Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The Giant's Castle

Image : Diane Selkirk

While staying in Durban we made a visit to the stunning Drakensberg mountains, specifically to the area known as the Giants Castle.

In this region the mountains form the border with Lesotho, and reach up to 3000 meters high, capturing snowfall in the winters.

These are stunningly beautiful mountains, forming a natural barrier to the central African escarpment, trapping much of the rainfall generated by moist air from the Aghulas current.

With Diane, Maia and Evan from the catamaran Ceilydh we drove and then day-hiked to see the cave paintings of the San people, the original bushman of Southern Africa.

A Visitor At Our Picnic Lunch
Thousands of years old, the paintings we saw had survived remarkably well, except where they were fired upon by British troops during the Zulu wars, who believed them to be secret enemy communications (!).

There are thousands of cave painting sites in these mountains - the site we visited was linked to the beautiful Giant's Castle Resort, run by KZN Wildlife inside the 34,000 ha Giant's Castle Wildlife Reserve, originally proclaimed in 1903 and now a World Heritage Site.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

South Africa - Marine Services Guide

Our guide to service providers for the marine and cruising world in South Africa is now available online.

Admittedly it is still a work in progress, but has grown big enough to be useful to many folks.

You can download via the Cruising Service Guides tab above, or click here for a direct link.  We're keen to receive updates and additions for the guide, so please email suggestions through to us.

January 1st, 2016 :  Extensive updates, additional data now included.   

January 21st, 2016 :  Further updates to Cape Town listings.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Christmas Brings Rain For The Wildlife In Kwa Zulu Natal

Our first day inside the Hluhluwe / Imfolozi Reserve and we find a breeding herd of elephant, watering in the virtually dry river bed. The drought here had been very bad, and the Park Rangers were trucking water into the water holes to support the animals.  This actually made it easier for us to see the larger animals, as they were concentrated close to what little water remained.  However the pressure on the animals is enormous, with competing species and herds in close proximity and predators always close by.

Miraculously, that night, the rains arrived and we watched from our mountain-top camp as the spectacular purple and black thunderstorms rolled in from the south. This area, between the Black Imfolozi and White Imfolozi rivers, was the traditional hunting ground of the Zulu kings, where the King's sons hunted Lion to prove their manhood.  Both those rivers flowed briefly that night, and then more strongly some days later when further substantial rains arrived.

We returned four days later to find trees budding, water holes filling, grasses sprouting and the animals engaged in a celebration of life.  Seriously, even the Rhinoceros seemed happy to see us - with so much fresh water around, the environment seemed drunk on life.  Giraffe, Cape Buffalo, Elephant, Impala, Wildebeest, Eland - they were all out celebrating, wallowing in mud holes, feeding on new growth and virtually ignoring our presence.  It was a special time, with Lions mating and other species getting the love message very clearly.

The new growth brought out exceptional behavior and we often found ourselves having to back down when the elephants claimed the road, stripping new green shoots from the trees as they (destructively) moved along the river valleys.  Easy to see when you are getting close to the elephants - the tree branches and fresh greenery thrown all over the track are a sure "tell".

The Hluhluwe / Imfolozi reserves are the oldest nature reserves in South Africa, the site of the White Rhinoceros research, capture and breeding program that effectively saved that species on the continent.  Kwa Zulu Natal province operates all it's reserves and parks through the KZN Wildlife organisation, which in our experience is a very professional and well managed operation.

We stayed at Hilltop Camp, a laid back and very comfortable resort in the middle of the park, with spectacular mountain views.  Hilltop is a government run enterprise, with skilled rangers employed to provide guides and tour experiences. However the level of staff motivation and "ownership" is exceptional, and we were thrilled to be part of the experience there.  Certainly Hilltop Camp is a special place, and the KZN Wildlife organisation is a world class operation.  We'd go back to Hilltop Camp in a heartbeat.

We did travel on the well organised early morning and evening game drives, in 4 wheel drive trucks operated by the resort.  However our most exciting experiences happened when we were exploring in our own rental car, in which we covered every track that could be reasonably driven.  We made it back to camp each evening in time for a relaxed gin and tonic on the balcony, and celebrated our own early Christmas.

Need more encouragement ?  Click the link below for more Christmas animal magic....

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Things That Work For Us # 7 - Northern Lights Genset

It's really hard to speak when you are on hands and knees, your face buried against the cabin sole, happily worshiping your genset  .... a  Northern Lights unit.

You think I'm going overboard here ?  Seriously, this is how grateful we feel !

Northern Lights M673L3 Installed On Crystal Blues
After way too many years of dealing with constant Onan genset failures, we got smart and sold the thing to someone else.  Sure it didn't run, and had done over 2700 hours. Then again we sold it for peanuts, which is more than it was worth, in our opinion.

To give you a short history, our first Onan generator was such a complete dud that the factory replaced it at 740 hours of service, no charge to us.

Unfortunately they replaced it with the same model, with the same old problems.  You can guess how much fun that was.

We had to replace the impeller every 100 hours to keep the thing reliable, replaced countless water pumps and drive couplings, and when the control board finally failed they wanted over Two Thousand US dollars for a new board. Get outa here.... !

Onan Coupling Failure - Not Happy
This was incentive enough to move us into the real world, and we purchased a compact Northern Lights M673L3 6kva 230vac generator very economically, direct from the distributor in Taiwan.  It was shipped into Langkawi Malaysia, and delivered duty and tax free, quite a saving for us.  We craned it aboard and completed the installation ourselves, and have not looked back since.

The three cylinder Japanese manufactured Shibaura diesel engine runs like a Swiss watch, smooth and silent, and now, at 1065 hours of service, I am pleased to say that not a single thing has failed since it was installed.  This is a seriously nice piece of engineering.  I actually enjoy working on it for services and oil changes ... everything is easy to access and it's done in a flash.

Onan Impeller Failure
We spend less than 1/4 of the hours maintaining the Northern Lights unit, compared to the old Onan MDK4 unit. By 1100 operating hours the last Onan had consumed five (5) impellers, two water pumps and one starter motor.

The Northern Lights at the same age has consumed just one (1) impeller, simply because I had the raw water supply valve closed when I started it.  Oops - that was my fault.

To be fair, Cummins purchased the Onan business worldwide shortly
after our initial Onan purchase, and I think they really purchased a bunch of problems.  The very many design issues that afflicted our Onan unit would probably not have existed under a Cummins design regime - certainly I don't think Cummins designers would have allowed a sea water pump with a 3/4" supply hose to be restricted to a 1/4" outlet on the heat exchanger.  The huge back pressure that tiny outlet created, apparently necessary to stop localised boiling in the heat exchanger, was the cause of the constant impeller failures.

In fact the superb support we received from the Cummins team, with our Onan problems, was influential in our decision to eventually re-power Crystal Blues with a Cummins engine - the 4BT-150.  Never the less, Genset control boards priced at over US$2,000.00 will not bring about repeat business.  In the past year I've worked on several other smaller capacity Onan units with mystery problems, on other boats, and sure enough one lucky owner also needed a control board.  He stumped up and laid down the cash - whereas my advice was to toss the whole unit and start fresh with Northern Lights.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Richards Bay To Durban - Music, Fish & Food

Planning to move south, hoping to spend Christmas in Cape Town, we wrapped up our final boat jobs in Richards Bay last week.

We found time for a little music and entertainment, playing blues and bluegrass at Tuzi Gazi marina with Chris Bright from the yacht Yindee Plus and Steve Poulson from the catamaran Emerald Sea.

A few days later we moved Crystal Blues to the very friendly Zululand Yacht Club, trying to avoid the ongoing disaster that afflicts the Tuzi Gazi Marina - I do commend Tuzi Gazi as a place to avoid if possible.

At Zululand YC, Chris and I found ourselves invited to play at the cruisers BBQ dinner, and subsequently at the yacht club bar after the Wednesday night races.

From that gig we received more requests to perform, but a weather window had opened for us and we needed to move south.

Eventually the mainsail was repaired and refitted and our new Tohatsu outboard motor delivered, tested and installed onboard.

Moving south is very difficult at the moment, with very short duration weather windows.  Smaller coastal lows are forming, collapsing and reforming quite frequently, and the weather prediction services are struggling to give reliable forecasts - in fact they often strangely contradict each other.  As a result many boats are lingering in port waiting for weather windows that sometimes appear and often disappear quite rapidly.

For the 80 nautical mile trip south to Durban we motored all the way, with little or no wind.

Ley set the high point for the day by hooking and landing a large Dorado (Mahi Mahi) that was silly enough to tackle her lure whilst she was asleep.  I can assure you that we were both very wide awake by the time that fish was on deck and concussed.  It did take half a liter of cheap rum to quieten it down.

That fish was a real fighter, refusing to be landed and eventually scattering blood and paint scratches all over the transom steps - a real mess.

Of course it also tasted very good, when Ley made up a batch of her fish sausages.  You can download the recipe for those right here.

Now in Durban Marina, we are hosted here by the Point Yacht Club and the Royal Natal Yacht Club.  Both clubs provide great support to visiting cruising boats.  Tonight we'll be at the bar at the Point Yacht Club, playing music again with Chris Bright.  I'd rather be sailing - but music and cold beer are a very welcome second choice.

With luck we'll move on to East London or Port Elizabeth sometime early next week.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Land Cruising In South Africa - Wildlife Is Everywhere

With Crystal Blues berthed at the (quite decrepit) Tuzi Gazi Marina at Richards Bay, in the province of Kwa Zulu Natal, we learned that a number of wildlife parks were close by and very easy to access.

So with Richard & Susan Kidd of SV Sea Bunny, we visited the St. Lucia estuary, part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.  This park is home to large wildlife populations, specially hippopotamus and crocodile.  Waterbuck, Impala, Flamingo and even Leopards are also there, along with many other bird species.

To our surprise, within 24 hours of arriving in South Africa we found ourselves sitting in a rented car on our way to St. Lucia, our first road trip since leaving Reunion. Then, a two hour boat ride through the wetlands provided an exciting and eye opening introduction to wild life viewing in South Africa.  I was surprised (and excited) to see so much wildlife just one hour from a major city.   At this point I realised just how special South Africa really is .... we had been in the country just over 24 hours, and were literally in love.

Being so close to so many wild animals was almost overwhelming - how was it that private enterprise tourism didn't ruin the obviously beautiful wetland tourist sites ?  An extended conversation with the guide and boat driver provided the answer - every single boat on that waterway is piloted and guided by a government employed wildlife ranger, a specialist in the local habitat and someone committed to managing this resource vary carefully.   So, private enterprise can invest and setup tourism operations (i.e. cruise boats) here, but they are very closely controlled by the Kwa Zulu Natal wildlife organisation. This is a great example of public / private partnership.

We returned to Crystal Blues that night determined to see more of the local  game parks and wildlife, and encouraged by the well managed, relaxed, respectful and generally happy society we had been exposed to.

The Stainless Thing That Went Bang In The NIght

Successive Stresses - Click To Enlarge The Image
Some weeks back I reported on a failure of our stainless steel boom bail, when a rain squall brought about a fairly gentle but inadvertent jibe - you can see that story here.

We're still working on the boom repairs, and on installing webbing slings as main sheet and preventer attachment points for the boom.

However the failure of that part is an intriguing lesson in the finite mortality of stainless steel on board the vessels we call home.

This image shows the failed part, and after consulting with experts I can see that this was not an instant total failure - in fact it clearly started to fail a long time back, and subsequent stresses have continued to weaken the bar until less than 50% was holding the thing together. Then came our latest jibe, and away it went.

Naval architect Evan Gatehouse, sailing on the catamaran Ceilydh, showed me how the "beach sand" tide marks on the right hand side are the record of successive stress events, and the final failure is visible with its granular structure at bottom left.  You can't trust old stainless steel it seems.

Things That Work For Us # 6 - Raymarine Autopilot

Way way back in 1990, when Crystal Blues was first launched, the new owners installed a 12 volt electric autopilot system, the Autohelm 4000.  It was made by Nautech in the UK, a company started in 1974 by mechanical engineer Derek Fawcett, a keen sailor and talented inventor.  For more history click here.

Taken over by Raytheon USA in 1990, it quickly became the Raymarine brand.  That business has since split off from Raytheon, gone through a management buy-out, failed financially and then was eventually acquired by FLIR Systems, who now have the business running fast again, with greatly improved innovation, product quality and service.  Fortunately, many of the truly experienced engineers are still with the company.

But this story is about the autopilot side of Raymarine, and the fantastic reliability and service these systems have delivered.  Lets face it - a good autopilot is worth about three crew - it never goes off watch, you don't have to feed it and it doesn't care if the beer is warm.

Most of the original gear on Crystal Blues had been upgraded over the years, but until just weeks ago the original Autohelm Rudder Position Indicator was still in active service, working just fine with the latest series autopilot electronics.  When it failed on the way to Mozambique, we swapped it out with the onboard spare, delighted to find that the physical mounting holes and even the wire color coding were the same, 25 years later !  That sort of consistency is rare, and it sure makes for ease of upgrade and happy customers.  I'm fairly certain that the failed unit had more than 50,000 nautical miles under its belt, over 25 years - a great effort.

Jamie Leads Me Through The Ram Service Procedure
How many marine electronic items last that long ?

Another important autopilot component is the linear ram - in our case a Raymarine electric Type 2 long arm version.  We installed a new ram before we departed Australia, that has now done over 30,000 nautical miles in 10 years.  Last week (with great guidance provided by Jamie Gifford from SV Totem) I stripped it down, checked, cleaned and serviced the unit.

Frankly, it looked like new inside, no powdery deposits from brushes of moving parts, no crusty debris, everything looked pristine.  I gratefully cleaned and lubricated all the gears and thrust races, and re-assembled it with a big internal thank you to the guys that designed and engineered that part.

So credit where credit is due - to Derek Fawcett, I say a very BIG thank you.

Friday, 27 November 2015

High Winds Sink Tuzi Gazi Marina - Again

Crystal Blues Stern & The Sinking Docks
This section of the South African coast is a real weather engine, with a succession of high and low pressure systems dancing along the coast with unusual frequency.  The wind will swap from North East to South West and then back again within 24 hours, and then flip over again within another 24 hours.  It seems never ending.

The docks here at Tuzi Gazi Marina were badly damaged by a 70 knot gale about three weeks ago, when the main pontoon collapsed into a spectacular concertina.  Unfortunately several visiting cruising boats were damaged in that blow.  The dock staff have worked endlessly to repair the dock sections that failed, but each successive storm puts the damaged floats underwater again, so the dock buckles further.   A lack of parts and a complete lack of new floats is hampering their effort.

The initial disaster was caused by the failure of rusty anchor chains.  The heavy chains that hold the marina in position are tethered to concrete blocks on the sea bed.  These moved in the big blow and have not yet been re-positioned, so the entire structure is moving around in the wind, flexing the hinge points and further stressing the structure, specially at low tide.  Its a mess. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Mozambique To South Africa - Racing South With The Agulhas Current

Google Track Image By Thomas Herter
After five days sheltering from strong southerly winds,  we departed Basaruto in Mozambique with a decent weather window, in company with six other vessels.

Basaruto is a very large sand island, with a decent pass to the ocean at the southern end, though the pass has a bar at both the seaward and inshore end.

You can see our track on the Google Earth image at right - it is a very beautiful part of the world.  What that image doesn't show is how residual south easterly swells, even with a rising tide, can setup a steep breaking sea on the ocean side of the bar.  I'm fairly sure the south setting ocean currents played a role in this.

As we approached the bar, we were not quite sure that there was adequate water depth to handle the swell size, however we stuck our neck out and nosed gingerly into the shallow area, having studied the breaks and picked the best line.  Watching the fish finder screen very closely, we tracked the depth at the bottom of each swell and crossed the bar with 1.5 meters under the keel.

We relayed the minimum depths to the other vessels by VHF radio and they then started to commit to the sea in one's and two's.

It was a vigorous bar, much like the river bars we dealt with so often in Australia, and we were glad to have it behind us.

Some other boats in our group had never been through surf of this type, and they learned another aspect of boat handling that morning.

The 46 foot catamaran Papillon looked impressive coming through the sets, a first for the owners and crew.  Of course what goes up must surely come down and the crew had quite a ride over several wave sets.

Papillon Images By Diane Selkirk
From the southern pass at Basaruto Island to the port entrance at Richards Bay in South Africa is a distance of around 490 nautical miles.  We covered that in 2 days and 21 hours, using the favourable currents for almost the entire voyage.

The winds were almost dead astern for most of the passage, a sailing angle that we don't really enjoy.  So we angled off and tacked downwind, keeping the wind at around 150 degrees apparent with consistent pressure on the sails and the vessel - a much more comfortable ride, and easier all round on both the vessel and the people.

Despite this conservative approach we still managed to chalk up some breakages.  On the first night out, under staysail and reefed main,  I shone the torch forward for a quick inspection of the deck and noticed the staysail had started to come down of its own accord.  Not very interesting.

The shackle under the swivel had given way, so we had no choice but to drop the sail to the deck, and stow it away until we could go up the mast (in calmer conditions) to retrieve the halyard.   The next morning, as we were enjoying our breakfast coffee, we watched our fibreglass dome television antenna float rapidly past the cockpit, having broken free from the mast and fallen (thankfully) into the sea, without touching the boat.

What else could go wrong ?

Monday, 16 November 2015

Things That Work For Us # 5 - Rule #104 Inline Blower

Just over 10 years ago we installed a new Cummins diesel engine in Crystal Blues, replacing a beat up Perkins that was a little too small and way too leaky (oil that is).

At the time, we also installed a simple Rule #104 Inline Blower, to circulate air from the bilges up to the air cleaner of the Cummins.

Now, some 3,339 hours later, that Rule blower has been finally shut down, when the blower bearings became louder than the diesel engine.  A replacement unit was purchased off the shelf from a local chandlery here in South Africa, for A$49.00 .

How many electrical items run for over 3000 hours sitting in a (very) hot engine compartment ?

So, credit where credit is due.  Many pleasure craft wouldn't operate for 3000 hours over their entire life, so this blower would have been a lifetime purchase.  Congratulations to Rule for building a product that delivers both value and reliable service.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Madagascar To Mozambique - Things That Go Bang In The Night

Destined for Richards Bay in South Africa, we departed Madagascar in loose company with four other yachts.  The weather in this area needs to be carefully monitored, and voyage plans are often modified to find shelter in safe harbour.  Our "weather window" on departure was reasonable, however a very strong southerly front sent us scurrying into Basaruto, on the Mozambique coast, after 4 days at sea.

Temporary Boom Repairs
For a voyage that was fast and reasonably comfortable, we managed to break a surprising amount of gear along the way !  On the first night out we were caught by a 40 knot squall that jibed the mainsail very quickly, snapping the 19mm diameter stainless steel bail on the boom where the mainsheet and preventer line were attached. Later examination showed crevice corrosion on that part, where it failed just below the weld.

It also sheared the 5/16" bolts that locked the main sheet traveler car to the sheet block.   Fortunately the boom came to rest against the running backstay which (amazingly) held up to the impact and kept the boom under control.

After lashing the boom in place we dropped the mainsail and proceeded under genoa alone until daylight, when we could effect repairs.  Next morning we used a 1000 kg rated lifting sling, wrapped around the boom, as the new mainsheet and preventer attachment.  The main sheet track then had to be removed from the deck to access the sheet block car.  We repaired that easily enough, customising bolts from stock to suit and then re-assembled it, just like new. The broken (and very bent) stainless steel bale was then cut from the boom using an angle grinder.  All was completed by lunchtime, in relatively calm seas, and we were able to hoist the mainsail and gather boat speed again.

24 hours later, in heavier winds, the outhaul on the mainsail failed when a spectra lashing gave way, leading to a couple of broken slides in the boom and two significant tears in the sail.  Fortunately these were low down in the body of the sail, and we were able to continue by lowering the sail to the first reef point.

SV Sage Under Tow
Approaching the Mozambique coast we were contacted on HF radio by another vessel that needed assistance as their engine had failed.

After anchoring close to them overnight, we towed them into the anchorage the next morning and settled down to wait for the southerly blow.

By the time we arrived at Bazaruto we were ready for a break, and were welcomed to the coast of Africa by these friendly spinner dolphins with an excited aerial show that immediately brought our sense of humor back.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Au Revoir Madagascar & Thanks For All The Fish

Our parting gift from the rich waters of Madagascar was this spectacular Wahoo, the first of this species Ley has ever caught. Neil soaked his gills with Barcardi Rum and he was quickly cut into two large boneless fillets, providing eight meals for us.

We were both quite sad to leave Madagascar. It is a unique country, with a rich culture of sailing, enchanting lemurs, baobab trees, smiling faces and stunning landscapes. For the sailor the north west coast offers fantastic cruising with a land breeze in the morning, clocking around to a sea breeze every afternoon. Flat water sailing at its best. There are so many scenic anchorages, each generally with a small village or two. Our last few anchorages along the west coast of Madagascar, from Russian Bay down to Mahajunga, simply emphasised the beauty of this country. We needed more time there ....

As we approached our final anchorage in Boina Bay, we were followed by a fast sailing lateen rigged pirogue, laden with people and cargo. We had great wind and plenty of water, and Crystal Blues was a good 15 feet longer than the pirogue. Still they powered after us up the channel, shouting, laughing and waving as they slowly reeled us in and then sailed right past us to windward, their 8 knots eclipsing our 7.5 knots. The joy of sailing strikes again !

After anchoring we decided to give away the last of our trading items to a young man fishing from a dugout canoe just offshore from us. Not sure if he caught any fish, but with our goodies and those from the yacht Ceilydh, he paddled home with a very different bounty from the sea. Incidentally, Boina Bay was one of the nicest anchorages on the coast - great shelter, clean water, beautiful environment.

We departed Boina Bay in loose company with three sailing catamarans (Yolo, Ceilydh and Papillon), all bound for Richard's Bay in South Africa via the Mozambique Channel, notorious for it's strong currents and even stronger winds. Our Iridium Go! satellite modem allowed frequent updates to weather forecast GRIB files, and OSCAR ocean current files, and we hoped to work our way across this complex piece of ocean relatively quickly. We had a full moon to light our way all night, but a limited weather window eventually forced us to to seek shelter on the Mozambique coast after six days at sea.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Last Port - Mahajunga, Madagascar

Mahajunga is our final port of call or provisioning, before we head down the coast for South Africa. Like Helleville, its a bustling old time port, the old town filled with decaying French buildings and the new town growing up in a "1960's concrete modern" sort of way around the old port.

Here again we were captivated by the maritime culture, dominated by sailing vessels of all kinds.

Schooners, outrigger sailing canoes, dhows, just about anything that floated had a rig and sails of some kind.

Of course the sails were not hi-tech and they often had large pieces missing, but the boats still traveled well and the crews were always happy to see us.

That sailing bond works wonders, even when we don't speak the language.

The waterfront was a dynamic place, a blur of old and new, goods being loaded and unloaded on the backs of smiling young men, running along rickety wooden planks carrying everything from live chickens to crates of Coca Cola.

We provisioned here for our crossing to South Africa, a 1400 nautical mile voyage that crosses the Mozambique Channel and takes us south, eventually to Cape Town.  Majunga has fabulous markets, and we were able to stock up with everything we needed - fresh fruits, vegetables, local pork sausages and diesel to top off our fuel tanks.

To our surprise we also found a fabulous restaurant and brasserie, serving world class cruising with a local twist.  At La Rotonde, the Malagasy chef is a certified artist and we'll remember his plates fondly as we cross the ocean for the next few weeks.

Bartering For Fruit At The Market
The primary service locations for visiting sailboats (supermarkets, fuel stations, port captain etc) are relatively simple to find, however we marked them up on the Google map below.  Just click on the map to explore Mahajunga.

From here we will coastal hop south for another two days, then head west across the Mozambique Channel when we have a good weather forecast.  Our blog posts will be less frequent without internet access, but you can track our voyage on the live map at the top of the page, which updates hourly.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Helleville Festival Of Sail

After 50 years of sailing I still get a real buzz when I see a well handled sailboat, reaching across flat water on a sunny day - specially if it is a wooden sailboat.

In this part of the world that sight is all too common, as every coastal village and settlement is home to outrigger sailing canoes and larger sailing dhows, with lateen sailing rigs.  In the photo at right, this beautiful new vessel was launched only days earlier, and the builder was putting the finishing touches to her when we visited the island.

The largest boats here are gaff rigged schooners, still built on beaches all along the coast.   These are planked timber boats fastened with galvanised pins.  The lines are traditional locally made hemp, and the blocks are all hand made by shipwrights who carve the cheeks from solid wooden blocks.

When we arrived in Helleville, capital of the island Nosy Be in Madagascar,  the real extent of this sailing economy became apparent.   Literally hundreds and hundreds of sailboats work the coast - some fishing, some carrying cargo, others working as ferries.

Each afternoon they would ghost past us in the anchorage, working to windward on the first flutters of the strengthening sea breeze.  The big lateen rigged boats are incredibly quick and will sail seemingly into the eye of the wind, though the lack of any real keel means they sag away to leeward quite a bit.

The small fishing dhows would go to sea every morning, waking us at 5.00am as the crew shouted greetings to each other across the water, using the land breeze to head offshore.  Late afternoon they would all head back to shore using the unstoppable sea breeze, that comes in like clockwork around midday each day.

The sailing canoes here are incredibly fast, and use live (human) ballast to keep the outrigger on the surface when power reaching - the crew walk out onto a timber frame that is cantilevered to port, and so counterbalance the outrigger on starboard.

These amazing things are of course simply ordinary to these communities, who live and prosper by the sea and the wind.

However to us it is a constant source of delight, as dozens of these vessels come home each evening, scooting across the stern of our anchored vessel, smiling, waving  and sharing their joy with us - the real joy of sailing.