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Alizé’s (Half) World Tour - Stage Three: Tristan Da Cunha/Mayotte

Alizé, César, Lisa and Max are accompanying their Captain - Alizé’s father - on a great adventure: they are delivering Maitai, a Lagoon 450 Sportop, from Les Sables d’Olonne, in France, to Mayotte, in the Indian Ocean. Five months at sea, lots of adventures, and above all, lots of laughs - with Alizé on board, it’s impossible to get bored!

After her trip halfway around the world, Maitai is now being used for day charters in Mayotte.

March 12 and we had just come through our second storm system. I can assure you that it was pretty hard going once again! I can still see my father facing up to each squall one by one without even thinking, but still stressed to the core because we had just spent a night without sleeping with 45/50 knots of established wind and a swell with 25- to 35-foot (8-to 10-meter) waves. To make matters worse, a huge squall came along at daybreak. When we saw this monster advancing towards us, while we were already dealing with strong gusts, we had no idea of what to expect. What was this squall going to batter us with? 70 knots, 80? A fine rain began to fall, and the mysterious squall was still visible in the distance. With my father, after that long and agitated sleepless night watching over Maitai, we looked at each other with great understanding. All we could do was to wait for the verdict and whatever punishment the weather would throw at us, without being able to do anything... Then strangely, the wind seemed to calm down and drop, a fog rose and the swell decreased, little by little... The ocean seemed to regain its calm and leave behind its raging seas. Phew!

Fine Dining!

That’s it, the storm had passed. Apparently, this is what is called the tipping point: the calm after the storm. What a relief! Although it’s one of the most beautiful and impressive things I’ve ever seen and experienced (admittedly, a storm with 33 feet (10 meters) of swell and winds of 50 knots set and gusting 70/80, is not something you see every day), we were still much happier to be sailing on calmer waters. We will remember this sail, in all the senses of the word! I won’t go back over this depression in detail as it seems to me that I had already described the first one we had experienced before arriving in Tristan da Cunha, one week earlier.

The South Atlantic had a special storm in store for Alizé and her crew: 33-foot (10 meter) swell with 50-knot winds, gusting to 70/80!

I’d rather talk about something a little more light-hearted. Let’s talk about boat food! Because that’s one area which held up pretty well, haha! The day that we got through this second depression (and yes, we were so keen to get fishing that we set the rods back up as soon as the wind dropped a little!), César reeled in a big 60 lb (25kg) tuna all by himself! In no time at all, the fish was cleaned, cut up and delicately deposited on our plates. The sashimi was wolfed down in the blink of an eye. There’s no better way to reconnect with life and the sea after two days of negotiating storms! A twist of lemon, a hint of olive oil, a turn of the pepper mill, a pinch of fleur de sel, and we had produced a meal worthy of Bocuse. What a delight! It had been a long time... The next day, Lisa made us rillettes with the rest of the tuna. Taste sensation number 2. Max, as usual, made the bread. And me, I invented the «I’ll stuff it all in» pizza pie. No need to tell you that this fine recipe was based on any ingredients or leftovers that could be unearthed on board the catamaran. And yes, on a boat, it’s very important to manage your stocks over time and to keep an eye on the maturation of the food, so that you don’t lose and spoil anything.

If you’re going to eat well, you have to drink well too. Well, we had to relax a little after all this bad weather. We took out the red wine and the rum and spent an afternoon playing games and laughing on a calm ocean: a magical moment!

Approaching Africa

Time went by quickly. It must have been March 16th when we realized that we only had four more days at sea before we would reach the African continent. Only four days after almost a month at sea! It seems perhaps crazy to say it, but I was not ready. Yet, how many times had I dreamed of finally arriving and going ashore, of leaving this boat and regaining my freedom? And yet, obviously, finding land and «normal» life after all this time and my long meditations at sea scared me a little.

The father/daughter ritual after a storm and sleepless night: early morning pastis and saucisson before a snooze in the saloon…

Arrival in Cape Town will remain as one of the craziest episodes. We arrived in a dense fog like that of the Amazonian forest. We couldn’t see 30 feet (10 meters) in front of us. Not ideal conditions for making landfall. I think that we would have hit the rocks twenty times if it hadn’t been for our buddy the SatNav! We would not have seen the land edging closer. It’s quite unsettling. We imagined seeing it from afar, beginning to get a taste of this vision of a continent slowly getting closer. A bit like any stopover on a sailboat after a month of fighting at sea. We could only imagine the land, although sometimes, by chance, the mist would disappear for a minute and release a sublime and mysterious view of Africa, ever closer. Humpback whales, sea lions, boobies, dolphins and other creatures still came to welcome Maitai. We were proud to have made it this far.

A one-month stopover in Cape Town

The four of us were at the front, overexcited but still focused, shouting to reassure the Captain at the helm. We were hoping to tell him that the way ahead was clear, but in fact, we didn’t really know... Far away in the distance, we could see a strange, indescribable shape, appearing and disappearing within the twists and turns of this evil fog. The closer we got, the bigger and gloomier it became... And suddenly, less than 300 feet (100 meters) away, a seawall appeared out of nowhere - it was in fact the seawall at the harbor entrance of the Victoria Marina in Cape Town. Cursed fog!

Maitai approaching the South African coast. We’ve already clocked up 7,512 miles since Les Sables d’Olonne!

Happiness and a smile were etched on the faces of all of us and it was beautiful to see. All the stress melted away and we were laughing like kids. Maitai crossed the two entrances of the majestic marina, the Captain following the advice of the officer in order to know where to tie up, and then we stepped ashore. We were finally stood on terra firma, and moreover on the African continent, in the magnificent city of Cape Town. Yihaaa! That was worth a big, bright-eyed, general huddle. We had done it, we were there! I even caught my father kissing the pontoon, he was so happy... Yes, we didn’t have far to go to the promised land - Mayotte!

Against winds and currents

We spent almost a month in Cape Town, mainly down to the boat’s after-sales service issues. Maitai needed quite a lot of little things repairing after almost three months non-stop sailing - which included some pretty sporty moments - hey, we did almost reach 40° South! And the crew needed a bit of a service too. We needed some entertainment after all this time at sea, constantly getting in each other’s way. We left the Captain on his multihull and rented some bikes to ride the beautiful South African roads - also on the program: a small festival along the way, and renting a house with an amazing sea view. As if we hadn’t seen enough of it already!

Tourism in South Africa: the Cape of Good Hope and the Lion’s Head, a 2,195-foot (669-meter) high rocky peak which towers above Cape Town.

On April 15, we cast off and started the journey to Mayotte. Our first objective: a stopover in Richards Bay. Sailing into 4 knots of current, the Cape of Good Hope did not let us get away with it that easily! It was a real dogfight, but we pretty much held on before finally deciding to make a stopover in a small marina to spend the night because fighting against the wind and the current while going along the African coast was not the most pleasant experience. We would arrive at Richards Bay the following day instead.

Sorting out the Saildrive...

Ah! the Richard’s Bay marina, the Zululand Yacht Club...we’ll remember them! We stayed for almost three weeks. It was really the last marina where we could carry out repairs on Maitai. We had a big problem to fix: water was seeping around the propeller and we had sea water in the oil of one of the two saildrives, which was creating a real mess... 

Getting Maitai out of the water at Richard’s Bay, ready to get the sail drive repaired and to be antifouled

That was not cool at all! Unfortunately, we had to put Maitai on the hard. A pretty stressful ordeal for the Captain, seeing his catamaran pulled by a small tractor and then chocked up with a few pieces of wood. I must admit that even I was a little reticent. Luckily, everything went ok. In spite of the difficulties and the sometimes-long exchanges for an after-sales service operation like this one, Maitai finally returned to the water, ready to leave at last. We, the young people, took a few days of vacation far from all of this. We wanted to visit the famous Hluhluwe game reserve. We came back fresher than ever and especially ready for THE last and much anticipated final leg of our journey. It was an emotional moment when we cast off from the beautiful Zululand Marina. We had had so many wonderful encounters on African territory. Our friends were all at the pontoon, to say goodbye to us. We watched them, with tears in our eyes, thinking about what we were leaving behind, but with one eye on our final goal, Mayotte!

Un équipage en or

A fantastic crew The five of us had been together 24/7 for five months by now, with just about all of that time spent sailing on a boat. We had become aware of something special and not necessarily so obvious: life was not always easy on board. The more the time passed, the more we realized what this mission was all about: bringing Maitai to Mayotte from Les Sables d’Olonne. And with three young people who had never sailed before, it had been a struggle at times.... We had already gone through some difficult moments, and twice on the same ocean. I can confirm that at sea, you have time to think. You find yourself having to deal with your demons, and there’s no escape. We evolve by facing up to shortcomings, and by permanently questioning ourselves. It does us no harm as human beings. You have to go through it and you inevitably come out of it stronger. Let’s just say that being at sea hastens things along. What a team! The Captain and his little ants... We knew each other better than ever before, for better and sometimes worse - but it was beautiful. We bonded and moved forward together, giving each other a lot of love and compassion, despite the difficulties and the urge to arrive at our destination. I never thought that I would be able to depend upon Max and Lisa to such an extent. My father, despite his responsibilities, the stress of the boat and the four crazy kids on board, was taking on more than ever - he was magical. César, at last, proved to be a quiet, surprising and wonderful force in the face of the whirlwind that I can be at times.

We still had two weeks of sailing left to get to Mayotte, and we were determined to make them the most beautiful in the world!

From left to right in this photo taken by the Captain: Alizé, Max, César and Lisa.

Mayotte. The promised land...

May 17, 2019... Our Captain’s birthday, my papa. And he wasn’t born that day for nothing: the next day, we arrived in Mayotte - what a birthday present that was! As a result, we didn’t prepare too much for him, apart from him blowing out a few candles on a good old Mont Blanc praline cream - I can tell you that those boxes of dessert cream meant a lot to us in the middle of the Indian Ocean!

Mayotte, our promised land! At last, we were arriving! I watched as this beautiful island approaching, sitting in my favorite place, at the front of Maitai. All the memories of the last five months came back to me. Tears were gently rolling down my cheeks. So many experiences, so many emotional moments, screaming, crying, laughing... Boy, what a fight it had been! How many times have we put the world to rights with all our great discussions on the bimini?

And there we were today, the five of us, still together. And that was just wonderful. I found myself turning my head to look behind me, from my vantage point up front, and Lisa was there, sitting on the roof. I plunged into her blue eyes. There was no need for words to understand exactly how we felt now. We hugged each other tightly. We had arrived!

Arrivée sous voile à Mayotte.

A small fishing boat was advancing slowly towards us, from far away... The closer it got, the more we could discern small silhouettes that did not look too much like sailors. It was Monique, Cécile and my mother - they had all three started sailing with us to the Canary Islands - who were coming to welcome us! I could hear my mother shouting for joy. Of course, the five of us met up on Maitai’s trampoline to scream too! We were so eager to drop anchor and hug them!

My father had planned the arrival at 8am; we were exactly on time for our rendezvous - us, the big Maitai, and the little fishing boat - at Passe Bateau, one of the most beautiful anchorages in Mayotte. Now that’s class! The anchor barely had time to touch the bottom when the five of us jumped into the water like mad things to join the women. My mother did the same; she found herself in my father’s arms in no time at all, then in all of ours too. We joined them for an emotional general hug on arrival. There’s no need to describe the joy and intensity of this happy reunion.

Maitai was welcomed like a hero in Mayotte. Mama had had time to publicize our journey over the last five months, so the whole island was waiting impatiently for us. On the first evening, we went to a party (of course!) and people came up to us saying «did you just arrive with the beautiful catamaran? Are you Maitai’s crew? From France? Wahoooo!». And yes, it was us, haha!

There was no time for hanging around or sleeping off our hangover: the next morning, we met up with journalists, friends and reporters for a trip up the island to Mamoudzou, followed by a jolly reception with everyone on the pontoon.

The Captain’s first charter trip on Maitai.


Mission accomplished: Maitai was delivered on time and in good shape. We could leave the captain. I had told my mother: «I’ll bring dad all the way, whatever it takes, don’t worry”. In fact, not one of us brought any of the others. All five of us brought each other, without ever letting go of anything!


I dreamed of having just the four of them, my Papa, César, Max and Lisa, to hug them one last time, to thank them and tell them that I love them so much from the bottom of my heart, for having lived this wonderful and unforgettable adventure, in spite of everything and until the end. I think it’s done now... I’ll see you in a few years, for Maitai’s next adventures, OK? 






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