Thursday, 9 July 2015

Port Mathurin, Rodrigues - Old Fashioned Cruising Hospitality

MV Anna, Unloading In Port Mathurin, With Cruising Yachts Anchored In The Basin
From the old fort on the hill above Port Mathurin the tiny harbour can be seen clearly.  All fourteen visiting cruising boats plus the bi-weekly supply ship make it a crowded place, and the yachts must move every week or so to provide clearance for the ship on arrival and departure.  When the ship is away the wharf is open to the visiting yachts.  This "accommodation" is typical of the courtesy shown to visitors here in Rodrigues. 

We feel very welcome here.  The local people are friendly and courteous, committed church goers with a strong sense of community.

Port Mathurin Catholic Church
Rodrigues is home to just forty thousand people, and we are told it feels like the Mauritius of fifty years ago. Fishing and agriculture sustain the population, with tourism adding to the local economy in season.

Though we are still in the tropics, the 1000 nautical mile passage from Chagos has brought us into a cooler more comfortable climate.  The sea temperature has dropped from a simmering 32 degrees in the lagoon at Ile Boddam to a more human 24 degrees here in Port Mathurin.  The lower sea temperature has a direct effect on our daily life - the refrigeration systems run much more efficiently, though the reverse osmosis water maker produces some 10% less water each hour.  C'est la vie.

The most welcome change is the reduction in humidity and daytime temperatures - the "winter" climate here is most agreeable.  For the first time in years we are breaking out trousers instead of short pants, and even occasionally a jacket for the cooler evenings.  We are very happy not to be sweating continuously, as we were in Asia.

The Port Captain and his staff are incredibly helpful to us.

In a typical example of local hospitality, Port Captain Yvan Manuel last weekend organised an outing for us to the kite boarding championship event, held at Port Dud Est in the south of the island.  The walking wounded (Ley and I) were transported in his car, while others used the local bus service.

On that final day of competition we hoped to see the spectacular freestyle finals, but the wind failed us and most of the event was postponed.  The Port Captain has also arranged for local shopping expeditions, whilst dealing with all the other day-to-day issues of managing small vessels and crews from six different countries. 

So what facilities are available here for visiting sailors ?

Sunday, 5 July 2015

When There Are No Shops

Remote Salamon Atoll, Chagos, Crystal Blues In The Foreground.  Photo / Mark, SV Merkava                         

If we had a mission statement for our cruising life it would be shaped by what we truly enjoy - that is travel by boat, to experience new cultures, cuisines and music.  The past few months have offered a smorgasbord of this mix.  But none of this could have happened without a lot of planning. Before leaving Langkawi, Malaysia, all boat systems were checked, upgraded where necessary, the spares list re-checked and every empty space on the boat was filled with food and more than a little bit of wine, before we began sailing through the Indian Ocean.

We provisioned extensively in Phuket, stocking up on bread flour, pork, bacon, sausages and ham. Then we continued in Langkawi, stocking up on tinned and dry food, steak, salmon, toiletries, tinned butter, and duty free wine.  Over the previous months Ley had taken careful note of our consumption per month of all these items. Then we multiplied all this by six, hoping that our supplies would last around six months.

With those stores on board, the real provisioning challenge was fresh food - principally fruits and vegetables. What we can buy in Sri Lanka or the Maldives ? Will it last us for the 6-7 weeks after we depart Gan Atoll for Chagos and then Rodrigues ?

Fortunately the cruising community share information quite freely and efficiently, so we already knew that it was wiser to purchase fresh eggs, pumpkins and fruit in Sri Lanka, as nearly all produce in the Maldives is imported from there (plus India and Pakistan).

The Maldive Islands have very little fertile soil, with most of the new villages being built on reclaimed land.  Very little produce is grown locally.  It is not a great provisioning place.....

So the challenge was buying ten to twelve weeks of fresh provisions and doing our best to keep this produce fresh and edible in the tropical heat.