East African sailing trip – log 72

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November 20, 2004

We have been sailing the Indian Ocean for exactly 5 months today! It sometimes feels like 5 years. We have learned so much about sailing, about each other and about ourselves.

We are having a ball, yes there are scary moments, frustrating moments and then there are moments of sheer bliss when I feel that I will explode from the magnitude and intensity of euphoria which comes with the dependence on our little float-home, the elements, each other and our Creator.

Something magical happens when you are isolated and confined to an area so small on such a vast surface of water. It is an environment of extremes – high & lows, contentment and frustration, happiness and extreme loneliness.

We wait to listen to the “yachtie-SSB channel” before heading towards the Kokoti gap, Pemba Island. The scenery is spectacular; islands lined up in a row like green beads in a necklace. The varied species of marine life and coral are truly exceptional. From our deck we look down at multi-coloured fish darting in and out among various species of coral – we are enchanted by our own aquarium under the hulls. Seeing no sandy patch to anchor on, we move onward.

We sail close to Mapanya Island only 15nm from its shoreline, next we approach Kashani Island. The water here is too inviting and we anchor close to the 20mt drop-off in 4 mts of water.
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I snorkel around looking for reef, while Wolf checks the hulls. The corals are bare and broken; absolutely devastated we board the yacht consoling ourselves with a fresh water shower before heading up to the northern tip of Pemba Island. Fortunately the clouds roll in and the gentle accompanying breeze cools us down considerately.

As we round Ras Kigomasha the black clouds covering the beach begin to charge our way. Wolf warns me to take everything in and to close all the hatches. I rush to it, and as I close the last hatch the squall hits bringing with it 25kt winds and torrents of water. We continue down the tricky channel in zero visibility, relying blindly on the GPS and CMAP.

As quickly as it appeared it moves off leaving us in brilliant sunshine. The sight of Msuka Bay is a treat; washed clean by the downpour, the green palm-leaves glisten as if sprinkled with glitter. The white talcum powder beaches and shallow clear water beckon enticingly. This beach has a reputation of being the best beach on Pemba Island.

The anchorage is within a horseshoe of reef, and great care is needed when entering as the reef is not easy to see except with very low tides. We marvel at how we managed to enter during that squall. It is a secure anchorage in both monsoons but can get very choppy with strong northerly winds. The bottom is good holding sand and varies in depth for those who require more depth.

Although Pemba is very beautiful I do not feel the same warmth as I feel in Zanzibar. There is an air of oppression and sadness. Pemba lives in the shadow of her rich sister island (Zanzibar) The clove industry, is principally controlled by the government leading to poor development of the private sector.

Turbulence of the Pemba Channel has discouraged light sea vessels from making regular visits to Pemba ports. The best thing to come from this is that the scenic landscape and white sandy beaches have not been exploited to their potential. Pemba is largely intact, green, and still pristine.

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