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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March 31, 2011-Blue Peter Flys Again

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Ready to Depart

Wings is tugging at the dock lines and a fresh breeze is blowing. The flags are standing out straight. The sky is blue. The tide is high. It’s a good time to set sail.

Yet again we are about to depart for Africa. At 11:00 today we will stow the dingy and the awnings, say our goodbyes, make our numbers with the port, slip the lines and take a course for Reunion Island on the way to South Africa.

Less than one year ago we set out with a similar plan in mind but after reaching Sumatra we turned back; we got caught up short. A period of crisis followed, crisis of confidence and direction, leaving us set aback, stopped, and lost. But the lost period didn’t last. We adjusted, we signed on crew, and we set out again.

Again we got caught up short and we fetched onto the island of Mauritius. A planned five day stay turned into five months. This time it we needed to make some repairs and our beloved crew member Pierre, couldn’t wait. But those trials, too, passed.

Now with new crew and a fixed up boat we’ll go again. This time, we have no doubt; we’ll make it to Africa.

We have a date to see the lions there.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings. Mauritius

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Monday, March 28, 2011

March 28, 2011-Countdown

wingssail images-judy jensen
Servicing the Barient 532 3-sp

Today I finished servicing the winches. It’s been a while since I last had a look inside these monsters and I was pleasantly surprised; they were all still pretty well lubricated and reasonably clean. Still, going into eight winches, to clean and re-lube them all, is a slow and messy job.

But it’s done now, as is the refueling, propane refill, provisioning, chain stowing, dingy stowing, wind vane servicing, and a myriad of other preparedness tasks.

Basically it means we think we’re ready to sail to Africa on Thursday.

Judy asked, “What are we missing? How can we be so ready two days before departure that we have time like this and nothing major left to do?

“We must be missing something.”

More Music!

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Last look at the Caudan Basin

So we went over to the La Sufferen Hotel where they have free WiFi and cold beer in the bar and downloaded some more music for the trip.

Oh! We’ve got to buy more wine.

It’ll be a good trip.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Mauritius

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Monday, March 21, 2011

March 19, 2011-Paul Sungalle

wingssail images-judy jensen

Back in November, when my new refrigerator didn’t work, I called for a local refrigeration expert to help out. A man named Paul Sungalle showed up with gauges and a bottle of R34 and a good attitude and, together, he and I worked on the problem. It was tricky but Paul was a smart guy, a problem solver, and a good worker. We fixed the refrigerator. When my alternator failed I called for a local electrician to help out. Paul Sungalle showed up for that one too, and again he proved to be a smart problem solver and a good worker and we fixed the alternator.

Later, when Paul was fixing another boat’s windlass, he asked me for my opinion and I shared my windlass experience with him and then went with him aboard that other boat and together we solved the windlass problem.

Over the weeks and months, as we fixed the problems on Wings and other nearby boats, Paul Sungalle became a good friend.

Often we would meet in the parking lot and he was always happy to stop and chat about any subject, boat problem or world problem. He had broad experience and expertise and curiosity and an open mind about everything. Our conversations were pleasant.

Paul Sungalle died this last weekend; heart attack it was said.

We’ll miss him.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Mauritius

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

March 19, 2011-Keel Repair In Mauritius

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

Judy takes the yard launch to the boat yard

The cyclone shelter here in Port Louis has a few wrecks hiding in its murky depths; we knew of three and while moving around back there last month trying to avoid cyclone Bingiza we found a fourth. Backing up a few feet from one spot to another we unfortunately came to a sudden stop. Bang! Wow! What was that and what damage did it do?

Diving later to take a look at the keel (when we had gone out of Port Louis to a bay up north where the water is cleaner) we found a nasty little ding.

I guess we could have sailed on to Africa with that little ding; the damage was slight. But our bottom paint was 17 months old and the zinc was almost gone and with this damage it just made sense to do a haul out at Taylor Smith Boat Yard here in Mauritius and fix everything and that’s what we did: Tuesday we hauled it out, over the next three days we fixed the keel, sanded and painted the bottom (with the help of yard worker Rayman), replaced the zinc, and on Saturday morning, in the rain, we relaunched.

So that’s done.

Now we just have to provision the boat, dodge a couple of more tropical depressions which are prowling around out there, and clear out. Africa here we come.

Click here to see photos of this haul-out.

Click here to see the log book page of this incident.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Mauritius

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Friday, March 18, 2011

March 18, 2011-New Content

We have some new content for you and we've created a new blog to hold it: (see the link at the top of this page).

This blog contains the scanned pages of our log book.

wingssaillogbookpages-fredrick roswold

Australia to New Cal (2002)

(Click here for the rest of that trip.)

As long as we have had Wings each time we went sailing or even just untied the lines to move the boat to another slip, we wrote the details of that trip on a page in our log book. Now we have scanned many of these pages (all of them since July 1996, when we started cruising full time) and they are posted in the wingssail logbookpages blog.

There is an index on the right side of every posting in that blog which lists all the countries, ports, marinas, boat yards, anchorages which we have visited. Also in that index are some of the friends and crew who have sailed with us. For the curious we also have all the breakdowns and repairs listed in the index.

(There is a similar index in this blog, see on the right side, at the bottom.)

If you click on any index entry you will see all the posts related to that entry.

Of course there is an archive which also shows all the pages for any month or year.

Soon we will add links in many of our stories here to the log book pages of those trips so when you are reading the story you can go to the log book page and see the details. In the future we will have back links so that if you are looking at a log book page you will be able to go to the story, if any, which was written about it.

Here are other examples of the log book pages for two popular stories:

Passage Summatra to Mauritius (2010) and all the stories (dispatches)

Passage from Fiji to New Zealand (1998) and the story

We admit that they are pretty dry reading, but for any of you who want to see what actually was going on the details are there.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Mauritius

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March 15, 2011-Mauritius Report


Rodriguez, Mauritius, Reunion: the Mascarene Islands. More than what you would read in Patrick O’Brien, although that is interesting in and of itself, and with more yachts thinking of crossing the Southern Indian Ocean to Africa instead of the higher pirate risk of the Red Sea Route we thought that sharing our experience in Mauritius would be of use to others who might follow in our footsteps.

We stayed in Mauritius for six months after missing the November window which we think is the safe limit of the season for a departure for Africa.

Approaching Mauritius from the NE, as most mariners will, your first sight of land after the long and rough Indian Ocean crossing will be Round Island, some 13 miles to the Northeast of Mauritius’ Cape Malheureux. Mauritius itself will not rise above the horizon until it is quite close, maybe 4-5 miles, depending on the clarity of the air that day, the northern part of the country quite being low. Be cautious of the off lying reefs which surround the Island and take particular care rounding Canonnier’s Point, the NW corner of Mauritius; its reefs are particularly dangerous.
Be also aware that the magnetic variation at Mauritius is around 19 degrees.

The flat water sail down the NW coast will be a welcome relief to the endless swells of your crossing and the entrance to Port Louis is straight forward and well marked. Note that there are two harbors at Port Louis; the southern one is the main port and it is where yachts enter. The electronic charts for this area are generally accurate.

Entry and Clearance:
Call “Port Louis Port Control” on Channel 16 when arriving at the outer markers and request permission to come into the port. This harbor is busy with arrivals and departures of numerous fishing vessels, container ships, and cruise ships and the port control manages the traffic closely. If you enter (or depart) without permission you may be intercepted by the coast guard in one of their orange speedboats.

The port is open during daylight hours; arrivals after 18:00 may not be acknowledged by radio. It is acceptable to anchor clear of the entrance until morning.

Upon obtaining permission to enter yachts proceed to the customs and immigration station at Lat 020 09.6 S, Lon 057 30.0 E. This is a poorly marked or unmarked building for customs and immigration with a small float (orange boats) and to the right of that a concrete wall where yachts are expected to tie. Be cautious of the shallow area to the starboard of the direct line to the Customs Station. Tie to the wall and the skipper can go into the offices to the left and complete formalities. This process can take over an hour as often various officials will need to be called. Sometimes they will board the yacht for inspection. While not strictly permitted crew members can go ashore for a meal or refreshment at the mall directly behind the wall where the yacht is tied without causing undue concern from the friendly officials.

Be sure to get a copy of your clearance papers because it may be required by coast guard boarding parties if you visit other ports in Mauritius. (In every port we visited in Mauritius the local Coast Guard team came out to say hello and check our papers as we first anchored in their jurisdiction.)

One note: No firearms are allowed, and this, strangely, includes spear guns. Declare your firearms and spear guns and the Mauritius Customs will ask you to turn then in for the duration of your stay in Mauritius. You will be given a receipt and told to call them 24 hours prior to departure so that the weapons can be delivered to the waterfront office for your recovery when you check out.

Citizens of most countries will be given a two week visa on arrival which can be extended by application to the immigration office at Sterling House, a short distance from the waterfront in downtown Port Louis. Several forms must be completed and documents provided so it is worth going there a day or two before to get the list of what is needed. Visa extensions of up to 180 days for owners and crew are commonly approved.

Foreign yachts, the vessels themselves, however, are only allowed to be in Mauritius for three months and after that time Mauritius Customs will expect a bond or bank guarantee equal to 15% of the value of the vessel to be presented to their office (New Customs House in the Free Port area).

Officials in Mauritius are courteous and professional, will speak English as well as French and Creole, and they will not ask for any fees or other payments.

Berthing in Port Louis
Just .25nm due west of the customs station is the Le Caudan Marina. Yachts may proceed there after clearing and tie at any available spot. Tying on the outside wall is permitted but yachts there will be subject to wakes. The quay at Le Caudan is concrete and can quickly damage topsides if your fenders are not properly deployed. Rafting is permitted.

If westerly swells are present (uncommon during winter) the quay at Le Caudan is untenable and yachts should move elsewhere, commonly into the “basin” (see below).
Berthing is reasonably priced, electricity and water are included, and the fees are paid at the Caudan Security office across the parking lot from the quay. They will accept mail and packages.

There is a back basin, the Caudan Basin, (the entrance further westward) which is used as a cyclone shelter for all Mauritius based yachts and visiting yachts may go into this basin and tie for free wherever there is room. Be very cautious navigating in the Caudan Basin because there are shallow areas and numerous unmarked wrecks there. Port Louis authorities will need to clear this basin before it is safe for visiting or local yachts.

The other note is that Port Louis is a dirty harbor. Diesel is often present on the surface of the harbor and this will foul your waterline as well as present a strong smell which gave us headaches. Easterly winds, however, usually keep this out of the marina. The water quality is not good in other ways also; after heavy rains the whole Port Louis harbor becomes a sewer.

Facilities in Port Louis
Mauritius has a number of small chandleries and many engineering shops which cater to yachts. There is, for example, a sail maker here with a good reputation (Rob Stevens). There is, however, no yachting directory for Mauritius so perhaps the best way to contact any of the resources is through the helpful services of Rashid (+230 422 5895), a taxi driver who focuses on assisting yachties, or one of the captains of the charter yachts usually tied up in the marina.

Parts and equipment which are not available locally may be ordered and quickly shipped from the US or Europe via FedEx, UPS, or DHL or other carriers. Yachts in transit are not subject to the 15% VAT but customs clearance and delivery fees may add up to more than that amount. Talk to the courier company before your parts arrive to decide whether you wish to pay the vat or the customs clearance fees.

The Taylor-Smith careenage is located nearby in Port Louis and boasts an excellent 200 ton travel lift and a concrete hardstand with professional staff who can complete or arrange most haul-out services for a very reasonable cost.

Several supermarkets and “hyper-markets” are located either within walking distance of the marina or by taxi or bus. Prices for most items in the super markets are comparable to similar products in Asia or the US. Taxi fares are high in Mauritius; expect to pay more than you did in Asia or Australia for a taxi ride. Fuel costs are also high here. Luckily we arrived with most of our low cost Indonesian fuel still aboard.

There is an excellent market just a couple of blocks from the marina with the best selection of fresh produce we’ve seen in our years of cruising. Be careful, however, of the vendors there; they are happy to sell you second quality goods if you are not looking closely when they select them for you. Selecting the items you want yourself is better but many vendors will not let you do this.

Health Services
Mauritius has good medical and dental facilities and would like to develop a “Health Tourism” industry. Services for visitors are reasonably priced but the quality of the facilities are uneven and not consistently up to the standards, for instance, of Australia, Thailand, or Malaysia. That being said, we received excellent care for the medical services we needed while in Mauritius and found low priced prescription and non prescription medicine here.

Cruising in Mauritius
Sailing is excellent all around Mauritius with plenty of wind and waters, once away from the shores, free of dangers. The electronic charts, where present, are accurate. Mauritius is called “The Green Island” for good reason, it is bright green (more so in summer). Mauritius is also mountainous; the vistas for a yacht circumnavigating Mauritius are beautiful.

Grand Bay.
To the north of Port Louis, Grand Bay offers a good anchorage and many attractions ashore. There is a yacht club, The Grand Bay Yacht Club, with facilities available for free for visiting yachtsmen upon application at the office, and an active social and racing program. From a waypoint at Lat 019 59.3 S Lon 057 34.1 E proceed on course 151 true past the Red and White “Pass Mark”, taken to starboard, over the 2.4m flat (sand), towards the barely visible range at the GBYC until you reach the 4m area where the yachts are moored. Further into the bay the depths are 5-6 meters and holding is good. The Grand Bay Coast Guard will visit you as soon as you come into the bay and may board you to check your papers, as will other coast guard units at other ports in Mauritius.

Riviere Noire (Black River)
South of Port Louis, Reviere Noire is the center of the active sports fishing fleet of Mauritius, with the famous La Morne Angler’s Club there, annual fishing derbies, and Black Marlins landed on most days. Entrance is straight forward and anchorage is easy, if surrounded by reefs, and calm but expect an onshore wind most days which will swing you right around and bring a slight chop. By nightfall however the easterly will be back and the anchorage will again be calm.

Grand Port.
On Mauritius’ east shore, Grand Port is both historic and scenic. Grand Port was the first port established by the Dutch in the 1500’s and remained the main harbor for French Mauritius until the early 1800’s when Port Louis was developed by Mahe LaBourdinais. Navigation within Grand Port is rewarding for the adventurous if a bit tricky and you must closely watch your charts; the channels are twisting and generally unmarked. Anchoring in the lee of Ile de La Passe permits easy access to that historic fort as well as other nearby islets but the winter trade winds are unrelenting. Grand Port is rarely a mill pond.

Further offshore are the Cargodos Carajos Shoals, known locally as St. Brandon, some 250nm to the north, which are remote and untouched, and other destinations such as Ile Tromlin and Madagascar, as well as Rodriguez and Reunion which all offer interesting cruising for the Mauritius based yacht.

Land Cruising
Car rentals are easy to obtain in Mauritius, if not cheap, and there are many interesting destinations for a cruiser who takes to the roads. The traffic however can be horrendous so allow plenty of time to get anywhere and watch for pedestrians as well as oncoming or parked traffic which will often be in your lane on the narrow and twisting local roads which cover most of Mauritius. Mauritians use their horns liberally to notify others of their presence so don’t be too startled if you are honked at, it is not meant to be offensive.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Mauritius

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

March 13, 2011-Photos from Patrick

We are back in Port Louis getting ready for the passage to Africa but the recent trip to Grand Port is still fresh in our memories.

Patrick send some great photos.


Wings in Grand Port

Click here to see his photos.

Our time in Mauritius is getting short; three weeks from now we should be on passage. Before then we will try to get a haul out completed and wrap-up a few minor projects.

We're sure the time will pass quickly and the time to cast off the lines will soon be here.

We'll be ready.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Mauritius

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Monday, March 07, 2011

March 7, 2011-Circumnavigating Mauritius

With our new crew, Jean-Mee and Jennifer, we sailed Wings on a six day cruise all the way around Mauritius early in March; the main destination was Grand Port, on the opposite coast from Port Louis.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

Islands at Grand Port

Grand Port

In 1810 the British naval commander, engaging the French fleet in Mauritius, sailed his warships into Grand Port on Mauritius’ east side, where the French were based.

On the reefs inside Grand Port three of his frigates ran aground on separate reefs and the battle was lost.

This month we sailed Wings into Grand Port right among the reefs named after these ships, Nereid Reef, Sirius Reef, and Sappho Reef and we saw first hand how treacherous these waters are; even with GPS, depth sounders, and modern charts the navigation is tough here and we ourselves touched bottom just off Nereid Reef. It was just a slight bump as we were turning away from a sharply rising bottom. A man in his small fishing boat watched as we approached, bumped, and moved away. Then he attended to his fishing, impartial to our presence or our narrow escape.

We came here to Grand Port to feel some of the history of these waters and to visit the town of Mahebourg which is on the shores of Grand Port. On this cruise we have had some great sailing and have anchored in some beautiful spots. Anchoring near Nereid Reef presented a opportunity for a trip into Mahebourg town.

In town there is a naval museum and the battle of 1810 is depicted on large murals. We stared at these paintings of the smoke shrouded tall ships pounding each other in Grand Port and then we returned to Wings anchored in the bay and we could see the ghosts of these ships around us on the reefs carrying their names. We could almost smell the gunpowder drifting westward towards Mauritius’ mountains and hear the thunder of the cannons.

At the mouth of the southern entrance to Grand Port is the island of Isle de La Passe where fortifications and French canons once guarded the fleet inside. We crawled around the two-century-old fort and saw the soldier’s names carved in the limestone blocks: more history.

After a three day visit we prepared to sail back to Port Louis happy that we have visited historic Grand Port.

Return to Port Louis

A 60 mile sail meant another dawn start.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold

Happy Crew

The forecast 20 knot winds never materialized and we had to work hard to make the distance before dark; three jib changes and three spinnaker sets and dowses were sweaty work. The portion of the trip from La Morne on the SW corner to Pointe aux Caves, a few miles south of Port Louis was the slowest but our perseverance was rewarded with a beautiful beat the final miles into port. We arrived at 18:45 and had the boat put away by dark: A nice end to a nice trip.

Click here for more photos of our Grand Port cruise

Click here to see the log book pages of our sailing trips in March, 2011

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Mauritius

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