June 2017 - Rodrigues & Mauritius

1 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
It was a nice sunny day, so I decided to do a bit of maintenance.  After our wet passage, there was a large rusty stain on the deck next to one of our windlass foot switches.  I took the switch apart and found that the rubber switch cover had spilt allowing sea water into the innards.  I always leave the windlass circuit on, so the switch contacts have been immersed in sea water - a fine environment for electrolysis.

The positive contact had been mostly eroded away and the switch was a mess.  I cleaned off all of the corrosion, but the positive contact was destroyed.  It took me a couple of hours to make a new contact from a crimp and solder it back in place.  I sealed the rubber cover with silicone sealant, so hopefully it will be good enough until I can get another deck switch in Mauritius or Reunion.

Boat Maintenance

We wandered into town and had lunch at a small restaurant called "Tirozo", which was basic, but nice.  Glenys had Calamari in a Tomato sauce and I had Octopus Curry, which is a local delicacy.  Both were tasty and reminiscent of Creole cooking in the Caribbean. 

After lunch, we wended our way through the streets of Port Mathurin.  It’s a small town with two story buildings, narrow streets and a plethora of small shops.  Rodrigues used to be a French colony and slaves were imported to work in the plantations, so many of the people have African origins.  The people look very Caribbean - we could almost be in Martinique or Guadeloupe.  Everyone is very friendly - we went in one shop asking for a Mauritian flag and ended up with the shop owner showing us photographs of his family - it took us fifteen minutes to escape.  

In the evening, we invited “Hokulea” over for a beer or two.  It’s chilly in the evenings, so we sat in the cockpit with the sprayhood up and we were all wearing jumpers.

2 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
It was another nice day, so we caught a bus to Pointe Cotton, which took 50 minutes travelling over Mont Limon, the highest point of the island (389.3m) - the 0.3m is obviously very important.  Up in the hills, it is very green with farm land dotted between the various small villages.

Point Cotton is on the east side of the island and is exposed to the prevailing south-east winds, so as we descended towards the coast the landscape because more bleak.  The bus dropped us off at a nice beach with a pine wood giving shade from the sun.  We walked north along the beach, past a large hotel and after clambering over some pipes, found a path marked by orange paint on the rocks.  

Nice Lunch Stop

It was a varied route over scrubland on top of cliffs, sometimes descending down to beaches, through groves of very thorny bushes and cactii. Rodrigues has a huge fringing reef forming a shallow lagoon around the island, so the water colours are pretty.   Just before we reached Banana River, we were forced inland towards a quarry and had to follow a dirt road for a while, but we soon found our way back to a cliff edge, where we had lunch overlooking a bay.

From Banana River, the route followed small yellow lines painted on the rocks, taking us along the beach; under cliffs and along more beaches and rocks.  After three hours of walking, the coastal path ended at a tarmacked coastal road and then it was an hour’s walk past a couple of beaches to Port Mathurin.

3 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
Being a Saturday, it was Market Day, so we went into town.  It wasn’t much different to a normal day - just twice as many stalls and more people milling about.  The market is a bustling place and very colourful - half of the stalls sell vegetables and the other half sell baskets, chutneys and Dried Octopus, which is a local speciality.  

Meat is sold in six small shops in a line at the side of the market.  Each shop specialises in one type of meat - chicken, pork, lamb, fish or goat.  It’s not exactly European health standards, but much better than the places we’ve seen in South-east Asia.  Glenys bought some Goat and chicken.

We had a quiet afternoon on board.  The weather has changed.  It was more overcast this afternoon and the wind is getting stronger.  It was so cold that we hunkered down below and watched a movie.

Mathurin Market

4 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
It wasn’t too bad a day - very windy with clouds screaming across the sky, but not too much rain, so we went for a short hike up to a white cross on top of a hill overlooking the town.  After skirting around the side of the town’s sports stadium, we followed a road up a steep hill and, at a bus shelter, we turned right onto a dirt road.  This went directly under the small rocky peak and it was a short scramble up to the cross, giving us a nice view of the town and the anchorage.

We wandered around the top of the hill, ducking under thorny trees and scrambling up to another small peak.  There were quite a few small birds with dazzling crimson heads and bodies.  I later discovered that these were two species of weavers - the Madagascar Fody and the Mauritius Fody.   Back at the dirt track, we walked down through farm land and to the coast road where we were able to walk back to town.  

After lunch at a picnic table, we came across a music and food event at the local secondary school, where we found  “Lucie” and “Continuum” having lunch.  We chatted to them for half an hour, but the music was so loud that it was hard to think and we escaped back to the tranquillity of the boat.

The weather deteriorated in the afternoon and the forecast is for winds gusting over 30 knots for the next week with heavy rain on some days - we’re glad to be tucked up here in this safe anchorage. 

5 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
It was my 61st birthday and we’d planned to hire a motorbike for the day.  Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas - it was so miserable in the morning that we abandoned our plans and hunkered down on-board.  It's winter here in the southern hemisphere, with only three weeks to go to the shortest day of the year. We're only at 20°S, which is equivalent to North-west Africa, but we don't have the protection of the Gulf Stream here.  The winds from the highs that are passing to the south of us are bringing up the cold southern winds.  It's only a bit chilly, but a real shock to us.

Birthday Steak & Fries

At lunch time, we took advantage of a gap in the rain and went to a restaurant called “Les Deux Freres”, where we had a nice leisurely meal, a couple of beers and a bottle of wine.  After a quick stop at the boulangerie, we headed back to the boat and watched a movie with another bottle of wine and a baguette.  It was a nice relaxing birthday.

6 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
The weather was much more pleasant, but it remained very windy.  Overnight a German catamaran called “Gemeos” had sailed onto the shallow reef surrounding the bay. He wasn’t able to start either of his engines and in the strong winds & big seas, he drifted onto the reef.  The owner was single-hand sailing the 42 foot catamaran and after a 2,000 mile passage alone in strong winds was probably exhausted.

The port authority was talking about using their tug to pull the boat off the reef, so Ralph from “Relax” (German) and I volunteered to go out with them to assist.  We went to the dock at 11:00 (half an hour before high tide) and then hung around for two hours waiting and waiting.  The coast guard were in charge of the operation and, after putting a few air bags under the hull, they decided to wait until tomorrow when the wind and waves should be lighter.  The owner elected to stay on board overnight.  

In the evening, we invited “Hokulea”, “Ngalawa”, “Endimion” and “Relax” to Alba for a small birthday party.  With eleven people, it was very crowded in our cockpit, but the weather was kind to us and it didn’t rain.  Glenys did us proud by producing a huge Paella to feed everyone.

7 June 2017   Port Mathurin, Rodrigues
I woke with a “bit” of a hangover - who on earth left me in charge of a 3 litre box of wine?

We didn’t feel like going out hiking or running about, so we did some jobs on board.  I went up the mast and did some work on the rigging.  I tightened the starboard lower stay by ½ turn; the two cap shrouds by ½ turn; and the intermediate shrouds by 1 full turn.  Hopefully, that will keep all the rigging under tension the next time we’re beating up wind.  I also checked the broken wire on the starboard intermediate shroud and it hasn’t become any worse.   

A Tug hovers about doing nothing

The catamaran remained on the reef today.  I went out to see if there was anything that we could do to help.  After being bounced around overnight, the starboard hull now has a 4 foot long split and has flooded.  The owner was hoping that the coast guard would attach empty drums to the hull and pull him off at high tide, but midday came and went.  The authorities did nothing all day apart from an abortive attempt to remove diesel from the boats fuel tanks - their pump didn’t work.  The owner spent another miserable night on board.

In the afternoon, I had a hangover relapse, so I went ashore and wandered around for a while.  A proportion of the islanders are descended from Indian workers who came to work on the French-owned plantations after the abolition of slavery - this means that some of the street food has Indian origins.  Many of the street vendors sell Dhall Puri on Roti, which is a flat bread smeared with a Dhall curry and hot sauce, then folded in quarter.  It’s very reminiscent of the “Doubles” that we ate in Trinidad and is very tasty.  It’s also a good pick-me-up for a hangover.