30th March, Madagascar
Landfall, after leaving the Seychelles and crossing 10⁰South latitude, the demarcation line for ‘pirate’ country we sight the northern tip of Madagascar in the early morning light. Our destination, Adoanay, formerly known by its French name Hell Ville, lies on the island of Nosy Be, on the north-west coast of Madagascar. It’s a ‘tricky’ transit of the shoals and reefs surrounding the island and, as in similar destinations, we have allowed ourselves sufficient time to make the final 15 miles at a sedate speed. The waters are blue and calm and as the sun rises, fishing dhows leave some of the villages on the island and make their way out for the morning’s fishing. These are of the classic ‘Arabian’ style, with 1 triangular sail and they are accompanied by dugout canoes with outriggers.
We round the southern end of the island and approach Adoanay itself. The charts we are using are not of the accuracy to which we are used to, in fact, one chart, originally produced in 1905 from French surveys is obviously inaccurate when compared to our electronic charts of more modern times and so it is on the electronic version we rely. Anchoring a ½ mile from the jetty we are immediately surrounded by dugout canoes, the occupants desperate to sell our guests all sorts of trinkets; wooden face masks, models of dhows, even bananas. It is taking a step back in time.
We could have hoped for a better tender-landing pier, instead having to use a ramp, which is also used to carry inter-island freight, (cattle, cars) and passengers. Grossly overloaded, with everyone carrying everything but the kitchen sink, they interrupt our tender operation continually. Most of our guests are leaving to go on a ‘hunting’ tour, the elusive lemur, which is found here in Madagascar and nowhere else. They were once on the African continent, however they were killed by monkeys; no monkeys on Madagascar, ergo lemurs survive.
It is hot, very hot and oppressively humid and my brief trip ashore, in uniform, was quite enough for me. My main purpose was to take photographs for our port file, we keep a record of everywhere we visit and photos are an important part of it. As we were anchored, I never feel completely at ease when ashore and have made a habit of not going for any period of time, there seems little point in doing so, worrying all day whether all is well with one’s command. So, I wander up the nearby street, just for a photo-opportunity, I am surrounded by well-meaning and insistent citizens, offering clothing, material and photos with chameleons, (they not having a camera makes me wonder how they would achieve this; were I to give them mine to take one of me…they can run faster than me…..)
I am concerned that with the heat and the apparent ‘rustic’ appearance of Hell Ville, my guests will be none-too-keen to stay, however I am proven wrong, (for the majority at least), they loved it, returned enthralled and, believe it or not, I think we stumbled upon another ‘bucket list’ port.
No lemur photographs from me, I’m afraid, however they were sighted (and cuddled) by the majority of our guests, their pictures no doubt will be on the many blogs they post. On departure we retrace our tracks of the morning, we can record the tracks and thus follow them exactly outwards, this because we know that we came in safely, know the depths and it is prudent to take the same way out. There is an alternative, (shorter) route out, however I decide not to take it for obvious reasons. So, we are now off the western coast of Madagascar, heading south-west in the Mozambique channel for Maputo, Mozambique. I used to call there on cargo ships, in the 70’s, as a (young) 3rd officer and remember the 25 mile passage to the pilot station, weaving through the sandbanks that surround this port. I have that to look forward to…