Sunday, October 18, 2009

October 16, 2009 - Nosy Sakatia, Madagascar

After completing our last Indian Ocean clearance, I'm happy to report the official score is: Corrupt Officials - 0, Mata'irea - 4. We've made it through this region notorious for corruption and baksheesh without paying a single bribe, despite being hit up in the Andamans, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, and here in Madagascar. In each instance, when asked if we had a gift for the official with whom we were dealing, we usually simply said no (the officials in Sri Lanka required a firmer approach, but even they eventually gave up). This last time I got a little cute and treated the official's request as a joke and turned it back on him, "why no, do you have a gift for me?" Then I quickly backed out of the room, zarpe firmly in hand. We have never had our paperwork held up due to our refusal to pay a bribe.

We don't understand why some cruisers feel they need to grease officials' palms. We know plenty of yachties who expect to pay bribes, especially in places like Sri Lanka. And guess what, they do. Our experience shows that paying bribes is not necessary, even in the most corrupt places. We always approach these situations believing that it isn't necessary to pay officials something extra to do their jobs. By being firm in that belief, we've watched officials, time and again, back down quickly from their requests, with no negative repercussions. In these situations, a little hutzpah goes a long way.

I did our outwards clearance on Sten's mom's last day with us, while she and Sten were off doing some souvenir shopping. Meanwhile, Sakatia Towers John's driver, Anatole, had organized for my fresh provisioning to be done while he and I dealt with the officials. It couldn't have been easier. On our way out of town we stopped at the Chinese shop to spend the last of our local currency on rum and beer. Although we're officially cleared out, we're going to spend the next few weeks cruising our way down the coast of Madagascar, and there is nothing Sten likes so much after a day sail as cracking open a frosty can of the local lager. We decided to do our outwards clearance in Nosy Be, rather than in the next port down the coast as it (Majunga) has a terrible reputation for crime.

We returned to Mata'irea, which was anchored off of Sakatia, and spent the remaining hours before Suzy's flight having a leisurely lunch, reading and playing a few last games of Scrabble. We've had a great visit with Suzy, and it was hard to say good bye. But she left her snorkeling gear on aboard, so we have a sneaking suspicion that she'll be joining us one more time before we get home.

We spent the day after her departure doing boat work. Sten spent the entire day repairing the port running light, which I noticed wasn't working two nights prior when we arrived at Lokobe after sunset. To the landlubber the idea of taking an entire day to repair a light may seem ludicrous, but it is important to remember that on a boat nothing is simple or straightforward. Before Sten could inspect the suspect electrical junction, he had to undo the lifelines so that he could remove the pulpit, the stainless steel protective bars on the bow, through which the running light wires run. Once the pulpit was displaced, he pulled the wire and discovered that culprit was corrosion at a junction where the heat shrink had failed. So he reterminated the wires, and I helped him feed the wires back through the pulpit. Then he had to reinstall the pulpit, reconnect the lifelines, and clean up. That's how fixing a light can take all day. Meanwhile, I spent the day scrubbing the bottom of the hull. It has been 18 months since we last antifouled and our bottom growth shows it. We're looking into hauling and repainting in South Africa. After a long day of boat work we enjoyed spending one last evening on John's porch, swilling Three Horses and Capahrinas, watching his cats covet his new parrots. If you come through this way, be sure to ask him to tell you the story of the rescue of the parrots.

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