Today, my blood froze more than once.
This morning Serge is better, what a relief! He was able to eat but his heading is not good enough to enable him to pass north of Grand Comore this evening and I’m expecting to hear that everything has to stop tomorrow…..
The Southerly winds are from the SE on the simulations but Serge tells me that « on the spot » they are Easterly and that he rowed all day to try to keep to a heading of 300°, but in vain… His arms are fed up he says!
A drift to the west is planned for tonight and if the winds are not in the direction planned or hoped for, I don’t know what will become of Serge and Middleton tomorrow noon. I don’t know how to say it differently, since I have been scared stiff for the past three days over this difficult passage. To add to the situation, Serge is suffering from more lows than highs. It makes my blood freeze!
This morning David and Bertrand were stopped by the Zimbabwe police at the border point at Mutare; supposedly one of the papers for the cars was missing (it was not missing when they entered Zimbabwe!). We know that the border police in that country can cause trouble where there is none. It’s a way to obtain something if you see what I mean. The visa costs US$100 in one of the poorest countries in the world! My blood froze but 2 hours later they were in Mozambique. Phew! My blood is circulating.
In Pemba: Building the support, which we will call « the cradle » on which to put Middleton, has begun. It took 2 hours of searching the city for the proper materials, then 2 return trips to Balloré to sign a letter for the maritime department. Then we had to find a rental vehicle for 2 days until the guys arrive. We found it only to learn that we had to leave our passport!!!! I had never been asked to do that before. My blood froze! In another rental agency they debit your credit card 64,000 Meticals (1800€) and credit you the difference later. It goes without saying that between the exchange charges and bank commissions of our dear bank in Le Have, which will be exorbitant for such a sum, we will end up paying twice the rental rate, which is 90€ per day!
And finally, the price for one day at sea in a motor boat is US$3,000. I was sitting down when I asked twice that they repeat the price. My blood froze! We have to find another way, especially because we know that the approach to the coast of Mozambique will not be easy and it is absolutely necessary for someone to go out to meet Serge.
I don’t know where we are headed but we are going cheerfully and I am tempted this evening to abandon such a plan. Up to now I have never said or even thought that the different challenges of the past years were crazy but this evening I tell myself that this one is taking a crazy turn. The challenge is exceptional and I knew it before starting. I also was pretty sure that the uncertainty of the places and the timing would prevent a structured organization and would mean constant adjustment, which would be very costly. Serge minimized that aspect of the challenge. Without thinking about the financial aspect (in 2004 we borrowed money upon our return to pay the deficit of the Dakar-Cairo crossing and it did not kill us), I tell myself that the worst would be for Serge to run aground at Grand Comore and then the adventure would end quickly!
I am in Mozambique but my mind is wallowing in mire which is suffocating me. My blood freezes and yet I am hemorrhaging because of negative vibes that are taking over tonight. And as usual, the earth continues to turn, with thousands dead in Nepal and the birth of Princess Charlotte…. So exciting!
It’s the end of this long weekend, before the next one in France, for in Mozambique May 8 is not a holiday. It’s better for preparing the arrival because the heat here tends to slow things down, i.e. slow in the morning and not too fast in the afternoon, as our saying goes. But of course you should not generalize. Yesterday noon the four bungalows of the Bush Camp were previously booked so we took to our tents and it was of course the first night we have had a storm and heavy rain since our arrival April 25. Our baggage was well packed in the pick-up, under a tarp; however we didn’t realize the tarp leaked so this noon when were able to have our bungalow it was to dry out our wet baggage. All this took considerable time.
After a good day yesterday, this morning Serge told me that he hardly slept. There was a non-identified boat (it was not the first and there seem to be a lot in the area) in Middleton’s path. Serge could not go around it and there was no contact since all the lights were out and the electronics must have been turned off. Serge decided to use a white flare to signal his presence. In the minutes that followed, the boat cleared off. This Mozambique Channel is reassuring… Serge can’t sleep soundly and we can understand the nervous tension that has been omnipresent for the past 12 days.
Then this morning there was heavy rain and strong wind. Serge was frozen by the rain and wind, unfortunately SSE so it pushed him too far west. He needs to head north before he will catch the favorable current. There is nothing alarming because Serge is far enough from the Grande Comore; but he is not reassured, I can hear it in his voice, which is full of doubt and fatigue. This morning he could not row because of the rain and wind. He could not be outside on a level with the water. Tomorrow the winds are supposed to be from the south, which will put Serge on a better heading. We will talk about the Ideal Heading, this famous “Ideal” so difficult to hold in this turbulent channel.
This evening Serge is sea sick. He endured the day in order to use the term. The sky was overcast all day, the rain stopped but the wind never let up. “It’s rocky” he said. After one minute on the phone he said he would stop because he did not feel well. He changed his patch of Scopoderm and put an acpunture needle in his chin as Guillaumette showed him.
I’m going to bed and will pray that God Eole will be favorable tomorrow, i.e. from the south and that the sea will not be so rough so he will feel less nauseous and can row again. I can’t think of anything else and René and I have not taken any photos today.
Yesterday evening David and Bertrand were already in Zimbabwe. They are at Mutare, near Mozambique. What anxiety! How can we relax? I have no idea but this feeling of helplessness is rather unpleasant.
Yesterday we were lucky to have a message from the boys on route. On the first stage they drove 100 km to Maum in Botswana. Since we are communicating by text, I don’t know anything about the border crossing between Namibia and Botswana other than all goes well. They should soon reach the border of Zimbabwe.
Serge went through 36 difficult hours, with a blow to his morale the likes of which he has never had before. Today he seems to be in a better mood. He said to me: “I was depressed Thursday evening and when I found a box of Madeleine’s I ate them all. Tonight, Friday, I took a shower in the rain and I did a bit of laundry”. I know Serge well enough to understand that he totally decompensated following his efforts in the turbulence, where he had no respite, physical or moral, then suddenly he covered 100 nautical miles in 2 days, at which point he cracked up. “I have no desire to go on like this, do you realize how much time the rest will take… it will all be extended by the time I have just spent. I can see rocks in the distance so I will be on watch tonight and I have an easterly wind and I can’t hold the correct heading (this was yesterday morning). The routers told me that the wind and current would carry me; it’s not possible….and then, and then….”
So many complaints! I know that Serge is suffering the effects of this unexpected extension; he had planned to pass between Mayotte and the Comoros but after studying the route, the winds and ocean currents, Sat Ocean and Sea Route decided to have him go to the north of the Comoros, which means going farther. Serge has a problem accepting this. I think he has digested it now, for deep down he knows that if it is the suggested route it is because it is less dangerous than the previous route, even if it is still complicated. All one has to do is look at the map on the Sat Ocean link to realize it. I also know that alone on board he has the time to ponder. Several times recently he told me that in any case he is alone on board, that there is nothing that can be done from a distance, that he alone goes through it and he is at the mercy of winds, currents and waves. Indeed, one must feel very small and humble but we can’t forget that it is his choice and I’m not going to feel sorry for him.
This morning Serge has a good voice. He is expecting the French boat, Adroit to bring his water. He told me he that for several days he has seen Mayotte and he has the impression he is not moving forward. I can only cross my fingers that everything will go well for him. I don’t know if he realizes to what point we are behind, or rather with him, even if it is difficult to imagine what he is going through. I think about his family, his mother in particular, who is following Serge on her tablet. Feeding and human contact for 20 minutes, between 13H00 and 13H20, his voice is harmonious as he tells me about the interview. You will hear it tomorrow on his Audio message. I can tell you that he received 62 liters of water, which will take him to Mozambique. The watermaker will be serviced in Namibia before he starts his Atlantic crossing, which is another story. Thanks go to CROSS of Reunion Island and Cédric in particular as well as the sailors who called on him. A fine story!
For us, it was dead calm, or almost, at Pemba during the long weekend. Because my morale depends on Serge’s, I must say I feel better today, even if I will be uneasy until he picks up the current to the north of the Comoros which will allow him to head due west. There are emotions I could do without and it would be so easy to be at home in front of the TV with my cat on my knees. But that is not the choice we have made and I’m not going to complain.
See you tomorrow.
Today we will do nothing, or almost nothing. Today Laure is not the editor but at 6H30 she is already outside with her best enemy, her laptop, for different consultations and updating.
There have been no meetings, everything is on « slow » and it is a non-working day. For most of the population of Pemba it is a 3-day holiday. We will out only to see if there is a secure car park near our lodge. It’s hot. We will do some laundry because it’s good to smell nice. We have had news from Serge, who is making headway but who does not seem to be satisfied. He finds the time long because of the modification to his course. He’s tired physically and mentally. He should receive his water from French navy’s boat, Adroit. At mid day he was to the north of Mayotte, which should take him around the Comoros islands before traveling down along the east coast of Mozambique to join us. He is suffering from the heat. We are thinking about David and Bertrand who by now must have crossed the border between Namibia and Botswana, along the Kalahari Desert. It must be hot there too. The day is coming to an end and I will say goodnight. René