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Southern Madagascar Not Welcoming

By Sue Richards last modified Oct 24, 2011 12:57 PM

Published: 2011-10-24 12:57:06
Countries: Madagascar

During the last 6 weeks, the yachts Papillon (USA), Nauti Buoy Too (Australia), and Moonbeam (England) traveled from Reunion to Richard’s Bay, SA, via Port d’Ehoala (Ft. Dauphin) and Toliara, Madagascar. Our experience with the officials in both ports were less than welcoming. We would like to advise other yachts considering this itinerary of the pitfalls we encountered.

Madagascar

Port d’Ehoala/Ft Dauphin/Taolagnaro (S25.07 E46.96)

Papillon and Nauti Buoy Too arrived in Port d’Ehoala on Saturday afternoon, September 17, 2011 after battling 20 knot headwinds and 2-3 meter breaking seas for 5 hours. The new port, built by Rio Tinto Mining, has only been open for a couple of years. It offered safe berthing behind the breakwater and cement quay. Papillon rafted to Nauti Buoy Too to complete formalities. The harbormaster, Nicholas, was very helpful. He called an agent (MSC) who organized the officials who came to the quay. Because the facility was built for ships, the sailboats sat so low that we couldn’t get off and they couldn’t get on.

The authorities in Port d’Ehoala/Ft Dauphin aren’t used to cruising boats, and are going out of their way to make their annual budgets on us. The MSC agent initially asked US$100 each for himself, Customs, Immigration, Health, and Police. Nauti Buoy Too negotiated US$80/agency and paid it on arrival. Papillon stalled, saying we needed to get local money (Ariary, or MGA) from the ATM, and insisting on invoices in writing from each of the agencies. Immigration came back with $80 OR 100,000 MGA ($50.00). We challenged the agent, then told him we’d pay only MGA 100,000 per agency. A third boat, Moonbeam, came in and was given invoices for MGA 100,000/agency right off the bat. Nauti Buoy Too registered displeasure with the agency...but didn’t get any $$ back.

Meantime, the Port d’Ehoala manager met with the yacht captains re: port charges. We’re the first cruising boats they’ve had, and while they claim not to have invoiced us at commercial rates, they did present each boat with a 300 Euro bill (US$420). The captains protested loudly...especially since Mauritius and Reunion were between US$80-115/week, including power and water...where as we were anchored and had to generate our own p&w.; After much negotiation, they got down to around 120 Euros + 20% VAT, which is about $200.

The port fees plus agency and check-in came to US$450, making this stop our most expensive ever. Upon leaving, officials from Ft. Dauphin attempted to collect another US$400 per boat, but the yacht captains refused to pay.

Port d’Ehoala wants to attract cruisers, and has plans to install a floating dock inside the breakwater. They are reconsidering their fees and are working with the officials to come up with something more reasonable. However, cruisers are advised to contact the port and an agent and insist on a quote in writing before heading there. (The old Ft. Dauphin anchorage in the heart of the town is a security risk and not recommended.) Nicholas also asked that yachts contact the port by e-mail before leaving their last port. See www.ehoalaport.com for current contact information and charts of the port.

Although well protected from wind and wind waves, there was considerable surge within the quay. It was more comfortable to move outside to the anchorage, which both Nauti Buoy Too and Papillon did on September 18. The Port d’Ehoala anchorage is open to the NE. Even in easterly winds, the fetch can become extreme. During our stay we sat out 24 hours of 30-35 knot winds and 3’ fetch in 15’ of water, during which we broke one bridle at the devil’s claw and chafed through a ¾” nylon line on another. To top it off, the port was loading titanium ore on a ship. The ore is black before processing to the white pigment titanium dioxide. We were well dusted with black grit.

Toliara (S23.38 E43.66)

Papillon, Nauti Buoy Too, and Moonbeam arrived in Toliara on Friday afternoon, September 30, 2011 and couldn’t raise an official on the radio. The captains went into the dock to find the harbormaster, but no luck. They did meet Germain and Zose who offered services as a guide and driver for MGA 70,000/day no matter what we did. G&Z; took them to the harbormaster’s office in town & they completed the paperwork. The word was that we’d each need to pay something around MGA 70,000 upon check-out. He made it sound like he was the only one we’d need to see, but...

Saturday we went in to go to town and were met by Customs on the dock. Nauti Buoy Too had used his dingy to ferry all of us, as his crew was staying on the boat and could just come and get us when we were ready. That meant we didn’t need to leave a dingy on the dock. The Customs agent desperately wanted to come see the boats but had a meeting so we went by his office to have our crew lists stamped. He was angry that we hadn’t checked in with him on Saturday, but told the Captains that we could get duty free fuel for a payment of MGA 45,000 (per boat? collectively???). We had papers to bring back Monday morning to initiate the fueling process.

Monday the captains went in at 7:30 am to get the papers stamped and order the fuel. Germain & Zose drove and were coordinating the fuel purchase. Customs wiggled and waggled and OKed taking on fuel for the fee of MGA 30,000/boat, but there was no duty free discount. There was another office to visit to get another stamp, then the oil company. The oil company charged MGA 2600/liter, when the pump price was MGA 2580/liter. We understood that the price was delivered. The truck was supposed to be on the dock at 11:00 am, but didn’t come until 2:30 pm (dead low tide). We each, in turn, rafted to a tug and they delivered the fuel. Only Papillon was capable of measuring exactly how many liters were taken on, and we were 47 liters short out of 400 liters ordered. The oil company manager showed up hours later to get his money and was indignant that we said we’d been shorted 12% of the order. He was worried that we’d shorted the money, but we paid him the agreed amount. Then he wanted another MGA 100,000 for the truck. The captains wouldn’t pay, so the guide and driver offered to handle the problem because they had organized a fixed price deal for the fuel. (Note: This “scam” for the privilege of taking on duty free fuel in Madagascar is wide spread. In fact, the wholesalers have paid the duty, and if they back it out of the price for the cruisers they have to apply for a rebate from the government. The government is broke and won’t rebate the amount of the duty. Hence, no one will honor the duty free price anywhere in Madagascar, but there’s no way to know that before you pay Customs for a “duty free” permit.)

Between 10:00 pm Monday night and 1:00 am Tuesday morning Nauti Buoy Too’s dingy was stolen. He offered a US$1000 reward (MGA 2,000,000) to no avail. A boat captain told him that there’s a local mafia that makes it unsafe to be in town at night, or to look too hard for stolen goods.

We wouldn’t want to have missed Mauritius or Reunion, as they were both highlights of our trip around the world. Southern Madagascar however, was not comfortable in any sense of the word. Due to the alternating high and low pressure systems moving east from South Africa, making the jump between Reunion and SA in one jump can involve some rough weather, so it’s a hard choice to not stop to wait for safe weather windows. Tucking in along the shore, but not visiting major towns, or going the more traditional route around the top of Madagascar are both certainly worth considering.

Submitted by:

Julia and Jim Parker
s/y Papillon

Paco Arevalo
s/y Nauti Buoy Too

Colin Seaman
s/y Moonbeam

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