L O G B O O K - by John Philp



MAURITIUS


TUESDAY 12 OCT - The city of Port Louis wraps around a small protected harbour below jagged volcanic peaks. The mountains are barren and dry, it looks as though they’ve had very little rain this year. Tau is moored at a port development called Le Caudan Waterfront. Le Caudan is a marina, cinema, casino, shopping center and plush hotel development that puts a sophisticated edge on an otherwise dirty, and bustling city of 150,000 souls.

A very interesting South African chap wanders by and chats to us while we are alongside the dock. His wife’s forefather was shipwrecked on Rodrigues two hundred years ago and spent 80 days on the island in the days when there were only fourteen people living there. He wrote a log book on the back of a cheque book and his grand kids have recently translated and published it.

WED 13 OCT - Other than shopping we find little to interest us in the city so at midday we cast off and motor 20 kilometers North to Grand Baie - tourist center of Mauritius.

On arrival at the entrance we ran into difficulties. The water becomes very shallow and forces us to slow to a crawl. Tau draws 2.7 meters and the bottom here comes right up to 3.2 meters, contrary to what the chart indicates. We run out of water, turn around, and returned the way we came in. From outside the bay we ring a contact in Port Louis who prescribes a slightly different route. We return and make it in this time with four inches to spare (2.8 meters deep)! It is high tide so we note the water level on the shore to ensure we leave with at least as much water as we came in with. As soon as the Coast Guard gave us the all clear (the formalities of cruising here are endless) we speed ashore for an exploratory walk.

Grand Baie is an almost completely enclosed bay, with a clear sandy bottom and nice beaches. The yacht is anchored right off the Grand Baie Yacht Club which has a superb location at the entrance to the bay, with it’s own little white sandy beach and clear deep water frontage. The other wonderful amenity here is a large screen live satellite hookup to the Rugby World Cup games which we plonk ourselves in front of each day there are games.

THUR 14 OCT - The tourist literature likens Grand Baie to the Cote D'Azur' in the south of France, which is a pretty fair assessment. I befriended a French Mauritian called Philip who drove me up the coast for five kilometers in his speed boat showing me the sights. We passed white sandy beaches, black volcanic rocks in places and colourful coral reefs a hundred yards offshore. The houses were amazing, stylish (and very expensive looking), some roofs stood out in dramatic bright yellows and reds - European style, others combined thatched roofs with thick white washed walls. It was a world away from the smelly streets of Port Louis.

FRI 15 OCT - We are becoming regulars at the Banana Bar - a busy joint with sand floors and views of the bay, it also has a large screen hookup to live Rugby World Cup matches.
We meet a German couple at the yacht club who sailed from Coco’s Island a month ago. They sailed right over a shoal marked with forty meters of water and were amazed when they heard a great big thump. They had ran over a whale! There was blood all over the place from it’s wound but luckily no damage to the yacht. They didn’t stick around to investigate, perhaps mindful of the English yacht which was holed and sunk in 1972 by Killer Whales off the Galapagos Islands in sixty seconds flat!

SAT 16 OCT - Michelle and I are invited to Philip’s house to watch the Fiji vs France rugby game. Philip had bet four bottles of champagne against his brothers on Fiji and his family were mightily impressed when he turned up with two Fijians! His brothers used to play rugby and wanted to know if the small Fijian with his sleeves rolled up was playing today (Serevi).

Philip’s family owns a tract of prime beach side property upon which sits four family houses. His family have been in Mauritius since 1783 - their pioneering ancestor was a corsair captain.

After the game we return to the yacht club to find our Australian friend Ron has sailed in at long last. Another solo sailor also arrived at the same time, an Englishman called Bob. It turns out to be a very entertaining evening. If you have ever spent a night drinking with a couple of hard drinking individualistic solo sailors just come in from a long sea journey you will understand. It is my birthday on Sunday and I have happy birthday sung three times to me before and after midnite, including once in French by some new friends from Reunion. Later we end up in a night club behind Grand Baie surrounded by cane fields.

SUN 17 OCT - Grand Baie is a lively spot. All day long ski boats fly back and forth, tourist sailing catamarans come and go full of people, dive boats, game fishing boats, windsurfers, paddle ski’s, speed boats and local fisherman. It’s hard to imagine a busier stretch of water anywhere in the world.

Occasionally a boat will meander by for a chat. Most people mention the rugby because our home port - Fiji Islands is written in large letters on the stern. Yesterday the comments were, “Who’s going to win?”. Today it’s, “Hey did you know France won the game?”. “Yes, thank you, thank you... why don’t you go back to the beach now, before I sink your boat with my speargun?”

MON 18 OCT - The gang hire a taxi to drive us around the island. The scenery’s not too different to Fiji, just busier. Mauritius has 1.2 million head of population in an area four times smaller than Fiji.

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