bay

Solace sailing at sunset

Solace sailing at sunset

In our last post, we talked about our sailing in late in the day to Moramba Bay. This is a beautiful place with lots of little islands in a big beach-lined bay. We had read there are lemurs near here, so we intended to explore the next day. I mentioned s/v Solace arrived right at sunset, but I forgot to mention that while we were watching they sailed right in front of the setting sun. I got several great shots including this one! There are more great pictures of Moramba Bay in the photo album at the bottom of the post.

Baobab trees

Baobab trees

Since we were in a hurry to get along the coast, because of a weather window for us to leave Madagascar in two or three days, we only dedicated the next morning to explore Moramba Bay. After breakfast, Solace and Tahina went ashore in our dinghy to the nearby island with a big white sand beach. We immediately noticed a huge pair of baobab trees – these are the iconic trees of Madagascar and they are often depicted as pairs like this in paintings and photos. Very beautiful!

At low tide

At low tide – source

There was a lot of birds on the island. I managed to snap a photo of an eagle as it shot out of the trees off the beach we were walking on. We next jumped back in the dinghy and started driving around the little islands. More baobab trees could be seen on several of the bigger islands. We didn’t know it at the time, because we were there at high tide, but some of the little islands are precariously perched on a small base. This photo was found on Panoramio.

Sifaka lemur

Sifaka lemur

While we were driving around on the dinghy, we saw several fish and a couple of rays. We then spotted a habitation on one of the bigger beaches, and went to investigate. We found what looked like a small resort hotel and went to that beach. A man came out of one of the houses and we asked him about lemurs. He took us around the property and found some lemurs in two sets of trees. One of the lemurs was a mom with a baby clinging to her. These were sifaka lemurs and are noted for their tan and brown colors with yellowish/orange eyes. Definitely check out the photo album below for more pictures of the lemurs!

Our guide also showed us their little resort hotel which was very rustic. They had solar powered LED lights, but not much else for electricity. But, the location is fantastic. More baobab trees were around. We liked how they had used old dug-out canoes and made landscaped flower arrangements and a bench seat under the trees out of them.

We took more pictures of the area, and then it was time to go. Karen got a picture of us pulling the dinghy out. We had joked with the guide about not having cold beers because of the lack of electricity. So, I went back to our boat and brought him an ice cold beer as a reward. He laughed and thanked me for the cold beer. He asked where I was from, so I said “USA” and he said “New York New York!” with a big thumb up, the beer, and a big smile. I wish I had my camera. :-)

Here is the photo album which shows you how beautiful and unique this place was. We had a great time for just the few hours we spent there.


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You can see where we anchored and the little islands we visited in the Google Maps view below. The first beach is just to the east, and the bigger beach with the resort is to the north-north-east on the peninsula:

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Fish Stories and Screw Ups

Barracuda we released

Barracuda we released

We left “BarackObama” Bay (my nickname for Baramahamay Bay) the next morning at the crack of dawn. Our objective was only 35 miles away, we motored out the river (no wind here anyway) and then got out the river mouth and had some breeze. So we raised sail and were making our way southwest again. The winds were light, and by the time we arrived the final 5 miles we motored. Along the way though, we noticed as we approached a big bay with lots of rivers leading to it, the water first turned green then brownish. Yuck…we had been spoiled by lots of clear blue waters except for the river we had gone to the day before.

Great catch!

Great catch!

Along the way, we did some fishing. We caught a barracuda (see above), and released it back. Then, when we hit the river water we caught something else, it didn’t put up much of a fight though – it was a stick! We put the line back in the water hoping for a better catch.

I was a bit worried about the anchorage area we had selected. It was up a narrow passage between lots of reef. We had good Google Earth imagery and chart data though. But, I was extra careful on the approach. Especially after we went across some shallow area that showed our charts were offset some. We got way up into this narrow area and found the anchorage to be well sheltered and spacious with the right depth. We dropped our anchor and noticed LOTS of jelly fish in the water. No swimming here. As we set the hook and cleaned up, Karen pointed at our other fishing line. I forgot to pull the fishing line in! I tried to retrieve the line, but it was caught, possibly on the prop. But, I wasn’t going to jump in and retrieve it with all those jellyfish!

The next morning we were going to attempt a further trip down to Moramba. Solace was going to leave before the crack of dawn, and we were going to leave a bit later. But, I woke up and realized there was some breeze blowing again. Since I had promised Karen she could sleep in, I just raised the anchor myself and headed us out after s/v Solace who had already left. Once out of the narrow reef area I pointed us into the 15 knots of breeze and raised the mainsail by myself. But, I forgot to check something and didn’t realize it until later.

We had a delightful early morning sail for a couple of hours, first to the west to get around an island, and then started south-south-west. I planned to sail us to an island called Nosy Saba to stop and retrieve the snagged fishing line from the port side. Along the way, the winds started dropping. The patterns at this point were early morning land breeze, and then a sea breeze. When the winds basically stopped, I went to drop the mainsail. But, it didn’t come down! I looked up and realized what I had forgotten. That new block we bought in Reunion was turned sideways. We have always known that if you don’t properly pull up the main halyard so the block is vertical, it can become jammed sideways. For seven years, this never happened. Usually, we both do the raising of the sail, but I tried to do it solo. I had raised the sail with the block turned sideways and the enormous force had jammed the halyard into the side of the pulley. This is probably how the last one broke, and I had done that one solo as well. Needless to say we will go back to being very careful and using both of us to raise the sail as much as possible.

Since the seas were pretty flat, I asked Karen to get up and help me go up the mast so I could free the block. As we were preparing, I saw some whales ahead of us, but was too preoccupied to look. I went up the mast, but even with mostly flat seas I was getting tossed around up there a lot! I had to hold on with both hands and feet usually to keep from getting banged. I got up and realized the halyard was SOLIDLY jammed, and the block was busted as well. Great…that was a lot of money wasted. Now I was going to have to cut the main halyard off. But, to get the sail down I would need to use the topping lift which was what I used to bring my bosun’s chair up. So, I had to pull up a spinnaker halyard from the other side and tie myself to it before freeing the topping lift.

While I was trying to do all this, while getting tossed around, I looked behind the boat and saw something shiny in the water. And, it was staying with us. Guess what? We had caught a fish with the line and lure I had left in the water which was jammed! Hilarious!

Our ruined new block

Our ruined new block

I got the lines sorted, then had to cut. The problem was I really needed two hands, but every few seconds I would get thrown against the mast by the movement. I finally managed to cut the block off, but because of the situation, the other end of the halyard broke out of my hand and went down the mast! Ugh. Now I just had Karen lower me back down. I thankfully only had a few bruises on my legs and arms after all this. But, my pride of good sailor skills took a major dent, and we now had some jobs to do.

We dropped our sail and started motoring with the other engine. Solace suggested I use a boat hook to grab the fishing line, and I caught it first time. Pulled up the fishing line and we had a nice tuna! This is my most unique fishing success yet! This time we kept the other end of the fishing line on board. Sorry, no pictures – I was too preoccupied with the crisis.

I was really bummed about my stupid mistake ruining our new block. We motored towards Nosy Saba now about 4 miles away. We looked at the anchorage, but the winds had now kicked up again and the anchorage wasn’t suitable for the planned quick stop to free the fishing line. So, we continued on and used the topping lift to hoist the mainsail with one reef in it. This worked fine and we had a nice sail the rest of the day all the way to Moramba – sometimes making 9-10 knots. In fact, almost making up for my earlier mistakes, we managed to sail very well (with just a little upwind motoring in a tight part of the bay) all the way around two corners and up to the anchorage. It made me feel better to have such a good day of sailing in the aftermath.

Moramba is a special place, but we’ll talk more about that later. I did jump into the water right after arriving and discovered the fishing line wasn’t even in the prop. It was just around the rudder once, and was easy to pull out. I had cleaned the fish along the way, and we invited Solace, who arrived right at sunset, to come over and have fresh tuna with us. Karen marinated the fish and I grilled it up. The fish was really good and we all had a laugh at how it was caught!

Northwest Madagascar

Northwest Madagascar

You can see from the map we made good progress getting to Moramba Bay from Nosy Be in just a few days. But, still a long way to go to Mahajanga.

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Continuing Down the Coast and Photos

In our last post, we had been traveling from Nosy Be and had stopped for a night at Russian Bay. The next day we had a fantastic lunch stop at Nosy Iranja – a fantastic beach island with a white sand beach stretching between two islands. I had promised you more photos, and they are included in the slideshow at the bottom of this post. Here’s another taste of the anchorage view at Nosy Iranja.

Iranja from anchor

Iranja from anchor

Baramahamay village

Baramahamay village

We very reluctantly left the beach of Iranja and sailed a few miles further down the coast to the mouth of a river. We were headed to a place called Baramahamay Bay (I took to calling it BarakObama Bay :-). There are a number of Madagascar people living along the coast of the river in very basic villages. We had been told a very nice couple live there on a beach with a small restaurant/bar. Solace had a small portable generator they wanted to donate, so we took it there. Turns out they already had a solar panel and batteries, so it was easy for them to hook it up to their system.

Sunset

Sunset

We anchored a couple of miles up the river, but were perfectly centered with a view out the mouth of the river. In the evening, a fantastic sunset developed and it was only too easy to get some amazing sunset photos. What an end to a perfect day!

Make sure you check out some really nice photos of this beautiful day! Here’s the photo album:


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And here is the map showing our final position at Baramahamay Bay (aka BarakObama Bay):

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Heading South in Madagascar

We still have a few days, and a few interesting stories, to tell about our travels in Madagascar. After our trip to Komba, where we saw our first Lemurs, we headed back to Crater Bay. We had heard several boats we know had arrived. We got to see the crews of s/v Solar Planet and s/v LeuCat who had left on the northern route across the Indian Ocean and we last saw 6 or so months earlier. We spent a day making another trip by taxi to Hellville and got more provisions, and bought a few jerry jugs of fuel. I borrowed another set of jerry jugs and made one more trip before our time was up with the taxi. The rest of the afternoon was spent loading the fuel and returning the jugs we borrowed.

Northwest Madagascar

Northwest Madagascar

We planned to travel with s/v Solace to start heading south. They also wanted to get to Richards Bay by early October. You can travel several days down the NW coast of Madagascar to get closer to South Africa, so we planned to go at least as far as Mahajanga. The map here shows the coast line and some of the stops we made. It would end up taking us 6 days to get to Mahajanga.

Unknown fish

Unknown fish

We headed the next day for Russian Bay – named that because a russian boat broke down in the bay in the early 1900s and the men ended up enjoying the place, and the women, so much they stayed. It has well-protected smaller bays within it. We got there by mid-day (since it was a short trip) and were pleased to find you could still pick up Internet from Hellville in the bay we chose. The most unique thing we saw there were these strange fish that swim sideways (flat) and look like a miniature manta-ray, but then if you startle them they turn vertical. At first I was thinking a flounder, but they have 1 eye on each side. Very strange. I got this picture with an underwater camera. I couldn’t find it in our fish books.

We had a visit from an enterprising local named “Paul” who does tours for visiting yachts of the Russian Bay area. He has prepared a book using a computer and Google Earth to illustrate his hikes with pictures, and boat cards and comments from happy customers. I give him an “A” for good marketing, but we planned to leave the next day so had to decline.

The next day we motored out of Russian Bay and then set sail. We rounded the NW tip and started southwest. Winds were light in the morning so we were sailing slow. Solace put up their spinnaker. Near mid-day we would be getting near a pretty looking island called Nosy Iranja with a white sand-spit joining two pieces of land. Solace suggested we stop there for a while and we agreed. On the way, we saw a couple of motor boats bringing tourists from Hellville and headed to Iranja – must be an attraction. The winds picked up and we sailed first into Iranja. We were greeted with a beautiful white sand beach and turquoise waters in front of it and we dropped the hook. Wow! Beautiful!

Nosy Iranja

Nosy Iranja and s/v Solace

We soon went ashore and there were a number of tourists walking the beach, we could see a small set of buildings on one side and what looked like vendors selling goods. I stayed taking pictures of the beach while Karen and Solace walked to the vendors. On the other side of the sand spit it was shallower water, and the views were even more beautiful. This was definitely one of those “top beaches in the world” kind of places! We bought a couple of souvenirs in what turned out to be a small village with a backpackers like hotel and even a bar/restaurant. We were really glad we stopped! I’ll share more photos in the next post including some more panoramas.

The map below shows Nosy Iranja:

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Now in South Africa (Almost)

After 7 days and 7 hours, we arrived safely to Richards Bay, South Africa. We are just awaiting customs clearance before we can go ashore and make arrangements for Internet and get settled in a marina here. We only had one gear failure on the way, which was resolved on the first day before we left shore. We had some weather, but nothing unusually intense. We hove to (stopped) for a few hours to wait for weather to settle ahead of us and to get some extra sleep. We motored for only about 16 hours total on the entire trip (mostly to maintain speed to catch the next wind patterns. We had a wonderful last day making an average of 9.5 knots while riding the Alghulas Current for over 200 miles into Richards Bay.

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Enroute to South Africa

Sorry for the lack of recent updates. We had a weather window for South Africa pop up last week while going down the coast of Madagascar. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. Our friends on s/v Solace helped give us support as we made a quick last provisioning run, then we left the next morning. Solace has been providing radio support for us as we make our way down the Mozambique Channel south.

We have been able to sail almost the entire way, although today we are motor sailing a bit to get to the next pocket of wind, and so we keep our pace so we can arrive during daylight at our next port.

After we arrive and get Internet, we’ll report more on the passage. We also still have a number of posts to make on our Madagascar experiences. So, stay tuned!

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First Lemurs in Madagascar

We decided to leave Crater Bay and do some sightseeing in the area. It involved sailing across the bay to the far south side, spending a night, and then sailing back to the northeast to visit Komba – an island with a lemur tour where the lemurs are used to human interaction and you can feed them bananas. We also planned to do another tour on the east side of Nosy Be. We expected to take 3 or 4 days, which it did.

Whale tail

Whale tail

We started out with our sail south, and we didn’t go far before we started seeing whales! Whales passed right behind Solace and we got some far-distant telephoto shots. The whales continued and went behind us a mile or two away. Later we saw whales breaching far ahead of us and got some more telephoto shots. Then those same whales passed right in front of Solace who was behind us. It sure made for a more interesting sail than usual. The weather here has been fantastic with pretty much sunny skies, nice breezes, and cool evenings. Very little rain as well.

We ended up spending the night behind a quiet little island with a small village. In the evening a couple of women with four young kids came out to trade with us. We got some bananas (for the lemurs we planned to visit) and traded them some canned vegetables. We could hear wildlife on shore, but didn’t see more than a few birds.

The next morning we left early and sailed some, but ended up having to motor more than half the distance to Komba. The anchorage is on the northeast side and is a beautiful spot! There is a rock island just off the cove beach that has a small resort nestled on it. Beaches are available on either side of it. The one on the left (south) has a small bar and restaurant called “Yolande” named after the owner who we met. The picture below shows the view from the beach bar (click for larger). Yolande caters to visiting boats and provides a shower, water for tanks, and shows you how to get around the island.

Beach at Komba

Beach at Komba

Lemurs

Lemurs

We took the tour to see the lemurs first thing. Our guide showed us a variety of plants, fruits, trees, and wildlife along the way. We saw two varieties of chameleon, gecko, tortoises, a Madagascar boa snake, and of course lemurs! They call lemurs “Maki” here and he actually called them out “Maki, Maki, Maki” and they came through the trees looking forward to getting some banana. We each handed out pieces of banana and they would jump on your shoulder and politely take the banana out of your hand. Some were more eager than others, but it was all fun and they were quite gentle and curious.

Coincidentally, along the walk to the lemurs, there are lots of souvenir shops selling lots of things like embroidered table cloths, paintings, wood sculptures, fabrics, shells, t-shirts, etc.

We finished off our walk with cold beers at Yolande’s, and later went back after sunset to have dinner. The beach is very picturesque and a wonder to enjoy. The sunset from the boats was also a delight.

The next morning, Gina, from s/v Solace, and I went on a hike up the mountain. For different health reasons, our spouses are not well-suited for hikes like this. We didn’t know what trail to take, but found someone who showed us part way, then found a couple of young kids to walk us further up the trail. Unfortunately, the young boy seriously needed a shower and to launder his clothes. But, we only had to endure the smell for a couple of miles. We never found the top of the mountain, or a view of the anchorage we wanted. But, we did find an interesting new outdoor chapel with a christian cross mounted on the top of a majestic granite rock. They had steps to the cross which afforded a beautiful view of Nosy Be. We also saw some interesting trees and flowers along the way.

We took our boats up the east coast of Nosy Be and went to another park that has a wildlife tour. There we saw some more lemurs, who were more wild and did not approach humans. We saw a nocturnal lemur, a huge boa (about 12 feet in length), more chameleon and geckos, an interesting frog, and some other varieties of trees, plants, and fruits.

We also had a very unique sighting while riding our dinghy to shore here. We saw two or three zebra shark right at the surface, which was really unique. Unfortunately no pictures, but one of the most unique sightings we have seen in quite some time in the sea.

The following photo album gives you a peak at the interesting wildlife we saw including the lemurs! Definitely worth a viewing if you want a taste of what its like to see wildlife in Madagascar.


View full-sized slideshow

The map below shows where we anchored at Komba. We ended up going there for another night after the second tour.

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