Port Mathurin panorama, Rodrigues


August 19 - Dang Pleasant

Baraka weighed anchor at noon today and is underway, 2000 miles to Rodrigues, in company with 4 other boats. By 3 pm Cocos Keeling was a greenish blur on the horizon. The forecast for the next week looks great - no winds over 20 knots and no seas above 3 meters. Right now we are rolling along making slow time in pleasant conditions - can't complain - the light winds will help us get our sea legs back after 5 delightful weeks at Cocos Keeling. The vane is steering, and we are sailing wing-on-wing in one meter seas.

August 20 - 1246 S - 9427 E

Day 2 - we are on a steady crawl across the southern Indian Ocean, the first 24 hours in light 12-knot winds dead astern, not our fav point of sail, wing-on-wing, poled-out jib with a single reef in the main to balance the boat, vane steering nicely. The staysail was out too, straight back to the mast, to hold a pocket of air for the jib and dampen our roll. At dusk the winds built to a steady 18-22, and we picked up speed. Seas are building a bit, though the cockpit is still dry. We have the radar on to dodge squalls. 2 boats are well ahead of us, 2 behind, no one in sight. A couple freighters moving west to east pass us each day, otherwise the sea is empty horizon to horizon. All is well!

This freighter, a mile away, disappears between swells.

The radar shows a squall line upon us.

August 22 - 1346 S - 9133 E

We are settling into the offshore routine, starting to get enough sleep, eating well. Both of us are listening to audiobooks to fight boredom. Seas are large and we are getting bounced around, but the cockpit is still mostly dry except for the occasional spanking. The jib alone pulled us along yesterday. Today we added a reefed main, though it blankets the jib to some degree - not ideal. We will have another day of 20 knot winds, then it will be a little calmer.

We are disappointed in our progress. Earlier boats crossing reported a favorable current but we aren't seeing it. Despite the strong winds we are averaging under 5 knots, which will result in a longer passage, maybe 18 days. We mustn't complain - better slow than getting beat up as those faster boats did. All is well.

August 23 - 1431 S - 8844 E

Baraka is making better time, now that the adverse current has dropped away. Winds have moderated to 15-16 knots, seas large with long periods. Dave replaced a dying battery in the Pactor modem, which allows us to post blog entires, and get email and weather reports at sea by connecting the computer to the HF radio. Then he fixed a broken hose clamp holding a windvane pulley and swapped out the cockpit shower hose, which had broken. I baked a banana bread and cookies, made gazpacho and salads. It is a little challenging to do these things single-handed, as one hand has to hold on! An acquired skill. Estrellita had a whale encounter - a whale surfed in the swells next to the boat, often passing beneath their hull, apparently just curious. No ships sighted for several days now. All is well.

August 24 - 1511 S - 8537 E

Good winds, rougher 2 meter seas. Overcast, with squally patches. We continue to log the miles, rolling along, about a third of the way to Rodrigues. Taipan is a freight train - pulling further ahead each day. We enjoy the twice daily radio contact, sharing weather and condition updates with 6 other boats, spread over 200 miles. All we see is empty blue ocean stretching to the horizon, our tiny teacup of a boat bobbing along. All is well.

August 25 - 1539 S - 8328 E

Seas building, 3-meter swells plus annoying wind waves running at odd angles, making for a lumpy ride. We have perfected the monkey-swing, going from handhold to handhold. Winds have been quite constant, 20-23 knots off the port quarter, speeding us along with double-reefed main and poled-out jib. Gribs show seas building to a whopping 5+ meters in about 5 days, before we reach Rodrigues, though forecast winds stay around 20 knots. Dave is running buoyweather reports to get the intervals. All is well.

August 26 - 1616 S - 8022 E - Halfway

Happy birthday, Dad! Wish I were with you, Isabel, and my sibs to celebrate.

We have an AIS Receiver as part of our nav system, which gives us identity and course info from nearby ships that have transponders. Last night I could call the Thai Dawn, a freighter, on VHF channel 16 and ask if they could see us, visually or by radar. We were 7 miles away off their port bow. After looking, they could spot us. Pretty nice to be able to hail them by name, and make sure they are aware of us. If we had our own transponder, we would appear on their nav screen too. Our system tells their closest point of approach, shows their position and course on our electronic chart, and can sound an alarm if there's a chance of collision. Sweet!

Seas and winds moderating, we are having a nice sail. Winds more on the beam, so we took the pole down and shook out the second reef in the main. Tonight we hit the halfway mark, yippee! Dave has been watching forecasted weather, and we'd been concerned about reports of seas up to 25 feet - yikes!! - in about 5 days, but today's GRIB is far more favorable - and less alarming. Dave likes this report and says he will take it, and not run any more reports.

We are colder than we've been for years, breaking out our mildew-scented fleeces for the chilly night breezes. All is well.

August 28 - 1707 S - 7708 E

Baraka is lurching her way at 7-8 knots in washing-machine seas, uncomfortable. Any activity is a awkward chore. We are both a bit achy from doing many thousands of ab crunches to keep our balance. Used to pay a gym for this! Each morning Dave walks the deck for the flying fish count - only a half dozen fish indicates quiet seas, 20 fish was a rowdy night.

Our small inverter died, so we are using the main inverter, a comparative energy hog, to power the nav computer. Otherwise the boat is hanging together. Every so often the Monitor vane loses control, and we have to handsteer a bit while we reset it, but it continues to do an amazing job in these confused seas. Dave says this should moderate over the next 2 days, then build again the final few days. 800 miles to go, or another 5-6 days at this rate. We are counting the miles! All is well.

August 29 - 1745 S - 7359 E

Good progress, despite a few patches of light winds. Now they've filled in nicely but we are on a BEAT! I told Dave I hadn't signed up for beating, only downwind passages. Tonight it should continue to build to the high teens, and with it shift aft to a better angle.

600 miles to go, but I am ready for this passage to be over. Dave installed a spare small inverter. I am pretty sure he has enough spares to rebuild Baraka underway, though I have yet to discover where the spare mast is stored.

All is well.

August 30 - 1828 S - 7059 E

The lumpy seas have steadily built though winds remain fairly constant at 18-22 knots. We harnessed up, set the boat downwind for a few minutes, and tucked the second reef in the main. Dave with other boats underway have been watching the GRIBs and Buoyweather, concerned about the next 2 days of BIG seas, over 5-meter for one period, and over 4 meters both days before moderating back down. In anticipation of the northward set these will give us, we are sailing a little south of our course line on a somewhat uncomfortable beam reach, waves smacking us on the side. The big seas come from weather far to the south. Our concern is not so much with their size, as the period - the interval between swells. 18 foot seas at 24 seconds are a carnival ride, a long slow roller coaster. The same seas at 18 seconds may be breaking, surfers' dream and sailors' nightmare. These are forecast somewhere between. As we make final approach to Rodrigues the big seas are supposed to moderate.

On a passage the rest of the planet fades to distant memory, and this becomes the only world we know. We listen to every boat groan and rattle, to find stresses before they become breakages. Dave had to deal with crew morale, giving me an extra long off watch when I felt undue anxiety. I can't pretend to enjoy passages, especially long ones like this. In contrast, Dave claims this is the first passage where he might gain weight.

All is well.

August 31 - 1956 S - 6823 E

The big seas have arrived, just as forecast, but are so far surprisingly comfortable, the easy roller coaster sort with long intervals. It helps that the winds have steady at 18-20 knots, at a good angle just aft the beam. We are tooting along at 7 knots with shortened sails, the cockpit dry despite 2-meter wind waves on top of the 5-meter swells.

Next issue is the possibility that we may have a night landfall. On a passage this long you can't time the ending. Even this close (280 miles) our projected arrival varies from late night Saturday to early morning Sunday, as our speed slides with each wave from 6 to 10! knots. We strongly prefer a daytime landfall, but will sometimes enter a port at night if we have reliable charting and waypoints, confirmed by boats we know ahead of us, and in this case a large sheltered bay to enter, with a full moon as a bonus. We won't decide our strategy until closer...

All is well.

Sept 1 - 1927 S - 6520 E

110 miles to go. We shortened sail a bit to slow down to 6 knots, in 25 knots of wind on a broad reach, to make a daytime landfall tomorrow morning. When the seas roll us the jib flogs and fills with a bang. We tune our course, trying to balance the steep rolls versus flogging jib to minimize wear and tear on boat and crew. Two boats are already in, safely at anchor. Our huge ocean swells are moderating but are replaced by impressively steep wind waves. We put the companionway hatchboards in, something we rarely do. The following seas are parted by Baraka's canoe stern and break alongside with a freight train roar, and so far we have not been pooped. A control line on the windvane parted, so the autopilot was steering for awhile, but it started making an ominous clicking sound, hmmm. Dave hung over the stern in huge following seas and threaded the control line back through, and the windvane is again steering, yippee!

On this passage I've appreciated the many convenient handholds throughout the boat, and the number of places where you can brace your body. Our Slocum was designed by someone who spent time at sea!

All is well.

Sept 2 - Landfall Rodrigues

We are safely in, anchor down in Port Mathurin, Rodrigues' tiny harbor. All is well.

Landfall Rodrigues!

Port Mathurin anchorage, cut into the extensive reef.

Sept 3 - Port Mathurin welcome committee

Yesterday we made Rodrigues, happy to have a tough passage over. 5 miles out we contacted Rodrigues Coastguard with notice of arrival. Contrails came back on the VHF radio with instructions on how to tie to the quai wall, and Jim met us there to catch our lines and help hold Baraka off in the surges that squished our fenders flat. Soon the officials arrived. Quarantine wanted $80 USD, no receipt, which we paid, plus a token beer, and Customs got another $40 or so, for Sunday overtime. It is cheaper to pay in local currency than in dollars. As soon as we could we pulled away from the quai to anchor. We drug anchor on our first attempt, but caught ok on our second. The holding here is poor in the dredged harbor, in crushed coral. Orca came by and handed up a bag of baguette, bok choy and bananas, and Tara delivered huge mackerel steaks from a fish caught on the way in. Contrails picked us up for a shoreside dinner at a good seafood restaurant, where we joined Taipan. Soon Moonshine and Jargo joined us there - a fun reunion.

After a solid night's sleep, we pumped up the dinghy and went ashore to catch Estrellita's lines. They left Cocos a day after us and made the same time - 14 days. Orca gave us the tour of town, wonderful market (pamplemousse!), internet store, boulangerie, pork baguette lunch cafe, tourist office, and supermarket. We happily filled our bags at a small fraction of Cocos Keeling prices. Fruits and vegetables are grown locally, in contrast with Cocos where everything is freighted in. In Cocos we paid $10 for a small hand of bananas. Here the same is $1.

Rodrigues is part of Mauritius, though with charming small town Creole character. People seem happy and friendly. Primary language is Creole, though most everyone also speaks French and English.

Passage summary: overall better than expected, uncomfortable with lots of motion, but no winds over 25 except briefly in squall lines. The huge seas were as advertised, intimidating though never dangerous. The boat held up very well. This was our third-longest passage, and I was more than ready to have it over about 3 days before the end. We have a list of maintenance tasks to do in port, though no major breakages. Main concern is the autopilot with mystery noise. Dave will spend some time diagnosing, but we can get by without it with the windvane working so well.

We will park here for at least a week or maybe two before the next 2-day hop to Mauritius. It is pure heaven to have the boat lying still after this rowdy passage, to enjoy a good shower, a good meal, and a quiet night of deep sleep. Bliss! All is better than well.

Sept 5 - Island Tour

Yesterday Contrails arranged an island tour for Taipan, Baraka and Contrails. Biran and Romeo picked us up at the pier in a beater van and took us to Pointe Canon for a view looking down at the anchorage where we could see clearly the cut in the reef where we'd entered. Rodrigues is surrounded by a reef area several times larger than the island itself - really magnificent to see. The locals sail their lateen rigs inside the reef to fish and travel. We drove higher to the center of the island and the 1939 Catholic cathedral and cemetery, then to a restaurant to chat with the owner to order our lunch. While it was being prepared we went on to the Francois Leguat complex to visit the caves and a giant tortoise hatchery. The tortoises were hunted to extinction by the early 1800s, largely by the Dutch stopping by to provision on their way to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. Tortoises were lashed to the decks and could stay alive months without food and water. Less than 10 years ago 2 types were reintroduced here, from the Seychelles and Madagascar, and a successful breeding program established. Now some 1700 roam the complex, many in a natural volcanic grotto, where we could massage their necks, which they liked. Then we were led into a large cave for a 500 meter walk. At the entrance 3 gorgeous long-tailed tropic birds did aerobatics. We also saw a couple of the local golden fruit bats.

Our guides drove us to the restaurant where we feasted on papaya salad, fried potato balls with spicy chili sauce, octopus salad, chicken, curried fish, followed by papaya and coconut ice cream and coffee - all delicious. After a drive along the south coast, we were returned home. Fun day, good company, and a great introduction to Rodrigues! Biran says their country is officially Mauritius, but in their hearts they are Rodrigan - and proud of it. Children speak Creole at home, but learn both French and English at school - the latter required to get most jobs. When Dave rowed ashore early this morning to delight me with fresh croissants, he asked "ou est le patisserie?" and was answered "what are you looking for?".

Catholic cathedral, built 1939.

Pretty graveyard adorned with daisies.

We visit the turtle santuary.

Local golden bats snooze.

The tortoises enjoy the noontime shade...

and like having necks scratched.

Dave meets the largest tortoise.

Pretty long-tailed tropic birds swoop overhead.

Guides take us into a cave system.

Lunch feast includes octopus salad.

Triangular lateen rigs sail the lagoon.

Natural channel winds to the sea.

The sand beachs are on the south shore.

Sausages dry at the boucherie.

Click here for our Cocos Keeling journal.

Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved.