20 09.42S 57 30.10E

Taylor Smith Boatyard, Port Louis, Mauritius

8 Nov 2012

Dear friends,

Doesn't the name have a romantic ring: Taylor Smith Boatyard has been owned as an English family business for 200 years.

Well jumping forward, Dulcinea actually left warm, tropical Mauritius 6 days ago, and now we dress in sweaters & long trousers for our night watches. We rounded the south of Madagasca keeping 130 miles offshore to avoid unpredictable rough seas in confused ocean currents there. In about 3 days we shall cross the Agulhas Current that runs at up to 6 knots down the E Coast of S Africa.

Epics talk of either of these systems producing freek waves up to 20 metres high when winds and currents oppose, and many boats have been lost over the years including liners, freighters, and even a seismic vessel operated by a company I used to work for in Calgary. However, weather forecasts are supposed to be very reliable now and we listen to the PeriPeri radio net for advice and warnings each evening. The whistles and pops of noise on the SSB radio drive Peter mad, but he puts up with it for the sake of weather information.

We past a cold front 2 days ago that changed our warm Easterly into 25 to 30 knots from the south. Dulcinea frisked along happily at 12 to 14 knots through the water, but the wind was straight out of the Roaring 40's and had a bitter edge. Birds have been following us ever since, and we think they are Sooty Albatross, but they never stop still. The mental concentration needed to fly hour after hour with a 5 or 6ft wingspan inches over the water is unimaginable to us. Very few flying fish, but we have had squid jumping onto the deck at night.

Another 2 days and we plan to be 200 miles offshore as another front passes, and then head across the Agulhas Current and into harbour before the 3rd and bigger weather system arrives. Gone are the Trade Winds in which you can set sails and leave them for the week. Our 3 hour watches are now full of course changes and sail adjustments.


The islands of Mauritius and its smaller neighbour Rodrigues together form most of the country of Mauritius with just over 1,000,000 people. Both delightful, but quite different from each other. They contain a fine mixture of cultures & religions. Hindus, Moslems, Tamils, Chinese, and Europeans from Europe and from S Africa mix together and sometimes intermarry. The only language on the street is Creole French. School is taught in English, as are all official documents and road signs. A statue of Queen Victoria caps the main street in the capital. They drive on the left but eat French baguettes or Indian curry. Moslem prayers sound past cathedrals and churches, across Hindu and Tamil temples. With a few minor exceptions, everybody seems to get along.


After 2 weeks at sea from Indonesia, our 1st reaction on the streets of Mathurin was "some of these people are big". The African genes have had their effect.

We spent nearly 2 weeks in Mathurin Harbour mostly tied to the side of their one tug called the Solitaire. This was on the commercial dock, and whenever a supply ship arrived (about once per week) we had to move off to make space for it.

The Solitaire is named after the indiginous bird. Solitaires and Giant Turtles were both inquisitive native speceis which would walk up to mariners who took them on board for food until both became extinct. The Giant Turtle has been reintroduced and is being bred, but the Solitaire like its close relative the Dodo will never return.

Some crews from cruising boats missed out the turtle farm as they said they "had already seen the Galapagos". It was their loss since the breeding park on Rodrigues is beautifully layed out in a canyon lined by limestone cliffs. The giant turtles lumbered right up to me to have their chins tickled. The biggest are twice my weight.

Rodrigues is 20km long and sits in the SE Trade winds which blow steadily all year. The fringing reef is many times bigger. It is mostly dry and hilly goat pasture with eucalyptus on the hills and little winding roads. Children catch busses or walk to and from school, and I sometimes watched them holding hands or singing songs as they went.

We rented motor bikes to explore, but after 3 mechanical problems on the first day, I reverted to my folding pedal bike whereas Peter perserveered with the better of the 2 motorbikes. Hehad the front wheel fall off the pedal bike that he was riding, and did a marvelous job finding a new bearing and fixing it.

Rodrigues is a holiday get-away from Mauritius, Reunion, S Africa, and Europe. Kite surfing on the SE corner is the other draw which brings people from all over the world to surf the miles of flat, shallow water inside the reef. There were 6 to 10 other cruising yachts in the harbour, and none of us would likely have been there if it were not for the piracy in the Northern Indian Ocean. We were glad that we went and saw. We were one of the last boats to leave and there may be no more until this time next year. Rodrigues is quiet and lovely.

We set about repairs (the cruising life), and found a community college with a machine shop and a very obliging instructor who drilled and tapped the cuffs on our rudder posts to take small bolts. We also searched fruitlessly to replace the leaking portlights having argued relentlessly about the material to use - glass tempered or otherwise, acrylic, polycarbonate could not be found.

After 2 weeks we knew Rodrigues well enough to move the 300 miles west to Mauritius. On the way out, Peter steered us onto the reef that he was taking pictures of and we were lucky not to do more damage, but the tug Solitaire helped us off.


The only marina in Mauritius was filled with boats from the World Arc (an organized group sailing round the world together). So we sat on the town quay in Port Louis until the police asked us to move on, and then we moored in Grand Bay 10 miles further north.

A dutch boat Helena was close to us, and Peter and I went diving with skipper Rolf who is a diving instructor. It was both lots of fun, and a useful refresher course. Meanwhile, their crew Matthew found his way round Dulcinea's kitchen well enough to prepare and magnificent pasta lunch.

We made plans to dry out at low tide to check the bottom where the reef has scratched through all the paint but hopefully no more. Having found a perfect sandy bay, I looked and found that maximum tidal range even at spring tides is less than 60cm, so that plan had to be dropped. However, a gate in a wall in the heart of Port Louis' dockland proclaimed "Taylor Smith Dry Dock" where to my surprise we were told we could dry out and work on the bottom in front of a big fishing boat on 5 Novemeber. Hopes were dashed again when, with a few days to go, another big fishing boat turned up and possibly paid 100 times what we would have paid for the dry dock.

The affiliated yard, "Rayvin Yachts" has a travel lift much narrower than dulcinea's 11 metre beam, but they let us tie to their barge. We dropped the rudders out in the water (exciting since there is nothing to tie the rudders on with, and they turned out to be heavier than water) and with lots of rope, slings, and halyards these came on shore. The reef damage on the rudder was repared. Propper large bolt holes were drilled and tapped, and studs welded into the tops of the rudder posts and they will not fall out again.

Rayvin Yachts is a small family business that used to build catamarans in Durban until they sold out just before the market crashed with the western world's reduced spending on luxury items. They moved to Port Louis and I recomend them to anybody needing boat work done in the southern Indian Ocean. All the equipment and nearly all the materials you could ask for are there, and the only time I saw anything but a broad smile on Rajen's face was when he said he was "fine", then said "one of our customers is upset because his boat got wet", then as an afterthought "but its a boat for goodnes sake". We both chuckled. Rajen.naidu@rayvinyachts.mu

Many big fishing boats were tied up in the harbour or in the yard, and it was fun talking to the crews from Indonesia, Pilippines, Taiwan etc. All were charmingly polite and many were interested in our cat and would spend long periods staring at her. When I asked one fellow how long his boat was there for, he looked listless and told me Mauritius is boring and he would prefer to be in Africa. Yes I am getting old.


Books by Jimmy Cornel and Rod Heikel both describe it as a balancing act timing the departure from Mauritius to S Africa. The coming summer is warming the southern seas and the first tropical cyclone has already past north of us, so it is time to leave. However, the Busters (violent cold fronts leaving the Cape and running up the E coast of S Africa) are only just starting to diminish with coming summer. These produce infamous conditions in the strong Agulhas Current.

We seem to be the last teansient boat left in Mauritius. The World Arc boats left last week from Reunion to Richards Bay. Our friends on Helena should be somewhere towards Madagasca. We shall leave as soon as we are ready, keeping a good watch to the north of us in case of tropical storms.

Back in Calgary for Christmas.

Love to all

Dave on Dulcinea



PS now spent 3 days in E London, S Africa enjoying the hospitality of the Bufalo River Yacht Club and waiting for the extended bout of strong west winds to abate. Most cruisers check into S Africa further north in Rchards Bay or Durban, but this is a delightful place, and we are glad to have come here where the Bufalo River Yacht Club has entertained us. (Except sadly that Peter forgot the advice drilled into us, was out on his own in the small hours of our first night here, and had his smart-phone and camera stolen at knife point).