My last post detailed our somewhat rocky arrival to Mauritius, but ended with “Nor’easter” being in fine fettle, the crew rested, well fed, and ready to enjoy all the sights and sounds of an idyllic French Island with its own unique culture. Once we got the alternator working and our slip arranged, we spent the next few days eating a variety of delicious meals, hanging out with our friends in the ARC rally, and resting after our 2300 NM passage from Cocos Keeling. SCUBA, hiking, parasailing, canyoning, whatever, we were going to do it all.
Our third night, however, threw us a curve ball. Travis and I decided to visit a nice Italian restaurant away from the modern waterfront, which felt a bit like Palm Beach, not some remote Indian Ocean island. A local taxi driver snared us shortly after we hit the dock, and promptly got lost in spite of Travis showing him the restaurant’s location on Google Maps. Eventually we arrived, had two fine meat-lovers pizzas, and called our cabbie for the return trip. He was not available for at least 20 minutes, so we began the 2 km trek home through what was probably not the nicest part of Port Louis. About 1.5 km from the marina, as we walked along a dark but wide sidewalk along a major highway, I jammed my right sandal-clad foot into a 1′ high by 2′ square concrete block, strategically placed in the middle of the dark walkway. I almost recovered, only to see a second identical block 1′ behind the first one, so all I could do was execute a perfect shoulder roll left and hit the pavement. Fortunately, my falling technique is well honed, and I suffered no abrasions whatsoever, other than a broken big toe. The walk home was painful, but the swelling didn’t get bad until the next day. I couldn’t walk without excruciating pain.
Thinking that I’d have to go home and have the toe surgically repaired, I was in great despair for the future of our trip, but one of my on-call physician friends, Mark Smith, reviewed the photos I sent of the injury, consulted with an orthopedic surgeon colleague, and assured me that I’d be fine without medical intervention. A few days later I was walking almost normally, but spent most of our Mauritius visit icing my toe in my forepeak berth and reading Nigel Calder’s “Marine Electronics for Boat Owners,” which has taken on new relevance since our alternator debacle.
Travis, however, had some nice hikes and did a Hash House Harriers run with the crew from “Charm,” and he will detail that in a future blog. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to enjoy much of Mauritius, but after a week, we headed to Reunion Island, just 140 NM distant, and arrived rested and well-fed with no boat problems whatsoever. Travis did a great hike with one of the “EQII” crew, we visited some gorgeous beaches, and I played golf twice. We also had one “work day” where we washed and polished “Nor’easter,” and she looks fantastic.
The only bad thing about Reunion Island is their sharks. The reported fatal attacks average about 4 per year, the highest in the world, but it’s probably a lot worse. One of the French guys with whom I played golf told me he has “several” friends who have lost children to sharks while wading in shallow water. Since attacks on children generally leave no trace of the remains, these get reported as “drownings.” The beaches are spectacular, but nobody goes swimming except on one beach where they have shark nets.
While I can’t hike with Travis due to both my age (he goes 8 hours straight uphill) and my still-mangled toe, we did a fun “canyoning” expedition a few days ago with Joe Grosjean of “Charm,” his wife Lara, and his 3 kids (13, 9, and 6). Also joining the adventure were a father/daughter crew from Germany sailing the ARC, as well as Travis’s hiking buddy Todd from “EQII.”
Upon arriving at the hike’s starting point, we donned full wetsuits, climbing harnesses, and helmets. This particular “adventure” was the easiest one offered, and since Joe’s 6-year-old daughter Tully was doing it, I figured I could handle it. However, Joe and Lara own a climbing gym in Colorado and are sailing around the world with their kids, so these youngsters are far from typical.
Our first thrill was rapelling down a 40′ cliff, which did not give me much trouble, but was not something I’ve done before. Next we came to a ledge where you could jump from either 15′ or 8′ into a deep pool. I stepped up first and jumped off the 15′ spot, figuring I’d get it over with early so I couldn’t chicken out. Next we got to zipline into a frighteningly small pool, which wouldn’t have been scary were it not for the fact that our guide, Olivier, had to release the line’s tension at precisely the right time or the zipline rider would slam into the boulder to which the lower end of the line was attached. I let others do this before I tried it, and had Olivier reassure me that he liked me before I hooked in and jumped.
The high point of the expedition for me was the 15 meter zipline into a large pool, where the rider hits the water at probably 25 mph. It reminded me of falling while water skiing, but from a steeper angle. Our guide graciously let us do this as many times as we liked, but the hike back up from the pool was muddy, steep, and had to be negotiated hanging onto rocks, roots, and small trees. I did it twice and called it a day. Tully, the 6-year-old, stepped right up to the precipice and took off with a big smile on her face. I can’t imagine any child that age with no fear of heights, but she had none.
Tomorrow we sail for Durban, South Africa, and then pick our way down the Dark Continent’s coast to Capetown. The weather for this passage, which is nominally only 1500 NM , is the worst we will experience on our entire circumnavigation. We have enlisted the help of a Durban weather routing expert, Des Cason, who said we are the 100th boat he’s guided this year, and he’s never had a mishap with one of his clients (as long as they followed his advice). The Agulhus Current, which makes this trip so challenging, whips around the southeast coast of Africa at up to 6 knots, going north to south, but when it is met with low pressure systems coming up from the southwest, freakish waves form, sometimes 60′, and even large ships have been lost in those conditions. Once we get past the south end of Madagascar, we will be told either to stay put, head north, or make a dash for Durban. “Nor’easter” is fully fueled, everything is working, I went up the mast today to clean and inspect all the rod rigging, and we double-checked our sails for chafing. Our pantries are loaded with fine French canned goods, sausages, fresh meats, and vegetables. We are ready to take on the Cape of Good Hope (formerly called “Cape of Storms,” but they changed the name to make it more appealing. That is reassuring).