Waiting in Mozambique

9 October 2017   Ponta Gengare to Ponta Milixa, Mozambique
We slept like logs and spent most of the morning pottering about, tidying up after 5 nights at sea.  Glenys made a couple of loaves of bread and I ran the water-maker to top up our tanks.  Our dinghy is still on the front deck and I couldn’t motivate myself to put it into the water, so I’d resigned myself to spend today on-board.  Fortunately, “Red Herring” called by and offered us a lift ashore - I went but Glenys decided to stay on-board and chill out.  Oliver from “Mowana” also came with us.

It was approaching low tide when we landed ashore and the water was very shallow a long way from shore, so we had to carry the dinghy 100m from the water’s edge and left it high and dry to fend for itself.  As we walked onto the dry beach, we attracted a lot of attention and a small crowd of adults and kids soon gathered, but mostly kept their distance with a few braver children approaching us.  

Rondavels

Being low tide, the beach was a hive of activity.  Kids were digging for lug worms for fishing bait and people were wading in the shallow water looking for clams, which they dry on platforms on the beach. 

A couple of National Park wardens came over and chatted to us in broken English - they speak Portuguese, but none of us speak that language.  The wardens were very friendly and nicely told us that we would have to pay $10US per person (plus $10 per boat) entry fee into the National Park.  We said sure, but we had no money with us, so they’ll have to come out to the boats later.

The island of Bazaruto is mostly made of huge sand-dunes and it was a very steep climb up to the village above the beach.  The villagers live in round huts called Rondavels made from wood and some kind of cane - we’re definitely in Africa.  We walked around looking at the way of life on this barren island.  The people appear to live in family groups with a few Rondavels for living/sleeping and one Rondavel for cooking.  Each family had a rough set of shelving outside their cooking hut which held the pots and pans.

It was very arid, sandy ground, but we saw coconut palms and payaya trees growing.  Each family has a garden area where they looked to be growing some kind of yams.  The Park Wardens said that the villagers survive by exporting sea food to the mainland, which is used to buy rice and vegetables.  It looks like a tough life living on a sand-dune.

Back at the boat, I found Glenys painting a Mozambique Courtesy Flag - we hadn’t managed to buy one before we left Thailand and we were hoping that we’d not have to spend any more than a couple of nights here.  There are rumours that the authorities are red-hot on having a courtesy flag and have even fined people for having a courtesy flag smaller than the boat ensign.  Ridiculous I know, but the officials are even more corrupt than in Madagascar and will take any excuse to lever money out of westerners - we hope that we don’t meet any officials. 

Painting the Mozambique Courtesy Flag

The wind is forecast to be NE 15 tonight and tomorrow morning, but will then veer around to 20+ knots from the south tomorrow night.  The plan is for our small fleet to move tomorrow to an anchorage at Benguerra Island 10 miles further south, which we hope has good protection from the strong southerlies. 

We all moved a couple of miles further down the coast to an anchorage at Ponta Milixa  at 21°42.56S 035°25.86E (7m LAT on good holding sand).  The anchorage wasn’t as good as the previous one and it was a bit bouncy in the NE20 winds at sunset, but at least we’ve probably escaped the $30US park fee.      

10 October 2017   Ponta Milixa to Ponta Gengare, Mozambique
The NE wind continued blowing strongly until the early hours of the morning and, to make matters worse, the current switched at midnight and turned us so that our stern was pointing into the wind and the waves.  We have a “sugar scoop” stern, which is a low angle extension to the hull, designed to increase the waterline length and make the boat sail faster.   Unfortunately, it’s hollow and when waves slap underneath it, the loud bang is amplified and it sounds awful in the back cabin where we sleep.  There’s nothing worse than being “slapped up the sugar scoop” to keep you awake.

After breakfast, the Park Rangers arrived in a small power boat and we had to pay $10US per person and $20US for the boat - we didn’t escape after all.  I tried to negotiate them down and didn’t want to pay for the boat, but they produced an official looking receipt with the tariffs clearly shown, so I paid up.  We’re not cleared into Mozambique, so we want to keep a low profile and don’t want any trouble with the local officials. 

A cynic might say that the money we paid out will go into their pockets, but we’re clean - we’ve paid what we should officially pay.  I’ve heard that one scam is to put a piece of card behind the carbon paper, so that nothing is imprinted on the “office copy” of the receipt book.  They then later write in lower figures on the “office copy” and pocket the balance.  On the other hand, they may be honest…

Mozambique Boat

I downloaded the latest weather forecast and the southerly winds expected after midnight have intensified to 25 knots and could possibly be slightly west of south.  We were all planning to head down to an anchorage at Benguerra today, but the prospect of SSW winds made us rethink because Benguerra might not be so good in that wind direction.  

After some debate, our mini-fleet upped anchor and sailed back north a couple of miles to anchor to the North of Ponta Gengare, which is better protected from the SW.  We dropped our anchor at 21°38.66S 035°26.43E in 5 metres on a huge area of good holding sand.  (There’s a recommended anchorage closer to the point, at 21°39.13S 035°26.04E, but there seemed to be too many coral patches for my liking.)

As a matter of interest, if we’d have tried to out run the storm, hopefully we’d be approaching Maputo today.  Gale force winds are forecast to hit Richards Bay at 14:00 and Maputo at 18:00, so the forecast that we had a few days ago was very accurate.  The low isn’t coming up north as much as the earlier forecasts, but at midnight, the winds 100 miles east of Richards Bay are forecast to be 40 knots with 6.5m seas - you wouldn’t want to be out there.  

At sunset, we had NE 15-20.  It was a little bit bouncy, so we hunkered down below and watched a movie.

11 October 2017   Ponta Gengare, Mozambique
At 02:00, the wind veered around to the south and picked up to 25-30 knots, blew hard for a few hours and then settled down to 20-25 knots.  As forecast, the wind was SSW and soon a swell was hooking around Ponta Gengare bringing in 2 foot waves from the south-west.   This made it a bouncy, noisy night with the waves slapping on the side of the hull.  

We’ve heard that there were 70+ knot winds in Durban and 50 knot winds in Richards Bay yesterday, which caused damage and flooding in the heavy rains.   The BBC News is calling the storm that hit Durban a “Super Cell” - 3 cargo ships dragged closing the entrance to the port;  harbour patrol corralled yachts that had broken free from moorings and yacht club pontoons were damaged.  Richards Bay escaped damage (although the yacht club bar was closed last night.)  This weather is not to be taken lightly.

Another Southwesterly along our route

The forecast for today is for the wind to drop overnight and become East 5-10 knots tomorrow.  Our plan is to move to Benguerra tomorrow before the next set of strong southerlies arrives late tomorrow night.  These winds look to be more SE, so we should be good at Benguerra.

Yesterday, it looked like we had a 4 day weather window on Saturday 14th, but that has now closed up with SE20-25 hitting Maputo on the afternoon of Monday 16th.  These systems are very closely packed, so I think that we might have to do short hops to Inhambane - Maputo - Richards Bay.

It would be good to try for Maputo on the 14th.  We would have to leave at 9:00 (high tide is at 11:00).  That would put us out into SE10 for 8 hours, but we can cope with that if we know that it will turn East and then NE.  That then gives us 56 hours until the SE 20 hits Maputo, which is 330 miles away - we’d have to average 6.0 knots.   This is a very tight plan, but we'll see how the weather develops - with luck the southerlies will be delayed…

Apart from a brief route planning session on “Continuum”, we spent the rest of the day on board - Glenys did some chores and some more research on places to visit in South Africa, while I edited photos and played the guitar.

12 October 2017   Ponta Gengare to Benguerra Island, Mozambique
We had blue skies at dawn with a light South 5 knot wind - a beautiful day.  It was Graham’s 70th birthday, so Karen arranged a tea party on “Red Herring” in the morning, which was fun.

At midday, the fleet of 5 boats set off for Benguerra Island, 15 miles south.  The route was a little torturous passing through a shallow area, where we did a dog-leg west, but the minimum depth that we saw was 4.5m at low tide (3.2m LAT).   

The fleet heads south

Our waypoints were:  21°42.96S 035°25.02E;  21°44.78S 035°23.33E; 21°45.46S 035°23.28E; 21°46.73S 035°23.12E; 21°46.49S 035°22.19E; 21°47.07S 035°21.83E; 21°51.20S 035°23.75E.

The entrance into the anchorage was very shallow.  There’s a 0.4 mile long channel leading to a deeper “pool”, which went down to 2.4m (1.0m LAT) at one spot.  “Red Herring” and “Luna Blu” anchored in the 7m deep pool, which is ¾ mile from the shore and exposed to the south, so we went further to see if there was somewhere closer to shore to anchor.  Unfortunately the depth dropped to 2.1m (0.7m LAT), so we turned around and anchored back with the rest of the fleet.  We slowly dragged (on weed?) a couple of times before settling at 21°51.29S 035°24.42E in 8 metres of water.

It’s not a very good place to be.  We’re ¾ mile from land and exposed to SSE winds; the “pool” that we’re in is only 200m wide and surrounded by very shallow water.  I’m not a happy bear.  If the wind picks up from the south tonight, then it will be very, very unpleasant.  The plan is to go to another anchorage tomorrow morning.  High tide is at 09:00, so we’re planning to weave our way through the sand bars starting at 07:00.

As it was Graham’s birthday, we all piled into dinghies and went ashore hoping to be able to buy a beer or even have a meal at the holiday lodge ashore.  It was actually an up-market resort catering to honeymooners, so we weren’t allowed to buy anything.  After a short walk on the beach, we retired back to “Red Herring” for a rum or three.