The Old Man Returns


05 October 2011 | NW Madagascar

The old man returns

After leaving bubbles 16 months ago and religiously (and jealously) following the blog, the old man was back on board bubbles. Two days of straight flying was well worth it as I flew my last lef from the capital of madagascar (tana) into the picturesque island of Nosy Be in the NW corner of the country. In typical Bubbles meet up fashion, I hadn’t corresponded with anyone on the boat for a week to confirm the pickup. So although I was a bit skeptical I’d see anyone at the airport, I walked out of the airport and before I had time to finish my first beer at the roadside bar, I saw an old jalopy speeding down the road with a big burly beard in the back…and I knew the adventure was about to begin.

After the obligatory hugs, high fives, and backslaps, we were barreling down the potholed road in an old Peugot swerving around cattle pulled carts and women carrying their goods on their heads on our way towards the port that Bubbles was docked at. The tiny town that we passed through (interestingly and slightly eerily named Hellville) seemed to be like one gigantic market with goods spilling out into the road filled with people who are a beautiful mix of dark African, Asian (Chinese), and Indian descent.

We made it safe and sound Bubbles…and she was in surprisingly as good if not better shape than when I left her over a year ago. I met the crew and got the itinerary for the next few days. We were quickly off on provisioning runs for the 2 week voyage (which we’d be sailing with two single handed boats…Austrailan Norm on 100ft Pawnee and Norwegian Daniel on Luna). Since we were in an area famous for rum production, the captain had put rum provisioning at the top of the priority list. We went off looking for the local factory mentioned in our guidebook only to find out that the factory had closed down 3 years earlier due to regular deadly explosions. In lieu of the rum factory, we found out the local chinese family had the best rum in town and were off. With jerry cans in hand, we rolled into the chinese shop and had them drag out the rum. After sufficient sampling of their four flavors (two of which I thought I would blind us if we drank more than a shot) we selected our choices and had them fill up the 2 jugs at around $3 a gallon (I think). We obviously had no aspirations of finishing this any time soon, but cheap rum is not something you see every day, so carpe diem.

After a night out, we picked up hook and headed out. I quickly realized that my soft office hands, iridescent seattle skin, and balance that resembled that of a drunken old man with vertigo had me ill equipped to serve any worthwhile purpose on the boat. As it turned out, sitting around and staying out of the way was all that was really required of me…the current crew of Bubbles was like a well oiled machine and had everything from cooking to anchor lifting down to a science.

We decided to have a little race each day with the rest of the fleet sailing with us (Pawnee and Luna). Day 1 belonged to bubbles on our race to Nosy Iranja as Luna took an extremely unorthodox route sailing in almost the completely wrong direction…Daniels explanation in his thick norwegian accent which made no sense was ‘Yah, Yah, Yah…Luna and me like to sail far out’ which made us all laugh (he starts nearly every sentence with Yah Yah Yah…which is extremely funny). At Nosy Iranja, Kirk and I quickly jumped in and speared a few fish on the coral heads…well, Kirk did all the killing and I was a bit rusty. The next day we walked across a sand spit to another island that was walkable at low tide and after spending time realized that the tide had risen and we were now trapped as our sand bridge was under 5 feet of crashing waves (Kirk and I managed to swim back and get the dinghy). When we got back to Bubbles, Christine decided that she wanted to try her hand at spearfishing. As a vegetarian of sorts (eats fish), she wasn’t sure she’d be able to shoot a fish. I gave her the quick run down of how to shoot the gun and when I started to explain the reloading process she cut me off since she doubted that was anything she’d need to know. After about 15 minutes, I heard her screaming that she’d shot something big. Turns out she’d shot a massive fish which she said must have been suicidal since she had forgotten about the safety switch the first few times she pulled the trigger and finally when she turned it off she was still able to get a shot off. Kirk and I both felt considerably less manly since we’d been chasing around fish half the size of the fish Christine shot with no luck.

We pulled hook and headed off for the Honey River (Bubbles won this regatta as well after Luna sailed off towards the horizon for a second straight day and Pawnee had a late start). After dropping anchor, we were in the village in search of the honey that the village is famous for and quickly found some…we had to chew through some honeycomb and larvae…but it was good honey. More importantly, we found out there was a fight in town that night which we clearly had to be at.

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