Welcome to the blog of the sailing yacht Sea Bunny.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A day at the races - Port Louis, Mauritius 29 August 2015

Horse racing is a big thing in Mauritius. The race track is reputed to be the second oldest in the world, or in the southern hemisphere, depending on who you are listening to. The Turf Club of Mauritius runs weekly meetings from April to December - which must make the track one of the most heavily used.

The Turf Club also makes foreign visitors most welcome.

The group gathers - jackets and ties preferred for men
As the first race was at 1230 our group of 12 met on the dockside at 1100. A minibus had been organised by Laurie (Apogee) and the group was made up by the crews of Apogee, Felix, Minnie B, Traveller, Xenix, Tigger and Sea Bunny.

As the preferred dress code for men is jackets and ties Richard had borrowed a jacket for the occasion and lent out two of the 3 ties he has on board - one borrower became a very temporary member of Channel Sailing Club and another had Richards "bunny" tie (lots of rabbits - not the Playboy variety).

On arrival at the course we were met by Mr Lalah, a guest services agent.. He apologised that there was not a free box available but saw us comfortably installed in the stand, with bar, food service and Tote to hand.

Potential winner in the photofinish box
We had to accept that the view of the mountains in the background over the course is marginally more impressive than our familiar view of the Surrey Hills from the Epsom Grandstand. The crowds in the centre where access is free, as at Epsom, possibly rival those on the Hill on a non-Derby race day.

Max  Rapax is led in
In race 3 a horse called Max Rapax was running. With a grandson called Max one of us had to back it - Susan did. It duly won the race while Richard's horse - Why Worry - was declared an non-starter after problems at the start.

Max Rapax wins - photofinish image from the Turf Club website 
View full race reports of the whole meeting here.

The paddock
Mr Lalah returned on several occasions to ensure we were enjoying the visit and to escort us to places normally off limits to the general public. We watched the horses in the paddock and watched Max Rapax's victory from the management box.

Original photofinish camera - no longer in use!
We went to the visitors' area beside the photofinish/commentary box, following which we were invited inside and given an explanation of the process

The present photofinish set up


We probably just about broke even on our wagers but were a bit down when minibus, entrance, food and drink were taken into account - obviously out of practice.
This visit can be classified as a Mauritian highlight.

Goodbye Rodrigues - Hello Mauritius

Port Mathurin anchorage
Rodrigues is the very little sister to La Reunion and Mauritius and certainly punches above its weight as far as we are concerned.  At a size of 8 x 18 km it is said to be like the Caribbean was 50 years ago> It is laid back, good vibes and very safe, helpful and very friendly. After three weeks we leave to catch Mr Fedex who has difficulty in delivering to the island.

Non urgent yachtsman request - picture framing - the cabinet makers will do it - back within a week very good workmanship - price very reasonable.

Definitely needed replacing!
Urgent yachtsman request - new axle for steering pulley - phone Tim and Liz. They collected us from the dock took us to the metalworker and there were new ones in our hand by the end of the morning - what service.

Want jerrycans filled by a meticulous garage attendant with a smile? Take your dinghy to the petrol station at high tide. Not a drop spilt - exactly 20 l (+/- 0.00l) in each can.

How do you do the Sega (a dance that slaves did) someone will show. Dance the day away on Sunday at the night club starting at 1400 for the very very old becoming more youthful as night unfolds.

On the two and half day passage to Mauritius we kept expecting the wind and sea state to increase but it did not. So we enjoyed a downwind sail in only 15kn with 2 m seas.  The only downside (financially) being that a ? shark took a liking to the towed generator impeller but we had a spare. The shark probably had severe indigestion.

Approaching Port Louis
Mauritius with its mixture of new skyscrapers and old buildings is also friendly and helpful but on a busier scale.
Within a week the rig has been checked, mainsail repaired, bottom scrubbed and Richard is busy on the week installation and upgrade for a second Silentwind wind generator to replace the old Air-X that bit the dust in Cocos Keeling.

Touching up the paint
Health and safety isn't one of Mauritius' strengths - even in the open bar of a 4-star hotel at around 1830!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Slow and fast - Rodrigues tour 13 August 2015

Having been in Rodrigues for a couple of weeks we hired a car, together with Phil and Norma from Minnie B.
By getting to the  Francois Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve  by 0930 we ensured an individual tour. Giant land tortoises have been extinct on Rodrigues for around 200 years, following the colonisation of the islands and devastation by sailors seeking food that would stay fresh (alive) for long periods.

Recently a similar species, indigenous to Madagascar, has been introduced. At present the reintroduction is limited to the reserve at the south-west of the island but there are plans to extend this.

The tortoises are mostly contained within a gorge formed by a collapsed cave in the limestone, making an area from which is is difficult (but not impossible- see later) for a tortoise to escape.

They range from  new hatchlings to an age of around 100 years with a weight of around 250 kg. Having been largely reared in the reserve they approach humans, rather than having natural caution.
All the tortoises are numbered and regularly monitored.

This experience of tortoise conservation is far superior than anything seen in the Galapagos Archipelago.
The larger ones enjoy having their necks scratched.

Exit from the gorge requires climbing around 50 steps. Some have achieved this. Having done so there is no return as descending steps involves too great a risk of capsize - resulting in death.

Having escaped the gorge they are not outside the reserve - there is an outer fence.

Tortoise proof adaptation
However, the area has been replanted with plant species indigenous to Rodrigues. Some of these have specific adaptations to survive grazing by tortoises, such as a variety of olive which has a coarse needle-like leaf within a tortoise's reach and a much larger leaf where they can't reach.

Perhaps not so good to eat but very attractive - the giant red legged golden orb spider (perhaps Nephila inaurata) - with massively strong web.

Port Sud-Est

The drive from the SW of the island affords superb views over Port Sud-Est, a large expanse inside the reef, with several islands. There is a tortuous pass into the area with about 2.5 m depth. The entrance and reef are exposed to the SE trade winds just look at those colours!

Mourouk, at the eastern end of Port Sud-Est is a popular kite-surfing destination. While it is possible to hire boards and learn we opted out. The speeds achieved and some of the stunts looked impressive - a life style choice for some locals.

La fête de l’Assomption, Rodrigues, 15 August 2015

On this date there was a procession starting at 0815 from the catholic church in Port Mathurin up to the statue of Marie, Reine de Rodrigues on the hillside above the town and that this was reported to be quite a spectacle.
Gathering at the church

According to legend this date originally celebrated the goddess Isis of the sea.  In the 4th century Christians took over this pagan ritual and defined it as the date the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven. Verified by Pope Pius X11
it is the principle feast day of the Virgin Mother.