Reunion: end of term time!

Sat 30 Jun 2012 16:38
30th June 2012
Location Port Ouest, Port des Galets, Reunion.    20:56.58S 55:16.98E
Its been a few days since I wrote, and now here we are at journeys end, for now. After Port Louis I sailed up the coast to Grand Baie: it's about three hours, and an exhilarating sail in 20 kts of wind, flat seas in the lee of the Island, and lots of sail up. Anchored off the yacht club, and was able to convince them that I was a paid up member of the RFYC: so temporary free reciprocal membership. Grand Baie is the only sheltered bay around the whole Island, and is the centre for all watersports. Daily catarmaran cruises to the outer Islands, paragliding, you name it, it's here. Loads of Oppies at the weekend as well. Ashore it is a tourist strip, but quite entertaining, and I rather liked the place. For yachties there was a splendid Super U: vast, it was such a shame that I didn't need any more provisions, still I visited several times, parhaps because of the really excellent ice cream parlour just outside! Sunday night found me, at midnight, in the Bananna Bar with all the other Brits on the Island (about a dozen): watching our boys miss their penalties. Back on board a final coat of varnish for my new washboards, and I was so tired the next day (or was it the draft phoenix beer at the Bannana) that I had another day off, and finally got back to Port Louis to clear out a day behind schedule. Spent the remains of the day at the Blue Penny museum. The blue stamp in question is the most valuable thing on the Island, very old, and misprinted 'Post Office' instaed of, as it should have been 'Post Paid'. Philatelists amongst you will appreciate the significance of this mistake, especially as it was not noticed, and so this particular stamp was franked and used. Mauritius was key to the developement of the Postal Service. Until stamps were invented both sender, and recipient paid their share of the costs of carriage of their cargoes on the 'Packet Ships' that sailed round the Cape of Good Hope from Europe to the Indies. Stamps simplified everything, and ensured that the shippers didn't lose out to recipients who were inclined not to pay up. My dad would have been fascinated by this, he worked in the Post Office all his life, but the furthest he ever got from the UK was Brittany!
The trip to Reunion was blighted by a complete lack of overnight wind, and I had to motor again to reach port before dark. There is a big marina situated in the old commercial basin: not very scenic, and no shoreside developement. Mostly local boats: yachts and 'sportsboats' with fishing gear. The Marina staff have been exceptionally helpful and kind, I have been lent a bicycle to get around town, as the distances are considerable. The hardstand is not part of the Marina, and I have had to make my own arrangements with a man who will lift the boat, and another man who will put some steel supports underneath it. I believe that the exercise has been correctly coordinated, though with my dreadful French anything that can go wrong probably will! There are a dozen boats there at the moment, including Biloba: my french friends big Jenneau. Although the area is floodlighted at night there is no other obvious security, and I am going to pack everything on deck away, and keep my fingers crossed. Things have apparently disappeared from time to time, and the atmosphere in Port des Galets is not reassuring: there was a Naval Base here which recently closed: the local bars and shops are struggling a bit, and away from the centre the 2km walk to the marina is through residential streets. The feature of note is that all properties have fences/walls at least 7 feet high, and within each small compound there is a dog who hurls itself against the fencing as you walk past. By day it is cheerful enough, kids out playing, mums chatting, but at night it is very unsettling. It is true that hardly anyone speaks English, but I am coping. Today I was able to explain that I wanted a puncture repair kit (Yes, it is a rather old bike: last night I walked it 4 miles home with a flat tyre), and I've also found a new ring for my broken fishing rod. the cost of living is very high, maybe more than in France itself. A lunchtime plate de jour is £15 (£2 in Rodrigues!) and DIY is almost as expensive: but very good quality. A most wonderful swordfish steak last night from the local fishmonger. This is what George Clooney died for in 'A Perfect Storm'. I have come to appreciate what the fuss is about!
Many many jobs to be done, haul out is Tuesday, and I hope to be on the plane home in almost exactly a weeks time. Wonderful to be back on track once more, and whilst Rodrigues was the runaway highlight, everything has been fun and interesting.