North West Madagascar

28 August 2017   Andranoaombi Bay to Nosy Mitsio
We had some kind of squall go through in the middle of the night, turning the calm peaceful anchorage into a bouncy one as the wind picked up to 20+ knots from the south - straight up the long harbour.  I had to get up to check the anchor chain, but we had 40 metres out in 8 metres of water, so we had a good 5:1 scope.  An hour later the wind suddenly switched off, but we had no rain - weird. 

I was up at 07:00 and peeked out of the window to find a local guy hovering about waiting for us to appear.  I lurked below for an hour, until Glenys had woken up and we’d had breakfast.  The guy turned out to be Chief Jean Pierre from the main village, which is down at the entrance to the bay - a 1.3 mile paddle.  We had a chat with him and he invited us to visit his village, to which we said we’d be there a bit later.

Andranoaombi Bay Village

We spent the next hour putting together a bag of goodies to trade with them.  When I say “Trade”, I really mean “give” because these people are so poor that we are really donating much more than we are receiving.

The village is next to a sandy beach at 12°28.01S 048°46.73E.  We pulled our dinghy onto the beach and wandered into the village, asking for “Le Chef” or “Jean Pierre”, but it took us a couple of minutes to find a young man who spoke some French and finally twigged who we were looking for.  (We were later told that the Malagasy word for Chief is “Fokotany”).   He lead us deep into the village past numerous grass huts, with ladies pounding grain in huge mortars and rice laid out on mats to dry.

We found Jean Pierre digging charcoal from his Charcoal Pits.  The villagers create a fire using any type of hard wood and when it’s roaring away, they cover it with something like a piece of iron shheting or leaves and then pile on some earth.  The idea is to restrict the amount of oxygen, allowing the embers burn without flames.  The carbonisation process continues overnight and the next day the villagers can dig up the resulting charcoal, which they use for cooking.  I guess that each family has its own set of charcoal pits.

Jean Pierre led us back to his house, which is rather grand for the village, with corrugated iron walls and roof.  We met his wife and some of their seven children, who range from three years old to twenty.  They gave us some honey collected from wild bees.  It didn’t look very appetising, being in a scruffy, old Coca Cola bottle, but we graciously accepted it.  They said that they would get us some duck eggs.

We chatted for a while and they asked if we had various things.  The most unexpected item was an SD card for their mobile phone and a spare battery.  There is no telephone signal in the village, but they seem to use their phones as a camera and a music player.   I don’t even have an SD card in my phone, so I couldn’t help them. 

Trying on Clothes

After a while, we said that we wanted to give them some things, so we were invited into their small home.   The whole building is about 5 metres * 5 metres, spilt into two rooms by a corrugated iron wall.  One room is a bedroom, full of bedding laid out on the floor and the other room is split again into two by a long curtain from ceiling to floor.   One half acts as the living area and behind the curtain was a wood-framed double bed and some storage boxes.

The living room was only 2.5 metres by 2.5 metres, but it had a very grand looking sideboard and three arm chairs.  I expressed admiration for the side board and Jean Pierre proudly showed us his DVD Player sat on top of the sideboard, insisting on playing a DVD, which attracted a small crowd of kids.  The DVD player is powered by a 12V car battery and an inverter.  They have a solar panel on the roof which charges the battery.  They are obviously relatively wealthy.

It was fun handing out the various gifts - the room was packed with us, mum and dad, six little kids and three teenage lads hovering by the door.  Jean Pierre nearly took my hand off when I presented him with a torch.  He was delighted that it was a wind-up torch that doesn’t need batteries.  His wife was pleased with the few cans of food and powdered milk; the teenage sons liked the fish hooks and line that I’d packaged together.  

The kids munched on a few biscuits that we brought out, while mum grabbed them to try on some of the kids clothes that we’d brought.  Some old webbing, a screwdriver, tooth brushes and tooth paste quickly disappeared into willing hands.  The piece de resistance was pair of £2 reading glasses.  Jean Pierre tried them on and was delighted when he could read, so was his wife - there’ll be some sharing going on.  

Village Store

Jean Pierre owns the village shop, which is a corrugated hut containing one set of shelves and piles of essential stuff like buckets, bowls, cooking oil, a few crates of beer, some tins of food and cigarettes.  Occasionally during our visit, a villager or child would turn up and Jean Pierre would walk to the store to sell a few cigarettes or pour some cooking oil into the villager’s container. 

After a while, I showed Jean Pierre a photograph of a chameleon and told him that I’d like to see one.  He then took us for a walk around the village into his large garden to search one out.  We walked past Zebu pens, which belonged to Jean Pierre and then entered his fenced-off garden, which contained Banana, Coconut, Lime, Orange, Jack fruit and Mango trees.  There were other trees with strange looking fruits - all in all an impressive garden.

We didn’t find a Chameleon, but they spotted a small Madagascar Owl, sleeping in a low tree.  I sneaked up and trying not to disturb it, took a couple of photos.  One of Jean Pierre’s older sons, then grabbed hold of the bird to give us a closer look - there’s no concept of leaving wildlife untouched here.  The poor owl had an abrupt awakening and looked suitably shocked, but we soon released it and it flew away to find a better perch. 

On the way back to his house, Jean Pierre showed us one of the village’s six Wells.  The roughly dug hole was about two metres in diameter and two metres deep.   The water level was about one metre below ground level and he told us that in the rainy season the well can overflow.   He pulled out a bucket of water and it looked very clean - it's a good job because the wells are the main source of drinking water for the whole village.

A Traumatised Madagascar Owl

Back at Jean Pierre’s house, his wife asked Glenys if she had any moisturising cream.  Glenys said she had, so after we’d said our goodbyes, Jean Pierre and one of his older sons followed us back to Alba.  We invited them on board, gave them a cold drink and showed them down below.  They enjoyed their visit, but soon set off to paddle the 1.3 miles into the strong wind.

By this time, it was nearly noon and the anchorage was very bouncy, with a 15 knot wind coming straight down the harbour, so we decided to head off to Nosy Mitsio, some 30 miles away.  The wind was unkind to us for the first hour - we were hard on the wind and being forced 30 degrees off course.  However, the sea-breeze veered as we left the peninsula and, after a couple of hours, we were able to hold a course directly to our destination. 

We arrived in Nosy Mitsio just before sunset and anchored at 12°54.48S 048°34.70E in 8 metres on good holding sand.  We collapsed and had fried Duck Eggs for dinner, which were fabulous.

29 August 2017   Nosy Mitsio, Madagascar
It’s been a bit hectic for the past few days, so we had a quiet day on-board.  Glenys made some bread and I caught up on editing my photos and my blog.  There’s a very sketchy internet signal here - good enough for emails but not much else.

I ran the water maker, but the low pressure pump cut out several times and even stalled the high pressure pump at one point.  Air is being sucked into the 20 and 5 micron pre-filters, so I gave up after fifteen minutes.

Working on the Water-maker

After lunch, I did some serious investigation and traced the water pipes all the way from the seacock.  There’s a t-joint just after the seacock which goes off to the salt water deck wash pump and I found air in the filter for that pump - we don’t use it very often.  I ran it to purge the air and then continued along the pipe work, tightening up hose clips as I went.

I ran the low pressure pump and it worked OK allowing me to bleed air out of the pre-filters.  I then tried to run the high pressure pump, but it wouldn’t start - it just hummed.  I had a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach - I’ve buggered it up.  In panic, I tried it three more times - Hum, Hum and Hummm.  This was a disaster, where were we going to get drinking water from?

I sat back and thought through what I’d done to the system.  I’d only messed with the pipework, so what could be causing the problem?  The low pressure pump worked, but the high pressure pump didn’t…  Duhhh!  I’d not started our 220V generator.   Our inverter will drive the low pressure pump, but there’s not enough power to run the larger 220V motor on the water maker.   I started the generator and everything worked.  Phew - just a Senior Moment.

I ran the water maker for an hour.  The low pressure water pump cut out a few times, but I was able to fill up our water tanks to brimming.  I need to replace the low-water pressure pump at some point, but it’s going to take at least 11 days to get on shipped from Trinidad and then it might be held up by customs for weeks.  We’ll probably be in Richard’s Bay in South Africa in six weeks’ time, so I’ll have to make do.

30 August 2017   Nosy Mitsio, Madagascar
We had a bit of a holiday today and sailed three miles to Nosy Ankerea anchoring at 12°50.73S 048°34.95E right next to a white sand beach in 8 metres of water on good holding sand.  It was a bit rolly with a swell coming from the south-west and hooking around the island, but it we were only there for the day.

We went for a snorkel on the north side of the island, which was fairly good.  The coral was in good condition, but there weren’t many fish - obviously a good fishing spot for the locals.   After lunch, we went for a short walk on the beach.  There’s the remains of a resort that closed down, but not much else of note.  We then went snorkelling in a slightly different place while was similar to the morning 

After sailing back to the main anchorage, “Jackster” invited us over for sundowners with Gary and Jackie from “Inspiration Lady”, who arrived today after a six night sail from Mauritius.