Monthly Archives: April 2015

In the southern hemisphere: 3 different stories -

Story 1: Serge is now east of Mayotte Island
As you can see on the website, Serge is moving ahead. This afternoon the planned heading has evolved and you can see it on the link with Sat Ocean. I feel that he is eager to arrive but he will have to arm himself with patience. He does not dwell on the progress he has made in the last two days; he only sees what remains to be accomplished. He does not feel like being optimistic this evening and when I give him news it does not cheer him up. This evening, he seems depressed, no doubt the after-effect of his struggle the first six days… Just as a misfortune never happens alone, Serge has a problem with the watermaker and he may run out of water before he arrives. Remember, every problem has a solution. After an unsuccessful try yesterday by a boat from Madagascar to take him 7 packs of water (everything organized by Guilaumette): this morning we had to find another solution. Mayotte is a French territory and I contacted Cédric De La Brosse, du CROSS in Reunion Island. He currently has 3 French ships in the area and one of them will take Serge his precious water. Delivery should take place this weekend, knowing that our rower has a supply that will hold him for 8 days!
Finally, Serge chases away the birds that come to light on his solar panel. He tells me that his boat is not a latrine. I don’t dare ask him if he is taking photos but deep down I hope he is. He would surely reply that he has other things to do, that is not easy to move around in the boat and that I’m not there in his place.
Story 2: David and Bertrand in Namibia
Our two friends arrived at dawn today at Windhoek, some 4000 km from Pemba (I say some because I have stopped counting since yesterday evening – my sign of revolt). They had a busy day because they took delivery of the vehicles, then went to buy what will be needed for our camping and for themselves on the road for the next six days. Once again, it takes two lines to write it but I know how much time it took. They will leave tomorrow morning to cross Botswana, Zimbabwe and finally Mozambique. It will enable them to reconnoiter the road both ways, since there was no possibility of a “one way rental” for the vehicles. If we had hired an agency in Mozambique I think that the World Tour would have ended before it reached Namibia due to lack of funds! (…no, I said that I would stop). Even if this way of handling the situation seems enormous, even out of all proportion, it was chosen after much research and compromise.
Story 3: There is a lot to do before a long weekend
May 1st is a holiday here, with trade union parades. You are right, it makes you think of France but we are in Mozambique, formerly a Portuguese colony. On this eve of a long weekend we have a lot to do.
Visit number 1: to Franck and William, 2 Dutchmen of the Sub Tech company with whom we discuss 2 points: finding a boat which will go to meet Serge and finding a trailer. After 30 minutes we have 2 names.
Visit number 2: return to Balloré where Niven accompanies us to Immigration and to different maritime departments. We must write a letter to the latter and in both cases we have to pay…no, no I’ll stop: We did not spend a penny on Reunion Island or in Madagascar for all that and it’s really the limit at Immigration; in addition to a visa for Serge (normal) there is also need for a visa for the boat, also an immigrant it seems.Finally, a contact is made and things are in the pipeline as they say.
Visit number 3: We leave Balloré with another contact to find a trailer; Kevin, a South African. It is 11H30 when we get to his place and he is not there so we wait a bit. We show him plans and photos of what was done in Madagascar, with the modification made to Olivier’s trailer. We have a date to buy the material Monday morning. The arches will be made starting Tuesday, with Rene’s help since he knows the music well.
We leave for the center of town and the ATM’s are all occupied (At Nacala I waited 20 minutes and I thought it would be an hour here) so we decide to come back. We went to have a look at the only supermarket in town because before we leave we will stock up here. And lastly, a visit to the shop to charge up the 3G key enabled me to go on-line and work on the website. The shop is very busy.
Everything that is supposed to work does not always work; you have to be sensitive to nuance. When the boys were doing their shopping in Namibia they decided that the generators were not up to our standard. So René and I are going to look at generators in Pemba. This is the final word for our afternoon, which finished next to a plate of French fries.
Back at our QG, which is a sort of bush camp with bungalows, tents and dorms After 6 hours of tramping around we sit down, satisfied with the headway we have made today in Pemba, glad to have David and Bertrand safely arrived and last but not least delighted with Serge’s good progress. The weekend may seem long because everything will be closed and paralyzed for 3 days. Resting is not in my nature, nor is it in the World Tour’s vocabulary so the weekend is going to be very long.

Northbound -

What is there to say other than we believe it and that’s already something!

The progress René and I made is smoother than Serge’s and even if we were not sure we would reach Pemba this evening, the adventure continues. The magic word is adaptability !

Serge is northbound and so are we; in the hope that Serge will make arrive there safely, otherwise it will be Tanzania and that will be a different matter. If you look at the map you will see that we are in the very north of Mozambique and Pemba is the last port where Serge can dock in this country. It is a country full of contrasts, with more than half of the population living under the poverty line. The prices are exorbitant: between 100€ and 150€ per night for a hotel room, 300€ to rent a vehicle with 100km/day, plus the cost of gasoline. It is unbelievable when you consider that most of the population has no running water so drinking water comes from rivers and infants are still dying from dysentery! This upsets me no end but it does not change the problems.

Here, business is king. The Chinese and other multi-nationals that exploit the country keep it alive in a certain sense (concessions, taxes at 17%) but, frankly, Scrooge McDuck with dollar signs in his eyes is close by and it makes me sick. It is without doubt one of the things that is holding back tourism. And yet, there is potential here with 2000 km of coastline and what little we have seen is really beautiful.

With Serge arriving at Pemba, it will mean 1,600 km of foot race in Mozambique alone and the wheel of fortune goes round and round. I have cancelled my job in July and now I fear that there may be a problem for August; we can’t live on the World Tour and ice water. Another problem is that of the high season in Namibia and Mozambique, which means it may be difficult to rent vehicles if they are not available. This is the reality of such an experience and far from being resigned, we will not give up.

I have just listened to a message Serge left me and have put it on line. Honestly, how can one give up? We have been working on this project for two years and now we have begun, so chin up! And it is also because we meet great people, like Shirley and Mike yesterday in Kwalala Lodge and today Sébastien Urbain at Balloré Africa Logistics, who is cool headed and welcomed us with such kindness. What a fantastic experience to meet such people! I’m not even talking about all the people we met in Madagascar because I would need a full chapter to list them all. I thought there might be some respite but I realize that there will be no peace as long as Serge is on the water. Even if Serge is back on track this evening, I know that this passage via the north will not be a simple formality. I also know that Serge is in a state of watchfulness and I am reassured. Too much confidence is not a good thing and navigating around Mayotte Island and the Comoros will be under tight surveillance.

Serge forgot to tell you a story. This morning he told me that he had the fright of his life. “I opened my cabin and there was a huge bird on the back solar panel. He must have spent the night there because I had to clean off an enormous pile of bird droppings before drinking my coffee”. I smiled with relief. Serge cleaned his solar panels yesterday and it made me think of the person who cleans his windows before it rains. Serge was happy to have news of his son, Sébastien: a rare commodity is precious. This afternoon at 17H00 his voice was good and it’s interesting how much information a voice can convey!

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A new heading -

After studying ways of getting out of the spin cycle on the washing machine, Sat Ocean has just proposed a route to Serge. He has already set his heading to pass to the north of Mayotte and the Comoros before turning west to reach Pemba (see attached photo)
It is a new start and a much needed second wind for Serge. For us here, everything is OK. Serge has time to think and worry about us. It was a lucky day in Nacala, which began at 10H00 with a meeting at Bolloré Africa Logistics; followed by a one-hour conversation with Emilio and Jako (I’m not sure of the spelling). We were delighted. They will take care of Middleton and they had a solution to each of our questions. The meeting was more than encouraging and it lifted our spirits to deal with such enthusiastic people that nothing seems to stop. They put us in touch with Mike and his wife Shirley, who have lived here for 15 years and who run a lodge on the beautiful bay of Ferao Veloso. Kwalala Lodge is a piece of paradise nestled in a palm grove on the coast. Even if we don’t have time to relax here we are filled with the tranquility of the place which invites relaxation. For additional information just click on this link. Nacala « is the place to be » as our English friends say. Mike, with considerable energy, took on the matter of the trailer. He will lend us a trailer and to finish preparations, he went into town with us to look for the wheels he needed. This evening the trailer is ready to go! What amazing efficiency. And what if Serge were to arrive at Nacala?
Tomorrow we will be on the road again and if Serge changes heading then we will change our destination. Rather than going to Angoche, we will be heading for Pemba, a 5-hour drive from Nacala. Tonight in this enchanted place I will be dreaming that Serge will fly quickly to join me!
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Plan B -

What is there to say other than there should have been a solution so we will not see Serge still going around in circles next Christmas, in the Mozambique Channel opposite Madagascar.
At 5H00 this morning I got up telling myself the time had come to act and take decisions after studying the different possibilities of getting Serge out of this turbulence he is stuck in and which wears him out more every day.
At 5H30 I woke Michel and Maxime…. I’m sorry but my heart stood still when I saw last night’s beacon trail. Yesterday morning we decided to wait but now it is not the time to wait. By the way, Maxime said that we should have taken action 3 days ago, rather than wait and hope conditions would become favorable. It seems evident that they will never be favorable at the intersection of two contrary currents with a ++++wind like there is this morning, which Serge said is at 10 to 15 knots, which allows him to just barely hold a course of 270°, when he should hold to a course of 210° to get out of there…
If there are transverse waves and wind Serge risks capsizing… he has to get away from that spot. The recommendation is to turn into the current and wind, with the waves perpendicular, even if it means minimal progression in proportion to the physical effort, which is enormous. It is worth trying and Serge has understood, so he hangs on.
There are 25 kilometers between him and the ideal spot to the south which will allow him to begin his crossing. It will no doubt mean 2 to 3 days of hard rowing but it’s the only way. It is so difficult to be at a distance and completely helpless but even a homeopathic dose of our presence, mine and the routers’, is decisive.
Serge is watched over like a pot on the fire and that’s why the points on the beacon have been set at 15 minute intervals, not at hourly intervals, which is the norm. I would like to thank in particular the constant presence today of Maxime from Sat Ocean, with whom I conversed a lot by phone and e-mail.
Even if Serge is alone on the water, presence on land is of the utmost importance because it is the only link Serge has to the rest of the world
This evening on the telephone, I felt a stronger link than usual. Our heartbeats were synchronized. The pressure lessened for a moment and we had to think about tomorrow and after tomorrow with optimism. More than ever one has to move forward with confidence, and even if these past days have been demoralizing doubt must not take over. Deep down, I admire greatly what Serge is capable of doing. After more than 17 years, he surprises and impresses me and I feel I must be on a par with it in order to prepare what comes next, even if for the space of a moment I gave in to discouragement and felt so alone and almost paralyzed, being so far from him.

We have arrived in Mozambique -

Yesterday afternoon, René and I arrived in Nampula, Mozambique with our 100 kg. of baggage (the excess baggage cost us 400 Euros for the 80 kg. that went in the hold). It took us 45 minutes to get our 30-day visa, at a cost of U.S. $85 per person.
At 16H00 we arrived at our hotel in the center of Nampula, a city of 500,000 inhabitants. It is the third largest city of Mozambique. We are now on the same time as France.
Bertrand and David are enjoying their last weekend before joining us on Wednesday for the beginning of a long trip. They will land at Windhoek in Namibia on April 30. They will take delivery of 2 rental 4-wheel drives equipped with roof tents and camping equipment. They will reconnoiter the trip between Windhoek and Angoche (some 3,500 km). They should arrive May 5 or 6. As you can see, the logistics are rather complicated. And all the while Serge is fighting like a demon to get out of his current dire straits.
Being Sunday, it is status quo in a 50% Roman Catholic country. Nampula, the capital of the North, has a mixed population with many Indians and Muslims and a great many Chinese, who are here for business and seem to be well established. At the airport and in the street Chinese and Indian businesses thrive.
When we landed we were immediately surprised by the scenery. We are on a plain but there are isolated hills or mountains rising abruptly from ground, in the shape of domes or sugar loaves.
This Sunday it was time for the routers, Michel, Xavier and Maxime, to take a decision concerning Serge’s heading, which is getting bogged down in spite of all his effort. Maxime mentioned Serge’s extraordinary ability to make headway in spite of a contrary current of 3.6 km. Serge is a fighter but he will not be able to go on forever if he sees that there is no improvement and conditions don’t improve. The distance is only about 100 km, but at oar’s length it is much further.
Serge tells me he is eating less than on his first crossing, he is nauseous but not sick. He is drinking more. The sea becomes calm for about 5 hours and he takes advantage of it by rowing to move forward. He is rowing about 12 hours per day and he wakes several times at night to check his heading.

In spite of the head wind and a contrary current, about which there is little to be done, the Mozambique Channel is not easy due to the changing currents and winds which create heavy seas at the end of the day. Serge has just been told to head further south, if he can. He tells me the reality of the situation is often different and it changes from hour to hour.

We are crossing our fingers. Tomorrow we head for Nacala to begin prospecting for the arrival of Middleton and Serge in the district of Nampula.

A word from the router -

Below are a few words from Michel Meulnet of Sea Rout which explain the struggle that Serge has had for the past two days:
“Difficult conditions:
For the past 48 hours Serge has been struggling with conditions that are not favorable to progression; they are causing him to go backwards. There is a headwind as well as a contrary courant which is driving Middleton backwards. This area has to be crossed to reach favorable currents that will allow him to reach his destination. Today a good portion of the area has been crossed and from tomorrow Serge should experience a favorable progression.”

Bye-bye Gascar and Serge rows on -

After the heat of Majunga, we are back in the cool of Tana for one night before flying toward other horizons. Tonight we have a stop-over in Johannesburg, in the rain. It’s cool. In 24 hours we skipped a season and the adjustment is difficult.
We leave Madagascar with a heavy heart. The unknown is ahead of us, replies to questions are slow to come, there is a lot of uncertainty and solutions need to be found. After having been spoiled by the care of Olivier, Vero and the 5 members of the Malagasy Tours team we feel almost like orphans this evening.
Tomorrow we will discover Mozambique. We are leaving countries where French is spoken and I for one do not speak a word of Portuguese.
Serge is still struggling, caught in opposing currents and winds. He is drifting with a capital “D” and lost in one night all the benefit of the previous day. This evening I feel that his resistance is weakening. You have probably seen on the photos of April 22 that Middleton is equipped with arches. René, Danz and Hassina made a screen to protect Serge from the sun. Serge told me that the canvas is difficult to install when there is wind. This evening during our 2 minute conversation he was too nauseated to talk of anything other than his drifting.

Flash back -

42 nautical miles
The last meal at Eden Rock with Hassna and Danz. Guillaumette was waiting with open arms as soon as we arrived in Majunga. This evening, once again she took the time to celebrate our meeting and Serge’s start, with a bottle of South African champagne. It was our final drink together and very pleasant. Guillaumette has pep and an energy which is catching. We are sorry not to have met our hosts, whom we saw photos this evening. To be welcomed so warmly by someone you don’t even know is very touching.
Since March 19th Danz has made a huge contribution to the « World tour of Madagascar » (he never does anything half way). He is beginning to relax and by 9 PM everyone was in bed. Hassina is ready for a new start on Saturday morning.
4H00 it’s time to rise. A quick glance at the website: good heading, I’m relieved and I leave Majunga rather reassured.
5H00: we head to the center of Majunga
5H30: We have a meeting with “First Class” transportation, we connect to website
5H50: Communication from Serge – « I rowed until 21H00 yesterday, I ate well, it’s rocky, I’m looking for ???? ». I asked him to repeat and after three tries I still don’t understand. Too bad, he will find whatever it is on his own! We agreed to talk again at 18H15 (Malagasy time which he will keep until he reaches Mozambique). In any case, he lives with the daylight, a common point with running, where he gets up at sunrise and goes to bed at sundown. While we camped we were in bed every evening at 18H30.
6 H00: Departure for Tana, which takes me farther from Serge and it was with a twinge of sorrow that I thought about a camp, about sitting down for a refueling or a sunset. René keeps his diary up to date and I wonder how he can write in a vehicle that bumps and jolts between a road under repair, pot holes and hairpin curves. It’s almost like being in an amusement park.
Hassina and Danz leave with the truck and trailer in the direction of Tana as well but in 2 stages. They will arrive in the capital tomorrow. I have trouble realizing that we are leaving now. Time never stands still and it’s a shame.

17H30: Arrival in Tana, city center, to find the same dense traffic which we had forgotten. We made only one stop, for an hour, and always with the same driver.
Momo and Bob were waiting for us. We went to Olivier and Nathalie’s Grill du Rouva, where we were again welcomed with open arms.
18H15: A quick call from Serge – All is well, slightly nauseous because of heavy seas. He is reassured because he is 30 miles from the coast but he is not very confident about his heading. I have to tell you that Serge did not watch the football game on Tuesday evening and he left Wednesday without asking about the score – in his bubble?

A fresh start on the high seas -

Since yesterday evening, Serge is in his bubble, his face is stern. Tension is mounting and for me too, like it or not, it’s inevitable.
It was not a quiet night; our intestines were upset, no doubt to rid themselves of the pressure which is more or less conscious.
There is a start from the Petite Plage by lots of dugouts with the beautiful sails of the « Magunga’s world tour ». Guillaumette and quite a few resident Vasahas were also present.

The launch of the boat took longer than planned, about 90 minutes; between the moment that Serge and I withdrew, too nervous to witness the handling of Middleton. René, Danz and Hassina were there to take care that the operation went well. The tide steadily went out and minutes seemed like hours. It took manpower to complete the launch, as you can see from the photos. Once off her trailer and in enough depth, Middleton could be equipped with her rudder. Then it took 4 big guys, including Danz and Hasina, to tow her to the north to a cove on the Petite Plage so that the sand banks would not be in Serge’s way. Middleton is easily affected by the wind, hence drifting, so we had to get it right.
To say the least, it was stressful because the weather was not in our favor. As the tide comes in, the gigantic estuary of Betsiboka can be a trap and Serge had to get away before the tide turned in the afternoon.
René and I accompanied Serge for one hour on board a small motorized dugout. We had a knot in our stomachs and dry throats. At 11H10 we turned around; “goodbye will be tough,” Serge read my thoughts. I had no response to his words, telling myself that we are often on the same wave length and in the same frame of mind.
Serge should leave daily voice messages, which I will try to put on-line right away. Don’t hesitate to log onto the audio gallery when he crosses the Mozambique Channel.
René and I will drive to Tana tomorrow. We will spend the night at Nathalie and Olivier’s. Then Friday afternoon we will fly to Johannesburg and stay for one night before taking a flight on Saturday to Nampula, Mozambique. I will try to tell you all about it but there may be a few blank spaces in the news. My apologies in advance, faithful readers.

As for me, I will not relax until Serge is far from the coast because it is always a danger for Serge and Middleton. Luckily, Guillaumette and a couple that lives at Petite Plage are there in case there is need for help in the next 48 hours, which is the time when anything can happen. The first danger comes from all the unmarked fishing boats and dugouts which navigate at night close to the coast. I know that Serge has to remain vigilant for the first two nights and I hope he will not be seasick.
Thanks for all the e-mails, which we received over the past days and to which I will not be able to respond personally. The words most of you used were “Fair winds Serge”.

Around, over and under Middleton -

Middleton was resting under a banana tree, waiting to take to the water. The day was spent:
Unpacking, sorting and repackaging
Reinforcing the tiller before tomorrow’s launch.
What has just taken three lines to write took an entire day to do: thanks go to René, Hassina and Danz for all the work done.
After his 12-day navigational experience, Serge supervised the organizing of the cabin to make for ease of use.
Guillaumette organized a delightful lunch for us. We met an experienced navigator, Jacky Cauvin (I hope I have spelled his name correctly). Guillaumette is an acupuncturist who gave Serge a few needles to help fight sea sickness. He must insert the needle on a central line between the lower lip and the chin
The temporary admission book has been stamped for export and Serge’s visa is stamped for exit.
Everything is in order for tomorrow’s start.
The next door neighbors, Marie-Christel and Denis, came to call. They brought Serge homeopathic anti- sea sickness pills and a chocolate bar…
I feel Serge’s tension mounting this evening. Yesterday, he spoke to Michel of SeaRout and Maxime from Sat Océan. All he has to do now is row in the right direction (it won’t be in a straight line) and follow the little dot that will move daily toward Mozambique.
High tide tomorrow is at 6H05. Middleton will go into the water after 7H00 and the start will be around 9H00 as the tide recedes.