L O G B O O K - by John Philp


TUE 26 OCT - Our new friends David and Lisa turn up at the boat and take Michelle and myself to the beach. Everyone we meet here is fascinated by our country - “Fiji?... it is paradise no?”. The Pacific is as fascinating and exotic to them as the Indian Ocean is to us.

WED 27 OCT - Boat chores in the morning. Afterwards a visit to the gorgeous waterfalls at La Ravine St-Gilles. The water was frigid!

THUR 28 OCT - Ron, the Australian solo sailor arrived from Mauritius just after daybreak and tied up beside us on the wharf. It is a slow day today. Time to catch up with laundry and housekeeping.

Later we went for a swim at the beautiful white sand beach of Roches Noires - Reunion’s answer to St Tropez.

FRI 29 OCT - Tony, Michelle and Ron set off early to climb the highest peak on the island - Piton des Neiges, while I go surfing with a new friend - Yohann, a local Creole surfer.

On the drive down the coast I ask Yohann about the shark stories I keep hearing. He begins telling me some tales. We drive by a reef in St Paul which he indicates with this sobering comment - “No one surfs here much anymore. A surfer got mauled two years ago”. My jaw drops open! Another surfer victim he talks about was a friend of his. In all he mentions five attacks. Only one was non fatal - the victim walks around Reunion now with one arm missing. By this time my eyes were as round as saucers and my mouth was almost touching the floor of the car!

The gang climbing Piton de Neiges completely under estimated the seriousness of the climb and ended up missing the 10,069 foot summit by 300 feet. Ron the Australian solo sailor says that the Philps are not to be trusted with excursion planning. While in Grand Baie - Mauritius I took him to a local dive spot and we couldn’t find it! Then we take him on an impossible mountain climb! The official excuse was that the summit was clouded over and there was no point in climbing to very top for the view. Pretty weak excuse really. Ron says he’s an ex SAS officer. I’ve been thinking SAS stands for Sissies And Solo sailors.

After the surf we went to lunch at Boucan Canot and hung out on the promenade. Boucan Canot is a magnificent white sand beach with cafes, bars and shops fronting onto it. People drive by on their motorcycles sans helmets, women promenade along the walkway in their haute coutre, and the kids on school holidays mingle in groups. The beach is thronged with people. Yohann is a life guard and we hang out at the life guard shack for an hour. If I ever come back to Reunion to live this is the job I would kill for! The lifeguard assignment is to sit on deck chairs on the beach and keep an eye out - a large part of this involves perving at the beautiful women walking by. The beach shower is right beside the shack and it’s the best position to view the topless women rinsing off after a swim.

SAT 30 OCT - More surfing... (well someone has to do it). This time at Hermitage-les-Bains with David while the rest of the crew provisioned.

We returned to the yacht and found Christophe - a new local friend, waiting on the boat as promised, to take us somewhere to watch the Rugby World Cup semi finals. Australia vs South Africa - Rugby World Cup 1999 semi-finals. What a game! We went to a couple of bars that night and everywhere people were buying us drinks - so happy to meet English speakers from Fiji.

SUN 31 OCT - Michelle and I drove to St Giles to meet Lisa and David for a scuba dive, but the swell had risen to 2 meters overnight and was stirring up the sand - restricting the visibility. David and I drove to St Leu for a surf instead.

St Leu was firing! It was a big day at one of the worlds best left hand breaks... on a day like this you can catch a wave from the outside peak and ride it all the way to the beach - a distance of three or four hundred yards. At the end of the ride you step off your board onto the beach thirty yards from your parked car!

Christophe and his entire rugby club invite the crew to a bar to watch the France-NZ rugby game. It turns out to be a night none of us will forget. The rugby club has a full size blow up female doll complete with all the correct anatomical parts; it’s dressed in the club rugby jersey (no shorts though!) and they sit it on a chair beside the TV. At one stage it deflates because someone forgot to put the plug in correctly and one of the French guys gets down on his knees, lifts up the jersey and reinflates it orally from a spot I won’t mention. That brought the house down! Then the club captain leaps onto a pool table and leads the entire team in an exact replica of the New Zealand ‘Haka’ complete with French words and Jonah Lomu posturing.

MON 1 NOV - We would have stayed longer in Reunion but the Tradewind is beginning to show signs of dying off and soon the cyclone season will be upon us. It is no time to dawdle in a foreign port. The breeze was fresh from the South East as we headed out of Le Port bright and early and hoisted sails for Madagascar.

Just after lunch we were sailing happily along when we heard a loud crack! The lower insulator on the backstay had just given way without warning, compromising the entire rigging and masts. Our peaceful ocean sail had turned into a drama in just a few seconds!

Tony’s first thought was to turn back to Reunion 62 miles away but in the end we jury rigged some extra lines onto both masts to help take the load off the back stay and sailed on towards Madagascar with reduced sail. We sailed on with a watchful eye on things...

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