Honey River, Nosy Iranja and Sakatia, August 2009
Russian Bay is a traditional "Hurrican Hole" and is popular with many cruisers.  One story of how the bay got its name concerns the crew of the Vlotny, a Russian warship that in 1905 had been sent to fight in the Russo-Japanese war.  The mostly Uralian crew only needed one sight of life in Madagascar to realise that they did not want to go back to Uralia.  The crew barely organized a mutiny before their officers gave in, having seen the attractive Madagascan women.  The ship was hidden within this bay and the crew quickly succumbed to malaria and other diseases.   Those who survived built a large Uralian-style dormitory, the ruins of which are pictured above. They quickly adapted to their new surroundings, living by fishing and trading parts of the ship, but were never accepted by the local Malagasy, and stayed fairly isolated in their little community.  The last crew died in 1936 and at low tide you can see parts of their ship.  Curiously we wondered why the local community did not move into the dormitory or utilize the stones for  building their own dwellings, choosing to live in their homes made of sticks.
From Russian Bay we headed to the Bramahamay river further south, and is know as the Honey River where the villages sell excellent wild honey.  The river is navigable for up to two miles inland, where we explored by dinghy looking for crocs.  A villager heard our engine and waved us up to where he was building a piroque, using only hand tools.  He was obviously very proud of his work, and we were impressed.  Wandering through the village you witness the children, especially young girls, exerting themselves with daily chores.  From collecting water in buckets from the well, balancing it on their heads for the walk back.  To pounding the husks off the rice.  There is little "play time".  The girl on the far left has the long, heavy stick, that she pounds the rice with, 100 times or more.  Ashore at Josiann's, is a small restaurant that serves delicious curried crab and "usually" has cold beverages.  One day her husband paddled passed Blue Sky proudly showing us the wild pig he had just trapped.  As we enjoyed our sundowners, the people of the village came to the beach to watch him prepare the pig for the fire.  Bringing us a plate of the grilled meat, we were impressed with how tender it was.
Staying a week in the brackish water of the honey river we were ready to move onto the clear waters of Nosy Iranja.  A 1.5 meter long sand spit joins the two islands at low tide and is covered at high water.  The larger of the two is home to a local fishing village, while the smaller is home to the luxurious Iranjar Lodge. This exclusive resort will not allow outside visitors on its property if they are full, however, we were fortunate to arrive on a day they were not too busy.  Having a cold beverage in the bar the manager informed us that at 4:00pm we could witness the green turtles hatching from their nests, on the beach at the far end of the resort.  The anchorage is known to be very rolly so we were not planning on spending the night.  But how could we pass up an offer to see turtles hatching, we decided to take the chance and stay, and were blessed with a calm evening.  The trained staff mark off the nests, count the eggs and note the date the mother laid the eggs.  They protect the nest with wire mesh, to keep any predators away.  Observing over 100 baby turtles ascend out of the sand and take their maiden voyage to the ocean was quite a spectacle.  Some would flip upside down in a footprints, and Drake and Phoeber were on the scene to rescue them. The gestation period for a turtle is approximately two months, and the beach was lined with over 20 nests.  since our departure, turtles have been a common occurance.  In Ixtapa, Mexico we released baby turtles into the ocean.  In Tahaa, French Polynesia, we took a green turtle that was saved from fisherman, by the Hibiscus Foundation. Who rescues the turtles by purchasing them off fisherman, tags and releases them.  Laying the turtle on his back he goes into a type of hibernation, we wrapped it with a wet towel then took it on Blue Sky and released it in a different part of the island.  In Madagascar, this was the first time we actually saw them break open their shells and emerge from the nests.  The turtles are protected in Madagascar, if you are caught capturing one, you will be charged a heavy fine, which most villagers can not afford.  Because of this they do not hunt them.  In some remote and very poor  villages you may witness the locals seizing them.  Every anchorage we visited we did not observe any of this, and the boat was always surrounded by green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles swimming lazily around. 
Working our way back to our home base of Sakatia, we stopped for the day at Tany Kely, with excellent coral for shallow snorkeling all around the island.  The marine life is abundant, and we saw six turtles within half an hour.  Jen and Lynda were staying at Sakatia Towers, from the UK, and we met them there for the day.  Phoebe is pictured in her favorite colored water, doing her favorite activity. 
From Tany Kely we headed back to Nosy Komba to fill up our water tanks before our passage to Mayotte.  There we met our friends off s/v Moon Walker, who we have not seen since Thailand. Russ is from New Zealand and is a champion wind surfer and Karin is from Brazil.  One day Russ took out his kite board, much to the childrens delight.  Teaching them the proper techinique and how the wind catches the shoot. 
It was fascinating watching him sail passed the local piroques.  Top right Russ also gives Bob off s/v Nero a lesson.  Bob and Glenda are also from the USA have circumnavigated many times.  Back in Sakatia we had a couple weeks to relax, so we decided to take off the teak wood trim around the boat and re-varnish it.  This was a huge undertaking, but after ten days with no rain, the new varnish looked fantastic. 
The photo on the left is the removal of the teak trim and the photo on the right is the finished product.  In all there were 94 teak plugs that had to be cut from stock.  I epoxied these into the trim to cover the stainsteel screws. The next day with the epoxy cured, I was able to trim the plugs with a
Phoebe & Solianna inspecting desert.
Our visas were at their limit and it was time to check out.  Taking the dinghy to the opposite shore, John arranged a car for us to go to Hellville for a final provision run and to fill up our jerry cans.  Crowds would gather round to watch us as it was a large amount of fuel.  A truck would then take the jerries to the beach, where Jim and Duncan would load the dinghies and return to the boats.  After three trips in the dinghies it was time to stow all the provisions and fill our tanks. 
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One day two boys and a five year old girl paddled out to the boat in their piroque to sell us a couple coconuts, we did not need coconuts, but since they made the effort we bouth them for two empty jars, 6 marbles and a pen.  The little girl had her hand hidden behind her back, but reaching out for the pen we noticed it was swollen twice the normal size with a large puncture wound between the fore and index fingers.  In our broken French, which she did not speak, however her brother did a little, we learned the wound had been there a few days and we believe it was from a fish.  The lesion had been treated with the local clay paste and was infected.  Cleaning the wound with distilled water, we applied an antibiotic ointment to the open sore and bandaged it.  After they rowed away we wondered if it had been a poisonous fish, at which time we reviewed in our medical journal how to treat such a wound.  The following day we visited her home with our medical kit and the knowledge of how to properly treat it. I brought a box of cookies ashore for all the children and a doll for the girl to help keep her mind off the pain, not once did she cry or wince.  The antibiotic ointment had worked as we noticed the swelling had lessened.  Regrettably her skin was peeling off her hand because of the server swelling and sticking the the adhesive of the band aids.  The treatment we administered was to soak her hand in very warm water, which also helped to take the band aids off, with a mix of antiseptic wash and hydrogen peroxide for ten minutes.  The latter draws the poison out while allowing the antiseptic to infiltrate any bacteria.  Applying an antibiotic powder and being careful not to use an adhesive applied to her skin., We wrapped her hand with gauze and taped it together.  Explaining in sign languar, not to get it wet or diry, which is very hard for a five year old to do.  Repeating the treatment everyday for five days the hand had significantly improved and was almost heeled, however, there was still a large open hole between her fingers.  Giving the mother some antiseptic wash and antibiotic ointment to continue the treatment, it was time for us to depart.  Before leaving I took a photo of the family and then printed it on the boat as a gift to them. 
A craftsman laborously building a piroque proudly showing us his hand tools.  Blue Sky anchored in the Honey river.
Navigating the Bramahamay river.
chisle then sandpaper them smooth.  We could now begin the 11 coats of varnish!
Irene & John waiting for desert
Emma with Mike on her left & Duncan to the right.  Notice the clean plates...
Happy group all dressed and cleaned-up for a great meal.  This was an average size to the group.  Sometimes we overflowed the deck.  The children had their own tables inside.  John always made sure they were taken care of first.