January 2018 - South Africa & Namibia

1 January 2018   Mossel Bay, South Africa
It was blowing a hooley with 30 knot south-west winds, but we were fine in the marina on the floating pontoons. There are two German boats out at anchor, who seemed to be okay with good protection from the land and the harbour walls.  

However, there are four boats, double-rafted against the concrete wall of the central fishing jetty.  The inner two boats, “Peregrine” and “Toomai” had a sleepless night being pressed against the huge tyres and having to constantly adjust their mooring lines in the two metre tides.  I guess that tonight will be no better.  

Reminiscing with Pete

After a quiet morning, Pete Bath, an old skydiving friend, came to visit us with his girlfriend Hayley.  Glenys laid on lunch aboard Alba and we had a lot of catching up to do because we’ve not seen Pete for over 15 years. After lunch, we jumped into his flash BMW and Pete took us to his home in Knysna.  

On the way, we stopped off at Knysna Heads, which is a narrow passage into the well protected Knysna lagoon.  We initially wanted to sail into the lagoon, but it is notorious for big waves over the entrance bar and there’s a good chance that we could have been trapped there waiting for tides and weather to coincide to get out.  I was expecting to see large breaking waves because of the strong on-shore winds, but the pass was fairly calm, probably because it was just approaching high tide.  

Pete lives on a gated estate in the hills above Knysna, where he built his own house overlooking a gorgeous river valley.  It’s a beautiful spot and the estate even has its own 18 hole golf course.  We had the inevitable Braai, drank lots of red wine and reminisced late into the night.

2 January 2018   Mossel Bay, South Africa
Being in a house, we indulged in a long hot shower, finished off our laundry, had toast and marmalade for breakfast and then Pete drove us back to Mossel Bay.  It would have been great to stay a few days, but we needed to vacate the berth in the marina at noon, so we had no time left.

First Time Anchoring in South Africa

Back at the marina, I checked the weather forecast and there’s still a good weather window to get to Cape Town leaving tomorrow morning.  It looks like the wind will be mostly behind us and we should round the feared Cape of Good Hope with only 15 knots of wind – touch wood...

I walked to the Yacht Club to pay our berth fees.  The first night was free and, with two nights at 190 Rands, the total added up to £20 for three nights – a bargain.  I wandered over to the Port Control office to hand in my Flight Plan.  The guy told me to just radio in when we were leaving the port and wasn’t too interested in my Flight Plan document, but because I’d gone to the effort of filling it in, he graciously accepted it saying that he would “file it” (possibly a euphemism for putting it in the waste paper bin.) 

We left the marina late in the morning and went out to anchor at 34°10.54S 022°08.51E in 6 metres depth on good holding sand.  This is the first time that we’ve been at anchor since we left Mozambique 2½ months ago and it’s wonderful (apart from the damn jet skis using us as a turning point.)

Now that we’re anchored in clean water, I ran the water-maker to test the generator and the new low pressure pump that I fitted a month ago.  To my great relief, everything performed flawlessly, so that’s one item off my checklist.  I then had a reality attack, realising that in 2 weeks’ time, we will have to leave South Africa and start our 6,000 mile voyage across the Southern Atlantic Ocean to the West Indies – gulp!

3 January 2018   Mossel Bay to Cape Town (Day 1)
The weather forecast was still good, with the south-west winds arriving at Cape Town at midday on Saturday 6th, so with only 240 miles to go we had plenty of time. We were ready to go at 08:00, but there was no wind at all and it wasn’t due to pick up until 12:00, so we hung around.  Leaving at midday was actually much better timing, putting us at both Cape Agulhas and Cape Point during daylight and we’ll still get into Cape Town on Friday afternoon, 24 hours before the weather changes.

Putting up the spinnaker pole

I was a little confused about Cape of Good Hope, Cape Agulhas and Cape Point, so I did a little research: 

A common misconception is that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of Africa. This  was based on the early sailors thinking that the Cape was the dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The southernmost point of Africa is actually at Cape Agulhas about 150 kilometres to the east-southeast. The currents of the two oceans meet at the point where the warm-water Agulhas current meets the cold water Benguela current and turns back on itself.  That oceanic meeting point fluctuates between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point (which is about 1.2 kilometres east of the Cape of Good Hope).

When following the western side of the African coastline from the equator, however, the Cape of Good Hope marks the point where a ship begins to travel more eastward than southward. Thus, the first modern rounding of the cape in 1488 by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias was a milestone in the attempts by the Portuguese to establish direct trade relations with the Far East.  Dias called the cape Cabo das Tormentas ("Cape of Storms"), which was the original name of the "Cape of Good Hope".

With some trepidation, we set off for the Cape of Storms at 09:30 – we ‘ve never been good at waiting to leave.  There was hardly any wind at first, so we motored for a couple of hours, but by 13:00 we had 15 knots on our port beam and were trucking along nicely.  In fact, too nicely – we were doing 6 knots with some current with us, so we’d get to Cape Agulhas before daybreak.  By 14:00, we were down to just a reefed genoa, rolling downwind, trying to slow down.

Another night at sea

It was a beautiful blue-sky day, but the wind was cold, so we had the aft and side flaps down on our bimini to give us some shelter, yet still had to wear a fleece.  “Peregrine” and “Ui” left at the same time and were in AIS range all day.  

The east wind continued into the night and at one point increased to 25 knots with suitably bigger waves, but it wasn’t any problem apart from making us roll more.  On my 7-10 watch, I was engrossed in a book, when one of the big rolls caught me by surprise and I slid sideways off my seat before I had chance to grab hold of something.  I slammed down onto the cockpit floor, bruising my left elbow badly – damn annoying, but at least my Kindle is okay.  I moved my seat onto the cockpit floor and spent the rest of the watch down there.

My 1-4 watch was idyllic - the wind had dropped to East 15-20 knots, the wave height and motion was much calmer and we had a full moon with clear skies.

4 January 2018   Mossel Bay to Cape Town (Day 2)
Low grey clouds rolled in just after dawn and the wind dropped slightly to 14-18 knots.  We rounded Cape Agulhas at 08:30, which was good timing, but the land is flat, so it's not the most impressive headland that we've rounded.  We head north from here, which is good news because it's so cold that we have to wear jackets.  

Cape Agulhas

Our next mission was to slow down enough to arrive at Cape of Good Hope after dawn tomorrow, so that we can see the mountainous scenery all the way up to Cape Town. It’s only 85 miles from Cape Agulhas to Cape of Good Hope, so we only had to average 4 knots to get there at 05:00.

The wind dropped off to 10-12 knots during the morning, so we bumbled along at 2-3 knots until noon, still with a ½ knot current with us. Then we pulled out the genoa to get back to 4 knots.  By nightfall, the wind was 15 knots and we were going too fast, so we reefed the genoa again to slow down.  It’s very irritating, but the seas were only ½ metre and it was a pleasant motion.

At our 01:00 watch change, I noticed that the depth sounder was showing various depths between 5 and 20 metres; then jumping to about 120 metres and then infinity – the chart showed that we were in depths of about 120 metres.  In the past, we’ve had momentary, strange readings when a fish or dolphin slipstreams under the boat, but this was either a very persistent whale or a fault with the depth sounder. 

I hove-to and turned the instruments on and off a few times, but the strange readings persisted.  I went to the front of the boat with a powerful torch to make sure that we hadn’t picked up some flotsam (and to check for whales), but it all looked clear.

There’s a transducer sealed into the front of the hull with a 3-way wire coming back to the depth display.  The wire looked okay at the transducer and I checked the connectors at the depth display, spraying them with WD40, but the problem persisted.  I put it on the list of jobs to be sorted out in Cape Town - I hoped that the transducer was okay, because we’d have to haul-out to change it, which would cost a fortune.  I covered the display up because it was depressing me.

Cape of Good Hope

An hour later, when we were in depths of less than 100 metres, I uncovered the depth gauge and it seemed to be behaving itself, showing sensible depths.  All I can think of was that the sonar signal was getting confused by the sea bed at 120 metres – perhaps it’s the limit of its range or perhaps the whale had moved on...

5 January 2018   Mossel Bay to Cape Town (Day 3)
We continued our leisurely approach to Cape of Good Hope and it was exciting to be arriving at dawn.  Initially, I could only see the beam of the Cape Point lighthouse and then gradually the rocky Cape of Good Hope appeared as the sky lightened.  I dragged Glenys out of bed and we watched the sun rise above the horizon, giving the clouds a rosy glow, highlighting the craggy cliff and the light house.

I went to bed for a few hours and then got up just as we passed by Hout Bay.  It looked like an pretty place surrounded by high hills, but we didn’t have time to stop there.  In the far distance, we had our first glimpse of Table Mountain.  The wind increased along this section of the coast and we had a cracking broad reach in 25-30 knot south winds.

As well as the striking scenery, there was lots of wildlife.  We saw two large pods of Humpback Whales, many Cape Fur Seals resting on the surface, large fronds of Kelp and a group of Dusky Dolphins, which are only found in these southern latitudes.

The wind dropped as we approached the Cape Town Harbour, so we motored for the last hour.  The view of Table Mountain as we entered the port was fabulous.  We obtained clearance from Port Control and then motored through the busy port into the Royal Cape Yacht Club.  The marina is very crowded, but we tied up without any drama.  Glenys made a celebratory lunch of Bacon & Grilled Tomatoes butties with brown sauce – yum.  

John, Ian, Lynda and Jenny

We went for a wander around the Yacht Club, which was established in 1905.  It’s a nice place with a restaurant and a laundry.  There’s a small boatyard, with an even smaller chandlers.  Unfortunately, the marina is in the middle of the commercial port and is surrounded by large ships and fishing boats, who run generators all day, so it’s very noisy.

While in the clubhouse, we were very surprised to bump into an old friend, Ian Lomax & his wife Lynda together with their friends John & Jenny.  Ian had seen one of our Facebook posts and knew that we were due to arrive today.  We invited them back to Alba for a drink and had a meal with them in the evening, but we couldn't keep up the pace and were in bed by eight o’clock.

6 January 2018   Cape Town, South Africa
It’s been a difficult trip from Richards Bay, with a lot of strategic thinking required to make best use of the short weather windows, so I’ve written a short article on Surviving the South Coast of Africa, which might be of help to those following in our wake.

We’ve now completed just over ¾ of our voyage around the world and, in a couple of weeks’ time, will start our trip across the South Atlantic Ocean heading for the Caribbean.  I worked out that since leaving Thailand last January, we’ve sailed 6,966 miles making our total up to 36,277 miles.

Glenys and Rod

After breakfast, we went to the V&A Waterfront, which is a huge shopping area with restaurants and shops.   There’s also a marina, so we went to have a look.  The Royal Cape Yacht Club is nice, but it’s a bit out of the way and it can be noisy with large ships nearby constantly running their generators.  The V&A marina looks modern and very nice, but seems to be a bit soulless, surrounded by apartments and restaurants.

In afternoon, our friends Rod and Mary from “Sheer Tenacity” picked us up and took us to their house.  We first met them in the Caribbean six years ago and they stopped cruising a year ago.  We had a great evening, reminiscing while having a traditional Braai and lots of red wine.

7 January 2018   Cape Town, South Africa
It was a miserable rainy day, but Cape Town needs the water.  The population of the city has increased dramatically over the past five years and there isn’t enough water in their reservoirs.  Strict controls are in place restricting the use of town water, but unless they get a considerable amount of rain, they will run out of water in April this year.

There are notices everywhere, warning of fines for misuse of water. The government has advertising campaigns telling people to only shower for two minutes and not to flush the toilet so often - an average toilet flush uses 10 litres of water.  They even have a slogan - “If it’s Yellow, Let it Mellow.  If it’s Brown, Flush it Down.”  It’s a terrible situation caused by unbelievable lack of planning - the city is by the sea - why don’t they have desalination facilities?

Wine Tasting in Durbanville Hills

Ian & Lynda picked us up from the Yacht Club and took us to a laptop repair place  to get the screen replaced on my laptop.  The outfit is called laptoprepairservices.co.za and they operate from a small apartment in a residential district (which was a little off-putting) but they sorted it all out, only charged £90 and delivered it back to the Yacht Club the next morning - great service.

We then met up with John & Jenny and did a tour of the Durbanville Hills vineyards, which is only ½ hour drive away.  We visited several vineyards, where we indulged in tasting four or five wines.  We’ve never done this before and it was interesting to see the difference in the buildings and how commercial they were - we only had to pay about £2-3 for the tasting at each vineyard.  

Durbanville Hills was very clinically modern and set up for tourists, offering five wines matched up to cheeses - a bit pretentious IMHO.  Altydgedacht was an older vineyard with a traditional wood-panelled tasting room.  There was a bar where you asked for the wine that you wanted to taste - it was a nice friendly atmosphere.  Nitida had a pleasant tasting room sat at tables next to oak barrels - we were flagging by this time, so we ordered a platter of snacks.

We had a late lunch at Hillcrest.  It was basic food, but the chicken pie and chips was lovely and just what I needed to soak up the wine.  We did another wine tasting, but we were losing the will to live by now and I actually started to pour away the wine that I didn’t like.

Our last stop was at a famous, sea-front bar called Blue Peter in Bloubergstrand, but after six hours of drinking, I could only face a Ginger Beer.