Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Grand Baie to Port Louis

Hi everyone,
Today we sailed back to Port Louis from Grand Baie.  We had a nice SE wind initially but it turned SSW (on the nose) about halfway.  The engine hadn't had a workout for some time so we decided to give it a run.  It appeared to enjoy it thankfully!

Here is our track...

Zen Again track
We arrived back in the Caudan Waterfront at 1430 and rafted up alongside Vulcan Spirit.  By 1530 we were at the DHL office collecting one of the two parcels we've been waiting for.

The parcel contained a new spare autopilot ram.  We now have this new unit, one bought in 2012 and the original bought in 2010.  The latter is currently in pieces being repaired - it doesn't appear to be dead yet.

When testing the new ram we found a loose connection to the primary autopilot's course computer.  It had been misbehaving recently and it was good to find the problem and fix it.

Most of the boats we've been sailing with are departing for Reunion tomorrow.  We have to wait until our second parcel arrives.  We know it is on the island but does not appear to have cleared customs yet.  This package contains a new masthead nav light plus replacement water triggers and strobes for our automatic danbuoy.

Before leaving Grand Baie we gave a FSC burgee to the club manager.  Hopefully he will add it to the array of burgees around the club.  GBYC is a very nice spot.  We enjoyed our stay there.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Mauritius Day 10

Hi everyone,
We've been very busy playing tourist since arriving here in Grand Baie.  We are now temporary members of GBYC.  The club reminds me of RFBYC in Perth with its raised aspect, nice lawns and yachts moored all around.  The hot showers are marvellous!

Grand Baie Yacht Club
View from GBYC club house
On Thursday we walked into Grand Baie.  It is a touristy town but is nicely situated on the bay.  We walked around the the SuperU supermarket which is very impressive for such a small town.  From there we walked further out of town to the new mall which is smart but less useful than the SuperU.  From there we took a taxi to Chateau Labourdonnais.

The "chateau" is less castle and more plantation mansion.  This building was renovated about 10 years ago and is well worth a visit.  Their orchard garden is also very good, with examples of a wide range of trees, including nutmeg, cloves, mangoes, "rain tree" and more.
Chateau Labourdonnais
Where's Scarlett?
Very impressive orchard garden
On Friday we joined the crew of Vulcan Spirit in their hire car to visit the Black Water Gorge National Park.  We had a good walk around the periphery of one of the gorges, seeing nice views and a few rare endemic birds.  The drive across the island is interesting, with lowlands, elevated plateaux and mountainous areas.  Lots of sugar cane!

After the walk we had lunch at the Bois Cheri tea plantation.  Their restaurant was excellent and the plantation scenic.

One of a multitude of impressive skylines
View down Black River Gorge
Rare endemic Pink Pigeon
Bois Cheri tea plantation
Today we did a tour of various attractions also in the south west of the island.  We spent the morning at the Casela Park which houses a range of African animals.  We hope to see many in the wild later this year but this was interesting and fun.

Casela Park enclosure sign
We had lunch at the Les Chamarele restaurant which has a magnificent view over the lagoon around Benetiers Island - from Morne Brabant to Little Black River Bay.  After lunch we visited Chamarele Falls and the nearby Seven Coloured Earth.

View from Les Chamarele restaurant
Chamarel waterfall
Seven Coloured Earth
We hope to have a relatively lazy day tomorrow, having lunch at GBYC.  We expect to stay in Grand Baie for the next day or two.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Port Louis to Grand Baie

Hi everyone,
This morning we sailed from Port Louis to Grand Baie.  It was a short sail of 17nm northward along the west coast.   We took the opportunity to try out the Aires vane gear on a 20-25 knot close reach, and the slalom course it produces is clear below.  Later we hand steered, with a bit of slaloming there too!

Grand Baie is the location of the main yacht club on Mauritius which offers water, fuel, meals and hot showers to visiting yachts.  The nearby town of Grand Baie is said to be nice, apparently featuring the best supermarket on the island.

Here are our track and speed overall...

Zen Again Track
Zen Again Speed
The entrance to Grand Baie is fairly shallow.  At least one yacht has hit a rock this year while following a track recommended by other yachts.  We entered at high tide this morning with 0.5m of tide above chart datum.  The minimum depth we saw was 3.2m, or 2.7m when reduced to chart datum.

The track we followed used the leading line shown on CM93 charts.  These leads don't appear to be shown on Navionics or Garmin charts.  The leads are on a course of 154T, lining up Pointe Baignoire (where GBYC is situated) and the inland mountain Butte aux Papayes.

As our track above shows we passed well clear of the bay before tacking shorewards and bearing away.  Not pretty but we were enjoying the sail!  At the 20m depth contour we handed the sails and proceeded slowly under motor.  The drying patch on the E side of the entrance to the bay is conspic, even at high water (it was visible with water breaking over it).  If you have that about 100m on your port side you're close to the leads.  Don't stray W since there is a (charted) isolated rock.

The screenshot below shows our entry into Grand Baie in detail.  We joined the lead line in about 8m of water.  We did not see the isolated rock to starboard but the reef to port was very clear.  As we proceeded down the leads the depth decreased to a minimum of 3.4m.

We knew of an uncharted rock which had been encountered by another yacht recently.  It is shown below as VSrock.  Once past that hazard we departed the lead line to pass outside the vessels moored off GBYC and to stay over sand.  On this leg we saw the minimum depth of 3.2m when NW of GBYC.  We anchored in 5.0m just outside the GBYC moorings.

Track into Grand Baie
On the leads approaching Pointe Baignoire
View southward from our anchorage
Yesterday we did a bit more exploring and shopping around Port Louis.  The Caudan Waterfront has some nice malls, one of which has a craft area.  There are a number of local artisans creating their wares right there, and some of them are very good indeed.  There is also a shop "Mast" which sells locally made ship models.  Beautiful.

Caudan Waterfront Mall
In town we visited the Natural History museum which is a somewhat drab but has some very interesting exhibits covering the southern Indian Ocean in addition to Mauritius itself.

Dead as a ....
We expect to stay in Grand Baie for several days before returning to Port Louis for a day or two prior to clearing out sometime next week.  Timing depends on when parcels arrive from WA.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Mauritius Day 4

Hi everyone,
We're having a great time here in Port Louis.  After clearing in on Thursday last week we moved across to the Caudan Waterfront Marina.

A number of yachts have gone aground this year while moving to the marina.  Below is a graphic showing our track.  The crux is to retrace your original path, only turning towards the marina when it is abeam.  Dead slow all the way too!

Customs Dock to Caudan Waterfront Marina
Customs Dock from Caudan marina
The "marina" is actually an empty basin where yachts moor alongside the concrete walls.  We are rafted alongside the British yacht Sea Bunny who kindly invited us to do so.  Like us they are OCC members.

The marina is actually quite nice.  It has a good "vibe" with yachts from all over the world here.  The facilities are not great but at least there are toilets and (only cold) showers available.  There is also free electricity and water.  Security appears quite good.  The marina is a part of a large development which includes a hotel, several small shopping malls and an assortment of waterfront bars/restaurants.  A highway separates the development from downtown Port Louis but access is easy via pedestrian underpasses.

Downtown Port Louis is a busy mini-city.  The fruit & veg markets are absolutely fantastic - we keep having to go back to renew our fruit supplies.  Every day either the Sea Bunnies or we walk over to the market to buy the daily bagettes.  Civilised.

Since arriving we have been busily attending to boat jobs prior to hitting the tourist trail...

  • Drained the space under the chain locker (which very slowly fills at sea - something to fix)
  • Washed down the hull and deck (using first piped water since Geraldton!)
  • Filled the water tanks and jerries
  • Polished the s/s
  • Filled the main diesel tanks (50 litres used since Cocos) from jerries
  • Replaced head compartment sink drain hose (was partly blocked)
  • Ground off the paint surrounding the vang fitting on the boom

The last item was to allow us to check the boom has no damage around the fitting.  At Cocos we discovered the paint had cracked adjacent to a couple of the rivets securing the s/s fitting to the boom.  We rigged a downhaul from the s/s mainsheet hanger to the toerail during our passages beyond Cocos, just in case!  After removing the paint today we found no cracking in the metal so all is good.  We'll leave the area unpainted to allow future inspection, and probably continue to use the downhaul.

Between boat jobs we have been enjoying exploring Port Louis and socialising.  On Friday evening Richard and Sue from Sea Bunny joined us for sundowners.  On Saturday we went to the races with the crew of Vulcan Spirit.  The course is apparently the oldest in the southern hemisphere (opened in 1812).  On Sunday we had lunch with the OCC member in port at present - 10 people - plus two we hope may join.  Very nice Chinese restaurant.  On Sunday evening Phil and Norma of Minnie B joined us on Zen Again for sundowners.

Spectacular setting of the race course
In the paddock
And they're off!
Today we visited the post office to arrange a Poste Restante service.  We have two packages with spare parts on their way to us here.  Hopefully the service will work well.  We found, bought and posted homewards various birthday and Christmas gifts for family members.  We also visited the supermarket and had a partial restock - our snack supplies were nearly exhausted.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Mauritius Arrival and Passage Summary

Hi everyone,
We arrived in Port Louis at 1700 yesterday afternoon after a great passage from Port Mathurin, Rodrigues Island.  We are now moored alongside the Customs Dock at 20 09.6S 57 20.0E in company with Vulcan Spirit and Y Not.

Here are the usual graphics...

Zen Again Track
Zen Again Speed
The speed plot shows speed over ground (from GPS).  The 8 knot period is when we had some current assistance.
Eating the Elephant - Year To Date
Next the vital statistics...
  • Distances/Speeds
    • Logged distance = 372nm
    • GPS distance = 355nm (so overall the current was against us)
    • Duration = 2 days 6.5 hours
    • Average speed = 6.8 knots !!!
    • Average day's run = 163nm
    • Best day's run = 175nm !!!
    • Minimum speed = 5.0 knots
    • Maximum speed = 9.0 knots
  • Weather
    • Minimum wind speed = 8 knots
    • Maximum wind speed = 22 knots
    • Apparent wind angle range = 70 to 160
    • Seas up to 2m
    • Swell up to 3m, from SE and SSW
    • Partly overcast, partly scattered cloud, no rain
  • Engine
    • Total = 10 hours
    • Driving = 8 hours
    • Charging = 2 hours
  • Failures
    • None
  • Stars
    • The weather and the boat!

On Wednesday night we had an interesting experience with the AIS.  We picked up a target whose speed was 175 knots.  It turned out to be a SAR aircraft...

Coastguard Aircraft on AIS (SEAiq on iPad screenshot)
We had a great sail around the islands N of Mauritius then down the W coast to Port Louis.  We passed outside of the islands since the tide was flooding, producing up to 4 knots of contrary current.  Even outside the islands we had 1 knot of current against us.  Just as well we were doing 7.5 knots through the water.

Approach track
Flat Island and Pigeon Rock with Mauritius in background
Southbound towards Mauritius
Approaching Port Louis
Entering Port Louis
Alongside the Customs Dock
We arrived at the dock at 1700 and were concerned we may not be cleared in immediately.  In the event we were cleared in by customs and coastguard straight away, and by immigration an hour later. A lot of forms to fill in but otherwise straightforward.  Within an hour we were having drinks with the crews of OCC boats Vulcan Spirit, Minnie B and Sea Bunny at the adjacent bar, followed by dinner with the crew of Y Not.

At dinner Gunter commented on how long it took them to overtake us on Tuesday night (all night). He said our boat is "bloody fast".  That rounded out the day nicely!  ;)

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Mauritius Inbound Day 2

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 19 54S 57 35E, sailing at 7.5 knots on a course of 230M. The wind is 15 knots from the SE and we are out of the swell! We are close reaching past the islands off the N coast of Mauritius with the main island on our port bow. It is a spectacular sight.

Our day's run to noon today was 157nm which is good but sadly we were motor-sailing for several hours this morning in an attempt to make it to Port Louis before the port closes this evening. It's "going down to the wire".

Last night started with a clear sky. We had a sliver of moon which created a stairway to the horizon from our bow, with bright stars overhead. Nice. Unfortunately cloud came over mid-evening and from then it was a dark night. The wind held in until dawn but then dropped to 6-8 knots on our quarter which brought our speed down to less than 5 knots. Motor sailing got us going again and charged the batteries nicely.

It is nice to be finishing the passage under sail and in flat water. With a little luck we'll make it to Port Louis in time and be able to join the other (bigger) boats which arrived earlier today.

It has been a very pleasant passage, and a fast one too. The boat certainly likes beam reaching. Pictures and stats in the next posting.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Rodrigues Outbound Day 1

Hi everyone,
We are currently at position 19 47S 60 26E, sailing at 7.5knots on a course of 290M. The wind is 15-20 knots from the SSE with a long 3m swell and a 2m sea. We are beam reaching under full main and double-furled yankee. Our day's run was an amazing 175nm from noon to noon and we have 178nm to run to Port Louis. The day's run gives an average of 7.3 knots which is slightly more than our theoretical hull speed. We're not surfing on waves since they are on the beam.

The wind has been quite steady since the early hours of this morning. Occasionally it seems to be dropping but it keeps on filling in again. In terms of putting miles behind us this is definitely champagne sailing. The wind is supposed to decrease over the next day or so but hopefully it will hold in for us to complete this 350nm passage in 2 days or so. We need to get to Port Louis before dark to enter the port, otherwise we have to anchor off overnight.

I'll be very surprised if some of the boats out here with us haven't done 200nm days today. It is perfect weather for it. It reminds us of our reach up the W coast of Tasmania in our previous boat Degrees of Freedom. Fast.

Trust all's well where you are.

Rodrigues Departure

Hi everyone,
We departed Port Mathurin at 1030 on Tuesday. We had a very pleasant sail along the north coast of the island in gradually increasing winds. Once clear of the island we had about 20 knots of S wind which gave us a nice beam reach. We've been sitting on 7+ knots since then.

Our current position is 19 41S 61 51E. The wind is SSE 15-18 knots with a long 2m SSW swell and 1.5m sea. We logged 94nm to midnight, 87 from noon to midnight. Unfortunately the wind looks like moderating, otherwise we might do a 170nm day!

Tonight we had a sliver of a moon for a few hours but it set long ago. Since then we've had a starry sky except when occasional clouds block the view. We are sailing in loose company with Impala, Shayler, Vulcan Spriti and Y Not. All are bigger than us and are now well ahead except for Y Not which departed later and is a few miles off our port bow, slowly pulling away.

The passage to Port Louis in Mauritius is 350nm. With luck we might get there on Thursday before dark. More likely we'll arrive ater dark and have to anchor overnight outside the port. Port Louis is closed at night with no movements permitted in or out.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Rodrigues Day 14

Hi everyone,
We have really enjoyed our stay in Rodrigues.  Since our last post we have been out and about exploring more of the island, trying out more restaurants and socialising with the dozen or so boats here.

On Friday we took the bus to Banana River and did the coastal walk from there to Cotton Bay.  Much of the walk is around rocky headlands over a jumble of volcanic rock.  The rest is over moderately steep headlands.  Twas certainly good exercise.  We did the walk with Ann and Chris from sv Silver Girl plus Jen and Robbie who are crewing on sv Vulcan Spirit.

Hills overlooking Banana River
Beach at Banana River
Scenic Bay between Banana River and Cotton Bay 
Local Residents
The reef is close inshore here
Another local resident
 The trail finishes at the Cotton Bay resort where we had a well earned lunch and a cold beer.

Cotton Bay resort
On Saturday we had a relatively lazy day.  We shopped at the market in the morning and did a few boat jobs in the afternoon.  We spend the evening aboard sv Vulcan Spirit playing board games and cards.

On Sunday we took the bus to Mont Lubin and walked east to Mont Limon.  The view from the top is quite nice.  Unfortunately it was a rainy morning so the photos don't do it justice.  We walked back down to the road along a bush track, seeing some very colourful birds and interesting plants.  From there we walked further east to find the Jardin de 5 Senses.  It was closed but looked like a great spot.

We then walked back to Mont Lubin, stopping for lunch at the Mont Limon Restaurant.  This had the best food we've found on the island - really yummy.  From there we took the bus back to Port Mathurin.  We gave the hull a scrub in the afternoon before spending the evening on sv Silver Girl, having a great dinner followed by Banana-grams and cards.

View from the top of Mont Limon
One of many BIG spiders
This morning a cargo and passenger ship arrived at the port.  All the yachts had to up anchor and move out of the harbour.  Happily the ship was on time and we were all re-anchored by 0830.

mv Mauritius Trochetta alongside
At 1200 a group of six of us took the bus up to Mont Lubin and walked to the Jardin de 5 Senses.  We had a pretty good lunch there and then an excellent tour of their garden.  Very interesting garden arranged for the senses of taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing.  Lots of fun.  The hearing wasn't about the plants, rather being a quick introduction to the local Creole language.

Local Palm at the Jardin de 5 Senses

Local Spiral Palm at Jardin de 5 Senses
This morning we booked out clearing out process for tomorrow morning.  We plan to sail for Mauritius around mid-day tomorrow.