31 May 2017 Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
The big cargo ship left at midday. The main anchorage for yachts is a small dredged area just off the commercial dock, which is intended for ships to turn when approaching and leaving the dock. Consequently, we had to get out of the anchorage this morning and anchor outside the entrance channel in the large, more open Outer Bay. We anchored at 19°40.08S 063°25.85E in 15 metres of water on good holding sand. There was a little bit of swell getting over the reef, but we didn’t roll too much.
We jumped in the dinghy; went to visit “Hokulea” and, over a cold beer, we exchanged passage stories. They also had a rough trip, but didn’t have the really bad weather system and only saw 30 knot winds. They are a 50 foot catamaran and were doing 12 knots at times, so they only took 5½ days while we took 8 days.
The cargo ship left at one o’clock and then there was an undignified rush back in to the inner basin as eight boats jostled for position. Yachts are able to dock alongside the commercial dock, but other boats have told us that it’s a bit noisy and the deck gets covered by course black sand, so we elected to anchor again.
We were at the back of the queue, so we had to hang about for fifteen minutes to wait for boats to settle to their anchors. We’d read that the holding is poor in the channel leading from the dock because it’s hard-packed and scoured by the propeller wash from the large ships. Therefore, we tried to keep to the west of the basin, in between the other yachts.
We dragged the first two attempts. We moved to a different place and dragged because we picked up a rice sack on our anchor. Finally, we got the anchor to hold. I think that the sea bed is soft mud, so, on our first three attempts, we were too aggressive when backing the anchor in. On our fourth attempt, we backed up lightly to set the anchor and then left it for a hour to settle into the mud, before backing it in hard.
After the trauma of anchoring, all the boats swirl around in the anchorage and we’ve ended up close behind “Ngalawa”. We can’t let out any more chain because there’s another boat behind us. It’s damn annoying for us and “Ngalawa”, but I didn’t have the strength to anchor again.
We invited Ralph and Karmen from “Relax” for sundowners. They had a bouncy passage as well despite the fact that they went the eastern route around the Great Chagos Bank. They are 42 foot catamaran and are not used to taking a lot of water over their decks. They had two hatches that weren’t closed properly and when a huge wave hit them, water was forced into the boat. One of their berths was soaked and sea water was dumped into their saloon, directly onto their laptop, destroying it.
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.
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.
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.
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.