Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Stuck in the Seychelles Part 2

Our view from Cool Runnings in Eden Island Marina
We've decided this place is like the Hotel can check in any time you like, but you can never leave!  Well, we did get a short reprieve, and were able to leave the marina for 4 days, but we are back and are stuck once more, since Immigration has our passports, and we certainly can't leave without them!!  It's the first time EVER on our whole trip that our passports have been taken from us!  We are not very happy about that!  But once again, let me back track...

Our friend Stephan arrived late on the evening of September 6th (last Wednesday) and on Thursday morning we put those newly fixed engines into gear and high tailed it out of here!  Of course the weather, which had been picture perfect for the 3 weeks that we had been stuck, decided to turn nasty and we had an extremely rough ride with about 25 - 30 knots of wind on a very tight reach, which means the wind was coming almost from in front of us.  Baptism by fire for Stephan!!  It took us about 3.5 hours to cover the roughly (no pun intended) 30 miles from Mahe to Praslin, and we were happy to round the top of the island and get into its lee and some shelter!

A map of the inner islands to provide some orientation.  We sailed from Victoria on Mahe to Praslin and then to La Digue

We anchored in Anse Lazio, a large protected bay on the northeast of the island.  We took the afternoon to relax and recover from the rough ride.  

Heineken on tap...rough seas were quickly forgotten!
We spent the next day exploring the beach and swimming in the surf.  The huge granite rocks we had already seen on Mahe were even more pronounced here on Praslin (and later we were to see even more spectacular rocks on La Digue), and made for a stunning backdrop to the blue water.  The granite rocks are not volcanic, but are said to have originated from an upthrust of the earth's crust some 650 million years ago, so they are very, very old rocks!!

Ben and Gaby on the rocks on the beach at Anse Lazio

These rocks are pure granite...we wish we could take a slab or two for our kitchen counter at home!

The beach at Anse Lazio
We took the dinghy around the corner to see what was there, and if it was worth moving the big boat to another anchorage, but the wind was so strong, and we were so well protected where we were, we decided to stay put and spent two nights at this anchorage, leaving the following day (Saturday morning) to head to La Digue.  

On our way to La Digue, we passed this tiny island with the most amazing rocky outcrop.  We marvel at their formation, and we had read somewhere that some scientists are even baffled at the origin and formation of the rocks.

The island of La Digue has a tiny harbor, and we had to drop anchor, reverse, and then tie up to a tree on shore.  But it was also nice and protected so we were happy to go through the rigmarole of doing so!

Dave in the dinghy after dropping us on shore and going back to secure the dinghy

A Panoramic of La Digue's harbor...Stephan looks on...

We had a great time in La Digue.  Up until a few years ago, there were no cars on the island, and bicycles were the only means of transportation.  There are still hundreds of bicycles, but unfortunately, also a fair number of cars.  The easiest way to get around is still by bicycle, so we rented them for the day on Sunday and explored.

La Digue's main drag

Some pretty berries on the side of the road

Dave, Gaby, Ben and Stephan enjoying the view
The Seychelles is home to many unique flora and fauna, including the giant tortoise.  We got to see a couple of these guys in Galapagos, but the ones we saw in the Seychelles were just as big, if not bigger.  We saw a few in the wild while we were cycling around, but we we also able to get up close and personal to this lot, that are kept in an enclosure at the Union Estate:

Gaby and her special friend

They are very messy eaters!

They are friendly and very curious.  Here Ben has a chat to two tortoises

The Union Estate is also the gateway to the Anse Source d' of the world's most photographed beaches.  We rode our bikes as far as we could, and then we got to walk along the beach.  I'm sure if we'd been there on a sunny day, it would have looked even more spectacular, but it was the magnitude of the rocks that really blew us away!

Then it was time to move on.  We cycled our bikes all the way over to the other side of the island, to Grand Anse.  Great bum was sore from the saddle and the thighs were burning from the uphill climbs!!

A map of La Digue.  We cycled the solid paths, and the dotted paths are walking trails.  There's just the one road over to Grand Anse

The windward side of the island - Grand Anse

Dave and Steph and a narly old tree!

We treated ourselves to a banana smoothie on the way back down, at this little stand on the side of the road.  The price was exactly half of what we would have paid down at the beach!

Stephan enjoyed coconut water
 Our final push was to explore the north end of La Digue, so we followed the coastal road, until it literally came to an end!  On the way we saw some more tortoises, and some more beautiful scenery.

The end of the road...

And then it was time to head back to Mahe.  Although it was only 4 days, and the weather was not so great, it still felt like we had been on holiday for 2 weeks after being stuck in the marina for so long!!  Monday morning dawned and it was, of course, a beautiful day!!  But at least this allowed us to have a lovely sail back to Mahe.  It was a little slower than our way over, but it was very pleasant, and we caught 3 fish on the way back!  We caught a big Green Job fish, a tuna and a fish we couldn't looked like an oversized needle fish.  We returned both the tuna and the unknown fish back into the sea, but the Job fish was to be dinner!  We called Shuti and Moby, letting them know that potluck dinner was on Cool Runnings that evening...we were supplying the fish!


It was a great reunion back on Cool Runnings that evening.  7 adults and 8 children make for a rowdy bunch...luckily most of the boats here are charter boats and there are not too many people around in the evenings!
The squad kids back together again

On a side note:  While we were out and about on our very brief island hopping adventure, Hurricane Irma was barreling down on our home in Florida, having just destroyed the Caribbean islands.  We spent each morning and evening monitoring the news, tracking the hurricane and touching base with Dave's sister Kim and his parents, Rosemary and Allen, while they boarded up our house and were forced to evacuate.  Our deepest, deepest thanks go out to Kim and her daughter Kayla who single handedly put up the majority of the hurricane shutters on our house, and then to our incredibly kind neighbors, Scott, and his friend (I'm sorry, I don't know his name!!), and Charlie, who took the time to help Kim with the very hard to reach upstairs windows, all the while still having their own homes to worry about.  Also a huge thank you to John, our neighbor two doors down, who did not evacuate and provided updates on the condition of the house after doing a perimeter check after the worst of the storm was over.  While I'm at it, thank you John, for the kindness you show to Kim, Allen and Rosemary in our absence.  John is like a garden fairy who magically cuts the grass and trims the trees!  It makes you feel very grateful that there are such kind people in the world!  Our deepest thanks to all of you!!  Overall we fared really well, and luckily, our house was fine, with no structural damage, no flooding, and apparently only a ton of debris to be cleaned up.  Thanks to everyone who sent messages of support.  It was very frustrating being so far away and not being able to help!  Our hearts go out to those who were not so lucky and are now dealing with the aftermath of this monster storm.

Back in the marina on Tuesday, we begin the check-out process.  Nowhere has it taken more than a few hours to check out of the country, get the clearance paperwork and move on.  We now see why so few cruising boats come here.  We came back on Monday, started the process on Tuesday, continued today (Wednesday) and if we are lucky, we can leave tomorrow!!  It is the most ridiculous and the most expensive check out we have ever encountered!  It is also the first time that our passports have been taken from us.  They were taken from us today, and will apparently be returned to us tomorrow, and then we can leave.  Passports are extremely valuable, and we don't think anyone has the right to take them from us and keep them for any length of time, but what choice do we have?!   I can't even begin to tell you what it took to get to this point, as poor Dave, being the Captain, had to endure it all, but it entailed going from one authority to another, obtaining letters and approvals and paying fees, just one big bureaucratic nightmare!

Loic (from Moby), Momi (from Shuti) and Dave...all smiles after receiving final clearance (but still without passports!)

Once we are able to leave, Shuti and Cool Runnings will head towards Mayotte, and Moby will head towards Mauritius.  Loic and Benedicte lived in Mauritius for 15 years, so for them it's like going home...they couldn't miss it!  Both routes will be tough...Moby's a little tougher than ours.  We will be with Shuti all the way to South Africa and hope to meet up with Moby again, probably in Cape Town.

Our next destination, Mayotte, is geographically part of the Comores archipelago, but voted to remain an overseas territory of France, while the other islands of the Comores voted for independence.  It is situated about 200 miles off the northern tip of Madagascar between Madagascar and East Africa.  It will take us about 5 days to get there and while all of our major passages thus far have been predominantly downwind (with the wind behind us), this will be our first passage where the wind will be side-on, and possibly a little from the front.  The biggest difference will be the movement of the boat in the sideways swells.  It will be a different motion that can become uncomfortable if the waves get big.  We have chosen the best weather window we could find in this time period, and expect to have lighter winds to start off with, but then they pick up the closer we get to the tip of Madagascar, which is notorious for strong wind.  It is what it is...we have prepared the best we can, as we always do.  Now we just need our passports...!

See you in Mayotte!

Sunset in Anse Lazio, Praslin island, Seychelles

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Stuck in the Seychelles

Well, we guess it had to happen to us sometime….it happened to “Excalibur” in Tonga, it happened to “Moby” in Cairns, and now it had happened to us: we were stuck!! While our friends are out exploring the islands of the Seychelles, we are stuck in the Marina, with no engines and no hope of going anywhere until the parts arrive and we can repair them…but let me back track…

August 10th - 16th:  On Passage from Chagos to Seychelles:

These red-footed Boobies hitched a ride with us on the way to Seychelles.  They spent an entire night hanging on by their little webbed feet!  These amazing sea birds dive into the ocean to catch fish like torpedoes!  Aren't they so pretty with their bright red feet, blue beaks and pale yellow heads?  I love them...but look at the mess they left us on the bow cushions!!

Enjoying a last sunset at sea on the way to Seychelles

Q flag up, and Seychelles courtesy flag flying.  Gaby loves the Seychelles's very colorful!!

Thursday, August 17th:

We arrived in the early morning of August 17th, and anchored in the quarantine area in the outer harbor of Port Victoria. Customs, Immigration and a host of other officials arrived at about 9:00am to check us in. We were in the Eden Island Marina by 10:00am. So far, so good! We got settled in, and planned what we would do for the next couple of days: refill our LPG (cooking) gas, top up our diesel, do some provisioning and explore Mahe a little. We also knew we had a little repair to do on our wind instrument, as it had started working intermittently during the last few days of our passage. It meant a trip up the mast, but Dave was hoping it was just a loose wire. Alternatively, we had a spare instrument on board, and we should be easily able to switch it out. So Thursday was tidy, a small shop, organize a car, SIM cards for our phones and other general admin.

Friday, August 18th:

We took the rental car to New Port, where we had been told we could get our gas bottle refilled. Ha! That turned out to be almost comical…the refill place told us we needed to go to the Seychelles Bureau of Standards, to get it tested to ensure that the pressure would be OK, and they could safely fill it. Our gas bottle is brand new, we just bought it in Australia, and this is the first time we were trying to get it filled, but, since it was a different bottle to what you get here, they wouldn’t fill it without a certificate saying it was safe. When we got to the Bureau of Standards, which was in a completely different part of town, and rather difficult to find, they were confused and a little annoyed that we had been sent there.

The Seychelles Bureau of Standards building - we finally found it!

After about 30 – 45 minutes Dave was asked to come back at 11:00am. We went back to New Port to find the Ministry of Health, because we had to pay R300 as a health clearance fee. Once we’d done that, we headed back to the Bureau of Standards. They asked us to come back at 1:00pm…So, to kill some time, we went for a short drive down the coast of Mahe, and had a lovely lunch overlooking Anse Royale, one of the bays on the south east side of Mahe. Back to the Bureau of Standards, and amazingly enough we got our certificate!!

Dave returning to the car with the gas bottle and...what is that?  A certificate, perhaps?!

YES!  Success at last!!

 We drove back to New Port, and went to the refill place, proudly showing our certificate. No, he said, you first have to go to another office, and pay for everything!! Back in the car, find the payment office, make the payment and back to the refill place. It’ll be about 30 minutes to fill the gas bottle…seriously?! Luckily there was a supermarket opposite the refill place, so we went and perused the shop and bought a few groceries while we waited. By this time it was about 4:00pm and we were DONE! We were not used to this hectic lifestyle!!

Saturday, August 19th:

All is still good in the world of Cool Runnings. We have our gas filled, we’ve paid our fees, and we took the car and our 9 jerry cans to the petrol station in the morning and got the diesel we needed. After that was done, we took a drive along the north part of the island. We saw some nice bays and pretty scenery, but by early afternoon, after we’d made the loop back to Victoria, we decided to come back to the boat and work on blog posts and plan our time in the Seychelles.

 North Mahe, Seychelles

North Mahe, Seychelles

Sunday, August 20th:

Our friends on “Shuti” arrive at the marina and we spend some time catching up with them. Their family was arriving on Tuesday, August 22nd, so they were getting ready for “Hotel Shuti” to open! In the afternoon, we take our rental car and take another drive around the island, over the mountain range and along the west coast and south, making a big loop back to the marina. It was the prettiest of the drives we had done.

The view from the mountain down onto Eden Island and the Marina and over to St. Anne island

Monday, August 21st:

We had planned to leave on this day, after Dave had made a quick trip up the mast to fix the wind instrument. I hauled him up, and he came back down with a grim look on his face. Turns out the fix is not so simple. The part we thought we could just unplug and replace, has a 5 pronged pin fitting, and one of the pins had corroded and broken off into the piece that goes into the mast. So guess what…? We had to remove the entire cable and re-thread a new cable through the mast (not an easy task) and then fit the new instrument at the top of the mast. We extend our stay at the marina for one more night, since this isn’t an easy fix. We spend the day working on the wind instrument installation, and finally, with Momi’s help (from Shuti), we get the new cable threaded and the wind instrument installed.

Tuesday, August 22nd:

We take a last quick walk to the “Spar” supermarket in the Eden Marina Plaza to get a few more supplies for our time cruising around the island. We pull up our dock lines and head out the marina. Just around the corner, as we are clear of the channel, we turn into the wind and raise our mainsail. Dave revs both engines to get back on course once the sail is up, and I hear him say, “We have no thrust from the starboard engine!”. Benjamin gets on the throttle while Dave goes and inspects. He tells him to rev it again…it slips, but the gears engage. Back to neutral….back in gear….nothing. Dave says, “We have two choices: we can go on one engine and try and fix this later, or we can turn around and go back to the marina”. We all know the wise thing to do is go back to the marina. We turn around and limp back on one engine. We call to Shuti, who are of course surprised to see us, to help us with the lines. Luckily, we were still able to get the starboard engine into reverse, so we were able to get back into the slip we had just vacated. And we’re still here, a week later, and expect to be here for another week still…

Thank goodness for "Spar" and Milk Tart, a typical South African desert!

For those who are interested, this is what happened: The Lagoon 400’s are equipped with Yanmar SD50 saildrives. This is the part that engages the gears and turns the propellers. The SD ‘s are known for having a problem with the cone clutch, that is known to begin to slip after about 500 engine hours. At this time, the cone clutch either needs to be replaced, or it can be lapped, essentially “roughed up”, so that the gears can engage again. We had lapped both cone clutches in Australia, and had only done 200 hours on the engines since that time, but we think that the low-rev motoring that we did in Indonesia, to save fuel, may have contributed to the earlier-than-expected need to lap the cone clutches again. Either way, this was the problem, and we needed to fix it.

The offending cone clutch
We are lucky that this happened here, where there is a big charter fleet, and therefore also mechanics and Yanmar dealers. We spent the rest of Tuesday trying to locate a mechanic and asked both the charter companies here, and the Yanmar dealer for numbers of mechanics and both said they would have someone call us. We sat and waited. Dave is not one to sit idle, and he generally does everything himself. This is one of the few things he had not done, but that didn’t stop him. He began researching how to remove and lap the cone clutch. One problem we faced was that we didn’t have the paste needed for lapping, and we didn’t have a vice strong enough to take the cone clutch apart, once removed from the sail drive. But Dave felt confident that he could at least remove them, and that would also help keep the cost of the repair down, as it would be his time, and not a mechanic’s, spent removing the drives. Late on Tuesday afternoon we received a call from the one mechanic, who said he’d be by in the morning to have a look.

Wednesday, August 23rd:

Dave got to it, and managed to remove the cone clutch from the starboard side, and then decided it would be best to do the same on the port engine. In the meantime, Sylvain, the mechanic came and said he would be able to lap the cone clutches. So the day was spent removing the cone clutches, getting them to Sylvain, who lapped them, and then replacing them again. The first time we put them back, the port side worked fine, but the starboard side did not engage in forward, and reverse was barely engaging. Dave was concerned that when he put the part back, he had damaged something. It was either that, or the part had not been put back properly. He decided to take it out, and put it back again. He did this, and this time it was even worse. Nothing happened. There was no engaging in forward or reverse. In the meantime, Sylvain had located a brand new cone clutch that Sunsail, the charter company, had in stock. They had upgraded all their boats to SD60 saildrives, so they no longer needed this one, and agreed to sell it to us for half price, which was still a whopping $1,600. By now it was evening, and Dave was exhausted. We decided to get the new part the next day, and we also received a call from the boat yard here, who had gotten the call from the Yanmar dealer, and had been asked to call us. It turns out Rajan is South African, and grew up not far from where Dave and I grew up in Westville! His mechanic, Phillip, is also South African, originally from Cape Town. Dave explained the situation, and asked if Phillip could also come and have a look. Unfortunately, he was only available on Friday, but we were penciled in for Friday.

Dave in the engine room...

Thursday, August 24th:

Sylvain brought the brand new part, and Dave went back into the engine compartment and removed our old cone clutch. Once the new part was in, we tried engaging the gears again, but there was still nothing. Now we knew it was something bigger. Dave feared the worst, that he had cracked the housing where the engine and the saildrive connect. He called Rajan, who had Phillip call Dave, and explaining everything to Phillip over the phone, we concluded that it was more than likely a cracked housing. Our hearts sank. Not wanting to mess anything up further, Dave stopped working on the engine, and instead did some preliminary phoning around to see if there was a spare housing on the island. There was not, and it would take at a minimum, 6 days to get one. We had now been in the marina for a week, and things were looking bleak! Dave said that if we had to wait for a part to come in, we could just go on one engine, while we waited. It would be more difficult, but not impossible to get out of the marina, and back in again, and Shuti and Moby confirmed that the anchorages were all big enough to maneuver easily with just one engine.

Back into the engine room

Out with the cone clutch again

Friday, August 25th:

Phillip arrives and we lift the engine so he can inspect the housing. He confirms that it is indeed a cracked bearing housing. To be safe, we decide that he should check the port side as well. We lift the port side engine as well, and he removes the cone clutch and inspects the engine. That housing is OK, but we decide to rather be safe than sorry. Phillip calls around as well, but no-one has the part we need, and he orders 2, one for each engine. He also takes both the cone clutches, so he can inspect them, lap them again if necessary (as we were not sure they were properly done the first time), and he also takes the brand new part to calibrate it. So now we have absolutely no engines, and definitely won’t be going anywhere!!

The other item we are dealing with is that we have a cracked front hatch glass, that we have been trying to source….again no easy task and there is no stock in Seychelles or South Africa. As we anticipate doing some upwind sailing into big seas as we head towards South Africa, this is a critical component to safely keep water from entering over the bows and into the salon area.  We finally sourced a hatch from a company in England, and are having it shipped to the Seychelles.  We know it is on the island, now it has to clear customs, and we will be able to install it before we leave for Mayotte.

Dave working on the cracked hatch

We hope that this is the last of 3 major items that we have had to deal with since arriving in Seychelles, and that soon we will be able to leave this marina and explore the Seychelles by boat. Reports from both Moby and Shuti are not glowing thus far, but given all our standards are all so high after just visiting Chagos, we will still be happy to “get out there” again!

Tuesday, September 5th:

We are still in the Marina.  The manager of the Moorings/Sunsail charter base, who has been so kind and helpful to us, said the upside of this is that we might be spending Christmas with them!  Just kidding...the parts have arrived, and we are expecting Phillip, the mechanic, to come by this morning to help Dave get everything back into place again!  In the meantime, we’ve been using the time to do some spring cleaning…Cool Runnings got an overhaul inside and out!  I cleaned out all the storage areas and cupboards, reorganized and inventoried all the food, and washed all bedding and anything that could conceivably be washed in the washing machine!  On the outside, we’ve polished the entire boat…it ended up taking about 5 days, but with everyone pitching in, we have a shiny boat, ready to head out into the big yonder once again!

All the food is repacked and inventoried!

Ben and Gaby pull the boat towards the dock so that Dave can polish the hard to reach areas on the starboard hull

Ben polishing

Gaby doing her bit

Ben even had a go with the buffer!

Dave and I polish the port hull from the dinghy

Tomorrow our friend Stephan du Toit arrives from South Africa!  He is joining us for the passage from Seychelles to Mayotte.  Yay!  We have an extra person for night shift!! ;-) So we will wait for him and then head out on Thursday morning to explore the islands for a few days before having to leave.  We have been watching the weather, and need to wait for a good weather window.  It's going to be a tight reach, meaning the wind will come more from the front than behind, so it will be different to most of the passages we've done so far.  Mary Osterbrock...sorry to disappoint and not be able to report on anything other than engine troubles and views of the marina!  I hope to get an update on the islands of Paslin and La Digue before we head off to Mayotte for you!!  But still we can't complain, we are so lucky to be able to be doing what we are doing, and the sunsets in the marina are not too bad...