June 30 - Enroute

Pos: S16deg40.0min/ E042deg22.1min. It's apparent that we've reached the Mozambique current today. Boat speed was consistently in the high 6's and 7's, although the wind was a steady 8-10 knots. We've seen two ships, both heading up the channel. I've also been checking in every morning with the South African Mobile Maritime Net (SAMM Net; an Amateur Radio license is necessary to participate) on 14316 mHz USB at 0630 UTC. Sam, the Net controller, will follow us along from Madagascar to SA; what a great service.
Pic: Michael in the lazarette adding hydraulic fluid for auto pilot ram while underway. We have not been using the self steering vane.

June 28 - Enroute, Madagascar to South Africa

Pos: S15deg36.19min/ S044deg54.90min. We left Katseppe at 0630 and had very light winds of about 4-8 knots most of the day. There were about 50 pirogues in front and following us, most of which overtook us, as we had a double reefed main and headsail out while motorsailing. It was lovely sailing down the coast until we got to around Baly Bay, when the wind went WSW at 5 knots and the strong current impeded our progress. Up to then, winds had backed from SSE-E-NE-NNW-W-WSW!! We finally hove-to and decided to wait for a wind shift, which took hold in the early morning hours. We now have E winds directly behind us at 15-20 knots, making good progress to round Cape Saint Andre.

June 26 - Majunga, Point Anorombato

Pos: S15deg40.658min. E046deg18.905min. We had a lovely sail down to Majunga today. Winds 18-22 for the most part, and seas comfortable at 1/2-1 mile offshore in 25-40 feet. This was a beautiful stretch of coastline; lots of sand dunes, a few resorts, and not a lot else. We don't really need anything in the town of Majunga, so doubt we'll go in by dinghy. However, diesel, petrol, a bank and a nice supermarket can be found in town; this information from other cruisers blogs. The beachfront where we're anchored is chock-a-block with houses and hotels. It's Madagascar Independence Day today, so the music and partying will go on into the night.
Pic: Passing the breakwater off Majunga

June 25 - Mahajamba Bay, Point Ambararata

Pos: S15deg12.685min/
E047deg02.535min. Early morning the wind was howling, and it we figured it'd be a real hassle to launch the dinghy and outboard to go to the beach to spot lemurs. By 1000 hours, we felt it was a bit late for critter encounters, so decided to up-anchor and sail south. We're glad we did; winds settled down to 15-20 knots, and we had a beautiful sail, anchoring at 1500 hours. This is a protected spot for winds from NNE thru SSW, and we found 36' close to shore.
Pic: The coastline was interesting; sand dunes and cliff formations.

June 24 - Moramba Bay

Pos: S14deg54.281min/ E047deg20.157min. It blew all night and this morning, 22-25 knots sustained. At about mid-day, the wind went down to about 20 knots and we decided it was as good a time as any to haul anchor and go up into the bay. Even though we had a favorable current, winds continued to gust to SE 25, pretty much right on our nose, and the water depth was 20' in most areas; our speed was down to 2 knots much of the time. Yuck. We finally anchored at our destination in 31' and although it's still blowing, we're well protected. The Sifaka lemurs are supposed to be on the beach directly in front of us, and a big baobob tree stands sentinel over the surrounding trees.

June 23 - outside Moramba Bay

Pos: S14deg52.490min/ E047deg16.961min. We left Point Berangoma thinking we'd start our transit to SA, but changed our minds after a full day of close reaching in sustained 25-31 knot winds. Seas weren't too bad at 2 meters, but we pulled into the entrance of Moramba Bay in the waning light with an adverse tide, and dropped the hook just nearby the cell tower in 31'. Tomorrow we'll re-anchor further down the Bay and go look for lemurs. All's well aboard.

June 19 - Point Berangomaina

Pos: S14deg06.029min/ E047deg54.244min. We departed Honey River early and experienced a counter-current that seemed to help us although the breeze was light. The main and jib went up and the Perkins ticked over at just over idle speed as we motor sailed down here. This entrance is shoal and a bit tricky as the charts are off (what else is new!). We're getting very weak internet here, and updated gribs show a strong system coming our way in a couple of days. We've anchored in 35' and are hunkered down for a blow, forecast to last 3-4 days. There's a very small village nearby, and the surrounding hills appear somewhat barren.

June 17 - Baramahamay Bay (Honey River)

Pos: S13deg42.802min/ E047deg54.084min. The entrance to the river has lots of shoal water, and care must be taken. We had read to hug the northern side, and had no difficulty finding 24' to anchor in towards the end of the bay before the river forks. The anchor was hardly set when a young guy came over in his pirogue asking if we wanted to buy honey (though no English is spoken) . We did; a 1.5L plastic bottle cost 10000Ar, and has a quite distinctive taste. Other folks came by to try to sell crab or just to say hello. The chief of the village was gone to Nosy Be, so we missed her. We did meet the school teacher, Daniel, and walked to the small school house. The kids go to local school from ages 6-12, and may then go to Hellville (Nosy Be) for college (our high school) if their parents can afford to send them. The village here has 60 people, and the school 65 children, according to Daniel (kids also come from other villages in the bay). This is a nice, quiet place; there is no internet or cell coverage, and no electricity or running water either, although well water is available.
Pic: Daniel and the other teacher.

June 16 - Nosy Iranja

Pos: S13deg36.452min/ E047deg49.805min. We continued our Nordhavn imitation and motored to Nosy Iranja, anchoring in 33' of sand. The water is crystal clear here, and you can see the bottom at 40'. We went to the village, which turned out to have more people than we thought, and hiked up to the light house. It was locked up, but the surrounding views were great, and the children's school is right next to it. Returning by dinghy, we saw several turtles about 3'-4' in length, and we understand they use the south beach of the nearby island to lay their eggs. This is a rolly anchorage, so we decided to leave the next morning.

June 16 - Antoha (Lemur Land...well, almost)

Pos: S13deg30.864min/ E047deg57.682min. Unfortunately, no one was on island (0900 hours) to show us around! Hiking thru the overgrown paths didn't appear too inviting, so we left without seeing any lemurs. Two large Madagascar sea eagles were in a nearby tree, so our stop wasn't totally wasted.

June 14 - Ambavatobi (Russian) Bay

Pos: 13deg32.172min/ E047deg59.901min. We motored over to Russian Bay to meet up with Stuart, Sheila and their daughter, Stephanie aboard Imagine. This would be our last get together before seeing them in South Africa, and we had a great time catching up and sharing sundowners with them.

June 5 - June 9 - Road trip to Ankarana National Park and Diego Suarez

We took a mooring at Crater Bay Marina (20000Ar/day) for our trip north. After a taxi ride to Hellville, our Malagas friend, Sergio, accompanied us and everything was so much easier with him interpreting and leading the way. He seems to know about everyone everywhere, and we were definitely in good company. We arranged for the fast boat from Nosy Be (Hellville) to Ankifi. This is a 30 min ride, compared to the 2.5-3 hour trip on the regular passenger or car ferry. Once there, we wondered about the fast boat, as the taxi-bus we chose waited an extra two hours for a few tardy passengers, thereby negating our time advantage. Oh well…”mora, mora” is what is said locally. It means “slowly, slowly…” We finally got going close to noon, and made it to Ankarana by about 4pm. The road is some of the worst you can possibly imagine. A 4 x 4 was a very expensive option instead of the taxi bus but, believe me, no one can negotiate the deep ruts, holes, broken road, and drop-offs that much faster than anyone else. Most of the larger taxi-buses are Mercedes diesels, and have really racked up the miles going back and forth from Ankifi to Diego Suarez. At any rate, our impressions of the ride are numerous, and I’ve tried to give a flavor of it all. Here goes…because we got such a late start, dozens of school children were walking single file down the road to (from?) school. Their blue shirts stood out, but everyone, small children included, know to jump way off to the side of the road when they hear any vehicles coming. You see, the buses are swerving all over the road and shoulders of the road to try to avoid the holes; an impossible task, but one that makes for a slow ride and allows time, if one is a tourist, to take everything in. People were tending the road, their fields, and their small yards. Chickens and zebu are numerous. There’s no electricity or running water anywhere, so villages are composed of small stick huts, with a small open fire to cook by. The countryside is beautiful, and long grass sways in the wind. Mango trees and baobob trees were numerous. Smaller trucks and buses carried way too many people, their belongings piled 6 feet high on the roof and tied down. Many people rode bicycles, stopping frequently for ruts and drop-offs. Building materials and vegetables for the market place were carried in large wicker baskets. There weren’t that many motorbikes, and a compulsory helmet law is in effect. Police check-points are placed to effect security, and the passengers are scrutinized, driver’s papers are checked, and a small gratuity is usually made to ensure rapid transit (or you may sit and wait). The men were dressed in shorts and T’s or button down shirts; women wore colorful sarong-like dresses, often with a matching head and neck scarf. Many women carried heavy filled baskets on their heads, and many people carried those ubiquitous yellow rectangular containers filled with water. Each container probably is 5-6 gallons; so probably about 40-45 pounds of weight there. This is a very poor, agrarian existence in one of the poorest countries on the planet. Sergio had arranged “reserved” front seats for us next to the driver, so our views were unobstructed. Let’s see…where are we…ah, Ankarana. At Nosy Komba, we had met a young Belgium woman who works for an NGO with abused children from the Diego Suarez area. She had told us about the Chez Aurelian, a complex of bungalows just outside the Ankarana National Park east entrance. Aurelia, his son Z-Z, and many of the staff speak French, Malagas, Italian, English, know a bit of Arabic and a few words of German thrown in. These folks were delightful, and we stayed in a small, plain cottage with a separate, but very basic, ensuite, and mosquito netting above our heads. Electricity was on from 6pm-10pm; that’s it. Depending on the size of the cottage, prices ranged from 25000-35000-50000Ar/night. On a smaller scale without ensuite, prices were 10000-15000/night. We ate our meals there; food was good, prices were also. This same afternoon of arrival, we went to the Park to find a guide and make hiking arrangements. The Park is set up like an a la carte meal; that is, there are numerous trail heads and viewing areas; price is based individually depending on what you do. Guides are compulsory, and their cost also varies depending on what you have chosen to see. We chose to do two days of various hikes, and the experience was dramatic. We saw lemurs (3 different species), snakes, many different birds, several kinds of chameleons, centipedes, and a number of tree species. We saw dried river bed and underground caverns, walked two suspension bridges over the tsingy canyons, and also walked on top of the tsingy, which is pointed limestone rock. If you fall…let’s not go there…you definitely don’t want to fall….the edges of the limestone are very sharp and unforgiving. We hiked miles of forest and our legs felt like jelly. It seems like it’s all or nothing when cruising; no serious exercise, or times like this when we really pay for it with sore knees, legs and backs. Picnic lunches must be purchased from the lodge, there are no facilities in the park. We took our own food and water. We also planned one sunset walk, and ended up on the top of a very tall mountain about 5 km away; that was a very special place. Also, my cell phone finally worked as there were cell towers in the distance! By noon the second day we were ready for a rest, and returned to shower and get on the taxi bus to Diego Suarez. There are numerous sites around Diego to go see, but we went to see our friend and the town, just too tired to consider more hiking. The road from Ankarana to Diego was every bit as bad as the first half from Ankifi. We arrived to town in the late afternoon and ended up staying at the Suffren Hotel. Clean, ensuite, security, convenient location, a bit loud outside as it was Saturday night, but the price was right: 20000Ar/night. We walked around and sampled the local food; good and affordable also. Sunday, we went out of town as we had arranged to get together at the Hotel Suarez. This is a very upscale place with prices commensurate. Our friends weren’t staying there; they just use the pool and sunbathe every Sunday, as the hotel will allow that as long as you buy a beer or eat there. Nice. We returned to town by 5pm, and packed for an early departure back to Ankify. The taxi-bus left at 0300, and went direct from Diego to Ankify. If there’s one thing worse than the road as I described above, it’s that same road at night when you’re in a taxi-bus with only one functioning head light as it’s twisting and turning to try to avoid the holes….what fun….We arrived at the fast boat ferry area by 0900, and were back in Hellville by 1030. What a trip. Not for everybody, and certainly maybe not in the fashion that we did it, but one with lots of great memories and a fantastic overall experience. Pictures will be forthcoming. Thanks for hanging on to this long-winded narrative! Details: Sergio: 034 72 386 98. Suffren Hotel: 261 32 59 209 67. Chez Aurelian is in Mahamasina. At this time 10000Ar (MGA) equals $4.14USD.
Pic: Michael on the suspension bridge in the park.

June 1 - Problems with position reporting

Unfortunately, there's been a problem viewing "Click Here To View Where We Are" and despite attempts by the tech folks to correct the issue, we're still unable to see our positions anywhere past Thailand. We hope the folks who run Blogspot will eventually fix things, but apologize for the inconvenience. Altogether now, cross your fingers....

May 31 - Ambararata Bay

Pos: S13deg34.702min/E048deg05.253min. This is a beautiful bay. At low tide there is 360 degree protection from swell, and low hills block the wind. A few canoes came by to trade, and we ended up with fresh bananas, limes and calamari. We walked one of the nearby beaches, picking up some small, but lovely, shells. There is no internet or cell phone signal here, and not much activity. A very peaceful place. This morning as we were raising anchor to go back to Crater Bay, internet and some provisions, another pirogue stopped by and offered what Sue described as the largest Madagascar lobster she's ever seen; maybe the largest one she has seen anywhere! We politely declined, but it's good to know the big fellows are out there.