2005 – 2009

This is the log from the old times :

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Ahoy,
First update,
We are in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo.
we are finishing some paint job on the deck before taking off toward Singapore, with eventual stops at some islands on the way…
more later
Tom

Monday, May 23, 2005

Ahoy,
first coat of primer on the aft deck, it doesn’t look like a dump anymore… Kat walked on it obviously…stupid cat…
we are still anchored in front of Kota Kinabalu, a few more days before we are done with the deck and can set sail for Singapore…
the wind seems to be all over the places, but mostly from the west. it rains about every evening, not very much, just enough to stop us painting…
that’s it, I’m not used to write in a blog…
tom

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

it is raining in Borneo…
we managed to put a second coat of primer on the deck anyway, one more tonight or tomorrow morning and then we’ll wait for later to finish, it will be protected for the time being…
big news, Deepak is flying here next friday, so he will be sailing with us from now on.
he is from indian origins and grew up in hong kong.

Friday, May 27, 2005

So, it is not raining anymore….
Deepak has arrived, wondering what the hell he is doing here, taking things in, all that, pretty normal for a new crew…
I checked out of Malaysia, with Singapore as next port. We’ll probably stop in Tioman Island before Singapore but nobody knows really… The wind is still  very light and slightly southwest, so it won’t be the best run in Karaka’s history. It should take us about 10 days  at sea being very optimistic…
We’ll leave tomorrow in the afternoon or sunday morning, got to get some fuel, some engine oil, plenty of food, some sand for the cat and then we are off…
There has been a pirate attack in the Anambas Islands,  an indonesian archipelago roughly two third of the way to Tioman from here. I talked to the people, they arrived here a few days ago. they had some mechanical problems and tried to stop and anchor in Pulau Ayer Abu, but before they could, some guys boarded with an AK47 and some knives and asked for cash. They took what they could, plus little stuff lying around like sunglasses and cigarettes, before letting them go, without touching the fishing gear, the electronics, the outboard or anything else. So we’ll stay well off those islands and we should be fine…
That’s it for now.

Monday, June 13, 2005

ahoy,
so, here we are tioman island…
we had a pretty rough passage from KK on borneo, with calms, contrary winds, some storms, the whole deal…
So i’ll write details when i get a proper internet connection, and when i’ll be a little more rested…
tom

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

wonderfull! the website is not working anymore… don’t know why but it seems gone for good… damn…
just like brad, who left today to go backpacking with his cousin, before heading back to visit parents and friends and try to make some cash somewhere…
so we are left with deepak and the kat…
we are fixing the mainsail(ripped in a gale coming here), while enjoying the nice island of tioman…
we will sail out as soon as the sail is back in commission and head slowly to singapore, the malacca straight, langkawi and then thailand.
more news later, internet here is too expensive to linger…
tom

Saturday, June 25, 2005

let’s start anew…
on my own in johor bahru, putting back the website together, resting from my tiring solo trip from tioman, across the singapore straight and its thousands of ships…
I’ll be back soon with details and news, reread the website often as I’m changing a lot of it and updating everything…
cheers
tom

Friday, July 01, 2005

ahoy,
still in johor bahru, working on the genset a little, doing this and that…
I fixed brad’s laptop that he left me so i got the nav programms again…
I just updated the website, i am still trying to understand how to reduce the frame so the annoying sliding back and forth disappears.
news : my father will certainly come a few weeks to sail a little, and my sister as well, if she doesn’t get this new job she is looking for…
I have loads of people writing to me as well to crew this summer, but i still haven’t decided who was to come, there are still some bunks available
cheers
tom

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

short trip across the border to singapore, with Gilles on Eloise, a 38ft beneteau.
checking the city and stuff, will be back in JB tomorrow, to check if Kat didn’t eat all the cushion and shit in the sink…
no crew yet , i am still deciding who will come.
i will probably leave Jb in  a few days and will head north in the malacca straight.
tcho
tom

Thursday, July 07, 2005

back in good ole malaysia…
what ever happen to you, never, ever, in any case, start to think about maybe one day take a trip to singapore… bunch of fascists… expensive , annoying, authorities , they’ll flog you for a spit, and it is just NOT a nice place… you can see i hate it, sorry for those who don’t think the same…
anyway, malaysian people are a lot nicer, it is a lot cheaper(even electronics and computer, we checked…) and the mess of just getting on the cursed island of Singapore is enough to turn you around…
anyway, back in JB, for a few more days…
tom

Thursday, July 14, 2005

not on my own anymore…
my father just arrived to help me sail up the malacca straight for the next 3 weeks…
we are still in johor bahru, same spot, and as soon as he gets over the jetlag, we’ll take to sea…
Some people coming in august but I am still looking for more crew, especially a first mate…
tom

Friday, July 15, 2005

raining buckets here…
we are fixing the genset fuel pump, doing some funny things, but it should work soon… i was getting tired of it and so alain is bringing fresh air in the fixing project.. literally actually, the most probable fault is a tiny air leak in the fuel line… just have to find it and we can use those nice power tools again, and vacuum the boat for all the crew coming…
well, nobody’s here yet, but already 4 are coming for a few weeks at the end of august, and several more are “in negociation” while some are actually talking about jumping in a plane right now… i love that…
some are already in the area as well, so we might meet up somewhere and see how it goes…
otherwise, we were planning to leave for malacca very soon, a few days, headed for langkawi for august, it is 600 miles from JB, and stay there a while island hoping between there and phuket thailand until something shows up, and we make a dash to the surf in indo or diseapear in the desert ilsand of myanmar or india…who knows…
tom

Sunday, July 17, 2005

leaving johor bahru…
we will set sail tomorow morning heading north toward melaka, port klang and then lumut, where we will probably careen the boat shortly before continuing toward penang and langkawi
i can’t say how long it will take and when i’ll be able to answer to the mail again. probably a week…
so for all those writing to me, please just wait.
The bunks are filling… so there is still room but if you want to be the ones to get it you have to decide yourselves fast…
bye
tom

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Melaka
had a hell of a trip, with little annoyances all along…
the weather is horrendous, with heavy duty squalls twice a day… but we manage…
had an adventure with some local fishermen… we anchored for the night in the middle of nowhere, and by morning, a net had drifted into our chain… the fishermen were mad at us, and we had a hard time getting the damn thing off, all the while beeing banged on my new paint by the wooden boat they were using… result : a slightly ripped fihing net and a very scratched hull… oh well…
to ads to the current discomfort, the tidal stream is often up to 3 knots, so we are goins sloooooow… we anchored off pulau besar to rest , a little resort island just offshore of melaka, and we are fixing the starter motor of the ford which was acting funny. Got the parts in town today and should be off and go tomorow morning, headed toward the next stop : port klang.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Langkawi.
We left the little island off Melaka, sailed north toward port klang. we decided not to stop there in the morning, but to continue to lumut, near pulau pankgor. port klang is the main shipping port on this coast after singapore and the trafic was hectic. we were just after a heavy squall in the little morning, dodging reefs and tankers, and just didn’t feel like a big port right now…
we went up river into lumut, which harbor the malaysian navy base, and anchored near a decrepit boatyard, where i was told there was the possibility to careen, ( dry the boat on the beach) but it wasn’t the case as the facilities were a pile of rust… we just did some repairs on the dinghy and sailed away again. there was loads of abandoned boats on moorings though, small ones,  nothing like Karaka, but a few eventually to be salvaged… the whole ambiance there was weird, the weather played its part, but this river arm with all those abandoned boats and big broken factories were strange… definitively a backwater…
after that we anchored for the night in front of a yacht club in lumut town, filled up some water, went in town…
we left for penang in the morning, but went slower than expected. no more squalls or storms but no wind either… hours of motoring… we arrived around penang in the little hours, just before sunrise, so decided not to stop there either and to continue toward a little island somewhere between penang and langkawi called pulau payar. very touristy, with half a dozen ferries showing up loaded with people in the morning, but being a marine park, the sea life is astounding… no fishing allowed so masses of reef fish all over, plus several huge groupers and snapper, barely afraid of snorkelers, and the odd pelagic, crevally, barracuda…very nice, i think i’ll go back a few days and try to check the other dive spots.
then we motored to langkawi, another 20 miles, for lack of wind again… we anchored in bass harbor, in front of the main town, and set up for a cold beer, very cheap compared to the prices on the mainland… langkawi is duty free.
weather is a lot better than i imagined, it hasn’t rained since around Port Klang… the temperature is very high though, as is the humidity.
hot and sweaty …

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Langkawi again,
Motoring here and there, not much wind, or too much… Flat most of the time, with a heavy swell( but not surfable) from the west, and the odd thunder storm. Actually there was a tornado in Bass Harbor yesterday, but we didn’t even noticed… to busy playing this “pirate” video game on the laptop i guess…
otherwise, checked some islands and bays. the water is quiet dirty, and the beach as well… i must be a little spoiled after the philipines… the tourist strip on the west side of langkawi is in my view pathetic, the worst of bad tourist development, and an evident lack of business…some nice spot though. high class hotel and resorts have their own private beaches that we should be able to reach with karaka and those are little paradises, if they don’t torpedo us for anchoring there…
we hired a couple bikes with my father today and went everywhere on the island… found some anchorages, and had fun riding in the rainforest with the monkeys…
I stoped in all the cyber cafes i saw to post crew wanted adds, aiming at the backpackers.
Alain is leaving saturday and Saoirse is arriving from San francisco on monday. till then , i’ll just hang around doing some repairs ( always) and chill out.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

well, haven’t been updating lately…
so my father left, saoirse arrived, Vj, a malaysian businessman from KL joined for a few days and we tryed to get back to the marine park at pulau payar… the conditions weren’t ideal, with strong monsoon wind and heavy south swell, so we only stayed overnight at the island, bobing on our mooring, 5 meters away from the reef… didn’t even get to dive…
headed back to langkawi the next day, sailed quiet fast with the wind in our back in a thick haze from sumatra fire forest, visibility down to less than half a mile… the sea was very rough and the crew got slightly seasick…
anchored off telaga harbor in the north west of the island, behind some man made islands, just out side a little marina there… one of those that got hit by the tsunami, back in business but with some wrecks here and there, notably what i think was a catamaran, that is now a pile of rubish on the shore, the biggest piece must be 2 metres square…found photo albums, tapes, clothes in it, pretty sad sight…
yesterday kim and martin from france and suisse respectively, arrived to stay about 3 weeks. jasmine a young canadian backpacker is arriving today from thailand where she’s been traveling for a while… we will head back to kuah tomorow, fill up the food locker and clear customs and then head north into thai waters, stopping at all the islands on the way until phuket where kim and martin will leave us to fly back to france…
then, we’ll have more room for other crew, and we will explore the islands of thailand… i will try to haul out and redo the paint bottom as well, as something wrong is going on there and it need attention again…
but before, some desert islands, clear waters, coconuts, fish and sun… 

Friday, August 19, 2005

Allright, ready to go…
Crew all onboard, pantry stuffed with food, tanks full, we’re off in the wild for two weeks.
Next civilized stop : Phuket, Thailand,  around the first week of september

Sunday, September 04, 2005

here we are : Phuket, Thailand.
We left Kuah, the main town on Langkawi to sail around to a place called the hole in the wall, a very narrow entrance between cliff, leading to a maze of rivers and mangroves swamps. we stayed there a couple days, using the fact there was no wind at all in there to fix the mainsail riped in a gale in the china sea, and exploring the area with the dinghy. Saoirse had some picture to take for an outdoor clothing company so asked jasmine to pose for her on top of rocks and in snakes infested trees, under the suspicious looks of the local fishermen.
we then sailed to koh belintug besar, the first of a string of island in south thailand. very scenic landscape, white sand beaches, limestones cliffs, deep jungle… unfortunatly the water was still murky and visibility was nil, so while swimming ashore, martin got wrapped around by a nasty jellyfish. he was really badly stung and was restless with pain for a couple days after that. we haven’t seen anymore jellyfish since…
next stop was koh tanga, a very small desert island,with an even smaller one just in front. the islands were almost too beautiful to be true, with clear water to boot. i managed to catch a couple fish and a lobster. the nights were rough, with frequent thunderstorms, but the anchorage was well sheltered.
after that we headed north with a erratic but sailable wind, trying to reach koh rok. the wind wouldn’t let us so we went where we could, anchoring in the middle of the night off koh kradang. the plan was then to continue north toward koh phi phi, but the wind picked up in the morning , raising a steep chop, so instead we headed west toward koh rok, our first destination. we picked up a mooring as it is a marine park and anchoring is forbidden to protect the very well preserved reef. the island was the spot where the shot the french version of the survivor TV show a few years back. now its only development are a few bungalows, and a park ranger building. there are tracks leading up the hills, and big dragons hanging out in the trees. a very nice spot for sure…
next we sail to koh phi phi don, but the wind dying in the afternoon, slowed us down so we didn’t make it before the night. i didn’t feel comfortable entering the reef in the dark with many unlit fishing boat everywhere, so we found a protected spot outside on the east coast. no tourists there, but probably not as beatiful as inside the harbor. so at this point we had only a couple days left before kim and martin needed to be in kuala limpur for their flight back home, so we headed for Phuket. the wind was absolutly contrary, blowing steadily. we tried tacking back and forth into it but were getting nowhere, so started the engine and steered straight for Ao Chalong, the anchorage in the south. after a long day motoring, as if something wanted to prevent us from reaching destination, a big thunder storm erupted, slowing us down further… we still made it, arriving at sunset, just in time for some thai food at a seashore restaurant.
in the morning i went to check in with the thailand authorities, kim and martin left immediately, as they had a long trip to go, and school on monday. jasmine and saoirse went exploring the island while i got some rest. the plan from there is to haul out as soon as possible as the bottom paint is in bad shape. jasmine left the next day to go see her boyfriend and travel buddy in koh pha ngan on the east coast. i went running errand looking for parts and supplies, while saoirse got ready to go travel to bangkok and north thailand.
i rented a bike and went round the island, checking shipyards and surf breaks. i’m hauling out monday morning for about a week.
i found out that the west coast of phuket is blessed with surf, and cursed with hords of tourists at the same time. the locals apparently recovered from the tsunami, as you barely see any signs of it. the tourists centers of ao patong, ao karon, and ao kata, must have been little paradise a few years back, but nowadays it is to me depressing. streets and streets of hotels, bars, and restaurants, neons, advertisements, and fat sunburned germans in shorts… the ambiance is not good, it feels dirty. there must be about a prostitute for every male tourist. all that in the middle of white sand beach rocky outcrop, deep jungle and clear water. you understand why they are there but it makes you want to sail away and find your own private anchorage…
anyway…
that’s it for now, hauling out tomorrow and lots of prepa to do
tom

Monday, September 05, 2005

tanarachai slipway.
on the hard, scraping paint and getting dirty…
bottom job for the next few days, hopefully back in the bath before my birthday on the 11th…
i’ve got a worker helping me, 12 dollars a days, for sanding poisonous paint… this world is cruel…

Saturday, September 10, 2005

ratanachai slipway again and still
5 coats on, one more to go…
i had to report the relaunching to makes thing properly. i was tempted to rush the job, but it is better to do it good once and for all.
so monday afternoon i’m back in the water, then headed to Ao chalong again for some rest before Rudy , the new crew, arrives on wednesday.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

 back in Ao chalong
the haul back in happened without any trouble, just some last minute frenzy to tighten the ram of the hydraulic steering that was worn off and lose, but since there are two of them, it was still working, but better fix things like that before re launching anyway.
so back in ao chalong, in the rain and grey weather. lucky that, it was sunny for the past week while i was painting and it starts raining when i am finished… it usualy is the opposite…
so waiting for Rudy to arrive this morning, he is 22 from the states and plan to stay a few months.
more people lined up and coming soon, but we still have some room and we will try to get some backpackers to come with us down the way to langkawi at the end of the month. in the meanwhile there’s loads of islands and bays around here, we should find some good spots. i would like to get going with the work, as the departure over the ocean approaches and the boat need to be shipshape before january. there are some rust spots to kill and painting to do, and gear to instal, and broken things to fix… as always…
while i’m in phuket i will try to get all the supplies i can as well, cause they got way more stuff here than in langkawi, but then in langkawi they can order anything duty free… have to find what’s better to get here and what’s not.
anyway that’s what’s going on, have to run

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

rudy arrived yesterday. we are running errands in town, getting things fixed and all, then when he’ll be over the jet lag and i’ll be done in town, we’ll head out toward koh phi phi probably.
i just enrolled another guy, curently backpacking in new zealand, he’ll arrive here in about a week and plan to stay a month or 6 weeks, until we get to malaysia about.
so karaka is slowly filling up again…

Friday, September 16, 2005

all is fine, except my old inflatable dinghy, that i gave to a shop to fix, but they told me it was lapsap ( trash) so off it goes , along with my dream of having two dinghies…
so we’re off tomorrow for koh phi phi, we’ll stay there at least a few days and there is internet so for brian, no worries, i’ll be able to check your arrival date. most likely we’ll be anchored in the south bay where the ferry arrive so you’ll be able to hitch a ride to karaka anytime.
 koh phi phi don is suppose to be no go zone because of the hords of tourists and all the resorts and stuff, yet apparently it really improved, or at least changed since the tsunami, cause they got hit pretty bad there and now they are slowly getting back in business, mainly cheap backpacker who don’t care about comfort that much. all the mass tourism part of it has been litteraly washed away. the island is very beautiful and there are several world class dive spots around, reefs and rocks, so they say… there are also tons of charter boats…  on the south is another little island call koh phi phi leh, which is desert, but with the obvious day charters all over. maya bay on the west of this island was the shooting location for the movie “the beach”.
we’ll see how all that goes, then sail back to phuket to check out on the end of the month. the wind is blowing north west at the moment so sailing to phi phi will be nice, coming back will be a pain. we’ll probably do long tacks, stoping at some island overnight coming back, taking it easy. koh phi phi is about 25 miles away, but with this wind, it would take forever beating into it. and i’d like to avoid motoring for 5 hours…
ok that’s it for now

Monday, September 19, 2005

koh phi phi don,
fast trip across to the backpacker paradise. it was blowing seriously with some rain and thunder, so even just two of us with rudy we reached an all time record of 9.3 knots with the second reef on…
had a nice sail and now we are staying in ton say bay in the south of the main island of koh phi phi. the island is in fact two islands, separated by a narrow sand stripe. apparently it was all developed and high class hotels were the rule, until the tsunami washed it all out to sea. they are rebuilding fast, but they seem to have changed the kind of people they are aiming at, as now it is mainly cheap guest houses, internet cafes, dive companies and bars. definitely a backpacker hangout, a little too much actually, it borders on the bad taste, and it feels a bit fake.
nice island anyway, we went sailing with the dinghy this afternoon, picked up a mooring, snorkeled along the reef, landed on the white sand beach surrounded by limestone cliffs and jungle, to be greeted by a bunch of monkeys ashore.
the weather is unsettled for the past few days with frequent downpours and shifting winds, not the sunny days we were expecting but it shouldn’t last
we’ll try to find some more crew here amongst all the backpackers, brian arrives tomorrow and then we will go explore some other islands on our way back to phuket

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Back in ao chalong.
brian arrived on the 21st, after a quick trip from new zealand. he cam in the morning with the ferry, and was trying to get rid of a very sticky chinese girl who absolutly wanted to go sailing as well, he had met her the night before in phuket. so she was nice but not really in the same trip, and tactfully but firmly i told her we didn’t need her…
anyway, we then sailed in a wonderful weather to koh phi phi leh, to anchor of a lagoon surrounded by cliff. it was magnificent, so we had to contend with hords of tourists here to see it as well… speed boat, snorkelers, the whole deal…
we then moved to a big reef in the middle of nowhere, only to find it destroyed by dynamite fishing, very little of it left alive… all that would have been very disappointing but for the perfect weather and the nice sails. next stop was another island in the north, under the rain this time with strong squalls. i caught two little grouper off the reef, first fresh fish in a while. after that another nice sail, but straight into the mother of all squalls, it got very rough in the afternoon. the good point is that we caught a fair sized dorado trolling. anchored off still another island and had a feast. then this morning set sail in light condition, but the wind freshened and we finally headed straight to ao chalong under power.
so today internet and other stuff, tomorrow rudy and brian are going to see if they find more crew in the local backpacker hangout, then check out the 29th and off we are again for 2 or 3 weeks in the desert islands between here and langkawi. no more tourists for a while, this whole bay is a big attraction park.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

leaving thailand…
we checked out this morning with customs and immigration, we are on our way to the supermarket, and then we’re off to the wild…
we will sail slowly to langkawi in malaysia, stopping in about 6 or 7 different islands on the way, taking a few days at each. we then plan to stop for a whole week in the butang group , settle down and enjoy fishing, diving, hiking and whatnot while getting some paint done and some rust banged on karaka in the spare time.
so next entry will be from langkawi in about 3 weeks
we will then have three more people showing up, francesco, an old shipmate from the schooner ranger time, who might actually join us a little earlier on the way if we can find a way, and then pascale and adam, a quebec/american couple, who are just about to fly in thailand and will meet us as soon as we reach langkawi. we’ll then be 6 of us so i don’t think i will need more crew for a while.
other than that, we just instal the wind generator, but it didn’t give any power yet, there’s no wind today… the solar panel is kicking though. i’m in the process of upgrading my charging system and getting hold of all kind of “free” energy…
i had a long chat with a local sport fisherman as well, and he gave me scores of advices on how to catch diner while sailing, so i have little toys to try, and hopefully we’ll have some sashimi at last…
all right, everybody is excited, we’re off… 

Thursday, October 20, 2005

telaga harbor, langkawi, malaysia
arrived two days ago, checked in malaysia this morning.
i won’t go in details about the trip, you want to know how it was, you have to experience it, words won’t do it justice…
to sumarize promptly, we sailed, fished, explored desert islands, didn’t see anybody but the odd local fisherman or park ranger, go to eat mahi mahi, snapper and lobster; saw some sharks, turtles, mantas, wild goats, and more coral than anything else.
the visibility underwater ranged from 20 ft on bad days to an amazing 120ft+ in koh racha.
the wind’s been fair, and we had some nice passages.
brian and rudy are doing great, loving it it seems, having great conversations about life and rebuilding the good old world , losing at chess, playing music and no much else… but we still found the time in between spearfishing expeditions to bang some rust and do some paint…
so now back to malaysia, we’re waiting for francesco tonight, flying in from japan where he was staying lately, it will be good to see him again after all this time, he was a shipmate of mine on the schooner ranger in costa rica in 2003.
then adam and pascale will show up as well in a few days, they already arrived in thailand and are traveled inland a little while we were having our fun in the islands, and they are on their way down south to langkawi.
coming week will be interneting, replying mails and updating the website, we are full crew but brian and rudy won’t stay for the indian ocean passage so i’m still looking for crew to commit for this coming trip in january, i need to do quite a few thing in town as well, selling some old gear, getting some new stuff, fixing the genset that’s still not working, bla bla bla…and then, we’ll sail south to the lumut area, stop on our way back to penang and georgetown, old colonial town and then get ready for another trip up and down to phuket, check more island, fish more fish, the old game…
passing the time until the monsoon reverses, that is…

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

so… lumut, dingding river, mainland malaysia
so much to say, we’ve been pretty busy lately, things have changed and we’ve traveled some, but with 3 more people on board, we got better to do than spend hours writing messages for the internet…
so francesco arrived first, all excited and rightly so, good old francesco…
Adam and Pascale joined the next day in telaga harbor, and we celebrated with a bottle of rhum, all happy to have a whole bunch of pirates for crew. Adam even got a sword, I need one too…
we sailed around langkawi by the north, caught a big mackerel, and spend the afternoon exploring a little island( officially thailand…) with an impressive lagoon surrounded by cliffs and jungle, a white sand beach smug a the bottom of it, and several deep caves, with bats and all… the mackerel ended in the pot, of course, under the talented skills off pascale and adam. we had a surprise, the flesh of the fish was glowing in the dark… we realised that afterward of course, but all survived to this day, even Kat. we guessed he had some squid for lunch, squids do glow in the dark too…
we then went to the hole in the wall on langkawi, a deep river and mangrove laden with monkeys and fishing eagles.
sailing back to kuah the main town, we tried all kind of sets for downwind sailing, spinaker, twin head sails and mizzen staysail. just for fun.
in kuah we got some fresh food, stuffed ourselves at the local indian, and eventually got a mechanic to come have a look at the genset, still not working after months of undetermined defect. apparently i messed it up when i took apart the fuel injection pump to get checked in johor bahru back in july. the first problem was most likely an air leak, that we fixed with alain , but we couldn’t have put back the pump correctly as i’m told  a special tool is needed. to sumarize, i need a pro to come and reset my injection pump…$$$.
to counterbalance that, i got all kind of extra gear in deposit in a second hand shop in langkawi, and some is already gone… more room on board, less weight, and more money… perfect.
we then left langkawi to pulau payar, a little marine park just south. first stop was pulau sedangang, a mere rock, but excellent diving, sharks, big pelagics, hords of massive groupers, etc etc… no fishing though, it is a protected area.
we got disturbed in the evening by a police boat, telling us to get the hell out of here it was forbidden to stay, but we stayed anyway cause the anchor was jammed solid in 26 meters of water… we manage to get it up in the morning after some serious physical prowesses. i guess we turned around during the night and unwrapped the chain from around some rock…
we moved to payar, excellent diving too but a little too many tourists in bright orange life jackets to my tastes… but then it is not everywhere that you can see, at once, 4 groupers more than 20 lbs, a couple red snappers as big, about two millions small reef fish you have to push away to see around, countless parrotfish and 5 or 6 8ft long sharks circling the whole thing… i saw the biggest barracuda ever as well, so big as to be scary…
but at 4 in the morning a big squall came, along with massive swell. we then left after a very uncomfortable night for the 120 miles trip south to  lumut. we used to wind only to leave payar, but had to motor for hours during the night, when it dropped, leaving us with only the huge swell on the beam. some of the crew got slightly seasick, not the least kat, but we ended up with a nice downwind sail into the dingding river this afternoon, anchoring under sail in front of town.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Georgetown, Penang Island
so we left lumut, all dead due to the celebrations of aidilfitri, the end of the ramadan, the musilm fasting month. everything was closed, it seems it is a family holyday.
we went to anchor up river at chang’s, but the place is strange, a little depressing to be honest, with abandoned boats, factories, etc etc.
we then went out of the river to the island of pangkor, first to the fishing village on the east side, then a little island in the south, before heading to the sembilan group, a few islands about 15 miles away. we found a nice anchorage and stayed a while. the water was very murky, but the beach was nice, with abundant wildlife, wild boars, monitor lizards, birds… there was a fishing camp on the beach with a chinese shrine. we tried to get coconut out of the single tree there, but only resulting in very sore feet from the climbing, and no coconuts…
after another stop on the west side of pangkor in a backpacker haven, we finally sailed overnight to penang. the city is an old colonial settlement, with still a lot of character, and the usual malay mix of chinese, indian, and muslim.
we’ll stay here a few days , as it is the main town in this coast and we’ll need to get everything we need here before the crossing in january, as i don’t intend to come back that far south later on…

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Penang
a week already… penang is an interesting place, lots of little streets with countless old style chinese shops, an important indian community, great food, and everything you might want to fix your boat…
so i got the generator to work, at last. we got some other things done but mainly getting parts and stuff that we are not likely to find in any smaller ports.
we’ve been trying to get vaccinations with pascale and adam, we need the yellow fever one to get to africa but they are out of stock here so we’ll have to try in thailand.
my parents are arriving tonight for a few weeks on board before continuing on a 6 month trip to australia and canada. brian is leaving tomorrow to head back to new zealand, where he will travel with his mother for a while.
so we’ll be 7 on board… Rudy will leave the boat around the end of the year, as will my parents, so we’ll be 4 left on board. i would like to have two more crew on board for the crossing, preferably who could come at least a few weeks before the crossing. those two crew could be anyone at that point, but i would like at least one more girl.
as for now, we will head north to payar again, then langkawi, check out and sail up in thailand toward phuket. i will try to get to the similan islands which are supposed to be very nice before coming down again after xmas.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Kuah, Langkawi
back again from our little tour in the south, with some addition to karaka such as some solar panels… don’t ask where they come from.
so back in langkawi, brian’s gone, he should be back in new zealand by now… my parents arrived in penang, and we sailed north stopping in pulau payar, the little marine park, again, dove with sharks, huge groupers and chinese tourists in life jackets, then spend a few days sailing slowly north. the monsoon seems to be settled at last with a nice steady wind from the north east…
we’ll spent a few days in kuah as my mother already lost one of her contact lenses so she need to order new ones. luckily they are about one tenth of the price here compared to back home in france… my parents are here for about 5 weeks, they’ll leave us when we reach phuket, to head for australia where they plan to buy a truck and cross from perth to cairns, before heading to british columbia via hawaii, and then cross canada all the way to Quebec before making it back home in about 5 months time…
in the meanwhile, we’ll sail up to thailand, stop at several islands, try to have a go at the similan group, a bunch of islands 80 miles offshore, supposed to have the best diving in the whole area…

Friday, November 25, 2005

telaga harbor, langkawi,
so we’re ready, we filled water and fuel, we sorted everything out that needed sorting out, and we’re off for thailand. we’ll stay out for about two weeks before checking in at phuket, then sail around thailand.
as for crew, december will be crowded, we`re 7 on board, rudy`s father will come visit for a short week sometime so hopefully we`ll be able to accomodate him, then some potential crew contacted me and will be backpacking in thailand, so they should join to see how we get along before crossing the big ocean. i have a friend of mine who will show up after christmas as well for a little party as i haven`t seen him for 5 years.
so anyway, here we go…

Sunday, December 11, 2005

pshhhh…
been on the net for a couple hours, answering mails, writing nice and considerate messages to every single person who wrote to me, and i’m knackered…
anyway : Ao Chalong, Phuket Thailand
so we made it again, after another couple weeks in some very nice spots, sailing, diving, fishing and all that
we stoped near koh butang again, sailed to the north, stayed a week in koh rock, visited the amazing secret beach in koh muk, stoped again in koh racha and then anchored in kata beach before coming to ao chalong to clear in.
everything is working fine, we finally had some luck with the wind, the much awaited north east monsoon seem to be settling at last. fishing was excellent, we got big mackerels, groupers, jacks and tunas…
we are getting organised with all the stuff that need doing here in south eats asia before heading for the big unknown and there is quiet some work. once we leave this side of the ocean, as we are planning to stay out of the way for a while, every thing will be more expensive, if we can find it at all, so we need to be totally self sufficient.  
so i’m still looking for 2 more crew members, even if i had loads of people writing to me and several very interested. some of them are currently traveling around those parts so they’ll come and visit us. i definitely need the crew to come at least a couple weeks before to sail with us a little and get to prove themselves.

Friday, December 16, 2005

ao chalong, phuket.
we’ve been here for a week, trying to organise a lot of things, with various success.
i failed top find a second hand main sail but managed to get my light wind headsail repaired… lots of little things done anyway, and some good boat improvements, notably the opening of a wall, changing one of the aft bunk from a coffin to one of the nicest spot on the boat. we open an opening in a locker as well and for the first time were able to have a look in the un finished fridge behind, to find out that it is almost complete… i’m not sure i’ll be able to finish it before we go, for money and time reasons, but it is good to know it’s there. it will be good storage place for the food for the crossing.
i had an interesting mail from the original owners of karaka as well, which was very nice, i’ll write the details later but i’m proud to announce that she’s already been around the world once, won the Auckland to Melbourne race in 88, and reached 13.5 knots under sail…
so no more of this “she must be a slow boat look at her” crap. and she’s NOT a motorsailer, as some marina dwellers annoyingly assured me, she went around the world toping up the fuel tank only 3 times.
otherwise, we’re 8 on board, rudy’s father joined for a few days.
we’re sailing today, we’ll go to koh phi phi leh, to ao maya , the shooting location for the movie “the beach”. it will be crowded with tour boats but we need to get away for a while, the crew is getting  restless. weather is terrible, there’s a cyclone up in the bay of bengal, nothing that can reach us but it is disturbing the weather system and we are having a miserable little rain, you’d believe we’re in England.
after koh phi phi we’ll come back to chalong to pick up the new aft hatch(made of teak by a local joiner) , drop rudy senior, pick up yvan, an old school friend from france, and sail to krabi, before heading back to phuket for new year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Nai yang beach, phuket island
So we dropped rudy senior in ao chalong, got the hatch, the genoa in repair, and yvan, then took off for krabi. We never made it. The monsoon is definitively settled, and beating into 25 knots wind and 1 meters chop is not for karaka. we stopped in koh phi phi overnight, then in koh yao yai, then tried again in the morning and finally gave up and had a perfect downwind run around phuket island to kata beach. we had the jib poled out, doing honorable speed and actually went faster than the two others tupperwares that unashamedly thought they could smoke us with their moden piece of plastic.                 well, too bad for their pride. arriving near the southern tip of phuket, the wind got funnelled by the hills or something, and pumped up to a steady 40 knots with gusts even stronger. we tried to keep the main but after a while decided it wasn’t wise. we finished under second reefed main, storm jib and mizzen, doing 7 knots. interesting.
kata was kata, nothing special about it, jus the traditional crappy tourist beach. it could be ibiza…
rudy left us there, after over 3 month on board and a beard to put tom hanks in “cast-away” to shame… adam and pascale went over land to krabi to spend some time with their friends there.
then, we took off looking for a nice spot in the north. we got lucky… the trip was amazing, good sailing and all. we felt bad for a while cause this other boat was going so much faster than us, we were changing sails, trying to at least not look ridiculous, but this guy with a boat the same size as karaka, was still gaining on us. then we realised he was still moving at a brisk pace but his sails were luffing badly, as where ours cause the wind had turned… the lazy bastard was motoring…
we caught a huge mackerel, about 20 pounds, much bigger than all the other ones before.
it was too much for us so we brought it to a restaurant ashore and got them to cook part of it for us in exchange of them keeping the extra. we had a feast, they deep fried whole steaks, with veggies, soup and rice… a good deal.
we anchored in Nai Yang beach, a very small village all the way to the north of the island. it’s very nice, not like thet other beaches in patong or kata, and i’m not sure i want to go back to ao chalong even. we’ll probably be able to re supply here and even check out from the airport.
and there even is some surf. we fixed our board but haven’t gon surfing yet, we figure they might take it badly if we were having fun on the surf break on the tsunami anniversary.
because the whole village was in effervescence yesterday. they got hit pretty badly by the tsunami, like most places around here, and so they had a feast organised for the anniversary, with a big meal served for free to everybody, even the restaurants on the beach were serving for free, chicken, rice, prawns, mussels, so much of it there were girls walking around with trays, looking for somebody to give it to. all very friendly, we had the waitresses from the restaurant the previous day showing us around, feeding us like kings, and explaining to us a few details of the buddhist ceremony that followed. there were guys going in transe on something, loosing it and starting to hit themselves with swords and axes, cutting their tongues and all sorts of others interesting activities… they were chasing and trying to scare away the ghosts of the dead people that were still wandering around after the tsunami, from what i could understand. one guy lighted about 5000 firecrackers , waving them around dancing and praying and then was exorcised by the priest, and then everybody recovered, started throwing the offerings of bananas and pineapples and watermelons to everybody around, burned some papers prayers and lighted candles in little holes on the beach.
all a bit weird but quiet interesting and very friendly.
i just dropped my parents at the airport, they are on their way to australia, and we’re left 3 on board tonight. it will feel strange after weeks being 8 on board…

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Nai yang beach, phuket
still at the same spot, we didn’t move. the anchorage is nice and relax so we just hang out here. we are waiting for adam and pascale to come back after new year. they went to visit a thai family in krabi, some people they had met previously, and they are going to spend new year’s eve with them.
we are waiting as well for val and tez, two australian backpackers, who will hopefully join us for the crossing, and should meet us here in nai yang in a few days.
otherwise, nothing much is happening, we don’t work too hard, i know we should get ready for the crossing, but… there’s still time.
we found a little reef break so we went surfing a couple time, nothing fancy, just a few little waist high waves to have fun on.
i dropped yvan at the taxi at six this morning, he went to the airport to fly back home. so we’re left only francesco and me on board, very quiet, except kat, getting in heat again…
so tonight, probably a thai massage, a good meal and then who knows, we’ll figure a way to start 2006 in style…
happy new year to everybody

Friday, January 06, 2006

Nai yang, phuket.
we’re checked out, and there are 5 of us…
it took some trouble to get the crew sorted out, with quiet a few disappointment and some tragic stories.
first two dutch girls were on their way but they decided at the last moment that the weren’t up for it, so i had tow australian girls on their way. one of them got hit by car and is now in the hospital with severe injuries, so i finally, after beeing rude to several people making them wait in hope of a green light for a long time, got decided on two of them. one is jennie, a 28 years old american. she will join us in penang as she is flying in the 12th. the other one is josh, a 22 years old australian. he was already in phuket after leaving his job in a shipyard in singapore. he will join immediately and sail with us fom now on.
so no more need for crew, sorry for all the others who applied, another time maybe. and please stop writing to me for a crew position until at least april, because you would then saturate my email box while we are sailing.
we are going to leave phuket tonight and sail about 50 mile north west to the similans islands, stay there a few days before sailing straight down to penang as a shakedown cruise, it will be about 250 miles and will allow us to get started with watch keeping and all that. a rehearsal kind of…

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Penang, malaysia
so we made it…
we sailed out of phuket toward the similans, light wind and even no wind at times. we went swimming in the middle of the ocean, with the sails flapping… we arrived in koh miang in the similans with a big squall following us. we had a rough night on a mooring, and decided to move up to koh similan in the north to find a quieter spot. the little bay was paradisiac, with big granit formations, white sand beach, jungle, very clear water, coral, and about 12 or 15 dives boats… apart from the topless girl sunbathing on their deck, they were annoying, filling tanks all night and complaining about us grinding the deck… well, allright, we were making some racket. we got the deck cleaned though, in between dives in crystal clear waters, hikes up the hills, and uplifting conversations with italian tourists, on a 2 week organised tour in thailand. the kind of stuff that makes you happy you’re not with them…
so we grinded and painted, then got kicked out, so we left and headed south to some rocks offshore. we spend the night and in the morning, had a very nice dive, in 30 meters plus visibility. on the way back to the boat, adam started yelling something at us that sounded like shark, so we got looking, interested, and found on our way a 5 or 6 metter whale shark, cruising along. they are plancton heating species, and quiet rare. we swam with him for a while, one of the most amazing experience, josh got even close enough to touch him…
after that we took off , destination penang, 250 miles away.
and the wind died.
we did 4 miles in the first 6 hours so we decided to stop at a nearby mooring for diner and a whisky under the full moon. a breeze appeared, so we set sail and took off again. the next 48 hours were slow to say the least, with frequent calms. we made it to koh butang, just to the north of langkawi, in about 60 hours. 170 miles, that’s a pretty bad average speed… but we didn’t motor…
we stopped at some little islands to try to catch some fish, but the wind started pumping 20 knots and the water got murky, so we didn’t catch anything. i couldn’t go cause i had cut my finger pretty badly the day before, throwing a broken glass overboard. First time i had blood spurting out of me in rythm with my heartbeat. let me tell you, it is not cool. adam fixed me up though, good to have a fireman with good first aid abilities on board… 
so we left, with good hopes to make good speed with all this wind, but the wind died immediatly. makes you wonder about the reliability of the monsoon…
we motored some to a sea mount we located on the chart, to try to dive on it. we found it we think but couldn’t be sure, the current was pumping, so we kept going. the wind increased during the night, and finally after all this time we had a good sail over night, averaging around 6 or 7 knots all night… the morning found us about 15 miles from penang, and the wind died again. after some drifting we got into the shipping lanes so we decided to motor the way back to town.
we arrived two days ago.
Now we are getting stuff organised, we finished to paint the deck with primer, next is finition… we are going to get all the food in the local indian and chinese shops, who got everything you want for real cheap, and then make a run to the well supplied supermarket for the rest. i have loads of supplies to get too, parts and material…
jennie, the sixth crewmember, just shot me an email saying she just arrived in penang, so i better go back to the jetty to meet her.
other than that, well, nothing much happened

Friday, January 27, 2006

Kuah, langkawi
so we spent over a week in penang, anchored just off the Lim jetty, a strange “village” of chinese people, on wooden poontoon overhanging over the water. when i say the water , it was more like raw sewage… dead rats, live turds, plastics of all kind, lovely…
jenny arrived the 18th, all jet lagged from the flight. she got the hang of things pretty fast and is definitely a good crew member, so for those who were still hoping, that’s it, the crew is complete…
we did a lot during this week in town, including two more coats of paint on the deck, only the anti-skid and the finition left to do. we did a lot of shoping, while at the same time building more storage area, a big pantry in what was the shower and a big rack of shelves in a corner of the engine room. we then filled everything with food, in bulk and countless tins. we shopped in tiny chinese warehouses, small hindoo spice shops, and we got some real good stuff for real cheap. penang is great for food. 
we got fishing gear, spearfishing gear, poison for the bugs, all kind of tools and material, and even, best of best, a BMX… he is called El Extremo and is a nice second hand bike that can do anything, even survive penang trafic…
we had an interesting night out with Josh, francesco and jenny. josh got adam to carve him a mohawk, and he got some gelatine and spiked himself. pure style…  so we went out to diner and a beer in town, to the great delight of the locals… after the fancy backpacker western style bar, we headed for the seediest part of town and ended up in a dark corner bar, with cheap alcool, and a lively crowd of rickshaw drivers and random bums… it was interesting, especially after josh got drunk enough. the spiked mohawk proved to be a great icebreaker in malaysia… but i won’t say too much about the rest cause it could embarass some…
so when all that was done, and we were tired of the town, even if it is quiet nice with all the chinese shop houses, tiny streets, and lively indian area, we took off from penang and sailed north to pulau payar overnight. we picked up a mooring in the morning but with the monsoon blowing, the water was very shoppy and murky so the diving wasn’t very good. we had to beat into the wind and the swell all night so we all got some sleep before heading north again toward kuah in langkawi. the wind slowed down in the afternoon and since it was blowing right from where we where trying to go, we motored the last 10 miles to town.
here we have a few more things to do, notably shopping at the night market tomorrow night, get back my gear  and my cash at paul’s second hand shop and get all the whisky for the next 6 months, as the island is duty free and it is the cheapest place to buy booze.
then we’ll head to telaga, hopefully sunday, to spend a couple days there, fill water and fuel, get josh to see the monkeys before we leave asia and climb the mountain in the back as a last  uphill hike and green immersion before a long crossing and months in atolls with a max height of 5 meters over the water…

Thursday, February 02, 2006

that’s it, we’re gone…
we went to telaga, did what we needed to do, fixed stuff, banged rust, painted, filled the tanks, the pantry, emptied the wallets, climbed mountains and walked through jungle, now, we’re back in Kuah, i’m doing my last internet till i don’t know when, buying the last minute stuff like whisky and beer and films, trying to get the SSB to work, and spending all night on the neighbor boat drinking and playing accordeon, jembe and harmonica, while exchanging anchorages and cool spots on both sides of the indian ocean. did anybody knew about this great butcher in hell ville, nosi be, who sells great T-bones for 50cents a kilo? i got myself a barbecue just to be ready for it… meat around here is crap, and it will be fish and luncheon meat for the next few months…
i’m on my way to check out with customs and immigration, and then we should be gone before dark… the wind seems to be blowing decently, with less calms than earlier in the month. it should be a nice run to the maldives, and then who knows, but we’ll find out when we get there.
we met several boats on their way to chagos, and it sound like it will be crowded… i don;t like the idea of that but i’ve been told you can avoid the bulk of the yachties, who hang out all at the same spot and have beach volley nets, barbecue and all the marina life must have, including a radio net. not my scene, but we should be able to stick to the other atolls. we met a austrian guy at telaga, on his way to chagos, with about 20 cases of beers, gallons of wine and about 10 litters of schnapps. apparently booze is an issue over there for the people, used to the marina bar, so we’re packing with cheap stuff to resell, and hope to make some cash that way…
all right here we go…
ciao

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Maldives,
a quick note from out there… karaka is safe and well, we had a slow but eventful passage, and we reached the atolls about 2 weeks after leaving malaysia.
since we’re cruising along, dodging immigration and custom and checking the reefs and islands, fixing this and that( we had some failures but nothing major, except the main goose neck, that we had to weld at sea).
the place is amazing, and we’re kept very busy, between fishing, diving, surfing, meeting the locals and being offered thousands of coconuts. people are extremely friendly and we are welcome everywhere, they take us out to fish, take us to their homes, to their football games, etc etc…
so all is well, and the trip continues, we ‘re waiting for now as we just stumbled on a very nice anchorage in a lagoon in front of a little village, and the villagers are not letting go of us. the wind is fairly light so we’re waiting for it to pick up to head south to the next atoll. the surf is pumping with a big swell from a cyclone near mauricius so that doesn’t help to get going either… 
internet is more than scarce, and not very reliable so i’ll won’t go on forever, i don’t really know what to say to express the bliss we’re in, but to sumarize, we’re happy and well.
next we are gone to the southern atolls of the maldives before heading down south to chagos, then west.
that’s it for now…

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Gan, Addu atoll, Maldives
We had an amazing trip. we sailed down to chagos, missing gan on the way the first time due to a very strong current pushing us away. we made it to chagos, on the atoll of peros banhos . we stayed in this incredible place for a couple weeks, checking islands and ruins of settlements, diving and fishing, we had a very good time. we then got asked by the british in charge of the place to leave as they had an “operation” planned. apparently they have some of the natives they kicked away in the 70s to come back to visit their birthplace and they don’t want yachts around during that time. so we headed south across the great chagos bank, stoped in eagle island, a strict reserve where we met some scientists on a mission to exterminate the rats who kill everything else on the island. After that we headed for Egmont atoll in the south, anchored 20 meters away from shore in front of one of the most beautiful beach i’ve ever seen. there, after only a couple days i had to take the decision to head back for civilisation. there were several reasons but what really decided me where both the bad ambiance on board due to some tensions and disagreements between some of the crew, making life on board somewhat stressful( which is not what i came to chagos to experience), and then the fact that pascale felt sick and needed to see a doctor.
so we sailed back north, motoring a lot due to lack of wind. we reached gan, the southernmost atol of the maldives, on the 6th.
here, we agreed with Josh and jennie for them to leave the boat. francesco decided to head back home as well. today only adam and pascale are still with me as the 3 others left this morning on a local trading boat, they are going to sail up to male, where they can hop on a plane. pascale is seeing a doctor today and even if her condition is not by any mean fatal, or even dangerous, she is going to head back to canada in the next few days. adam might leave with her, depending on her condition, that is not sure yet.
so all this leave me on my own again. i am starting to look for more crew to join me now in the maldives and complete the trip down to madagascar and mayotte. i’ll stay a few weeks here , and then even if nobody could make it in time, i’ll leave and finish the crossing on my own. i’m building a windvane to take the strain of steering of me, and then karaka will be the ultimate spacious solo cruiser…
from gan, i’ll probably try to check some of the excellent surf break just north of here, then sail back to chagos, because i just can’t get enough of unspoilt, pristine, desert, tropical islands with the exceptional diving and fishing there… then somewhere around the second half of may, the wind will have settled itself for a perfect run toward madagascar. i’ll very certainly stop at some of the desert atoll on the way, they are said to be even better than chagos, and i have to see that. that will get us near madagascar in june. from there, i don’t have any set plans, i’ll explore the plave and sail back and forth between mada, mayotte and tanzania, there is plenty to see and do…
so if anybody feels like a bit of paradise and good sailing, now is the time to write me…

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Gan , maldives
so, things are looking up…
Josh, Jennie and francesco are gone, they sailed away on a local cargo up to Male, where they should be taking off by plane by now.
Pascale and adam just booked their tickets, they’ll be out of here the 17th, back to Montreal.
In the meantime, we’re working slowly on the boat, there are always tons of things to do, we fixed some sails and several little things that got undone during the crossing. i’m struggling once more with the genset, it is an old machine and like to make jokes but i am getting an expert at cleaning the fuel system… hopefully i’ll get it working again soon.
Two new crews are on their way, Paul, a 27 years old canadian and Shaun, a 18 years old south african. they’ll be here in a couple weeks about. Brian contacte me and will maybe come back on board for the rest of the crossing, which would be nice. otherwise, nobody else seem very interested, but i’m still looking for 1 or 2 more crew, preferably girls to equilibrate a little.
Gan is interesting, the Maldives are amazing. The people are very friendly but then there is a big resort and quite often we are taken for stupid tourists(which we are not) and are being ripped off clean. I paid 50 dollars for a load of laundry the other day, i couldn’t do anything about it, he had all my clothes and my linen in hostage… Don’t plan to do your laundry in Gan, the guy is a thief…
otherwise we met some very interesting people, in the restaurant and in the street, they stop and come for a chat. we’ve learn lots about the politics and the way of life here. we assisted at a demonstration, a very mild one but a demonstration anyway, apparently the government is extremely corrupt and democracy here is a joke, they just created an opposition party and people are just gaining awareness of their rights, and asking for changes.  
Most of the other boats left for chagos in the last few days and we got pretty much the place for ourselves.
We went current surfing last night with Adam. there is a causeway between two island with a very strong current when the tide goes down, so we went and attached a line to the bridge and rode the current on surf boards. loads of fun, when there’s no proper surf in the area. when we leave addu, i ‘d like to go and check some of the breaks i’ve been told about. it is supposed to be excellent and consistent…
otherwise, doing a lot of internet to try to find more crew and to get things organised with paul and shaun, and trying to get supplies, i need to fill the water tanks and get some cooking gas.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Wow! Near disaster this morning…
whoever said the murphy’s law was bullshit was wrong…
talk about fucked up coincidences.
the day started sunny and calm, i was getting ready to fix my westerbeke genset after a hearty breakfast on Pascale’s sweet bread leftovers, when the wind picked up. a big squall was on its way, so i got excited to try my new rain catching tarp. well the thing went flying after 5 minutes, the wind went up to 40 knots. i took it down, disappointed, and went back inside. after a while it started raining a lot so i went outside again to try to catch some of it, and realised that something was wrong… karaka was drifting. why, i don’t know, we anchored in a good 12 meters of sand and it shouldn’t drag. well it was, and lucky it wasn’t while i was ashore, but small consolation since i was on my own. Adam and pascale left on the plane yesterday. so i jumped on the start button to get the engine going and get back to the anchorage. it didn’t start. well, it happened before, and i know it is usually the bolt on the negative cable of the starter motor, who tend to come loose. i was going to tighten it, but then i realise it was just totally off. not the kind of job you do while drifting inside a lagoon during a squall… so i got slightly worried for about half a minute, and then decided to drop the anchor. a quick look at the chart showed a nice depth of 50 meters. lovely. i dropped 75 meters of chain. it caught…
so i spent an hour fixing the starter motor, i had to replace the bolt altogether, and it is quiet a mess since the thing is ground isolated to protect electrolisis corrosion.
i put it back started the engine, and got my courage to take up the hook. a few meters later, the sun came out of the clouds, and the temperature rose. it took me about 1 hour to raise my chain. under the sun. i got blisters on my hands.
so all happy i started motoring back to the anchorage, only to realise the canoe( a new addition to the karaka flotilla, a 9ft fiberglass piece of shit) was under water, being towed. it sank with the rain. so i emptied it, anchored back near the reef, and went for a tin of lichis for lunch.
that’s the story of my morning. the westerbeke didn’t get fixed, and my arms are sore. why did it have to happen today, that i am alone, and why the ford wouldn’t start, right when i needed it the most? well, anyway all is fine, but fuck me that chain is heavy…

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Gan , Maldives
So, paul made it. he arrived yesterday night.
We ‘re waiting now for the two others, shaun from south africa and lisa from australia, who should be arriving at the very beginning of may.  that will be the crew for the next few months, 4 is enough and anyway, time is getting short to get new contacts…
so for the next few days we will get things organised on the boat, since we’ll have to leave soon after the two others arrive. we need to sort out the food, the cooking gas, and everything we need to get here before we set sail again for no-where-land. there are a few things that need to be done on the boat as well so we’ll try to get as much done as possible. if we don’t spend too much time playing music that is… paul took a guitar with him and we already spent some time trying to see how it sounds with my accordeon…

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Gan, Maldives
Still in Gan… We are waiting here till the two other crew show up. shaun, from South Africa will arrive the 1st and Lisa from Australia will arrive the next day. So we’ll check out of here the 4th, since my visa expires the 5th and that is a friday so everything will be close that day. That will make 4 of us. There is a 5th person, but we’re not sure she can get a flight soon enough, so maybe, maybe not…
We got a big rain squall yesterday, and filled several hundred liters of water. i was getting worried as the rain seemed to avoid us and the tanks were getting low. It is sorted out now…
We took the outboard of the dinghy this morning, and rigged the sail once more. Much nicer to go that way, except for the very strong current at mid tide, but we managed anyway, going the other way. We are on the project of building new oars to make sure we don’t end up half way to chagos if the wind dies…
I got the genset almost figured out, i got fuel out of the pump but nothing at the injectors, so i went to get them checked, found one that was not good enough, cleaned it, cleaned the others, as well, and now they all spray beautifully so it should start.
And that’s about it, going easy and getting ready for the next leg.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Gan, Maldives
This is the longest I’ve stayed in one spot since Hong Kong… Well, it is a nicer spot than Hong Kong. And it was worth waiting, as the crew is building up again. Shaun arrived yesterday, tall and blond, but his luggage got lost so we’re waiting for it today at the airport. his surfboard, fins for mine, guitar strings, biltong… all in the bag, let’s hope we can get it back…
we bummed some bait from some fishermen on the pier last night and caught a little emperor, that we had for diner, first fresh fish for a few weeks, tasted good…
this morning we did some cleaning and then took care fo some lines that needed whippings and seizing… The main sheet was about to let go…
And now, after a meal at the little indian restaurant on the beach, one and only dish everyday but very good and very cheap, you can eat and drink all you can for 15 ruffias, just over 1 dollars, we’re going to leave on an expedition, since some french surfers apparently found a long point break behind the airport on Gan. So maybe we can score some surf in the next few days before we head north…
Lisa left australia and should be arriving in Male today, then fly down to Gan tomorrow.  
One bad thing that happened is that the adaptor for the laptop fried itself and so the computer won’t charge anymore… Lisa didn’t have enough time to look for it, so well, no computer till we reach civilisation again… Paper charts, and’ that’s it…The good old way.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Gan , Maldives
Lisa arrived last night, the crew is complete…
Shaun is still fighting to get his bag in time. it got lost somewhere between here and jo’burg, but should arrive tomorrow… we hope so as it contains spearfishing rubbers, fins for the surfboards, snorkeling gear for shaun, guitar strings, and a supply of biltong…
so all is fine, we’re getting the last things organised, fruits and veggies are going to be delivered tomorrow afternoon, and then we’ll check out and take off…
one new thing on the website, i sold out… sorry about that but since i got thousands of visitors each months, i figured i might as well try to cash out on those, and installed some google ads in the home page, at the bottom, as well as a google search bar. so apparently i got money each time somebody uses it, so don’t hesitates to contribute to the cause and check as many ads as possible, and use the search bar on my website each time you do a search. that’s would be nice of you. Thanks.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Gan, Maldives
Last day in gan.
I did the check out, all is clear, got my spearguns back from the police custody, the passport stamped, and we are ready to roll.
So that’s the last entry until late june when we’re going to reach the other side.
And please remember that while we’re gone, the ads on my website ( bottom of the home page) are still earning me cash each time you click on them, so don’t hesitate to participate in Karaka’s history by clicking a couple time so we got some extra cash to get going Thanks

Monday, July 03, 2006

Hell-ville, Nosy Be, Madagascar
we made it… just arrived last night in town, after all this time out it is quiet a shock…
i’ll write down detqils lqter, i’still struggling to sort out the french keyboard. All is well, the crew is still qlive, qnd a lot happened, we had a blast.
more soon
Tom

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Nosy Be, Madagascar
So, what happened in the world of karaka lately…
We left Gan in the Maldives, heading north toward Huvadu atoll, in search of a good surf break. the sailing was good, but on arrival we didn’t find the pass, my chart was about 3 miles off… we found it after some searching, only to realise there was nowhere to anchor at this spot, too bad cause the surf really was pumping. we erred a bit here and there and ended up somewhere on the east side of the atoll,  which was far cause it happened to be the biggest atoll in the world. we found a smug spot and settled there for about 5 days. the holding was terrible and we had some little trouble dragging anchor but otherwise the place was amazing, clear water, lots of fish( but very skittish), rays, turtles and all, a little desert island, full moon and a good surf break around the corner… surf was good, big but very confused and quiet hard to catch waves actually, plus as is normal with reef break, it was getting dodgy on low tide, and you don’t want to get caught inside cause it hurts… we went diving at night, an amazing experience, enhanced by rudy’s dive light, but even without, we could see under water the moon was that bright and the water that clear.
Half way through all that, lisa, who was feeling uncomfortable, for reasons i don’t truly fathom, announced she wanted out. Only way to do that was to head back to Gan. so we waited a couple more days for the swell to die down, cause you  can’t decently leave a surf break when it is pumping and we set off for Addhu again. Formalities once more, civilisation once more, we just stayed long enough to drop her at the airport, eat an ice cream and a curry and we were off again, toward chagos this time. we were left 3 of us on board. the first day and night were rough, with squall after squall, hitting at random, blowing 45 knots and pouring rain. we made it through allright but were still cruising at 9 knots for a while… under storm sails… this weather blew us east, but luckily when it died down, we had reached the trade wind, blowing very faintly from the southeast. so we beat into it for 3 days at slow speed and reached solomon atoll in chagos 5 days out of gan. we actually sailed twice the distance to get there.
Salomon is very different from peros banhos, it is smaller, almost totally closed, and is a favorites for the yachties. 30 odd boats where anchored inside. we went to takamaka island, on the east side to get protection from the trade wind. there where several other boats there, including a “little france” anchorage with 6 or 7 french boats. the islands are the same as all the other ones in the area, low and flat, covered by coconut trees and looking out of a postcard. so we settled there for 3 weeks, sailing the dinghy around to visit the other islands, fishing was not very good, bad luck had it that the weather change between monsoon or el nino or whatnot, made the water both very murky and cold, not very nice. as well, the place has been a bit overfished i guess and we couldn’t even get close enough to spear fish anything. only success was hand lining at night from the back of the boat, hauling snappers. some other people were going out with their dinghy and bringing back wahoos and yellowfins. Patrick, a french guy and his wife nicole, were going spearfishing all the time and i went with them a few time, but without much success. when the water is that murky and the fish that scarce, you always worry a bit about the sharks… otherwise, unlike in peros, here the yachties had really settled themselves, with barbecue areas, laundry sets, volleyball courts and all kind of places, hacked out of the jungle and quiet smug. so with all the boats there, the feeling was really more the one of a marina that the one of one of the remotest spot on earth. a bit weird and disappointing… great people though, and some good time, like when we had a little german girl’s birthday and got the boat made rice wine encouraging us to play guitar, flute and accordeon on the beach. And french people being there, renaud, brassens and the tetes raides where big hits. we had good time with paul as well on karaka, jamming seriously together on guitar and accordeon or harmonica, we both improved… another time, we grilled some wahoo on the beach and afterward blew up the few fireworks i had on board, legacy of the previous owners; some worked,  some didn’t, but it was cool, the kids were happy and after all, it was the second anniversary of my moving on board karaka… yep, two years already… another good night was the one on the pacific marlin, the big red boat the brits use to keep an eye on sri lankan poachers, and to bring the official that control the yachts. they anchored out in the middle of the atoll, and invited everybody around for a barbecue, on their boat, courtesy of the Queen… we pigged out, i think that’s the expression… mountains of food, steaks, sausages, ribs, cold beers, chocolate cakes, ice cream, the whole deal, the look on the face of some of the yachties who had been out there for a few month were to be seen … friendly crew of philipinos and sri lankans, that definitely went a long way to break the ice between the authorities and the sailors…
we didn’t worked too much on the karaka this whole time, the only going project being to design, built and instal a windvane. a windvane is a machine mounted on the back of the boat, with a second rudder and a system that turn this rudder according to the boat’s angle to the wind, the result being a boat that goes more or less straight with nobody steering and totally wind powered… a fourth  crew member, that doesn’t eat, doesn’t bitch and doesn’t fall asleep… so first thing was to salvage a rudder, i did nearly 8 miles there and back with the dinghy under sail to get one abandoned by a wreck on one of the island. it wasn’t a very good one but at horse given bla bla bla. then a coupla days later we went to boddam island, still with the dinghy, and brought back some more stuff, stainless pipes and rods. there are quiet a few parts lying around in chagos… but the best was yet to be found, it was lying on the bottom of the sea, like a treasure in the books. if you want to feel like a pirate, nothing like salvaging boat parts 5 meters underwater on a wreck, off a desert island in the middle of nowhere… arrrrh! the wreck was a 15 meter long ferro-cement boat, badly built obviously, that got banged on a piece of coral while dragging anchor during a squall, and sank in 15 minutes. it is lying there bare of all it gear cause everybody help the crew to get their stuff back but some remain, including, you guessed it, a windvane… a nice big one, strong and well design, much better than the other one. so we got the windvane, then brainstormed to figure out how to mount it and decided we needed the pipe from the boat, so went back to free dive on her stern with hammer and chisel, to break the concrete around the mount so we could get it out. we made it after much efforts. we then spent a lot of time cleaning it, and designing a system to adapt it to karaka, which was not a simple task. we didn’t manage to finish in time, we had some bad weather and couldn’t weld, and it was too big a job to finish so after 3 weeks working slowly on it we decided it was time to get moving…
we sailed to peros to one of the forbidden island, we are pirates so we might as well, an got ourselves a crab. the thing was probably 3 or 4 kilos, a land crab that lives on the islands there and eat coconut. they taste lovely. next we went to ile fouquet, the only anchorage remotely protected from the big south east swell. it was very rolly, so we definitively gave up on the idea of getting the windvane installed before sailing to madagascar. the fishing in fouquet was much better, so we enjoyed the real chagos diet of fish fish and fish. we also caught a couple lobsters that we had on night on a fire on the beach. the weather was terrible, with probably a serious depression somewhere south, bringing a lot of swell, grey skies and rain. we motored to ile du coin so that the guys could see the ruins and the donkeys there, then the same night, all hell broke lose and we spend the night struggling against the wind, stern to the reef and pitch black, those things always happen in the middle of the night. we dragged anchor on several hundred meters with all the 80 meters of chain payed out, then lost the anchor, the shackle just broke in two, then reset the spare anchor, dragged again, even with the engine running forward, so i had the two guys raise the chain for the 3rd time that night and we motored back to fouquet under the wrath of neptune… dropped the anchor (severely bent from its ordeal) there and manage to survive the night… so after that we waited a couple days for everything to calm down and then set sail fo madagascar, chagos not being very welcoming anymore…
the first 500 miles were rough, very rough, then rough again. it was wet, rolly and miserable, the only good thing was that we were pumping at 8 knots. i guess we had a good force 8 for 3 days. after a while it died down and we enjoyed very nice conditions, just plain cruising, sailing in the middle of nowhere. we kept 3 watches of 3 hours each, and it went well… not much time to do anything but steer, eat and sleep, but it was alright. shaun appointed himself cook and kept feeding us in the worse weather imaginable, with fried rice, fried noodles, fried rice, fried noodles, fried rice, etc etc … good on him. we caught 2 fish only, but good ones… a 15 pounds dorado and a 12 pounds wahoo. we lost several more,  but that the way it goes.
On getting close to Mada, we got hit by another system, bringing severe wind, further accelerated by the coast and the local weather, we rounded cap d’ambre in the north with only storm jib and mizzen, averaging over 9 knots and getting pounded by breaking swells on the beam, in the little morning i got drenched by one that i saw breaking as high as half way to the spreaders, that’s about 6 meters. i had green water over the roof of the pilothouse. but karaka took it stubbornly, ploughing her way through it, taking off surfing now and then, and then we rounded the cape and were in calmer water… the wind died as well as we were getting behing hills and cliffs, and we were arrived, 1400 miles, 11 days…
We anchored in little bays and islands on our way to nosy be, the first town, where we were eager to get for some R and R.
we arrive here two days ago and checked in yesterday. mada is quiet a chock, so much life and noise and it never stops, but it is very nice, people are friendly, if a bit pushy, the girls are gorgeous and very friendly, the food is great, the beer cold, they speak french, they laugh and sing, they rip you off with a smile and holy miracle, the official are not too corrupt, i only got to pay very small bribes…
so here we are. paul and shaun are getting off to continue their travel, while i’ll be sitting in hell-ville(real name) for a month or so to rest and get going on some projects, the boat is in dire need of some TLC after the 5000 miles in the indian ocean. i still have this windvane to mount as well.
that’s it for now…

Monday, July 17, 2006

Nosy Be,
Same spot since we arrived, taking some time to rest and work on the boat. Paul and Shaun left about a week ago on their way to some new adventures in Madagascar. Girls beware…
I’m sweating on some long needed jobs on the boat, starting with fixing all the little things that stoped working during the crossing. one of the miracle solar panel from Lumut died on me, apparently it didn’t like the salt water showers… still two of them pumping though…
I almost finished refurbishing the aft cabin, i’m now master carpenter and doctor es sanding, and i’m covered with paint. it looks pretty good, but still one coat of white and then 3 coats of varnish on the wood…
after that the dinghy, which really needs some attention before it falls apart, then finish the wind vane and after that i’ll tackle the anti-slid paint on deck… that should be it for a while with big projects… until i start on the mizzen mast foot, the anti-fouling, and the engine room rust… oh well…
Pierre, my little brother, is on his way to karaka, via italy, egypt, sudan, kenya, and tanzania, with his 125cc bike… hope he makes it…
otherwise crew are coming along, no winner for the first mate position yet but i’ve had trouble with the extremely slow internet connection here, so sorry for those i am long to answer, i do my best but writing 3 mails takes a few hours here and then half the time you have to send them twice …
It still needs to be confirmed but a canadian girl called lisa is probably going to be crew starting in around a month. there are plenty others writing but there are still 2 bunks available, i have to take some time to read all my mail correctly…
I think i’m starting to get the hang of mada… it took a while, and it has been quiet a cultural choc after chagos… but now that i know what the bills are worth, and am friendly with some of the dock caids, all is getting better. i found a very good trick as well, since i started wearing an old dirty shirt and stop washing my paint covered hands, nobody hassles me anymore… guess i don’t look rich enough… life is a lot nicer when people stop seeing you as a walking wallet.
On the other hand El Extremo got a huge success… i’m actually letting a guy play with it all day as a payement of keeping an eye on the dinghy… sounds odd? how can somebody be riding my bike and still keep an eye on my dinghy, will you ask… well, welcome to Mada… i guess it is more a matter of not stealing it then actually keeping an eye on it … it is all pretty complex, a guy will rip you off blind then ask you for cigarettes, then whine because he wants more money then next thing you know he invites you to the restaurant, and pays… they are very friendly once you know them, but the first week was rough.
All right, that should stop the rumors that i was engrossed with some pretty malgache chick and didn’t care anymore about nothing else in the world… not that the malgache chicks are not nice…

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hell-ville, nosy be
Two bunks filled… Well not yet but for september when I start moving again. There is Donatien, the younger brother of Gwen, who spent a couple month with us in the philipines, and Matthew, a white african, who will take a few months at sea as first mate with us before heading back for a big humanitarian trip across Africa. A good crew lining up. Still no confirmation from Lisa the canadian girl but she’s on, so that make a full ship. I’ll continue to consider others but 4 is already enough, especially since my brother will join and my parents might visit…
otherwise, nothing much, i’m done with painting white, but back to sanding and then varnishing, the aft cabin is starting to look like a luxury yacht owner’s cabin. I finally found some resin to fix the dinghy, but it came in an outboard oil can and is leaking all over the place, people are looking strangely at me in the internet cafe. Resin stinks.
And last news, i am struggling to keep ownership of El Extremo the BMX, cause 2pac, the dock king, really likes it… so we got a deal and he got the use of it when i’m on the boat, but it become hard to find the guy since he is riding the bike around so i’ll have to try to keep that in check. He already told me he would be very happy to have it as a present when i leave, which is interesting because he is not doing much for me. He worked hard on cleaning and repairing the bike though…

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Nosy be,
Well, 10 days without writing… all is fine around here…
I finished to rebuild the aft cabin, and it looks great. i’m just taking it easy to start on the other projects.
i went exploring and discovering, riding the bike through the bush, meeting locals, going to music shows, relaxing.
but today i feel like a fight… 2pac the man from the dock, woke me up this morning to tell me he broke El Extremo… i’m really pissed off. i hope he get it fixed soon. he had asked me to use it for the day and me good man agreed…
anyway, we’re going to be full crew, sophie is going to join as well, she’s 25 from the UK. lisa, the girl from canada, could not make it. so i don’t need anymore crew…
for those who read this and are looking for a crew position, my old mate francesco(refer to the crew page) is not a crew anymore, he is a skipper! he is getting himself a 44ft ferro cement ketch in auckland, and is looking for crew to go sailing the pacific. check his blog : http://www.syketurah.blogspot.com

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hell ville, Nosy Be,
still there, life continues easy, mora mora…
i spend most of my time working on karaka, i finished the paint on the fore deck plus cabin, and killed a lot of rust around the line locker. the dinghy, who looked like new after my refit, now looks like crap again cause i didn’t notice the wind taking my grinding dust to it and now this poor fiberglass dinghy is rusting… well i guess i’m not designed to keep anything neat…
so now i moved all the crap back to the fore deck, clearing the aft deck, to start on the same story again. i had a problem, my excelent white polyurethane paint got spoilt, i had it since hong kong waiting for the deck but that’s gone and now i have to make do with very poor quality paint, because the poor malagasy don’t have good stuff… too bad…
on the same idea, i’m down to 1 solar panel still working, they are dying one after the other. the big one now, there was a short for some reasons, and the glass exploded. it is all glued to the actual cells so i can’t replace it or do anything, the thing is trash… i’m not very happy about it, solar panels are useful and there no chance to find any around here…
otherwise, enjoying nosy be tourist traps, they start to arrive, the street are now crowded with pale vazahas in shorts and camera… the local are having a ball…
and that’s about it, music shows, pretty girls, some R and R well deserved

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Nosy Be, same spot
so what’s new? i’ve finished my deck paint, so now i have to start the maintenance of it… kidding apart, it looks great but i want another coat on the fore deck because i found a better color and since i’m at it… there are some details to finish as it obviously rained on the masking tape and it stuck and ripped the paint under when i took it off… ah! the joy of painting…
I took a little trip the other day, went sailing a bit, after all that time at anchor it felt good. I took off under sail in the little morning, slalommed like a local dhow between the sleeping yachts and then the wind dropped completely, leaving me in the way of an overloaded passenger barge, with about 2000 people shooting at me. fortunately, the ford responded well and i got away. it was probably a bit presumptuous to do that on my own…
so i motored to an island called tany kely, overrun by tourists. i just anchored then hoisted sails again as soon as the wind picked up. the wind here is very regular, land breeze sea breeze, you can count on it.
I sailed nicely south to an island called nosy mamoko. i wasn’t sure where the reef lay so i tried to start the ford after having dropped the jib, but the engine wouldn’t go… i had to hove to, and purge the fuel system, some dirt i guess… i then found a perfect anchorage behind the island, very calm, very reposing… just one other boat there, an english couple who’ve been around since maldives. there was a local village too, and some dugout here and there. idyllic.
in the morning I did some painting ( yes it is a big job, 6 coats so far all over the deck, making it a total of 12 since kudat in borneo when we sandblasted)
a guy came by and sold me a lobster for lunch. i went walking on the island in the afternoon…
the next morning I finished reading an interesting book about climbing Everest before setting sail again, straight to hellville, about 20 miles, averaging 5 knots. I Anchored under sail in the fading breeze just after the sun disappeared behind the hill, then ran ashore to meet 2pac and his friends and have a little party.
Otherwise, nothing much, always the same story. i’m in contact with a few people for the last bunk, i’m not fully decided yet. it is a hard choice because there are some very interesting people wanting to come and i can’t take more than one since we’re going to be 5 already, and i don’t want more than 6 on board.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Nosy be, still there, but not for much longer now…
So the news apart from the imminent arrival of the new crew, is that karaka almost ended her career here and then 2 nights ago…
I’m anchored in the harbor, which is totally surrounded by land except from the south. it is usually pretty comfortable because the wind is either west or east. The other night though, appeared a freak wind. i’m not sure yet what caused it. probably a cold front way south. the wind started to blow about 25 / 30 knots at midnight, straight from the south. even a 30 knots wind is no big deal usually but i wasn’t prepared at all and the anchorage being open to the south, the chop began to build very fast. The bottom is mud, more like liquid shit actually, and the holding is very poor. I had 35 meters of chain out in 12 meters of water, but the anchor just didn’t hold at all. I woke up by the noise of the dinghys hitting the side of the hull, which happens only if i’m going backward. Things where flying all over the deck , the boat was starting to roll heavily as she was turning beam to the wind, and in the full moon light, i could see a nice little plastic boat about 2 meters to starboard, slowly passing by. I was the one moving.
I dodged this one, luckily, and since there were more boats behind, i couldn’t drop more chain to try to make it hold. i guess it would have been useless anyway cause the anchor was probably a ball of mud by then, as useful as a bar of soap. so I started the engine, and proceeded to get away. As soon as i put in gear, i saw the canoe, by then still banging on the side of the boat, go under. verdict, the line is in the prop… usually i’m ultra careful about this but this time, the most important one, i clear forgot. so I couldn’t motor away and banged into a little boat behind, luckily, made of steel too. i did very little damage, except some paint, and the safety cable and one stanchion. My anchor chain got wrapped around one of those tiny stainless pole that run around the boat support the safety line. Karaka was holding there by this little thing. i went on the other boat, found some superman strength and lifted the chain out of there. I still can’t get how i managed this feat. One explanation is maybe that at this stage, the mooring of the little boat might have already let lose. so i climbed back on karaka, headed for the shallow, fringing rocks, about 80 meters away. my next option was to drop another anchor, so i quickly shackled my spare to the chain and dropped 20 more meters. it held…by then i was about 30 meters from the rocks. Another stroke of luck, the tide had still one hour to the high…
The guy from the first boat i missed came to see if i was alright, i told him my situation and he then went to help other people. a few boats were moving by then. the little steel boat had nobody on board at the time,but some other local boat keeper went and dropped the anchor, even farther than me. i got a mask and a knife and jumped in the water to cut the line and get away from there. It wasn’t easy but i did it, cutting myself on the barnacles and letting go the half sunk canoe in the process. there was about 50 cm of water under the keel. i was kneeling in the mud as i was cutting the line from the shaft, with karaka pounding the mud beside me. freakish.
after all that, i started the engine again and took off, raising the chain was a bitch of course, on my own and with the wind and swell still pumping. I had to unshackle the second anchor, kneeling at the end of the bowsprit, one second 4 meters in the air the next my feet in the water, while karaka was starting moving backward again since the main anchor still hadn’t any holding power. after a while, some strain, and several trips back to the wheel, i finally got the anchor up and got moving. I didn’t managed to go far though, a few meters farther, I bumped into a mud bank and got stuck. after a couple swells though, the keel dug a canal and with full power on the ford i manage to get off. i went and anchored the boat safely farther up.
i then put some shorts on, cause i was still naked, and went to see if i could help the little steel boat, feeling a bit responsible since i had bumped into it. by then somebody had called the skipper, a guy i knew, and he was already taking care of things.
Early in the morning i went to try to find my canoe, but it had sunk, and couldn’t see a sign of it. Soon after, a guy from another boat came to ask me to help him find his own dinghy, lost during the night. i put the engine on mine and we went, and found his boat, miraculously stranded in the mangrove, and nobody had stolen it yet… i found one of my flipflop, that were in the canoe, floating in the harbour…
After that i went to have breakfast with the guy, then went to see the skipper of the little boat to apologize and offer to pay for the damages. As it happen, i didn’t broke much, and i was not responsible for the breakage of the mooring, they found the shackle open… Great relief…
as i was heading back to karaka i saw something in the far distance, went to check, and here was my canoe, having navigated nearly 250 meters under water, to end up on the mud when the water went with the tide. coming back with my canoe and a smile, i found my paddle floating away… My smile grew and to finish the day,  I found my second shoe on the way back… I then went to sleep…
So, many adventures but no real damage, I was worried about the shaft, which could have bent when the line got tightly wrapped around it, but It seems to be fine. the bottom being mud i didn’t do any damage to the keel, only the anti-fouling is gone, the paint under protecting the steel is still there. Very lucky conclusion to a story that could have ended in a disaster or at least as a run from mada to avoid paying the damage on a sunk plastic catamaran or other piece of tupperware…
The next night was very calm, but last night got its little freak wind too, and the same little steel boat dragged anchor again. the skipper wasn’t there but only a keeper, so I went ot help him reset his anchor before he smashed the 200 000 euros catamaran behind him.
I guess you learn from everything, but i could do without such lessons… i wasn’t prepared, i had stuff all over the deck since i working and i haven’t really moved for a while. i didn’t expect such a quick deterioration of the anchorage conditions either. Karaka is very heavy and since i lost my main anchor in chagos, i am using a smaller one, which is not sufficient in bad conditions. I tried to find a new one but could only get some crappy locally made ones. And the main thing i guess is that i was on my own, and karaka is not set up for one person, too big, too much going on, to much heavy gear, etc etc… but at least i was there and not ashore, and everything is fine at the end…phew… it was really scary though…

Monday, September 11, 2006

Hell ville , Nosy Be
The crew is staring to built up… Matthew arrived last night. We went out and had a meal and some beers, had a good time, nice conditions to get to know each other. It’s going to be good…
Today, I’m 26. It’s my birthday. And I’m a week away from the 5th anniversary of the start of my wandering.
As far as birthday goes, it hasn’t been an exceptional day, being a bit hangover from last night. Matthew settled in the fo’c’stle; as proper crew do, he chose to sleep before the masts…
I spent my morning helping an italian guy, the new owner of Hiscock’s Wanderer V, sort out his engine. It was not starting and the reason was that the thing was full of salt water. Siphon break failure. So we emptied and cleaned and all…Nothing like getting some black dirt under your nails to start the day. After that he offered us a proper casse-croute of cheese, saucisson and home made bread. Italians got that in common with french people, they like their food. Blessed is the land of madagascar, one thing they kept when the french left, that’s gastronomy.
Afternoon was well spent on a short siesta, to get Mat in the right tropical mood. No frantic useless energy spending on karaka. Mora mora as they say…  

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Nosy Be, Madagascar
Second crew is there, dodo from france, arrived yesterday with a load of gear, a very nice new accordeon for me, a kite surf kit, adaptor for the laptop, parts for the radio, sunglasses for me, etc etc.
he’s a bit in shock, the emotional input of such an arrival seem heavy. mat is just recovering. but we’re all getting along very well, had a nice evening on the aft deck, drinking beer and comparing our ideas on life, before getting inside for some serious trial on the accordeon, with the other small one i had already and mat’s sax, it sounds just great. we’re going to play a lot of music by the look of it…
Today i’m still struggling with my oars order, i asked 2pac , one of the guys doing odd business on the dock to get a pair for me for the dinghy and it’s been a month and it doesn’t seem to be happening… hopefully i’ll get them before we go.
we’re going to use the afternoon breeze to head to nosy komba for a couple days, as a first sail it is only half a dozen miles away, and it will be a nice change from the town’s harbor. we’ll probably come back in town sunday there’s a big music show in the soccer field. 
tonight is barbecue on karaka, we are going for the good meat while there’s some for cheap, after that it’s likely to be a fish diet…

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Nosy Be, Madagascar
So the crew settled, all excited about the coming trip. We left to spend a couple nights in Nosy Komba, an island close by, very relaxed spot, where we just chilled out, sailed the dinghy around, went diving a bit, scrubbed the hull etc etc…
I bought a big djembe, real cheap, and now we are set for some serious noise making with the big accordeon dodo brought for me.
We came back in hell-ville sunday night just in time for a big music show in the soccer field, some good music with a couple thousands locals dancing and drinking, it was realy nice. A bit dodgy at times when policemen off duty try to get bribes pretending to be offended that you take pictures, cause there are underage girls dancing, or the odd attempt by pickpocket, but an exceptional night overall, it is all part of the picture. we had a hard time resisting the constant attacks from girls, not that we were not interested but you have to be careful, and anyway 15 years old are not an option. Being vazahas(white guys) in this kind of place, we were poles of attraction.
The next day was spent recovering, then we went for an evening beer with Mat while dodo stayed on the boat, met some locals, the skipper of the little steel boat i bumped into the other night was there so we shared some beers… after a while we managed to make it back to the boat under sail, cause we had last one of my brand new oars. not that they were that great anyway but for the price I paid… not a good investment… as soon as we were on the boat, some guys called over from the next boat asking us to come, with accordeons, sax and djembe, and they even came to pick us up. we ended up on this big wooden ketch, a charter boat, with the skipper from that little steel boat and the boat’s crew, drinking local rum and playing music, making some loud noise till 2 or 3 in the morning. we had a good time, but we also had echoes that some others didn’t enjoy the impromptu music show as much as we did. Granted, we were pretty drunk, and a sax and a djembe are noisy contraptions. we made it back to karaka at last, only to find ourselves singing as hard as we can “what shall we do with the drunken sailor?” along with accordion accompaniments. Lots of fun but I saw a boat move away from us first thing in the morning. Oh well, you’re young only once…
Today not much going on of course, did some whipping on the ropes and nothing much more. Dodo went for a bike ride and ran into the school kids coming out of class, who started to sneer at him that he was looking for a girl… he seems quite embarrassed by it. As in most places where expats live and girls are poor, you often see dirty old vazahas with 15 years old. Disgusting but what can you do? luckily they have severe laws going on now against it.
Tonight we’ll try to be a bit more quiet. tomorrow afternoon we are going back to nosy komba to try this kite boarding Dodo got, with another skipper who wants to try as well. there’s a very good spot for kite surfing in nosy komba, so they say.
We’re going then to spend the night there and then thursday we’ll try to do all the shopping before checking out of mada friday. We’re going to head south, check some islands before crossing to Mayotte.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Nosy Be, Madagascar,
Last day here, I’m just out of the various offices to check out of the country.
We are still in town till tomorrow morning, today is shopping, internet and various beer drinking, before we take off.
The Kite surfing was a bit of a disappointment, the wind was pumping very nicely but the tide was high, so apparently to kite surf the best is a beach exposed to the wind so that if you are blown back you end up on the beach, not in the middle of the ocean. The problem with the high tide was that there was very little beach left, and instead of the nice sand bank there was  a ripping current. The anchorage was terrible too obviously, so we ended up heading to the main island of nosy komba for the night. Mat and Dodo went for a few beers on shore and claim to have remade the world in the few hours they were gone, while I was quietly nursing a sore foot on the boat playing my new accordion. When they came back we fired up the barbecue, sorry, the braai, and did some steaks. Dodo dropped the barbecue grill overboard and had to go diving for it in the night, he liked it so much he spent quiet some time in the water, Mat went to check as well, they found the grill and came back exilarated by the phosphorescences and the underwater light magic. Rudy’s light was definitely a nice gift. thanks rudy
We came back in the morning and have been sorting things out in town, last moment stuff and shopping and all that. 2pac is growing less and less friendly as he is realising i am not going to give him El extremo the BMX. Or my brand new sunglasses, or 200 dollars, or my sister, or i don’t know what. I don’t really like this kind of attitude, since i’ve been very friendly and generous with him all along…
So tomorrow morning i still have to get the exit stamps on the passport, then we’ll head off from hell ville. we’re tempted to stop near the crater, a bay a few miles off and go to the weekly beach party in ambatoloaka sunday, as a little bye bye to nosy be, before going south, exploring baies des russes, nosy iranja, les iles radama, and various spots along the coast for the next couple weeks. After that we’ll sail across to Mayotte, a little under 200 miles away. we should get there beginning of october.
Apparte : I am writing this in the aliance francaise, a french sponsored public library, in the old colonial building next to the market. A woman next to me is using the internet as well, but a minute ago, something started to scream out of her plastic shopping bag. It so happens she got a live chicken in there. And some bananas too.
Anyway, about the other part of the crew, My brother Pierre and his cameroonese friend Calvin, were at the last news still stuck in Benin with their bikes, waiting for the return of the cameroonese consul to get an entry visa. They still hope to meet us in tanzania sometime in october. The last crew will be Michelle, a young canadian, she just send me a couple email about her last couple weeks fighting forest fires in ontario. She should meet us the 23rd in Dar es salam. Inch’Allah.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Then we left mada from there, using the land breeze in the morning to get away. it went slow, the wind died, we drifted a couple hours, the sea breeze picked up, and karaka, excited by all this time landlocked decided to steer herself for the next 8 hours. then the wind died again,bla bla bla, it took us 3 days like that. after a while the wind started to blew hard from the south east, so we ran at over 8 knots for most of a day, making time, before the wind dropped us bobbing all over the places 20 miles fom the entrance in the lagoon. we had to wait the night, i didn”t wanted to motor that far especially since there was a dodgy pass to negociate and then a maze of coral 15 miles long to get to the town, where we finally got at noon the 10th. the checking in was easy, i had the luck of arriving just before the customs office closing time, and had a very hurried custom officer, in his underwear(getting out of uniform) stamp my papers without even looking at them, or asking me who i was or where my boat was or anything. Next time i’ll buy 500 liters of rhum in Nosy be…
So since that we’ve been hanging around, spending ridiculous amount of money, cause everything is expensive, the beers run at about 3 euros, which is a big change, in mada it was 50 cents for a big bottle…
I’ve been checking various things, they are well supplied, but it is so expensive i think i’ll wait for tanzania to buy what i need. Kat got in heat again, which is a disaster, she was fine since thailand but she had to spend the night in the chain locker… i hope to find something to give her, i mean a pill or something…
today we’re going to do some food shopping before it closes for the week end, then tonight it’s barbecue at the centre nautique, a little sailor club on the water front where you get cheap beers, showers, washing machines and where all the yachties hang out. i usually avoid this kind of place but here it is actually very nice and relaxed and it is the best spot aroung by far.
this week end we’re trying to get to rent a couple scooters to go explore the island a bit, before checking out of mayotte monday, head north through the lagoon, and check one anchorage where apparently you can not only swim with dolphins but with whales too… it’s reported to have a decent surf break too…
After that mozambique, then m’twara in tanzania, where Michelle the canadian fire fighter will meet us the 25th.
that’s it for now, internet is a sobering 6 euros an hour…

Friday, October 27, 2006

M’kindani, Tanzania
Yope, made it to the continent… but it wasn’t that simple… we left mayotte the 17th early in the morning, averaged 1.2 knots the whole day, anchored in some bay for the night, then sailed out of the lagoon in the morning. the wind was light and it stayed light… we drifted a lot. the engine did some practical jokes on us starting with a busted salt water strainer in the cooling circuit, and then by simply running out of fuel… we were drifting so much , finding ourselves at the exact same spot after 30 hours of making circle in the water for lack of wind, that we decided to motor north to try to get the west setting current. we ended up finding it but did over 50 hours of motoring. we’re down to the last 100 liters of fuel. It took us 7 days to get to mozambique and since michelle, the new crew, was going to arrive and was supposed to meet us in tanzania the 25th, we only stayed overnight there, behind a lovely little island. we then left under sail, cause the wind was pumping by now, and we had a very fast trip up the coast to m’twara, where we arrived in the middle of the night among squalls, pitch dark sky, no moon, and a chart that is a third of a mile off. of course the town is protected by a maze of coral reef, so after a couple tries we just anchored in the dark and waited for the morning. the checking in was amazingly simple and straight forward, no corruption, no hassles, no waiting, no forms to fill by the half dozen, they weren’t even interested in looking at karaka’s papers… good.
I found michelle right away, she was walking in the street, and even if the town is big, since there are no tourists whatsoever, it was a pretty good bet that this tall white girl with dread locks was her. she had arrived the day before and had the time to put the town on fire, it was public holyday and she’s been invited to some partying. as soon as she got on the boat, i decided to move karaka, the anchorage being not very good, near the deep sea port, polluted and quiet exposed, so we sailed out to the next bay : M’kindani, a very beautiful spot, an almost circular bay with a very narrow entrance and an old town at the bottom with colonial buildings and friendly locals, and some very scenic villages around, little mud and palm huts on sand beach under coconut trees and baobabs, with the sailing dhows anchored in front. very nice.
we went for a meal ashore in the only western style logde around, fresh beers and beef kebabs, while getting to know each others. michelle is great, she ‘ll fit right in.
this morning we fixed the tarpaulin, trying to get it optimum for water catching, since it raining slightly and the tank is really empty now, we’re down to our last 20 liters in a jerrycan, which is not much for 4 people… i fixed the wind generator too, it had a short, two cables  melted and were touching. then a local kid swam to karaka, and sneaked his way on board. they appear, say hello, sit there a while, start to climb the ladder, say hello again, sit there a while, and before you realise it you got him in the saloon looking through the comic books… this one was nice though, he sang for us, we gave him harmonica and djembe lesson, then fed him some curry… he was very happy with the karaka stamp, a simple drawing of the boat with the name above, so he left with new “tattoos” on both arms.
Dodo and me went ashore after that, dodo took a bush taxi to town and i rode the bike through the 10 km, while mat and michelle finished the sewing on the tarp and some little hole on the mainsail.
we;re goig to stay around for a few days, it is very nice around here. my brother pierre is currently sailing down the congo, he put his bike on a barge and if everything goes like he planned it, he should meet us in less the 2 weeks…

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Zanzibar
just a short one , we just arrived this morning in stone town, all is fine, the boat’s getting crowded since my brother reached us in kilwa, as did leila, a friend from france traveling around those parts, my parents just arrived for a month visit, dodo and mat are back from their inland tour…and brian young is going to pay us a visit as well since he is around…
we’re going to stay here a few days , i’ll put more details later, right now i’m a bit tired from the trip up the coast

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Zanzibar,
So, quiet a lot happened since M’kindani…
We sailed out, tacked a few times to get clear of the reef, then sailed fast with the wind on the quarter to the Sudi river mouth. We entered in the afternoon, with a raising tide, under sail. A magic moment. We anchored up the river and spent a couple days there  before moving off to Kilwa, and overnight trip. Kilwa is an old town up another river, that I had chosen because there was a dock where we could load the bike once my brother arrived. Internet was inexistant there, so communication was a problem, but Leila managed to find us, she was coming from South Africa overland. She is a school friend of my brother, and happend to be around so I gladly accepted her on board for a couple weeks. The next day Dodo and Mat decided to head off for a couple weeks to go explore inland. I won’t detail their adventures but they had a pretty good time apparently. The 9th, we heard a shoot from the pier, and here he was, my brother Pierre, astride El Diablo, his 125 cc Honda. He had left France early july, and came through Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Benin Niger Tchad Centrafrique Congo Ouganda Kenya and finally Tanzania. 20 000 kilometers , 4 months, and some incredible stories…
We loaded the bike on Karaka, then went to explore some ruins on an island in the estuary, which was one of the main gold trading port on the coast of africa 500 years ago, before the portugueses came and took the gold and left the place in shambles, to be invaded by a canibal tribe soon after. the cannibals ate all the former inhabitants and settled there. The result is some interesting building very well preserved, and some locals you’d rather not cross. No, actually, they are mostly very friendly in Tanzania, especially once you start to try to speak some swahili to them. Pierre just got his masters in history, his thesis being about the East india companies in the late 1600, so that was right up his alley, we had a hard time dragging him off, he was collecting some broken pieces of porcelain he claim were from portugueses times.
After kilwa we headed for the string of reefs scattered along the coast, peppered with islands, all the way to Mafia island, one of the three big ones along Tanzania with Zanzibar and Pemba. We spent about 10 days sailing, diving, fishing and chilling out, doing short day trips between anchorages in frot of lovely little islands, all of them with a little fishing community on it, and helped by the 3 to 4 knots currents flowing north. In Mafia, we cleaned the hull, getting a bit dirty with the old anti-fouling now being useless, got some rest, then took off for the 150 miles trip to Zanzibar, where we were to meet my parents, coming to visit for a month, on the 21st. The trip was pretty uneventful, except we didn’t use the engine at all between Mafia and Zanzibar. We arrived late, under an heavy squall, and I wasn’t comfortable entering the reef to get through to the town so we prayed the chart was remotely accurate and sailed between two islets to anchor for the rest of the night. We didn’t hit the reef, but that’s no thanks to the charts, a good third of a mile off… In the morning we motored a couple hours to Stone Town, Zanzibar’s oldest settlement, in a dead calm.
We were merely anchored when my parents waved to us from the beach, so we all went for a meal ashore, the first I had with both my parents and my brother for over 5 years. The only one missing was my sister, on a treck in Colombia at the time…
Zanzibar used to be the main slave and spices trade port around for a very long time, and got a very exotic mood, being almost totally muslim, with a definite arabics influence, tiny streets , old buildings, huge carved wooden doors, veiled womens and a market you get lost in. unfortunately, there are many tourists too, and the prices are in consequence.
Dodo and Mat had been here for a couple days and met with us right away.
We then had a feast on all the frech food my parents brought.
Since then, we’ve been exploring the place, resting a bit, partying, playing music and just enjoying the place. Brian came to visit us since he was in Tanzania after crossing the Indian Ocean from Australia. He was one of the crew in Thailand and Malaysia. He only stayed a couple days, we were 9 on board, but he left today with Leila, they took a sailing dhow to Dar es salaam, Brian to head to a little village in the south west where a friend of him is doing community work, and Leila onward with her travels through Africa.
I’ve been trying hard to get spares, and fuel and cooking gas, but the town hasn’t got much apart from souvenirs, carved doors and spices, they even cut down on the slaves… so hopefully I’ll manage to fill up some fuel, we ‘ll have to hire a truck with 200 liters drums and find a spot to dock in the deep see port to load it. The problem is that here the fuel costs a little more than a dollar a liter, and I need a thousand… On the other hand the last time I filled the tanks was exactly a year ago in Malaysia so i can’t complain… We’re not using the engine too much, i’ve got just over 820 hours on the ford since we refitted it in Hong Kong more than 2 years ago.
Soon we’ll be heading north, stoping in some spots along Zanzibar before crossing to Pemba, which is said to be an amazing island, very pristine, very laid back and with excellent diving. Then we’ll sail to Tanga, a town 60 miles south of the kenyan border, to drop my parents and Dodo, leaving on the plane the 20th of december.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Zanzibar,
I’ve checked out, we’re ready to take off again. Next is some islands on the west coast of Zanzibar, then Pemba, a little paradise up north, before heading for the town of Tanga to drop my parents, Dodo, and probably Mat as well.
I put some new ads on the internet to try to find a couple more crew for the trip to chagos starting after new year, anybody interested should contact me as soon as possible, although I doubt I’ll be doing any internet before Tanga in about 3 weeks.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ras Nungwi, Zanzibar
Another little tourist hangout, we stoped for the night, to do some internet for the potential crew members, but the connection is real slow so in fact i’m not answering. keep writing to me if you’re interested, i’ll take the time in tanga at the end of the month, i need to drop my people before the 20th so hey can catch their respective planes.
On the way to here from stone town, we stoped at some little islands, another spot where they used to loads their slaves, but we got shaken pretty bad two nights ago and had to leave in a hurry, with the anchor dragging toward the reefs. there’s a tropical storm, a small cyclone, south of the comores, and we’re getting the backlash. it’s heading south so we’re in no trouble but the weather is a bit unsettled because of it. we still had a nice evening last night. the wind had dropped totally, so the anchorage was very calm, and we had a barbecue on the boat, grilling the mountain of meat we had, after catching a 2 meters long sailfish on the way. The bastard didn’t even give a fight when he took the lure, a big rapala. maybe he didn’t realised he was caught until i gaffed him cause we were drifting at 1.5 knots when he went for the lure. anyway, sailfish is excellent food… we finished the evening around a few cold beers and a bit of jamming, 2 guitars, 2 accordeons, and it took us a while to get this reggae beat down… harder than it seems to play music…
Now we’re going to head to Pemba tomorrow, hopefully we’ll get some wind from this storm. I wanted to check the reef outside here, supposed to be a good surf break, but it is very far and anyway with the huge swell from the storm i guess it would be a bit dodgy. there’s nobody surfing those waves so it all yours to discover if this 8ft barrel is over a smooth sandy bottom or a foot deep coral reef…

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tanga, tanzania,
Well, so much for keeping a log… It’s been a month since the last entry, sorry about that but it is also the 4th time I write this. Hopefully this one will go through. Internet is erratic around here. 
So, what’s new… After leaving the island of Zanzibar, we went to Pemba, the second spice island. we didn’t really went to pemba itself, but cruised aound for a while the inner reef and the outlying islands on the west. It was very nice, except one place where they asked us some cash and so we had to leave. The other spots were lovely though, with calm anchorages, beautiful islands , friendly locals willing to exchanges or sell their catches and the produces of their gardens. We ran out of cooking gas, but we managed to prepare some very good dishes on fire only, on the barbecue on the boat or on the beach. One very good recipe is bread on the fire, also pizzas and fougasses.
The diving was very good too, especially on the outside of the reef, where the coral was in very good shape and the drop very steep, with at time 25 m visibility. Not much fish though, the place has been over exploited by the locals. We didn’t manage to catch anything and had to rely on the locals for fresh fish and lobster.
After about 10 days we sailed for tanga. It took us nearly 48 hours to do 50 miles, due to lack of wind. while drifting half way, we went swimming around the boat, then about half an hour later we got the visit of a very big shark, which I believe to be a mako, around 4 or 5 meters long. he came straight at us, fin in the air, circled the boat then went away. Very impressive.
So tanga, a fairly big town, known in the yachting community for its yacht club. We’re anchored in front of it. Nothing much to say about it, beside that it is not really my crowd. Nice fellows though. The town is nice enough, not touristy at all and the atmosphere is quiet and relax.
Once arrived and cleared with customs, Mat was the first to take off, bound for some new development project in east africa. Dodo was next, leaving for nairobi where he took a plane back to france. My parents left after that, back to france as well.  So the boat cleared up, we settled , working to get ready for the crossing to come, especially trying to finally install this wind vane I salvaged in Chagos last year. it’s almost done.
The idea from now is to head for the seychelles in about 2 or 3 weeks, haul out there in the shipyard to redo a bottom job, before heading to Chagos. Stay in chagos for a couple months then head back to Madagascar to be in Nosy be in time for the donia early june.
Beside Michelle and myself, there will be gregory as crew, he is 32, got an american and a french passport, and spent his time traveling as a freelance photographer. he’ll meet us here in Tanga around the 12th. the 4th crew will be Gwen, Dodo’s older brother, who already spent 2 months on karaka when we sailed from Hong Kong to the Philipines. I would be interested by a fifth one but so far i haven’t found somebody , mainly because selecting a crew for such a long trip is hazardous. i need to make sure we’ll get along as once in chagos, there will be little opportunity to change plan and get to civilisation before the end of the cyclone season in the south. As well, it is getting very short notice for anybody to commit. We had the visit of Shelley, an israeli girl traveling in africa, who was somehow interested about a sailing trip, but after further consideration she decided against it.
Allright, that’s it for now, i’ll try to see if this get through.
Ah, and an happy new year to everybody, the statistics for this website says there was over 7500 clics last month… I better watch what I write…

Monday, January 15, 2007

Tanga, tanzania
well, we’re in the same spot fot the last month… i feel like i’ve been slacking a bit on the log, but then again, i didn’t have that much to say…
So the news are : new crew is sorted out, there’s gregory, a 32 years old photographer who’s going to arrive shortly, joining for a few months, then gwen is going to arrive early february in the seychelles, hopefully we’ll be there in time to welcome him, otherwise he’ll have to sort out the immigration officers on his own… that will be the crew for the trip to chagos, 4 people is a good number, especially since i finally installed my windvane. it took me a long time but it is not a small project. i salvaged the thing in chagos, it was sitting 5 meters under water near a wrecked yacht, and since, i’ve been trying to find the best way to mount it and get it to actually steer the boat for us. so now it is mounted on the the stern, all seems to move like it should, it still have to cut a piece of plywood for the actual vane but everything else is finished… then no more endless watches behind the wheel…
other new, there’s malaria in tanga… got down with it last week, not something i wish to anybody to experience… we figured at first it was some kind of food poisoning, cause that’s how it felt and looked, not at all like the cliche sweating then shivers fever i was expecting as the telltale symptoms. it is apparently a different strain here… anyway it really hurts as it destroy your liver and unsettle ( politically correct euphemism) your bowels…then you start dehydrating, and soon enough you’re a rag and can’t move. they had to carry me to the hospital, what a shame. then IV and lots of shots and pills for 3 days, and all is well again… Michelle and pierre took the test as soon as we realised i had malaria and bingo they were infected too, so they started the treatment immediately and didn’t went through anything more severe than slight headache and belly cramps… nasty stuff though… we had quiet a few mosquitoes on the boat on the non windy nights, since we’re fairly close to shore and in a totally landlocked bay…
pierre is going to leave tomorrow. he is still waiting for a new tire for the bike but he says he’ll go with the old one if the guy doesn’t deliver… he’ll head north to kenya, his aim being to stop in nairobi at the ambassies to try to get visas to make it through to egypt. apparently they stoped fighting in somalia. he is looking for ethiopia and sudan… after egypt he hopes to be able to make it back to france through jordan, syria, turkey and then on through the balkans and italy… 
well, well… that’s it for now, i’m going to try to put some new pics on the website, and maybe some on the log here, who now, it might even work…

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tanga, Tanzania,
Ah ah, i managed to put some pictures on this thing.. check the photo thing around here there ares some pics of the good time on karaka… I’m still struggling about updating the website but i’m working on it… The connection is very slow…
Other good news, i finished the instalation of the windvane, i only have to try it now…

Friday, February 09, 2007

Victoria, Mahe Island, Seychelles
Here we are, we arrived 2 days ago. We had left Tanga on the 23rd, sailed to the island of Pemba, stopped overnight near Mesali island, a nice spot but we got kicked out last time we went by some park rangers asking for cash, so we only stayed for the night. We sail around the south side of Pemba, trying to figure out the windvane. We stopped then at Panza island, on the south tip, where there’s a very nice anchorage inside a coral reef. We went diving on an old wreck, a big cargo ship that sank there, and you can still see most of it, including steering wheel, winches, cabins, masts, etc etc, in a mere 5 or 6 meters of water, great snorkeling.
We then got ready for the crossing, scrapped the hull of Karaka which was covered with growth. The anti-fouling paint is definitely gone.
Then we took off the 26th in the morning.
The trip was pretty uneventful, we stayed on the same tack the whole way, only reduced sail once, only changed for a bigger head sail once, only caught 2 little bonitos, just as we where seeing Mahe on the horizon… The wind was mostly north, with some frequent north east, so we had to beat up wind most of the way. The equatorial counter current was with us, up to 2.5 knots, and that definitely helped. We ended up sailing south of the amirantes, before heading more north as the wind was backing to north west near Mahe, but had to motor the last 25 miles, straight into the wind, we didn’t feel like beating for a few days. We arrived after 12 days and an half, covering exactly 1050 nautical miles since pemba.
The wind vane has been working wonders, we barely steered at all, only in especially confused seas or when the wind really dropped to near nothing. We’re so grateful to the machine that we nicknamed it Jesus. Sorry for those who will curse us for blasphemy, but Jesus has been a great friend. The name came mainly from the T section of the vane holding the plywood vane and the counterweight, on which I welded a bolt to lock it making the thing look like Jesus on its cross. It was totally unintentional, but once we realised it we found this pretty funny, and since it has been doing such a great job, we took Jesus in our hearts… There are still some little details but as a whole the windvane is a great improvement, enabling us to relax on watch, watch movies, read books, go and cook something etc etc… As such, the 3 hours watches went pretty fast, and were enjoyable.
We arrived in Victoria, the main port of Mahe, the main island of the Seychelles, just after sunset the 6th. We went straight in the inner harbor, right in the middle of  tuna fishing boats, cargoes, tankers, cruise liners, fuel depots, and fish canning factory… a pretty nasty place, very busy, noisy, and smelly. The water is fairly clean  but the canning factory , being upwind of the anchorage, is a nightmare, it smells like a mix of overripe fish guts and seagull shit. lovely.
the town itself is ok, busy, very expensive and a bit posh, but overall it is not a bad place. the surrounding mountains and bays are stunningly beautiful though.
Gwen was already there when we arrived, we met him the next morning, in town. he was loaded with good food from france and 15 kilos of parts and material for the boat…
I was planning to haul out here in the seychelles, but out of the two shipyards, one is extremely expensive and won’t let us do the job ourselves, and the other is a warzone, very dirty, and to be honest, a bit dodgy. furthermore it is almost impossible to find good paint at a decent price, so i think we’ll keep going like that. I don’t want to spent hundreds of dollars in a job badly done, i’d rather wait for a better opportunity.
So we are just going to enjoy the islands for a while, i have loads of other stuff to organise, fuel is very cheap so i’m going to fill up, then we’ll take off for chagos in a couple weeks. In the meantime there are plenty to do, mountains to climb, nature reserves to see, reefs to explore, surf break to get trashed in, and friendly locals to meet, michelle already got invited by a fellow rasta woman to spent the day at her place tomorrow, somewhere in the hills…

Monday, February 12, 2007

For those interested in a crew position, Karaka is full now, and will be until at least june/july. I posted previously a letter from my friend lily, but she is actually cancelling the trip and won’t need crew.
Here in seychelles, nothing really exciting, we’re stocking up and enjoying our stay. I’m spending indecent amount of cash, but at the same time it is mainly to get some gears and material that i can’t get anywhere otherwise. i also filled up in diesel fuel, very cheap here compared to anywhere else except malaysia…
We also got the best deal ever on tuna cans, straight from the factory in front of karaka, the best quality stuff in olive oil for 20 cents a piece, i’m mighty pleased with that. seychelles is fairly expensive for food otherwise, fresh fruits and veggies for example are all or almost all imported and so up to ridiculous prices.
ok, not much time to write too much pointless details, i’d rather get everything done before the week end so we can leave on monday.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Mahe, Seychelles
Two week here, several hundreds dollars spent, a very heavy boat from all the fuel, water, food and crew we took on. We unfortunately didn’t have much time for serious exploring of Mahe, let alone try to go and check the other islands. The thing is that we were here to resupply, pick up Gwen, and get some work done, but the fees just to stay are very high, and the cost of everything is very high too, so it is costing us a lot of cash to do anything, we just can’t afford to stay a long time. The other thing is that the north monsoon is quiet settled now and we need to use it to get to Chagos before the wind dies. And the last reason we’re leaving paradise so soon is that there’s actually another one just 1000 miles away… Chagos is probably even nicer than Seychelles on many points, the main one being certainly the exclusiveness of it, there are no tourists and it is pristine. The sad thing is that there are no nice locals either to meet as we did here but then again it makes for a more preserved place. The regulations are changing in Chagos too. It is administered under british laws. One of the atoll is rented to the american navy, who has a huge base there, along with submarine facilities, shipyard for the aircraft carriers, airfield for the B-52s and about 15000 staff. Out of bound for us, needless to say. So we concern ourself with the other atolls, there are 3 of them accessible, Egmond, a bit far off and a very tricky anchorage, Salomon, a perfect enclosed atoll, where most yachts stop and Peros Banhos, a very big, wide open atoll, which is to my view the ultimate paradise on earth.
Thing is, as of the 1st of april, the brits are going to change the rules, from a free access, unlimited stay, no control place, where the only hassle was a once a monthly visit from the fisheries patrol boat, who came to collect a fee of 100 us dollars for 3 months of stay in chagos, they are now going to try to enforce a policy that is going to prevent boats from stoping there. A permit will be needed, applied for in advance, payed for in advance( with all the limitation to scheduling inherent to sailing boats, that’s going to be fun to organise) and then once there you would have only limited anchorage options, in some totally ridiculous spots no captain would ever anchor in. They basically set those anchorages based on where the fisheries 60 meter boat drops its hook. Nobody seems to have realised it’s a bit different for smaller boats. The last thing is that the fee is being cranked up to 100 british pounds for one month only. As opposed to the previous 100us$ for 3 months, that’s a bit steep…
You can read all the evolution of this on noonsite.com, a very good cruising information website :
http://www.noonsite.com/Countries/Chagos
The reasons put forward for all that are nature preservation, the chagos being one of the most preserve reefs area in the world. To my point of view though, and to the point of view of many other yacht people, that is a bogus explication. Yachts are not the one doing damages to the coral. what about the american navy for example? nobody is kicking them out, is there? The policies seems to be originated by something else than pure nature conservation, and i’m at a loss to explain it. it doesn’t really make sense. it could be something as dumb as paranoiac americans, expanding their vital area, there are been talks(rumors really) of CIA involvement in those new regulation. It could also be something ever mor stupid like an asshole just promoted in London who is trying to get a name for himself and can’t stand the idea some people are actually not working in an office in London but sailing in the Indian Ocean totally uncontrolled. Who knows. I realy would like to have a proper explanation about the reasons. some of the rules make sense, you have to preserve a place like Chagos, but most of them are plain bullying us out of there. Eco-friendly? who is more eco-friendly that a cruising sailor?
Another interesting point about Chagos is its history. To make a long story short, there used to have a community of about 2500 people, called the Chagossiens, here to grow coconut for copra production. When Mauritius and Seychelles gained independence in the 60s and 70s, the brits kept Chagos as a strategic area. they leased the main island to the american, then in dire need of a big base to control this half of the world ( they are sitting on the other side). The American arrived, decided the locals were superfluous, and squarely kicked them out. We hear of horror stories, but the real truth is hard to get. Nobody seem so proud of those extraditions. The people got fucked over by lawyers claiming they were barely plantation employees and that relocating them was fair. So for the brits, they only got fired. They progressively prevented people to come back form trips abroad, people having to visit an hospital in mauritius for example, wouldn’t be allowed to come back home, until the last 300 or 400 people, the last who wouldn’t leave, got rounded up by the marines, embarked by force on a ship, and unceremoniously dumped on a quai in Mauritius. There are tales of early yachts stoping in Chagos and finding houses with doors open, tables set, poultry running around, books on the shelves, vegetable gardens overgrown and nobody left. The people were apparently not allowed to take anything else than a suitcase with them . Since, the villages got eaten away under the luxuriant vegetation, the walls fell down and you can barely see anything anymore of the settlements. Here and there a ruin, a feral donkey, or the remain of a jetty. Recently, the descendant of the chagossiens won in court for the right to be recognised as chagossiens, and to be able to resettle their islands. The thing is, the americans are not really keen on letting them have the biggest and easiest developed one, and the others are protected as one of the strictest marine park in the world. What are they to do? So far apparently they better have patience, cause it doesn’t seem they are getting much support from anybody except a few yachties, themselves a minority nobody really gives a shit about. A very sad story…
So we are going to try to get round the system, as I’ve been informed that boats arriving before the fatidic date will still be granted their 3 months for 100 dollars, and will have to comply to the new rules only after expiry of those 3 months. Meaning that if we got them to check us in early march, we’ll be set till late may, when it is time to get going again, the cyclone season being finished and the south east monsoon being settled. After that, well, no more Chagos for us, unless somebody sensible revises the regulations again. Anyway, I’ll probably won’t be heading back for chagos soon after that, twice should be enough for a while, and we’ll most likely get going westward, rounding the Cape of Good Hope and making our way to South America.
But before that we’ll be spending some time in Madagascar. We should arrive in Late may, early june. We will try to stop at some atolls on the way, there are far out islands belonging to the seychelles that are supposed to be very nice too, so wind permiting, we’ll break the return trip in a few segments. The goal is to get to Nosy be, in Madagascar, in time for the Donia music festival, a big fiesta organised each year which I missed last time. There we will be met by Jackie, an old friend of Michelle from Canada, and she’s going to sail with us for a while. Gwen and Greg are supposed to get going on their way at this point. I’ll possibly need more crew, but I’m not sure yet since my whole family is making plans to come in Madagscar. From my brother Pierre, who just made it back to france with his bike, to my parents, who want to buy a renault 4 and check out madagascar while we’re there, and my sister and my cousin Anissa, who want to come and see the boat, sail a bit and try to find climbing and paragliding spots… If they all show up, I won’t need much more crew.
So today I’m checking out, if all goes well, we’ll be gone tomorrow morning first thing and should arrive in Ile du Coin in Peros Banhos during the first week of march.
Pom Pom Pom, have fun while we’re gone…

Friday, June 01, 2007

Nosy Be, Madagascar
Here we are! We just arrived in Nosy be, after all those months in the wild; We had a wonderful trip, and all and everybody is well.
I’ll get into the details next time; i still have to clear customs and all that, plus the chaos of the city life is a bit much to take for a whole day after the quiet of the desert atolls in Chagos…
Hotmail erased all my past messages, so i don’t have all the lovely fanclub letters all of you sent me, but the account at ketchkaraka@hotmail.com is working again so don’t hesitate to send me news.
For Jackie, please drop us a line as soon as possible so we know what’s going on.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hell ville , Nosy Be
due to the extremely slow internet connection here and the fact that the power is off half the time, i ‘am having a hard time updating the website and filling in all the stories of chagos
It should come soon.
Greg took off, he is still in hell ville for a while.
Jackie, a friend from michelle coming from canada, arrived a couple days ago, my parents are arriving tuesday for a month in mada. There another person arriving wednesday, Antoine a friend of gwen arriving from france.
We are going to sail around for about a week then my parents, gwen , and probably antoine, are going to go traveling inland for a couple weeks while we do some repairs and chilling out, then they’ll all come backfor another week on the boat before leaving for france.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Nosy be , Madagsacar
 
So…
 
Back in town. I kind of forgot what were the last news, since the internet here is barely working, I meant to update several times but couldn’t, lost a few entries and after all this time, I guess there’s a lot unsaid.
 
So I think I’ll go over and try not to be too long.
We left Seychelles late February, with Michelle, Greg and Gwen, bound for Chagos. The trip was slow but steady, with nothing exceptional about it. We celebrated Gwen’s 30th birthday on the way, and he even got his wish granted, he having candidly asked for some rough weather experience and there having the tail of a cyclone trashing La Reunion coming our way. Nothing really dramatic though, we just had a steady wind that get us to Peros Banhos, the main atoll in Chagos a few days faster than expected.
 
Chagos welcomed us with 3 fish hitting our 3 trolling lures simultaneously as we entered the pass in the north… We then settled for 2 months of island hopping. We mostly tried to visit the ones the new rules were going to close starting the 1st of april. The English controlling the place didn’t gave us any trouble over the permits, we arrived in time and got off with the old system of 100 dollars for 3 months. Peros banhos lived up to its reputation, we enjoyed 2 month of isolated bliss, catching a fish or two everyday, exploring “inland”, working on the boat and not seeing much people. We got back into the routine of starting the barbecue before actually catching the fish, as in most spots you barely have to drop a piece of bait over the side to haul out a 5 pounds red snapper. We got organised about our spearfishing too, although it is forbidden to spearfish there… I fine tuned my big spear gun, the one started by Adam, and that I kept perfecting since he left. Gwen soon got to follow me on every expedition with my old gun, and Michelle rode shotgun, towing our fibreglass canoe as a groceries basket and repelling the ever curious sharks with her hand spear. We even got to develop a basic hand signal to communicate type of fish and warnings… It prove successful and we really ate a lot of fresh fish. We had a few close encounters with sharks, including some nasty unprovoked attacks and some legitimate reclaiming of what they considered was their fish… A 10 pound coral trout attracted about a dozen of 7 ft + reef sharks who then started to fight for it not only with me but with each other. Very impressive. It culminated when a pack of them started acting like wolves and began stalking us on our way back to the boat. That’s when we decided to change anchorage. We saw some very big fish too, 12 ft nurse sharks , massive manta rays, countless sea turtles… The diving is really exceptional in Chagos.

As the fatidic 1st of april came and passed we decided to play it safe and went to anchor in the authorised spots, which had actually been extended to practical ones around the islands of Diamand, Du coin , and Fouquet. There we met several other boats including a gang of French people, most with kids. A merry bunch, and we had some incredible evenings on the beach. We were accepted in a secluded group of privileged when one of them showed us the way to the mythical Chagos orange trees… Ah… The luxury of fresh orange juice in the middle of nowhere…
I did my damnedest to try salvaging the anchor I lost there last year but to no avail, we couldn’t find it…
Around the beginning of May we got invited to a birthday on the island of Boddam in the neighbouring atoll of Solomon, so we headed there, to find 35 other boats already occupying the place. Boddam is the “home” of the “locals”, as are called the yachties who come here years after years and stay for months, even years. A couple of boats I met the year before were still there…
The party was really something, as almost all the boats in Chagos were there, and apart from the French people celebrating the birthday, the English speaking community had organised a 5 de Mayo celebration, with free tequila bar, 50 odd dishes buffet, generator for the lights, decorations, video and stereo, mariachi music and there was even a lady going around offering sangria with ice cubes in it! We didn’t come back to the boat till sunrise, annoying everybody with djembe, bongos and guitars and gorging ourselves on Malagasy rum and boat made coconut beer… This night was the forerunner of thing to come, as we got sucked in a whirlpool of beach parties, volleyball tournaments and even a swap meet. Michelle scored a fishing trip on somebody else dinghy, trolling outside the lagoon and coming back with wahoo, yellowfin tunas and assorted bonitos. We located a lobster hideout but had to be discreet about it as some were being a bit territorial…
 
But after a bit of the community living in Solomon, we got enough, and the south east monsoon was here anyway, so mid-may we set sail, heading for Madagascar. The sea was rough, the wind was strong and we made wonderful time. I got a bit over confident, kept sails up, and ended up ripping my two biggest jibs. Luckily the wind kept increasing, so the storm jib was plenty enough of canvas to keep us going. The windvane was working wonders, still nicknamed Jesus for the resemblance of one of its part with the crucified messia and its miraculous ability to lead us the right way. Even in the roughest conditions, even in squalls, even in big following seas, it kept a true course, relieving us from endless hours behind the wheel…
Then quiet unexpected, we found an island on our way. Not that I didn’t actually aim for it but the island of Agalega was a bit of a mystery to everybody. Nobody I talked to could tell me anything about it, and a search on the internet could only tell me it belonged to Mauritius and was inhabited. So we got there, and found a boat already anchored. It was Bubu, a French boat with two brothers on it we had met and partied with in Chagos. We had left the same day from Solomon. As soon as we were anchored, they told us that officially we were not allowed to stay. So we figured out an emergency situation, and started fixing the most important of the two ripped jibs. Bubu was allowed to stay to fix a busted radar antenna. Soon enough the coastgards showed up in an old inflatable, and after a nice bribe of freshly baked cookies and some sweet talking, we realised the people there were actually very friendly and quiet happy to see somebody. They did their best to convince their superiors to let us stay. As soon as that was sorted out, started one of the most amazing human experience I ever had. We got invited ashore and offered meals, drinks, a tour of the island in one of the 3 only cars, an official lunch with the governor, an hand shake by every notable around, a few diners with the coastgard crew, drinking, singing and playing music, and even the whole of the school children singing a song especially learned in our honor… We discovered an island totally isolated from the world ( one boat every six months) who hadn’t seen a visiting yacht for longer than they could recall… A population of around 250 including some real chagossians, faithfully longing for their lost homes… We even learned some Chagos legends, like the one about this popular sega song in Mauritius about an old uncle longing for his lost donkey, the ancestor apparently of the one we kept spotting running feral in the abandoned settlement on Ile du coin…
The last day there we got officially authorised by the governor to attend to the “bal des roses”, a disco night in the communal building, the first such night in several months… We couldn’t miss that out, especially since we were already missing out on Nosy Be’s music festival 450 miles west. It was epic, culminating with Gwen’s magic show in front of some severely impressed islanders… He got asked by anxious elders if he was doing black magic too…
 
We finally left this little paradise to its fate, not sure what would destroy it faster, the impending building of a tourist resort or the raising of the water level due to the global warning… Agalega lays barely a few meters above sea level, as does Chagos and the Maldives by the way. They should be all gone by 2050, so says the experts…
 
Next part of the trip was fast, partly because we really did fix our jib and partly because it was fairly windy. Jesus died on us, right about Easter too, my mounts were not strong enough in the big swell and we nearly lost him over board. He finished the trip lashed on deck and is still there actually. Approaching Cap d’ambre, the northern tip of Madagascar, I was a bit anxious remembering the extremely rough conditions of 2006, but it actually wasn’t that bad. The wind was blowing like crazy but the 7 meters high breakers failed to show up… We still recorded the highest speed with Karaka to date : 10.5 knots. Not bad for a 30 tons old tub. We also averaged over 9 knots the last 12 hours before the cape. Once around though, the swell died down quickly, and the strong wind carried us still at a good pace south toward Nosy Be where we arrived the last day of May, having covered over 4000 nautical miles since Tanzania.
 
Ok, tired about writing now, I’ll try to put up what happen since later…

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Nosy be
ahoy! ahoy! internet is working this morning!
so i’ll be fast and try to catch up with all the unanswered mails. first i want to confirm i lost all message from before the 2nd of june, so if i don’t answer it is mostly not my fault… just write back.
so just bellow you have the account of our trip in the ocean, now in madagascar, greg left but is still hanging around for a while, bank problem, my parents showed up, and we went for a week in the mitsios, some islands just north, a cool relaxing trip, with 2 more people, jackie, a canadian gril that michelle invited and antoine a french guy , friend of gwen who is around travelling and spends a few weeks on the boat. a few days ago, my parents and gwen left for the mainland of madagascar, to go check a few spots for my sister, who is launching her travel company in france specializing in paragliding trips around the world… gwen got his glider so he mus be somewhere in the heavens right now.
my parents are going to come back to spent another week on the boat in july before heading back to france and as for us, it is getting a bit hectic, with the lack of internet communication, a necessary trip to mayotte 180 miles away to renew visas and passport, and hopefully the start of the charter season in july, carrying italian tourists from islands to islands for 250 euros a day…
ok got to run, i still have to find the port captain before doing all that, cause he obviously want his share, bribing gets you anywhere around here, even doing charters officially with an old rusty hong kong registered tub…
oh and as well the next 4 days are national holyday here so life comes to a stand still except for dancing and drinking and watching stupid army personal shooting their AK47s in the air…

Monday, August 06, 2007

Nosy Be, Madagascar
Still there… We’ve been moving around a bit though. Not far but we went for a few trips here and there, to kill time. We had organised some charters, got contacts, bribed the right people, even got a special insurance, but business seems to have another meaning here, and we’ve been waiting , and waiting, and waiting, and nothing came our way. So since we invested some money we would like to at least get that back and we’re still trying to do one or two trips. Otherwise Hell-Ville is getting a bit heavy, it is dirty, noisy and everybody tries to rip you off, and it can be fun for a while but we’re starting to feel we should be moving. We went to nosy komba, a nice island a few miles away, nice walks, lemurs, chameleons, boas; it felt good to be out of the city. We also took a trip north for a few days with Alex and his girl Wa-wa, who live on a steel boat next door. We found some cool spots and even manage to spear fish a grouper and catch a mackerel. Alex has been around this area for years and around the world with his family when he was a kid. Now he hangs around here doing odd jobs and being freaky. We’ve been hanging out with him a bit, playing drums and music of sorts. More boats have arrived, people we met in chagos, and it’s been party after party lately. We even had some local musicians coming over a couple time for jam sessions. One of our friends got his dinghy stolen the other night, and since we’re doing everything we can to at least get the dinghy back. We’re getting sorted out a little inflatable I got for him to use till he finds his or get another one.
Otherwise I started to look for new crew again, some ads on the web, plus contacting other people, Antoine is going to come back, he worked for a while in La reunion and is now back in Madagascar, he says he’ll be interested to sail with us to mayotte and maybe Mozambique.
We’ll see what happens but the plan should be leaving here around the end of the month for mayotte, stay there a couple weeks, time for me to get a new passport( mine is full) and wait for a friend of my father who is coming to the island to visit his daughter and who has a parcel for me…
After that we’ll head for Mozambique and cruise down the coast till we reach Durban in south Africa, where I think we’ll stop a couple months to do some work on the boat in a shipyard and try to go for some inland travel too.
For those who want to join, please drop me a line as soon as possible.
Don’t forget to read the website; I updated a few pages…

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Nosy Be,  back to the same spot
Well we had some adventures, some good parties, a charter trip, some near disasters, and now we’re back in town, answering potential crew about joining us to sail to south africa.
hum, maybe i should write the details? ok leave me some time.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

ok, so much for details…
internet is either crap or very expensive, so this log is not updated too often, sorry about it, but then again I don’t think i’m breaking many hearts…There’s been quiet a lot happening, good and bad, the trip continues…
So we left madagascar, where we had some serious partying and some not so serious chartering and we’ve been in Mayotte for a few weeks after crossing over with michelle and antoine, back from a tour in mainland mada.
In mayotte we just been hanging around, sailing to the various bays and islands and meeting the locals… by that i mean the customs officer, police, army personal and others autochtones, which seem to be the majority on this side of the island… We also got controlled as soon as we arrived and the bastards confiscated my(illegally owned) rifle and also a good bunch of my euros… they left us the rum but definitely made us pay for it…
I managed to sell  some contraband they didn’t find and get my money back but i’m still pissed off…
Otherwise we got a new crew member, Katie, who comes from the southern states and will sail with us till south africa.
I’m waiting for my new passport and then hopefully we should be able to leave for mozambique monday or tuesday.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Dzaoudzi, Mayotte,
So after nearly one month here, it seems it is time to get moving again…
The things that were keeping us in copland are pretty much sorted out, still some contraband to sell but it should be done by tonight, and it will feel good to have full pockets again after spending so much in mayotte…
We’re going to check out tomorrow morning and get sailing in the afternoon to try to get out of the lagoon before nightfall, then head straight for mozambique. we’ll aim for some islands in the north. We’re only 3 on board at the moment, i can’t really figure out why I don’t get more mails from people willing to join for this trip, mozambique sounds just amazing to me, endless white sand beach with surf, beautiful islands, pristine coral reefs, excellent fishing, hectic latino-african night life, friendly people, interesting culture, lots of old crumbling colonial buildings and nearly unspoilt by tourism…
Anyway, anybody who feels like joining should drop me a line and check about getting to pemba in northern mozambique. We’ll probably end up picking up a couple backpackers or surfers but you never know.
In the meantime, off we go…

Monday, October 15, 2007

Pemba, Moçambique
Back in Africa… We left mayotte on the 3rd, but the wind wasn’t there, so after a couple miles inside the lagoon we decided to stop for the night and wait for the morning wind. There wasn’t so much in the morning either but we went anyway, motoring mostly. Over the next 36 hours it was the same story, sailing as soon as the wind picked up a bit, drifting, then getting tired of it and motoring for a while. We passed between the comoros islands that way. On the 5th, Michelle’s birthday, a fishing boat came by, catching huge yellow fins tunas right under our nose. Michelle managed to convince them to part with one bonito, that we had for lunch.
After much bobbing around I decided to motor out of there, and the next 36 hours were spend ploughing our way through dead calm waters. We went over lazarus bank, a shaol in the middle of nowhere, with the hope of catching fish or even do some diving, but the reef was mostly broken coral and sand with patches of weed. I spotted one jack while checking for bummies, and saw him strike one of our rapala lures, but he didn’t get hooked properly and escaped…
On the 7th, we arrived at isla Quisiva, a small island off the mozambiquan coast. The place was very beautiful, white sand beach lined with boabas and coconut trees, a little fishing village with friendly locals, even an old portuguese fort. The locals exchanged lobsters and fish with us, being more partial to sugar or shirts than to money.
We went sailing with the dinghy to try to find proper diving ground, but after a couple miles we were still over shallow reef so we went to explore some inlets instead with strange rock formations.
After a few days we headed for the town of Pemba, 30 miles south to get the formalities and visas sorted out. We used what little wind there was, getting pretty close to the reef in the process, sailing amongst the local fisherman in their dhows and dugouts. At one point it was shallow enough to be able to check the fish and coral by being pulled in the back of the boat with a mask… Unfortunately we were going too slow to catch anything ourselves, and eventually one of our best lure got caught on the bottom and the line broke.
After a day riding the south going current we entered Pemba Bay at sunset and anchored in the dark near the docks.
The next day I went to fight with the various corrupt officials for port clearance and visas, it cost me quiet a bit of money. We quickly checked the town, which is nothing special and quiet expensive, but friendly anyway.
The next day the wind started blowing hard from the south making the anchorage uncomfortable so we sailed to Wembe, a more touristy spot on the other side of town.
There we started to look around for potential crew members, and actually met a lot of cool people.
The girls went out partying on staurday night and since they’ve been recovering…
Today monday i am back in town trying to finish the immigration businees, et ends up costing me a lot and i still had to bargain for hours… anyway, welcome to Africa.

Monday, December 03, 2007

a short note to apologise to everone i didn t answered to in the past month, there just wasnt any internet…
anyway we just arrived in richards bay in south africa, where we plan some much needed repairs and some rest before getting going toward cape town.
i ll answer everybody soon and i m still looking for a few crew for here to cape town and further to south america… drop me a new mail, if i fails to answer to you
tom

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

well, i’m just terrible with updating this log…
And i won’t do it today either. internet is a bit expensive and i don’t have that much time anyway.
otherwise for the near future, we re going to stay in richards bay at the dock at tuzi gazi waterfront till after christmas and new year at least, working on the boat and partying with everybody around here.
As well, i had some problem with my emailing, once more, and apparently several of my mails didn’t get through, which is very annoying since i wrote individually to everybody who wrote to me for joining, and now i am not sure who got the mails or not. So if you haven’t heard back from me, maybe it is not because i think you’re useless but maybe the mail didn’t work. Just write back, we’re still looking for crew, mostly for the trip after cape town, up to namibia and across to brazil.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Zululand Yacht Club, Richards Bay
Happy new year to everybody.
Once more, no real update, or nice stories about our trip, there is just too much partying around here to spend hours behind a screen writing sailing stories…
So i’ll just make the effort to inform potential crew members about our whereabouts and imediate and less imediate plans.
We are in north eastern south africa, waiting to recover from serious holyday partying to sail south to Durban. It might be next week or it might be later, we are not quiet sure yet. we have a lot of work on the “to do” list and it is as good a place as any to do it here. We are considering a short safari in the nearby game reserves as well.
In durban we’ll haul out for a week or 10 days, to repaint the hull and do minor repairs. We will then make our way down to cape town, waiting out in various ports for good weather. We don’t really need crew for this leg of the trip, but from cape town on, i’d like to have full crew and get ready for the atlantic crossing. We’ll sail north to namibia in february, and then get sailing across sometime in march. It will take a month and we will arrive in brazil sometime in april.
Those interested in crewing should read the website as thoroughly as they can bear, before writing to me with as much comments, infos, and questions as possible, the more the better, it will help me to chose between all.
those willing to join later on once we are in south america should wait because right now we don’t know our plans for when we get there, and i already receive a lot of applications for the crossing so i don’t have the time to deal with everybody adequately. For the crossing, the berths are still available so keep writing to me.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Zululand yacht club, richards bay
Back from a little 3 days safari with yvan, visiting from france for 3 weeks, laurent from “Artabaze” and georges, a crew on our big neighbours “heraclitus”
So back to the grind, finishing touches on the wind vane, chipping rust off the deck and varnishing the floorboards in the saloon. went for a surf this morning, there’s a decent break about 1km away, hop on the bike with the board and found this sloppy beach break with nobody on it. It is called alkantstrand, and although i’m very rusty, it was good to be on the water…
So probably another 7 to 10 days before we sail to Durban.
people wanting to join should keep writing to me, i haven’t made my final choice yet.
Those wanting to join later on when we are in south america should wait for march april to write to me as i already have a lot of emailing to do, thanks

Friday, January 18, 2008

So I updated the front page, check it for the latest news.
There’s been  a change of plan and so i’ll take a few crew right away. First come first served.
Just email me with the details

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Leaving Richards Bay at last…
Settings sail tonight at sunset, the wind is steady from the north east, we have 90 miles to cover to get to Durban, so we’ll arrive early in the morning monday 21st.
Not very happy about leaving Michelle behind but that’s just the way things go. Alain,my father, arrived finally after a terrible trip due to the crash in London, plane delayed and BA incompetence. Tired but motivated.
There’s one crew member coming, but I think I already mentioned that. She’ll be here on the 31st.
Otherwise, Bunks are empty…
Contact me if you are around and want to do some sailing. And for those interested about the crossing, keep writing to me, there are still bunks available to go to Brazil.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Durban, point Yacht club
Arrived here last night after a crappy trip, first we busted the salt water pump on the main engine so we were motorless, and then the wind dropped during the night leaving us bobing up and down while trying to fix the engine.
I managed to fix it ok, but it wasn’t so much fun, and we motored/sailed to durban which happens to be a big dirty noisy place, with nowhere nice to put karaka. i had to rent a berth in a marina…
anyway, maybe i’m seeing everything dark because i’m tired and all but this seems to be a place i won’t linger in. next favorable wind, we’re off again, heading south

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Point Yacht club, Durban,
Well this town seems to be the most terrible place I’ve been for a long time. I’m sure there are nice aspect to discover, but as a short term visitor, it mainly strike me as being dirty, noisy, polluted and unsafe. It is quiet oppressing really. but maybe that’s just me being antisocial.
anyway, not doing much, we’re on a walk on pontoon, doing minor repairs, not going to much into town, hanging out at the yacht club where there is free internet and warm shower and draught beer…
the only good thing that happened so far is that I found a crew member to help us sail south. Marco is italian and was backpacking around south africa and lesotho. he apparently found a post in a backpacker put htere by Gal, the israeli girl who left us in mozambique in november, and send me a mail anyway, and here he is.
being 3 on board will be good as the seas are pretty rough around here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Point Yacht Club, Durban,
We’re checked out, we’ll set sail for port elisabeth in a few hours> I hope to be there before the next wind change monday…

Monday, January 28, 2008

Port Elisabeth,
Arrive in port yesterday afternoon, after a fast but rolly passage. The sea was confused and a bit rough, with wind up to 25 knots from the north east. the condition, apart from the swell and the rain, were ideal, and we averaged over 10 knots… we covered more than 410 miles since durban. the current went up to 4 or 5 knots at times.
the last day the wind dropped so we motored, arriving just in time, as the southwester started blowing about one hours before we entered the harbor. the south wester is the “bad” wind, since it would be right on our nose and raising a big dangerous sea.
port elisabeth has nothing much for it that i can see, it seems big and soulless, but then again we just arrived and i’m having a bit of a low spirit those past couple weeks….
the crew behaved well, marco the italian was sick at first but overcame it, and is now ok. it is maybe not the best conditions to learn sailing but he is coping. my father wasn’t too sick either, and started to remember procedures on the ship so he was a bit more help than on the trip from richards bay…
on the bad side, the first crew scheduled to come , a young american, got offered a job on a farm and thus is not going to sail with us to brazil. a bit of a disappointment since she was supposed to arrive next wednesday…
so still room for crew, keep contacting me.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mossel bay, south africa
well, that was one of the most terrible trip ever… we motored for 40 hours straight… no wind at all.
We had to leave as the harbor in Port elisabeth was very bad, so we headed for knysna, supposed to be a nice little spot, but the entrance is barely 100 meters wide, with rocks and reefs, and when we got there, the swell was heavy and breaking all across, so we had to keep going.
mossel bay is not so bad, it is an old little fishing village, quiet relaxed and touristy now. with a bit of history and old buildings, which is a nice change. An interesting thing as well is that there are lots of seals around. I’ve seen some before but never while i was sailing.
we’ll have to sit here amongst the fishing boats and the seagulls till the wind turns. it just started blowing from the west, which happens to be where we are going. hopefully we should be sailing again by sunday, and with luck we should make it all the way to simons town, where i  intend to haul out and do the work. It means we will be rounding the cape.
The crew for the crossing is coming along… marco the italian we have on board is just here for a short spell, as is my father, but gwen is coming back. it will be the 3rd time he comes sailing with me and it is a good thing to have somebody experienced and whom i know i get along with on board.
there is also two english people, one in cape town right now and the other still in the uk. My little brother pierre is very likely to join us in namibia as well.
so there would be room for another one eventually. i’m still talking with everybody who wrote to me to select that last one.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Mossel bay,
in town this morning to get the latest weather forecast from the internet. it looks fine for the next few days so we are going to check out and sail today. we’re going to round the cape aghuilas, the real cape, the one the farthest south. there’s about 200 miles to get to simons town. there we will stop for a while and haul out for the repairs.
Laurent on artabaze is already there waiting to haul out as well.
There are 3 crew confirmed for the crossing so far, Gwen, Ky, and Annelise.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Simon’s town, south africa…
Here after an interesting trip… at first there was no wind, with big heavy cross swell, so we were bobing around and had to motor to get moving. we alternated sailing slow with motoring and drifting. we actually drifted across the cape, with a oily sea. we saw countless seals, and also great white sharks. at one point i was looking at something which was either a bird or a small seal, when all the sudden a big fin broke the water, then a big splash, a big white belly and then nothing left on the surface. the shark was at least 3 or 4 meters…
then last night as we were in sight of the cape of good hope, a front showed up on the southern horizon, and soon enough, the wind started blowing. i was waiting for this wind, so all happy we started cruising along at 6 knots, until it got out of hand. by the time we were 10 miles from the harbor, the wind was blowing 45 knots and the main sail was in shreds, with breaking waves all around. we rounded some rocks in the entrance and struggled to get in against the wind, finally tying to a naval base dock at 02 00. this morning the wind is up to 60 knots where we are, and i don’t even want to know how it is outside…
so a bit of rest for us before starting the work, shipyard, and all.
I’m going to meet some of the new crew as well, and get organised for the crossing.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Simons Town,
So we went through a pretty severe southeaster, with winds up to 60 knots for the past 3 days… hectic…
Anyway we were tied to the naval base dock and were safe.
We now got kicked out of the naval base since the wind died down, but the marina here is too small for Karaka. the next marina up the coast is broken after the storm and so we have to sail all the way to cape town to the royal cape yacht club, the only place where they’ll accept us. there are no free anchorages around…
So we are sailing tonight, there is about 60 nautical miles, around the rough cape of good hope. the weather is grey and misty with seagulls crying, it feels like england…
we’ll be 5 or 6 for the trip, there’s my father still on board for another week, laurent from artabaze, another sailboat, is coming along, shaun, a local surfer who sailed in karaka from maldives to madagascar in 2006 is coming along too, bringing his uncle with him, and maybe Ky, the englishman who is going to crew with us to brazil,  might come too, if he can get away from work. he is getting his divemaster ticket.
marco the itlaian man who sailed with us since durban, left this morning to continue his trip inland
so no shortage of crew.
but i had to bend on the old main sail again, the one laurent lend me in richards bay being ripped and useless. the old one was ripped too but i can still use a good 15m2, which is ok in the conditions we have here. there will be a brand new mainsail for the crossing…

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Royal Cape Yacht Club, Cape Town, South Africa
So we made it around the cape of good hope, or stormy cape as it is also called, and this time it was no exactly stormy but close… we had a big pod of dolphins, several seals, and even some pinguins swimming around the boat. the water is around 10 degres celsius…
So all the crew supposed to come help us didn’t show up, except laurent from artabaze, so we sailed just the 3 of us. it was good sailing, the windvane is working very well in any conditions, and laurent is an excellent sailor so it was easy, although a bit rough.
We are now in royal cape marina, a posh yachty place in the middle of town, many boats are there including some old friends like Alex from nosy be, who just sailed straight from madagascar on his ketch, no autopilot, no engine, no electricity, no stops, no weather forecast and what’s even more amazing, no storms… he got lucky and sailed 2500 miles in a month and a half, dodging the bad weather somehow… just what you would expect of him…
so here i realised i won’t be able to haul out, either it is outrageously expensive or it is booked solid till april, so i guess i’ll just have to find a wall somewhere in brazil to re paint the boat…
I have plenty of other ways to spend my money though, starting with a new mainsail, already ordered, a new anchor, galvanizing the chain, new jib sheet, servicing the life raft, new wind generator prop, plus the 12 euros a day in the marina… my wallet is having a hard time…
but we should be ready to leave by the time my visa expire early march.
I met Ky, one of the crew member who is going to sail with us to brazil. he is here in cape town getting his dive master ticket in a local dive shop.
Otherwise his girlfriend annelise is going to fly back from england on the 27th to join karaka. she is south african.
gwen is lost somewhere in morocco at the moment so we haven’t set up a date for him to fly in yet. he will join in namibia anyway.
there is still room for 1 more crew member, I’m in contact with a few but if anybody is interested, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Royal Cape Yacht club, Cape Town,
new sails!!! today karaka got spoilt, with a new main sail and a new mizzen. It should make a difference, they have a much better shape than the old ones and they are even bigger with the new technologie in sailmaking. Also today, karaka got a brand new 50kg bruce anchor, which is going to be a huge improvement from the old crappy one we had for years. My wallet is getting thinner everyday.
Otherwise, at the same time the boat is getting ready, the crew is starting to arrive. the first one is american, 37. Mark came to cape town although is didn’t told him to, and so now he’s got a chance to prove himself going to Namibia before the big crossing to brazil. the other crew should arrive soon. Annelise is flying from london tomorrow and Ky should be done with his divemaster ticket. that leaves us a week to get everything ready, before checking out next tuesday.
we’ll sail to luderitz in namibia then, and wait for gwen, arriving around the 20th of march.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Still in cape town,
there are been a few things coming up and I decided to extend my visa to make sure everything would be fine before leaving.
We got most of the gear sorted out, including sails, anchors, lines and chain.
As for the crew, we are now complete, but not everybody is on board.
There is only Mike from the States at the moment, and we are both working on the last jobs to get the boat ready.
Annelise came to visit us monday, she arrived from london last week and has been visiting family here in south africa while her and Ky are waiting for a bank problem to be sorted out. They should come on board sometime around this week end.
gwen is flying to namibia on the 18th and will be checking some paragliding spots until we arrive.
So hopefully we will be able to leave at the beginning of next week and sail to luderitz in namibia.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Still in Cape town,
The boat is ready but for the last minute supplies.
On the other hand, there’s been some changes concerning the crew, with the return of Michelle first and also with the defection of two of the planned crew, for personal reasons. That leaves a few bunks available, and those interested should contact me as soon as possible so we could arrange something either to join here in cape and sail to namibia or join in namibia for the crossing to brazil. 
so far there is Mike on board, plus Gwen arriving in namibia soon to join us. And Michelle is back.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Luderitz Namibia,
not much time to write, but all is well, we are in namibia, sailing today for walwis bay which is going to be our departure point for the crossing to brazil.
michelle is going to head back to south africa from there, she’ll be staying on the heraclitus tall ship for a while and meet me back in brazil once she’s done with her jobs and projects.
gwen is in walwis bay waiting for us and there is another crew almost for sure, logistics are the last things holding back. we still could use one more crew if anybody is interested, contact me but you need to be able to meet us within the next week or so and have all the visas and shots and stuff sorted out. i’m not taking anybody who needs to fly in anymore for this crossing, you need to be already in southern africa.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Walvis Bay, Namibia,
 
We had a short and enjoyable trip up from luderitz, the only bad thing about it being extreme cold; There was a steady wind from the south and south of us, there’s only Antartica…
 
Walvis Bay is a major commercial harbor, but there is a friendly yacht club at the end of town, in front of which we anchored.
The town itself is small but spread out, well stocked but not very exciting.
Gwen was there already and he jumped on board as soon as we arrived.
We have another crew member from America, JC, who flew in from Barcelona where he was living.
Michelle left to go spent 6 months in Capetown working on the tall ship Heraclitus. She will cross the Atlantic with them and meet me again somewhere in brazil.
The fifth crew member is Mel from San Francisco. Mel is of filipino origins and has been traveling for a year already he started in Istanbul and came down the east coast of Africa.
 
So we are Five on board, all ready and eager to go.
If everything goes according to plan, we should leave Saturday the 5th of april.
We will very likely stop in the tiny british island of St helena, 1200 miles away, before continuing toward Salvador de Bahia another 1900 miles further.
The ETA is sometime at the beginning of May.
 
Those wiling to join for the exploration of Brazil should write to me so I got the applications as soon as we reach the other side, so I can pick the new crew without delay.
I expect to be staying in Brazil a fairly long time, probably until september.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Jamestown, St Helena Island
 
So here we are, first and only stop during our passage across the South Atlantic, the island of St Helena.
We left Namibia on the 5th, and we arrived here after 11 days at sea. The crossing was uneventful, the wind was pretty steady from the southeast, and we averaged 5 knots the whole way. We didn’t use the engine at all.
The sea was a bit rough, with a very annoying cross swell and it was very rolly on board. Some of the crew got seasick but eventually recovered.
We caught a few fishes and nothing much else happened. Lots of time for reading and meditating.
We left the cold behind in Namibia and now have reached warm tropical weather with equally warm water, which is a relief after all those months freezing in Southern Africa.
 
Here on St helena we are stoping for a few days to explore the place and rest a bit. The island is a little world in itself, with a lot of historical background, as it was a major english trading post and the exile place of Napoleon. The island is small and the community of expatriate britishs and creole has a nice relaxed and friendly feel. People are extremely helpful and welcoming. The custom officer was a charming lady, whose “office” was on a bench under a tree on the waterfront. Most of the island is bare, with low shrub and rocks, but some area are lush and there are many trails to go walking.
 
Otherwise Mike is thinking about staying here for a few weeks and then hop on an another boat to head back to south africa.
 
Internet is not easily accessed. I won’t answer while I’m here to you people who applied to join in brazil, I’ll do that when we reach the other side.
 
Those who haven’t contacted me yet should do so within the next couple weeks as I will decide upon the new crew on arrival.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jamestown, St helena
last day on the island, we\re checking out this morning, getting the boat ready and taking off for salvador de bahia in brazil, 1900 miles away…
We should arrive around the 10 of may.
those willing to join should check the contact page for the updated application procedure.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Salvador de bahia, brasil,
Here we are, the crossing went well, many adventures and not so many disasters…
I’ll write a full account soon.
I haven’t decided yet on a plan, I need a few days to arrive and rest and check a few things around before I decide where I go and when and how many crew I need and all that. so for the people who wrote to me, just wait a bit and I’ll answer, for the others who are interested, this is the time to write to me.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
So here we are, in beautiful Brazil…
We arrived Sunday the 11th in Salvador. We are now tied to a pontoon in the Centro nautico, in the middle of town, we’re checked in and the crew is running around town enjoying themselves after over a month at sea…
We left Walvis Bay in Namibia the 5th of April. We were 5 of us. Gwen got promoted first mate since Michelle stayed behind in South Africa to work on the tall ship Heraclitus, then the rest of the crew was all American, with Mike, already with us since Cape Town, and two novices, JC and Mel.
The first few days we had a lot of wind and a heavy cross swell, and Mel was extremely seasick, but otherwise all went well and fast. The trip to st Helena took 11 days, with no major event happening, just a steady passage. St Helena came as something of a surprise because I hadn’t researched it at all and knew very little about the place beforehand, and it proved to be a wonderful little island, lost in the middle of nowhere with a very friendly local community. So we stayed for a while there, hiking in the hills, checking napoleon’s exile house and doing some maintenance on the boat like scraping the hull free of barnacles. The water was warm, a welcome change after all this time in freezing cold South Africa. The underwater visibility in st Helena was incredible too, close to the 40 meters…
After st Helena we headed north a bit to get in the trade wind belt, and then just cruised along. The wind was light so we had to be very ingenious to put as much canvas up as possible. We even tried the scary spinnaker, but Karaka doesn’t like it too much and behave extremely badly under it, so we settled instead for two big genoas poled out goose wing, and the mizzen staysail, aka “the tent”, between the two masts. We were actually surprised to be getting along at nearly 4 knots in conditions when you could barely feel any wind on deck…
Near the middle of the trip the wind got lighter and lighter, to the point we spent a couple days drifting around. The slowest day was about 50 miles, which makes an average speed of 2 knots…
On the other hand during those slow times we had good entertainment from the marine life. We until then had done pretty good at fishing, with several dorados and a few tunas, but one day drifting in a very calm sea, we heard fish trashing around the boat, and found out there was a school of tunas being chased by a big marlin. The beast was over 8 feet long and all the tunas were frantically trying to hide behind karaka’s keel. So we got slightly excited too and I jumped in the water to wrestle some fish out of the marlin’s grasp before he caught them all, while Jc was trying to harpoon them from the deck.
He got one, a nice bonito, while I shot a good yellow fin with the gun. I landed this one then went back for more, there is never enough of yellow fin tuna meat, but the second one I speared trashed around and the marlin went straight for it, cutting through my line in a second. I can only guess he ate the tuna but didn’t eat the spear, but the fact is he took them both and I didn’t stay to see what he was doing with them…
After that the chase was still on so I went back in the water with a plain gaff, a piece of bamboo with a big hook at the end, and gaffed another yellow fin. They were so scared of the marlin they paid no attention to me and I could have grabbed one by hand. But after seeing what the marlin did to the last tuna I speared, I hooked one with the gaff instead. Obviously he didn’t like it and as I was struggling with him, the marlin darted in, ripping it from my gaff not 2 meters away from me. So that was enough, I gave up, the marlin was better than me; I accept it when I am outclassed…
After that we used a tuna head as bait to see if there were any sharks around, and not 10 minutes later the line went taut, and we hauled in a 7 feet shark, I don’t know what kind but very pretty with a blue coloration. We took pictures then released him.
Apparently the tunas liked us still after that, and we found ourselves sailing along with our own school of pet tunas. There were about 40 or 50 bonitos in the 4 pounds range and a dozen yellow fins slightly bigger, 5 or 6 pounds. They were following us all the time, jumping all around the boat eating tiny flying fish all day, surfing our bow wave and taking shelter under the boat as soon as some predators showed up. At one time there were not one but two marlins after them at once. The biggest one was over 12 feet long… Mel and jc got to swim alongside him, as we were going slow enough to hang from the stern of the boat in the water, with a mask on.
So since we had our supply of tuna at hand, we kept picking lunch and diner nearly at will, mostly harpooning them as they were swimming near the bow. Jc probably made his Boston whaler ancestor proud when he was standing at the end of the bowsprit with his harpoon.
Other significant events were two deaths.
One was my computer, who got soaked with salt water when a wave crashed on deck and flooded my cabin. The other was Jesus, our wind vane/auto pilot, on the 11th day out of st Helena. A weld at the base of the wind vane rudder let go, and we had to haul it on board. It is not so bad as we didn’t lose it entirely and it will be easily fixed next time I haul out, but it forced us to steer by hand for the rest of the trip. With five on board we kept 2 hours watches and 8 hours off which really wasn’t that bad.
The last days as we were reaching the dreaded longitudes of variables and very light wind near the coast of Brazil, we had the luck to get hammered by a depression coming from the south, bringing us strong wind. We got shaken a lot by the swell but at this time nobody was seasick anymore so it was fine and we made good speed. We dropped a few tears when our faithful tunas left us at the entrance of the bay and sailed into the harbor slightly ahead of schedule 19 days out of st Helena. We didn’t use the engine at all and covered 3355 nautical miles from Namibia to Brazil. The log since Hong Kong is now over 24 000 nautical miles. We averaged around 4.7 knots on the whole trip.
For the near future I haven’t made definite plans yet, but will very soon, including probably a very much needed week in the shipyard before the end of the month.
The crew is going to go its way now, Gwen is flying home next Wednesday, Jc is flying to Barcelona where he currently lives on the 20th, Mike is looking for a plane ticket back home and Mel is going to go traveling inland.
I’ll l select the next crew before heading out again to explore the coast. It seems we won’t be able to sail south all the way to Rio because the winter season is now settled so the wind is predominantly south, but there are lots of interesting spots nearby in the state of Bahia, including endless surf spots, rivers and estuaries, bays and islands… it seems promising…
After that the most likely course will be northward toward the Amazon, the Guyanas and then Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, etc…

Monday, May 26, 2008

Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
So two weeks in brazil already…
Gwen , and JC flew away back home, Mel is traveling in brazil and mike is still on board until the 8th of june. we spent a week in a marina downtown before going for a week to the island of itaparica inside the bay.
the plan has crystallized. we are back in town to haul out in a shipyard for a few days, then crew is going to join, starting with erin, a 21 years old biology student. she arrives on the 31st. two others i had selected decided last moment they wouldn t come so there is more room, although several people are in contact with me. anybody still interested in coming to explore brazil with us should drop me a line as i decided i would select the crew for july august september as soon as possible to avoid other surprises. i need people who are committed…
we will first head south for about 150 miles. there are several nice anchorages, complete with colonial towns, white sand beaches, surf points and coral reefs, plus an extensive web of rivers and estuaries to check. then when we get tired of that we ll come back to salvador before heading north, probably in august, aiming for the amazon near belem. we ll then go up the big river for a few hundred miles and down again through another estuary. then my visa in brazil will expire so i ll head north again toward the guyanas.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

bahia marina shipyard, salvador
so we re on the dry since this morning. all is fine, getting on with the work. probably back in the water the 1st of june.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Bahia marina shipyard, salvador,
Still on the hard. lots of work has been done , karaka is newly painted black and the first coat of antifouling is one. we should get back int the water sunday if it doesn t rain and prevent us from painting the 2 or 3 next coats of antifouling.
erin the next crew member is arriving on sunday.
anybody else interested in joining right now for the month of june july and agust should write to me as there are a few bunks available.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Bahia marina, salvador.
So the work is going well, and we are almost ready to go back in the water. hopefully we can do this this afternoon.
otherwise Erin arrived, she is 21 from northern california and a botany student.
|We are going to stay in town for a few days because i got a piece of metal in my eye and it is fairly bad and i need to see a doctor for some minor surgery on wednesday. then we ll dart off into the wild for a few days before mike fly back to the states on sunday.
There are a couple people very interested to come but we still got room for a few more, so anybody interested in joining should drop me a line.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

back in the water. all is fine

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Salvador, bahia
So we are still anchored in front of the bahia marina, as i had to go several time to see the eye doctor. i had a shard of steel into my eyeball and scratched my cornea badly. it is now much better and almost healed
we are going to stay around here until tuesday when i have to go see the doctor one last time. mike is flying away on sunday so he will be able to jump on a bus to the airport from here too. there is a french backpacker who is coming too, probably will arrive on monday. 
after that we will head south for a while, mauro de sao paulo, itacare, camamu, ilheus, for some wilderness. i won t be able to go snorkeling or swimming or even surfing for a few weeks though. there is an extensive river web around camamu so i guess we ll explore that instead of sticking to the coast.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

itaparica, bahia de todos o santos,
back to this nice little spot. we left the city yesterday under the rain, sailed to ilha do frade, another island just north of here and stayed the night. mike and erin went ashore in  the evening and bought some food and beers, and watched the soccer game for a while.
the depth sounder is working again. we changed the transducer while hauled out and now i got depth reading in the cockpit, which is much better than the old lead line we ve been using for 2 years…
this morning we sailed here, and the bay was littered with rain squalls, giving us enough wind to actually sail, not motor. we even reached 8,9 knots at one point. the new clean hull allow us to go significantly faster.
here in itaparica we met again with other boats we knew from before, jean marc, evelyne and corentin, and guillaume and francine. we won t be staying here too long though. mike is going to take the ferry to the city and jump on his plane tomorrow, and we ll sail back to salvador monday. there is damien , a french guy, who is going to arrive in salvador tuesday. i have to go see the doctor for a check up about my eye as well. after that we ll head south for a while, as it doesn t seem there is anybody else interested in coming right now.
some crew are getting organised to join later on in july august, and my brother is willing to come for the amazon trip.
otherwise there is a new version of the website almost ready, not much changed but hopefully it should be readable by every browsers… the adress will stay the same, there will be a link to the new page.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Mike is gone, leaving Erin as sole crew until Damien shows up on tuesday.
Nothing new otherwise. We are just hanging around. Itaparica is very relaxed and it is good to do nothing now and then…

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bahia Marina, salvador,
Damien arrived today. we are still anchored in front of bahia marina but they don t allow us to land at their dock anymore so we will have to mave to the centro nautico in the afternoon.
other wise not much. we re going to get ready and set sail for the south in a couple days, to go check all the coast down from here, before coming back sometime in july.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Gamboa, Bahia
we left the city… we shopped for groceries, i went to see my eye doctor one last time for a check up, and we sailed south on the 12th. we went to a river about 30 miles south of salvador, with a little tourist town at the mouth called morro de sao paulo. the sailing was great, 6 or 7 knots the whole way. we almost caught a fish, a small mackerel, but he spat the hook while i was reeling him in. erin has been doing very good as a crew, damien has less experience and got very seasick .
we went to anchor a little bit up river in front of a secluded beach. the setting was nice but the weather terrible, drizzle and cold so we had a lazy day doing laundry, reading, watching movies and having accordeon lessons… at one point i went outside to speak on the beach with a few kite boarders there… they seemed to have a good time although they were complaining about lack of wind. and rain… it appears to be a good kite spot. they were tacking back and forth around the boat.
today we are in the little village of gamboa still on the river. damien needed to go to a pharmacy cause he got some parasite growing inside his foot… nothing serious though. the village is much more relaxed than salvador, no cars at all, this is an island, and not many tourists although there are the tourists facilities. it is off season, winter. much better that way i assume, except for the rain…
tomorrow we are going to try sailing up river as far as we can , to try to reach an old colonial town that sound very interesting. we ll have to come back that way to get back to the sea, probably in 2 or 3 days.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

gamboa, Bahia,
Back in this little village after a few days up river. we ran aground a few times, but nothing serious. it is not simple to navigate the river, sand banks everywhere and very murky waters… the depth sounder works well though and helps a lot.
we anchored in front of a little village called galeao, relaxed and friendly. they had a big party for whatever reason, we didn t find out but there was a lot of people arriving by boat and loud music. we met an australian cruiser who ve been there for a year and who told us a bit about the place. he also told us the stories of his sailing, including a knock down while rounding the horn on his way here… we did some maintenance on the boat as well, chafe patches on the main sail, servicing the winches, whipping the frayed lines…
today we are back at the mouth of the river, tomorrow we ll try to walk the beach to the village of morro de sao paulo. it is a bit of a hippy backpacker heaven so i m not sure that is my kind of place but it is reported to be nice. after that we ll sail south to the bay of camamu,many rivers and islands there. i have to find somethings to do beside surfing and diving because i can t go in the water or else my eye might get infected again…

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gamboa, bahia
Here we are again…
we left for the bay of camamu, about 30 miles south, but the wind was a light southerly and the current strongly set north, so we didn t make much way. we left around 7 in the morning, by 1pm we were 25 miles away from morro but still 20 miles away from the entrance of the next bay, and the wind was dropping. i decided to try to motor there, but we burst the impeler on the main engine salt water pump and so we couldn’t motor, and had to turn back. the other option was to try tacking back and forth against the wind and the current, and hope to get there in time for the high tide the next morning. Damien was not much of a sailor and it didn t seem to appeal much to erin to stand watches all night long, so i decided to turn back to gamboa. we had a good sail back and covered 54 miles during the day. we anchored in the dark a bit off the village, cause we couldn t motor to our usual spot. Damien decided that he wasn t cut for the sailing life so he took his bike and his backpack and went biking up the coast on his own. So it s down to erin and me once again.
this morning we fixed the water pump, so the ford is working fine now. yesterday was the solstice but there was almost no celebration. it is a pretty big thing in bahia apparently but here they are fairly poor and didn t come up with much. tomorrow we ll sail back to itaparica, i gave up the idea to sail upwind against the current, camamu will stay unexplored by us. in itaparica i m pretty sure they have something big organised for the solstice, with live shows and all, and that should be nice. after that we go check a few islands behind the bigger island of itaparica and i would like to head up a river, of which i have forgotten the name, where some other people on boats have told me was nice.
otherwise many crew members are confirming, and karaka should reach full capacity in august for the passages north and the trip up the amazon. those interested to join should contact me anyway. i will need crew later on for the trip out of brazil in october november.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Itaparica,

quickly, there is a big update on the website, and much more to come soon, new pics and new texts and plenty of things.
we are back in itaparica and thee is a festival in town for the solstice, 4 days of partying.
nothing much new otherwise

Saturday, July 05, 2008

itaparica,
 
well, the 4 days turned out to be 10, and it was epic…
we went up river for the second week end, bla bla bla, i don t have much time today and describing a party is pointless if you were not there you don t care.
back in itaparica, working on the boat and upgrading the website…
check the gallery page, plenty of new pics

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Itaparica,
I ve been slacking a bit on the log recently… nothing much happened in fact.
karaka hasn t moved since the beginning of the month. erin left on the 3rd, so i was left on my own, motivated for some maintenance jobs, namely fixing jesus the windvane, varnishing the saloon and painting the deck. unfortunately it has been a terrible month with a lot of rain, so the paint on deck was not possible. i managed to fix jesus but i haven t put it back on yet. i did a fairly good job at varnishing the saloon otherwise.
i upgraded the website, and that was nice, although i m afraid it is getting a bit much for everybody to read. i wonder if anybody actually read it all… anyway it is there.
otherwise i ve been hanging around the village, where nothing much happens because it is off season and winter. there is a bunch of interesting boats around, mostly french, who arrive from senegal. younger sort of sailors, and we are having a lot of nice parties. after the big feast at the beginning of the month, not much is going on ashore, the scene is very mellow.
tomorrow arrives the first of the new crew members, tobin, a 20 years old student. he will stay just over one month. at the end of july two more will be coming, alejandro from argentina and sarim from toronto. the next to come will be christine, a canadian, on the 7th of august. my brother pierre will come to meet us in the north on the 1st of september. there are a few more people interested as well but not confirmed.
we will leave itaparica in a few days to go to salvador, the main city around, where i need to get some money from a guy who owes it to me, extend my visa, and wait for the next two guys before sailing north. i plan on stoping in cabedelo, then maybe fernando de noronha, then fortaleza, sao luis and finally belem. from belem we will head inland up river for about a month.

Monday, July 21, 2008

itaparica,
Tobin arrived yesterday, after a 30 hour bus trip from Rio.
today we are taking it easy, first because we don t have that much to do, and secondly because we feel like it…
i m still waiting fro the mails from some other crew members interested to join us , and since we should be leaving pretty soon i want to make sure it is all organized properly as soon as possible. we are otherwise going to sail a bit farther inside the bay, there are a couple islands that seem promising. after that we will sail to salvador to wait for ther next crew members, and get ready for the ocean.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Itaparica,
Two events today, first, the resurrection of our windvane jesus, which broke during the last atlantic crossing. he is now back in commission, and second the exchange of our little canoe with another dinghy. a german couple on another boat got this little boat built for them in cabo verde of the coast of africa, but realized that it was too heavy and bulky for their little 35ft dufour so they were trying to sell it. they saw my canoe and asked me if i wanted to trade, so we did. the new boat is very cute, but leaking like a sieve. it has a little mast and a little sail, also that could be improved, and a pair of oars…
otherwise same old grind on karaka, helping other boats with  some jobs, drinking a lot of caipirinia, the local rum drink, playing accordeon with friends, making pizzas on the barbecue on karaka, etc etc. the weather settled and it is really lovely those days.
an italian guy on a lovely wooden gaff rigged cutter, just gave me loads of charts for the north of brasil, including the river systems of the amazon, and it looks incredible… i m really looking forward to exploring all that.
tobin is adapting well to the life on board, and we are waiting for the next 2 crew member to arrive in a week to set sail north. 

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Itaparica,
nursing a severe hangover today…
we are still in itaparica but we will sail to frade island tomorrow, stay there a couple days then sail to salvador.
two people should arrive wednesday, alejandro from buenos aires and sarim from toronto.
then we ll get ready and sail away as soon as possible for the north. 

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Centro Nautico marina, Salvador de bahia
so we left itaparica with tobin, and sailed to ilha de frade, about 10 miles north. in itaparica it was getting epic, there is a nice bunch of sailors there, young people with very nice boats and we were always invited for a drink somewhere…
in frade we just chilled out, clean the underwater hull and explored a bit the jungle. we then motored 15 miles to salvador, there was no wind at all. we picked up a mooring in front of the marina downtown. the same night arrived alejandro, a 31 years old argentinian.
the next day i went to extend my visa and the boat customs. sarim arrived on the 1st . he is a 28 years old pakistanese, living now in toronto canada.
We are getting ready to leave tomorrow morning for maceio, about 300 miles north. there should arrive christine a 40 years old canadian woman.

Friday, August 08, 2008

maceio, alagoas, brasil
we are anchored in town, 100 meters away from the cargo terminal and 200 meters away from some favelhas… it is not the nicest spot…
we had a fast but rough trip, the weather was constantly changing, with frequent rain squalls, so we had to reef, and shake the reef and re reef all the time. the sea got very confused because of that and the crew got fairly seasick… but we made it. karaka is built for this kind of weather, we flew at over 7 knots most of the time.
today the 5th crew member christine is arriving from canada, we will go do a bit of shopping and then tomorrow morning we will set sail again, headed for the island of tatuaco near the port of suape, about 200 miles north of here. it is supposed to be a very nice spot. we won t be able to linger too long though, as both tobin and sarim have to jump on their respective planes around the 19th in fortalezza, a good 600 miles away.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fortaleza, Brasil
So, what happened since maceio…
christine arrived, no problem and settled on board. we left the next day as maceio wasn’t a very nice spot.
the next anchorage was 90 miles away and it took us just overnight to get there. it is a port called suape, with an entrance through a reef inside a lagoon. we couldn’t get very far in because it was very shallow. we hit the bottom a couple time before i gave up trying. we anchored in front of the island of tatuoca, in perfectly calm water, with big breakers about 30 meteres away, on the other side of the reef. next to us was a long white sand beach with coconut trees, and nobody whatsoever.
Ale and tobin got the kite out and were surfing almost non stop for 3 days. it seems that it was a perfect spot for kite boarding. on the second day i took the dinghy and sailed a couple miles to the nearest village, did some internet, bought some groceries, and then struggled for a couple hours to come back against the wind.
the next day sarim decided he wanted to go to town too, so he asked me if it was ok, i told him it would be very hard for him to sail back into the wind given he doesn’t know how to sail, but he went anyway. after many adventures he finally made it back in the night, having found a good soul to tow him back to the boat.
we left tatuoca on the 13th, mostly because tobin got a flight from fortaleza on the 19th and it is a 500 miles trip. we would have stayed longer otherwise.
the sailing went very well, quiet rolly at first but fast. the first night we caught a drifting net and had to tow it until the morning as i couldn’t see anything in the dark to get it out. it slowed us down but we still did 126 miles that day. no damage.
the second day was faster, still with a big cross swell, and we covered 170 miles. we rounded cabo sao roques, the “corner” of brasil, and then headed straight for fortaleza. the 3rd day we covered 172 miles, and arrived in the harbor last night after 80 hours at sea.  As we were getting in town, we noticed that the moon was disappearing… we didn’t expect it but there was a moon eclipse…
we came inside a marina, as i have been warned that anchoring anywhere else in town would be risky. there has been numerous night robbery on yacht in the past few years. so we went inside the marina, but in the dark i didn’t see a mooring with a small buoy and the line got wrapped around the propeler. so it was a bit of a struggle to pick up another mooring without the engine, and this morning we dove with Ale to entangled the mess. we had to cut some of it.
now we are properly moored, in front of a 5 star hotel. the guys couldn’t resist last night and went ashore, there was very loud live music not far, and they came back with some pizza.
this morning everybody is gone to have a shower and hang out ot the pool, might as well enjoy the luxury while it is available. Ale is taking a bus to a village about 40km south to visit a friend of him and kite surf a bit. His girlfriend Ardy, from holand, is flying to brasil on the 26 and should meet us in sao luis. Tobin and sarim are going to leave us from here in a few days.
we’ll stay until the 20th, then we’ll sail north to sao luis, an old colonial town about 400 miles farther north. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fortaleza, Ceara state, Brasil
We are tied down stern to in a little marina, behind a 5 stars hotel complex. 
all is going well, we are sorting things out to leave today. Sarim and tobin left yesterday, so we are left 3 one board, with christine and alejandro.
from here we are going to sail further north along the coast to the city of sao luis, about 400 miles away, where we will be joined by Ardy, Alejandro ‘s girlfriend, on the 27th. we might stop on the way at a place called jerycoaracoara, a hippy hang out. but only if the anchorage is good which is far from certain looking at the map.
ale just came back from a short trip down the coast to visit a friend of him in a kite surfing mecca which i forgot the name. he had a good time there, and actually met up with some pro kitesurfers…
 otherwise nothing much, i’m studying all i can for our trip up the amazon, since i have wifi internet on the boat here in the marina. i downloaded all the googleearth satelite pictures i could, checked websites about the conditions and all that.
it seems the biggest problem up the amazon is floatsam, random stuff floating down current and which form floating islands, which get caught in the chain when you are anchored and creates all kind of problems. those islands need to be avoided while moving but when anchored, they get stuck in the chain, and you need to go in the water to hack at it with a machete, dodging giant spiders, anacondas 3 meters long, piranhas and caimans… sounds lovely.
another major concern are shifting sand banks, and the total lack of accurate charts, associated with the strong current. we can’t really do any damage to karaka by hitting a sand bank except from taking the paint off, but getting off the sand bank might be a worry. anyway, if i was doing all i can to avoid risk i would not be taking my boat up the amazon river, i would probably work in a cubicle for an insurance company…
otherwise i have been researching the pirate threat in the amazon, since people keep telling me how brave i am and how scared we must be about the matter. in fact there is no problem, the rumor of river pirates started when sir Blake on the expedition boat sea master, got shot at the mouth of the river in 2001. the locals say it was a very unusual attack, that blake resisted, even shouting guns and wounding one of the attackers, and that obviously it ended with the attackers killing him. i researched the whole history, and i haven’t found a single report of pirate attack on the amazon except for this one… the local tour companies skippers say that the river is safe and that they don’t even carry guns. so i think it is all inflated from nothing, once more… it appears that there is actually an interest in that, since most yacht now hire guides and police escort when they sail up the river, and i guess that has to be a good business for the locals…
as well, it seems that blake was actively denouncing the logging companies and their terrible practice of deforestation, and i’ve encountered the theory that the attackers were actually hired thugs and that it was not a robbery but a hit. the same website mentions many land based activists being shot in the amazon area when they get a bit too noisy about deforestation.
anyway, there is probably a risk of being robbed, like everywhere else, but i don’t think we need to be scared about it… navigation will be challenging enough… we’ll have to be careful in cities, because it is where robbers actually board yachts, and there is more risk in sao luis or belem than anywhere else… and those are not pirates, they are down to earth poor people tempted by the riches you are displaying in front of their slum. fair enough really. i don’t want to be robbed but i really can’t blame them.
today we are getting the boat ready, going for groceries and tying down everything. we’ll leave this evening or maybe first thing in the morning tomorrow.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Belem, para river, Brasil
we arrived in belem yesterday. we left from fortalezza and went to a place called jericoaracoara, a backpacker heaven along the coast. one of those very touristy spots with ultra cool people hanging out with the local rastas. a bit like disney land.
we had a bit of an adventure there. in the afternoon the wind picked up while we were in town so i swam back to the boat on my own to make sure everything was ok. later on, christine and Ale took the dinghy to come back to karaka, but with the wind and the current, they missed the boat and ended up rowing for 1h30, finally making a landfall a couple miles farther down the beach. they were headed for africa… they managed to get a ride back to karaka, and in the morning we had to go and get the dinghy.
after that we kept going till the saoluis estuary. we couldn t anchor in town as the tide is very important and the river dries in front of sao luis half the time. so we were a few miles out, near a ferry landing. ale went to spent the night and picked up ardy, his girlfriend at the airport. we then kept going, tried to stop at ilha de lencois but the wind and the tide were against us and we had to keep going once more.
we entered the para river on the 30th, rode the tide up to a little village and stoped for the night there, had a pizza and a beer, then in the morning we proceded to the city of belem, about 80 miles inland.
we anchored in front of a dilapidated yacht club in the south of town, in the middle of a favela… my brother pierre was waiting for me at the airport.
the area is not very safe, so we keep a watch at night, and we will try not to linger too long. we have to buy food and various things in preparation of the month long trip up the river.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Breves, middle of nowhere, Brasil
we ve hit town after our first stint of river boating. all went fairly well, but i won t extend because internet is really slow and quiet unreliable and because i m craving for a cold beer…
we had minor disasters, including running aground on a sand bank, overheating the main engine, lack of rain so no water to shower, and a steamy weather… otherwise pretty exciting tip, wild wild, although very populated, little huts everywhere and many local boats around.
Ale and ardy left us a few days ago in curralinho, went back to belem then off to aruba for some beach time.
yesterday i turned 28, it never stops…
today we have a new crew member, ludovit, from eastern europe. he just flew from iceland and is a bit shell shocked from his 55 hours trip and big temperature contrast.
we ll be in town for a few days, last occasion to get supplies. fix everything that needs fixing and do a bit of internet before heading for the deep jungle.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

breves, ilha de marajo, Brasil
we are setting out this afternoon with the tide. we try to have the current with us when we move as it can flow at more than 4 knots so it really makes a difference. the tide is still felt that far inland, although the water is not salty anymore.
the stay in breves was nice, but it is time to go. we tied to the public dock in the center of town and it was very convenient for going ashore. there even was a bar with cold beers 20 meters away. at the same time we had a constant string of curious locals just passing by or shamelessly staring at us,  some stayed for hours, just staring. each time one of us did anything on deck, dishes, reading or just having a drink, a crowd would be there gaping, commenting, laughing etc. it was funny at first but after a while it become embarrassing, we feel like we are animals in a zoo.
otherwise we had a good time, some friendly locals took on them to show us the place and make us feel welcome. a kid called michello came several time, and even invited us for lunch at his parents place on saturday. we had the traditional dish of feijoada, beans and rice, with river fish.
the other night a capueira group perform in the street next to the dock. capueira is a kind of dance/martial art, mostly seen in bahia near salvador. it started as a slave thing and now has become part of the brasilian culture. the capueiristas dress in white and make a circle, a few of them play a very rythmic music with drums and bow instruments, everybody sings and claps hands, and they take turns to confront each other in the middle of the circle. they fight without touching, on rythm with the music. the moves get very elaborate and fast, and they are really impressive. some of them would do a backflip just like that to avoid a kick. usually, capueira is become a tourist attraction, in salvador for example, you couldn t glance at them performing without one of them coming asking for some cash. here they were just doing it more traditionally, and a crowd of locals came to watch. very congenial, a bit of a magic moment.
breves is a 60 000 people town, the biggest one in this area, and is built around the river harbor. it was started mainly from the wood and rubber boom. there are countless logging companies around. it seems that para is the major area for deforestation. it is not our place to say anything about it but it is kind of sad to see the forrest being sold away like that. the locals seem to think it is all benefit, enabling them to make money, develop, buy cars, bikes and tvs, have more kids, etc…oh well, humanity is like that, we think we own the place.
we still havent had any rain, although we had a couple strong winds that ripped the tarp, and we had to spend 2 days sewing it. the lack of rain is a problem because i was relying on it for drinking water and also for showering and dishes. the water from the river is very dirty and full of parasites, leeches whatever you want, so it doesn t feel like we can use that. i had to buy 400 liters of mineral water in big jugs for the drinking water and a pump with filter to try using the river water for cleaning.
i think i figured out the main engine overheating. first, it is so hot that it naturally runs hotter, but at the same time i had a problem with the water strainer, a kind of filter, that kept a air bubble that prevented the water to circulate. i fixed that and we went for a trial run the engine behaved better, also still running hot. we ll have to be careful.
this after noon we are going out. it looks like we will have to follow the ferry route most of the time because i have been warned it can get very shallow at spots. the good thing is that the ferries get through and their draft is the same as karaka, so it means there is a way… the bad thing is that this way changes all the time with the sand banks shifting and that there are no maps available for this stretch of the river.
It should take us 2 or 3 weeks to reach macapa, the next town, on the amazon river itself. so far we sailed on the para river, the one that passes through belem. there is a maze of canals between the para and the amazon, one of them the one we are on at the moment. it is a couple miles wide at the most, and winds through the jungle for a few hundred miles.
ok, off we are

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Santana, Amazon river, brasil,
we made it safely across the narrows between the para river and the amazon. we are reting in town now, santana is the ferry teminal for the bigger city of macapa.
i ll try to write down a good account of the trip inland but for the moment i don t feel like it..
we are staying in town just long enough to check out of brasil, passport customs and all that, resupply, and then head out for sea , nice breeze and clean salty water… we are going to arrive in french guyana in about 10 days, in kourou probably.
it doesn t look we will need crew for the next few months, my parents are going to come visit me in november until christmas…

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Santana, Rio amazona, Brasil,
 
So we crossed between the Rio Para and the Rio Amazona. We started in Belem, a major city in the state of Para, went to Curralinho, then Breves, through some very narrow rivers and on to Macapa, the capital of the state of Amapa, covering about 350 miles on fresh water canals. We are still about 100 nautical miles inland, but from here to the sea it is a very wide delta. There are cargos and tankers anchored in front of Macapa, and basically except the water is brown and not salty, it is equivalent to being back at sea…
 
The trip between Breves to here took us about 10 days. We were 4 on board, with my brother Pierre, Christine from Canada and Ludovit from Iceland who joined us in Breves. We motored about 4 or 5 hours a day, and anchored every night in a little brook. I chose to go through the narrowest parts of the river so as to see the remotest areas of this already remote part of the world. At times we had the branches of the trees touching the boat on both side. Most of the time it was less than 100 meters wide. In the narrows it is almost always deep enough to go through with Karaka, but we got stuck on sand banks twice when we got out into the delta itself which is very much shallower. Nautical charts are inexistant for this part of the river. Both times we got off after waiting a bit for the tide. Not a very pleasant experience anyway. No dammage was done to the boat except taking some bottom paint off.
I navigated mostly using google earth satelite pictures that I had saved on my computer. It Is very accurate, and the program gives you the coordinates of the cursor so coupled with the GPS we always knew exactly where we were. That meant we could without any risk of getting lost make our way away from the ferry routes, and we were able to go through some amazing places.
 
We saw very little wildlife, no anacondas, no monkeys, no colorful aras… I don’t know where they were… we saw a couple tarantulas. One made its way on board one day, we had to chase it away. In a walking position it was about as big as the palm of the hand. We found another smaller one a few days later, that we captured while it was swimming in the river.
We didn’t catch any piranhas, but not from lack of trying… we even met a local fisherman who took us with him and showed us how to fish in the river, we also helped him to set his lines and nets. He gave us some bait, shrimps and catfish, but we didn’t catch anything.
We saw a lot of people setting traps. One day I asked a man what he was catching with them and he told me it was shrimps. About one hour later, his wife came up with a basket full of dried shrimps, tiny ones, and she gave them to us. We gave her some cookies in exchange.
 
The natives were very shy but very curious about us at the same time. Everywhere we went it was populated, mostly centered on logging companies, some very small business, family size, where they go pick a single hard wood tree in the forest and then bring it back to the mill. We never saw any clear cuts. I think they are farther inland. All along the river, every couple hundred meters, there was a hut with a little dock and a boat. At every settlement with more than a few houses, there would be a church.
As we passed, legions of kids would jump in their dugout to come and see us from closer, waving and pointing. The people we talked to said they had never seen a yacht before. It all look pretty much the same after a while but it was interesting. Usually there is no bank, the jungle starts right from the water, and shoot straight up for 20 or 30 meters. Walking ashore is near impossible, it is mostly swamps and mud, and the vegetation is very dense. It gets scary as well. One guy who showed us around one day refused to take us in the forest as he had left his gun and machete in another boat. I don’t know what they have in there that is dangerous but if a local refuses to go in unarmed, I won’t go on my own.
 
We didn’t have any problem with mosquitoes since we had made screens for all the windows and doors and christine was closing everything as soon as the sun started going down. After finding the big spider on deck we were especially careful also. So far nobody seem to have contracted any nasty decease or got stung by anything…
 
Here in santana, we are tied to a couple wooden post about 5 meters from the ferry terminal. It is a never ending stream of local boats, loading everything you can imagine, and also a lot of passengers, all staring at us… the town is nothing to look at, it is fairly recent, with square streets and shaggy buildings, all quiet dirty. The people are friendly though, they don’t see many tourists. At the same time the only one they see are french expats on a binge, looking for cheap women. The french guyana border is half a day away.
 
So we have to wait here for the offices to open on monday to check out of the country. From here we will head back to sea and then sail the 300 miles up the coast to kourou in french guyana. We will stay there a bit, pierre needs a new passport, ludovit got mails coming from his parents, we will have to wait for visas for suriname, and we’ll set sail again and meet my parents in paramaribo on the first of november. They are coming for a couple months visit.
 
I seems like christine and ludovit are having a good time on board and they don’t plan to leave anytime soon. Pierre will leave us in suriname. He doesn’t know yet where he’ll go after that, he talks about buying a car and driving up to alaska or else take a plane to africa to visit a friend of him in cameroon…
 
With my parents coming we won’t need crew until around christmas, but those interested to join should let me know anyway so I can organize the next leg of the trip. We will have to avoid venezuela as the pirate attacks are getting more and more violent there, and i’m thinking instead about crossing up to cuba and then to sail down belize and central america to get to panama before the start of the next hurricane season. That’s the rough plan for the first half of 2009…

Friday, October 10, 2008

Kourou, French Guyana

back in france…
We sailed out of the amazon during the last days of september, there was about 100 miles of river to navigate between macapa and the sea, and we had to motor all the way out.
once in the open ocean we could sail again and it took us a little under 3 days to get here.
We are now anchored inside a river, in front a the small town of kourou. french guyana is a french department, making it legally a part of france, and so it is very developed, and expensive… on the other hand they have all the french products, including cheese, wine, fresh bread, croissants, etc…

We are going to stay here another week or so before sailing the 200 miles north toward paramaribo in suriname; my parents are going to come visit in november.

Friday, October 17, 2008

kourou, French guyana

i checked out of french guyana this morning. we are going to set sail tomorrow for paramaribo in suriname. it is a short crossing, about 200 miles and we should be there monday or tuesday at the latest.

We spent the last few days moored at the iles du salut, the old penal colony. they are 3 little islands about 10 miles offshore and they are a real paradise… now the jail is in ruin and vegetation is taking over, giving an eerie feel to the place. some buildings are very creepy, you feel evil seeping out of the wall and the bars of the cells, but the rest is extremely good looking and peaceful.

in paramaribo we will wait for my parents to arrive at the beginning of november. i think we will work on the deck, killing rust and refreshing the paint.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Domburg, Suriname,
So we had a short little crossing from Kourou to here, nothing important happened. in this area the trade wind dominates and the conditions rarely change. There is a strong current pushing us as well so altogether it makes for easy sailing.
We entered the suriname river 2 days ago, and motored about 20 miles in, passed the main town Paramaribo where there are no anchorages to a little spot called Domburg, where all the yachts are moored. There are about a dozen boats there, mostly dutch, on government mooring. The river is very calm so the anchorage is perfect and ashore is a plaza with all the needs, restaurants where you can get  a meal with beer for 3 euros, bars, internet, bus station, supermarket, etc etc. The yachties have a little community going, they are for the most part older couples, who kind of settled here and don t really plan to go anywhere anymore.
We will settle here too for a while. My parents are flying in early november, so while we wait for them we will do some maintenance, the deck is getting seriously rusty and needs some attention. There are various minor jobs to take care of as well. When my parents arrive we will sail up river, it looks like we can go pretty far into the jungle. Otherwise there is nothing much else to do with a boat in suriname, so I think we will mostly chill out.
Early december we will let my parents go on their own visit the interior and we will sail to tobago, about 500 miles in the north west. We will need crew for this passage, as pierre is going to leave us. There is already a couple crew members scheduled to join once we arrive in tobago but we could use a couple extra hands for the crossing. Those interested  should contact me as soon as possible.
Something else entirely, ex crew member Brian Young, who now is working on his own boat to get ready to go sailing, send me this sad note about the people of Chagos, the islands in the indian ocean we visited in 2006 and 2007 : http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7683726.stm

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Domburg, Suriname
5 42.228 N – 55 04.927 W
Luis left us yesterday, it just wasn’t working so well between him and the rest of the crew. So on the crew situation, we are 3 on board, with Christine and Pierre. My parents will visit for a month in november and then Pierre will leave at the same time as they do in december, leaving us just 2 on board with Christine. Christine is having a good time on board and is planning on staying several more months. I would like to get one or two more crew members for the crossing north to Tobago early december. Short term crew would be best since my sister is likely to come visit with her boyfriend for the end of the year and there is already one crew member, Genny, from the States, joining us in Tobago december 14th planning to stay untill april or may. After my sister leaves early january I would like to get a total of 4 or 5 crew for the trip to Granada, Jamaica and Cuba. Write to me if you are interested. If you are one of the people I already turned down because we were full crew, then you got a second chance to apply. 
otherwise nothing much, we’ve been struggling to get our visas organized and since we are about 45 minutes away from town by bus it is a lot of commuting. suriname is relaxed and fairly cheap. We are having a good time.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Domburg, Suriname
still in the same spot…
for the past couple weeks we ‘ve been painting the deck, and it is a slow process because we don’t work very hard… it is very hot during the day so we mostly work 2 or 3 hours every morning…
otherwise nothing much has been happening, just taking it easy. the weather is splendid, if a bit hot sometime…
my parents are now in french guyana and they should make it to the boat within the next few days.
there is a crew member scheduled to arrive early december, chris from canada. my parents and pierre should leave at about the same time. we will then sail to tobago and meet the next crew member genny, arriving from the states.
i won’t need anymore crew because after genny there are 2 more crew coming in january, and if all goes well they should all stay for at least a few months…

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Domburg, suriname,
we are heading out tomorrow, for a short river trip, maybe two weeks max, and then we will come back to domburg to finish the painting on the deck and wait for the next crew members, let my parents and my brother continue on their way and then sail to tobago early december
we are full crew until further notice

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Domburg, Suriname
We are back in Domburg, after 10 days up the Cottica river.
we covered about 200 miles on this small arm of the suriname river, going all the way to a town called moengo, where we had to turn around because there was a bridge overhead under which karaka’s mast wouldn’t pass.
The river was very narrow, but always deep enough to navigate. The feel was different from the Amazon, first there weren’t many people living on the shores, at least for the first part, and there was a bit more wildlife. we saw parrots, monkeys and sloths. No anaconda yet and no caimans, although we are told they were there. Millions of bats otherwise.
Amongst the interesting stops, there was New Amsterdam, near the river mouth, which was the first colony. There is a museum there, with a fort and canons scattered everywhere.
We spent a night in a place called Alliance, a early 1900s orange plantation, still in activity. a very calm and relaxed place, in the middle of the jungle. We went up an ever smaller river, barely 50 meters across at the entrance and getting smaller. We anchored in front of a creek and went up it with the kayak, under jungle canopy, wildlife all around, a very nice experience. What else we stoped in front of a marron village, peopled with descendants of escaped slaves, so that the whole population is black and lives according to african customs. On the second part of the river there were several such villages. We didn’t went ashore because it felt a bit like intruding since we hadn’t been invited and as well, other yachties had told us that we could get there bearing gifts for the chief, but somehow it just didn’t feel right. The dutch people usually bring them alcool as gift and it felt to us like explorers bringing beads of glass and fire water, a bit condescendant, and in any case not a good habbit to give anybody… Africa is ruined in places by people who come there bearing gift, so that the locals see visitors as gift bearing wallets. Soon enough everybody ask for gifts and before you know it there is a toll to pay to get through… I’ve seen places where locals would get violent, even if they are 8 years old, if you don’t give them something. Most of the time there no reasons to give anything, you are just passing through and that can get not only expensive but very annoying. No more genuine contact with the locals is possible after that, and that is a shame.
Anyway we just talked with a few people and didn’t linger too long. We also anchored in a few very calm places, in the middle of nowhere, all by ourselves. Not a sound except jungle sound, not a sign of civilization, pure calm.
The only down sides were, first, the local trafic and then the heat. There is a big bauxite mine up river, bauxite is the ore used to make aluminium, and so a couple times a day or even during the night, big barges that almost touch each side of the river, pass by. That means that we can’t anchor anywhere they might pass or they will hit us, and finding a spot is not always easy. We got yelled at a couple times. They seem to think they own the place and that was a bit annoying. The second thing was heat. The river being so small, the wind pass right over the trees and doesn’t come down to give us a breeze, and so we were cooking most of the time… Letargy is the only answer to that and so we were never very active. Siestas were long, many books got read…
lots of mosquitoes too…
But altogether a very nice trip, with the parents enjoying themselves…
Now we are back in Domburg, finishing the paint on deck, the aft deck still needs a few coats. Today I am on my own, everybody went off for a couple days inland, they rented a car, while I stayed to keep the boat(and I have to admit to enjoy having the boat for myself) and finish my painting.
Tomorrow they should come back and the next day we will all go for a day trip to a lake a bit south of here.
My brother Pierre is going to leave us saturday, going to french guyane to get his plane. He is flying to Cameroon, via Paris. In Cameroon he will prospect for a good location for his project of an hostel/rum bar/place for him to let his sloth nature blossom.
My parents will head back to guyanne around the first week of december to fly back to france. they want to try to be in kourou for the launching of the next Arianne 5 rocket.
Christine is still enjoying herself on board and will stay several more months. There is a crew member arriving for sure on the 5th, Chris, from Canada. He plans to stay a couple months or more. There is also an australian guy who might make it here before we set sail, and who would just stay a few weeks, on his way to Haiti.
There’s then Genny, from the States, joining in Tobago on the 14th, and a few others but it is not totally confirmed yet. So we should be full for a while. I had many application for later on, but I can’t say for sure if the ones coming will stay or not and so I can’t say if some bunks are going to free themselves or not. We’ll see. I’d rather keep my crew to be honest.

Monday, December 01, 2008

 Domburg, Suriname,
Yes we are still there…
It has been almost a month and a half… but we are getting ready to set sail, we should be gone next week.
My parents are still with us until we leave here, then they will go back to france via guyanne. My brother pierre is gone now, but there are strikes in french guyane and the roads and the airport are closed so he can’t get away. He was supposed to fly to cameroon, he’ll just have to wait…
Before he left my parents rented a car and we all went for a short trip inland.
Now we just finished the deck paint, it looks slick.
La mere and Christine have bought some fabric and are now doing new covers for the saloon cushions, that should look slick too…
Otherwise new crew are on their way, Chris from canada should arrive on the 6th and there is a last minute one, who is going to sail with us to tobago and then proceed toward haiti. his name is Aaron and he comes from australia. He should arrive before the week end too.
We’ll check out monday the 8th and set sail just after that if all goes well.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Domburg, Suriname
the new crew has arrived. there’s chris from canada and aaron from australia. christine is still on board so we’ll be 4 for the trip to tobago, we’ll check out tomorrow monday and then sail on tuesday.
christine gave away pepin le bref, our tree… it was a small palm tree from the amazon, but i’m afraid they would give trouble in the islands if we show up with plants. as well i don’t think he would have survived long on the ocean. we found a good home for him, there is a couple on a yacht who kind of settled here, and are docked to an island they built out of plastic bottles, on which they can grow a garden.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Charlotteville, tobago
well, as it happens when real life is getting interesting, i haven’t updated the log for a while and now i have a novel to write to keep up. only i don’t really feel like it so i’ll cut short, whoever is disappointed can only blame himself for not being on board…
we left suriname, after making water at a fishery, motored out of the river, got out ot sea in the dark and started sailing. slow trip, not much wind but numerous squalls, rain showers and a fairly confused seas that tossed us around. we didn’t catch any fish but nobody got seriously seasick either so it compensate…we made it in tobago on sunday, and had a row with the officials the next day when i went to check in as i was supposed to go see them forthwith, i ended up having to pay a bakchich but a lot less than the ridiculous fine they at first charged me with. charlotteville is a little sleepy village at the north end of tobago, it is a lovely spot. the anchorage is rolly and we had only rainy weather ever since we arrived but the locals are friendly and the place is relaxed. we are actually anchored in pirate bay. genny joined us when we arrived, she is from california.

today we are still in town but we will go explore a few other bays along the coast for a few days. we have to come back before the middle of next week to let aaron go on his way, he has a plane to haiti where he will join a NGO that is helping with relief for the people there after the string of hurricanes they had this year.

we will spend the end of the year here and i’m planning on sailing to carriacou in grenada early in january because we need to haul out, the paint job we did in brasil is coming off already. there will be two more crew members joining mid january and then we will explore the grenadines before sailing to jamaica. at this point there is no need for more crew, we are already enough, but there will probably be a couple bunks available around mid march, for the trip to cuba.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Charlotteville, Tobago
we’re getting ready to sail out toward carriacou, an island belonging to grenada, about 100 miles to the north west.
all is well on board, check chris’ pictures : http://www.flickr.com/photos/cjf_pictures/

Monday, January 05, 2009

Hillsborough, Carriacou, Grenada
we’re checked in grenada… the trip across from tobago was 100 miles and it took us exactly 16 hours.. the seas were rough but all went well. we stop sunday in front of a luxury hotel on a private island called petit st vincent, that was pretty nice although it was crammed with charter boats, huge catamarans and pink people.
today we had a short sail to the capital of the island for immigration and custom check in, and the next few days we will make our way to the south of the island where there is a shipyard, we will then haul out for about a week.
there are two crew members who should meet us here, kim, from australia and kaleigh form canada. unfortunately for all the other, it looks like we will be full for a long while. the present crew want to stay all the way to cuba. so you can keep checking my website in case i have an opening but i don’t need more applicants at the moment.
on the other hand, i have an old crew member who now has his own boat who will be sailing from key west to yucatan and then meet up with us and sail down central america. he is looking for one or two crew members for this trip. his name is brian, you can see a quick profile of him on my website on the crew page.
here is his email adress:brianontheroad@gmail.com

Friday, January 09, 2009

Tyrrel bay, carriacou, grenada
well, we were scheduled to come out of the water for a week in the local shipyard, but although the advertisement said the crane was 50tons, it was not able to lift karaka, which weights at the most 30 tons… not a disaster, at least it didn’t drop us, but that means i need to find another shipyard now… there are a few on the main island of grenada, i’m checking them out… otherwise nothing to complain, life is beautiful and i attach a photo to show that despite our disappointment we’re doing ok in this wonderful spot…
for more pictures, check chris’ flicker account : http://www.flickr.com/photos/cjf_pictures/

Sunday, January 11, 2009

St David’s Bay, Grenada
we moved south, we are now on the main island of grenada, in front of grenada marine, another shipyard. hopefully we will haul out here tuesday, i booked. the thing is they require an insurance, and i don’t have one, so i am not sure it is really going to happen…
otherwise there is another shipyard further south, we’ll see
the seas were tough, but all went well. we caught a nice 10 pounds dorado on the way, except that i couldn’t hold onto him and he escaped. i actually had him on deck but he slipped away… good for him, he was a survivor…
here we have wifi on the boat again, i’m surprised each time, everywhere we got here is free internet.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Grenada marine shipyard, st davids, grenada
we are on dry land… the haul out went fine, we had to wait all day to get our turn, it is a pretty busy place. so we haven’t started the work yet, just getting ourselves organised. the paint from brazil is peeling right off, we will have a fair amount of removal to do, and then we will apply a few coats of primer and one coat of antifouling. i don’t want to do too good a job as i plan a bigger haul out in panama in six months or so. this is just to get us going to jamaica and cuba and honduras…
the paint coming off is certainly due to our stay up river in brazil, guyane and suriname, i think the fresh water caused a reaction to the paint which is designed for sea water. in any case it didn’t stick at all…
we have wifi internet, electricity, water, hot showers, palm fronted beach about 50 meters away, and a little beach bar. we are not faring too bad…
check us on google earth :
12 1.385 N  61 40.720 W

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Grenada marine, St david’s, grenada
a week on the hard, we have been sanding and painting and doing a bit of work, we are now ready to head back to the water, and hopefully they will take us this morning. the whole thing went pretty well with everybody helping, no major surprises, karaka looks wonderful with new paint, and i welded back jesus the windvane which was trying to run away from the boat…
we got two new crew members, making a total of 6 now on board. there’s still christine, chris, and genny, plus now kaleigh from canada and kim from australia. of all those people there are no departure date planned, so the crew is complete and will remain so for at least a few months. there are boats in the area that i now of that are looking for crew so if you are looking for a crew position just ask me the adresses.
once back in the water we will sail to st georges, the capital of grenada, which is about 20 or 30 miles away. in town we will spent a few days getting ready for the 700 miles crossing to jamaica.
check chris’s blog for the pictures : http://gutd-chris.blogspot.com/

Monday, January 26, 2009

St Georges’ lagoon, Grenada
we are anchored in the middle of town, getting ready with the last things before seting sail for jamaica.
after leaving the shipyard in st davids, we sailed a few miles down the coast to hog island, a very secluded anchorage with about 20 boats there. We had a few nice days of exploring and partying on the beach, we had a big barbecue with fish and chicken while we were playing drum and swinging fire.
we’ve been in town for a few days, at first outside the harbor and now closer to town.
i will check out grenada tomorow morning and we will leave wednesday morning.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

We’re offshore. 
I write this in St Georges, Grenada, we are all set to go. We have about 900 miles to get to the next possible stop, a small island group just east of Jamaica called Morant Cays. We’ll stay there a few days then go to Port Antonio, the port of entry into Jamaica on the north east coast. We will be out of touch for a bit less than 2 weeks.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Port Antonio, jamaica
we made it… we had a fairly fast trip, it took us 7 days to cover a little over 900 miles. we couldn’t make it to morant cays as the weather was rough and the anchorage doesn’t offer much protection there . we broke jesus the autopilot once more, i’ll need to resurrect it once more… it is becoming an habit, that’s the 4th time… i’ll wait for cuba to do it though, a welder day wage might be cheap there and i guess they will be good at fixing things like that. here i’m afraid they would just tell me it is fucked beyond repair…
we are anchored in the west harbor in port antonio, a calm and relaxed place. the town is small and reggae is blasting out of everywhere. we were a bit concerned about security in jamaica, everybody kept telling us it was a hell hole, but in fact it is not so…quiet the opposite.  we’re having the best time, the locals are very friendly and food is good, prices are low, it’s just great.
i’ll pass on the details, we are having party after party, there’s a bunch of guys in the marina next to us who hang out around the girls, there’s also a couple rastas i met the other night who keep inviting us around… tonight we’re having barbecued chicken on the back of karaka, i’m going at 3pm to visit al pancho’s recording studio, al pancho is a funny young rasta i met one night and he gave me his cd, and now he want us to go and see where he plays music. that could be nice…
otherwise i got myself a new bike, a nice little bmx, to replace the one i got stolen in namibia. we lost the kayak paddle as well, i need to find a new one.
on the crew front, everybody is doing good, but chris, from canada, is leaving us within the next few days… he got other plans sorted and he found out it would be complex for him to fly out of cuba, so he will go from here. that leaves one bunk free for the taking…
so I already asked a few friends if they were interested, but for all of you i turned down recently, contact me again as soon as possible if you want to stand a chance to sail with karaka and it lovely crew to cuba. the deal is that it has to be a guy, he must be able to show up here as soon as possible( before we leave jamaica) and stay at least until we arrive in the bay islands in honduras in may. since we are many on board, the weekly participation is reduced to 75 euros.
we have wifi to the boat so internet is not a problem just drop me a line

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Port Antonio, jamaica
well, it’s been an interesting place… i don’t really feel like writing the details, but to sumarize, if anybody ever tells you jamaica is a hell hole, don’t believe them… we had a wonderfull time so far…
we’re sailing tomorow to st ann’s bay, about 45 miles to the west. we’ll stay there for a few days, probably over the week end, then sail to montego bay to get all the supplies before heading for cuba.
we still have one bunk available, anyone interested should contact me as soon as possible and start looking for flights into jamaica before the end of the month.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Montego bay, Jamaica
we arrived here last night, after a nice downwind sail from st ann’s bay. we stayed over the weekend in st ann’s bay, a little village behind a reef. genny and kaleigh went away for 3 days, to visit a friend of genny and also to go check out bob marley’s birthplace and mausoleum. with the others we stayed on the boat and chilled, away from the city. we went snorkeling, and basicaly didn’t do much more than read, swim and drink rum…
now we are in the big town, it feels more like florida than jamaica but that’s ok as we are here mainly for grocery shopping , last internet and getting ready for 2 months in cuba.
there is still one bunk available for cuba, contact me as soon as possible if you are interested, we’re leaving next week.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Montego Bay, Jamaica,
we’re still in town, waiting for favorable weather to tackle the 250 miles to cienfuegos, cuba.
we got a big chunk of the grocery in today, more to get, fresh stuff mostly. life going well, the town is very touristy but we manage to have a good time anyway.
i haven’t got anybody fitting the profile to join us for the cuba trip… maybe we’ll find somebody in cuba, but change of crew is restricted there so it might not be easy.
anybody interested and able to join within the next few days should contact me as soon as possible

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

despite what the main page of the website says, we haven’t left yet… there is a norther blow so we are waiting a couple days for it to pass over. at the same time, genny and kaleigh went ashore to party last night, and came back this morning with a new crew member : her name is Ammy, she’s a canadian student and she will very likely sail with us to cuba for the next month or so.
otherwise nothing much, i’m also waiting on a guy who is selling a kayak, i hope the deal comes through… the day is gray and cold otherwise, kim and christine are on board with me while the others went to town.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cienfuegos, Cuba
We made it, all is fine. 4 of the girls are now going their way so we could take a few new crew members, contact me asap.
we had a ball in the island and the city is unreal as well.
just check the pictures :

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cayo Largo del sur, Cuba,
 
Well, where to start… If I start from the beginning people are not going to be able to survive the suspense, if I start from the end they’ll be shocked… I’ll have to be concise as well, internet is a mess and I have to write with one hand…
 
So…
We left Cienfuegos with Kim and a new crew member called Brandon, from Canada. All the other girls had left to go travel inland in cuba. I got jesus the windvane fixed, renting the services of a local welder. We sailed to cayo guano del este, which is a rock with only a lighthouse on it, more or less 50 miles away. We stayed only overnight as it was very rolly. We then sailed to cayo sal, another rock. There there were 3 other boats, and nothing else, the island being mostly limestone and shrubs. We planned on staying there a week before proceeding to cayo largo, a very developed island with a marina and many all inclusive resorts about 25 miles further west. The water was very nice and we spent our time exploring, catching and eating fish(including a 30 lbs/ 4ft long grouper), salvaging stuff from the local wreck (a charter catamaran washed on the reef), snorkeling, and being attacked by barracudas…
 
The last one is not a joke, I’m writing with only one hand at the moment because I got 40 stitches on my left arm, 2 fingers are still dead and although my artery and my tendons are spliced up and functional, I am still missing about 5 cm of my cubital nerve and I need to head back to la havana Sunday for my second operation, a nerve graft, which should give me back the full use of my left hand… I’m fine but it has been a very close call, and I’ still in a lot of pain.
 
So here goes the story :
We were anchored in this lovely spot of cayo sal on saturday the 4th. All the other boats left that morning and we were enjoying the place by ourselves. For lunch we had the last of the grouper on the barbecue and then I decided to go catch some lobsters for diner. I went with my gun, and brandon followed me in the kayak while kim stayed on karaka. As we were going, a charter catamaran showed up and anchored about a mile away. I swam about half a mile to the western tip of the island without seeing anything, and the current was strong against me, so I was moving very slowly. I was over sand and weed, with nothing around but a few turtles and the usual bunch of barracudas. I was looking for lobsters so I told brandon I wanted to swim toward the reef where they where most likely to be found. I had a good 200 meters to go so brandon in the meantime went to take some pictures of the wrecked catamaran, a few hundreds meters away. While he was away, 2 big trevally jacks, excellent food, passed by, so I shot one. He was about 20 lbs and my shot didn’t kill him so he was bleeding and struggling madly, while the second fish was getting frantic as well. Brandon was too far to come back quickly, so I decided to head for the shore, about 50 meters away, so as to get the fish out of the water. I was at the surface, in about 4 or 5 meter of water . Before I could go anywhere, a massive barracuda arrived, very excited and making passes on the fish at the end of my spear, 12 ft from me. I tried to go away but by then the very distressed jack figured I was less dangerous than the barracuda and came straight for me, literally giving me a hug. I pushed him away and tried to put distance between him and me but the barracuda kept coming, and in the struggle, grabbed my left fore arm… I’ve still got nightmares about that moment. I pulled my arm out of the water and tried to get the fish off me with my right hand, but he was gnawing at me with all he had, I could hear his teeth grinding on my bones. He finally let go, ripping off a chunk of flesh about 5cm wide, leaving the bone exposed. That didn’t feel too good… It was not painful right away but I was in the water by my own, 50 meters from shore, with blood spurting from a huge wound at every heart beat. At the same time the 5ft barracuda, having enjoyed a mouthful of me, was probably by then eager for more and also yelling to his friends that I was pretty tasty…
 
I grabbed my arm and tried to stop the bleeding and started swimming toward shore while yelling like a maniac. Both brandon and kim heard me, brandon figured right away that it was not a yell meaning I had found a lobster and started paddling toward me as fast as he could. Kim, being Australian, figured I had been attacked by a shark and was already missing a leg. I made it to shore without being attacked a second time, probably because all the other barracudas were by then fighting for the dying jack at the end of my spear. The shore was a cliff of barnacle covered limestone, the sharpest, most dangerous thing to climb even in normal time, and there was substantial swell crashing into it. I made it, I can’t figure how. I remember lots of blood and kicking my fins off, but nothing else, and I didn’t even cut myself doing it. Once on dry land I took a look at my arm, where I was, and I saw myself dead. Survival instinct kicked in and I started yelling and running toward karaka. Stumbling over and holding my arm. Brandon arrived but there was nowhere to land and the kayak is a one person kayak. Kim didn’t have any means to come get me because the dinghy was still on the deck of karaka, and there was nobody else around, but the charter catamaran, out of sight around the corner. We got the kayak as close as possible and luckily I had run far enough so that the swell was much smaller there. I jumped in the kayak, but not being very clear headed by then, I tipped it over. We both went in the water, which was really scary, but brandon managed to get back in the boat while I managed to climb on a rock. The second try was successful , although I totally covered him with blood. I was sitting in front of him and he was paddling, but the kayak was riding very low with two passengers and we were sitting in a pool of blood and water. Half way to the boat I apparently almost tipped the kayak again but brandon managed to keep it up right. Barracudas were following us by then, smelling the blood. We made it to the boat, kim had prepared the first aid kit, boiled some water and cleared the deck, so I climbed on board and lay down while she got a compress and put it on my wound to try to stop the bleeding. Brandon got his first aid certificate, so he saved my life while kim tried to get help on the radio. We managed to stop the bleeding, but I started to feel pain and to get into shock from blood loss. Nobody answered the radio so I sent kim on the kayak to the charter boat, a good mile away. Once she got there, she had to go get the cuban captain, out spearfishing for lobsters, while the german tourists tried to understand what had happened. The cuban captain was a guy we had met in cienfuegos, and he immediately called the marina in cayo largo for medical help. The marina sent a speed boat with a doctor. In the time it took the doctor to arrive, the catamaran came and rafted alongside karaka. I had to wait an hour and a half for the boat to arrive, during which time I came out of shock. We decided that kim would come with me and that brandon would stay on karaka by himself. He never spent much time on a sail boat but being pretty handy I figured he could take care of emergencies, and I got my mind off my pain by coaching him on everything. We knew there was a storm forecasted, and that this anchorage would get critical in a few days, so we assured him that at least kim would be back with an experienced captain to take karaka to safety.
 
The rescue boat wasn’t an ambulance but a sport fishing boat with only one doctor on board, only a first aid kit and no serious revival gear. He had no blood to give me, so he tried to give me an IV with some clear liquid instead, but the boat was rolling too much and after ruining my inner arm, he gave up. I was pretty much stable by then, and fully conscious. He decided not to do much until we arrived in cayo largo, given the conditions. About ¾ into the trip I got an urgent need to take a piss, so they handed me a can and left me alone, but while I was doing my business, something burst and I started spurting blood all over the place again. By the time the medic arrived I had lost a lot more blood. He manage to stop the bleeding but we learned later that I should have died then. Apparently I have a very high hemoglobine count or some special hemoglobine regeneration ability, I don’t have the details, but basically when I arrived at the clinic at cayo largo, I still had a normal hemoglobine count, even after missing a chunk of artery for nearly 3 hours and losing all that blood. So I made it… they transferred me to the clinic, which was a mere 100 meters away from the dock, and fixed me up. They don’t do drugs in cuba so I didn’t have the blessing of morphine right away, and the pain while they were cleaning and stitching my wounds was the most severe I ever experienced. I managed not to pass out but my yell were heard far and wide… cuba has one of the best heath care systems in the world, and although they lack supplies, they are extremely efficient and competent. They didn’t have blood in cayo largo either, so they garroted me and sent me on a military plane to la havana, where I got an operation the same night. They fixed my tendons, my artery, my muscles, and stitched it all up, (40 stitches), under full anaesthesia. They couldn’t fix my nerve because I’m missing more than 5 cm of it, and need a graft, an operation that can only be done if the wound is healed a bit, otherwise the graft is rejected. So I spent a week in the hospital. My little finger and the one just next to it, plus the palm of my hand and the underside of the arm all the way to the wound are like dead to this day, but with a lot of pain in the whole area, from muscles rebuilding, wound healing, stitches stretching and mostly from the dead nerve giving me jolts of pain like when you hit the funny bone on your elbow, but pretty much continuously.
 
Kim got the help of several yachties in the marina to go get karaka and brandon, and karaka is now safely docked in the marina. My dad came from france to take care of whatever needed to be taken care off. We had some trouble getting through the phone to france, for insurance and all but we found out that it was better to stay in cuba, since the service is top class and very cheap. Kim came to visit me for a few days in havana, as did ex crew member christine who was in town waiting for her flight back to canada after going all over cuba with ammy and genny. The two other girls came to visit too. All those people helped me feel better, since being stuck on a bed between four white walls with only a TV for company nearly drove me mad. It has been several years since I hadn’t had a remote controle in my hand, TV drives me nuts. They released me last monday and I’m now back on the boat. The wound is healing properly, and there is no signs of infection. I am heading back to havana sunday to get my second operation on monday. Kim is coming with me this time and my dad is staying on the boat. Brandon took off for a couple weeks exploring cuba by land and should come and visit us in the hospital to check what’s up.
 
That’s it for the story. As for the plan for the near future, it is all up in the air. We don’t know yet if the operation will be successful, and if it is, how long it will take me to recover and be safe to go sailing again. We hope it won’t take too long, but who knows. There is a new crew member arriving on the 23rd from the states. Her name is jillayne and she will stop in havana in order to visit the city with kim while I recover from the operation.
 
Brandon should come back some time, if we have a chance to leave cayo largo before too long. Otherwise we will probably need some other crew, preferably with some sailing experience, for the crossing out of cuba. We can’t stay here for the cyclone season which starts at the end of may/beginning of june. The original plan was to sail to honduras after exploring the islands south of cuba, but with all that I guess we’ll have to skip it and sail straight to panama, 700 miles away, where we should be able to relax and recover. The crossing should be a nice fast one, with the trade winds in the back. Once in panama the area is littered with nice bays and islands, including the san blas and boca del toro, making easy and enjoyable sailing. Although it will be rainy season, the cyclones never reach that far south.
 
For those still interested in joining, please send me a mail with as much info as possible, even if you already did. I tried to check all my mails but I had loads and I can’t spend much time on the internet. If you already contacted me please let me know if you are still interested. By the way, it is possible for americans to travel to cuba, it doesn’t involve any james bond like operations, parachuting or mini-submarines.
 
We’ll favor at this point easy going people without attachments, set plans or return dates because the crew will have to adapt to whatever we need to do for my arm. We’ll likely try to find a nice spot in panama and settle there for several weeks while I get better, fishing, surfing, snorkeling, checking out the local scene, partying, playing music, twirling fire, etc, and getting on with some projects for the boat maintenance and improvement. I’ll let you know as soon as possible what is going on so that we can organise new crew, but at this point I can’t make definite commitments, it depends on my recovery. Internet is a bit of an issue as well, since there is none near the hospital and here in cayo largo, it is not only 5km away but also 10 euros an hour and very slow…
 
As for the attack itself, I’m told it is pretty unusual. It happens now and then but it is still rare. Barracudas are aggressive but but not extremely so. There are loads of them in cuba, and it is very frequent to see a few dozen of them when you go snorkeling. I had previously asked the question to some professional cuban spearfishermen in the jardines de la reina archipelago with whom I went fishing. They assured me they never heard of any barracuda or shark attacks in their waters. In fact they insisted that I should try to shoot barracudas when I saw them because they were very good eating. They were towing their catch in the water while fishing as well, one thing I never do and that is considered unsafe anywhere I’ve been fishing before. That is why I was not overly worried about spearfishing in cuba, even with barracudas around. I guess I learned my lesson. Next time I go spearfishing I’ll take all the necessary precautions, make sure I have a boat nearby at all time and never go alone… I’ll train to be able to get killing shots as well, so as to avoid having to deal with trashing fish in the water. I need to get a new gun first though…
 
Another thing is that Cayo Sal is remote and not visited by professional fishermen, so I guess the barracudas there haven’t learned that humans can be dangerous and should be avoided…
 
I can’t really blame the barracuda though, he was only trying to feed himself and was trying to get the other fish, not my arm. It is just one of those things, shit happens. I’m cool with that, I know the risks. It wouldn’t have happened if I was working 9 to 5 in a cubicle in downtown Paris… Plus I’m not doing too bad all considered, I’ll probably even recover the full use of my hand…
 
Finally, here are a few shots of barracudas we caught in the past. The one who attacked me was about the same size as the one Adam is holding in the picture.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Isla de Providencia, Colombia
On the move again…
But first, the follow up from the barracuda bite story. The second operation went well, or at least as expected. i upped my record of pain level, i didn’t imagine anything could be so painful. they officially don’t have morphine in cuba, so they just leave you with your pain. a nerve graft is a very painful experience, i don’t recommend it. they took a piece of nerve from a leg to graft it to my arm. the leg is relatively unaffected except for the 25cm scar but the arm is slow to recover, nerve tissue grows back at a rate of 1mm per day, and i have a 25cm to go. the second operation left me with 80 new stitches, making a total of 120. i had a cast on my arm for a month. now, i have to do exercices but i should recover most of my hand’s ability over the next few months, i can already see progress. as of today, i can start to use my hand but it is still very weak and the movements are still limited. the scars are awesome though.
so we went sailing again. the crew at the moment is composed of kim, still there of course, brandon, back from canada where he went while i was in the hospital, jillayne, a new crew member from the states and my brother pierre, who came to give a hand. we are now on the island of providencia, a colombian dot off the coast of nicaragua, about 500 miles due south of cuba. the crossing went well, with very light wind all the way, making for slow relaxed sailing. the navigation was a bit tricky, the seas around here are littered with banks and reefs.
The island here is really nice, the pirate lair par excellence, fortifications ruins, canons on the beach, lush mountains, lively local crowd, reggae beach bars, hamacs between coconut trees, perfect anchorage, clear water, abundant marine life, etc, etc, while being free of mass tourism. There is a fair amount of cocaine smuggling going on around here, the other night there was some commotion offshore and then all the locals were on the beach looking for floatsam… Drug runners from colombia dropped their load overboard after being spotted by a coast guard plane, and then ran for the beach, left their boat and went into hiding in the mountains…
Anyway, we’ll stay there a few more days and then proceed to bocas del toro in panama, where we plan to find another nice anchorage and relax a bit while I heal. bocas is about 250 miles south of here, it should take only a few days at sea.
after that we’ll go explore panama and colombia while the cyclone season lasts in the north. we are considering coming back up toward honduras and belize at the end of the year.
For all those who wrote to me, I’ll answer all my mails when we reach panama and its free wifi, here internet is even slower than it was in cuba, although it is about 10 times cheaper… For those who want to join, either wrote to me another time confirming you are still interested, or wait for me to drop you a line if you already sent me a detailed application. We’ll definitely need crew in the near future.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bocas del Toro, Panama,
oups, been slacking on the log again…
we arrived in panama without any problems, just a bit low on wind, we had to motor a fair amount to get here…
checking in was a process, and what with the overtime fees because we arrived on a saturday, the most expensive i’ve had so far…
bocas is a thriving backpacker heaven, without much charm in itself, but which offers all we need for the time being. we are staying here for my arm to heal(check the whole attack story on my fishing page) and do some maintenance and pick up new crew. Jillayne and Brandon are now doing their own things, Brandon in vancouver and jillayne in central america. pierre just flew back yesterday. he stayed on the boat while kim and me went to panama city to do some shopping, notably a computer and a violin for kim. i also tracked down the classic schooner on which i learned to sail, having heard she had sank in the harbor, only to find her in a shipyard undergoing extensive refit under an other name…
now we are back in bocas, fixing things on the boat and tackling the untold amount of emails we are late in answering. i am in contact with several people who want to join over the next few months, although any new application will be considered. we’ll stay in bocas until early july before sailing east toward colombia, stoping on the way in the san blas archipelago. in colombia we’ll need to haul out since i scraped a lot of paint off the keel in cuba by running aground on a sand bank.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bocas del Toro, Panama
7 o’clock and all’s well… Beautiful sunny day today.
Nothing much happening lately, just sitting in the harbor, arm healing, various jobs being undertaken, music being played and nice meals and red wine being consumed…
It looks like we have found our crew for te next few months, but it still needs to be confirmed…
I’ve been doing some small updates on the website, there are a few new things. nothing major though.
We are having a problem with a leaky fresh water pump on the main engine, Kim got her hands dirty for me since i can’t do this kind of work myself at the moment. My hand is getting better but i still can’t force. So a new pump is on its way from the city, we’re hoping it is the good model… it is always a gamble to order parts for such an old engine. the parts are not manufactured anymore, so you have to rely on old stocks.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Bocas del toro, panama
we’re still here, haven’t even moved in fact. the pump from the main engine is not fixable, so we tried to find a new one around here, but without success. fortunately, one of the crew is flying from new york soon and managed to order one for us… so when he get here on the 9th, we should be able to repair.
we have found our crew, we’ll be 7 on board for the next few months. there is chris, the luthier from the states who is bringing a pump along, mike, a geologist also from the states whom we met here in bocas, silke another backpacker from austria, manuel german guy and his girlfriend dori from hungary who were backpacking around here as well.
they are not yet on the boat, all of them are visiting around , renewing visas, etc etc
we had a nice pizza party with most of them on the back deck of karaka the other day for mike’s birthday
we’ll leave bocas in more or less 10 days, heading east, there is a lot of very nice places around, river, old spanish towns, and the mythic san blas. we expect to reach cartagena in colombia around september

Monday, July 13, 2009

bahia de chiriki, panama
the crew is complete, everybody settled on board and seem to be enjoying it.
Chris arrived last on sunday, flying from the states with a spare water pump for the main engine, which he mounted this morning with the help of manuel. I could only supervise since my arm is not yet fully functional. So the engine is working again, we’re fine to go.
We finally had a good downpour, so we could catch some rain water to fill the tank. we should be good for a while… it is rainy season but it never really rains hards, it is mostly overcast with light showers, we’ve been spared the tropical thunderstorms so far
we are all in town today, doing the last minute shopping and internet, before going to explore all the islands and bays south of here. we will come back to bocas in a week or so and then leave from here to the rio chagres,  a wild river we can navigate with the boat. The entrance is about 150 miles to the east.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Zaigon, isla colon, bocas del toro, panama
we’re back in town after a week of island hoping in the bay of Chiriqui, exploring jungle trails and diving on reefs and under mangroves…
we stocked up on nutmeg, bananas and cocoa that we found in the woods, and also had a shopping trip to a town called shanguinola on the mainland. we are pretty much stocked up, just a few things to take care of, the port captain to notify, the weather to check, and then we’re off to rio chagres, a navigable river in a protected area south of the canal entrance. after that we’ll head to the old colonial town of portobello, for the last resupplying before san blas.
the crew is doing well, everybody is adapting to the life on board and we won’t need anybody for the next few months. most of them are going to leave us in colombia, when we arrive in cartagena around mid september…
we’ll have a haul out to do after that, repainting the ship’s hull, before taking new crew and going off to explore the northern coast of colombia.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Portobello, Panama,
We arrived here on sunday night after beating into the wind all day.
We had sailed to the rio Chagres from bocas del toro in light wind, at sea for 48 hours. The rio Chagres is the main river of Panama, the one that was used in the old days to cross the isthmus before they built the railway and the canal. Now the river is dammed about 6 miles from its mouth, so its waters are used to generate electricity for the canal and to flood the Gatun lake, through which the canal goes. The river itself and its surroundings are protected as a national park and while there is the dirty city of Colon about 20 km away, nobody lives in the national park except some indigenous people and scientists from the Smithonian Institute. There are the ruins of the fort San Lorenzo overlooking the mouth of the river, and we anchored just beneath it for the first few days. The fort was one of the major fortification on what was then the spanish main and it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times as the corsairs and the spanish fought for the control of the entrance of the strategic river. The captain Henry Morgan took off from there to go sack Panama City in the 1600s. Nowadays, the overgrown ruins are only full of ghosts, buzzards and howler monkeys, instead of canon balls and cutlasses you find mangoes and bananas.
The crew set to explore the area, gathering fruits, making jam and home made booze, baking bread, trying to catch fish, etc… after a few days we motored upriver to the dam and anchored there for a night. Most of the crew went to visit the Gatun locks, the first one on the canal coming from the Atlantic side. They spoted a mother sloth with a baby on the way back. There also were crocodiles.
The next day we all decided to go visit the Smithonian Institute. They are about 3 km from the river, up on a hill. At the end of an old road there is a keeper house where one man lives, and a construction crane pocking through the canopy and that is used for research. But we were nowhere near the road or any path, so we equipped ourselves with shoes and pants and compasses and machetes, the little map we had of the area and we hacked our way through the rain forrest… it took us about 3 hours to get to the crane. The crane is open so we could climb it, the whole 60 meters of unbroken ladder of it, and enjoyed the panoramic views from the top, while feasting on home made bread and mango sauce. The return trip took us another 3 hours, and we got slightly lost on the way back. Navigating in the jungle, where you can’t see more than 20 or 30 meters away, going down steep slopes and never seing the sky is very hard. Darkness was not far off so we had to rush, wading knee deep in mud, hacking trails through thick growth, playing mountain goat down cliffs, avoiding spiders and crocodiles and barely having the time to rest at the bottom of the incredible waterfalls in the midst of all that. We made it back to the boat muddy, thorny, cut and exhausted, in the nick of time, just at sunset and it was well worth it.
Next we went back to the mouth of the river, and got the boat ready for the next leg. The wind was fresh, blowing a good 25 knots, practically exactly from where we were going. So we had to zig and zag all day, dodging countless cargo ships leaving or entering the canal and arriving after dark in the beautiful bay that is aptly called Portobello. Here we have just been relaxing, and visiting the remnant of the town, which used to be the custom center for the spanish at the time they where sucking dry the americas. The magnificent stronghold at the center of town is said to have been the depository for a third of all the gold of the world in its time. There are also 4 major fortresses, ruins all, since Morgan wasn’t content with only destroying San Lorenzo and Panama City. The town today is a very small affair, forgotten by time. It is sleepy and remote with only a few yachts anchored in the bay, and the rare tourists who make their way here find the place devoid of hostels, night clubs or fancy restaurants.
Dori and Manuel just went off this morning to visit panama city, 2 hours away by bus, Mike and Silke want to go there as well sometime soon, while the rest of the crew just chill on the boat. We met interesting people on other boats, neighbors so to speak, and we had some over last night, rebuilding the world, exchanging sea stories and emptying our stock of rum.
We have a few things to take care of before we set sail for the san blas archipelago, provisioning, fixing a few leaky pumps, refill the cooking gas bottles, etc etc. Everybody is looking forward for the next part of the trip, 4 or 5 weeks of isolation in the kuna territories, hundreds of small islands occupied by an autonomous indigenous people between here and Colombia.
I have a request to make to the people who follow this log. I would like to post on the website the whole thing, from when I started it in Borneo in 2005, in chronological order. first because i would like to read it myself but also to make the hirtory of karaka available easily. i would like to cancel this xanga thing and sign up on a more effiecient bloging site, but i don’t want to  lose the whole thing. the problem is that xanga, this blog website, is a bit of a mess and it would take me hours to copy paste the whole thing in a word document. i don’t have unlimmited access to internet, and so i would like to put the thing in the air in case a kind soul would take the time to do this for us… if you are bored stiff in your cubicle, i’m sure that could look like official work to your boss… thanks. 

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2 Responses to “2005 – 2009”

  1. Hi Tom,
    a few weeks ago i discovered your site … and read and read everything again and again. For me it was a big surprise such people like you exist. Everything you write about your thinking, why are you doing this ,and how are you doing this, is realy great.
    I think realy your way of living it´s worth to give some support.
    I have a little company located in munich and we do a lot of things in internet. If i can help you (and i will do this realy without money) let me know!

    regards
    Willi

  2. What a gem. It’s a real shame more people haven’t
    heard about this place, this article had everything I needed this morning 😀

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