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Monday, January 03, 2011

Dec. 31, 2010-Another Day Sailing

We met a Mauritian couple here when they walked up to our boat at the dock in Port Louis and said “Hello, did you sail here from the US?”? It’s not an unusual question; we get asked it about three times a day in Port Louis and usually it’s just a tourist who is awed by the idea but really has no concept even when we try to tell them why it took 14 years because that’s always the next question,

“How long did it take you?”

But Jean-Mee & Jennifer are planning to buy a boat and go cruising themselves and they’ve done a bit of sailing and they were knowledgeable, interesting and interested so it was nice to meet them and we invited them aboard Wings for a glass of wine. The conversation was good and so was the Christmas Dinner we had a week later at their house.

We planned to meet again in Grand Bay for New Year’s Eve. There would be dinner ashore and then we’d watch the fireworks from Wings and the next day talk boats with them again. There would be lots to talk about and maybe time for some sailing.

So on December 30, 2010 Judy and I set sail up the coast to go back to Grand Bay, where we’ve been before.

Mauritius often promises and sometimes delivers that kind of easy sailing on its leeward side: flat water, blue skies, and good wind. There was breeze sufficient to fill the sails and move Wings at a good pace and the low chop threw an occasional splash of salt water in our faces but nothing which would bother us or cause us to work too hard. And it was warm enough to sail in shorts and a t-shirt.

It was fun in other words.

Under the main and number 4 jib, with the main flattened and traveled down and both sails eased a bit, the helm was light and the boat steady and we slid along at 7 knots just off the reef. Tombeau and Balaclava passed to weather and we approached Cannonier’s Point.

Coming out from under the point Wings heeled to the stronger breeze and we saw the breaking waves ahead marking the reefs which lurk offshore there. Judy ducked below several times to check the chart. She warned me to keep footing off even as the wind was trying to lift us. Wings wanted to sail higher and I had to resist the temptation to let her go up.

We stayed away from the reefs.

Once past the point we felt the rise of the Indian Ocean swell and the boat came alive. There was more wind, more spray, more heel, and more speed; we had the power now and we charged upwind. There was deep blue sky and Indigo ocean and the smell of clean salt air which had blown in all the way from Cape Leeuwin, Australia, three thousand miles away to the south east. It was great.

Free of land we gave Wings her head and we, along with the boat, reveled in blue water sailing at its best. So good was the sailing that there was an urge to just keep going. We right sailed past Grand Bay and looked at the horizon and imagined the vastness of the Indian Ocean ahead.

But slack high water at the flat outside of Grand Bay was not to be missed so we turned away from the open ocean, tacked over, eased the sheets and ran in watching our shadow leap over the sandy bottom. It was close enough under the keel to make us nervous but we’d been this way a few times before and we let her fly.

Later, when the chain rumbled out in our old spot in front of the Grand Bay Yacht Club we felt good; it was the last sailing day of 2010 and it had been a great day.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Grand Bay, Mauritius


The fireworks at Grand Bay were absolutely spectacular although we almost missed them; dinner in town with Jean & Jennifer and Joelle ran long then there was desert and the bill, and after that we had to weave through the Grand Bay New Year’s Eve crowds and we were even surprised to find the dingy dock packed with spectators waiting for the show but they let us through and we quickly boarded the zodiac intending to get back to Wings in time to see the show and hoping to get some good photos.

Only the show didn’t wait!

Halfway back to Wings the main fireworks started and by that time we were just abeam the raft from where they were being fired, by remote control, so at that point, when we were about 100ft away from the raft, we were the closest humans to ground zero for the Mauritius fireworks spectacular. Luckily it didn’t blow up and none of the smoldering debris landed in our dingy but we were looking straight up at them for the longest time. When it was finally over we continued on to Wings. The downside was that my camera was on Wings, not with me in the dingy, so I got no shots. Maybe Jen or Joelle did.

Footnote #2

wingssail images-judy jensen

Sailing with Jean and Jen

On January 1, 2011, we again set sail, only for this time it was to go out of Grand Bay for a short day-sail with Jean and Jennifer. Again we had great blue water sailing conditions and we beat towards the east with a #4 and full main in nice 15kt winds. What we didn't anticipate was the effect of the strong current which runs between Mauritius and the islands to its north. That current was against us and simply flattened our tacks on the outbound leg but after an hour or so when we turned back to come in with the spinnaker the current became a major issue as it swept us down towards the rocky reef on the east end of Gunner’s Quoin.

With the assym kite up but without it being fully hoisted or pulled in on the tack it could not be trimmed for a tight reach and it was not at all effective as we tried to sail high to avoid the rocks. We did get clear without much drama but it was not particularly pretty. The barely flying kite was pulling us mostly sideways and we were not going as fast as we should have been.

When it was finally it was apparent that we’d passed the rocks and we could bear away to the West we did and then we were able to trim the kite. For Jean & Jen, who have not sailed with spinnakers before, the reach to avoid the rocks was an eye opener. Jean said, “I don’t think I’m going to get one of these for my boat.” However, when we were later steaming downwind with a full kite at nine knots he might have started to reconsider and when we were back in Grand Bay at anchor it was all smiles aboard Wings; we’d had another great day on the water and enjoyed the company of our new found friends.


Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Grand Bay, Mauritius

Click here to see photos from the New Year's events at Grand Bay

Click here for a few photos from Jean & Jen's place at Trou D'Eau Douce (and the drive we took)

Click here to read (in French) Jean-Mee's political articles about Mauritius

Click here to see the log book pages of our sailing trips in December 2010

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