Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Cruising In Good Company

For some weeks we've been cruising north western Madagascar in company with good friends on Le Papillon, a brand new 46 foot Lagoon catamaran.    They cruise with their four legged bosun Charlie, who swaggers around the deck pretending he was born at sea, and have traveled much the same route as us for the past six months.

Together we have been traveling around 25 nautical miles each day, anchoring each afternoon at a different bay, river or island.  This is a most spectacular cruising ground - many say it is far better than Thailand, and we are happy to agree.

Land breezes in the morning carry us out to sea, and by 11:00am the sea breeze kicks in and we reach along the coast in flat water at 7 and 8 knots.  Almost every day one of us catches a large fish, so the freezers are well stocked.  It is the finest sailing we've done in many years.

Keeping Very Busy

It hasn't all been island hopping and beach picnics.  Besides the usual (& never ending) maintenance tasks, we contribute to the regional cruising radio net on 6646Mhz.

At the moment I serve as net controller each afternoon at 17:00hrs local time (14:00hrs UTC), calling boats on passage in the region and logging position and weather reports.  There are currently 40 vessels on the tracking sheet, spread between Durban in South Africa, Madagascar and Mauritius.

This community safety net keeps us all in touch, and makes sure that no boats "drop off the radar".

Eating Very Well
Ley Trades A Fishing Kit For Fresh Prawns

We trade with the local people for mangoes, papaya, crabs and prawns.

A T-shirt is eagerly exchanged for half a dozen mangoes or half a kilo of large prawns. 20 meters of fishing line and half a dozen hooks will swap for a large Papaya or a even a live reef fish (Grouper etc).

We share the cooking and catering load, alternating dinner venues between the vessels.  With a shared love of good food (& wine), our dinners are usually fun events.

Supporting The Locals

This is a completely undeveloped nation - the small villages around the coast have no connection with the world except through passing boats and their own sailing vessels..  The people are happy and industrious, but poverty and health issues are evident at every stop we make. Like many other boats in the region, we stocked up on clothing and essential gifts for the locals, before sailing here.  Children's clothing, books, fishing equipment, clothing for men and women, tools, reading glasses etc, which are shared out on a daily basis.

At Maramba Bay, truly the most beautiful anchorage we've seen in years, we were advised about an elderly man who needed medical assistance - cleaning a wound and refreshing dressings.  Other cruising boats had helped before we arrived, and we took over for a couple of days, before we moved on.

He has a surgical wound that has opened up after the stitches were removed - it has obviously been that way for some time. 

This morning we cleaned and dressed it again, closing it a little and then protecting it with a large adhesive dressing.  He really should go back to hospital, but the family can ill afford that and the journey takes them over 24 hours (by canoe, then walking, then a bus).  Through email and the radio network we've now asked other boats to continue the assistance when they pass through Maramba Bay.

This is a stunningly beautiful country, but life for the local people is still very harsh.

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