June 2017 - Rodrigues & Mauritius

1 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
It was a nice sunny day, so I decided to do a bit of maintenance.  After our wet passage, there was a large rusty stain on the deck next to one of our windlass foot switches.  I took the switch apart and found that the rubber switch cover had spilt allowing sea water into the innards.  I always leave the windlass circuit on, so the switch contacts have been immersed in sea water - a fine environment for electrolysis.

The positive contact had been mostly eroded away and the switch was a mess.  I cleaned off all of the corrosion, but the positive contact was destroyed.  It took me a couple of hours to make a new contact from a crimp and solder it back in place.  I sealed the rubber cover with silicone sealant, so hopefully it will be good enough until I can get another deck switch in Mauritius or Reunion.

Boat Maintenance

We wandered into town and had lunch at a small restaurant called "Tirozo", which was basic, but nice.  Glenys had Calamari in a Tomato sauce and I had Octopus Curry, which is a local delicacy.  Both were tasty and reminiscent of Creole cooking in the Caribbean. 

After lunch, we wended our way through the streets of Port Mathurin.  It’s a small town with two story buildings, narrow streets and a plethora of small shops.  Rodrigues used to be a French colony and slaves were imported to work in the plantations, so many of the people have African origins.  The people look very Caribbean - we could almost be in Martinique or Guadeloupe.  Everyone is very friendly - we went in one shop asking for a Mauritian flag and ended up with the shop owner showing us photographs of his family - it took us fifteen minutes to escape.  

In the evening, we invited “Hokulea” over for a beer or two.  It’s chilly in the evenings, so we sat in the cockpit with the sprayhood up and we were all wearing jumpers.

2 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
It was another nice day, so we caught a bus to Pointe Cotton, which took 50 minutes travelling over Mont Limon, the highest point of the island (389.3m) - the 0.3m is obviously very important.  Up in the hills, it is very green with farm land dotted between the various small villages.

Point Cotton is on the east side of the island and is exposed to the prevailing south-east winds, so as we descended towards the coast the landscape because more bleak.  The bus dropped us off at a nice beach with a pine wood giving shade from the sun.  We walked north along the beach, past a large hotel and after clambering over some pipes, found a path marked by orange paint on the rocks.  

Nice Lunch Stop

It was a varied route over scrubland on top of cliffs, sometimes descending down to beaches, through groves of very thorny bushes and cactii. Rodrigues has a huge fringing reef forming a shallow lagoon around the island, so the water colours are pretty.   Just before we reached Banana River, we were forced inland towards a quarry and had to follow a dirt road for a while, but we soon found our way back to a cliff edge, where we had lunch overlooking a bay.

From Banana River, the route followed small yellow lines painted on the rocks, taking us along the beach; under cliffs and along more beaches and rocks.  After three hours of walking, the coastal path ended at a tarmacked coastal road and then it was an hour’s walk past a couple of beaches to Port Mathurin.

3 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
Being a Saturday, it was Market Day, so we went into town.  It wasn’t much different to a normal day - just twice as many stalls and more people milling about.  The market is a bustling place and very colourful - half of the stalls sell vegetables and the other half sell baskets, chutneys and Dried Octopus, which is a local speciality.  

Meat is sold in six small shops in a line at the side of the market.  Each shop specialises in one type of meat - chicken, pork, lamb, fish or goat.  It’s not exactly European health standards, but much better than the places we’ve seen in South-east Asia.  Glenys bought some Goat and chicken.

We had a quiet afternoon on board.  The weather has changed.  It was more overcast this afternoon and the wind is getting stronger.  It was so cold that we hunkered down below and watched a movie.

Mathurin Market

4 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
It wasn’t too bad a day - very windy with clouds screaming across the sky, but not too much rain, so we went for a short hike up to a white cross on top of a hill overlooking the town.  After skirting around the side of the town’s sports stadium, we followed a road up a steep hill and, at a bus shelter, we turned right onto a dirt road.  This went directly under the small rocky peak and it was a short scramble up to the cross, giving us a nice view of the town and the anchorage.

We wandered around the top of the hill, ducking under thorny trees and scrambling up to another small peak.  There were quite a few small birds with dazzling crimson heads and bodies.  I later discovered that these were two species of weavers - the Madagascar Fody and the Mauritius Fody.   Back at the dirt track, we walked down through farm land and to the coast road where we were able to walk back to town.  

After lunch at a picnic table, we came across a music and food event at the local secondary school, where we found  “Lucie” and “Continuum” having lunch.  We chatted to them for half an hour, but the music was so loud that it was hard to think and we escaped back to the tranquillity of the boat.

The weather deteriorated in the afternoon and the forecast is for winds gusting over 30 knots for the next week with heavy rain on some days - we’re glad to be tucked up here in this safe anchorage. 

5 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
It was my 61st birthday and we’d planned to hire a motorbike for the day.  Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas - it was so miserable in the morning that we abandoned our plans and hunkered down on-board.  It's winter here in the southern hemisphere, with only three weeks to go to the shortest day of the year. We're only at 20°S, which is equivalent to North-west Africa, but we don't have the protection of the Gulf Stream here.  The winds from the highs that are passing to the south of us are bringing up the cold southern winds.  It's only a bit chilly, but a real shock to us.

Birthday Steak & Fries

At lunch time, we took advantage of a gap in the rain and went to a restaurant called “Les Deux Freres”, where we had a nice leisurely meal, a couple of beers and a bottle of wine.  After a quick stop at the boulangerie, we headed back to the boat and watched a movie with another bottle of wine and a baguette.  It was a nice relaxing birthday.

6 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
The weather was much more pleasant, but it remained very windy.  Overnight a German catamaran called “Gemeos” had sailed onto the shallow reef surrounding the bay. He wasn’t able to start either of his engines and in the strong winds & big seas, he drifted onto the reef.  The owner was single-hand sailing the 42 foot catamaran and after a 2,000 mile passage alone in strong winds was probably exhausted.

The port authority was talking about using their tug to pull the boat off the reef, so Ralph from “Relax” (German) and I volunteered to go out with them to assist.  We went to the dock at 11:00 (half an hour before high tide) and then hung around for two hours waiting and waiting.  The coast guard were in charge of the operation and, after putting a few air bags under the hull, they decided to wait until tomorrow when the wind and waves should be lighter.  The owner elected to stay on board overnight.  

In the evening, we invited “Hokulea”, “Ngalawa”, “Endimion” and “Relax” to Alba for a small birthday party.  With eleven people, it was very crowded in our cockpit, but the weather was kind to us and it didn’t rain.  Glenys did us proud by producing a huge Paella to feed everyone.

7 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
I woke with a “bit” of a hangover - who on earth left me in charge of a 3 litre box of wine?

We didn’t feel like going out hiking or running about, so we did some jobs on board.  I went up the mast and did some work on the rigging.  I tightened the starboard lower stay by ½ turn; the two cap shrouds by ½ turn; and the intermediate shrouds by 1 full turn.  Hopefully, that will keep all the rigging under tension the next time we’re beating up wind.  I also checked the broken wire on the starboard intermediate shroud and it hasn’t become any worse.   

A Tug hovers about doing nothing

The catamaran remained on the reef today.  I went out to see if there was anything that we could do to help.  After being bounced around overnight, the starboard hull now has a 4 foot long split and has flooded.  The owner was hoping that the coast guard would attach empty drums to the hull and pull him off at high tide, but midday came and went.  The authorities did nothing all day apart from an abortive attempt to remove diesel from the boats fuel tanks - their pump didn’t work.  The owner spent another miserable night on board.

In the afternoon, I had a hangover relapse, so I went ashore and wandered around for a while.  A proportion of the islanders are descended from Indian workers who came to work on the French-owned plantations after the abolition of slavery - this means that some of the street food has Indian origins.  Many of the street vendors sell Dhall Puri on Roti, which is a flat bread smeared with a Dhall curry and hot sauce, then folded in quarter.  It’s very reminiscent of the “Doubles” that we ate in Trinidad and is very tasty.  It’s also a good pick-me-up for a hangover.

8 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
It was a horrible day.  The wind was gusting 25-30 knots with driving rain.  Unfortunately, a cargo ship arrived in the morning, so all the yachts had to go out and anchor in the outer bay, which had 3 foot waves.   As soon as the ship had cleared the entrance channel, ten yachts started to line up and fight for a spot in the anchorage.  

Once again, Glenys and I weren’t quick enough to get in line and ended up towards the back of the gaggle of boats trying to anchor.  We found it very difficult in the blustery conditions because boats were veering about and, in the overcast light, we couldn’t see the edge of the reef.  Once again, it took us four attempts before I was happy - we were either too close to the edging reef or too close to “Relax”. 

A queue of yachts returning

Once we were happy with our position, we pulled the chain straight to partially set the anchor and then left it for an hour to settle in the mud before backing it in very, very hard.  With the very Shallow Reef only 20 metres behind us, there was no room at all for dragging and the forecast for the coming night was nasty.  

Meanwhile, on the outer reef, “Gemeos” was being abandoned with the coast guard helping to remove the owner’s personal possessions.  It’s so sad to see a catamaran being ground to pieces.  I’m horrified that the coast guard couldn’t organise themselves enough to shore up the hulls with barrels and drag the boat off the reef the first day.  The German owner doesn’t speak very good English (or French), so I guess that was a factor in the operation - maybe he trusted the authorities too much.

I can only comment that if it was Alba on the reef, I would have had all our mattresses and seat cushions tied under our hull and would have been screaming blue murder at the authorities.  If I couldn’t get any action, then I’d have been hiring the locals to find floatation barrels and getting fishing boats or other cruising boats to pull me off at the first high water.  But that’s just me…

The afternoon remained horrible with rain and big gusts of wind.  Just after nightfall, “Fortuna” dragged and had to re-anchor.   It was a miserable evening, with huge gusts and rain, making Alba swing around and snatch at the anchor rode with a horrible creaking noise.  We turned off the wind generator (because it makes the wind sound worse) and watched a loud movie.

9 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
It blew a hooley all night.  There were lulls with very little wind and then a katabatic gust would come howling down from the hills and blast us with 30+ knots.  Sometime after midnight, “Endymion”, a small 34 foot monohull, dragged its anchor and ended up on the shallow reef at the edge of the anchorage.  Tony is single-handed and only has a manual windlass, but he soldiered on, and, without asking for help, pulled himself off the reef and re-anchored.  They’re tough these single-handers

Island Life

The strong winds continued throughout the day, so we didn’t feel safe leaving the boat for very long, so we pottered about doing some jobs.  Glenys tried to polish some of the stainless steel on deck, but the wind gusts were blowing the glasses off her face…  I stayed down below taking advantage of an unusually good internet connection, doing some research on anchorages in Madagascar and the other places that we’ll be visiting over the next few months.

The sound of the wind was very wearing, so we escaped the boat and had lunch at a small restaurant called “Le Gourmet Snack”, where I had fried calamari. I was expecting it to be heavily deep fried, but was pleasantly surprised by the light, tempura-like batter.  It was reasonably priced and frequented by locals, which is always a good sign. 

Glenys had her hair cut for the first time since November 2016 - she’d started to tie it back in a ponytail.  They did a reasonable job, but being more used to black wiry hair, I suspect that they struggled with her fine, blond hair.  Naturally, I told Glenys that it looked fabulous, and a big bonus was that it only cost $6US including wash and blow dry…

I wandered around town with my camera and came across a few dilapidated buildings next to the port entrance, which have signs painted on the walls saying “Abattoir” and listing the types of meat -Beef, Pork, etc.  I thought the buildings were abandoned, but then I spotted a butcher working on a concrete bench with a devout Muslim man standing close, watching the proceedings - I guess it was a Halal slaughtering.  I felt sorry for the goat tethered next to the butcher - he was obviously next in line.

Right. Who's Next?

Thankfully, the wind dropped a little in the evening, so we were able to enjoy our cold beers and nibbled on Baguette with Brie.  The latest ship must have brought in a container load of “Fromage  et Charcuterie” because the previously bare supermarket fridges were packed with the stuff.

10 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
Thankfully, the weather was kinder last night, with fewer and weaker gusts.Thankfully, the weather was kinder last night, with fewer and weaker gusts.  Being a Saturday, it was Market Day, so we stepped ashore to do some people watching.  Rodrigues is a colourful place and a nice change from the restricted Muslim lifestyle we saw in the Maldives.  The ladies tend to be on the large size, but the younger ones don’t give a damn and strut around in tight trousers and high heels.  The older ladies tend to wear old-fashioned looking dresses and a wild range of hats. 

The cargo ship was supposed to leave at 14:00 this afternoon, so we were on standby from midday, waiting to clear the inner basin, so the ship had enough room to manoeuvre.  The damn thing didn’t leave until 16:00, so we were hanging around for the afternoon, which was tedious.  I couldn’t concentrate on anything, so just played guitar and read a book.  The tug boat eventually came out to tell us all to go and we had a procession of yachts heading out to the outer bay.  The ship was quick to leave and was chasing the stragglers down the channel, so most people just hovered about without anchoring. 

There was the usual undignified rush back into the inner harbour, with boats vying for a good anchoring spot.  Surprisingly, it only took us one attempt to anchor, but it was still five o’clock by the time that we were settled - a bit of a wasted day.

Farmhouse in the Hills

11 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
We had a nice sunny start to the day, and the forecast was for slightly less wind than yesterday’s forecast, so we were finally able to get off the boat and go for a hike.  We first stopped off at the boulangerie to buy a fresh baguette - open from 04:30 to 12:00 on a Sunday - how good is that?  With lunch stowed in Glenys’s rucksack, we walked along the road past the sports stadium and up the hill towards the cross on the hill.  At the top of the hill, where there’s a bus stop, we turned left up a concrete road that went steeply up a ridge past lots of houses with great views down to town.

The concrete road soon turned into a dirt track going through interesting farm land and woods.  After a mile of steady climbing, we walked onto a tarmac road.  At this place, there’s a wooden sign leading to the Place de Mémoire.  We didn’t go there because we didn’t realise what the memorial was, but it’s something to do with the abolishment of slavery in 1839. Strangely, it’s also something to do with Philibert Maragon, who was a big plantation owner and brought in many slaves. 

We carried onto the top of the tarmac road and turned right for a few hundred metres, where we came across another wooden sign, pointing to a “Mountain Cemetery”.  This was a short walk past some local houses to some steps leading to the top of a knoll.  Once through a gate, there’s a fenced off area, which I think contains ancient graves and there’s an impressive statue commemorating the abolition of slavery in Rodrigues.

Local Hike

Retracing our steps, we returned to the top of the tarmac road and turned left down a narrow dirt track.  This took us down another ridge, soon becoming a concrete 2-track road, passing through woods and farmland with small houses.  After about ¾ mile, we walked up a small ridge on the left of the road and sat on some rocks over-looking a steep river valley with a fabulous view down to the coast.  Fresh baguette plastered with mackerel in white wine sauce has to be the best mountain food ever…

We continued into a heavily wooded area as the road started to zig-zag down the steep hillside.  The houses here have dogs that looked quite vicious (and were very vocal), so we armed ourselves with stout sticks ready to beat off an attack.  At a sharp left hand bend, there was a rough looking road off to the right, which had some pink paint spots on various rocks, beckoning us that way.  This turned into an interesting trail, descending past a large water storage tank, following the pink markers down a concrete-encased water pipe.

The trail then turned right into a wooded area and joined a rough road leading down to the main road just outside Oyster Bay.  From there, it was a couple of miles along the coast back to Port Mathurin.  It was a very pleasant four hour hike and a great relief to get off the boat for a day. 

12 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
It was another squally night.  Unless you’ve lived on a boat, it’s difficult to appreciate how unsettling it can be to spend a night at anchor in strong winds.  We have great confidence in our anchor, but there’s still the nagging feeling that it might drag and we’d be on the reef before we could blink.  Other concerns are that our neighbours might drag onto us and that the bimini might shred in the heavy gusts. 

Last night there were periods of low wind and then a 30 knot gust would hit us.  A typical squall might be:  

Another night of Squalls?

We hear the shriek of wind.  The boat heels over and the rigging begins to rattle.  Halyards flap, clanking against the hollow aluminium mast.  The wind generator accelerates until it’s a high speed whine and the bimini flaps like it’s being ripped off the frame.  The boats veers sideways and wind-waves gurgle against the hull, sounding like the boat is flooding with water.  

The anchor chain straightens, snatching the boat back into the wind and the snubber rope groans against the bow roller.  A wine glass tips over in the galley and falls into the sink, rolling around adding to the commotion.  The rain starts to hammer down.  One of us reaches up to close the hatch above our bed.  We wait for ten minutes, until the squall passes over, dreading to hear the crunch of coral against the hull. 

Having survived the night, we had a sunny day, but the wind remained high, so we stayed close by the boat.  The weather forecast is for the winds to gradually decrease this week and we’ve decided to head for Mauritius on in a few days’ time, before the next high winds arrive early next week.

13 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
We had a couple of mega-squalls go through last night and we had a dull overcast start the day.  However by 09:30, it brightened up a little and I was getting cabin fever, so we caught a bus to the other side of the island and went for a hike.  We started off at Anse Ally, which is the stop before Pointe Cotton and walked west along the rugged coast line.  

There are various coloured paint marks on the rocks, so we roughly followed them, but made some detours to walk along the rocks along the shoreline.  There were some impressive waves pounding against the fringing reef, a few hundred metres out to sea.  We came across some lovely isolated bays and had our Baguette and Saucisson sat on a cliff overlooking one with a nice sandy beach.

Lovely Coast Line

It took us a couple of hours to walk to Le Gravier, where we were able to catch a bus back to town.  We had a nice day out, with stunning scenery and were so glad to be off the boat.  

In the evening, we had a get together with the other cruisers in a sheltered area at the dockside.  Good to finally meet everyone from the other nine boats in the anchorage - we’ve all been doing our own thing in this dodgy weather.

14 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
It was a peaceful night and a nice morning, so we hired a scooter and went to explore Rodrigues.  Geographically, it’s part of the Mascarene Islands, which also includes Mauritius and Reunion, which we will be visiting in the next few weeks.  The island has volcanic origins and is about 360 metres high with some lovely winding roads through the lush farmland on the hills.

The island named after the Portuguese explorer, Don Diégo Rodriguez, who was the first European to discover the uninhabited island in 1528.  There were no attempts at colonisation until 1691, when the there was an abortive attempt to set up a farming colony of Protestant refugees.  Farming was not successful, but there was an abundance of tortoises, turtles, birds, fish and other seafood.

During the 18th century, several attempts were made by the French to develop the island.  African slaves (ancestors of the present population) were brought to Rodrigues to develop stock-breeding and farming.  In 1809, after a brief battle with the French, British troops took possession of Rodrigues and with British occupation, slavery was abolished.

Tortoise Heaven

In 1968, Rodrigues was joined with Mauritius when it attained independence from Britain and now there are 40,000 people living on the island.  The economic mainstay is fishing, agriculture and low-key tourism.

We called in at the François Leguat Tortoise and Cave Reserve, which is a delightful place and the major tourist attraction on the island.  They have a nice little museum, a system of caves and they breed giant tortoises. 

Giant tortoises used to live in great numbers on the Mascarene Islands.  Unfortunately, in the 1700s, the French colonists and visiting sailors thought that tortoise meat tasted very good and it was very convenient that a tortoise could survive in a ship's hold without food for many months.  The Mascarene Islands soon became a favourite stop on the trade route from Africa across the Indian Ocean and colonists on the larger island of Mauritius set up a lucrative business selling tortoises to passing ships.

Unfortunately, the tortoises were soon hard to find in Mauritius, so the colonists started harvesting in Rodrigues.  Between 1759 and 1761, 22,000 tortoises were slaughtered.  By 1770, they’d killed off so many that they were hard to find; and the last sighting of a Rodrigues Tortoise was in 1799. 

The Tortoise Reserve have imported three species of Giant Tortoise from the Seychelles and Madagascar and started a very successful breeding program.    In 2006, they started with 555 tortoises and now have more than doubled that number.   We took the (compulsory) tour with a very informative guide, who took us through the delightful grounds past breeding pens and into an fabulous gorge where hundreds of huge Aldabra Giant Tortoises live in luxury.

Harder, Harder

The tortoises are very used to visitors and came lumbering up to us as we walked around.  The guide gave us some small branches of their favourite food and it was fascinating to feed them.  But what the tortoises really want is to have their necks scratched.  As soon as you touch their necks they stand up tall and stretch their heads up - just like cats.  It’s a strange feeling. 

Our guide then took us into the impressive limestone caves, where we had to wear helmets - a good thing too because the ceilings are low at some places.  The whole tour cost $15US each, but we were well entertained for 1½ hours.

We jumped back on the motorbike and continued around the winding south coast road, where we saw Octopus Drying on rough wooden frames.  They catch the octopus on the shallow reefs and then stretch them out to dry for five days in the sun.  Glenys bought one from a small hut at the side of the road, which we’ll be having for dinner soon.

15 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
With the good weather that we have at the moment, quite a few boats have already left for Mauritius and we’re getting ready to leave on the morning of the 17th.  It’ll be a Saturday, but the customs and immigration don’t charge overtime as long as we do the formalities before midday.  The added advantage is that we’ll arrive in Port Louis, Mauritius on Monday or Tuesday and won’t have any hassle with customs there.

Rodrigues Market

In the morning, we pottered about doing a few chores, running the water-maker and researching future destinations.  We still have four months to explore Mauritius, Reunion & Madagascar and we’ve suddenly realised that we have time to fly home to the UK for a few weeks in July.  It’s been over a year since we visited our family and our next opportunity will be in South Africa in January.  So, we’ve extended our booking in the marina in Reunion and Glenys is now looking at flights, which being complicated by the shockingly slow internet connection here.

After lunch, I put on my 3mm wetsuit and jumped into the water, which is only 23°C and feels freezing to me.  I was shocked to find hundreds of small Gooseneck Barnacles all over the back of the boat, stretching from the middle of the keel.  In addition the rudder had grown a mat of 3 inch long weed, which was so thick that it’s swirling about in the current.  The propeller wasn’t too bad with a light covering of slime and a few barnacles.  I laboured away for an hour and I've cleaned the propeller, the rudder and the aft 3 metres of the hull.  It will have to do until we get to a calm anchorage.

In the evening, we invited Alan and Vicky from “Wairima” over for a beer or two - they arrived yesterday from Cocos Keeling and had a tiring 12 day passage with waves of 6 metres and 50 knot winds at one point.  

They left Cocos Keeling two days before our friends Graham and Karen on “Red Herring” and have been in radio contact with them.  Unfortunately, Red Herring’s autopilot has failed, so Graham and Karen are hand steering, which is very tough and tiring in these conditions.  They still have 260 miles to go which means that they’ll arrive here in a couple of days, probably after we’ve left, which is a pity.  No doubt we’ll catch up with them in Reunion.

16 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
It was a very calm night, which unfortunately brought the mosquitoes out into the anchorage, so I was up at three o’clock, zapping the blighters, putting up the mosquito screen in our cabin and plugging in our vapour mat heaters.

Dhall Puri on Roti

The weather forecast for our 3 day passage to Mauritius is for light winds, so I topped up our diesel tanks from our jerry cans.  I then took the dinghy up into the small fishing harbour and landed at a concrete slip about 20 metres from the town’s petrol station, which is very convenient (and they take credit cards).  Back at the boat, I poured the three jerry cans into the main tank, making it a total of 126 litres added, so our tank is almost full.   

We then wandered into town and, while Glenys did some provisioning, I went to the Customs and Immigration offices to arrange for our clearance at 09:30 tomorrow morning.  The Customs is called the Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA) and is in a small shopping mall behind the Mauritius Bank, just around the corner from the boulangerie.  Immigration is in a small office on the ground floor of the Police Station.

While waiting for Glenys to finish shopping, I couldn't resist sneaking off for my last Dhall Puri on Roti. Definitely the best food in Rodrigues...

We had a quiet afternoon. Glenys prepared some meals for passage and I tidied up.  It’s amazing how relaxed we are about going on this 340 mile trip.  We’ve sailed 3,500 miles in the past five months, so we’re pretty well geared up to leave at any time and I know that everything is in good working order.  (Although after hearing about “Red Herring” hand steering for days, I did a quick check of our autopilot and steering cables…) 

In the evening, Glenys cooked the dried octopus we bought the other day and produced an Octopus Curry.  She soaked the (three) dried octopuses in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes, meanwhile cooking up a Caribbean style curry sauce.  During soaking the octopus swells up a tiny amount and softens a bit, but is still fairly tough.  Glenys chopped the whole thing up into 1” long pieces and then cooked it in the curry sauce for 20 minutes in the pressure cooker.   It was chewy, but very tasty. (See Dried Octopus.)

Downwind at Last

17 June 2017   Rodrigues to Mauritius (Day 1)
There was hardly any wind in the morning with frequent showers - not the best weather to start our three day passage to Mauritius.  I looked at the weather forecast and it’s going to be another five days before the wind picks up again.  We’ve enjoyed Rodrigues, but we couldn’t face another week here, so we went ahead and cleared out, knowing that we’ll be motoring for the first 24 hours.   

The simple clearance process was done in the small offices at the port entrance.  The Immigration officer was already waiting for us and he put exit stamps in our passports, despite the fact that Rodrigues is the same country as Mauritius - we will be issued with new visas when we get to Port Louis.  Customs turned up as soon as we’d finished with immigration and he handed over our port clearance.  There was only one form to be filled in by the coast guard, so we were done in 20 minutes.

Back at the boat, we prepared for sea – I lashed the dinghy on the front deck, while Glenys cooked up a lamb stew for the first two meals on passage.  We were on our way at 11:00.

The weather brightened up and it was sunny as we motored out of the harbour.  However, as forecast, there wasn’t much wind, so we motored for an hour to get away from the island and then tried to sail for a couple of hours.  I rigged up our spinnaker pole and we ran wing-on-wing for a while, but when our boat speed dropped below 3 knots, we had to turn the engine on.   

By night fall, we’d rolled away all of our sails.  We normally leave our mainsail up when motoring to give us a little more drive and reduce rolling, but the apparent wind was going all over the place and causing the sail to crash and bang.  Fortunately, the waves were only about 1 metre and from our stern, so we didn’t roll too much without sails.

Beef Vindaloo

At our 01:00 watch change, the wind finally picked up to 7-10 knots from the SSE, which allowed us to sail on a starboard reach (after 20 minutes dancing on the front deck, swapping the pole from starboard to port.)  We then had a lovely sail for three hours, under a bright half moon, but the wind gradually petered out and we motor-sailed for the rest of the night.

18 June 2017   Rodrigues to Mauritius (Day 2)
At 07:00, the wind picked up to 10 knots from the south-east, so we were able to start sailing on a broad reach with the genoa poled out to port.  It was a lovely day with mostly blue skies and 25% fluffy white cloud cover, although we had a couple of showers.  The nice thing was that the showers didn’t alter the wind strength too much, although the wind veered and backed a little causing us to gybe the genoa a few times.

As the afternoon passed by, the wind picked up to 12-15 knots and, with the slight 1 metre seas, it was fabulous sailing.  Glenys produced a tasty Beef Vindaloo curry to end a pleasant day.  The first half of the night was very dark, but the good wind continued.  The wind gradually increased to 15-20 knots, so the second half of the night was more boisterous and we had a few showers, which increased the wind by 5 knots and had us reefing and gybing the genoa a couple of times.

19 June 2017   Rodrigues to Mauritius (Day 3)
Dawn brought us overcast skies with 20 knot South-east winds, so we were bowling along at 6 to 7½ knots.  At 07:00, we had 75 miles to go to the channel between the islands at the north of Mauritius, so we were hoping that we’d make it through before dark.  Once around the north of the island, it’s another 15 miles to a road-stead anchorage to the north of Port Louis.  We’d be anchoring in the dark, but it’s a wide open approach.

At lunchtime, we still had good winds and Glenys spotted land.  The seas continued to build over the afternoon and by the time we were approaching the northern tip of Mauritius, we had 20-23 knot winds and 2 metre seas.  The headland is called Cap Malheureux - “the Unhappy Cape” and there are several small islands to avoid.  The charts show many places around these islands where there are overfalls, which are large steep waves caused by strong currents against the wind.  In the boisterous conditions, we wanted to avoid those spots.

Cap Malheureux

The quickest route around the headland is through a channel between Cap Malheureux and an island called Ile Coin de Mire.  The charts showed that there could be currents of 2-5 knots against us in a flood tide (low tide was at 15:30, so the tide would be flooding).  We were hoping to get through the islands before dark (at 17:45) and we didn’t seem to have any current against us, so I took a gamble and started to head through the Coin de Mire channel.  

Everything looked okay at first, with no reduction in speed over the ground.  However, by 16:45, as we approached the channel, the current picked up to 1 knot of current against us.  I couldn’t see any large waves ahead, but didn’t relish the thought of being trapped in overfalls with a 5 knot current against us as night fell - it could take us a couple of hours to go the three miles to the other side. 

My bottle went, so we gybed, did a 90 degree right turn and headed around the top of Ile Coin de Mire.  It was a couple of miles further, but better for my peace of mind.  We made it through the islands before darkness fell and then had a good close reach in gradually calming seas as we sailed into the lee of Mauritius.

At 19:50, we anchored a couple of miles up the coast from Port Louis at 20°06.41S 057°29.89E in 12m depth.  The chain rumbled a lot, but held on something.  It was pitch black, so we couldn’t see where we were, but the sea bed shelved very slowly and it was a safe approach.  I sorted out the deck and put the spinnaker pole away, while Glenys warmed up a lamb stew, which we ate with a nice bottle of red wine.  

Customs Dock

20 June 2017   Port Louis, Mauritius
We slept like logs last night and woke to a pleasant day.  Before we went into the port, we ran our water-maker for an hour and filled up our tanks, which will last us a week - I don’t want to be running our water maker in the dirty water in a port.  

By nine o’clock, we were ready to move, but had problems lifting the anchor - the chain was caught on something.  We tried to motor around in different directions to unsnag the chain, but couldn’t budge it.  I jumped in the water and snorkelled down 12 metres to find that the sea bed was thick with coral and our chain was wedged under a three foot high bommie.  It took us twenty minutes of messing about to get the anchor up.  Basically, I had to keep diving down and lifting the chain clear of the coral while Glenys lowered & raised the chain and drove the boat.

Once free of the sea bed, we motored two miles to the entrance to Port Louis.  At the outer channel marks, we called Port Control, who gave us permission to enter the busy port and we motored past large ships onto the Customs Dock.  For some reason, I was expecting a dusty dock next to a warehouse, but it’s actually the harbour wall, next to a line of restaurants.  

We pulled alongside and found Gary and Jackie from “Inspiration Lady” standing there to help us with our mooring lines.  There are no cleats, so we tied up to the very nice, shiny stainless steel railings.  Other cruisers have reported a shallow rock near the customs dock, so we were very cautious as we approached the dock.  The rock is now marked by a yellow buoy and is at least 100 metres from the dock, so I don’t know what all the fuss was about.

It took us four hours to clear in.  First we had to wait for the health officer to come to the boat.  He refused to climb over the railings and didn’t want to come on board, so we did the clearance sat on a restaurant table.  There have been rumours of food being taken from cruisers because of a recent outbreak of Foot & Mouth disease, but he didn’t ask about food.   

Caudan Marina

I then walked 50 metres to the customs office where I had to fill in ten forms, all mostly nil return.  Next stop was immigration.  The Immigration officer refused to come to the boat, so I had to walk a mile to a ferry terminal to get our passports stamped.  I could have got a water taxi, but the robbing b**ard wanted to charge me 600 Rupees (£15), so I walked - my righteous indignation kept me going…

Finally, back at the customs dock, I obtained the clearance from the Coastguard and we motored across to Caudan Marina.  This is more like a boat basin with overhanging concrete walls.  It’s not very big and there were already nine cruising boats in there, so I couldn’t find a big enough space against the wall. I eventually had to raft up on “Relax” - I can’t remember the last that I’ve had to raft up.

The marina is in the middle of a car park next to the huge Caudan Waterfront shopping centre, so it’s not a peaceful place, but it’s only a small car park and pretty (for a car park…).  They only charge £10 per night and that includes water and electricity.  In the evening, we went out for meal with “Inspiration Lady” and “Jackster” who arrived yesterday.  I had my first burger with French fries for months.

21 June 2017   Port Louis, Mauritius
The last time that we filled our cooking gas tanks was in Thailand in January, so we were getting low.  There’s a taxi driver here called Rashid, who has a nice little business ferrying yachties around and he knows how to get propane tanks filled.  I rang him and we waited for a few hours until he came and picked up the tanks.  

Glenys has been hand-washing essential clothes for the past three months and we’ve accumulated two large bags of laundry.  We rang another enterprising guy called Mr Deodath who seems to have the monopoly on doing washing for cruisers.  He was very keen and appeared on his scooter within ten minutes.  He’s very expensive at 125 Rupees (£3) per kilo, but the only other option was someone at the marina who was slightly cheaper at 100 Rupees per kilo, but couldn’t do it until next week.  We negotiated a 10% discount because we had 20 kilos of washing.  

Jardin de la Compagnie

With our domestic chores done, we walked into town and Glenys went to see an Optometrist.  She had two Cataract operations done in Malaysia in October and thinks that she is now seeing more “floaters” in her eye.  This could mean that her retina is degenerating, so she wanted some tests done.  The Optometrist gave her a good check-out and thought that everything was okay, but advised that she should go to see a specialist eye doctor at one of the hospitals, so she’s booked an appointment tomorrow.  

While we were there, I had my eyes tested.  Thankfully, everything is fine and my prescription hasn’t changed for two years.  I get dry eyes when sailing long distances and this is due to slightly blocked tear ducts in my lower eyelids.  I’m supposed to apply a warm compress and clean my eye lids with a clean cloth, but I doubt that I’ll be bothered to do it...

We walked around town and came across a nice park called “Jardin de la Compagnie”.  The park has lots of Banyan trees with long air roots dropping down to the ground and is a quiet, shady place during the day.  We’re told that this all changes when night falls, when it becomes a dark, dangerous place full of ladies of the night and drug dealers.

There’s a small market running alongside the park, where we bought lunch at a food stall.  It’s always confusing trying to figure out what the locals are eating and knowing what to ask for.  We saw a couple of customers getting something that looked like a tortilla wrap, which they said was a “curry roti”, so we asked for one.  The idea was to ask for two or three vegetable curries, which they spooned onto the roti bread and rolled up.  It was very tasty - we’ll be going back for more of those… 

Port Louis is a mix of old colonial buildings and high tech skyscrapers.  The traffic is dense and aggressive, so it was a bit of a shock after the quiet of the Maldives, Chagos and Rodrigues.  The mix of people is interesting.  In Rodrigues, the majority of people are descendants of African slaves, but here in Mauritius the majority are the offspring of Indian Indentured labour who were brought in after the abolition of slavery in 1835.  I found this snippet:

Not seen traffic for a while

The plantation owners ultimately received two million pounds sterling in compensation for the loss of their slaves who had been imported from Africa and Madagascar during the French occupation. The abolition of slavery had important impacts on Mauritius' society, economy and population. The planters brought a large number of indentured labourers from India to work in the sugar cane fields. Between 1834 and 1921, around half a million indentured labourers were present on the island. They worked on sugar estates, factories, in transport and on construction sites. 

Walking around the streets, it’s very apparent that there are a lot of Indian descendants here.  The Indians dominate the government and there were clearly more affluent Indians in the town centre.  We found a small supermarket to the south-east of the Jardin de La Compagnie, called Shop Rite, which has basic provisions, but is a ½ trek back to the marina.  We’re going to defer doing a big shop until we get to Grand Baie, where we hear that there is a huge supermarket.

In the evening, we went out for an Indian curry at a restaurant (Namaste) in the Caudan Waterfront, which was below average and expensive.

22 June 2017   Port Louis, Mauritius
We’ve finally decided on the dates to fly back to the UK, so we started to look at airlines and found that it’s expensive to fly to the UK from Reunion.  The cheapest flights go from Reunion to Paris and then we’d have to get from Paris to London.  An alternative route is via Mauritius and Dubai, but we’d have to change twice, so it will be longer.  We decided to go with a direct flight to Paris.

Caudan Shopping Centre

We tried to book through a travel website, but after entering all our information, the transaction failed at the credit card check, despite trying both our two credit cards.  We then tried two other web sites with the same problem - our Halifax and Lloyds cards just wouldn’t work.  

I decided to try to Skype the Halifax help desk in the UK, but it appears that Mauritius Orange Telecom blocks international Skype calls.  It always takes at least 30 minutes to contact a bank in the UK, so I wasn’t prepared to pay a fortune for a normal international call.  We were unable to clear our credit cards to book the flights - so frustrating.

Eventually, Ralph on “Relax” lent me his German phone and I used his Skype to call the Halifax help desk and, sure enough, they’d blocked our credit cards because we were using them in a foreign country (despite the fact that we always pre-notify them about our travel plans.)  Half an hour later, we were able to book our flights to Paris - phew!  Sometimes life is so complicated and stressful.

Our laundry came back neatly folded and smelling fresh (and so it should for £57).  Our propane tanks came back full to the brim.  The gas wasn’t particularly cheap (60 rupees/kg + 600 rupees for Rashid).  It came to £42 for two full tanks, which is European prices, but we’ve enough gas to get us to South Africa in November.  

After lunch, Glenys went for her eye check-up.  Everything looks okay, but she has some thinning of the retina in one spot that she’ll have to keep an “eye” on.  I spent most of the rest of the afternoon on the internet checking out things for our trip home.  We went out for dinner again, this time at a small restaurant on the sea front where I had a nice salad with Smoked Marlin, which is a local speciality.

Ladies outside the Mosque

23 June 2017   Port Louis, Mauritius
We spent the morning on the internet again.  Our first mission was to work out how to get from Paris to London.  The flights are expensive (even with the budget airlines) and the Euro Express train would be complicated and fairly expensive as well.  To add insult to injury, the airlines all quote ticket prices without checked baggage and each bag adds an extra £65, so for two bags on a return flight it costs an extra £260!  Glenys eventually found a cheapish flight via the British Airways web site that included checked baggage, so we’re going with them to Heathrow.

Our next mission was to sort out car hire.  The hire companies also try to rip you off.  They quote prices for unlimited mileage that includes basic insurance with £1,200 excess if you have an accident.  A quote for a small car for 17 days was £400.  Add on their no Excess insurance and that rises to £600. However, if you get a car with limited mileage and basic insurance it only costs £200…

We booked a car with the mileage limited to 90 miles per day and for 17 days only costs £230 – we won’t be doing anything like the allowed 1,500 miles.  Another coup was finding independent insurance that covers the Excess if we have an accident in the car.  For £50, we’ve bought a policy that covers us for car hire worldwide for a complete year.

With our administration done, we went out for walk around town.  It’s nearing the end of Ramadan, so the big mosque in town was very busy.  The men are all wearing fancy Embroidered Hats, that are on sale outside the mosque. 

We then walked around China Town which has loads of small shops selling anything that you’d desire and then ventured into the busy local market, which has a great variety of vegetables.  We couldn’t resist grabbing a couple of Curry Roti for lunch. Our afternoon was quiet, doing more planning for our UK trip.

Horse Racing

24 June 2017   Port Louis, Mauritius
It’s very convenient being in a marina in town, but last night a disco was booming away until the small hours.  Add creaking ropes and people talking next to the boat in the car park and you’ve got another restless night.

Saturday in Port Louis is Race Day.  The Mauritians love to gamble and they’re lucky to have one of the oldest horse racing tracks in the world.  Over 200 years old, the race course is in the city about a mile from the marina.  It has a large grandstand containing private boxes overlooking the race track.  Inside the building is a lovely, atmospheric courtyard with tall Banyan tree providing shade to the hundreds of people betting, buying food and drinking beer.

We stopped at an information booth and were told that tourists could use one of the private boxes for free, which was on the third floor with a fine view of the finishing line.  It didn’t take us long to find out where to place bets, so we had a great time betting on the eight races.  It only cost 200 rupees (£5) to get into the grandstand (ladies are free).  We broke even for the day, winning 7 out of the 8 small bets that we placed, which paid for our beer and Curry Rotis - a fabulous, fun day out.

25 June 2017   Port Louis to Grand Baie, Mauritius
With a feeling of relief, we escaped the hustle and bustle of the city and sailed up the coast to Grand Baie. It was a lovely 10 mile sail because the north end of Mauritius is very flat allowing the steady trade winds to blow, but the sea is calm in the lee of the island.  The entrance to the bay is shallow and not charted very well, so it was a little fraught especially when the depth dropped to 2.3 metres.

Once past the entrance, the bay opens up and the depth increases to over 5 metres.  Grand Baie is a well-protected bay and the holding is very good – we anchored at 20°00.68S 057°34.51E in 6 metres over sand.  This is a very popular tourist town and there is plenty of activity with charter boats going out to the nearby islands.  

We left our dinghy at the very nice Yacht Club, which gives visiting yachts free membership for a month, allowing the use of their showers and restaurant.  The small town is packed with tourist shops and tour operators, but it has a huge Hypermarket, which is the best we’ve seen since Phuket.

26 June 2017   Grand Baie, Mauritius
We fly out of Reunion on the 7th July, so we’re planning to sail to Reunion on 29th, which is 135 miles away – an overnight sail.  This means that we won’t be spending as long in Mauritius as we’d originally planned, so we decided to hire a car for tomorrow to do a quick tour of the island.

Unfortunately, it was the end of Ramadan and the start of the Muslim Idil Fitri celebrations, so today was a public holiday. There are lots of small tour operators in town, some of who rent cars and scooters, but many of them were closed.  It normally costs about 1000 rupees (£25) to hire a car for one day, but the only place that had a car was Eurocar, who charged us over twice the street price.  We had no choice - if we want to have a look at the Mauritius countryside then it has to be tomorrow.

Sugar Cane

After a quiet afternoon, we invited Frank and Evie from “Frieda” over for sundowners.  Frank plays guitar, so we had a music session, which was great fun.  It’s the first time that I’ve found someone who plays guitar since we left Thailand six months ago.

27 June 2017   Gand Baie, Mauritius
After picking up the hire car, we had a great day touring Mauritius. I takes about 1½ hours to drive from the north to the south of the island, so we were restricted in what we could see, but we had a good insight into the island.  

The first thing to strike us was that Sugar Cane grows everywhere – there are fields and fields and fields of the stuff.  At the moment, most of the tall plants have a large delicate flower, which looks like pampas grass, swaying in the wind.

Like Rodrigues, Mauritius was formed by volcanoes.  Although there are no active volcanoes on the island, the mountains are impressive, with several ranges jutting up steeply with the limestone worn into strange pointed shapes by the wind and the rain.  The roads are good with dual carriageways between the jagged peaks.

Our first stop was at a Hindu holy site called Ganga Taloa, which is a renowned pilgrimage site. In February/March, there is a large festival called Maha Shivaratri when up to 500,000 of the island’s Hindu community come to this site  to pay homage to Shiva.  (Legend has it that the lake was formed from two drops of water from the Ganges River, which Shiva was taking to India.)

Hindu Temple

The most devoted pilgrims walk from their village to the sacred lake carrying a kanvar, a light wooden frame or arch decorated with paper flowers.  Others make their way by coach or car.  Once there they perform a puja, burning incense and camphor at the lake shore and offering food and flowers. 

It’s a peaceful place, especially if you walk around the lake away from the main temple and all of the tourists.  Unfortunately, it rained heavily while we were there, so we were soon back in the safety of our car.  The rain persisted as we drove through the lovely, mountainous Black River National Park, so we only stopped at a couple of viewpoints, and had brief glimpses of the spectacular scenery as the clouds parted.  We didn’t visit the “seven earths” site, which is an area of multi-coloured earth, which we felt would be multi-coloured mud.

The sun came out as we descended from the mountains, and we stopped for lunch at a small cafe in the coastal village of Baie du Cap, where we had a couple of plates of creole curry and rice.  It was a scruffy place, but the food was tasty and cheap.  

Our whirlwind tour took us along the coast to La Morne, with is an impressive lump of rock, 550 metres high, jutting up from the sea shore.  It was apparently to here that a group of escaped slaves fled in the early 19th century, hiding out on top of the mountain to remain free.  They were known as Maroons.

Giant Water Lily

The story has it that the slaves, ignorant of the fact that slavery had been abolished, panicked when they saw a troop of soldiers making their way up the cliffs one day.  Believing they were to be recaptured, the slaves flung themselves from the cliff tops to their deaths in huge numbers, which explains the origin of the name Le Morne (Mournful One).  

Although there are no historical records to substantiate the story, it’s an important one for Mauritians as a reminder of the island’s  brutal history.  There’s a small, rather dull memorial to the abolition of slavery.

It was a pity that we didn’t have time to do a trek to the top of La Morne.  We found the trail head track, which is marked by a prominent sign on the road out of Baie du Cap (20°27.47S 057°20.42E). Until recently, the trail was only accessible to licensed guides, but in 2016, the route was opened to everyone.  It’s supposed to be well marked from a car park (20°27.60S 057°19.54E) and takes 2-3 hours to get to a cross on the summit.  The last part is a steep scramble aided by fixed ropes.  Sounds great.

On our way back to Grand Baie, we stopped off at the Botanical Gardens at Pamplemousse, which was very pleasant.  It’s mostly trees, with a few small formal ponds – the highlight is a large pond filled with Giant Water Lilies with huge 1 metre diameter lily pads.  It was lovely to spend an hour strolling around the shaded paths.  There’s lots of small wildlife, we saw Red Whiskered Bulbuls, a Mongoose and a very greedy Striated Heron - trying to swallow a fish.

Taking advantage of the car, we called in at the Grand Baie Hypermarket and loaded two trolleys with heavy provisions, rice, tinned goods and drinks.  A large Super Supreme pizza from Pizza Hut rounded off the day.

28 June 2017   Gand Baie, Mauritius
After our hectic tour yesterday, we spent all day on-board organising ourselves for our UK trip, buying things online to be delivered to our son’s house. I’ve a long list of items to buy including windlass deck switches, a valve for the front heads, zincs for the bow thruster, 1mm wetsuits, etc, etc.

“Hokulea” invited us over for a glass of wine or two.  They’re heading to the Seychelles, so we might not see them again – but you never know when cruising...

29 June 2017   Mauritius to Reunion (Day 1)
The alarm went off at 06:30 and we lifted our anchor half an hour later.  The tide was falling and we were keen to leave the bay with half tide.

Leaving Mauritius

When we entered the bay a few days ago, the depth went down to a scary 2.3m.  The manager of the yacht club told me that there’s no official leading line, but “it’s all sand”.  “Hokulea” have C-Map charts that show two slightly shallower patches of sand at the entrance, which they went between - the minimum depth that they saw was about 3 metres.  I took some waypoints from their chart and we took a slightly better line this time - the minimum depth we saw was 2.8m at half tide.

In my opinion, the best entry waypoints are:  Leave the Outer Channel Marker (19°59.81S 057°34.26E) to starboard.  The next waypoint (20°00.180S 057°34.462E) is between two shallower patches of sand - we saw 2.8 metres minimum depth with 0.4m tide.  After the inner waypoint (20°00.29S 057°34.52E) the depth increases to over 5 metres in the anchorage.

We had another lovely sail in the calm waters along the coast, although there were strong gusts as we approached Port Louis.  There was another yacht on the customs dock, so we had to go port-side-to, in front of them with our bow 5 metres from the corner – the depth dropped to 2.2 metres.  

The clearance process took an hour, mostly waiting for the immigration officer to come to the boat, which gave me time to put our dinghy on deck.  Customs and the coastguard were very quick, so we were able to drop our mooring lines at 11:00.  

Reunion at Dawn

It was difficult to leave the dock in the windy conditions.  I tried to back out, but our stern tucked in and I ended up peeling to starboard, straight into a 2.0m mud patch.  We ground to a halt as we bottomed out, but I was able to use the bow thruster to spin us 120° to starboard, and powered off the shallow spot when we were pointing out into the harbour.  It probably looked very professional to the tourists watching us leave...

Once safely out to sea, we had 15-20 knot south-east winds, putting us on a beam reach. The first three hours were gusty with large confused waves, but we soon escaped the effects of land and the conditions settled down later in the afternoon.  With only 135 miles to go we were in no rush, so we put two reefs in the main and had a scrap of genoa out, scooting us along at 5 to 6.5 knots.

There was a half moon, making the first half of the night very pleasant. At our 01:00 watch change, we could clearly see the lights on the hillsides of Reunion, some 50 miles away.  During my 1-4 watch, I was contacted by a coastguard aircraft, who confirmed our destination and asked if we’d submitted our Arrival Notification form, which thankfully we had.

At 03:30, we had 35 miles to go; 20-25 knot winds; and at least a knot of current with us, giving us a speed over the ground of 7.5 knots.  The charts show many unlit Fish Attraction Devices (FADs) around Reunion, so we didn’t want to be approaching in the dark, so I rolled away the main sail and we plodded along with a scrap of genoa.  It slowed us down to 5.5 to 6 knots.  Sometimes it’s really hard to slow down.

30 June 2017   Mauritius to Reunion (Day 2)
At dawn, we had 20 miles to go, with no sign of any FADs. As we approached the impressive mountainous island of Reunion, the wind dropped to 15-20 knots, so we let out all of the genoa.  Thirty minutes later the wind was down to 10-15 knots, so we unrolled the mainsail.

Le Port Marina

Arrived off the port at 10:00 and called the marina on the VHF as requested, but received no reply.  We just went ahead; motored into the small port and then into the Le Port Marina (20°56.39S 055°17.25E).  it’s a very well protected, modern marina with excellent floating pontoons.  

A couple of the marina staff met us on the dock and told us that the customs would be clearing us in a couple of hours.  In the meantime, they laid out a spongy mat and poured disinfectant on it, so that we could disinfect all the shoes that we’d used while on Rodrigues and Mauritius, where there had been cases of Foot & Mouth.

Two customs guys arrived just after lunch.  They act as quarantine, customs and immigration and the whole process took ten minutes.  Due to the Foot & Mouth, we knew that they’d be taking all meat, vegetables and milk products, so we’d cleared out our fridge and only had a small bag of cheese and a few vegetables.  They looked at it and said that as long as we didn’t take it off the boat, we could keep it and eat it, which was good of them.

We went for a walk in town.  It’s more French than France.  There are small restaurants with tables out on the streets and most shops close between 12:30 and 14:30 - God forbid that you want to do anything other than eat and drink wine on a lunch time.  When you finally meet a shop keeper, they are very polite, saying “Bonjour” and shaking your hand - very old fashioned.

We wandered to the Tourist Information, who gave us some good information on La Reunion, especially on the hiking which is a big thing here, with mountains stretching up to 3000 metres.  We decided to hire a car next week and drive up to one of the three ancient volcanic craters to do some hiking.  

After tramping around town for a couple of hours, getting quotes for car hire and failing to get a SIM card for our telephone, we lost the will to live and retired back to the boat  to gorge ourselves on baguette, cheese and wine, and then early to bed.

There are more photos in our Photo Album section.