Wednesday 23 July 2014

A Night At A Derelict Lighthouse

Not something that one sees every day.  A real ruin on Nosy Anambo. Seventeen years ago this lighthouse was working. Complete with a lighthouse keeper and staff. 

Now just ruins.

The worst part is that the charts that I purchased exhorbitant prices still shows the light as Oc (3) WR. 14/10 M. Which means that it occults once every 3 minutes. Occulting means that it is on more than it is off. Fourteen meters above the high water mark, the light is visible for 10 nautical miles.

But not any more. A sad state of affairs indeed. Or is it?

Technology has made the sextant, paper charts and manual navigation almost obsolete. Ditto for lighthouses. Do you really need a lighthouse if you have electronic means of navigation? The answer is probably no. But in the real world not every vessel that goes to sea has electronic navigation. And when sailing around the ocean it is very handy indeed to have a visible means of identifying where you are.

So we spent the night at anchor close to a derelict lighthouse on a small deserted island. Very spooky, almost like sailing into an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. In a land where the islands are basalt rock formations sticking up into the air in the most fantastic convoluted shapes. You really get the feeling that you sailed into history.

This afternoon we anchored at another rock sticking out of the sea. The most beautiful beach attached to this rock, making it look like a shrine. There is this large rock formation, with a pretty white sandy beach, linked by a small tongue of rocky ridge. Some trees and knee-high grass completes the picture.

We are still in another world, sailing from desert island to desert island, staying overnight enjoying the atmosphere. Captain Fatty Goodlander has it right: We are fast becoming sea gypseys.

We are not citizens of a country anymore. Well, almost.  We are fast becoming a small republic of our own. We make our own decisions of where to go and what to do. As the captain of this vessel my task has now changed to taking the boat safely from one beautiful anchorage to another. Taking the most scenic route, of course.

This gets interesting in a different way. Pilotage and detail navigation takes on a whole new meaning once you understand the rider at the bottom of the chart or in the title block. The warning  to take utmost care in using the information depicted on such a chart.

Especially when you realise that the chart has been compiled in 1964 from survey data dating from 1896. After contemplating this, you realise that you are now using very fancy electronic means to track your progress on a chart made using data from a hand survey, with hand held instruments and a plumb line.

The chart depths are shown in fathoms. In those days the internal combustion engine did not yet exist, so they used rowing boats. Do I have to go on? Today we motored ever so slowly into the anchorage. I used the chart as a rough indication only, piloting on the contours and depth only. I also looked at what the locals were doing.

Locals always know more than you as the visitor. And their movements and behaviour also provides some indication of info that you require.

Like a weather forecast. I was quite apprehensive about our anchorage being exposed to a south-easterly wind. When we anchored, the wind was blowing south west. It still is. So I watched what the local fishermen were doing. They anchored their boat about ten meters from the beach.

A lee shore if you ever saw one, depending on the wind direction. So I reasoned that if they are not worried about a lee shore, I need not to be worried either. They obviously have a better understanding of the weather than I have. So I relaxed and put out another anchor, just in case.

A lesson in disguise. Sometimes I wonder just how many lessons we get disguised as problems. In academic circles we learn that our problems are self-inflicted. A world view causing our experiences. And some of these we class as problems, without realising that these problems are those things that happen to us because we did not pay enough attention to some detail.

Mostly detail that we considered as insignificant.

Shakespeare said in Macbeth that “oftentimes the instruments of darkness tell us honest truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray us in deepest consequences.” These honest trifles may just be those little details that we tend to ignore.

But for now, I heed the smallest details and tune myself to the language of Mother Nature. And we are having the adventure of a lifetime in a place where time clearly has stood still.

How rich we are today.

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2014-06-21

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