Christmas and Weather

24 December 2017   East London, South Africa
Most of the Cruisers here are European - French, German and Dutch.  In Britain, we open our presents on Christmas Day morning, but Christmas Eve is the big day for most Europeans, so a party has been organised for the evening, with tomorrow being a family day. 

We chilled out for most of the day and, in the afternoon, we got together with Dirk from “Peregrine” and Antoine from “Toomai” to play a little guitar music, which was fun.

Playing Christmas Songs

The party was good, chatting to people and slowly getting drunk.  We lit a barbecue and had the inevitable Braai.  Glenys took along a bottle of Rhum Arrangé, which she had made from 70 proof sugar cane rum bought in La Reunion.  Several other cruisers also brought Rhum Arrangé, so there was plenty to drink…

25 December 2017   East London, South Africa
Unsurprisingly, we were nursing slight hangovers this morning.  After breakfast, we opened our presents.  Both of us had bought the other some Biltong – South Africans love this dried meat, but after trying it again, we’re not too keen.  The rest of the presents were fun little toys and gimmicks - ever tried a Finger Fidget?  I bought Glenys a “Growing Egg”, which you put in water and it hatches after 24 hours - goodness knows what’s in it…  Glenys broke her 200 Rands (£10) budget by buying me a pair of stretchy jeans for the next time that we go horse riding.

Apart from being away from our family, it was a perfect Christmas Day – Roast Lamb with all the trimmings for our Christmas Dinner; a nice bottle of wine; an afternoon nap and then a James Bond movie with mince pies and port.

26 December 2017   East London, South Africa
We chilled out on Boxing Day.  Glenys’s “growing egg” hatched a yellow and green Chicken.  It’s made from some strange rubbery plastic which carries on expanding if you leave it soaking in water – it’s weird, would probably give a child nightmares and I suspect is highly toxic.

Some of the yachts left to go down to Port Elizabeth – 120 miles away. There’s a short patch of strong south-west wind coming in tomorrow evening and the fleet hope to beat it to Port Elizabeth.  We don’t particularly want to go to Port Elizabeth, because it’s reputed to be a dirty commercial port, so we’re waiting until the 28th.  This should definitely get us to Mossel Bay and there’s a chance that we might be able to carry onto Cape Town.

Christmas Dinner

This coast is proving to be very tough to sail.  We’re told that the weather windows this year are unusually small, so perhaps we should have taken every opportunity to gain a few miles instead of waiting for a longer window. 

We were ready to leave Richards Bay on the 4th December and 22 days later, we’re still only half way to Cape Town.  However, to put it in perspective, the distance from Richards Bay to Cape Town is 950 miles – which is the distance from the UK to Gibraltar.

27 December 2017   East London, South Africa
Glenys was suffering from Cabin Fever, so we went to the East London Museum, which was surprisingly good.  Their star attraction is the first Coelacanth to be discovered, which is stuffed and on display.

The primitive-looking coelacanth (pronounced SEEL-uh-kanth) was thought to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But its discovery in 1938 by an East London Museum curator on a local fishing trawler fascinated the world and ignited a debate about how this bizarre lobe-finned fish fits into the evolution of land animals.

There are only two known species of coelacanths: one that lives off the south-east coast Africa, and one found in the waters off Sulawesi, Indonesia. Many scientists believe that the unique characteristics of the coelacanth represent an early step in the evolution of fish to terrestrial four-legged animals like amphibians.

Coelacanths are elusive, deep-sea creatures, living in depths up to 2,300 feet below the surface. They can be huge, reaching 6.5 feet or more and weighing 198 pounds. Scientists estimate they can live up to 60 years or more.

Stuffed Coelacanth

The most striking feature of this "living fossil" is its paired lobe fins that extend away from its body like legs and move in an alternating pattern, like a trotting horse. Other unique characteristics include a hinged joint in the skull which allows the fish to widen its mouth for large prey; an oil-filled tube, called a notochord, which serves as a backbone; thick scales common only to extinct fish; and an electro-sensory rostral organ in its snout likely used to detect prey.

The museum also houses the world’s only intact Dodo egg; a huge shell collection; a maritime section with photos and models documenting two hundred years of the East London port; a large collection of stuffed animals, birds and fish; and a large collection of Xhosa beadwork.  There was so much to look at that we spent four hours there – not bad for 15 Rands (£0.75) each (pensioner’s rates, of course).  They even have a pleasant little cafe where we had a nice toasted sandwich.

We called a cab to take us to a supermarket to do our last minute provisioning before we leave tomorrow.  In the evening, the remaining cruisers organised a Braai at the Yacht Club - we all leave for Mossel Bay tomorrow.