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James Garcia
James Garcia

Sailing Into Rodrigues Island


The chronicler Gaspar Correia (p. 418) claims that after doubling the Cape of Good Hope by himself, Fernandes did not turn into the Mozambique Channel, but rather pushed east, sailing under the island of Madagascar, and then turned north, sailing up east of Madagascar. This would make him the first known ship to sail the 'outer route' to the East Indies. (Although there remains the possibility that Diogo Dias also did precisely that in 1500.)




Sailing into Rodrigues Island


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The Barque Picton Castle is a classic Age of Sail square rigged sailing ship making deep-sea voyages. This October we will set sail on a voyage around the world. You can sign on and sail as trainee crew on this incredible voyage. Sailing bluewater while learning the way of a ship is our life for about a year and a half. We'll sail 35,000 nautical miles along the traditional routes of the world's great sailing ships and explorers of old, and yes, pirates too. We put into ports such as Panama, Pitcairn Island, Tahiti, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Bali, Cape Town, St. Helena, Caribbean islands, and Bermuda, sailing across the broad South Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans, all while becoming increasingly accomplished seafarers and learning seamanship skills hands-on through crewing a square-rigged ship. You become one of the crew. No prior sailing experience is necessary as you will get plenty of experience on this voyage. This is the ultimate voyage!


Leaving the charms of the high, mountainous Tahiti behind for a while, we'll sail north for the atolls (low coral islands) of the Tuamotu Islands - or the "Dangerous Archipelago" as they were once called due to the currents. The plan is to put in at Takaroa Atoll. At this classic palm-fringed coral atoll, we might learn something more of tropical Polynesian out-island living, and also explore the huge wreck of a full rigged iron sailing ship almost ten times the size of Picton Castle. She was thrown up on the reef in 1906 and is there to this day in all her huge iron presence.


After exploring some of the low atolls of the Tuamotus, we'll set sail for Mangareva in the Gambier group of islands. A high island surrounded by barrier reefs, Picton Castle has put into Mangareva many times, carefully piloting between the coral heads to make our way into the secure anchorage just off the village supply-ship dock. The outer islands (motus) are idyllic to visit in the small boats, perhaps to make overnight sailing expeditions in the longboats. Mangareva is home to many black pearl farms, which are fascinating to see should our crew be fortunate enough to be invited to visit.


Leaving French Polynesia in our wake we sail for Tonga. This may be a couple of weeks at sea. And back into the groove of being sailing ship seafarers. With the tradewinds blowing over the quarter we sail ever westward.


The South Atlantic tradewinds are the steadiest of the world, some of the best sailing we know will be on this passage. We will also cross the Equator back into the northern hemisphere along the tropical sailing ship route on the way to the eastern Caribbean isles we love so much.


Tossed around and loving itFrom Christmas Island to the Cape of Good Hope (4,928 nm) we were two on board. Mate Ben Powers and I quickly settled into a comfortable watch rhythm, four hours on and four off. We discovered a trusting balance on this long passage despite the rough weather and resulting rig and structural issues. The cross seas and boisterous winds kept us constantly on edge but, after a week at sea, we got used to being tossed around and found ourselves celebrating the good fishing and exciting sailing conditions.


You will have a hard time finding more privacy, peace, and seclusion anywhere else. Relax on the deserted beaches, explore the vibrant ecosystem with its colorful coral reefs and varied flora and fauna. The island also offers perfect conditions for kitesurfing, windsurfing, sailing, and fishing.


The good news is that this morning I caught two little tunas but enough for a good dinner and Sushi rolls. Yesterday was exciting because the swells were large enough that you could sail down into the trough like you were driving down a city block looking at swells on both side of the boat. It was like sailing in tunnels with 4 to 5 meter swells. The wind was up and down between 20 to 30 knots and we all got knocked around the inside of the boat. I suffered a pretty big lump on my back after I fell into the edge of the galley rail. We are all looking pretty black and blue but making it across the Indian Ocean all the same.


Underway again and on a true offshore ocean passage. After sailing out from under the shadow of Christmas Island we were welcome to solid 2 meter swell with 3 to 5 meter rolling swells mixed in for fun. The big swells heaved us up toward the sky and then gently lowered us down to earth. Gave us a bit of sea sickness but we are all doing well today. We are making good time averaging 7 knots and should arrive Friday night or early hopefully. I really hate having to heave-too outside the island waiting for the sun to come. But if it happens that way I will just slow our progress to arrive Saturday Morning. Other then rolling seas and great speed the cooking has turned into a bit of a combat cooking situation. Its at least entertaining watching Ben cook last night. He only lost his cookies once but his curry chicken turned out great.


Good news everybody the high pressure system seems to have dissolved into a uniform east trade wind and we are now doing 7 to 8 kts down wind. We have 300 nautical miles remaining and should arrive Friday morning if we can keep sailing at 6 kts. It looks like the Indian Ocean will be full of surprises as we continue west to South Africa. Other then that, we had a great spinnaker run all through the night and kept up 6 kts in 3 to 4 knots of apparent wind. Now we fish again for some sushi.


Sailing 30,000 nautical miles and putting into ports like Panama, Pitcairn Island, Tahiti, Fiji, Bali, Cape Town, St. Helena, Grenada and Bermuda, all while becoming an accomplished seafarer and learning seamanship skills hands-on through sailing a square-rigged ship is the ultimate voyage.


Q:For all our Loftsails fans who do not know who Joao Rodrigues is, please tell us a bit more about you, where are you from? How did you start windsurfing?A: I am from Madeira island, in Portugal. Always lived there, except when I was sailing somewhere else! Actually, I lived in Lisbon while studying in University.


Going to sea by pirogue is an unforgettable experience. No motor, just the sound of sailing, wind and sea. We sailed to Hermitage Island where we had lunch and then go to the island of Cats. These two islands are jewels preserved of everything, a true paradise on earth not to be missed. I think this is our best day on the island and we dream of coming back! Note that other canoes came to join us but equipped with an engine. We were really lucky to have the right guide who made us live this unique moment! 350c69d7ab


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