Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Special Mauritian Farewell

The Mauritians surely know how to host an event. From the welcome bags and fresh fruit trays to the prize-giving dinner to the final event: the Blessing of the Fleet, they were wonderful hosts! We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Caudan Basin close to shopping and restaurants – and good Internet! Many curious onlookers asked about our event and journey. They like taking photos of the boats and some were even invited aboard to see inside the yachts.

The prize-giving dinner on our last night was extra special. A number of local authorities spoke and thanked us for stopping at their island. The event was held on the quay and gave us a sample of local entertainment. There were dancers and musicians as well Mauritian cuisine.

Much to our surprise we came in third for the Monohull Division! It is always a surprise when we win as we seem like the little kid who is always trying to keep up with the big kids! We are not the smallest or slowest boat in the fleet; it is just that we don't sail fast downwind. Give us a good wind forward of the beam and we can keep up with the best of them.

The morning of our departure for La Reunion, the leaders of the four main religions led the service for the Blessing of the Fleet. They represented the Christian, Chinese, Islamic and Hindu religions. Each said a special prayer in his or her own language. The Anglican priest then finished the service in English and came around to the boats to bless them with Holy Water and words of blessing for a safe passage. The Chinese set off loud and smoky fireworks to chase away the evil spirits. It was a very nice event.

Chinese, Anglican, Hindu and Islam peacefully living
together in this diverse country with mutual respect.
The Start Line was the same as the Finish Line so just before the 1400 Start, we all left the Caudan Basin to make our way out of the harbor. Jockeying for position while putting up sails in tight quarters is always interesting. This time we also had the tide with which to deal, but all was well and the Start was clean, as they say.

It was only 130 nm to La Reunion so it was an overnight sail so we could arrive in daylight. All was well at the Start as the fleet began to spread out over several miles. Of course, the bigger and faster boats were soon well ahead on the horizon. The wind was good, but the swells coming around the island were somewhat confused making for a lumpy ride.

The blessing of S/V Trillium
Just before sunset and evening roll call, our autopilot began sending error messages that it could not find the compass computer! That means it could not steer the course! Which then means, we had to hand steer and we still had over 100 nm to go! Delta, Alpha, Mike, November!

The Dragon Dance

On the SSB radio call at 1900, I advised the fleet of the situation and asked them not to get too close to us as hand steering the confused swells made it difficult for us to maintain a steady course. Several boats agreed to stay in contact all night to make sure we were doing okay and several who sail at the same rate were on standby for assistance.

Fortunately, we did not need any assistance during the passage, but we were exhausted by the time we reached port. We still don’t know what caused it. We reset the system several times during the night and it would hold for a while and then send an error message and put itself into standby mode. That meant we would go off course with the wind and swells until we grabbed the wheel and went back to steering by compass.

The Dragon Dancers had fun getting close and personal
with the yachties-even chasing the young girls!
Of course, hand steering by compass is the way sailors have navigated for centuries. With modern technology, we are spoiled by setting the autopilot and letting it do its job. The greater challenge is handling the swells. If it were just the strong wind, then you balance the sails and hold the course. With large and erratic swells, the waves lift the bow one way or the stern the other way and sets it down off course so you must steer back to the course.

The fleet leaving Mauritius for La Reunion. We are the
black boat symbol and did well keeping up with the others.
After we arrived in port, others told how funny it looked on their AIS as we were pointing in all different directions at times, including the opposite way we were supposed to be heading! Some thought we were doing several different sail changes trying to win. Little did they know that we were just trying to sail in a relatively straight line!

Since hand steering in the dark requires focusing on the helm compass, it is hard to keep watch on the chart plotter or the sea. Due to this situation, we did six hour watches so we overlapped, keeping two people in the cockpit at all times to help keep watch and to relieve the helmsman from time to time. And to go below to reset the system occasionally. It made for a very long night and by the time we arrived in port we looked like the wreck of the Hesperus!

Next Port of Call: La Port, Reunion
By the end of this passage, I began to believe that either the blessing didn’t work or that the smoke from the fireworks that blew across the Caudan Basin into our portholes trapped the evil spirits in Trillium’s electronics! Fortunately, we arrived in La Port, La Reunion safe and somewhat sound!

Next step: figure out what is going on in the autopilot system! There is probably a loose bus somewhere in the system, but at sea in the dark is not the time to look for it!

1 comment:

  1. Aren't we blessed w the electronics when they work. It always both humbling and irksome that the Autohelms can drive the boat better than we can.


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