LINKS FOR THE YEAR 2002
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Log for the week of October 6, 2002 Mauritius by APW
"Port Louis Harbour Control, Port Louis Harbor Control" this is sailing vessel Iwalani, Iwalani, on 16." No answer. I tried repeatedly. Finally, I gave up and told Phil it was his turn. Port Control came right back to him. So much for a woman's voice getting more results over the airwaves. The bad news was, they weren't going to let us into the harbor. "You must wait until dawn. Yachts can not come in after 6pm.", the Indian sounding voice said. It was now 6:45 PM. What? We looked at each other in disbelief. We sailed 2,300 miles and had to wait around? I wasn't too keen about anchoring amidst some very large ships, off an island with well-known bad currents. We were out of the trade winds and it was a calm night- but still we were both anxious to sleep together. It had been almost three weeks since we had- well, you know. I think they felt sorry for us, because a few minutes later he came back and said we could proceed in with caution. We couldn't do it any other way, as the harbor pictured on C-Map showed Iwalani jumping out of the water and proceeding over land through a sugar wharf and onwards to a small mountain range. So much for modern technology. We inched by bulk cargo carriers, many run-down Taiwanese fishing vessels rafted together, plastic bottles and floating lettuce leaves and finally worked our way into the head of the harbor.
The recently renovated waterfront encircles the end of the harbor, like a glittering jeweled crown. Tall elaborate buildings housing banks, hotels and other tourist attractions were lit up in the orange nighttime glow and reflected in the calm harbor water. This was some of the nicest architecture we had seen on this trip, columns forty stories up, curves, lots of angles and top level atria. Tall spired mountains rose up behind the buildings, brown, threadbare with not a tree in sight.
Yet, despite four hundred years as a maritime port, Port Louis has no facilities for yachts. Our friends from Holland onboard "Red Oranda" had arrived two days before. We met them on the way to Cocos, when I looked up one day and saw a yacht sailing right behind us. Luckily, they keep their VHF on at sea and were rather surprised to have someone right in front of them. We have enjoyed their sarcasm and humor ever since and keep a regular radio schedule. "Red Fish" as we nicknamed her-has a steel hull and aluminum decks and was built in Poland. She is the first boat I have seen that is even more massively constructed than Iwalani. The steel mounts for the self-steering are as thick as a Samoan's ankle- and that is thick indeed. She is slightly bigger and slightly faster, but still looks a bit like Iwalani. Chris and Sjane took our lines and we rafted next to them. "Red" was tied to the metal fencing that keeps drunken tourists from falling into the water, right next to a Tandoori restaurant. Exotic Indian music blared out from outdoor speakers. Rich spices and curry scents perfumed the air. Horns honked, police sirens wailed, cell phones rang. French speaking Indian women walked by in their saris and Punjab's- gold threaded needle work and tiny mirrors catching the city lights. Phil and I stood slack jawed, not expecting so much city on this tiny Indian Ocean Island.
After a good night's sleep and checking in with custom's the next morning, we decided to have a walk around town. Phil announced he had to use the facilities and headed for the public men's room. After window shopping, I waited for him next to an elaborate children's playground complete with life size pirate ship and lighthouse. Ten minutes later, still no sign of Phil. I walked over to the open doorway and called in- "Phil?" No answer. I thought maybe he had walked out and snuck by me, when I was caught with a woman trying to sell me a tablecloth. I went back to the boat expecting to find him there. Nope. No sign of him, so I went back to the bathroom and waited some more. After a half-hour I again went to the doorway and asked "Phil?" Still no answer. I was beginning to get worried. Here we were, just landed in a strange country and my husband had been abducted by god knows whom. We heard rumors from other American boats that Al Queda men were hiding in Mauritius. My imagination started in on its usual worst case scenario. I saw visions of my husband strung out between two paper towel holders, whipped by some foreign thugs. "Take that you American infidel!" Phil not even flinching, despite the fact he usually screams bloody murder when I so much as step on his toe. Sweat began pouring down my back and my legs started getting rubbery. I thought I was going to throw up right there on the sidewalk. The next thing I knew he was standing beside me very perturbed. "What happened?" I asked, horrified. "Did you use the woman's room?" he asked me. I shook my head no. "Just go in and try it." I walked in, stepping by an Indian woman mopping the floor. I looked in the bathroom stalls, looked at the sinks, the mirrors, and the soap dispensers. What the heck was his problem? "Looks ok to me" I told him. "You didn't have a hole?" he asked incredulous. Then it dawned on me what the trouble was. Phil had never been educated on the finer points of Indian traditional bathrooms. My first husband was a physician who had spent a lot of time working in India, so I had the low down on the hole, the hose and the pipe to hold on to. Unfortunately, Phil said there was only the porcelain hole and he was having a hard time coordinating things, especially with my continued interruptions. "Next time" I told him, "Why can't you at least answer me... " Men!
We walked along the plush waterfront, with it's Ralph Lauren and other designer clothes stores- whose names mean nothing to me, yet get printed or sewn to the front like they are supposed to mean something. I often thought I should shave all my surgical cases and tattoo on their sides-
"Operated on by Amy"
It always bugged me back home to buy a car at a dealer and drive home with his or her name emblazoned everywhere. One car I refused to pay for until all the advertising plates had been removed. Another car, I did a painting over the tire cover in order to hide the name of the dealer. No way was I going to let others know I had given that man money. Mauritius's waterfront had so many schmancy shops with rich wood work, exquisitely dressed shop keepers and one or two shirts, jackets or pants displayed in theatrical positions, with dramatic lighting and soothing background music- a jacket arm raised up like it was beckoning the tourist to come in and spend lots of money. Little embroidered riders, whacking a polo ball, sewn on the front of so many shirts, jackets and sweaters. I never knew the world had so many polo players that wanted to show off their sport- all for hundreds and hundreds of rupees. I asked if they had any little embroidered tennis players and the man thought I was crazy.
Yet just across the road is an entirely different world. After a confusing moment trying to figure out how to walk across four lanes of traffic, which fought its way between the waterfront and town, we discovered steps and a walk through tunnel. A policeman stands guard at the middle of the tunnel keeping riff raff from setting up residence like subterranean rodents, or perhaps he is there to turn the well dressed cruise ship victims back to the monied facade.
On the other side of the road, we discovered two story, crumbling, rotting, French influenced buildings, built hundreds of years ago. Shop keepers and skinny street vendors selling everything you don't need and some things you could do without. Plastic world globes, plastic place mats with Thomas Kinkaid style snow scenes, madras shirts piled three stories high, (which do hide spilled chili sauce when the boat makes an unexpected lurch), hand cranked welding machines, and thousands and thousands of Hindu gods, Buddha's, Jesus' and pokemon's- gold embellished, ceramic effigies of the things we human's worship. Cars creeping by, scooters threading through everything, horns honking, fruit piled pyramid high, lovebirds packed in cages like tiny businessmen in an elevator. Everything with the greasy black oil slime from years and years of car exhaust, in some places the streets were as slick as ice. All we really needed were some eggs, cat food (preferably with the words "haut cuisine pour chats" somewhere in the title) and bread. No such luck. We ended up with some really expensive vanilla beans, boot legged VCD's wrapped in what looks like original packaging (when you look close you realize there are some pretty bizarre spelling mistakes in the movie descriptions) and one blue necklace of unknown material. The latter was bought from a particularly adhesive street vendor, who had several necklaces dripping from his scrawny hand and followed us for several blocks until I finally asked him-"Are you coming back to the boat with us, because if so, I need to get some more potatoes". At which point he almost started crying. His eyes welled up with water- " I just need money to get home. I have not sold any of these cheesy, touristified necklaces which you can find in every gift shop around the world, in three days." (This latter bit is perhaps added by me.) He pulled out his pocket lighter and began setting some of them on fire. "See, they do not burn. Real fresh water pearls." I selected a rather innocuous looking blue necklace and paid 100 rupees- a real deal, about three dollars US. Of course now I look back and feel sorry for the poor guy. Perhaps all my relatives will be getting some official Mauritian necklaces for Christmas. "You must have the word 'sucker' emblazoned on your forehead" Phil keeps telling me.
A quick word on the US economy and why we may never rise again to the glorious stock market levels of just a few years ago. In some of the shops, just inches away from chickens hanging by their legs and sliced roots of unknown flora, are racks containing DVD's, VCD's and pirated computer software, all for just a few rupees. I was alternately horrified and intrigued to see PhotoShop version 7.0, Macromedia Flash, AutoCAD 2002- all the greatest of the great stuff that the US has to offer in terms of software, all selling for about $40 US. To give you non-geeks an idea what that implies- before we left South Carolina, I spent $700 US dollars for PhotoShop version 6.0. It was mighty tempting to fall victim to the call of the cheap and "buy" some of this software. I may deface our president, but there's no way I am going to slap the face of capitalism. Instead we dove into the VCD racks and bought movies that are old and showing on television, (ok, maybe a couple of them just came out at the theaters). They are almost more entertaining than the original movies, because for some reason, they have added English subtitles to the already English spoken soundtrack. The distracting, yet pants wetting hilarity comes from the fact that the person doing the translation didn't have a full grasp of the English language, especially with Harrison Ford's mumbling, so it's almost an entirely different movie dialogue written across the bottom.
Here is a dialogue from the first Indiana Jones movie:
"Dr. Jones, did you know your mother is in the folks home?
"Oh dear, I taught that course at the University"
"Would you like the termite on your plate?"
Hey, I just realized where I recognized those strings of conversation- Of course! They used "Dragon Naturally Speaking" to write out the subtitles-I wonder if the pirated computer software similarly has some bugs with it.
Historically, Mauritius had been an important strategic landfall for first the Portuguese explorers, followed by the Dutch. It was an important stopover between South Africa and India back in the days when people made money selling spices. Everyone wanted this island- Dutch, French, British. Later, the French took over and finally the British. Despite over one hundred years as a British colony, the only real holdover of any thing English, is that the cars drive on the "left" side of the road. English is supposed to be the official language- but isn't. Most everything is in French. The island gained its independence in 1968. Over one 1.2 million people live here, some in corrugated pieces of tin folded over and some in opulent shore side retreats. Money comes from the sugar industry, which must be very sweet indeed.
Mauritius is most famous for being the last place on the planet where a dodo bird egg was consumed. This unfortunate omelet resulted in the extinction of an entire species. Dodo birds themselves were aptly named, not really catching on to the "fight or flight response"; they would just stand around and get caught. Apparently, they were "indigestible", so that was how they ended up with the last word. Their eggs though, were a different matter. Mauritius is also famous for the "blue penny stamp", one of several stamps made back in the Victorian era for mail bound for England- one stamp was recently bought and brought back to the island by a bunch of local philatelist's. They paid 5 million US dollars for this 1-cent stamp. Makes me think my three dollar necklace wasn't such a bad deal.
Whenever we make landfall at a new country, I get very anxious travelling with my neurological cat. Stewart had been doing well, but now has slid backwards. If anyone cares to get an idea what we've been through, they should watch the movie "Awakenings" with Robin Williams. The infection in Stewart's brain is not unlike the people with viral encephalitis in the movie. He will get up out of bed, walk purposely towards his food dish, then stop mid-step, arm out stretched like he is playing the children's game "Statues" with some invisible cat, fall sound asleep in that position, wake up, forget what he was doing, start grooming the outstretched arm, eventually head to the litter box, looking in for a good five minutes, remember that he was actually going for food, not the bathroom, finally get to his dish, take a small nap, sitting upright, wake up, eat a few bites and so on. He had been able to "see" in Cocos. This made no sense to me, because he had no pupillary light response. We called it blindsight. Still, he putters and purrs around the boat when he remembers, so we just live with it. I am still giving him 150 mg Clindamycin and have written all the toxoplasmosis experts I can think of. He is off and on painful when we pull his tail upwards, but appears to have no other headaches. When the time comes for the customs and quarantine officials to come on board. I make sure he has eaten, gone to the bathroom and is ready for a nap. This way he is curled up sleeping peacefully in his bed and for all intents and purpose's looks like a content sleeping cat. My fears stem from the fact that if a sharp official comes on board he/she will be unable to differentiate toxo encephalitis from early rabies. I sure couldn't. Cats, early on with rabies, just look sick and act sick. Later, they may be neurological. Walking like they had a few, perhaps stepping on the tops of their feet, perhaps falling asleep as they walk. Eventually they would get to the stage that everyone associates with rabies- snarling, growling, avoiding water, etc. Hopefully all the officials we meet will have that image in their brain- and not associate a cat doing a "heil Hitler" as being rabid. When we arrived in Cocos, we had one pretty sharp inspector who, I think, suspected that something wasn't quite right with the Kitty King.
"Is your cat stuffed?" he asked me, reaching down to give Stew a pat.
I laughed like it was a great joke and said he was just really old, slept all the time, and had a very bad trip from Darwin. All of which was true. Stewart then started to yawn, and stretched out his arm like he was going to get out of bed. I went over and grabbed him before he had a chance to walk around, doing "World War II German performance art." Then, I distracted the officials with some sticky buns that Phil made. They forgot all about Stew. If that guy had seen him walk, there is no doubt in my mind that Stewart's head would have been chopped off and sent to the Australian rabies laboratory.
So, it was with a bit of anxiety that Phil and I allowed "Special Custom's" on board. We had been in Port Louis for several days and had recently taken to turning the stereo on. The Tandoori restaurant had only one CD of exotic Indian music and the CD had not yet self-destructed. Several other yachts had by now arrived and we were rafted four thick with us on the inside. All day and all night people were traipsing over our bow. I did not hear the thick-soled black shoes of the customs officials until they were practically down our companionway.
"We are special custom's and we do spot checks" he said to me with a thick Indian accent.
"No problem" we said in unison. Although in hindsight, I think we should have asked for some identification.
"We are here for raw meat" or at least that was what I thought he said.
"Raw meat? We have only one chicken, which I just bought. Would you like to see it?" I asked, moving over to the icebox and setting my foot gently on Stewart so he wouldn't get any ideas about getting out of bed.
"No, No! r-u-m-m-a-g-e" the official carefully spelled out.
"Rummage?" we asked.
"Yes, we just go through your things."
"Ok, no problem" We had cleaned the boat when we first arrived expecting the officials to come on board- now that we had been in port for a few days- things had started to pile up. Mostly, dirty laundry packed into dark green trash bags. Three of them, to be exact.
In all of Port Louis there is not one laundromat. Only another skinny guy who offers to do your laundry for many, many rupee. We had him wash our sheets and blankets and they were returned ironed and folded into such a small bag that I thought he was just returning the pillowcases. "Wow, nice folding job" I said when I saw everything compressed and neat. I had been too embarrassed to give him the rest of our laundry. Everything else had gotten soaked with sea water or cat piss and was really, really rank. There was no way I was going to have another human (other than my husband) deal with it!
The two officials began at the bow and started to go through every drawer, cabinet and storage space on Iwalani. Now I know I am not the neatest pin on the cushion, in fact my clothes started out on this trip neatly folded, stored shopkeeper fashion, in a two shelved cabinet. This became impractical as time wore on, so to speak. When I wanted a particular shirt at the bottom of the stack, the whole pile got messed up. So, I resorted to Phil's technique of rolling the clothes up in a sausage shape- this too became difficult to maintain, as entropy worked its way through my shirts. Lately, I just "stuff" them in to the closet. When I want to wear something, it is easy to pull the whole pile out, rifle through it, stuff the entire wad back in to the closet, then tamp it down so the door can get closed. Sure, my clothes are a little rumpled looking- but we do have an iron on board. Well, this particular closet caused a great deal of consternation to the customs man. ‘Surely there must be hidden treasures in this great jumble of rags' I could hear him saying to himself. He went through every shirt, skirt, dress and pair of shorts, finally finding a small green velvet sack of something, which surely must contain marijuana. He slit it open- "No, only balsam pine needles". Luckily, a few weeks ago, I had thrown out a sachet of catnip, which had been my trick for handling ferocious pussycats at work. It worked on all but two cats I knew. I think it would have gotten me in a world of trouble if it had been found.
Fortunately for all of us, the stench from our bag of dirty laundry finally drove him aft. These guys were really thorough, but when they finally got to the engine room, wiping the sweat from their brow- I told them that was where we hide the immigrant families we smuggle in. They did manage to laugh. I told them that in Australia, they were so upset about our cat, they never even opened the door. I jumped up from the computer to let them into the engine room.
"No, No," they said. "It is Ok."
"Well, I am sorry about the boat being such a mess" I said "I didn't expect an inspection today."
"It is ok," they said. "This is not so bad. We see much worse. Not as bad as Taiwanese fishing boat. We take showers after we are done with them."
We just can't seem to find anyone to "rummage" in the engine room, which is too bad, as that is where the oozies, rocket launchers and cocaine are stored. No, only kidding. Ha Ha. It's a joke. I am sure that the FBI has already flagged this web site as a result of my comparing our country's leader to a clam. I received lots of hate mail; death threats etc. none of which I will reprint here as it will only upset my mother. Interestingly, pro-mail outnumbered hate mail 2:1. Luckily for the rest of the world, the French, German and Russian officials use worldvoyagers.com to set their foreign policy. Whenever I really step over the line, I get email from one of my siblings trying to reel me back in place. This was no exception. My own big brother, Jay, wrote me such a thought provoking letter that I have decided he should run for president. "Big J for the USA". I can see the bumper stickers now. He plays golf and skis too, which seem to be the only pre-requisites for the job. And his son, my nephew, is really smart and can not only speak Spanish, but Russian too. What a talented family.
We had been having trouble with our battery charging system. After a bulk charge, the regulator went to float and the alternator stopped charging. A few times, during the passage, when I went to start the engine, nothing happened. No beeping- nothing. This, of course, never happened to Phil and he thought it was something that I was doing wrong. Finally it happened again while we were tied to the quay and since we were no longer "on watches" he got to see for himself the problem I was having. Phil went through all the connections with his trusty Fluke and finally ended at the main battery switch. This oversize switch is designed for 500 amps; the most we usually see is 160 amps from the alternator. Somehow, in the course of jumping around in the high seas, the connection to battery bank 1 had come loose at the switch. The resistance of a bad connection caused heat, which melted the plastic and warped the switch connections. Had we gone a little bit longer, the boat probably would have caught on fire. Phil re-built the switch using a bit of the Teflon we had bought for the gaff jaws, (which by the way is working GREAT- leather is definitely outdated material there).
Stewart, by this time had had enough of city life, so we cast off the lines to our cruising fraternity and headed north to a quiet anchorage called Grand Baie. This is already way too long, so Phil can write about it next week. APW
Log for the week of Oct 13,2002 Grande Bay, Mauritius by PS
Grande Bay is a pleasant change from Port Louis. After much trepidation about the depth of the pass (we actually never saw less than 2.5m), we anchored off the yacht club. The bay is clean, so we can go snorkeling and make water, and it's relatively quiet. The trade winds blow across the lowlands on this part of the island, so the wind generator is earning it's keep and the burning sugar cane deposits feathery ash on the deck. There are occasional wakes from small boats passing. Seems they only know one speed, fast. The Coast Guard greeted us shortly after we arrived. They came onboard with handshakes and smiles. After taking down some information about our boat and us they went on their way. Not the same kind of reception as the 'Special Customs.'
The harbor is picturesque, with tropical colors on the hotels and houses. The French influence to the architecture is a refreshing site. We noticed a single palm tree standing out much taller than the rest. "Look", Amy said. "There's a cell phone tower." Sure enough, if you look closely, you can see the antennas hidden in the fronds. We were told later, that after a cyclone, the fronds get a bit disheveled and need to be bent back to their original shape.
I wonder if tall palm trees would look more out of place than cell towers back home? It could give Maine a tropical flavor.
Our mission on Monday was getting fuel. There is a jetty, but after sounding around with the skiff, we decided to jerry jug the 400 liters we needed. I had visions of running aground; losing control of the boat and having the wind smash us through the yachts moored in front of the club. Not a pretty picture, especially for the other boats. The people at the yacht club were kind enough to loan us two 20 liter jugs, so we only had to make 4 trips. This was the cheapest fuel since the Galapagos, $1.50 US per gallon.
Most of the rest of our week was spent fixing things. Our Flo-Jet salt-water pump was throwing the 20amp circuit breaker. I was hoping the problem was with the pressure switch not shutting the pump off. No such luck. With the hoses disconnected, the pump would slow down and the breaker would go. The bearings were shot. Luckily, Amy had ordered two replacement pumps back in the Pacific. Our original pump failed because water leaked down into the wiring inside the pump. I mounted the second pump with the diaphragm on the bottom, so water couldn't get into the wiring. Now the bearings were gone. So, I installed our third seawater pump. You might think that we could just use a hand pump for salt water. That would be OK for the galley sink, but wouldn't do anything for cleaning 300 feet of muddy anchor chain.
It's seems that the Indian Ocean was a bit much for my hot water tank support. Two years without any problem, then we met the Indian Ocean. I had to reinforce the floor and strap it to the bulkhead. Now it's ready for the Agulhas Current.
I pestered Amy about taking three days to finish her log. She didn't seem too worried, until we got to the Internet Café and saw the e-mail from concerned readers. " Your logs have been like clockwork until now. What happened? Are you OK." one reader wrote. Amy's guilt kicked in and we tried to post it on Wednesday. The Internet Café in Port Louis said it wouldn't be a problem to load our FTP program on their computer. Not so at the Grande Bay Internet Café, even though the same company owned it. So, thanks to our good friend Rick, we were able to get her log posted by e-mailing him the text and pictures. Thanks again Rick. We owe you big time.
The wind switched around to the northeast, so we decided to find shelter further up into the harbor. We first scoped out the depth from the dinghy and couldn't touch bottom with our eight-foot oars. My fear of shallow water was unfounded. We found a comfortable spot in 3 meters of water, out of the path of speeding boats and the uncomfortable roll of the ocean swell coming over the reef. I should have listened to Amy and anchored up here when we first arrived.
Before leaving Port Louis, I had struck up a conversation with a passer-by. I was grilling some chicken on the barbecue, when I heard someone say "Bon appetit." Mind you, I was just grilling chicken. So with that as a start, he and I traded thoughts on a wide variety of subjects. When he learned we were going to Grande Bay, he offered to meet us there and show us a bit of the island. Amy and I were looking forward to our "Native Experience."
I tried to call him from the Yacht Club, but was having a devil of a time handling the phone system. After several attempts to maintain a connection, a sympathetic bartender helped me out. It seems that by trying to use 1 rupee coins, I couldn't deposit them fast enough to stay connected. 1 rupee lasted 10 seconds. Only by using a 10-rupee coin did I finally got through.
We went out to dinner on Thursday and got to learn a few things about Mauritius Island life. It seems that our impression that the boating community is treated as second class citizens was correct. Because fishermen tend not to be big landowners, they are not very high in the caste system. This may explain why visiting boat facilities are so poor.
The government owns the waterfront, up to the first road. Anyone can walk along the high tide line, passing by fancy resorts and homes, without fear of being run off or jumping barbed wire fences. Because the government owns the land, it has to be leased. It's an interesting concept in handling waterfront property.
Like so many developing countries building up a tourist industry, Mauritius seems more concerned with making money than preserving the environment that the tourists come to see. Hopefully, they will take a look at the big picture and work toward a balance of income and environment.
We did some snorkeling on the reef and were nearly run over by a para-sailing boat. I took off my mask and snorkel and waved it over my head. He kept coming at us at about 20 knots. Amy started waving her flipper. He still kept coming. We were swimming out of his way as fast as we could and he passed a mere 4 meters away. The Coast Guard tolerates blatant, reckless driving. Our first anchoring spot was directly in front of the station and in full view of the officers on watch.Speeding boats would pass by just meters away. One almost ran over our dinghy. Perhaps it never occurred to them what might happen if some ones steering system was to go awry.
Driving on the roads is the same. Busses seem to be in some kind of race, whizzing through town at death defying speeds, literally. Without exaggeration, if a bus tried to make an emergency stop in downtown Grande Bay, it would take nearly an entire block to bring it to a halt. And I thought island life was slow and relaxed.
Our friends on Red Oranda arrived on Saturday morning. It seems they had enough of Port Louis. During the wind shift to the northeast, all the harbor debris ended up at the dock where they were tied up. They said the smell was awful. We're not looking forward to going there to check out. Most of the other boats left for Reunion. We will soon be following them. PS
Log for the week of October 19, 2002 Port Galets, Reunion by APW
Phil's usually sharp pencil looked like a heavy-handed sidewalk artist had used it. Thick black bands bar coded their way across his list of things to fix. I didn't get nearly as far, nor did I have such a long list. I managed to cross off only two things. Suffice it to say that just about all systems are up and working again. My computer, Arnold, appears to have the same brain infection as Stewart- one day all the lights are on, the next day not. The main difference between the two-Stewart circles in search of mice and Arnold's mouse draws squares. The overall trend for both is a continuing downward spiral. While Phil was busy repairing equipment, I managed to castrate a cat and repair a scalp wound on a fellow cruiser. Fortunately for both, not confusing either procedure or patient.
Stewart has occupied a lot of my time and thoughts. Neither one of us are winning his battle. I've been trying to make a correlation between toxoplasmosis and degenerative joint disease. I sincerely believe his arthritis, which was the first thing he ever had wrong in his long list of ailments, is from toxoplasmosis. I am also convinced some human degenerative joint disease is a result of a sub-clinical infection with toxo. I know too many people and animals with really bad arthritis, that have no history of trauma, (or anything else for that matter) that could etch away a cartilaginous joint coating- except perhaps an fiendishly hungry intracellular organism. Roughly fifty percent of humans (depending on where in the world you live) show antibodies to toxo- meaning most of us have been exposed. Meat eaters, who prefer their meat rare, and gardeners, are most at risk- not necessarily cat owners. Most people, when they get toxo, have nothing more than flu-like symptoms, that's it. But, they never get rid of it either, as I am finding out with Stew. My father never understood my love for animals and used to tell me when I was little, that animals are the cause of all human disease. In a way, I think he is right. Only I believe that most diseases are zoonotic. Meaning that both humans and animals get them- they just may take different forms or may not be as pathogenic in one species as another. I am also convinced that dengue fever, (a virus spread by mosquitoes) can be transmitted by ingesting mosquito larvae through drinking water, not only through the bite of a mosquito. Which would suggest transstadial transmission of the virus in mosquitoes. We have met several cruisers who got dengue in the Marquesas, none of whom had water makers on board. All of us spent time in the same places, the only difference being the local water ingested by those who became ill. (An argument can be made that the people who have a watermaker are more concerned for their health, hence are more likely to use insect repellant. I do not believe this to be the case though.)
We spent some time in Grand Baie with two marine biologists, one local and one from abroad-picking their brains on coral bleaching and other phenomena we have seen along the way. We discussed spear fishing and the annihilation of fish by cruisers. We are making a huge negative impact- though most of us think we are all eco-friendly cruisers- we aren't. Antifouling paint is making all sorts of environmental changes- "two willies on some species" to offer up one such example, produced after several beers. Spear fishing is equally destructive. A good dinner size grouper is about sixty years old- a one-person lunch sized parrot fish-about twenty years. Anyone who wants to do this cruising should get a good underwater camera and leave the spear gun back in their New York city apartment to fend off the locals. The biologists were intrigued with my impressions of mahi-mahi fish slime having extraordinary healing properties. They know people who have the resources to do controlled studies- not just taking the anecdotal word of a really bored, slightly bizarre cruiser. Hopefully "mahicream" will be available at the local pharmacies in a few years. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical manufacturer will be touring the world on a mega-yacht, while I will still be searching under rocks for supper.
We got a long wonderful e-mail from Deborah and Rolf on Northern Light, which we stretched out to a two-night read. Their light-wind mainsail was ripping to shreds along creases that had set into the hi-tech sail material when it had been folded and shipped by the sail loft. It was like someone had pre-perforated it for tearing. There was nothing to do to fix it- except change to their heavier weight sail, which they had to do anyway. They are rounding the Southern half of Australia headed to Tasmania. Their sails were the same age as ours- (two years) but had fewer miles. It makes a motor boat look less expensive all the time. On my list of things to do while in Grand Baie, was to repair the foot of our jib (again). Beulah (the Sailrite sewing machine) has without a doubt returned our initial investment many times over. The material has worn thin from the jib flopping back and forth across the stay sail headstay when we sail down wind. Most of our sail power comes from the mainsail-, which other cruisers with marconi rigs can't understand. Our jibs help the self-steering a little, but that's about it. Iwalani is pretty well balanced with almost any sail configuration. The foot is now six layers thick- I'll probably be adding another layer before we get home. But, it is nice to be able to repair everything ourselves. Beulah can handle six more layers of sailcloth and then that's it- time for new sails.
Our first few days in Grande Baie were among the finest. Gentle breezes and calm water gradually were replaced with smoke filled skies, ash-laden decks and choppy water not conducive to swimming. Plastic shopping bags floated by- the most plentiful occupant of our oceans, looking like strange underwater jellyfish when we snorkeled on the reef. Ash strands hung from the surface of the water like black icicles. When a hand was waved through them, they would instantly dissolve. Even the local Muslims fell victim to a sour note. The dawn singer for the call to prayer at the local mosque, with his melodic voice rivaling the finest of our early morning singer's in Maine- the wood thrushes and warblers, was replaced by a less talented caller. It was time to go. We ran through our pre-flight checklist-bilge pumps, running lights, rigging, chafing gear aloft and toilet paper supplies, then motored Iwalani back to Port Louis to check out. (Which by the way, is not necessary. You may stay in Grand Baie and clear out by bus, which makes a lot more sense to me. But we did not know this at the time. Provisioning in Grande Baie is also the cheapest and best of anywhere we have been in the Indian Ocean. But do not stop here without first clearing in to Port Louis!) Our final morning in Grand Baie was rewarded by the return of the dawn serenader. How I wish I knew what he was singing- it far excelled any Gregorian chant and rivaled Handels' Messiah. Our next destination was Reunion Island, a mere 130-mile sail to the southwest.
While preparing to leave Port Louis, we met a wonderful man named Pierre, who was attracted to Iwalani like a geek to a computer. He owned "Eve' the Colin Archer boat we had seen in Grande Baie. She has been all around the world. Originally built in Grande Gaub, Mauritius, she partially circumnavigated to Moorea (in the South Pacific) where she was wrecked and abandoned. She was re-built and the original owner bought her from the salvager, then sailed her back to Mauritius.
We had a fast and glorious sail to Reunion. The island itself is faintly reminiscent of the Marquises, though not as green and far more populated. Why I worry about saving humanity from destruction is beyond me. On this tiny island, far from anywhere, vast stretches of houses grope the sides of extinct volcanoes, looking like chunky white lava flows. So many people in such a small space. Most of the main development in both islands started at waist height- areas above the coastline free from malaria. With the eradication of malaria in the 1940's, the coastline came under pressure from development. Reunion is slightly larger than Mauritius and has a slightly smaller population- roughly 700,000 people. All of them French speaking, few of them knowing English. Our limited vocabulary consisting of "Quatre pain au chocolat, sil vous plait" wasn't going to get us very far here.
We had heard through the cruising grapevine that Saint Pierre, on the southwest side of the island, was much nicer than Port Galets- we also heard that breaking surf at the entrance precluded anyone from entering or leaving nine out of ten days. Port Galets is where we headed. We followed the chain of hotels along the coast at the base of the cloud-covered mountains. Gradually hotels, beaches, shops and houses were replaced with molasses tanks, fuel depots, silos and warehouses. Our home for the next week, Le Port, is nothing short of industrial. It is cozy, though you wouldn't want to be here in a cyclone, and the whir of industrial fans drowns out the sounds of the traffic and city life. It is a long hike to town, as one must circumnavigate the yacht harbor. A new marina is under construction and should be completed in July of 2003. There are no real anchorage's here, so we are tied to the quay, in port Galets, on the outside of a French boat. Next year this area will be given back to the fishermen. This week is fortunately free. Subsequent weeks will be about $75US. There appear to be no facilities that you would associate with a marina- though the port captain did say there was a washing machine behind one of the locked shed doors and he seemed relieved when we told him we had a toilet on board. He was thumbing through our English/French dictionary at the time, trying to find the right words. I think he may have meant "showers" instead of "washing machines". We'll see.
Three black shoed "Duanes" officials came aboard shortly after we arrived. They spoke little English and spent most their time asking Phil questions in French. He would look to me for the answer, I would answer him and he would tell the official. It did help to have the ships papers (with details of the boat and crew) written in multiple languages. For the most part they could find the answers themselves. It was all very weird. To the officials, I was just galley ornamentation. I do get frustrated sometimes, about this apparent discrimination. Especially when they ask for his profession and never bother to ask me. I can't talk Phil into telling them his profession is "house-husband". I bought a great computer CD, which I have been using to learn French. I studied French in grade school, switching to Spanish in high school. I remembered after a few lessons, why I switched, jumping from the fire back into the pot. Gender. What is up with language gender? Isn't it enough to assign a name to a noun without giving it a masculine or feminine form? And then to have the verb tense agree with the gender is nuts. Why can't all things be the same? I guess we are guilty of it too. Assigning a feminine form to boats, our computers on board are very much male- stubborn and temperamental. Except Danza, the one I am using right now- she is an even witted sane female- no doubt about it. Oh well, C'est la vie. Or is it C'est le vie? Is life masculine or feminine?
We knew our first mission on Reunion was to find a rental car. The Port Captain was very helpful and arranged for a rental agency to come and pick us up. A shiny Mercedes pulled up to take us to the rental office and I knew we were in trouble. The Port Captain found a Belgian cruiser who spoke five languages to serve as our interpreter. When we handed over our Maine licenses, the woman at the desk acted like we had made them ourselves. Nowhere on the license does it say when it was first issued. I tried to explain to her that Americans start driving at the age of fifteen. We had been driving for over thirty years. Plus, unlike the rest of English speaking countries- we drive on the "right" side, like they do here. This they did not know. She said we still needed international licenses and they would not rent us a car. Their insurance would not allow it. The Belgian spouted off at her in typical Hercule Poirot style, but she would not budge. He said he would take us, the next day, to a better place- where he rented his car.
The following morning, we had no problem getting a rusty, trusty Renault. Lots of pep, a motor that started right up and seats that are held down by one screw. He/She (?)-is a beaut. It is lucky my tetanus shots are up to date as I scraped my knuckles on some sharp rust trying to open the door. The price- 18 Euro (roughly equivalent to US dollars) a day. Which is about the only cheap thing here. Everything is twice as expensive as Mauritius. Crime is supposed to be a problem in Reunion too, especially in Port Galets, so a low profile is a plus. The car radio has already been dismembered, so should not attract thievery. The car is a must if we are to accomplish the things we want to do here.
I have, I think, talked Phil into stopping at Toliara, a port on the southwest coast of Madagascar. All of my hate mail comes from men; all wishing I would refrain from my political digressions. Unfortunately, armchair cruisers do not realize that circumnavigating is first- about keeping the water out of the boat and second-dealing with foreign countries and their politics. Because we got email from readers who know Madagascar and yet did not know about the recent election- I will provide a brief summary as I understand things to date, in Madagascar, - the incumbent president did not win the election in January. He got a bit pissy about this and blew up the bridges leading to the capitol. The newly elected president carried on (holed up in the capital, Antananarivo) as if this annoying pest wasn't present. The old president then left for France, in July, where it was thought he was trying to gather together an army to overthrow the new regime. It seems the Malagasy are quite happy with their new president and things are better than they were before. The old president has not returned with his army-So, that is where things stand- I guess.
I will try to restrain myself from any further political commentary- but I will say I am very sorry to hear about the bombings in Indonesia. We were not surprised, as our passage through that area hinted that bad things were yet to come. It is too bad that Australians suffered the brunt of the blow- as I think they politically, are blameless. I am sure we knew some of the people that were there, as many cruisers headed up that way this year.
I have reproduced a copy of an article from one of the local Mauritian newspapers that some Americans will find interesting(click here if you dare). All I am trying to do is inform people. What I read and what I know to be true are different things. What is important here, is what the rest of the world reads about us. This is the image the rest of the world has of Americans. This is who they think we are. This is why I do not sleep under a blanket of American security. Were people really that surprised to find out that North Korea has nukes? What about North Vietnam? Cuba? Are we really that naïve to think they don't have old Russian bombs bought and paid for and aimed at us too? Terrorism is a very evil thing, but retaliation and revenge are just as bad and only serve to breed more hatred and violence.
Today (Sunday) was cloudy and rainy and not the best day for hiking around mountains, so we jumped in the car and circumnavigated the island. It took us about four hours, mostly because it was Sunday and not much traffic was on the road. It has the potential to be a long trip at any other time. The roads on Reunion are incredible engineering feats. Tunnels through solid rock, skirting volcanoes, switchbacks on cliffs, and this was only on the coast road. At a cursory glance, Reunion appears a bit neater than Mauritius. Even the poorest of people have tidy yards and potted plants, or some semblance of a flower garden. The average person though, has a riotous garden of tree sized coleus, roses, vinca, bananas, snap dragons, ageratum, bougainvillea, and peach colored datura all spilling out of a tiny plot. Houses are hip roofed and tin, with long double paned windows. The shutters are varnished or painted vibrant colors. The less affluent houses have no glass in the windows, so the shutters act more like doors. Even the housing projects, where we made a wrong turn in the main capitol, have wooden shutters on their boring cement block apartments. It makes even the crummiest building look very French and helps, I would think, during a cyclone to prevent things from flying through the windows. This area usually gets hit once a year. Last year the cyclone had winds of 300 k/hr. That's a lot of wind. That's why we have to be out of here in a week and on our way to Madagascar.
We drove through St. Pierre and checked out the marina down there. It is much more shmancy- a real marina actually. But despite the fact that today was almost flat calm- surfers were riding the waves on both sides of the channel. There are range makers, but there is also a really ugly rock in the middle of the channel. I'll take Industry over schmancy any day, if it involves turning Iwalani into a surf board- or worse, a prisoner of weather. That's it for this week. APW
Log for the week of October 27, 2002 Le Port, Reunion Island by PS
We spent this week as far away from the harbor as we could. The sound of grinders and needle guns attacking rusty steel hulls is not our idea of paradise. We are now rafted four boats deep. Red Oranda and Cornellia outside of us and a poor French guy against the quay, who has been trying to paint the deck of his boat. The boats hauled out around the yard are in various states of repair, some sporting air conditioners on deck with chunks of plywood directing the cold air down below.
Monday's mission was to find the Madagascar Embassy in St Denis. Amy and I were hoping to arrange our visas in advance. My thinking was to avoid any corruption by the officials when we arrived. The East African Pilot, by Delwyn McPhun, warns of inconsistent charges for a variety of paperwork. We set out around 9AM in hopes of avoiding the morning rush hour traffic. While our drive around the island on Sunday was pleasant, I had noticed (on our approach to the island the previous Friday) bumper to bumper traffic headed to St Denis.
We stopped at the Meteo observation station near the marina on our way out. I wanted to find out why we weren't getting their weather faxes on the HF radio. Knowing that my French wasn't up to the task for the information I wanted, I came armed with the Admiralty List of Radio Signals. By pointing to the entry for Reunion, I was able to get across my request. My best tool for communication in a foreign country is body language and hand signals. From these I was able to glean that Reunion no longer broadcasts HF fax. Amy is still trying to revive her French, but was able to gather that the weather observer was offering to get the faxes from the head office in St Denis and bring them down to Iwalani. We told him that we could pick them up, but he insisted. "Merci Beaucoup." we replied.
We didn't have a map of St Denis, but decided to rely on luck and the French/English dictionary. We had the street address and phone number from a Lonely Planet guide. Within 5 minutes of driving the city streets Amy spotted Rue Jean Chatel. We parked the car in the first available spot, one block away, and started walking. I noticed a Gendarme writing out a parking ticket and realized we hadn't paid for our parking space. Doh! I'm used to parking meters at each space, which they don't have here. You must find the ticket dispenser for the block you are on and leave the receipt behind the front window of your car. I'm not sure they would have traced us back to the US, but I didn't want to find a bill for the parking ticket plus eight months interest due when I arrive home.
We couldn't find 51 Rue Jean Chatel. There were vacant storefronts where the embassy should have been. We stopped at a tourist information center and they kindly offered to call the embassy. The line was disconnected. Not a good sign. They told us we could find out more information at the passport office a few blocks away. On the way there, we passed a McDonalds and couldn't resist. After struggling to place our order in French, the cashier answered in English. That took the fun right out of everything. The passport office told us Madagascar no longer has an embassy in Reunion, but we could get our visas when we arrived in Toliara.
Arriving back at Iwalani, we found the weather faxes for Reunion were waiting for us on the deck. This was repeated for the rest of the week. Somehow we must find a way to repay the Meteo man.
Tuesday we were on a mission for Stewart. He was having trouble with the antibiotic pills we had been giving him. Amy wanted to find an injectable alternative. We had passed a nice looking vet office in St Leu, on our Sunday drive, so we headed back there. Karin, the vet on duty, didn't speak much English, so she called her husband (also a vet) who did. Amy was able to make arrangements for us to return on Thursday to get injectable "Borgal". Sometimes I feel Stewart is in a long, never ending experiment.
We left St Lue and headed to the mountains. We discovered once again that tourist road maps are only designed to confuse you. There are lots of roads to choose from. We eventually came to a roadblock and decided to walk.
Hiking is something the French, and perhaps the Europeans in general, take very seriously. The island is covered in walking trails rated from "enfants" to "serious hikers only." Some of these trails are literally carved into the mountainsides. On any Sunday you can see entire families out hiking and picnicking. Checkered tablecloths; wine and cheese were a common site. It's good to see families spending time together. More people should follow their example.
Wednesday we headed to the likely tourist town of St Gilles to find an Internet Café. After stopping at the patisserie for the usual pain au chocolate, we found a "seebear Café" as they say in French. With more gestures and muttering universal key phrases like "FTP" repeatedly, we got connected and the site updated.
Thursday we headed to Cilaos (sea louse). The road up the ravine must have invented the phrase "hairpin turn". Needless to say I got a good upper body workout. (No power steering!) It's a good thing our little car had a tight turning radius, otherwise I'm sure we would have been looking for the parachutes. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Friday we headed to the volcano. It has been active recently and Amy had high hopes for seeing a boiling caldron. The road climbed above the clouds and as far as the eye could see was a giant bed of cotton. It was all I could do to keep Amy from leaping into it. We stopped by a "Chez" and picked up the native lunch. Wine, cheese and a baguette.
We arrived at the rim of the old of the original crater, after navigating many "Hair Pin" turns. Next, we began the four and a half-hour climb to the "active" part of the volcano. I say active, but I had my doubts. I have seen lava flowing over roads and looked down into lava tubes running with red molten rock, on the island of Hawaii. I didn't I see any signs of smoke or the smell of sulfur at this volcano. We descended into the old crater along a steep and narrow path, with only some posts and a steel cable between you and eternity. There were people climbing back up to the rim, huffing and puffing. Seems they were having trouble mixing their smoking habit with their hiking.
Amy had been asking passers by if the volcano was really active. "Oui." was the reply. "Magnifique" said others. After about an hour of hiking we were faced with climbing to the rim of the new cauldron. With no sign of smoke, I begged Amy to get another opinion. Not that I was complaining about the exercise, but I just didn't want Amy to be disappointed. So, to get a true picture of what was ahead, she asked some young girls. The translated description went something like this. "It's a long walk, it's dry, it's brown and there is no hot lava". Ha! My suspicions were confirmed. Leave it to children to tell it like it really is. We opted to picnic on a nearby river of "Ah, ah" lava and congratulate ourselves on research well done.
Saturday we headed out onto the road for Salazie, but were stuck in traffic a kilometer from the marina. We made a new plan and headed for a nearby ravine, hoping to find a hiking trail. We were not disappointed. At the end of the road was a parking lot and the ubiquitous snack truck. We decided to wait until we returned from our hike for our daily "pains au chocolate". I'm really going to have to add them to my patisserie repertoire.
Sunday we drove to Salazie. Here we found the wet part of the Island, with waterfalls hundreds of meters high. Again I'll let the pictures do the talking.
There's talk of leaving for Toliara tomorrow. We'll see. The weather looks OK, but we have a long list of things to do. I don't think we can post a log from Madagascar, so we'll probably do the next one via Inmarsat-C and our friend Rick. PS