Saturday, 26 September 2015

Passage To La Reunion

It is almost impossible to anchor on the coast of Reunion, as the sea floor drops away dramatically right at the edge of the reef on this steeply sloped volcanic island.  So we cooled our heels in Mauritius for over a week, waiting for a marina berth to be available, then had a relatively comfortable 150 nautical mile passage overnight to Le Port Marina on the north west coast of Reunion.  Jerome Belhuerne, the Maitre De Port and Ocean Cruising Club Port Officer, made us very welcome.

The government operates two marinas in Le Port, with the latest facility developed using EU funding.  We arrived less than 7 days after opening, so not everything was perfect, however it is an excellent facility.

There are two more marinas further around the coast, at St. Giles and St. Pierre, though these are usually full. Clearance formalities are very easily handled - the marina contacts the authorities, and two customs officials promptly visit the boat.  One single form is completed, they stamp the passports and they're gone in 5 minutes.  Need to clear outwards very early ?  No problems - the same officers attended the boat at 5:30am as we requested. Very civilized and very professional.

In Reunion you really are in Europe - very old buildings mix it up with the modern, infrastructure is high quality, salaries are high, life is a little hectic, even traffic jams are common.

On the plus side, everything is beautiful !  The cuisine is classically French with a tasty Creole twist. Of course this all comes at a cost - everything is more expensive than the places we have traveled in recent years.

Once processed we quickly rented a car and started our touring, visiting local markets and the lovely capital city of St. Denis.

Provisioning is, as expected, an exciting experience here.  Everything is available and the fresh produce at the weekly market in Le Port was outstanding.

Our almost non-existant French was not really a big problem - most people spoke some English, and were not afraid to use it.  The language snobbery of Paris doesn't exist here.

The port has an excellent range of marine services available,  a large travel lift and a very large ship lift.  We compiled a directory of these services and vendors for those following in our wake.  You can download the Reunion Cruising Services Guide here, in Adobe PDF format (you'll find all our published guides available in the tab at the top of this page).

This is a great stopover for cruising sailors, and a great holiday destination.  As you'll see in the image below, the biggest problem I had was choosing between the Spanish, Portuguese and French sausages in the deli.  Life is good here.

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