TOTAL MILES TRAVELED ON SAIL to SEE EXPEDITION: 22,234 NM
THE LAST PASSAGE
Total Miles traveled on last passage –1,611 NM
Miles traveled using SAILS – WIND POWER ONLY: 1,115 NM
Miles traveled using both SAILS & ENGINES together: 271 NM
Miles traveled using ENGINES – FOSSIL FUELS ONLY: 225 NM
Ship Sightings: We saw too many ships to count. Many were headed across the Indian Ocean to Singapore.
Animal Sightings in Indian Ocean and Madagascar: Lemur (4 types), Chameleon, Humpback Whales, Dolphin
VOS Reports Filed: -- 5 VOS weather reports were filed with NOAA on this passage through our satellite communications.
Average Air Temperature: 82.4 f/ 28 c
Average Sea Temperature: 74 f/ 23.3 c
Strongest Wind: 28 Knots (knots are a wind measurement of Nautical Miles per hour)
Plastics Collection: Plastic trawls will resume in the Atlantic Ocean when we hope to have more suitable weather conditions for towing.
On a Monday morning, we cleared out of Mauritius with the officials in Port Louis. I made one last run to the huge market for eggs, avocados, lettuce and broccoli. Then we were off to Africa. We passed close by Reunion on the second morning. There is lots of shipping traffic in this part of the Indian Ocean but fortunately our AIS (ship tracker) makes it all easy to keep track of.
There were some very nice sunsets as we sailed across the Indian Ocean and we also had a full moon for part of the passage.
We saw many dolphins and a few whales at a distance. Most likely, the whales were humpbacks but the dolphins swam right under our bow for a long time so we had a very good look at them.
We arrived in Dauphin Bay (near the town of Tolanaro) on the Southeast corner of Madagascar on a Friday afternoon.The wind was blowing from the north at 25+ knots so we had some shelter from the brunt of it. We didn’t go ashore because we had not cleared into the country yet. The clearance port was 6 miles away at the opposite end of the bay and we planned to head down there in the morning when the wind was forecast to be from the southwest.
On the beach, ahead of us, we could see about 50 large dugout canoes hauled up above the high tide mark. With the sun getting low, I could see lots of people making their way down to the beach.
To get ready for our time ashore, we all settled in to watch the Disney movie “Madagascar”. An hour into the movie and just past dark, the dugouts started passing us, three people to a boat, silhouetted against a the dimly lit sky. It was still blowing almost 20 knots so they sped by. We could only assume they were going out fishing. At least 40 boats passed us.
I fell asleep. A deafening crash woke me up. A thunderstorm much louder and more violent than any we have had at home on the Chesapeake came through. Fortunately, it came without wind but it rained buckets. Massive bolts of lightning came straight down, piercing the land around us. We unplugged the electronics and stayed off the metal decks. I was concerned about the fisherman in the dugouts too.
The storm passed and I fell asleep again. The next time I woke, I could feel the wind had changed to the south and now we were getting blown into the bay with rocks behind us. It was just staring to get light. We began hauling back our anchor. The anchor momentarily snagged on the bottom. With some maneuvering, it came free. Thank goodness because it was no place to have to dive on it. The water was inky black and a 2-3 foot chop was now coming into the bay. Some of the dugouts were still making their way back into the bay after a night of fishing.
The south end of the bay was quiet and sheltered. Richard and I headed in to try and start the clearance procedures. There was an old breakwater and commercial dock and we took the dinghy in behind it. Many kids helped us drag our dinghy (small boat) up the beach. We were greeted by two young guys who both wanted to be our “guide” during our time at Fort Dauphin. The guides agreed to “share” us and they both proved helpful with the clearance and a tour. There were many more dugout canoes in this end of the harbor as well.
I met two young girls who asked me if I wanted to buy a necklace. I did buy two necklaces from them. They were made out of beads. The girls were named Colette and Augustine. On the window ledge of the office were planters made out of recycled plastic bottles. I thought this was a really good idea.
The guides arranged two taxis to take us to a Lemur preserve about 15 KM out of town. The first several kilometers took us through town and on a Saturday morning, it was bustling with market stalls and people shopping.
The last 8 KM were on the roughest, rutted dirt roads winding through small villages of thatched huts. We were greeted at the preserve by a fellow named Gautier who would be our third guide. He was fantastic and walked us through the preserve pointing our local trees and plants and also finding the shyest of the lemur that we may have never spotted. We had to walk a long way to get to where the lemurs are found.
The first lemurs we saw were impossible to miss. They were bright white with black faces and long arms and legs. These were the White Dancing Lemurs and they ran sideways with their arms in the air. They honestly looked like some crazy free-range puppets. They bounced along the grass and jumped into and between trees. They were not terribly shy. We had picked up some bananas which Gautier allowed us to feed to them a little bit at a time.
Further along the track, we saw some Brown Bushy-tailed Lemurs (left). They were lurking in a tree and much shyer than the white ones. We lured a few of them down with the bananas.
The friendliest of the lemurs were the Ringtailed Lemurs (right) that our guide called the King Julian Lemurs after the ones in Madagascar, the movie.
The last type we saw were Bamboo Lemur – tiny little shy ones that were clinging to the top of the bamboo stalks. I could hardly see them but Molly was able to get a good picture with her telephoto lens.
On the way back to the carpark, Gautier reached into a vine-covered tree and pulled out a juvenile chameleon which he then held in his hand. It was a strange looking critter with its bulging eyes, narrow body and two thumbed mitts for hands and feet. It did not seem to have any fear but stretched out above Gautier’s hand. When he set it on a green plant, it’s hue immediately started to change to match the plant color.
Here, Captain Richard is talking with Gautier, the head guide. Molly takes a lemur for a ride and Emma checks out some GIANT bamboo. Our day with the Lemurs and the one lone chameleon was amazing. We felt very lucky to have been able to stop in Madagascar, even for just a short time.
The next five days underway to South Africa were a mix of no wind, strong winds, flat calm and confused seas. When it was calm, Emma and Molly could do school work. It is a nice outdoor classroom. We hove to on Elcie for the first time since we’ve had her. This is a way of stopping the boat and drifting at sea while the weather calms down. I got a much needed few hours of sleep while we quietly rode over the heaped-up seas.
We made landfall in South Africa at Richard's Bay on a Friday afternoon and were able to take a spot on the International Wharf which is free for the first 30 days. However, one has to watch out for the monkeys that like to climb on the boats. We'll tell you more about this in our next blog post!
WHERE WE VISITED: MADAGASCAR
Other Names: Republic of Madagascar
Independence: June 26, 1960 (from France)
Former Name: Malagasy Republic
Area: 226,658 Sq Miles / 587,041 Sq Km
Currency: Malagasy Franc (Ariary)
Language: Malagasy, French
Religions: Christianity, Islam, Indigenous Beliefs
Highest Point: Maramokotro 9,346 Feet / 2,876 Meters
Climate: Tropical along the coast, temperate inland, arid in South
Natural Resources: graphite, chromite, coal, bauxite, salt
Major Exports: coffee, vanilla, sugar, shellfish, cotton cloth
Natural Hazards: cyclones, drought, locust swarms
Interesting Facts: Madagascar is big! It’s 226,917 square miles to be precise, making it the fourth largest island on the planet!
Madagascar was only colonized by human settlers relatively recently - perhaps as late as 500AD - some 300,000 years after the first appearance of Homo sapiens in Africa.