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 ?
Beside the harbour and wharf, the port authority also maintain a large slipway, easily accessed in the creek just west of the harbour.

The railway is used for servicing the local tugboats, so it has plenty of load capacity, though it is not quite deep enough for large keelboats.  Metal work and welding can be done by local contractors, though (surprisingly) the site does not have an air compressor for air powered tools.

You would need to supply all your own parts and materials here - there is no local chandlery, any marine items or specialist paints would need to be obtained from Mauritius.

A small workshop at the wharf is kindly made available to cruisers when not in use by the tug crews.  We serviced and re-built our rigid vang (rod-kicker) there - it worked very hard on our last passage from Chagos.

Hardware stores in Port Mathurin can supply most common tools and fasteners, and we were able to purchase pop rivets to re-fasten our boom bag track.

Fuel is easily obtained in jerry cans from the nearby filling station, a short dinghy ride from the harbour. Larger quantities can be delivered by tanker truck right to the wharf, for a minimum 1000 liter order.  We collaborated with several other boats to arrange a tanker truck, and pumped clean fuel straight into our tanks.

As confirmed "oldies" (I turned 60 just two weeks ago) we have our fair share of ailments.  The aggressive sea conditions on our last passage left us a little battered, to the point of needing some treatment and physiotherapy.

Our enthusiastic friend, Port Captain Yvan Manuel, explained that this was not a problem - medical care is free in Rodrigues, for local residents and all visitors.  Amazing - multiple consultations and numerous physiotherapy sessions, pharmacy drugs issued, and all at no charge.  We are very pleased to be here !
Port Captain, Yvan with Neil.

For those who are following in our tracks we have prepared a detailed guide to local services and suppliers - you can download it here.

Rodrigues arrival procedures and guidance are covered in a separate document we produced for the Port Captain's office - download it here.

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