Sunday, October 15, 2017

Clearing into South Africa and our busy first days!

After safely tying up the international dock in the small craft harbor in Richard’s Bay on the afternoon of October 7th, we asked Port Control about our customs and immigration clearance. We were told that immigration would come on Monday, but they couldn’t give us a time. In theory, that would mean we could not leave the boat until we had been cleared in. It was now Saturday afternoon! Dave asked politely if we could have permission to leave the boat in order to get something to eat. There was a restaurant right in front of the dock, and a cold Castle (South African beer) was calling his name! We were asked to stand by. A few minutes later, Port Control was back on the radio and told us that immigration would be at the boat at 5:00pm, and that we had been given permission to leave the boat to go and eat, but not to go far.

Cool Runnings at the international "jetty" in Richard's Bay

So we decided to quickly head to the restaurant and have a quick bite to eat (and a Castle, of course!). No sooner had our food arrived, than we saw an official looking person walking towards our boat. (Luckily we could see it from the restaurant). It was now 4:00pm, a whole hour sooner than expected! Dave raced over to the guy to let him know we were here, and what a chilling reception he received! He was told repeatedly in a pretty aggressive tone that we had been given plenty of time to eat, and that unless everyone was in the boat by the time he had finished stamping Dave’s passport, he would leave, and would not clear the kids and myself into the country! Luckily for us, our neighbors on “Full Circle” were also in the restaurant, and had also seen the immigration official, and were just walking past at that time. Dave asked our new friends if they could please come and get me and the kids from the restaurant, and placed R400 (about $30) into his hand to give to me, so I could pay the bill! (Luckily he had drawn some cash just before we went to eat). I paid the bill, packed our uneaten food into the take-away containers, and sadly left our untouched beers on the table and rushed to the boat. 

We managed to take this pic before Dave had to rush off and meet the immigration official

Selfie with a Castle!  So happy to finally have made it to SA.  A little disheveled, but thrilled to be here!
 
Rather begrudgingly, it seemed, the immigration official stamped our passports and announced that he was giving us the standard 3 month visitor visa. (Our friends on Full Circle asked for longer, as they are planning to fly to Holland for Christmas, but they were denied anything above 90 days). It was a very bad first impression, not only for us, but for the multiple foreign boats who come here. 

On Sunday morning, as soon as we could, we left the concrete wall that is the international dock, and headed over to Zululand Yacht Club, where we had secured a berth. What a difference in reception! Here everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming! And what a lovely yacht club it is. There is a lovely grass area and playground where the kids can run around, and a pool for swimming. We arrived on a Sunday, and it was a hive of activity, with boats coming and going out for friendly races, and families having picnics on the grassy area. We began clean-up operations on Cool Runnings, who was caked in salt from the passage down the Mozambique Channel, so as is our routine, the kids and Dave cleaned the outside and I cleaned the inside. A good vacuum and wipe down of everything was in order, as everything felt damp and salty, even inside. The bathrooms got a good scrub down, and soon our floating home was clean again, both inside and out!

Heading down the channel to Zululand Yacht Club
And then we had the surprise of our lives! My close childhood friend, Vicky, who lives in Johannesburg (about a 5 hour drive from here), happened to be at their holiday home in Salt Rock, about 1 ½ hours south of Richard’s Bay! What a stroke of luck! She and her husband Haydn, along with their son Cameron and his friend Andrew hopped in their car and headed up to Richard’s Bay to come and see us!! It was so wonderful to see them again, and Vicky, in true style, came armed with a boatload of food and drinks, so we didn’t have to do anything, just sit and catch up! It was a very special evening and so great to be able to see friends so soon after arriving! 

Happy Reunion!  Me with Vicky, Haydn, Andrew, Cameron and Dave

Vicky, Haydn, Cameron and Andrew stayed the night on the boat, and the next day graciously drove us around Richard’s Bay to take care of the usual admin stuff we have to do: 

Number 1 was to go to Customs. After our less than stellar encounter with immigration at arrival, we were a little concerned about our reception at Customs. But what a different reception it was! The Customs official was friendly and welcoming, and we were officially cleared in in no time at all!

Number 2 was to get SIM cards for our phones so we could have local numbers. We went to the local mall, and while Dave and Haydn took care of that, the rest of the contingent went to “Mug and Bean” for breakfast. The kids had the biggest muffin they have ever had!! Thanks Vix and Haydn for treating us to breakfast!

Gaby tries to tackle the biggest muffin she's ever eaten!
Number 3 was to take us to the airport so we could organize a rental car. Once that was done, we were set to go! We had wheels and we had communication! Vix and Haydn headed back to Salt Rock, with the invitation to us to come and join them, so we could see their house, and get the keys from them for a future stay any time we liked! After making sure the boat was secure, we did just that, and made the drive to Salt Rock in pouring rain!

We enjoyed another lovely evening catching up with Vicky and Haydn, and stayed there overnight, and early the next morning, Dave took them to the airport, as they were flying to Cape Town to see their daughter, Amber, who has just started Uni (college) there. We were enjoying relaxing in their beautiful home when the alerts started coming through: huge storms in Durban (about 45 minutes south of us) with flooding and strong winds! We started monitoring the news and the weather, and had to make a decision. Do we cut short our stay in our new luxury accommodation, and head back to the boat, or do we stay here and ride it out, so as not be on the road during the storm?  I knew I couldn’t relax not knowing if the boat was secure or not, but we had to leave then and there to stay ahead of the storm! So we packed everything into the car and hightailed it back to Richard’s Bay. 

One of the first photos we saw- the flooding of the highway hear the old Durban airport
 
We got to the boat, and winds were already heading into the 30 knot range. The boat was being blown onto the jetty and there was a lot of pressure on the bow rope and dock cleat. We had seen pictures before of the marina in shambles after a strong wind had blown through, so Dave decided the safest thing to do was put out an anchor. With winds now blowing up to 40 knots, Dave and Ben went out in the dinghy and I lowered the anchor. Dave took the anchor and chain in the dinghy and played it out, dropping the anchor in the middle of the channel. I pulled it in a little to ensure the pressure was on the anchor chain and not the deck cleat and rope. We then decided to put an additional anchor out to the side, so help keep the boat off the jetty. Another dinghy ride and successful deployment of the anchor. During this time we measured 46 knots of wind! We were SO glad that we had made the call to come back to the boat! Dave also helped another Swedish couple put their anchor out to help secure their boat. 

Dave and Ben out in the dinghy laying the second anchor

We didn't get a shot of the 46 knots, but this was close enough!!

We hunkered down in the storm as the reports of damage started coming in from Durban. There were severe flash floods, with people having to abandon their vehicles on the highway, as well as several deaths due to this unexpected storm. A ship trying to leave Durban Harbor was blown sideways, and ended up getting stuck and blocking the channel! The marina is also in shambles, with mooring and jetties damaged and 2 boats sunk! Wow…welcome to SA, Cool Runnings!! 

Durban Marina

Durban Marina - there's nowhere left for Cool Runnings to dock! These boats are normally in a nice straight line, not bunched together like this....yikes!

The ship that got swept sideways and the tugs desperately trying to push it back. 

Another view of the ship

We continue to get updates from our friends in Durban who have thus far advised us to stay away, as there is nowhere really to leave the boat. We have also been watching the weather, and see that weather windows to hop down the coast are relatively rare, and last a very short time. It’s going to be an interesting ride getting down to Cape Town whenever we can find the weather windows to do it. We are so thankful we are safe in Richard’s Bay, but we also can’t stay there much longer as the marina is booked out for the World Arc Rally (about 20 or more boats that do an organized round-the-world trip), who are due to arrive between the 6th and 11th of November, so we will need to leave in the next 2 weeks. We hope we can find some shelter in Durban, even just for the time that we need to wait for another safe weather window to get to East London. It makes our planning to see family and friends difficult, as we are so reliant on the weather, and its tough to pin down dates under those conditions as we often have to make last minute changes, such as heading back to Richards Bay to secure the boat. 

Our hope is to get the boat to Cape Town late November, and then on a little further north to Port Owen on the west coast, where we will leave it for a month, and hopefully do some travelling in the month of December by hire car. In the meantime, we are enjoying a few additional days at Vicky and Haydn’s beautiful house, which they have graciously made available to us, and we try, as best we can, to make some plans! We have just enjoyed a fantastic stay at Mkuze Falls Private Game Reserve, which we will report on separately.

Please also take some time to view the new and improved and updated “Kids Cabin” tab on our blog (top right corner). Gaby has been busy with some updates from a kids perspective!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Landfall South Africa: A Whale of a Welcome!

Hoisting the South African flag!
When we entered the breakwater of Richard’s Bay, South Africa, on the afternoon of October 7th, 2017, it was difficult to comprehend that we had just sailed “home”. Our home is now in Florida, but South Africa will always be our homeland, and a trip that usually takes about 18 hours by air from the USA, had now taken us 18 months! 

We left Mayotte a week before, early on the morning of September 30th, and headed out of the southern pass in absolutely no wind at all. But it didn’t take too long, and soon enough we were sailing, heading South, towards the Mozambique coast, and ultimately, South Africa. Our initial track looks like we possibly had had a glass of wine too many, as we negotiated the confusing current. One moment it was ripping towards the left, pulling us East towards Madagascar, the next, it was ripping in the opposite direction, pulling us West towards Mozambique. It was every direction except south, the current assist we were looking for!

Leaving Mayotte:  Not a breath of wind!


Our track from Mayotte to Richard's Bay
 
On about the 3rd day, we saw quite a few ships, and I felt like radioing them, and saying, “Excuse me, have you seen the current? We’re looking for the Mozambique Current…”, but still it was nowhere to be found. Dave downloaded some current maps, and plotted a waypoint on our chartplotter, and we headed toward a point that indicated the start of the stronger flowing southerly Mozambique current.

We saw this HUGE tanker less than a mile off our starboard side.  We chatted with the radio operator...they had loaded up with crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico and were on their way to India!

And then we found it. It was great…between one and two knots of current assisting us and helping us make good speeds. We soon noticed a pattern: during the day, there was no wind, and we motored. By sunset, the wind would pick up, and during the night, we’d have lovely, south easterly winds, and we were able to have a lovely sail. For 2 nights in a row, with the help of the current, we were able to do between 8 and 10 knots of boat speed. That resulted in a couple of 190 mile days (when our average is usually between 150 and 160). The further south we got, the closer we watched the weather. We could already see the infamous south westerly blows that come up the South African coast on our Predict Wind weather forecasts, and we did not want to be caught in one!

Can you say "becalmed"?!  Somewhere off the Mozambique coast

Soon we were at a crossroads. We could see a front coming through that would hit Richard’s Bay, our destination, around October 8th. We were unsure if we could make it by then, and had to decide if we should stop, and wait for a clear window, or make a go of it. There are 3 safe places to sit and wait out bad weather in Mozambique; Bazaruto, Inhambane and Maputo (Inhaca Island). We knew we could make it to Inhambane, so, although we had heard great reports on Bazaruto, our desire to get to South Africa was much stronger, so we skipped it and carried on towards Inhambane. As we neared the point of Inhambane, we had to decide…do we stop here, and wait, but if we did that, we might be stuck there for over a week, because the weather showed 2 South Westerlies within very close succession, and we would have to wait for the second to pass before we could move again. Or, we could make a dash for it, and, if it got bad, we could divert to Maputo and wait there.

Just as luck would have it around this time, we received an email on our satellite phone from Chris Sutton, an old sailing friend of Dave's that lives in Durban and has been involved in shipping for many years. He offered to send us the latest and greatest weather forecasts that they use to route ships! "Yes please" we said....you can never have too much weather information!!! So with that we received the latest professional local area forecasts from Chris, and together with our on board Predict Wind routeing software, we set about making some tough calls on what to do! Thanks Chris for that help and for organizing us a berth at Zululand Yacht Club!

Sunset as the wind starts to pick up

We decided to keep going, and had one last calm day of motoring. We used this to prepare for the remainder of the trip. Dave topped up our diesel tanks, using the fantastic system he and his dad designed and built. We had used the system many times to top up our tanks from jerry cans, but this was the first time we had to do it at sea. It was nice and calm, so no problem at all. I also used the day to prepare some food, so I didn’t have to cook in rough weather. I made hard boiled eggs,  a big pasta salad, and some potato salad, and secured anything that could go flying. As we rounded the point at Inhambane, we were met by the remnants of the last South Westerly. The winds were not overly strong, between 12 – 15 knots, but we were going straight into it, and it was very uncomfortable. The boat slammed through the waves, up and down and side to side. We tried all sorts of different angles, but nothing really helped. It just was what it was, and we knew it would pass. We still had current with us, and this helped our boat speed, and, in checking on the arrival of the next South Westerly, it looked like we would make it. So we kept on going! 

Dave pumps diesel from jerry cans into the main tanks.  Thank GOODNESS we are able to carry so much extra diesel!

Precious, precious diesel

Grin and bear it...we just kept going!
Overnight the wind died, and eventually the sea state improved. By Saturday morning, October 7th, we were motoring again, and we woke to see the dunes of Kwa Zulu Natal’s north coast on our starboard side. It was a beautiful sight! After 8 days at sea, any land is a sight for sore eyes!

Sand dunes and KZN's wild north coast

And then we started seeing a sight that was even more beautiful…whales! So many whales!! 

Whale Tail!

The entire day, as the wind switched to a northerly, allowing us to put our spinnaker up, we dodged the whales and marveled at them. They were jumping, and tail slapping and fin slapping and puffing and diving and mellowing out of the surface! Eventually Gaby and I sat on the bows, on “whale watch”, and Dave and Ben were at the helm, dodging them according to our instructions!

Gaby on whale watch

Ben spots them through the binoculars while Dave looks on

We were treated to one spectacular show where, we assume, a mother was teaching her calf how to tail slap. A big tail would come up, slap the water, and then a little tail would come up and slap the water, and then it would repeat. For about 20 minutes it continued until they came up together! It was truly a spectacular sight, and one we will not forget easily! What a welcome to South Africa!

Mom and baby slapping tails
Too soon we had to leave the whales behind, and we entered the port of Richard's Bay.  It was a strange feeling, coming "home"...we had 21,000 miles under our belt, and we were two thirds of the way around the world!  We were looking forward to having a rest and spending some time with family and friends and soaking up some of the spectacular beauty this country has to offer!  Cool Runnings had officially made it to South Africa!

The International Dock at Richard's Bay...we tied up in that empty spot


Friday, October 13, 2017

Lagoon 400, Cool Runnings, sailing across the Indian Ocean from Cocos Ke...




Sorry about the video length (its 42 mins long)...but shows our days at sea on passage from Cocos Keeling to Chagos, and the first 2 days in Chagos. We have only been able to upload bigger files now that we are in South Africa, so may do a few more video uploads over the next few weeks/months. Hope this is not to boring, but gives a glimpse into our lives at sea over a 10 day passage....all the way from a fresh start, going crazy at the halfway mark, to euphoria of seeing land after 10 days at sea!
**Also check out "Kid's Cabin" for a new post from Gaby!**

Friday, September 29, 2017

Meandering around Mayotte

First order of business after arriving in a new port is to take care of the formalities of checking in. Here in Mayotte, this consisted of getting the forms from the small, local yacht club, completing the one page form, taking a taxi to the airport, finding immigration there and getting the form and our passports stamped, then taking the form to the Customs officials, getting another stamp, and lastly, returning the form to the yacht club, who, as a courtesy, would take care of the final step, which is getting the form to the Port Captain at Mamoudzou, a ferry ride away on the big island, “Grand Terre”. (We are anchored off Petite Terre, at Dzaoudzi).

This is a map of Mayotte.  The red line shows our track into the anchorage at Dzoudzi on Petite Terre, the small island on the right
Things don’t happen at a hectic pace here, so we had to wait until 11:00am, when the yacht club opened before we could get the form we needed. Then it was a walk back to the ferry terminal, where the taxi stand was located, to catch a taxi to the airport. The thing we liked about the taxis here is that there is a set price, regardless of where you are going, and no haggling required! The charge is per person, (€1.4) and the taxi can pick up as many guests as can fit in the car. So off we went. At the airport, there is a nondescript telephone with a message to call a number should you require assistance (for clearing in). Our pretty much non-existent French was met by a totally non-existent English speaker on the other end, and it took a while to explain that we had arrived on a boat (Baton), no, not a plane, and we required police clearance.

Eventually a lady came out and reviewed and took our passports. While we waited, Dave decided to go and investigate car hire. Since we had such a short time with Stephan, we decided the best way for him to see some of Mayotte would be by car. So off Dave and Stephan went, and not 10 minutes later, the police lady returned, asking for Monsieur du Toit (Stephan). After tracking him down at Avis car rental (the only ones who had a car available), he returned to face the French police. Where is your visa, she asked? You are on a South African passport, and you need a visa to enter Mayotte. If you don’t have a visa, I have no choice but to put you in jail. GULP! Stephan explained that he also had an American passport. She seemed a little doubtful. “Give me”, she said, wiggling her fingers, motioning him to hand it over. It’s on the boat, Stephan replied. She asked us to give her a minute, as she wanted to speak to her captain. She came back a few minutes later, and gave back all our passports. To Stephan she said, “Go back to the boat, get your American passport, and come back”. To me she said, “I am not stamping your passports yet. Once you all come back with Monsieur du Toit’s passport, we can start all over again”. By now it was almost 1:00pm and we had not accomplished anything!

Dave secured a car, which also took forever, and we drove back to the boat. We got Stephan’s US passport, and headed back to the airport. Back to the non-descript phone, and another futile conversation explaining we had not arrived by air, but by boat and wanted to clear in. Luckily, our lady happened to walked past, and we were able to give her our passports. Off she went, and soon came back with our stamped passports. 1 down, 2 to go… On leaving, Stephan jokingly said, “Is the food good in jail?”, to which she replied, “But of course! You are in France!”

Jail Food :-)

Off we drove to the customs office. There was only one person there, which was a good thing, because we were worried no-one would be there as it was now Friday afternoon! The gentleman lead us into his office and when we said we were from Cool Runnings, he said, “Ah oui…you met our Interceptor last night…oui!”. Um…oui, yes….that was us…sorry….forgot to radio you…oops! Oh well…at least we’re well known on Mayotte! We got our second stamp and headed back to the Yacht Club. The last stamp needed was from the Port Captain in Mamoudzou, which the Yacht Club was going to take care of for us. It was about 3:00pm by the time we were officially checked in! We decided, since we had the car, and time was running out for Stephan, we’d take a drive around Petite Terre, which didn’t take long at all, since it’s very small! The one sight to see is “Lac Dziani”, which is a lake in an extinct volcanic crater, and due to the Sulphur content, is an emerald green color. Unfortunately it was raining by the time we walked up the sandy track to the crater’s rim, and we didn’t experience the majestic green color, but it was cool to see regardless.

Not quite emerald green on this rainy day!  

The next morning we used the car to complete our boat chores, namely filling up with diesel. While Dave and Stephan did 2 trips to the petrol station to fill up the jerry cans, I packed, made lunch and got the boat ready to be left for 2 days. We were going on a road trip to the big island! We took “le Barge” (the ferry) over to Grande Terre and disembarked into the chaos of Mamoudzou! 

On the ferry to Mamoudzou

Looking onto Mamoudzou from the ferry

We decided to head south since that was the lesser of the traffic jams! We drove through village after village, around bay after bay. Unfortunately there were not many look out points, and the foliage on the side of the road was not trimmed, so it was difficult to see the scenery, which, from the few glimpses we had, was very pretty. We were also unlucky with the weather, as it rained, and sometimes, poured, on and off all day. 

Mayotte is a Muslim country with mosques at every corner

Dave enjoys a well deserved beer break after driving around for hours on crazy roads!

A typical town...through a rainy windshield (sorry!)

Kids enjoy a game of soccer on the large beach created by the huge tidal ranges

We found these Optimists and a Laser just sadly forgotten and in disrepair.  

What a gorgeous little face!  When she eventually smiled, she had two huge dimples!  So sweet

Near the southern point of the island we started seeing Baobab trees…huge ones with their branches sticking into the sky. You can see why legend says they were mistakenly planted upside down! Another lovely surprise was seeing the lemurs, locally known as “maki”. They made grunting noises and were quite curious, their amber eyes watching you as you walked by and jumping effortlessly from tree to tree!

First lemur sighting!

A close up look

Baobab on the beach


It's difficult to capture the height of these trees

This is one third of the trunk of one of the baobabs!

We started looking for a place to stay around 3:30pm. The choice was limited! We found Mayotte was not really geared towards tourists, and although there were places shown on google maps, or listed in the (French) guide book we had, the signage was so bad, we generally couldn’t find them! Or if we did find them, they were shuttered up or just vacant buildings. This is definitely more Africa than France! Two places we did find were fully booked, and when we stumbled on “Perle du Sud”, we really didn’t have a choice but to stay there. We got 2 rooms…one for Dave and I, and one for our 3 kids, Stephan, Benjamin and Gaby! We also ate dinner there…it sounded promising, but when we heard the constant “ding” of the microwave, we knew we shouldn’t expect much. For what we got, it was really, really expensive. Feeling a little dejected, we left early the next morning. At least the rate included breakfast, which was probably the best part…hot coffee (black) and a plate of crepes that we ate with our fingers (no plates, knives or forks provided)! 

Stephan peruses the dinner menu while our hotel proprietor looks on...lots of sign language was used to communicate!

We had planned a hike up Mont Choungui, the tallest mountain on Mayotte at 594 meters, and once again, the signage was terrible. We found the road that, in theory, should have led us to the start of the hiking trail. We parked our car on the side of the road, the only indication that this might be the right place being a few other cars parked there. We found one trail, but it went DOWN, not UP, as one would expect when hiking up a mountain. It also seemed to be going away from the mountain and not towards it. Dave and Stephan walked down the muddy path for a while, but then we decided it must be the wrong place. We later found out from Shuti that it was, in fact, the right place, and you had to go down the path first, and then it later turned to go up! The only reason they managed to do it, was that there were people there that they were able to ask. Oh well, what a pity! We continued driving, and got Stephan back to the ferry terminal in time to catch a ferry back to Dzaoudzi, from where he would take the dinghy back to the boat and collect his luggage (his kite surfing gear was too big to fit into the car with 5 of us!!), and then he took a taxi to the airport to catch his flight to Nairobi, Johannesburg, and then Cape Town! Thanks for joining us, Steph, and we hope you had a great time! You certainly got a good dose of what this cruising life entails! Check in and check out procedures, light winds, strong winds, night shifts, beautiful anchorages and fancy marinas, deserted atolls and crowded third world towns! We hope we answered all your questions, and hope to be following YOUR blog in the not too distant future!!

Stephan relaxing at Le Chato Cafe...a cool little place we found near the southern tip of the island
After Stephan left us, we continued driving along the north coast of Mayotte. There were more beautiful bays, but looking at the charts they are too deep for anchoring, and the tidal ranges here are huge! This means you can’t anchor too close in, because you’d find yourself aground at low tide, or alternatively, on a reef. Further out, the depths are too deep for anchoring. We took photos instead and enjoyed the scenery from the land! 

One of the few viewpoints on the north tip of the island...unfortunately littered with litter!

Beautiful bay...but no white sand beaches here!

Another look across the lagoon to some of the smaller islands

We have never seen so much corrugated iron in one concentrated area (ie. Mayotte) in our lives.  It was EVERYWHERE!

By Sunday afternoon we got word from Shuti that they had checked into a place in the forest, near a town called Combani, a place that had been recommended to them by another boat, “Ui”, that we had both met in Chagos, and that had left the day after we arrived. We decided to head that way, and check it out for ourselves. Being a little weary after our previous accommodation, we told Shuti not to commit to anything on our behalf, and that we would be there soon. We were pleasantly surprised by this funky little place in the forest called Le Git Du Monde Combani. We were shown a room with outside toilet and showers. The room itself was pretty basic, but the grounds of the “resort”, if you can call it that, were beautiful. They had little platforms/decks with hammocks scattered all over, and over a beer and a beautiful view, we caught up with Momi and Lilach while the kids played mini golf, tag and hide and seek in the surrounding rain forest! We also managed to score a wonderful dinner, and breakfast was also included, again, delicious! Our faith restored, we left the next morning and headed back to the ferry terminal to take “le Barge” back to Petite Terre and to our boat. 

These little ghekkos were so pretty!  Bright green with red markings

Beer time with Lilach and Momi from Shuti

Dinner for 9...5 Shuti's and 4 Cool Runners!

The little bar (very important!)

Beautiful flowers and fruit at the reception

Resident Lemurs (maki)

Our little abode...sleeping room on the right, separate shower in the middle, toilet in the door to the left!

Gaby relaxing in one of the hammocks on one of the hideaways

This little guy was eating the papaya on this tree

Cruising kids...with the Shuti boys

And once again in height order!

The ferry workers had been on strike since we had arrived a few days before, and all ferry rides had been for free. Dave had purchased a pass for the car and driver when we hired the car, so when we finally arrived to board the ferry (it was absolute chaos, gridlocked traffic), the guy directing the cars onto the ferry asked for the pass and for the passenger’s tickets. I guess the strike was over. Ben, Gaby and I had already gotten out of the car, since we had learned on the way over that no passengers were allowed in the car when driving onto the ferry. But then the guy asked us for our tickets, which we did not have. We also did not have any money, using our very last Euros to pay for dinner the night before! At the last minute, Dave told me to grab my wallet and his phone, and the next thing we knew, Dave was driving onto the ferry, and the kids and I were left behind!! 

The ladies of Mayotte with their painted faces and beautiful cloths.  This one is not the  most colorful one I found, but it it considered rude to take their photo, so I had to do some clandestine photography!!


 I walked to the ticket counter and asked if they took credit cards (ha ha! Highly unlikely, but it was worth a shot!!) Of course the answer was no. So off I went in search of an ATM. The reason we had no cash was because a fraud alert had been put on our card when we first attempted to draw cash here, and the only way to clear it, was either by calling the US, or going online. Internet access had been sketchy to say the least, and Dave had tried the link to say “Yes, it’s OK…I am in Mayotte, and I tried to draw cash”, but his mom had emailed us to say the bank needed us to call them, which was not possible. So anyway, off I went, wondering what to do if I couldn’t draw any money! I found an ATM and tried our debit card. Nothing. “Contact your bank” was the all-too-familiar message. Now what to do? I tried my credit card…hold your breath…YES! €20 approved! I was so happy to see those 2 notes coming out of the machine! The transaction fees are probably more than what I drew out, but at this stage, I just wanted to buy 3 tickets and get on the ferry!! Dave met us back at the ferry terminal in Dzaoudzi and Team Cool Runnings was together again! We returned the rental car, and went back to the safety and familiarity of our floating home! 

Ben and Gaby at the ferry terminal...Gaby not too happy with the whole situation!

People getting off the ferry

Some more clandestine photography!  
It was after our window cracked that we first entertained the thought of skipping Madagascar and heading straight to South Africa. Stephan had been to Madagascar twice to go surfing, and confirmed what we had started suspecting. It was pretty much like Mayotte, except poorer. And since the beauty of Madagascar was inland (we suspected), with the avenue of Baobabs, and rain forests with lemurs and unique flora and fauna, and inland travel in Madagascar was not an option for us, we started thinking seriously if we wanted to go. We had read of reports of corruption and bribery (OK, it’s Africa), but unless the anchorages were spectacular, with crystal clear water and the scenery stunning, like nothing we’d seen before, we were starting to think that getting to South Africa early held more of an appeal to us. As we did more research, and found both pro’s and con’s, we found that probably our biggest con was that “fear of missing out”. So many of our boat friends were heading there…Shuti, Ui, Aerial IV, Peregrine…how could we say we were not going?! But getting to South Africa a month earlier was even more of an appeal. We had so many boat things we needed to get done there…new sails, the window repair, hauling out, painting the bottom, and we wanted to be able to see all our friends and family, and tour South Africa without feeling rushed, and still be able to leave in time to enjoy the Caribbean and Bahamas before heading home for good. We had a family meeting, and were surprised to find that the kids were more than OK with skipping Madagascar and rather heading straight to South Africa!

So we had to break the news to Shuti, which is one of the sadder parts. We had planned to cruise Madagascar with them, and make the crossing to South Africa together, but we also knew they had friends coming, and they could meet up with Aerial IV or other boats and cross with them. It was sad to think we’d traveled so far with them, and we would part ways in Mayotte. But we will see them, and Moby, again in SA, and pick up from there! So, with the decision made, we started looking for a good weather window to make the long trip down the Mozambique Channel towards South Africa. We will get as far as we can, with the option of pulling into Mozambique to shelter and wait out bad weather. It is a 1,300 mile journey from here to Richard’s Bay in South Africa, so it’s not a hop, skip and a jump, but we are ready! We spent the last few days in Mayotte getting the boat ready, doing laundry, getting the kids to do some schoolwork and checking out. We even managed to squeeze in an afternoon of Optimist sailing for Ben and Gaby, borrowing 2 boats from the yacht club!

Gaby and Ben getting ready to launch the borrowed boats

Pottering around among the moored boats...walking in their father's footsteps? (Or should that be, sailing in their father's wake?)

Ben looking cool

Gaby doing her thing

We leave with mixed emotions. It’s always tough to have to miss a place, but we are super excited to get to SA a little earlier and enjoy our time there! Click on the “Track us Here!” tab, at the top, right of this page, to see where we are and watch our progress down the coast of East Africa!  

PS:  On a completely different note...we just learned that our "Garden Fairy" (John, our FL neighbor) has just returned from diving with Great White Sharks off the coast of Mexico, so John, we think this deserves a promotion from Garden Fairy to Garden Elf ;-)!  Thanks as always for all you do, and for dropping us a note yesterday - it's always great to get news from home!