LINKS FOR THE YEAR 2002
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Log for the week of November 3, 2002 28d 18s/47d 22e Rounding The South End Of Madagascar By APW Via Inmarsat.
We are at the spot I deemed awhile ago,as the second most nerve wracking area of the trip.According to every chart we should have a 2 knot favorable current.Not.I mean knot.We have had to claw for each inch of ground.We are trying to get around the tip before a bad low arrives from South Africa in three days.Phil's homemade satellite picture "kitchenaid" mixer antenna has been a big help,as well as Alistair,a very calming South African on 14316 at 1130 UTC.(A ham weather guru).The faxes out of Pretoria are good when we get them.I am going to have to restrain Phil from throttling the people in charge of transmitting the faxes,as they seem to trip over their power cords once or twice a day and forget that they are due to return to work after their coffee breaks.Stew has been careening around the cabin sole in his foam rubber bed,scoring up big points in his lifesize pin ball game. This computer is screwed down on the far side of the nav station,not very ergonomic in high seas and my short arms have had it.Time to go take a look around. APW
Log for the week of November 10,2002 Tulear, Madagascar via Inmarsat-C by PS
After seeing Amy and I safely through the worst storm we have encountered on our circumnavigation,Stewart quietly passed away in his sleep.He was a faithful and stalwart member of Iwalani's crew,never complaining or cross and always ready to lend a hand or make us laugh.We will miss him every day.
One week after leaving Reunion,we rounded the south end of Madagascar, motor-sailing most of the way.Nature has a keen sense of balance and we paid in full one day from Tulear.Steep,breaking seas built up around us,as the wind averaged 35knts with gusts to 50.The crests aerated the surface of the water to a Bahama Blue color.There were no waves as such,their tops lopped off by the scimitar of the wind.I stood watch in the cockpit for 12 hours,to be sure Iwalani kept her pointed stern to the approaching walls of water.Amy was below,watching the radar for ships and spending time with Stewart.He purred away,as they talked about seeing Georgetown again and playing in the herb garden.By dawn,the wind had stopped gusting to 50 and we set a three reefed mainsail and both jibs.We got into the lee of Tulear reef and started motoring into the harbor.It was then that we discovered Stewart had left us.We motored back out to the depths of the Mozambique Channel,arranging him in his rock ballasted shroud and slipped him into the waiting arms of Neptune.With grief stricken hearts,we anchored in the harbor.We set the 65lb CQR,took to our bunk and tried to rest.Within an hour the Inmarsat-C alarm was blaring (a tropical distrurbance had been brewing for the past few days).As I turned it off,I noticed we had dragged 1/4 of a mile and were headed for an old wreck.The wind was howling and we barely managed to save Iwalani from joining it.After some frantic calls on the radio,we tied alongside a Russian fishing trawler at the wharf.I will be writing a longer version of our week here in Madagascar and post it as soon as I can.PS
Log for the week of November 10, 2002 Tulear, Madagascar by PS
This is an addendum of the log I posted via Inmarsat-C. Before I begin, I need to make something very clear. Some readers have taken us to task over our descriptions of places we have visited. Like the reader who took our heads off for our description of Port Antonio, Jamaica with trash piled knee deep on the shore and withered beggars on the sidewalks. They took it as a description of Jamaica as a whole. We only describe the places we have been and not an entire country. This preface is important for our description of Madagascar. We are not writing for a tourist office, nor are we writing for a cruising magazine. We write what we see at the time. If we were to re-visit places, our descriptions may be different. So, with that said, I will now try to describe the most eye- opening, mind widening and enriching experiences of this trip so far.
First, some history. Madagascar has no indigenous people and was first settled by the Indonesians around 200 BC. Later discovered by the Portuguese, it was used a stopping point for the East India traders. In the 1700's the inhabitants united and formed a modern state. In 1820 Britain recognized Madagascar as an independent state and started supplying aid and spreading influence. The French struck a deal with the British in 1890 and exchanged Zanzibar for Madagascar. The independent Malagasy disliked outside control and finally gained full independence in 1960.The economy struggled and various political powers took over. It was one of these struggles that made our visit questionable. Luckily for us, in July, the elected president was able to re-gain control.
Now I'll pick up where I left off, tied to a 120-foot Russian fishing vessel
"Amerikans. Amerikans." was the sound we woke up to on Friday morning. The Russians were calling to us. Their second boat was coming in, so we had to cast off and return when it was alongside. Now we were the fourth boat from the pier.
Once we had tied up again, the immigration officer called to us from a nearby, native fishing boat. In French, he instructed us to launch the "Petite bateau (the Grape)." and come to shore. We rowed to shore and followed the beckoning official to the "office." The office was a shipping container, with openings roughly cut into the sides serving as windows, a table and four chairs. The chairs were in various states of disrepair. We chose the worst looking, thinking to save the ones with curved wooden seats for the officials. Their hospitality would not allow this and they quickly had us sitting in the better chairs. One of the officers spoke a bit of English and through him we were able to decipher that our visas would cost $40 US each.
We went back to the boat to get some US cash, which they were more then glad to accept. Amy had to do the rowing, as I had smashed my finger trying to launch the Grape. Her rowing was met with Malagasy remarks from the crew of the local fishing schooners. I don't know what they said, but I was pretty sure they had never seen a woman rowing a man before. We got a receipt from the immigration officer, in case there was any question about where our $80 went. It seems that the person in charge of granting visas wouldn't be back till after lunch and we had to leave our passports. It was just this kind of hassle I was hoping to avoid by getting visas in advance. When we picked them up later in the day, the officer said "What? No gift? Cigarettes? Whisky?" This expectancy of gifts to officials was new to us. Our skin color was a definite disadvantage. Here, white means wealth.
Up to this point, all we had seen of Madagascar was from afar, as the pier was three-quarters of a mile long. As we walked to the mainland, men hanging out along the waters edge came up to us asking for "cigarettes, whisky" in what was probably the only English they knew. "No", we replied "We don't have any and they are not good for you." They understood the first part, but I'm not sure about the second. At the land-ward end of the pier, we passed through the guard station and into the town. Pousse-pousse drivers offered their services, but we passed them by in favor of walking. They use the Madagascar version of rickshaws, all colorfully painted and decorated with ribbons. We passed several buildings, but none identified as the port captain's office. We finally inquired at a likely looking building and were guided, a few blocks down the road, directly to his office by a very helpful gentleman.
After arriving at the Port Captain's office, we were told he was resting and that we should come back later. This was often the case on our subsequent visits. We decided to head down the street and do a little exploring. Amy really wanted to see a lemur, so we began looking for a tourist office or hotel that might be able to help us arrange a trip to the interior.
We were stared at from all sides as we walked down the street. I got the feeling not many white people visited here. Pousse pousses hurried past, trotting their passengers in reclined comfort to other parts of town. Old Renault taxis, barely wide enough for two adults to sit side by side, vied for their share of road with people, pousse pousses and trucks. Small children played with simple toys. A car made from a sardine can and bottle caps for wheels, a land yacht made from sticks and a plastic bag for sails, cans of various sizes serving as instruments for a one-man band. School children returning home with workbooks and papers under their arms. Shelters, houses really, consisted of sticks woven together and grass for a roof. There were power lines running down the road, but the only sign of electricity was music wafting from a few local watering holes. There were small charcoal stoves on the ground, with rice and beans cooking a meal. The charcoal was "real", not briquettes. Small stands offered grains and meats of difficult description. The people were friendly, always the first with a smile and a greeting, usually in French. Their colorful clothes were immaculately clean. With the obvious lack of fresh water, this seemed a small miracle. Our own clothes were not as well kept. I was asked to describe Tulear by Alistar, the ham radio weather guy from Africa. "Take away the old Renault taxis, the occasional Mercedes, wind back the clock 100 years and you're there." I replied. It's like visiting a historic theme park, only these people don't go home at the end of the day and watch TV.
We came to a native craft shop and explored our Christmas gift shopping possibilities. Amy inquired, by sign language and a little French, about wanting to see a lemur. The young man in charge disappeared into the back room and returned with the family pet, Mascot. Amy was thrilled. We took a few pictures and were later to discover that this was the only lemur around for a hundred kilometers!
We wandered a bit further down the road and came to a small tourist service. The owner, Katherin, spoke English, which was a rare thing in Tulear. We asked about renting a car. Ha. What were we thinking? "Impossible." was the reply. We could rent a motorcycle though. She made a phone call and arranged a rental for us, exchanged our US$ for Malagasy francs and called a taxi. This was a real stroke of luck. Within minutes we were whisked away down the crowded streets, weaving through whatever space the driver could find, regardless of which side of the road it was. People were everywhere. You would think you were in downtown New York, for all the crowds. We arrived at Trajectoire, an Italian run motorcycle shop. Now, I know my in-laws had some misgivings about my earlier life with motorcycles. "I spent my teenage years chasing girls and racing motorcycles." I blurted out when meeting them for the first time. But the experience, (with the motorcycles that is), paid off. At first, we were going to rent a kick start bike, but after watching the shop owner having trouble getting it started, we opted for an electric start. I could picture our rental day spent trying to start the bike and not seeing the country. Amy had never seen me ride before, and was so nervous that she made me take a test drive alone. It all came back to me in an instant and down the street I went. It has been 20 years since I had last been on a bike. I was tempted to show off and pull the front wheel up off the ground, but I thought better of it. I'm not sure the proprietor would have rented a bike to a reckless American. When I returned, Amy said I did impress the proprietor. He should have seen me 30 years ago!
After getting directions from the bike shop about a likely place for finding lemurs in the wild, Amy hopped on our Suzuki and off we went back to the Port Captains office. There we were greeted by a smiling face with a fair grasp of the English language. The port fees were explained to us and he offered to take our payments to the various agencies. At $130US (including the visas) Madagascar was the most expensive country to enter so far. We told him we would need to find a bank and he said we could wait until our departure to pay. He did take our original ship documentation as a sort of ransom. I suppose it was only fair.
We returned to Iwalani and were invited, by the Russian fishing boat owner, to dinner at a Greek restaurant on Saturday night. We were flattered that he wanted to hear about our trip and readily accepted. I should mention, at this point, that we had given up on using the Grape to get ashore. Three meter tides and the security issue were factors in this decision. Amy was not comfortable with the other option though. Clambering across three ships on rope ladders, planks between rails and looking down 20 feet to the water below, while using old tire fenders as stepping stones in somebody's idea of a water born jungle gym, left her panic stricken. It some times took a few minutes for her to gather enough courage to overcome the vision of being mashed into a pulp, having fallen between two surging ships.
Saturday we headed out to find lemurs. At first we got lost in a lively and crowded market area. There were large bags of fodder for the town livestock, sacks of charcoal, fruit and vegetables of all kinds, sticks for building houses, trucks overloaded with people and trade goods. After a few more wrong turns we got the motorcycle headed in the right direction. Following a paved road to the north, we passed ox carts and people on foot going to and from the weekend market. We turned off in the direction of a river. The road, if you could call it that, was rutted so badly that only a motorcycle, truck or oxcart could pass. As we got further from the main road, I began to worry about breaking down. There wasn't a single sign of life, animal or person. We had brought a picnic lunch, but how long could we make it last? A day? Two days? I didn't relish the thought of finding out. About the time my fear had reached a peak an oxcart appeared around the bend. Where did they come from? Soon I began to realize this was a well traveled road. If we had broken down, less then 30 minutes would pass before someone came along. It was so well traveled that the concrete paving, laid in two strips just wide enough for the wheels of a cart, was worn down the center like a gutter. Iron rims of countless oxcarts wearing down the stone.
After an hour or so of riding, we came to a village. Neat, brick plaster walls with thatch roofs dotted the landscape. There were no windows, just openings to the outside. No doors either for that matter. Just some thorny brush placed in the opening to keep out the livestock. The people would wave hello and now were using English! What? Further down the road we came to a nunnery and realized where the English had come from.
We came to the river's edge, where children were bathing in the small clear pools of water and laundry was being done. Rice farms covered the flat land along the river, with vegetables on the higher ground. We wound our way along for an hour or so and eventually stopped under the shade of a tree overlooking the river. Several people passed us on foot and by oxcart, always with a smile and a wave, but now we were hearing Malagasy. "Salama." ("Good Day") Some young teenagers, passing on foot, took and interest in what we were eating. Amy offered them some pieces of apple, which they eagerly took, laughing and giggling their way further down the road.
We returned to town and our dinner date with the Russians. Of course this meant another trip across the dreaded jungle gym for Amy. She still wasn't used to it. After long discussions about the appropriate dress ware for traversing old fishing boats and still looking our best for dinner, we left Iwalani at 8PM. The president of the fishing company, his son, and a young lady (who spoke English, Russian, French and Malagasy) drove us to Mr. Vasilly's Greek restaurant.
With the young lady acting as interpreter, we were soon corrected about the Russians. They are not Russians, but Ukrainians. They wanted to be sure we knew the difference. This brought up our shortcomings of world geography and we had to be brought up to speed on just where the Ukraine was. At the invitation of Madagascar, he brought his two boats to fish prawns. Unfortunately, the invitation was about as far as they went in helping him. He has been plagued by bureaucracy and export problems. There are no services to do repairs and diesel is hard to come by. He keeps his spirits up, knowing that his struggles could be worse elsewhere. I admire his strength and his work at a commercial enterprise. He is grateful for the opportunities the dissolving of the former Soviet Union has given him. He has visited the United States and had some interesting observations. One of which is how we are always trying to do things quickly. Fast food, fast cars. We even speak fast, cutting short words like "thank you" to "thanks" and "good bye" to "bye."
The Greek food was a delicious treat from our canned boat fare. We returned to Iwalani once again wiser of the world. Wiser indeed. The Malagasy are a proud and independent people. They are one of the more literate societies of the world. Seventy percent of the population can read. So why was it so hard to find a cold Coke to drink? (I finally found one on our last day here. Forget about finding Pepsi!) Why do these people choose to eat rice three times a day and cook on charcoal stoves? They have no use for electricity, survive quite well without running water, are clean and seem cheerful enough. They certainly don't have a trash problem. The only trash we saw were old dumps from the former occupation of the French, 30 years ago. Little wasted packaging comes into town now, and what does is recycled. Not because it's the "cool" thing to do, but because it's "the" thing to do. And they certainly know better, being able to read about how the rest of the world lives. Maybe that's it. They can see what has happened to "modern societies" and want no part of it. I applaud them. My first reaction was to get these people up to speed with modern life. After spending only a week in Tulear, my reaction is different. Improve the healthcare, yes. But beyond that, who am I to tell these people what a better life is? PS
Log for the week of November 17, 2002 25d35S/38d31E via Inmarsat-C by APW
I think Thanksgiving is this week,but I am not sure as we only have Australian calendars on board.We are half way across the Mozambique channel headed for South Africa.No wind,low on fuel,low on toilet paper,low on morale and out of Kleenex,with a tropical cyclone breathing down our backs.A few hundred miles ahead lies the most dangerous current in the world-The Agulhas, which must be crossed before we reach Richard's Bay.On the other hand,we have the best weather information available,plenty of water,batteries for the game boy,lots of fresh fruit and vegetables from Madagascar and hundreds of tins of French cat food,which Phil and I haven't quite developed a taste for-AND my sister is meeting us in South Africa-which is the very best news of all and something to be very thankful for.And now she can't chicken out because it's on the internet.I am still writing the rest of the week spent in Madagascar and will post it with Phil's version in the archives.This past week was without a doubt-spine tingling,gut wrenching,eye opening,earth shattering,flag waving,nerve wracking,finger crushing and heart breaking.APW
Log for the week of November 17, 2002 , Tulear, Madagascar by APW
Opinionated as I am with my political views, which sit either to the left, or right of center, depending on the bonehead elected to represent us, my religious outlook is not represented by any other denomination on the planet. And perhaps is more controversial and destined to invoke more "tut-tutting" as people shake their head in wonder and say to themselves, "that poor misguided girl". I do believe in a supreme being, and I also believe that because this being is so supreme, there is no name that can be given to it. As a result, people are not worthy to even talk about it. Think? Yes. Feel? Yes. But preach? Evangellically stand on TV and demand money for salvation? I don't think so. It is the only religion destined never to survive, because it is a religion of one. It can only remain a solitary religion, because to speak of it as in a church, goes against the entire philosophy. Christ, Moses, Mohammed are all great guys, but for me, my Prophet is Einstein. With one neat equation he effectively summed up our existence and all of life. Matter is energy and energy is matter. What differentiates one from the other is but a temporary state. I also believe that everything on this planet is equal. Not just black people, white people, red people or yellow. Turnips, squashes, cockroaches and giant clams, all have as much right to exist as we do. Where the Christian bible says man shall have dominion over everything, I interpret that to mean that humans are responsible for being the governing authority to ensure the welfare of everything on the planet. And this is where I am sure people will shriek and scream in horror- Loss of life to me is loss of life, there is no difference- be it a human, a carrot seedling or a 4 kilo cat.
When Stewart died, he left us in his sleep with a smile on his face and a belly full of French dried cat food. My only regret was not to give him the canned food he had been pestering me for. I told him to just wait until we got anchored in an hour or so, and I would make us all a feast. I had gone down below as we were entering the pass to Tulear. Stew was sacked out in his bed, tired from spending the previous night during the storm keeping me company. He was curled up asleep, chin up, almost in his position of old- on his back with his feet straight up in the air. He had been doing really well. I had finished his meds- a combo of Clindamycin and Metronidazole. I no longer had thoughts that death was imminent. He had a grin on his face and I asked him, while climbing back up the companionway, ‘what was so funny?' Automatically, I took note of his respiratory rate. It was fine. Fifteen minutes later I came back down and his head was at an odd angle. I told him to knock it off- he was scaring me. But by then it was too late. All that remained of the equation E=MC², was the M, the E presumably, moved on to different things. It made me realize once again how tenuous the equation is. How quickly it can become unbalanced. With the flick of a switch Stew was gone.
We sewed him into the bag I had made months before, nestling him on a cushion on top of thirty pounds of Australian rock. Unable to muster any words of deep meaning, we slid him from the daggerboard of the dinghy into 263 feet of water. As time passes, his molecules will intermingle with the molecular remains of the rest of the world. The ocean that begets life carries also the remains of life. The Ocean currents sweep southward along the west of Madagascar. Joining the mighty Agulhas, still southward bound, now at five knots, they rip around the tip of Africa and into the South Atlantic. His molecules will then head Northward. Streaming up passed the Western coast of Africa, the currents join the southern equatorial current and pass by the tip of Brazil. From there he will meander along the windward islands of the Carribean, until he reaches the Gulf Stream. From there it is a nonstop trip to the rocky shores of Maine. Stew's molecules will reach home before we do.
As sunset approached I sat on the cabin top, my eyes in desperate need of bilge pumps. Supposedly, the west coast of Madagascar is one of the places on the planet where a person can see the elusive "green flash". After forty years of sunset viewing, I had pretty much given up this phenomenon as being nothing more than a reflected lime in someone's overfull gin and tonic. I am afraid to report that it really does exist, but is a complete misnomer. It should be called the "green squeeze" or the "green goo". As the lower belly of the sun disappeared below the horizon, a very vibrant paste of lime green ooze, squirted out of the top of the sun- like a purulent orange abscess popping. That was it. It lasted five seconds at most and there was nothing "flashy" about it at all. All this time I had been expecting a dramatic curtain of green to blanket the horizon.
Back to my religion. I also think that there is more to time than just a concept of when something occurs or exists. As matter and energy are interchangeable, time also exists as a definite entity. I think our time here is pre-set. Like the proverbial grains of sand in the hourglass, when the last grain falls through the aperture, bingo, time's up. With these beliefs as bandages, I set foot on the soil of Tulear.
Trying to write about a place that exists in four dimensions is a hopeless task. Each word, each verb, adjective and phrase, must accurately convey to the reader what was seen, felt, smelt and heard, and still carry a sense of time. An artist choosing from a palette of colors, creates emotion with each purple strategically stroked next to a bold swash of orange, or each pale blue softly blended into a lemon yellow. The viewer of a painting may not know that they are manipulated, just like the strokes of a brush, when examining a Picasso or Monet. Eyes get swept into the center, or reluctantly dragged off to the side, at the mercy of composition, brush stroke and palette. As no two artists portray each subject with exactly the same technique or feeling, no two writers can give the definitive description of what was experienced living amidst the browns and grays of a painting, manipulated by history, wealth and time, like brush strokes on a cracking canvas.
With the ever-present wind whistling at our heels, stirring up clouds of dust and causing us to close our eyes for part of the time, we walked down the jetty and entered the world of Tulear. With each trip down the pier it seemed as if the we had gone through some sort of time machine and were deposited in another century; in another land far, far, removed from MacDonalds, TV's, Computers and DVD's.
The people all are friendly. Waving and greeting us. Half the time in response to us, the other half, before we acknowledged them. Clothes are neat, spotless. White shirts are starched, Arctic, clean. Hair, brown with red highlights. Frizzy, loose, sometimes out of control like the wind. Skin the color of milk chocolate. Birdsong scarce. Replaced by the sound of human singing. Women's voices two, three or more, in harmony. Children laughing. Content dog's lying in the shade snoring. Cat's sitting, observing the dusty street, washing their front paws clean, watching the slow procession of walkers, pousse-pousse's, ox carts and taxis. Not many pets- but a few here and there, all healthy- my main gauge of a community's spirit. Oxen two to a cart, healthy, eating fodder carted in from twenty kilometers inland.
A strange odor pervades the air, the omnipresent smell of charcoal, as outdoor fires slowly cooked battered pots holding beans, rice and small tid bits of meat. Ox dung and the hint of a spice not found on any tree. Everything turned to dust before it even hits the ground. There are no trash barrels, because there is no trash. Everything has value and is used. The people of Tulear are without a doubt the planet's masters of recycling, and have much to teach the western world about the value of "matter" and saving energy. The rare soft drink cans are cut up, soldered and turned into toys. Miniature cars, made from a can of condensed milk, with opening doors and windows. Tiny motorcycles with the Coca Cola logo. Plastic trash bags are worn sometimes as hats. Plastic strapping, used in holding together cargo bales, woven into baskets. These are not hippies from the seventies trying to be eco-friendly. This is their life. Children have few toys. Two fooz balls games, set up under a roof are the main afternoon entertainment for children. The Tulear version of a video arcade at the mall. The little players have long since been be-headed. An old golf ball serves as the soccer ball. There are no TVs, computers, video players or athletic fields. A movie theater existed at one time, but has been boarded up shut. Parts of Tulear looked like old western mining towns in the US. Abandoned and unused. And yet, in other places new construction abounds. Governmental offices, regulatory bureaus- even the pier we are tied to are being revamped. On one side of town a new Christian college is being built. On the opposite side of town, an even fancier Islamic College rises up. Someone got the idea to try and plant grass on the median that snakes its way down the main boulevard. But, the project fell victim to the dry, searing zephyr of wind. Baked brown, squares of sod lie like flattened cubes of "Shredded Wheat", adding to the dusty beige mosaic of color.
A single spigot provides water for countless families. Water containers are anything that will hold water- plastic buckets, empty olive oil cans. When filled, they are perched on top of women's heads, seemingly fastened like giant bottle caps. Nary a drop is spilled as the graceful women glide down the street in the slow procession of Tulear.
We found ourselves, one day, on a street that was even "poorer" than the rest. Wattle houses were replaced with "shelters" made from the modern day plastic equivalent of burlap bags. Still, the roads were full of the constant procession of ox carts, pousse-pousses, people and one or two fancy automobiles recklessly driving through the throngs. I had no idea that so many people existed on this planet. Around this time I began to wonder- what do these people do when they need to go to the bathroom? My question was answered as I saw two teenage boys, talking to one another, cross over railroad tracks that had long since been covered with dust and age, walk towards a high wall. Still conversing, they dropped their shorts, did their business, hiked their shorts back up and continued along, not missing a beat in their dialogue. The seering hot winds, had blast furnaced this area into a dried up dung heap. But, my medical mind thought of the havoc rain would play with this method of sanitation. The American part of me, thought instantly-‘what can we do to help these people?' But do they really want help? Is it presumptuous of us to think that our obsession with counting rolls of toilet paper and scrubbing ourselves clean forty times a day is a "better" way to live?
We plan our days around the weather fax, and satellite schedule. Tropical Storm "Atang" was crossing over the Northern part of Madagascar. Another named "Boura" was forming to the east. The Greek we had met, Mr. Vaccilly, assured us that Tulear had never experienced a cyclone. Once, the remains of one had hit, but the winds never went above fifty knots. Mr. Vacilly was also the owner of the wreck that Iwalani almost joined when we dragged anchor. Fifty-knot winds were more than Phil and I wanted to experience. While it would have been wonderful to rent a motorcycle for a week and with our tent and backpacks, cross over the Southern part of Madagascar to Fort Dauphin; leaving Iwalani was not possible. What looked like an overnight trip on maps and paper, was in Madagascar time, a ten-day trip. The Port Captain and everyone we talked to said never leave your boat alone- or "they" will come in pirogues and cut lines, or remove anything on the boat that they can. Everyone urged us to hire a guard for the boat when we went ashore. Being tied to the Russian fishing vessels seemed like protection enough, but wasn't fair to the Russians if they wanted to move their boats. It was time to face the crossing of the mighty Agulhas, and head for Africa. But first we had to pay our Tulear port fees.
I also got the bright idea that we should try and buy more diesel. We carried our jerry jugs down the pier and found an empty Renault taxi of 1950 vintage, forlornly crouched at the end of the pier. Standing like lost Americans, holding the jerry jugs, the wind whipped around us as we looked around for the driver. Within seconds a man came rushing out of one of the "bars"- a wattle hut, with a board for a bar, the customary three horse beer sign and several quarts of liquor on a shelf behind the "bar". In his exuberance, he ran to the taxi, opened the drivers side door, which promptly fell off the hinges and landed on the ground with a dull thud. He looked up with a smile on his face then gingerly put the door back in place. Future entrances to the cab were made through the passenger side. He then realized Phil and I weren't going to fit in the back of the cab with the jerry jugs, so disappeared towards the rear, where he spent a considerable amount of time prying open the trunk hatch, so it too, wouldn't land in the dust.
We had agreed upon a price of twenty five thousand francs, to go to the fuel station, to the tax office, which we had no idea the location of and then back to the boat. After much lurching, laughs, waves and pantomimed sign language we were underway for the fuel station. I had inquired to Phil about the status of our Malagassy francs. He assured me we had just enough for fuel, the port fee and the taxi driver. After several attempts at finding a gas station that wasn't out of diesel, we finally found one. I hopped out of the car and surreptitiously tried taking photographs. Philip came over to me and said we had a problem. His usual infallible grasp of currency and exchange rate had somehow gone awry when we arrived in Madagascar and he had to start adding, dividing and multiplying with so many zero's. We had one hundred and seventeen thousand Malagassy francs and the fuel bill was two hundred and fifty thousand. By now it was 3:30 in the afternoon and I didn't see any way that we would be able to pay the port tax, the fuel bill and the taxi driver with what we had for currency and time left in the day. Most of the business's in Tulear were only open from 10-noon and then from 2-4 in the afternoon. Phil decided to stay with the two men who were anxiously hovering around him, waiting for their money. My job was to find more cash. There are no bank machines in Tulear. Malagasssy money is similarly scarce. I grabbed Phil's wallet, with the small amount of Malagassy money we had and forty dollars US. I had no idea where I was, or where the nearest bank was. But I set off into the sun figuring if I went west, I was bound to run into something. Two years of ship-board life, does not a runner make. I was thankful for all the hiking we did in Reunion, as I at least had just gotten over blisters and shin splints. My feet and legs were in shape, even if the rest of me wasn't. I ran and I ran, like a rat through a timed animal behaviorist maze, finally finding the town center and a bank. Bingo. The little rat biscuit and bell sounded in my brain. It was now twenty minutes to four. Second in line for the currency exchange teller, I nervously stood watching the hands on the clock sweep past numbers faster than I could run. Sweat ran off of me in great torrents, making small pools of water on the floor. People turned to look at me, then waved me to the front of the line as they thought I was obviously a victim of some tropical malady with only hours to live. The teller said she could exchange my American dollars, but she needed my passport. ' I will be right back' I wheezed. She turned to look at the clock and said in French, better wait until tomorrow morning the bank closed at four. The waves of sympathy really poured forth when I said, 'I couldn't wait until morning', only with my limited French, it translated into 'I would have no more mornings.'
I left the bank at full speed and keeping my back to the sun, decided a more direct route to Phil would be through the fruit and veggie market directly in front of me. For some reason the soundtrack to "Chariots of Fire" entered my brain as I ran through the market, jumping watermelons, slaloming around mountains of potatoes and nearly coming to a grinding halt when I spied a small mound of lychee fruits in front of me. 'To hell with Phil' I thought for a very brief second, I have enough money to buy this entire pile of lychees and die of exsanguination in the process. The sad truth of lychee fruits, is that I love them almost as much as raspberries, but they have the disturbing side effect of causing me to bleed out of all orifices. It was probably less messy to continue on. Finally, I found Phil standing on the side of the road with a very worried look on his face. He had the passports, fortunately with the ship's papers. So I grabbed mine and headed back through the market. By this time I was beyond being thirsty, my legs were like pulsing bands of sinew and strength, or so I imagined, and I was now catapulting myself forward at hundreds of feet per second. First one person began cheering and then another joined in, as the strange white woman was making a return trip through the market, running at full speed without a pousse-pousse. Women do not run in Tulear. White women are rarely seen, so a white woman running, is a sight indeed. By the time I made it to the bank, I think three quarters of the town was cheering me on. The teller was in disbelief- I was too, as I still had seven minutes left on the clock.
We paid off the fuel bill and now were at the mercy of our taxi driver. The three horse beer had long since worn off and we were driven around town while he ran some errands. Then finally arrived back to the boat. I had been whispering to Phil that with all our flustering around we should pay him double. When we came to the bill paying he stretched out his hand and said "sixty thousand francs". Phil no sooner opened his wallet when we were surrounded by a pinwheel of outstretched arms wanting money. Our fuel jugs were grabbed by many people wanting to help, for a small fee. We firmly said "No", we could handle this and began the obstacle course over the ships to Iwalani, this time laden with fuel jugs.
Each time we embarked on this escapade, I kept reminding myself that there are no hospitals here. I am my own doctor, so if I fall off the plank, I have to remain lucid enough to tell Phil what to do. He didn't help matters by fluttering around staring at me, hands ready to grab me. It made me more nervous with him having such a worried look. If he just remained nonchalant it would have been a lot easier…
The following day, I realized we still didn't have enough money to pay the port fee. The lychees and fresh fruits and vegetables were calling to me also. We took two twenties and a ten with us to convert over to Malagassy. We also decided to splurge and ride like the rest of the population from the inclined luxury of a pousse-pousse. Phil had instructed me before hand on how we would actually negotiate with the pousse-pousse driver. We had three thousand Malagassy francs, to our name. The blackened well-worn bills were roughly the equivalent of fifty cents. White guys get charged double for everything, and we had found out that a standard trip to town for a Tulearan was about one thousand francs.
I was to say where we wanted to go, get a price and if it wasn't three thousand or less, we would continue walking. The first driver told us the trip was five thousand. We continued on. The next guy, four thousand, we continued on. Then the original guy came alongside-pulling his pousse-pousse, all the while trying to maneuver around the second guy to get my attention. He now had an afternoon special of 2500 M francs. We hopped aboard. The most remarkable thing about riding behind a human powered vehicle, is how quiet it is. Throughout all of Tulear, despite the millions of people and the hustle and bustle, the relative decibel level of activity is amazingly low. A person can hear a conversation across the street. The only sounds sometimes, the gentle clop-clopping of the jelly clad pousse-pousse driver jogging along with his carriage. One thing was for certain, our driver was getting a workout for his fare. Other drivers going in the opposite direction called out to our driver saying something in Malagassy, then laughing. One didn't need to understand much of the language to know they were joking about the fat white guys on board. By the time we reached our agreed upon destination, I gave the sweating driver a new T-shirt for a tip, worth more than the entire fare, which he greatly appreciated.
How nice it would be to have pousse-pousse's in our cities and airports. With muscle clad college students, either male or female as drivers, they would have no shortage of well paying passengers. They would get a great work-out, earn college money, produce no pollution and save energy in the long term. The view from the seat of a pousse-pousse is terrific, trust me.
Long legs pumping, shoulder muscles glistening- I need not say anymore...
We managed, after several attempts, to find a bank that could change our money. We paid the port fees, bought pounds of fresh fruit and veggies then treated ourselves to lunch at the Greek restaurant in order to use up the rest of our francs.
The following day we cast off from the Russians, giving each of them a T-shirt. We sailed off amongst the fleet of small Malagassy fishing boats.
"Where are you headed?" they yelled to us in French.
"Africa" we yelled back.
"We'll come too" they chanted back laughing and shouting, as they spun their pirogues around and followed in our wake, for a short time, before that too became boring.
We passed the monument marking the reef at the North entrance to the channel. A French design, with a vague resemblance to the Statue of Liberty when viewed from afar. Just to the Northwest in 263 feet of water, a small cat from Maine ended his long journey. Missed by all, loved by many, forgotten by none.
Thank-you one and all for the email, kind words and poems. They have helped us to heal. I had no idea that Stew- cat had such a following. People have been asking me are you going to replace him with another cat? As anyone who has spent time with him knows, there is no "replacing" Stewart. We may get another cat, someday, but I will be taking Stew's stash of cat food to the SPCA in Richard's Bay. Even now I am finding small odds and ends- reminders, he has left me. He never finished his memoirs, but was working on one more log, which I am having a very hard time figuring out. This poem was among his books and letters. APW
By, Stewart P. Wood
Grieve not for me, nor the setting sun.
Another day's journey has not yet begun.
A moonchip appears through the round portlight,
Brief solace felt with the darkness of night.
Whispering winds announce the days break
Grief and its nets get cast in time's wake.
Log for the week of November 24, 2002 Richards Bay, South Africa by PS
We finally made it to South Africa. The mighty Agulhas Current is now to our east. Thanks to the help of Alistair and Fred on the HF radio, we made a safe crossing. Sailing the Mozambique Channel from Tulear, we had no place to duck in if a southerly "Buster" came up the coast. Now we can sit in a quiet harbor and wait for a good weather window. And besides, we don't have to cross it again to get to Capetown. Between the HF faxes (when Pretoria decides to transmit them) our apt weather satellite pictures and Alistair and Fred on the HF radio we really have it easy.
Alistair and Fred have been helping yachts move along the African coast for years. Their combined experience and knowledge of local weather conditions is to say the least, priceless. I have never witnessed a better weather service anywhere And its FREE! You do need a ham license to talk to Alistair, but listening is free. Fred is on at 0500UTC on 8297 USB and 1500 UTC on 8101 USB. Alistair is on at 0630 UTC and 1130 UTC on 14316 MHz and then he switches to 7045 MHz LSB for people that are close to the coast.
Our trip from Tulear was far from a picnic. Amy's log described our experience trying to get diesel. Consequently, we left with less then sixty gallons. Full up we hold 165 gallons. I knew we would have to motor away from the land and against the afternoon sea breeze, but I had hoped to pick up the trades 150 miles out. It was not to be. It took us nine days to cover 700 miles. One day we only went 20 miles. Aggg. I was going nuts.
After five days out, Amy noticed some reef fish off the bow. "No." I said. I went up to look, and sure enough there was a whole family of Sargent major fish! Imagine, Iwalani being mistaken for a reef. What a disgrace.
Fuel management was our main topic of conversation. Burn it up in the beginning. Save it all till the end. Burn half now and half later. We were so hard up for fuel that Amy got the idea of pumping out the two fuel tanks we had run dry. Because the boat was rolling and the pickup for the engine supply was not at the very bottom of the tanks, a small amount of fuel was sloshing around. I got out the hand pump and we managed to transfer about 5 gallons to the tank we were using. Talk about fuel misers. At 1,000 rpms this gave us about another 30 miles. We motored, sailed, motored-sailed and drifted for seven days.
We saved the 15 gallons in the jerry jugs till the last tank ran dry. This way we knew exactly how much usable fuel we had left. By Wednesday, with 100 miles left to go and a southerly buster predicted for Saturday, we started the engine and motor-sailed into a 15 knot south westerly wind. Our progress was awkward, as the seas were lumping up against the current. But the Agulhas kept dragging us toward Richards Bay.
Just before sunset on Thursday we were tied up to "The Wall." The crew of Deva, a high tech cat from Maine, assisted us. Sailing is sometimes a very small world. We ate a 1-kilo rib dinner at the nearby restaurant and slept like logs.
Friday we rented a car "Basil"(Notice the color. Exactly like a can of Amy's favorite drink "V") named after the helpful rental agent and got back to the "Wall" in time to fuel up. We took on 140 gallons. I hope we are never that low again!
Saturday, the southerly buster came as predicted, with cold rain and 40 knots of wind. We were snug on Iwalani, with the wood stove going to take off the chill (all 68 degrees of it), glad we were not facing the Agulhas.
We will be staying here for a few weeks. Amy's sister is coming for a visit. We'll be going to the game parks and watching out for lions. Well, that's all for now.PS