Mauritius

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.