Sunday, February 8th, Royal Cape Yacht Club, Cape Town, South Africa
Here we sit in Cape Town, South Africa waiting once again for a weather window. It seems to be a theme for us in this country. We aren't complaining mind you, just pointing it out. Our Cape Town stop has been a good one. We've taken care of many boat projects that absolutely needed to be done and some that weren't so critical. The sailing community in Cape Town is quite vibrant and the services that exist to supply the local sailors are very good. It has been our best stop, boating equipment-wise, since we left home. We had our injured shroud replaced, got our sails cleaned and tended, replaced our starting battery, had the jaws of our whisker pole ground down to reduce chafing, had our outboard repaired and a host of other things. On the not absolutely necessary but desired list were the tweaking of some of our electronics and a service for the watermaker.
On the touring front we were very lucky. Our South African cruising friends, Werner and Kristina from the boat Windance III were home from their boat for the holidays and eager to show us their part of the world. We spent many entertaining hours eating winery lunches, picnicking on the local beaches and seeking out spectacular views from Cape Town to Cape Point. We have now hit the high spots from Table Mountain to Robben Island. We have enjoyed all of it.
We find now that our attention is starting to shift from the "next new place" to the familiar territory of the Caribbean, only five thousand miles to the northwest. It's time to go sailing.
Sunday, January 11th, Royal Cape Yacht Club, Cape Town, South Africa
As of this morning the final leg of our South African sailing adventure is complete. We are exhausted but thrilled to be in Cape Town. Yesterday morning we rounded Cape Agulhas, the southern tip of Africa. It was mentally, as well as literally, a turning point for us. We had re-entered the Atlantic Ocean. “Our” Ocean.
The trip from Richard’s Bay on the east coast of South Africa to Cape Town on the southwest coast is only nine hundred miles but for us, as for many others, they were hard earned miles.
Shortly after arriving in Richard’s Bay last Fall we were joined by Roger’s cousin, Sally, for a land trip. We had a wonderful time together discovering a little bit of South Africa. Our big treat was a four day visit to the Sausage Tree Safari Camp in Balule Nature Reserve west of Kruger National Park. We slept in cool tents and in the evenings, ate our meals under the stars. With morning and afternoon game drives we were soon able to recognize more than just elephants and giraffes.
Also during our two week journey we spent the night in a beehive hut in Swaziland, toured the battlefields of the Anglo-Zulu wars and celebrated American Thanksgiving in the Drakensberg Mountains. We spent one night in the big city of Durban before reluctantly seeing Sally off to continue her South African adventure in Johannesburg. It was time for us sailors to buckle down and face the Indian Ocean once again.
Our first order of business was to let Roger recover from the Tick Bite Fever he had acquired during our land tour. Once he was ready to go we began waiting patiently, then not so patiently for a weather window to head south. As mentioned in the previous log there were two factors affecting our ability to move; the south flowing Agulhas Current and the frequent strong southwesterly winds. After thirteen days of waiting for a window to make a 350 mile jump from Richard’s Bay down the coast to East London we gave up and made a 90 mile jump to Durban instead. Durban, thankfully, turned out to be much more enjoyable than we anticipated. The Durban Marina and the two yacht clubs which flank it were really very friendly. There was room in the Marina for all by this point in December (we arrived on December 18th) and we were glad to join a new group of stalled yachties for the Christmas holidays.
After another eleven days of waiting we saw a window for Port Elizabeth, four hundred miles south. We trotted around to the local officials (for the second time in a week) to check out, then left Durban Harbor that evening, the 29th of December. While we were in Durban Roger had discovered that one of our shrouds had a severed wire. The country was closed up tighter than a drum for the Christmas holidays so he reinforced the shroud with some dyneema and we crossed our fingers that all would hold until we could have it replaced down the road.
The passage to Port Elizabeth was a damp and disagreeable one. The seas were lumpy, the sun never showed itself and the wind came and went. At least we were able to take advantage of the current, with boat speeds occasionally hitting eleven knots. In the end we could say that a good step forward had been made even if it wasn’t pleasant. We arrived in Port Elizabeth just as darkness was falling on New Year’s Eve. The yacht Three Ships, with our friends Chris and Fiona aboard arrived ahead of us and organized our berth and caught our lines. We were very glad to see them.
We spent another six days in Port Elizabeth waiting for a weather window. We broke up the wait with a visit to the Addo Elephant Park. The landscape alone was worth the trip. When you threw in lots of elephants, some ostriches and antelope and miscellaneous other wild things it was a really nice outing. Chris & Fiona even went for a second visit.
Finally we had a window to Mossel Bay, 175 miles away. We left at 11:30 pm on Tuesday the 6th of January knowing we had to be into Mossel Bay by Thursday morning when the wind would pick up out of the SW. The window wasn’t the greatest but on this coast any time you can make forward progress it’s a go. The wind, which had been blowing strongly out of the SW all day Tuesday, dropped to nothing for our departure and by the time we rounded Cape Recife, ten miles on, the waves had begun to decrease. By sunrise there was a light SE wind and we were able to put the sails up. It was a nice sail until the wind dwindled at about 10 p.m. Wednesday night and eventually clocked, as predicted, to the SW but light. It had become a motor to the finish. Thankfully there was room for us at the marina and we spent a pleasant twenty-four hours in Mossel Bay.
We packed a lot in to a short stay. We visited the Dias Museum where there is a replica of the Caravel on which Bartolomeu Dias arrived from Portugal five hundred years before. Also at the museum was the famous Post Office Tree where sailors used to drop off their letters to be picked up later by other ships for delivery. Once the SW wind dropped we were on our way again. The window which presented itself looked like it might allow us to get all the way to Cape Town, 260 miles away.
We left Mossel Bay with Three Ships at two in the afternoon on the 9th of January in order to arrive in Cape Town on Sunday in the early morning. We understood that the wind, notoriously strong in Cape Town, was generally calmer in the early hours. We had nice wind overnight on Friday allowing us to make good progress. The current which had helped us down the east coast had gone offshore in a more southwesterly direction so wasn’t much help (or hindrance) to us anymore. We encountered a fair bit of shipping traffic off the tip of the continent, not surprisingly.
Saturday morning found us motoring around Cape Agulhas until the wind picked up from the SW. Now that we had turned the corner and were headed NW this wasn’t the problem that it had once been. We sailed through Saturday night with the genoa poled out in a nice breeze. The rig was holding up, thank goodness. We had lots of traffic to deal with while passing Cape Point. This kept us both up all night. As we approached Cape Town towards dawn we were greeted by the looming presence of Table Mountain. What a spectacular sight it was with the sun rising behind it. A bit disconcerting to us however was the “tablecloth” of clouds beginning to seep over its summit. This, we were told, was a sign that strong winds were coming. We decided it was time to take the sails in and motor post haste towards our berth at the Royal Cape Yacht Club. According to the email from Josh the Dockmaster we were to take slip number B15. This seemed like a manageable task until the wind picked up to thirty+ knots as we approached the Yacht Club. Making fast to slip B15 would have required that we travel down a long, narrow fairway with the howling wind on our beam then docking with the wind at our stern. This was, we decided, not manageable. The Dockmaster’s Office was closed for the weekend so we simply took the easiest slip to get into given the conditions. We were finally done with our seemingly endless slog to Cape Town. Yahoo!
Next stop: St. Helena & the Caribbean.