July 27, 2015

Everyday Life in Exotic Places

Evan has had a sore tooth since just south of Male in the Maldives, Charlie the cat began running low on kitty litter one week in to our stay on Chagos and my shoes all came unglued somewhere in Sri Lanka. We did try gluing my shoes back together. I even had one pair sewn together by a shoe mender in Trinco. But the reality of sailing around the world is even paradise has limitations: sometimes you need sail through a couple of countries before you find a good dentist.

The Seychelles are gorgeous. At least that’s what we hear. We’ve spent the best part of the past four weeks anchored in the same spot, trying to get the dodgy mobile networks to keep us connected to the internet long enough so that we could research dentists, find a pet store and come up with replacement shoes.

I’m not whinging. We ARE in the Seychelles. But one of the mundane aspects of arriving in a new country every month is that everyday needs don’t just stop. We still need haircuts, root canals have to be worked into cruising schedules and Maia keeps working her way through the school year—which means we sometimes need new textbooks.

The Seychelles turned out to be a good spot for doing most of this. While it doesn’t have the sort of stellar medical system that attracts medical tourism, it does have serviceable, reasonably priced dentists. So while Evan had his root canal redone, Maia and I both had cleanings and checkups. We also got haircuts—our fourth and fifth in countries where we don’t quite speak the language. And we found textbooks at the store that supplies the English high school.

Between the big errands we hunted down spare parts for the boat and tasty things for the galley. We also searched out cat litter and cat food. For the things we couldn’t buy here there was a courier service (which required three visits to the post office and three visits to the airport and six 30 minute bus rides to get back and forth).

the best avacados come from one guy in the market--but you need to get there early
After four weeks we can tell you which shop has the best price on cheese, which butcher trims his pork the nicest, where to find stainless boat parts and which bus to catch to get to the dive shop. We may not be able to tell you much about the best beach, best restaurant or best hotel but we can tell you where to get the best baguette and which shop has the cheeriest clerks. And we can tell you that even though some shops have a weird assortment of stuff the clerks are super helpful. Also I can tell you that the nice woman at the hair salon did a great job on my cut—she even told me I have pretty decent white-lady hair.

July 21, 2015

Robbed! Or why monohulls are better than catamarans

Incompetence isn’t a quality I appreciate in most people, but thankfully the thief who boarded our boat last night might want to consider keeping his day job. If he has one.

Despite traveling through some very poor countries, theft isn’t something we worry about very often. Like most cruisers, we’re aware our home can look like a floating department store to some people. So when we’re in a region is known for petty theft, we close our hatches and keep surfaces clear of easily-seen, easy-to-grab high value items like phones, cameras, tablets and cash. On occasions we even lock up the boat.
the closest locals to our boat are these guys--two baby herons
The kind of theft we tend to expect is opportunistic theft; like when our unlocked dinghy was stolen by drunks from the dinghy dock in Brisbane, or when tools were grabbed from the side deck in Mexico. What we don’t expect is to be boarded by a swimmer while we’re sleeping, have a thief enter our cabin and then rummage through our stuff. Not only is that sort of freaky—but I always assumed we’d hear if someone climbed aboard. Or that Charlie the guard cat would attack intruders, or meow or purr loudly in warning…
There aren't many signs of theft in town--just lots of signs that indicate people take fish into inappropriate locations
None of that happened though.

While Port Victoria on Mahe used to have a poor reputation, in recent years it's been pretty safe. But at some point late last night someone swam to our boat and boarded using our back steps. Then he came into the cabin (and missed the camera, laptop and tablet) but grabbed my phone, backpack and a couple of Maia’s bags. After taking the bags back into the cockpit and quickly rifling through them (finding Maia’s change purse but luckily missing my wallet—which would have been the jackpot considering I went to the bank yesterday) he took his little bit of loot, and our dinghy, and headed into the anchorage where he hit at least one other boat—grabbing a backpack and stealing a laptop and iphone from an Austrian catamaran.

Cats have a lot of great qualities (the two hulled, not the purring ones) and being easy to board and having wide open cabins are usually counted as bonuses. Except being easy to board and having wide open cabins also makes them attractive to thieves. My own informally gathered statistics seem to indicate that catamarans are hit more often than monohulls—and the fact the three boats that were robbed in this anchorage (including a French boat two weeks ago) are all cats reinforces it.

The second (that we know of) boat to be robbed last night woke up when the intruder left. He blew his airhorn (which we slept through) and then lost sight of the thief and our dinghy. This morning we were woken by a local guy who watches a couple of boats, and who noticed our dinghy wasn’t where it should be, but was instead on an empty catamaran. He and a friend brought the dinghy back to us and at that point we noticed the pile of bags in our cockpit.

A short while later the coastguard came by. It was nice to see how seriously the minor theft was taken and how mortified the locals were. Two locals helped with a search on the island beside us—with the hope the thief had stashed all our stuff for retrieval later. We also tried to call my phone—but just got voicemail. Later in the morning the Seychelles land police also came out to the boats—the locals who brought our dinghy back to us had called them and arranged for the visit. Finger printing is next. Seriously.

When we commented that is seemed like a big reaction to minor theft the police officer let us know any problem we have is a big problem--and in the Seychelles, they don't like theft.
Victoria is a peaceful moderately affluent town
In our case we were lucky. My phone was a cheap one that was due for replacing and the internet data that was on it was easily transferred to a replacement phone. Maia was bummed to lose the change purse that was given to her by dear friends in Brissie (Desire, she’s so sad…) but she was happy it only contained a little bit of money.

For the most part the theft was more of a lesson than a violation. We travel in a very trusting way—and we have no intention of changing the belief that most people we encounter are not out to get anything from us. But our belongings are equally (if not more) valuable to us as they are to potential thieves. And being an easy target is something we can easily change with a bit more diligence—especially with Comoros and Madagascar coming up.

From now on we’ll be pulling our dinghy up at night. The other cat that was boarded and robbed had their main cabin door closed, but the thief went through a window—so we’ll be closing our door and locking our hatches in their ‘ajar’ position (fortunately nights are cool here—the idea of needing bars on hatches is really unappealing). We’ve tried pressure mats before, but the cat tripped them, though we have heard some boats have had good success with motion sensors—so we’ll check out that option. Finally, we have personal alarms in the bedrooms. These are little self-activated alarms I picked up in Brisbane that I thought I could use if I heard someone board us—unfortunately I sleep better than I thought.

For those who have prepped their boats for high theft areas—any tips for us?

July 12, 2015

Settling Into the Seychelles

We’ve been on the move again for a year: 8500nm through 10 time zones and six countries. This is a record for us. Even the year we crossed the Pacific we sailed less than 7000nm. Some years we’re happy to hit 1000nm. It seems little wonder then that now we’ve arrived in the Seychelles and dropped our anchor in a sheltered harbour we’ve opted to leave it there.

We’ve been busy catching up on all the little things you do when you have extended access to civilization for the first time in a year. There are grocery stores, hardware stores, bakeries, liquor stores, pet food stores (you can bet Charlie the cat is happy!), restaurants and (in Evan’s case) a much anticipated dentist.

Beau Vallon is just one of the pretty coves on Mahe
We didn't know much about the Seychelles when we added it to our cruising itinerary but have been pleasantly surprised--it's a cool combination of mountainous terrain like the Marquesas combined with a French/Creole/African culture. And there are giant tortoises! There are also hikes to hike, beaches to explore and a variety of touristy things to see and do.

Tortoises! The local wild population is extinct--but tortoises from Aldabra atoll are found around the islands
But the big priority for us and the dozen or so South Africa bound boats that are part of our little fleet is to prepare the boats for the next leg. Part of it is the weather—after enjoying light winds for most of past several thousand miles—we’re hitting the part that gets windy, sometimes in our face windy. We’ll also be passing through some of the poorest countries in the world; Comoros and Madagascar. So anything we need to buy or replace (shoes for example) has to happen now.

our poor shoes--the heat and humidity (and saltwater) seems to melt the glue that holds the straps in and the soles on
While we ready the boats under the shadow of the peaks there’s lots of socializing. Or little group of boats (with crews from more than a dozen different countries) has been in loose company for several months now and this is the first stopping point where so many of us have been together at the same time. So we’re trading photos we’ve taken of each other, catching up on stories and getting prepared to follow the seasons into Africa’s summer and our big stop in South Africa.