Arrival in South Africa
July 11, 2007
We last wrote to you from the Seychelles in April. Since then we have sailed to Mayotte and Madagascar and crossed the Mozambique Channel. It seems a long time ago because of all the many experiences between.
We have been moving ahead of the crowd of cruisers in order to take advantage of the relatively calm winds and seas of April/May. In June the Southeast trade winds take over with full force in this part of the world. Our crossings required more fuel due to the calmer winds, but we had no equipment failures and no really scary times. We are hearing from our friends about their trips south sailing very close to the winds at 30-40 knots and big seas. We are very pleased to be here with all that behind us now.
Mayotte was the first stop after the Seychelles. It is geographically part of the Comoros Islands to the NW of Madagascar; however, France controls it. This control seems to be fine with the local people as they accept the financial benefits as well. They have voted strongly in favor of maintaining this relationship in the face of political pressure from the other Comoros islands.
In Mayotte we had our first experience with the people of the African continent. They are very dark skinned, mostly of Moslem faith. The women use a pigment on their faces that colors it an earthy ocher. They do this as a sun block sometimes and as a cosmetic to draw attention to the face at others.
In Mayotte the anchorage is off a small island, a ferry ride of ten minutes from the main island. The ferry costs pennies to ride and gives endless entertainment as a people-watching venue. One morning a group of young men collected together singing a sort of chant accompanied by lap drums. Yes, we were at last in Africa!
After a circumnavigation of Mayotte we signed out and crossed the 200 miles to Madagascar. We knew that we would like this place from the first moment. Here is a country that still loves the sea and uses it. There were sailing vessels of all types and sizes – truly, sailing vessels without engines. Sitting in the anchorage and looking towards the open sea would always delight us with masses of white sails. The breezes in NW Madagascar blow towards the land in the afternoons and then away from the land at night and in the early morning. The skippers of the sailing vessels use these winds to travel from Point A to Point B in the morning loaded with one sort of trade and then from Point B back to Point A in the afternoons. In the photo of the sailing vessel, you will see the cargo is a large load of wood. This was the most precarious situation that we witnessed with that sail dipping towards the water and doing its own little dance.
We tried to do a land trip while in the NW of Madagascar leaving Satori on a mooring guarded by a boat boy. We flew north to the city of Diego Suarez. From here we arranged car transport back through one of the national parks to the coast where we caught a ferry back to Satori. The trip was only for three days and we were quite disappointed in the whole thing. Madagascar will (one day in the future) be a good place to do land travel. For now the infrastructure is so poor that it offers only the five star and the one-half star accommodations and travel. We enjoyed our travels on Satori much more.
After a month in the NW part of Madagascar we were ready to travel down the west side of the country to a jumping-off point to cross the Mozambique Channel. This part of the trip was the BEST part of our stay. In one of our anchorages we were offered some wild honey. The native paddled out and held it up for us to see – in a TWO LITRE coke bottle. He only wanted $5 for it so we thought, “OK, we will give some of it away.” It turns out to be the most delicious honey we have ever had with a light banana flavor. That honey is already 60% used and we have NOT given any of it away!
In another anchorage we were lucky enough to see some very special lemurs, Coquerel’s Sifakas. They are quite large for a lemur living in the dry deciduous forests and eating the leaves and twigs of the tree. They jump sideways to travel from tree to tree flinging their arms up over their heads for balance. We were lucky to get some very good photos of them as well.
The trip across the channel was uneventful although uncomfortable. The winds were 15-20 knots with periods of 25-30. The seas were large but fairly well spaced. We communicated on the SSB radio with a fellow named Fred who lives in South Africa and does a twice-daily weather synopsis for his fellow cruisers. Fred was a God-send for us as he was able to tell us what to expect with the weather as we approached the African side of the channel.
In the wintertime (Southern Hemisphere, remember!) the Southwest Highs come sweeping down under the Cape of Good Hope from west to east on an average of every five days. With these passages come very strong Southwesterly winds sweeping north along the coast of South Africa and Mozambique. The current in this area runs strong from north to south. These two opposing forces can cause VERY LARGE seas. We do not exaggerate when we write LARGE seas. The normal height of the waves here is 10’. With the southwesterlies they can become 50’ in height. The importance of Fred’s radio work should become quite apparent .
When we left Madagascar we knew we had a certain weather window before the next SW front came through. We had to cross three areas of very strong current along the way and knew that we would not make it all the way to South Africa before the passage of that front. We put-in to two different anchorages in Mozambique to wait out the blows and made it safely here on July 7th. We are currently in Richard’s Bay, South Africa about 100 miles north of Durban. We will spend our time here or in Durban and will be renting a car soon to check out the benefits of Durbanas opposed to Richard’s Bay.
We are very close to the big game parks of South Africa here…Drakensburg, Kruger National Park, Zululand etc. From our research it appears that it is not an inexpensive proposition to visit these parks so we will do our homework first to check out the best way. We may buy a used car as we did in New Zealand or we may rent. Many new experiences…many new possibilities.
We will also be listing Satori for sale with a broker here. We do not want to upset any of you with this news. Satori will be difficult to sell, we believe. She is a “one-off” type of boat unknown to most cruisers. She is large and she is a schooner. All of these attributes will mean that it may take some time for the right buyer to come along. We can list her and continue to cruise if we do not get the offer we are hoping for.
We hope that all of you are well and that we might hear from some of you.
Jane and Sander aboard Satori