Thursday, January 26, 2017

Tricks and Treats in Reunion

I was a pirate and Dennis was my captive.
The Dodo Café held a Halloween Party that was great fun. Creative costumes were the theme of the night and yachties rose to the occasion! From future tellers, island girls, witches, pirates, Disney characters to who knows what they were, people were in the mood for a party. A great band and dinner completed the evening.

The real treat: Since La Port is not a very interesting marina and there are few amenities, I was very happy when our friends Elizabeth and Martin on S/Y Caduceus invited me to ride along to town several times. Of course, we were dealing with another public holiday so most things were closed on one of the trips, but I was able to get to the supermarket and to the boulangerie for fresh bread and fruits and vegetables. I would go one more time before we depart for South Africa.

Elizabeth and Martin with Dennis planning our route.
They also invited Dennis and I to join them on an excursion which turned out to be a drive around the whole island seeing various new sites pointed out by the tour guide from the WARC tour. We saw beautiful seascapes, the lava fields, lush vegetation and much more.
The area has suffered from several major eruptions and lava flows on the southeast end of the island. Unlike the lava fields of Kilauea in Hawaii, the lava is more textured instead of the smooth asphalt-looking lava in Hawaii. It is amazing how the plants manage to rejuvenate themselves in the lava, which is obvious rich in nutrients, but tough growing conditions.

Beautiful waterfalls ...
While we had not intended to drive all the way around, by the time we got to the lava fields in the southeast section of the island, we were three-fifths of the way around so we kept going. This was a treat for us since the car rentals were out of vehicles as it was not only a holiday, but also the beginning of their tourist season. We would not have been able to explore on our own. And it was a real treat for us to get out of the marina for a day. 

And seascapes all over the island.
Our friends Paul and Susie on S/Y Firefly arrived from Mauritius and were rafted to us when we returned. I figured they were tired and probably low on food, so I had invited them and Elizabeth and Martin over for dinner. The three of us had started the circumnavigation together in January 2014 and they had all gone to New Zealand with us and then they went on to Indonesia while we went to Australia. Brizo had also started with us, but they have five on their boat and I couldn’t fit all of us around the saloon table.

Everyone was carefully watching the weather for the passage from Reunion to South Africa. This leg and the trip around the Cape of Africa are two of the toughest passages to plan - and navigate. It is a long way across the final quarter of the Indian Ocean and you have to go around the bottom of Madagascar. This is an area of turbulent seas and unsteady weather. This is the one I have been dreading the most. Although, I have been surprised that so far the Indian Ocean has not been any worse than going south in the North Atlantic Ocean in November.

The lava fields are immense and very rugged.
Due to a possible gale that may hit the Richards Bay, South Africa shore about the time we were scheduled to arrive, the fleet decided we needed to leave a day earlier than the WARC schedule. Victor sent a request to World Cruising Club asking to move the schedule up a day so a Friday departure was announced. Several of the smaller and slower boats left three days ahead of the fleet.

We were all set to leave with the fleet on Friday morning, but we were still waiting for our package from France. We found out it had been there for a week, but no one had reached the marina office to tell us that we needed to sign some papers. The same thing happened in New Caledonia - I should have thought of that! We finally received the package about an hour after the fleet had left the starting gate.

Amazingly, vegetation manages to push its way to the sun.
Just as we fired up the engine and began to release the dock lines, I realized the chart plotter in the cockpit was not showing any information! Yikes! This is our key chart plotter. The one below on the navigation station was working just fine. Dennis quickly got the French electronics guy back on board to check it out. After checking every connection, he discovered that the NEMA cord was not fully engaged in the connector. WHEW! All was okay - or so we hoped.

We thanked him and tossed the lines. We were a couple of hours behind the fleet and the wind was light so we motored for a while to catch both the fleet and the breeze. Once we were away from the island, we had a very stiff breeze and it was time to hoist the sails. We were off! South Africa here we come!

The lava fields flow right into the sea.
Dennis has always said that if we land softly on South Africa, we will be adequate sailors. And we will have had over 36,000 nautical miles behind us. So I am planning on a soft landing at the Zululand Yacht Club in Richards Bay, SA.

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