Chapter 13



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Rodrigues Island

    On leaving Cocos Keeling, we had a 2000 nm passage to Rodrigues Island, the first stop in the Mascarene Island group.  We left Cocos with S/V Fantasy, but by night fall, we lost sight of each other, although remained in SSB radio contact throughout the trip.   We experienced a variety of weather which produced some wild sailing and a fast passage -- 14 days flat.  The day before we arrived, we had a front pass over us which gave us 27 to 30 knots of wind as we approached Rodrigues.

 The seas were 8-10 feet on the quarter and it was a great ride as we watched the sun come up and saw the island for the first time.   As we approached the harbor, our fishing bell started with a loud bang -- we had hooked a fish!  As we were trying to get this large wahoo on board, the Port Captain was calling on Channel 16 -- bad timing, but we managed to get the fish onboard and left him on the side deck as we made our entrance through the reef into Port Mathurin.  Since "Fantasy" arrived a day ahead of us, they were already at the dock, so we were able to raft up to them as we arrived.  We were immediately boarded by Immigration, Customs, Quarantine and the local Police.  They were a bit perplexed why Robert was covered in blood -- until they saw the wahoo on the side deck.  They graciously allowed him to continue filleting the fish, while Elyse filled out the reams of forms to be completed.  All the officials were extremely friendly and helpful.  As there are not a lot of cruising yachts that stop in Rodrigues, they really enjoyed having visitors from another part of the world.

      Rodrigues is a frog shaped island, located 350 nm to the NE of Mauritius and about 800 nm east of Madagascar.  It was originally occupied by the Dutch, the French, the British and in 1967 remained under the rule of Mauritius.  In 2002, it obtained its autonomy and a Regional Assembly was formed to handle local matters.   It has maintained it's authentic character and has earned the name "Cinderella of the Mascarenes".  Crime is virtually non existent here -- there are only 3 prison cells on the entire island which are hardly ever occupied!   The population is about 37,000 and Creole is the official language, although most of the people speak some English, so communication was not a problem. 

    The dockage at Port Mathurin was free, although we had to move from the dock and anchor out in the harbor about once a week when the supply ship came in from Mauritius.  Here the "Mauritius Trochetia" is maneuvering to the dock.  This ship brings supplies as well as tourists between Mauritius and Rodrigues.  It takes about a day to unload all the supplies, which also includes livestock (cattle, goats and pigs).  Right next to the port is the Slaughter House, where in the early hours of the morning, we heard the screams of the pigs being slaughtered -- a very eerie sound!

    On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, the street along the slaughter house is closed to traffic and is lined with stalls selling all manner of homemade and home grown things such as chutneys, drinks, woven baskets, fruits, and  vegetables, such as onions, garlic, chilies, potatoes and maize .  For many locals this is the highlight of their week and a chance to catch up on the island gossip.    

     Making our way around the small town of Port Mathurin was easy and the locals were extremely friendly.  Most of them knew that we were off the visiting yachts and very helpful in getting us what we needed.   It didn't take us long to find the bakery where delicious éclairs and fresh baguettes were a daily indulgence.    We really enjoyed the local spicy Creole and Indian dishes and the Restaurant du Quai  was our favorite lunch spot.   The library in town offered free wifi internet, so we were able to catch up with emails, etc. 

     As we wanted to explore more of the island, one of the Coast Guard guys, Augustus, rented us his 4x4 pick up truck, so along with Jack and Vunsh of "Fantasy", we drove along the coast and up into the mountains taking in the beautiful scenery.  We stopped for lunch in Mt Bois Noir at Le Tropical Chez Jeannette, a charming mountainside restaurant featuring traditional Creole cuisine, cooked over wood fired stoves.  Although they were totally booked for lunch, Jeannette, the owner, graciously accommodated us by setting up a table in the kitchen area.  As we settled around the table, we were joined by Clet, one of the local police, who had been assigned to follow us as we drove around the island.  We were never quite sure if he was protecting us or the local population!   We had a great time there and enjoyed the delicious local fish, rice, lentils, maize, salad and, of course, cold beer. 

    Our time passed quickly in Rodrigues, spending our days walking around town exchanging stories with the locals, attending traditional festivals with reggae music and sega dancing, and enjoying the spicy foods.  Once again, it was time to prepare ourselves and the boat for the next leg of this adventure -- the passage to Mauritius.  So, along with "Fantasy" we said good-bye to our new friends, made our way out of the harbor and back into the Indian Ocean.....

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