A bit of history
A bit of history…
The « goélette » is of Breton origin, it arrived on the Malagasy coast at the end of the 19th century. At that time Arab dhows where used as cargos, but only Muslim crew where allowed to sail them. Not a problem on the North West coast of Madagascar, from Nosy Be down to Majunga, where a large proportion of the population is Muslim. But further south none of the Vezo were. They were mainly Catholic or Protestant and followed their traditional beliefs worshipping their ancestors.
To counter the lack of Muslim sailors South of Majunga, under the reign of Radama II and at his request, the French government sent the Breton Joachim brothers from the Reunion Island to Morondava to teach the Vezo the craft of building such “goélettes”.
This is how the Canal of Mozambique now boasts a full wind powered Merchant Navy fleet of some 200 such cargos. Having to move around the big island due to some political unrest, the Joachim brothers eventually settled in Belo-sur-mer, which has remained until now the cradle of the goélettes’ shipyard of Madagascar.
Reputed to be sturdy with a fairly good sailing yield, these large hull cargos’ shallow draft allows them to access the many villages and towns along the West coast and rivers that are inaccessible by land.
With their two masts of almost the same height and their six sails, these majestic cargos are, with the Arab dhows of the North West of Madagascar, the only truly ecological merchant cargos of the “big island” to sail exclusively powered by the wind.
They transport all sorts of freight from salt, broad beans, rice, dried salted fish or cement to more prestigious goods such as crates of fizzy drinks, beers, and local brewed rum!
At the dawn of the 3rd millennium, these ancestral goélettes still play an active part to the economic development of Madagascar.