Late Portrait of Victoria

This is not about an artist’s impression of Queen Victoria in her later years, though she can be found here.  It is a retrospective of Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles island group and probably named after her.  Located on Mahé, the largest and most developed island housing 90% of the population, it is a quaint mixture of Creole, French and British and where we spent the months of July and August.

Like many island groups, the Seychelles has a chequered history.  Largely undiscovered until the 18th century when Mahé de Labourdonnais, French governor of Mauritius, sent out a scout to do a recce, the French took possession but did not quite know what to do with their prize.  The British became interested, the French did not put up a fight and the islands became a British dependency in the early 19th century and finally a crown colony administered from London a century later, a couple of years after Queen Victoria’s death.  Independence was granted in 1976, and Independence Day is celebrated annually in the presence of the President, James Michel, with much fanfare and long speeches.

Making an afternoon of it at the National Show outside the Stadium:

Inside The People’s Stadium:

The population of just about 100,000 swells each year by over 200,000 tourists who come to lap up the luxury of a multitude of resorts on Mahé, La Digue, Praslin to name but a few of the 115 that make up the island nation.  It is a thriving industry – high end condominium residences abound on Eden Island along with expensive self-contained apartments.  With a similar name, the Eden Luxury Apartments offer accommodation at a more reasonable rate, complete with swimming pool.

Victoria is neat, clean and friendly, where dress code is western and relaxed, making a welcome change from the strictures of covering up in other countries we’ve recently sailed to.  Apart from administration buildings, post office, churches and a bus station, it boasts The Seychelles Yacht Club where we whiled away many a lunchtime or supper with friends over a meal and glass of wine.  The open market offers local market- garden produce, flowers, eggs, spices and souvenirs.  There are supermarkets ranging from STC to Spar and the ISPC with its wonderful wine selection, French cheeses, pates and cold cuts, plus all the other little stores and bakeries.

Celebrating a special occasion we went to the renowned restaurant, Marie-Antoinette and enjoyed a delicious and expansive set menu of Creole dishes in rustic surroundings.  But we stopped short of trying the typical local delicacy – FRUIT BAT!!  Like Queen Victoria, Pipistrelle would not have been amused.

Whilst we were in Chagos we had to make the decision about where to have permanent repairs made to the rudder, and also have the prop shaft replaced.  The alternatives were to follow the original plan to sail to Rodrigues and Mauritius, but yachts on that passage were experiencing very strong head winds, which did not seem a good idea for us in the circumstances.  The Seychelles appeared to have 3 separate yards with abilities and facilities to carry out efficient repairs, and the winds were likely to be considerably lighter on route, providing we sailed far enough south to find the wind in the first place.

After the passage of 1,000nm, and once we were safely anchored, we looked at these yards, and Gondwana stood out amongst the rest with a brand new 150 tonne Italian engineered travel lift, a concrete standing area, and an excellent General Manager in Rajen Naidu.  We checked out the facilities, and then arranged to have Pipistrelle lifted there.  After initial technical problems the haul was successful.  We were extremely impressed by the immense knowledge, experience and expertise of Rajen, and felt confident he and his team would do a good job, which turned out to exceed our expectations.

The rudder was dropped and split in two, totally cleaned out, strengthened and rebuilt, this time ensuring it is watertight.  The interior was totally filled with foam cut to size, and glued in place.  The prop shaft was removed and replaced with a new one.  Fortunately the hull had not been damaged, and because we had rested on soft coral, there was no damage to the keel.

But we decided to take advantage of the facilities to remove the build-up of antifoul that had accumulated over the last 12 years.  We had wanted to have this done in Krabi, Thailand, but they did not have the equipment or expertise there.  The hull was carefully taken back to the gelcoat to remove the build-up of antifoul that had accumulated over the last 12 years.  Two coats of epoxy were then applied, followed by two coats of antifoul.  The topsides were polished to a new shine and Pipistrelle looks fantastic again.  Click to see our entry on Noonsiteand Gondwana Marine Services on Facebook.

Pipistrelle was then launched, and after sea trials and reprovisioning, sailed back to Victoria to await the arrival of Elaine and Tony, who would accompany Bob on the passage to Madagascar.

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