Friday, October 30, 2009

October 27, 2009 - Baly Bay, Madagascar

We were sad to leave Moramba Bay, as there was still so much to explore. However, the heat and murky water, combined with a need to get ourselves to a good jumping off spot for South Africa, drove us to continue further down the coast. That first day out of Moramba we had an exhilarating sail. Along the way Sten caught a big Talang Queenfish, also known as a Giant Leatherskin, which is certainly an unappetizing name for what turned out to be one of the best tasting fish we have caught on this trip.

As the strong offshore winds continued unabated, we would have had to anchor deep inside a bay to get decent protection. Instead, we chose to anchor along the coast, thereby saving ourselves the miles getting in and out of a deep bay. Around lunch time we were passing by a beautiful beach and a series of large homes when we decided to drop anchor and see how comfortable it would be. It turns out that the buildings on the hillside above us were affiliated with the Lodge des Terres Blances, one of Madagascar's swanky fly-in resorts. Apparently they don't often get yachts out front as not one, but two powerboats came out from the lodge to ask if we were okay. With a comfortable spot to anchor, a long, empty beach to walk, and clear water to swim in, we were more than okay.

The onshore breeze never really developed that afternoon. There was a brief period just before sunset when the offshore was pretty weak. We rolled for a bit in the light swell until the offshore filled back in smoothing things out for a great night of sleeping.

The second day of the run southwest from Moramba provided us with some spectacular scenery. We cruised down the coast, along 50 miles of uninterrupted cloud white beach in milky turquoise water. The landscape behind the beach alternated between arid scrub and fantastic red, pink, and blush cliffs, which had eroded to expose pyramids of harder stone that looked like they could have been the set of an unreleased Indian Jones movie (working title: Raiders of The Lost Makeup Kit). Keeping us company were a fleet of local working boats that have huge sails and long narrow hulls. We struggled to keep up with them as we all flew downwind at 8+ knots, but when the afternoon onshore filled in and the wind came forward, we leaped ahead of the pack. Finally, boats that are less successful to weather than we are!

Just as the sun set into the Mozambique Channel, and shortly after narrowly dodging three very unexpected and very large ship moorings, we put the anchor down. Ordinarily, with a protected anchorage nearby we would have continued past nightfall. However the anchorage in question was Majunga, made infamous by violent nighttime attacks on yachts in previous years. So we stopped a few miles short of Majunga. The beach community we anchored along was humming, literally. We could see electric lights on the shore and hear the sound of a diesel generator in the background - quite a change from the isolated bays we've been haunting lately. While we listened to the Peri Peri Net on the SSB (8101mhZ - 1500UTC), looking for a weather window for the run to South Africa, Sten made a delicious dinner of pan baked fish in a tomato, onion, garlic and caper sauce. It was so good that I asked him to do it again the next night.

The offshore breeze had died that day by midafternoon. An onshore wind chop, coupled with a short, steep swell wrapping around the point and some anxiety about our proximity to Majunga, and we had the perfect recipe for an excruciating, sleepless night. Although we could use some diesel, and a meal in a restaurant would be much appreciated at this point, we decided not to push our luck with the Majunga port authorities since we've been cleared out of the country for two weeks now. So we upped anchor at 4:45 am (we were awake anyway) and set off for the final 60 miles of the run from Moramba to Baly Bay.

Raising the anchor before dawn was more exciting than expected. As it rode in over the stainless steel bow roller, it threw off sparks. Now, this is the first time I've raised or lowered the anchor in the dark in quite a while, so who knows if this was an isolated occurrence, a new problem, or something that has been going on for a while. Just another item for the work list when we get to South Africa.

The wind slowly built during the day. By the time we closed on Baly Bay the onshore breeze had filled in and we were close hauled as we entered the bay just before 5pm. After three days of coastal sailing, which is somehow much more exhausting than the offshore work, and the rough night last night, we were very happy to set the hook. We are planning to spend a few days here recuperating and preparing for the trip to South Africa.

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