Winter Weather

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.

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.

Birthday Steak & Fries

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.