Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September 27, 2009 - Nosy Sakatia, Madagascar

These past nine months of beating to windward across the entire Indian Ocean have taken their toll. Sailing has become a chore, rather than a pleasure. I spend most of my time underway feeling ill. The Indian has been hard on Mata'irea too. Whenever we arrive someplace, there is always something that requires cleaning or fixing.

Just when I'm feeling over the whole sailing thing, we have a day that reminds me why we bought the boat in the first place. The 20-odd mile trip south from Tsara Banjina to Nosy Sakatia was the nicest spot of sailing we've done in months. Although the wind died in the middle of the day and we had to motor a bit, before it shut off we were running smoothly downwind across flat water under a full jib and main filled by the morning offshore breeze with our hatches wide open. When the afternoon onshore breeze set up we were once again sailing, upwind this time, but still over smooth waters. The motion was comfortable and best of all, there was no water on deck. We spent the day lounging in the cockpit, reading, snacking, watching humpbacks breach in the distance, and just enjoying being carried by the wind to our next destination.

Just before sunset we dropped anchor next to our Dutch friends on Freya in the channel between Nosy Be and Nosy Sakatia. They joined us for cocktail hour and we talked about what we'd been up to for the past few days. We also had an interesting discussion about the legalization of drugs in Holland. Sten and I have been watching the Wire on DVD, a fictional (yet, by all accounts, accurate) series about drug related crime and policing in an American city, so we were interested in hearing how the legalization of drugs has worked out in the real life "Hampsterdam."

The following morning (after a great night's sleep in the calmest anchorage we've found in Madagascar) we went ashore to say hello to the folks at Sakatia Towers, a small resort on the hill above the anchorage. John, who runs the Towers, is a former cruiser and is very welcoming to yachties. There is an honor bar with cheap beer. Reasonably affordable meals are served at lunch and dinner if you book ahead. There is a reclaimed beach that can be used in pinch to dry out and do hull work. If one wants to travel inland, John can arrange for one of his employees to stay aboard and guard your boat. When additional provisions are needed, John's driver, Anatole, will take you into town to do all your shopping. In a region that is rife with dinghy theft (lift it, lock it, or lose it is the mantra here) John's secure dinghy dock is much appreciated by cruisers.

During the height of the cruising season, Sakatia Towers functions as a sort of yacht club where cruisers passing through can learn the lay of the land from yachties that have spent several seasons cruising East Africa and the colorful characters who run the local charter boats. The lovely, deep deck running the length of the main building is a cozy spot to curl up in a lounge chair and read a book with a cup of coffee, while looking out over the boats in the anchorage. In the evening, it is the place to socialize over beers and drinks while feeding the two house cats roasted peanuts ('sakatia' means 'cat'; dogs are 'fady' or forbidden on Nosy Sakatia). The deck is also a good spot for a birthday party. On Sunday, thirty people, including expats, locals, yachties, and family over from South Africa for the occasion, gathered to celebrate John's birthday. After just a weekend at the Towers, I could already feel a case of deck fever coming on. I didn't want to leave.

The next time we are anchored off of Sakatia, we'll have to do some hiking and snorkeling. We might even make it over to Sakatia Passions for their renowned Sunday brunch. But just now, we're too busy. Between visits to the deck, Sten and I spent the weekend working on getting the boat ready for Suzy's visit. Sten made a makeshift repair of the cracked watermaker end cap and reinstalled the whole lot. The fix held for about five minutes before it was leaking again. However, we were still producing enough water for me to do a few loads of laundry. While I was working on the laundry, Sten installed a new alternator voltage regulator that Bill and Laurie brought out to us in the Seychelles. We also cleaned up the forward stateroom (which included repacking the sail locker and chain locker and repairing the lights and fan). Now, we've just got to get ourselves cleared in and legal, and we'll be ready for company.

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