Indian Ocean Crossing – Wrap-up in Pictures

Well it’s been almost 2 months since we landed in Richards Bay, South Africa and now on this Christmas morning I’ve finally completed a selection of a subset (still too many) of photos from our time on the Indian Ocean, the preparation before, wandering in South Africa afterwards, as well as the brief stop in Switzerland on the way back to Singapore and finally the return to our lives in Singapore.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Looking Back to Go Forward

Image of the Day:

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Looking East at sun rise, prior to leaping into the Indian Ocean – Victoria Bay, South Africa

Highlights:

What we’ve accomplished:

  • Realized a childhood and lifelong dream
  • Sailed 5,283 nautical miles from Singapore to Richards Bay, South Africa in less than 3 months
  • Visited 4 island countries (Cocos Keeling, Australia; Rodrigues; Mauritius, Isle de la Reunion, France; as well as South Africa
  • Completed 6 “clean-ups” with local communities along the way, plus several of our own
  • Met with multiple schools and school children along the way in each place we landed, to raise environmental awareness.
  • Read or listened to at least a dozen books
  • Composed a few new songs
  • Strengthened the relationship between Dominique and I
  • Met, worked and played with some amazing people.
  • Worked through multiple personal issues related to the sea, sailing , surfing,climbing mountains, children,  human relationships and so much more…
  • Shot close to a thousand photos – greatest hits to be posted in the coming days…
  • . . .

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Pachamama’s ship track with daily way-points from Singapore to Richard Bay, South Africa

Reflections:

After 5,283 nautical miles by sea over a period of close to 3 months and now back in Singapore having leapt back into the fray of work, with the calendar year ending and midyear Review (MYR) pending, I am challenged to come up with succinct and profound concluding statements for our Indian Ocean Crossing with www.TOPtoTOP.org on the Pachamama.  This will perhaps come through time over the coming months or year, so stay tuned…

The short version: it was time well spent!

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African Animals – Days at Phinda

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Loggerhead Sea Turtle Laying Eggs

Highlights:

Following a heartfelt departure from Pachamama’s crew and family on November 7th Fairwell DinnerDominique and I headed down to Umhlanga Rocks  and the Beverly Hills Hotel for a couple of nights to recuperate, reconnoiter a bit as well as figure out what was next, did we need to make a dash to the USA, CH, SG or could we stay in ZA a bit longer….? 

Fortunately, we were able to stay and then thanks to my cousin David’s and friend Mark’s guidance decided on a heading up to Phinda Private Game Reserve run by &Beyond (previously Conservation Corps. Africa or CC Africa) for a few days in the bush and to see the animals!  This meant turning around and driving back up north, past Richards Bay, up near the Mozambique border.  We got to the Vlei Lodge at around 3pm, just in time for high tea followed by a game drive and then intimate candlelight dinner in lodge room – with bubble bath and champagne to boot!  Almost a perfect moment, broken only by them showing up a bit too soon with our appetizers at the cabin…

 

Day 1 – 5am wake-up followed by 5:30 game drive, breakfast at 10am, rest and relaxation in our cabin, high tea at 3pm and tonight a special trip – where we skipped the game drive and at 6pm joined by another couple headed out to the coast with two guides to drive up the beach on the marine reserve and observe sea turtles coming onto the beach to lay their eggs – more on this amazing full moon event below.  This was a long night and we only got back to the lodge at 2am.

Day 2 – we slept through the morning’s game drive, had a nice breakfast, walked over to the “Forest Lodge” to check out the gift shop with our excellent guide and ranger, Martin, high tea, game drive and bush dinner with the other guests.

Day 3 – Game drive, breakfast, R&R, high tea, game drive – two highlights this evening:

  1. The Cheetah brothers we’d seen the day before where hungry this afternoon and had made their way up north in the reserve.  We watched them first, just lying about and then second stalk a heard of Wildebeests (Gnu).  As things would have it the heard sniffed them out and regrouped and we did not witness a chase (we found them again the next morning, with full stomachs, so they definitely did make a kill that night).  
  2. Every evening we would search for leopards just after sunset and  prior to our return to the lodge – up until now we had no success, but tonight we had the honor of following a large male leopard as he ambled through the woods and we, now fully off-road and trail, took a beating in our vehicle as we bashed our way through the brush – followed by dinner and bed

Day 4 – Game drive, breakfast and departure.

Pictures:

Reflections:

It is hard to describe perfection and I don’t think I have ever seen anything more beautiful, graceful, rhythmical and difficult than watching this female Loggerhead Turtle as she literally swam up the sandy beach, found a proper spot for laying, dug her nest and laid her eggs! 

It was the full moon and other than Ghost Crabs on the beach we saw little on the beach as we drove north for several kilometers.  When we spotter her finally, she was about 20 yards out of the water, making her way slowly and deliberately up the sloped beach.  The effort here was beyond measure and she would periodically rest for a few seconds between climbs.  It took quite a bit of time, particularly as it was more steeply sloped towards the base of the dunes where she stopped to dig her hole.  Sea Turtles glide effortlessly through the water in a floating fashion that has always fascinated and attracted me on the few underwater encounters I’ve had with them.  On the beach, they are literally swimming through sand and not gliding effortlessly at all!  I could swear I could see her sweat!

A sea turtle can be startled or scared off back into the water if disturbed during the landing and climbing process of their laying.  However once they start digging and laying, they are so focused on the issues at hand that they are as if in a trance and completely impervious to observers.  We were extremely careful not to disturb her, stopping the vehicle instantly upon sighting her and only after one of the guides was fully convinced that she was fully in the digging phase of her efforts did we approach more closely; still always staying behind her and out of direct sight.

When we did approached she was digging what I’ll call the nest – here is where I was overcome with the beauty and perfection: having created a hollow for the front part of her body (shell was about 1 meter in length by less than half a meter wide) she braced herself and using her back legs/fins she dug a perfectly round cylindrical tube into the sand.  First one leg would go down, turned like a shovel and scope out a fin full of sand and lay it on the resting place, once back the opposite fin would flick the sand from its previous excavation forward to the gathering pile, then it in turn would descend into the hole and bring out another scope of sand.  First one side, then the other.  This went on in perfect rhythm, slowly and methodically until the exact depth require was reached and then she stopped to begin laying.  We where all on our stomachs in the sand with the wind howling over us in complete mesmerized silence.  Laying the eggs now followed which we could see less clearly though was equally methodical as one by one the eggs dropped into the hole which had been dug. 

We were unable to stay until she finished due to the rising tide and the need to get back about 20 kilometers up the beach before there was no beach for us to drive on!

I was dumbfounded by nature’s perfection and the beauty of the life-given process or “mothering” which I witnessed and gained a new respect for motherhood and the process of giving life.

Driving back we were forced to stop after spotting a Leatherback Turtle just coming out of the water and heading up the beach.  She was huge!  easily twice if not three times the size of the Leatherback we been with earlier.  After she was fairly well up the beach we snuck past her with lights off, using only the moonlight to drive by.

It was a wonderful silent night.

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Days alone: Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa

Image of the day:

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View from my window: Rogue set on a calm day at J-Bay

Highlights:

On the 16th after dropping Dominique off at the airport in Port Elizabeth for a flight to Cape Town to teach a dance workshop this weekend, I made my way down to Jeffrey’s Bay in the mid-morning and had a great surf session that afternoon in some really nice waves at Super Tubes with some outstanding local surfers – better than I’ve seen anywhere in fact and no localism issues what so ever.  I love South Africa for this and so many other things!

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J-Bay, November 16th, 20011

I’ve had a nice taste of the town this time round.  I bought a wetsuit at Core after a nice tip from the owner of Surf Africa sent me there. I ate very well at Kitchen Windows, 3 Fat Fish as well as a good lunch at the Sunflower café. The highlight has been treating myself to rooms with a view over the break at African Perfection! Perfect placement…

Reflections:

Sitting on the deck outside my perfect room at African Perfection overlooking Super Tubes on a small windless morning at 5:30 in the morning, I sip my instant coffee and wonder at this beautiful place!

What calm. The only energy stirring is the restlessness of the surfers that have chosen to go out, or those still choosing. I’ve chosen not to. It’s not that I don’t mind sitting in the water with next to no waves, it’s rather that I would like to enjoy the calm of this morning from this perfect perch and write before hitting the road later this morning. That strange feeling of guilt – I should be out, no matter what – is not with me today, no not this morning.  I feel quite good right where I am.

I see the young boy I’ve been watching – and who has been watching me – arrive at the beach now. It’s 6am and he’s been sitting on the benches watching the surfers every time I’ve been out. He seems to be about 15-16 with that mildly disarming look of someone who is not entirely right, with kind, wild eyes, he always looks up at me smiles and waves as I’ve walked past him down to the water. I imagine that he yearns to go in the water, yet something blocks him from doing so. Is it a parent, a thought, a fear, or a feeling… who knows?  Yesterday I wanted to ask him, but he was gone by the time I came out of the water. How many areas in our life do we find ourselves like this boy, sitting on the beach wondering, waiting, wanting?  and what does it take to finally take that leap? Getting past the real and imaginary blocks and beliefs we have acquired through life seems to be an endless struggle. 

I’m glad he’s here, both as a reminder to myself and for the comfort he’s provided me – as perhaps the only guy watching me surf – or as I chose to believe watching over me as I surfed…  He is a good part of this beach

The other imagining I have around him is that perhaps he lost someone or something in the water and that every day comes down hoping to they will come back. I’ve never seen the ocean give back what she’s taken or made her own.

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Africa

On November 4th at 03:30 local time we arrived in Richards Bay, South Africa

Image of the day:

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Sunset and our last night out in the Indian Ocean flying south on the Agulhas Current

Highlights:

We made it! 

Reflections:

Never surrender, never give up!

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Heading Back Out

Image of the Day:

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Dawn view from my hatch of the “hnoss” the old Norwegian boat we’ve been rafted against these past 10 days.

Highlights:

It’s time to go.  People and Boat are ready, more than ready. 

Reflections:

Like waiting for water to boil, sometimes watching and worry about it doesn’t help and even gives the impression of prolonging the event.  Many people I am in contact with right now are waiting for something – waiting to sail, waiting for an interview, waiting for a hearing waiting for news…  How we wait and how we prepare for these inevitable events can be so difficult yet so critical to the final outcome.  Staying focused though flexible to move with the changes – that come – like it or not – can really help; as can accepting that things take the time that they take and that which is beyond my control is really beyond my control, e.g. learning “acceptance”  or as some would put it, “surrender”…

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Coda – la Réunion

Well as much as we’re all eager to leave, it just isn’t the right time and the weather south of us is not moving at the speed we’d anticipated so we stay for a few more days. 

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The low pressure system in the south normally moves quite quickly to the east and stays south.  This one is sitting still and edging north which is not a good sign for us.  We will stay put for at least 24-36 more hours.

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View from our window this morning in St. Denis – Garret room in the rafters of the Hotel Le Juliette Dodu – the brightly lit window in the 2nd image

Highlights:

Returning from le Cirque de Mafate Monday night we returned to the Austral Hotel in St. Denis tired and sore.  The next morning we spent a few hours at Le Hammam Sarah for steam, soak, massage and a fabulous North African lunch!

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Back at the boat we washed the decks and Noé’s feet:

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This was followed by our own showers and then the Dominique, Bianca and I left the boat and went down to St. Gilles for ice-cream, drinks and sunset…

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Reflections:

There was a strange irony in our time in le Cirque de Mafate that I don’t believe was captured by either Dario or my previous posts.   It was a paradise without cars and only a few families all living quietly in the crater of the volcano.  However at first light the next morning began arrival after arrival of helicopters, either delivering people or goods for the village, shattering the morning stillness.  The traffic was constant until the lunch hour.  Practically speaking – helicopters are the way to go for access, supply and transport, however the strange contradiction that they seem to bring to the quiet beauty of the place and those who chose to live there. 

Perhaps too an example of “having one’s cake and eating it too” though somehow it left me with an odd taste in my mouth…

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Days in Isle de la Réunion, France

Position Direction Degrees Minutes
Latitude South 20 56.340
Longitude East 055 17.027

Image of the Day:

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Dominique: dancing with the garbage we collected on the decent from Cayenne

Highlights:

We have been in La Réunion for a week and will be here for a few more days.  We have really been making the most of it!

Our days in port have been working on the boat and trying, still unsuccessfully to recalibrate the autopilot.  Le Port is a good place for boats, less for people as it is about a mile from the town and the neighborhood is a bit dicey at night.  Dominique and I rented a car…

 

Dominique, Bianca and I had a couple days off last week where we drove around the island and spend two nights at “Le Victoria” a very nice hotel in Grands Bois (Saint Pierre) in the South West.  We had fun driving around the island.

The Schworer family had gone up to Cilaos for these 2 days off and on the first night in Grands Bois, I drove up to Cilaos to meet Dario a little before midnight so that we could climb the highest peak on the island: Le Ption des Neiges (3070 Meters) which was a vertical ascent of over 1700 meters, something I didn’t really understand until about 2am… 

Note to self: when a Swiss mountain guide invites you on a short walk in the mountains, beware…  Dario and I climbed non-stop from 12:15 to 4:30 when we reached the summit.  It was beautiful!  We had hiked up in the light of the full moon to the highest point of the island above the Cirque de Cilaos crater.  The view was stunning and we were all alone.  Needless to say at the top it was close to freezing and even though my make-shift poncho (made from a shower curtain and duct-tape) cut the wind, it was not enough to stay for long, so before the sun rose we made our way back down, crossing close to 50 climbers eagerly making their way up for sunrise.  We were happy to have left and enjoyed the sunrise alone during our decent.

Dario and I arrived back at their Gite in Cilaos at 8am and had a nice breakfast with Sabine and the children and then I made my way back down to Grands Bois to join Dominique and Bianca for a second breakfast and then a fantastic lunch at Francois 1er followed by a drive up to the active volcano in the south – while I slept in the back of the car – Sadly it was raining quite hard at the top of the crater, so there was no view.  We continued to drive across the island and up through St. Andre looking for a new place to stay only to find no hotels and nothing available up in the mountains, given  a mountain running event that was taking place from Thursday night through Sunday: “La Diagonale des Fous”. Giving up our search around 7pm we called the Victoria and begged for a room and then drove back across the island where we slept… 

On the next day we drove south this time through a fresh lava flow (1976) and a church, Notre Dame des Laves which had been surrounded by lava, though not destroyed during an eruption of the southern volcano in the town of Sainte Rose. Our trip took us finally up to the lovely capital town of St. Denis and an amazing fish dinner at: Le D.C.P. (some of the freshest and best fish I’ve ever had!) Finally we returned to the boat that night and spend the next day varnishing and  and sealing hatches, all hoping for the weather window to open, but not yet (thankfully).

The next day the old Norwegian boat we were rafted to had a morning trip so we had to move and once again tried to calibrate the autopilot.  Still no joy.  That afternoon Dominique and I took off for St. Denis to the Austral Hotel and a 2nd dinner at Le D.C.P.

The Schworer’s and Bianca were heading up to Cayenne – a village of 8 families, no cars up in Le Cirque de Mafate – another crater in the north-west of the island.  Sunday the 16th is Dario’s birthday and he wanted to be in the mountains.  Dominique and I had chosen not to go, though secretly had arranged with Sabine that we’d come up on Sunday with a chocolate cake for Dario and surprise them all for dinner. 

At 11am we met Monsieur Legros in the town of Riviere des Galets after having an amazing fresh fruit salad of pineapple and mangos with hot pepper and salt from the church fair.  He drove us in his 4×4 up to the trailhead (about 45 minutes) and then we hiked up to the village of Cayenne (about 2 1/2 hours).  We met a nice dog along the way and were intrigued by the difficulties of having to carry a cake up into the mountains that we could not strap to our backs!

What a stunning place! 

Jeff our host at the camping – he  supplies the tents, with mattresses, as well as breakfast and Creole dinner, was a real treat and as you can see from the photos below, has perhaps the best view from his kitchen that we’ve ever seen…

Dominique and I split off from the family this morning and hiked back down the mountain on a different trail picking up garbage (plastics primarily) along the way – lots of it!  M. Legros was there at the meeting place and off we went back to St. Denis and back to the Austral Hotel where we’ve been lounging and snacking for the last few hours – ready for an early night.

Reflections:

We all wanted to sail, yet have seen more beauty and discovered more interesting people and places here – why fight it?  We’ll leave when we leave….

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Do we? don’t we? … we don’t!

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Current Position 06:00 UTC +4
Course over Ground   Degrees
Speed over Ground   Knots
Speed thru Water   Knots
Heading   Degrees
Position Direction Degrees Minutes
Latitude South 20 56.340
Longitude East 055 17.027

 

Image of the Day:

 

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“View from my hatch:” Dawn in port at ‘Le Port Ouest’ at Pointe Des Galets, La Reunion, France

Highlights:

We spent the morning trying to re-calibrate the auto-pilot, an instrument that was given a power-rest by Noé (age 2) prior to our arrival in Mauritius and then never managed to hold a course for more than about an hour or so, before it’s compass would lose its bearing and generally steer us off course and into a nasty jib or other ugly situation if not carefully managed.  The problem was a mobile speaker system that was too close to the flexgate Raymarine compass which is used for TOPtoTOP school presentations.

Unfortunately our attempts to calibrate the compass failed and the sea-trials took half the day and after further reflection on our weather situation the skipper’s decided to wait this out a bit longer.

Reflections:

Making decisions which impact the lives of many is tough and though I may not always agree with Dario’s decisions, I respect his approach and the time he takes to make his choices.  He appears to be doing this in a very complete manner; gathering data for proper analysis by the mind, listening to his gut and feelings regarding how the data looks and finally seeking some form of confirmation from outside, like an echo or in his case, I believe a prayer. 

On the next day we drove south and when we saw this:

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realized that the decision was not all bad…

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Heading Back in Again –Leg 4 Day 2–Voyage Day 50

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Current Position 05:45 UTC +4
Course over Ground 226 Degrees
Speed over Ground 5.0 Knots
Speed thru Water n/a Knots
Heading 250 Degrees
Position Direction Degrees Minutes
Latitude South 20 53.904
Longitude East 055 17.555
Distance Remaining n/a Nautical Miles Sea Surface Temperature 22.9 Degrees C

Image of the Day:

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Heading back in at Pointe des Galets, La Reunion, France

Highlights:

We had a rough 20+ hour sail from Mauritius to here, with most of crew quite sick,  a failing autopilot in heavy seas and wind causing random jibs and other scary moves, plus a holding tank which needed clearing, so early this morning we ducked into the harbor at Pointe des Galets for a quick rest and hopefully some quick repairs.  This really is our last chance before the crossing to Africa, which seems to be continually challenged by high seas and winds.

Check this out via downloading zyGrib a very handy piece of software for viewing Grib files (weather data).

Reflections:

I wish we’d kept going…

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