Wednesday, June 10, 2015

YOLO in Rodrigues, June 2015

It took us nine days and nights to sail from Chagos to Rodrigues, about 1200 miles.  We had a pretty good weather window and our passage was comfortable and incident free.  We had to reef in the sail for the last two days as the wind picked up and we were screaming along, but we settled right down and I never even felt queasy in the big swells.  
These boobies came along at sunset and Jason shooed them away for half an hour by swinging lines at them as they tried to land on the mast.  They had already mangled our wind indicator up there with their big wings and heavy bodies when they tried to land.  These two are perched on the front pulpit rail over the bow of the boat and Jason took their picture.  They preen and then tuck their heads under their wing and sleep.  At dawn they are gone.
Jason flagged out on passage.  Off watch means you get rest when you can. We have to sleep at an angle to keep from being rolled back and forth as the boat crosses over the swells and waves.
Our first sighting of Rodrigues in the morning.  It's not a very big island and the reef and lagoon around it is almost twice a big as the land mass.
YOLO tied up safely at Port Mathurin, Rodrigues wharf.  We made it!
You can see it's just a big concrete wharf for the cargo ships, but they let yachts tie up here for free when the boat is not in port.  Notice we still have both dinghies on the foredeck.
The following morning, here comes Silver Girl, the dismasted vessel, along with Lop To, her escort for the last few days.  We were glad they finally made it here safely and we welcomed both boats with fresh bread and sweet rolls from the bakery here.
Chris on Silver Girl, safely tied up at Port Mathurin.  The mast is missing, as is the boom, all the rigging, lines and sails.  A bit of bent steel around where the mast used to be is the only damage readily visible as they've cut away all the rest of the rigging and its at the bottom of the ocean out there somewhere a couple of hundred miles from here.
A food fair and Bread As an Art festival was going on when we got here.  These folks are making fresh hot roti (flat bread) and I bought some to take back to the boat to use as wraps/tortillas.
The building along the front side of the wharf where we are tied up.
An aisle in the market.  It covers most of a full block and Saturdays this place is hopping with locals and fresh produce.
It rained off and on for days after we got here and we had to put hose around our lines to reduce the chafing when the wind picked up.  The tide here goes up and down about 5-6' so we had to allow for that and still manage to keep us off the concrete.  Our fenders took a beating here as they ground up and down with the concrete chewing them up.  We were at the far end of the wharf near the deep-sea charter fishing vessels and there was no giant black tire here to keep us off the wharf.
A map of Port Mathurin.  We are at the top in the middle where that sailfish is.
A typical street scene in the town.

We took this for Jason's Mom, named Stella.  There are some nice buildings in this little town.
Just in front of our bow is the town jetty and these little fishing boats are on the opposite side from us.  They have a nice calm lane of water and they don't get bothered by the wind and tide much here.
Looking back at YOLO and the wharf from the town jetty that sticks out.  The wharf is full and any new arrivals must find a spot to anchor here.
A monument to the volunteer soldiers from here.  The tower is made from rifles with bayonets and there are two cannon, painted a horrible army green facing us.
This is Birgit, a German lady who has lived here for 18 years and heads up the Care-Co organization, which runs the Gonzague Pierre Louis Special Learning Centre (aka the center).  It takes in hearing-and vision-impaired children and those with learning disabilities and they teach them and provide them with the equipment to handle their disabilities (hearing aids, glasses, reader enlargers and such) and skills to make handicraft items from coconut shells.  They sell the items to local shops and tourists and send them to Mauritius for sale in their shops, too.
A bin full of coconuts.  They have to get the coconuts from Agalega, an island over a hundred miles away as Rodrigues doesn't really have many coconut palms.  Rodrigues is a volcanic island with few beaches or waterfronts suitable for coconuts, so they import them by special permission to take them from the island reserve.  A ship collects them a few times a year.  They feast on the coconut meat and milk for a little while and then use the coconuts for projects.
The folks here also make chain link fencing with the machine in this photo below.  It used to belong to the prison system, but there weren't enough prisoners on a regular basis for them to make the chain.  (Wouldn't our cities like to say the same?).  It's hard, physically strenuous work to make the chain using this machine, and they only make it when they get an order for it.
James here is cutting out a tiny little dodo bird, one of the symbols of this island and Mauritius, out of coconut shell with a band saw.  The blades are incredibly close to his fingers and I'm surprised at how dangerous it looks for supposedly handicapped/learning disabled folks to be doing this.
The resulting dodo, not yet polished or detailed, but you can see the likeness.
This worker is filing the coconut pieces with a hand file to get the rough edges off.
A dodo bird carved out of coconut shell.  This piece has just been polished and is used to hold a sarong/pareu together.
Here he is polishing the piece above.  The soft slapper wheels are expensive, but this place uses only the best materials they can get.  The equipment is fine German machinery so it will last and they don't have to keep fixing or replacing it.
The little dodo birds are used to decorate these coconut shell bowls.  They are great sellers and would be great to serve peanuts or snacks out of, but we just don't have room to keep these things on board.
This is Keanu playing with a piggy bank made of coconut shell.  He'd heard Jason making a snorting pig sound and he was trying to make the sound himself.  He couldn't quite figure out how to do it and it made me smile to watch him surrepticiously trying to imitate a new sound.  He is on a boat from Croatia and his parents speak German and English as well as their local language.
The white coconut shells comes from young coconuts.  They get darker with age.  Young coconuts with the light shells are fairly rare and more difficult to work with as they may be softer, but they really make beautiful things out of them.  These trivets or flexible pads were gorgeous.
Their storeroom had boxes of carved figures!  They had sections for Christmas, Easter, animals, etc.  So many little carvings.  I was quite impressed by the skill and creativity needed to create these things.
An animal mobile.  Birgit explained how they positioned the animals as you'd find them geographically: polar bear at the top, penguin at the bottom and the animals as you'd find them going west from Rodrigues.  Very clever.
The octopus is another symbol associated with Rodrigues.  It is one of the food specialties here and I bought a necklace with a carved coconut octopus from the center.  A small donation, but they are doing such good work.
Another worker grinding coconut shells smooth to make into bowls.
The center also has a honey making business. Their honey has won gold and silver awards overseas, but the honey supply is gone for now.  Recent cyclones and droughts have hurt the eucalyptus and flowers and the drought killed lots of the bees, so they are trying to recover now.  The worker here is cleaning out the stagnant water gathered in the basins below each of the beehives.  The basins keep the lizards and other animals from getting to the bees to eat them.
A closeup of the beehive entrance for the bees.
Birgit is explaining about the beekeeping aspect of the organization.
The following day, we climbed that hill in the background.  There is a cross on the top and it is a good hike.  Keanu there is tossing stones into the river that flows past.
The center makes candles from the bees wax, too.  Nothing here goes to waste--my kind of organization!
Jason liked the cabinet full of old skeleton-type keys at the front desk.
James here is using a drill like a dentist uses to carve the details into the tiny dodo birds.  He adds the beak and feathers.  Birgit gave me one to keep when he finished it.  They also make them into buttons.
In the shop, the center keeps this demonstration beehive so people can see how the bees operate.
A carved fruit bat--this photo is for my brother who is a Batman nut.
Since most folks are geographically challenged as to where we are, this map shows our location pretty well.  Diego Garcia is the bottom of the Chagos Archipelego, a thousand miles to the NNE of us.  We are at Rodrigues now.  St. Brandon is also known as Cargados Carajos and is the reef where the Volvo Ocean Race boat Team Vestas Wind ran aground and tore up their boat.  (It was lifted off the reef onto a ship and just got repaired in Italy and has rejoined the race.)  We hope to visit that reef next.  Mauritius is just east of here and is a planned stop for us.  Reunion is a place we wanted to visit, but we're hearing that they don't accommodate catamarans well, so we'll have to stay flexible on that one.  Agalega is where the center gets its coconuts from, but foreign yachts are not allowed to go there; it is a reserve.  The Seychelles, farther up, is a popular destination for many yachts again this year.  It was within the pirate zone for a while, but that activity seems to have abated and many yachts are heading from Chagos to the Seychelles to stay in the warm waters.  Madagascar is the last island before reaching the African coast.  We hope to go up around the top end of Madagascar and explore the islands on the NW coast before crossing to Mozambique/South Africa.
A mobile of Rodrigues animals made of coconut shells.  The big bird on the right is the Solitaire, a cousin to the dodo bird and also now extinct.  It used to live on Rodrigues and is one of their national symbols.
This is a bay around the headland from the port.  At low tide (as it is in this shot), there is barely enough water for a local boat to get back in.  The only deep spot is taken by a lone yacht who has left it here while returning to his homeland.  He made arrangements with a local to watch it for him.  A calm place to leave the boat but it requires snaking along a thin line of deep water along the rocky shore at high tide to get here.  I doubt our cat could do it.
One of the local boats returning by sail.  We see these guys with their boats parked out on the reef way offshore and walking around looking for something.  We aren't quite sure what it is they are hunting or gathering out there.
The local Coast Guard station at Port Mathurin.
A statue along the beachfront of the Solitaire, a now-extinct large bird, similar to a dodo.
The mosque in town.  Such a small space, but a colorful front and lots of minarets.  A real person, not loudspeakers, does the call to prayer here, so we don't even hear it from the boat.  Such a nice change not to have the calls to prayer blaring five times a day, starting at 4:30 AM!

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