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Chatty log | Mayotte to Tanga

Mayotte to Tanga

24 December

Caroline: As often happens, things did not go as planned. John bought the fuel and put it in the tank. After that we managed in the nick of time to clear out. So far so good. Then, after a quick lunch, John and I walked to Padmandzi to pick up the third DHL package. That's where things started to go wrong. There was no package, neither did they know where it was! Seeing that tomorrow is Christmas and a Saturday, it's not likely it will show up before Monday. We cannot wait, we are leaving today. The best we can do is have them promise that if the package arrives they will send it on to Zanzibar. Then we have a long walk in the intense heat searching for the post office. When we finally find it, after asking about 10 people on the way, it has just closed. By the time we make it back to the supermarket to buy some last baguettes this is closed too. I wasn't seeing the humour of the situation and was feeling really frustrated and pissed off. Then when we started the long walk back to the yacht club a car stopped and a friendly local offered us a lift. Just what we needed, that made me feel a lot better. Laurence, who works for the club, promises to post our mail and also sold us 3 of the club's loaves. We say our goodbyes, get back to the boat and start doing the hundred little things to make Jocara shipshape. At about 3:30 pm we finally drop the mooring and start heading north through the lagoon. We are all feeling hot, dirty and sticky and want to cool off before leaving Mayotte behind us. Not long before sundown we find a mooring buoy near a little reef and go for a quick snorkel. The reef isn't great, but the water feels good. John finds a big turtle having a rest in a hole on the bottom of the reef. And then it's really goodbye Mayotte. It's dark when we thread our last miles through the channel and out of the outer reef into a very calm ocean. By about 11 pm we run out of the last bit of wind and start the engine.

25 December

Caroline: In the light of the nearly full moon I have a beautiful view of Anjouan, one of the Comoro Islands, which we are passing through the night. The only problem is we're still motoring. We only have enough fuel to motor half of the way and we don't want to use it all right at the beginnng. In the afternoon we turn off the engine. There is no wind at all and the sea is smooth and oily. Time for a mid-ocean swim, the bottom is 2000 meters below us. We have some fun in the water. I swim down and pretend I'm pushing the boat forward. A little later, back on board, we cannot stand it anymore and start the engine.

John: Happy Christmas! Casper bakes cookies in lieu of the traditional celebrations. Chocolate (with cocoa poweder) and chocolate chip. I busy myself with small jobs, fitting the various pieces of equipment received in the two out of three packages from the West Marine order. At last I get to change the generator impeller, and indeed the old one is badly damaged. Maybe, now that I've re-routed just about every hose, anti-siphon loop, heat exchanger and pump in the system, I may have finally cured the overheating problem on this unit.

26 December

Caroline: Around midnight I notice a breath of air. Time to try using the sails. The apparent wind is only 2-3 knots, but amazingly we have steerage and are making 1.7 knots, we have a current with us. We are now alongside Grande Comoro, which is shrouded in clouds. We lose the wind again and drift for a while. Then a squall comes and suddenly we have 20 knots and are racing along at 6 knots for a short time. When the squall dissipates we're left without wind again. The current is now pushing us in the wrong direction. Engine back on to try get out of this current.

John: We see schools of what look like small skipjack tuna, jumping out of the oily water in silvery showers, seabirds circling. We divert to motor through them, but they will not let us get close enough to swim with them and they do not take to our lures. Still, later Caro and Alex saw a small Dorado slicing back and forth trying to attack our red and white plug lure (that has caught many fish this trip) but he didn't succeed. I get some more jobs done on the boat, at least the calm weather is good for that.

27 December

Caroline: At 2 am the wind has increased to 4 knots! Sails go up again. One hour later the wind dies again and we lose steerage. But we cannot keep motoring every time we lose the wind. At least the current is less now, so we just drift. When a bit of a squall comes we make the most of it, but mostly we just drift. We're still in sight of Grande Comore. We're not really going anywhere. This is so frustrating. Especially since my parents will arrive in Zanzibar on 30 December. How are we going to get there?

John: Last night, for the first time, through binoculars. I saw some of the great individual craters on the mooon's surface, with their radiating patterns of debris and scars. Dawn at 05:30 was ethereal, with the brilliant full moon just setting. For a while it was difficult to say if the light was mainly from the moon, shining brighter than I can remember, in a clear sky, or the pre-dawn glow of the sun just below the horizon and cloud. Still, no wind. We contiinue to be amazed how little wind Jocara needs to sail. Even in 3-4 knots of wind, she can keep steerage in smooth water and make some minimal headway. In 6-8 knots of wind she's well into the groove and making 3-4 knots through the water, provided the angle is not far off the beam. But 8 knots of wind is a real luxury now. So far we've motored 26 hours, sailed about 6 hours, ghosted along just keping steerage for about 16 hours and simply drifted with the currents and will of the Gods for 22 hours. I've begun recording the wind speed with a decimal point. The difference between 3.5 knots and 4.5 knots of wind is the difference between us slamming about in the swell and racing about on deck raising all the sail we can to get her underway. Right now we have 2.3 +/- 1.3 knots. A moment ago we had over 4 knots, but only for about 2-3 minutes. We made about 40 m progress on that one, enough to catch up with the cucumber rinds Caroline threw overboard while preparing lunch. That was right before the rain, which had us rushing about closing hatches. This morning we took another swim break. There are at least four species of fish living around our hull, the smallest only a few mm across, almost round with faint grey, white and orange streaks. The largest look like zebra fish, maybe 20-30 mm long. I've also seen a small (~5 mm across the carapace) and very pretty crab, scuttling over our hull. Presumably he takes refuge in one of the through-holes when we are underway. I free-dove down 10 long strokes, until I began to sink without actively swimming down and the water turned cold beneath the thermocline. Looking up, the dark shadow of the hull and tiny stick figures of Caroline, Casper and Alex looked surreal, like I was floating over a mirage. A funny feeling, having to actively swim upwards to regain the surface and rejoin the living. To live, take action. Otherwise, relaxed passivity leads placidly and naturally to the cold dark depths. Like standing on a high shear cliff, there's temptation in that. The fear is not of heights, but of jumping.

28 December

John: Well, well, well. We go from swimming lazy circles around the boat in an oily sea to 20 knots of wind, gusting 24 overnight in squalls. The sea builds quickly and after allowing us to initially speed along is now pounding our bow, since this new wnd is directly on the nose. What luck! Added to that is a current to the SW that sets us back terribly on the NE tack. The generator overheats yet again, after all that work and a new impeller, what can it be this time? Well, we'll see about it in daylight tomorrow.

29 December

John: Generator turns out to have trashed the toothed drive belt for the seawater pump. The sprockets seem out of line. Did I put the pump back too tight? We have no spare belt. I rig the old aft bilge pump (electric impeller) to serve as a seawater cooling pump. We have to be very, very careful not to leave it on when the generator stops, for fear of backfilling the exhaust with seawater and trashing the engine. Main halyard parted at the top splice. Jury-rigged the topping lift as a replacement. Reefed the main (a mess now we have no topping lift!) in increasing wind and put a few more wraps in the furling Genoa. We are resigned to a long pound to windward to gain our waypoint, upwind and upcurrent. With over 20 knots of wind we are obliged to hammer into oncoming waves and tack back and forth through 140 degrees (sailing at 40-45 degrees to the apparent wind, about 55 degrees true, with 5-10 degrees leeway and 5-10 degrees due to counter-current adding up to a miserable 140 degrees tack-to-tack), allowing us only 60 n.m. of progress a day, if we are lucky. The Boom Vang parted at the old shackle I was obliged to use on the new system to make up for the wire block I wanted being out of stock. A new sheave is trashed in the process. Our only hope is to make it far enough North to find the NNE wind predicted by our GRIB files, instead of this NNW wind, right on our nose. We started today with 300 n.m. to go to our waypoint, having spent the night working our way NE and gaining only a few miles over many hours.

30 December

John: Oh my! What a day! the wind gusted up to 35 knots, the Genoa halyard broke, the Genoa reefing line turning block padeye snapped off, the windscoop broke, the cooker gimbal broke, the generator quit again... all this in a pounding, punishing hammer to windward under deeply-reefed Genoa, staysail and reefed main that had us falling off waves and crashing along with 20-40 degrees of heel, green water sluicing the decks. Below, everything flew about. The companionway steps slid across the cabin. The iMac crashed over onto its nose. Papers, catfood, pans, clothes were strewn all over the cabin sole. Worst of all, the coffee press bounced off the stove and smashed. Our second, and last, french press. We were punch-drunk with fatigue and both Caroline and I crashed into a fitfull nap for a few hours in the afternoon, leaving the problem of how to start the generator until later (it had run out of diesel as it sucked air out of the tank at the high heeling angle). I left it too late. Around dusk I dragged myself out of the aft cabin, feeling terrible, to find Caroline horizontal, still desperately trying to get some rest, that we still needed to get some email out to Caroline's parents, had to get the generator going soon to recharge the batteries (which were running perilously low) and had to do something to reduce heel since the wind was still 25-30 knots and the sea had built still further. We hove to in an attempt to level the boat and allow me to get some fuel i to the generator. I still could not bleed the air out of the fuel line. Worse still, lying hove too produced a 4-6 knot drift to the South! It got dark. We tacked, but without enough speed and fell back again and had to work in the Genoa once more. We tacked again, successfully this time, and found we must reduce sail. We were without electrical power, no way to run the generator, with too much sail, tired and in the dark in a howling wind and pounding sea. Not a good situation. I got a harness on, donned my headlight and hand-over-hand crawled to the mast, periodically doused with green seawater, to prepare to put a second reef in the main. I discovered that the Genoa halyard had begun to part and had released tension. The wraps we already had in the Genoa were holding it up. So instead of the second main reef we furled the Genoa away completely. That helped a lot, righting the boat and reducing speed by half so the pouding was much easier. It allowed Casper to cook up a big pot of spaghetti and I to jury-rig a 1 litre plastic bottle of diesel to feed the generator. Eventually we got the fuel system bled of air and the generator started. We got some food, some power and the boat moved more easily. Things began to look up, but it had been a pretty low point.

31 December

John: The last day of 2004! What a year! After a very stressing day yesterday, today promises to be a little kinder to us. The wind has eased to 20 knots and the sea is abating, making life much more tolerable on board. We even paid out most of the Genoa again this morning (ater jury-rigging a halyard repair), to increase our speed from a stately 3 knots to around 5-6. The slow pace last night allowed some rest and respite from the pounding and crashng of the previous nights. Caroline and I were getting seriously run-down, becoming clumsy and inept as well as downright miserable! Now we have 150 n.m. to go to our waypoint just south of Zanzibar, and the wind direction allows us to sail within 20 degrees of our target bearing. Still, we are worried that Caroline's parents will not have had news of us and may be worried at our non-arrival. It is also a pity we will not be able to celebrate New Year's together.

OK, I wrote too soon! The afternoon brought freshening winds and building seas, with a line of squalls marchnig across the radar screen. The squalls turned out to be an extensive mass, more appearing each time some wore themselves out of passed on, with driving rain and unpredictable winds, culminatnig in a 39-knot gust.

Caroline: In the afternoon the sky turned darker and darker all around us. Suddenly the wind started gusting up, at one point up to 39 knots, followed by buckets and buckets of rain. It was pretty exciting with the rail going underwater and flying along 9 knots. Really uncomfortable too. All the cushions in the cockpit got soaking wet, there wasn't a dry spot to sit left. It calmed down a bit in the evening, but nobody made it to midnight to welcome the new year. Sleeping was more important.

1 January 2005

Caroline: We still have plenty of wind and the direction is a little better. Not great, but we are making more headway. We're hoping it will stay like this, then we'll arrive tomorrow.

2 January

Caroline: Soon after I go on watch at 1 am the Southern corner of Zanzibar makes its appearance on the radar. I can smell the land, an excotic mix of charcoal and spices. Not far to go now, but with a slackening wind our progress is slowing down. At least the guys can get some good sleep with the easier movement. As the sun gets higher in the sky the wind picks up again and it's back on the nose. I'm excited about arriving and seeing my parents and these last miles seem to take forever! Finally we can see the buildings of Stone Town appear in the distance. As we come closer we can see a small figure waving like mad, my dad. Finding a good anchor place is not an easy matter, there isn't any. We just have to drop the anchor in front of the Africa House Hotel, exposed to the weather and in a choppy sea. Finally, we're done and can go ashore. But we want someone on board to look after the boat because we've read that theft is a problem here. The guys go ashore first then Alex comes back and I go ashore. It's good to be here, especially after such a hard passage and knowing my parents were waiting for us. John and my dad go around for information and organise a watchman for our period in Zanzibar. We cannot clear in because it's a Sunday, but it seems pretty relaxed. With Morocco looking after Jocara and the dinghy we can all go ashore and enjoy dinner in Mercury's, a restaurant named after Freddy Mercury who was born on Zanzibar. What a luxury.

3 January

Caroline: Stone Town is a very interesting place, full of little alleys running every which way, with old crumbly houses and big wooden doors with spikes. There are a lot of colourful paintings for sale, but the people are friendly and relaxed. If you don't want to buy anything many will say 'akuna matata' (remember Lion King?). We've learned a few words in Swahili already and it's fun using them: 'jambo' is hello, 'asante' is thank you and 'karibu' is welcome.

4 January

Caroline: We have a 10 am meeting with Dr. Narriman Jiddawi from the Institute of Marine Sciences to discuss what we can do to support them with projects. In the south of Zanzibar is the Menai Bay Conservation Area where dolphin watching is very popular. A possibility would be for us to document using video the way the watching tours operate. After lunch John and I go together to the port to clear in. The port is a very bustling place, one side is for container ships and the other is for old-fashioned but still much used dhows. The harbour is full of them with large crews loading and unloading. Immigration, customs and port health are in dilapidated tiny offices. We pay our US$200 and have no trouble clearing in.

5 January

Caroline: Back to the port to clear out. Then a nice lunch and big shop at the market and little supermarket. We need to provision for about a week for 6 people. Once all the shopping is packed away and the boat made shipshape, in the last light, we start making our way up the Zanzibar coast. We're sailing overnight to Pemba where we'll pick up my mum and dad tomorrow. They are taking the fast ferry to avoid getting terribly seasick.

6 January

Caroline: After a tiring night keeping a constant eye on lots of fishing boats without lights we make it into Mkoana port on Pemba island a couple of hours after the ferry arrived. My mum and dad move on board and we head for Misali island. Misali is a beautiful little island which is also a park and looked after by rangers. We anchor in a small shallow area on the edge of the passage through the reef and near the beach. Diving on the edge of the gap is supposed to be very good. Dr. Narriman Jiddawi has introduced us to the manager of Misali Park by email so we can try and set something up.

7 January

Caroline: We all go ashore to talk to the rangers and have a look around. There are trails leading to beaches and caves. In the afternoon the manager, Ali Said, comes to Misali and we arrange that the ranger will show us the sights and we'll take photographs and create a Misali page on the Jocara website. Haji, a ranger, guides us around the island, showing us turtle beach, caves and fishing camps. He explains uses of some of the plants and answers our questions. In a tree we caught a glimpse of a little black face with a fringe of grey hair, a vervet monkey. There are several groups living on the island. The island is also a nesting place for Hawksbill turtles and we saw some tracks on the beach. Behind the ranger housing is a container with 4 little hawksbill turtles. They have been fed for 4 months so that they have a better chance of survival after being released. After dinner we go back ashore to see the coconut crabs that come out in the dark. They are huge and I never knew they have a tail like a lobster!

8 January

Caroline: Today we're having a look at the underwater world. John takes the still camera and I the video camera. We get dropped on the outside edge of the passage and descend to 50 m. At this depth you have a good chance to see something big. A school of Travelly's swims by and then we see a huge Napoleon wrasse. What a beautiful fish. It's a pity that visibility is not very good and therefore impossible to get good shots. Before the end of the dive we sight 2 more Napoleon wrasse. It seems they show up when we're distracted and then they quickly swim away before we can get the cameras ready! In the afternoon we do a shallow dive on the reef. Casper joins us on the dive and Alex and my dad come along for a snorkel. Viz is again not very good, but there are plenty of fish to be seen. Late afternoon my parents and I go for another walk on the island. The northeast shore is littered with crumbly rocks, one rock looking like a table with a tree on top. That night we have octopus for dinner that the kids bought from the local fishermen. Somehow, unfortunately, I did not cook it properly and it was as chewy as rubber.

9 January

Caroline: We move about 12 miles north, weaving our way through the reefs to anchor near another passage. Taking the dinghy and our snorkel gear we go in search of coral. All we can find is nearly bare sand with colonies of sea urchins. In the end we do a little drift snorkel hanging on to the dinghy right in the channel over the drop-off. Here is some coral and lots of fish. Two new problems have developed on board. The waterpump has quit and the toilet is blocked. My mum and I have to sit on a bucket on deck. Not too much of a problem in the dark, but in the day there are always loads of fishermen around. Poor John has a go at fixing it and discovers that the pipes are clogged with calcium deposits.

10 January

Caroline: Again we move north to another passage. It's new moon and very low tide. Everywhere are people finding food from the sea. Women are searching the reefs for shellfish, fishermen with small dugouts are snorkeling with spears. Bigger boats filled with men are setting nets around schools of fish. Wheverever we look people are using the marine resources. Can this environment cope with this much exploitation? We have noticed that there aren't many seabirds around. When we go snorkeling along the passage drop-off we see many fish, but the coral isn't great. John works all day on the waterpump and toilet and manages to fix both, much to the relieve of my mum. I'm also happy I don't have to hang my bum in the water every time I have to pee.

11 January

Caroline: We have a lovely calm daysail to Tanga. My dad didn't even get seasick. Late afternoon we arrive and drop the anchor in front of the Tanga Yacht Club. My parents quickly go ashore to look for a hotel nearby. Although they enjoyed seeing what life on board is like (for the most part, not the toilet part!) they now prefer to have steady ground under their feet again. We meet up again at the club for dinner where they find us being entertained by a group of South African business men.

12 January

Caroline: We have two days to prepare for leaving the boat and going on safari. That means John has to fit an automatic bilge pump before we can go. Also we have to organise someone to watch the boat at night and feed the cats. The people at the yacht club are very nice and the bartender offers to feed the cats and he can arrange for a watchman. I've got my hands full updating the log and the site, organising the photos and preparing CD-ROMS for sending back to Singapore. It doesn't look like the CD's we left with the club in Mayotte every got sent. Who knows what happened there on the 26th. My dad is looking into booking seats on a bus to Arusha. The kids are lucky, they get to play games with Oma in the hotel.

13 January

John: Once again, it seems I am writing about some awful job. This time it's hanging upside-down in the aft bilge, affectionately known as the ATF swamp, because the Automatic Transmission Fluid that leaks out of the steering reservoir. I'm fitting an automatic bilge pump. It is a horrible job. When I've finished, I discover: a) The new impeller bilge pump does not always prime, for some reason beyond my understanding. This could mean that it would run forever, or at least until it destroyed the batteries, if left on automatic. Also, b) there is no vacuum valve on the anti-siphon loop I inherited from the previous pump plumbing, so when the pump does turn off water siphons back into the bilge from outside. This will either sink the boat or kill the batteries, then sink the boat. Finally, c) the automatic solid-state water level switch does not seem to work. This, again, will either allow the boat to sink (if there's a leak) or kill the batteries and then allow it to sink. Great job, John! I settle for tightening the stern gland (which seems to reduce or even stop the slow filling of the swamp), leaving the pump switched off. Hopefully not too much water will come in during our week's absence. Don't you just hate it when you spend all day sweating over some miserable job, only to end up worse off than when you started?


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