South Africa

November 4 - kicked along by the current

Last night winds shifted to the N, and early today we apparently entered the Agulhas, benefiting from a 1-2 knot favorable current at the expense of lumpy confused seas. We are in the bay off Maputo, 225 miles to go. The preventer broke twice, as the main could backwind in severe rolls. We are motor-sailing, in an attempt to even out the seas by running, and will ride the current so long as wind is from the N.

Early tomorrow the winds will clock SW. The Indian Ocean seems to be holding one last sucker punch for us. We should be ok if we can work over to the coast, and come down the final day with one foot on the beach. Dave says we still have enough fuel.

November 6 - Richards Bay

Long day. The winds clocked south against the current, and on the nose. We soldiered on, bow smashing its way through steep short seas. By tacking away from shore and back, we were able to keep moving forward, but the day was an ordeal. At almost midnight we finally hailed Richards Bay Port Authority and got permission to enter the harbor. They told us to come in outside of the channel to avoid an incoming freighter. Priscilla got in earlier and radioed there was one space left on the wall, so we tied up, and Contrails, arriving just after, rafted to us. Good to be here, the boat still and safe.

November 8 - Decompression

Tuzi Gazi Marina is packed full, but the accommodating management continues to squeeze in yet one more boat, shifting smaller boats around and even moving a finger pier. We scored a berth, and are securely tied in a spot where we can stay a month. Sharing a taxi to the mall, I hit a cash machine, got SIM cards for phone and internet, and also bought eggs and fresh fruits and veg, first time since Reunion a month ago. Dave took advantage of great water pressure to blast the crusty salt off the boat, even way up the shrouds. Unfortunately I left a port open above our bed, and the mattress became a sponge!

Last night we joined three other boats that we'd been traveling with for a great landfall celebration dinner ashore at Jack's. Dave had an enormous platter of 26 garlic prawns for about $10. We are all relieved to have the Indian Ocean in the rear view mirror.

It is taking a few days for the adrenalin to drop, and we are just now sleeping through the night, though Dave's internal clock is still waking him for a 5 am radio net. This has been a stressful year, pushing us to new limits, but we are very happy with how the boat held up. There are a number of projects but no major breakages.

November 13 - Joel and Safari

Yippee! Son Joel has arrived for a 3-week visit, bringing presents (boat parts) and welcome mail from home. We are ecstatic to have him join us here in South Africa. We rented a small car and will take off on safari, exploring KwaZuluLand and Kruger Park in a large loop. We're going on safari!

December 2 - Safari Tour

With our son Joel, we loaded up the rental car and headed north to mFolozi and Hluhluwe (pronounced shoe-shoe-wee) National Parks where we had a safari tent for 2 nights. The tent proved quite comfortable, with ensuite bath, and separate kitchen. Baboons and vervet monkeys ranged through the camp, as well as warthogs, impala, nyala, and other beasts. Each night we secured our kitchen hut with double screen doors and double latches. The monkeys are clever burglars. Driving through the parks we got our first exposure to South Africa's amazing wildlife. The photos can tell the story.

We then crossed over to St Lucia for a drive to the wetlands park where Joel captured great video of a rhino, and where we took an evening boat tour to see hippos cavorting and snorting. We would see many more hippos in Kruger, and it helped to know something about them. They are not bouyant and do not swim, but run along the bottom of ponds and streams, hopping up to snatch a breath. All day they laze in the water, coming out after sunset to mow the grassy fields. Though hippos look cute and comic, they can be dangerous.

Driving north we entered Swaziland, a separate country, with interesting beehive rondavells (round houses) and hundreds of uniformed schoolchildren everywhere. Swaziland is a monarchy, and somehow managed not to be incorporated into South Africa. We stayed at Malandala's B&B, delightful, and visited the national museum nearby.

Then on to Kruger! I had booked 2 nights each at Lower Sabie, Olifants and Tamboti in tents, huts and bungalows. Each had refrigeration, though the fridge outside could be readily opened by monkeys (one got a yogurt from us despite our diligence), and sometimes swimming pools and air conditioning, so we were not roughing it. Each day we drove backroads to see animals. At Kruger you cannot leave your car. At Orpen camp we saw photos of elephants tipping over cars, and read of a rhino attack just a few weeks ago. Yikes! We came across a herd of impala looking agitatedly over their shoulders. Arounf the next bend 2 cheetahs were tugging apart a freshly killed impala. Then they ambled over to a shady bush to digest their meal. The male impalas soon came closer, sniffing the kill, then approaching the cheetahs. 16 impala approached, making a huffing noise. We think they were trying to drive the cheetahs off. The cheetahs ignored them.

At the bridge by Lower Sabie we stopped to look at the hippos, now coming out of the water. One noticed a crocodile sliding into the water and went berserk, leaping after it and trying to bite it. The hippo chased the croc for a minute before giving up.

The final espisode our our journey was to Fugitive's drift, where we stayed in Umzinyathi House with Estrellita, and got to hear a fantastic narrative of the battle of Isandlwana narrated by a Zulu man whose grandfather and great-grandfather had been in the battle, considered Britain's greatest military defeat.

Great trip! Made extra special for us by having Joel along to share our adventure.

At iMfolozi we are warned not to play with elephants.

Male weaver birds builds nests in the trees...

...then try to woo a mate...

... who can destroy the nest if she doesn't like the decor.

Baboons snack on berries.

Nyala roam inside Mpila camp... do ugly warthogs.

Driving, we meet kudu. We can't leave the car...

...but plenty of critters lay close by.

At St Lucia we take a boat tour and see a croc...

...and lots of hippos...

...waiting for dusk to come out and graze.

This little voodoo bottle is theft prevention. Until hung on the boat, locals stole the fuel.

We stay at Malandala's in the Kingdom of Swaziland...

...with its eclectic decor.

Next door is the House of Fire, music venue.

Vervet monkey with child hangs about a cafe.

Artist uses a brand to sear zebra stripes.

Finished product.

National museum lets us check out a beehive rondavel...

...with a bent branch skeleton.

We head on into Kruger Park.

Kruger zebras have black, white and brown stripes.

We would see thousands of pretty impala.

Joel spots a lioness scouting for dinner.

Hippo shows his dentistry.

Elephants herds cross in front...

...and behind.

Giraffe are also everywhere.

Knees bend backward to drink..

Baboons ignore us.

This lioness chased her cubs out of our sight.

More warthogs...

The black streak between eye and ear is musth. This elephant is dangerous.

A vervet male flashes his bright blue balls.

Two cheetahs are dining on fresh impala.

Sated, they move to a shady bush to sleep off lunch.

The impalas return, huffing loudly, to try to drive them off. The cheetahs ignore them. A cheetah head is barely visible on the lower right.


another lion,

water buffalo,

jackal. The parade continues.

We come to pretty Olifant perched on a riverbank...

...where we stay in a thatched bungalow.

Next door a bandit vervet monkey opens the fridge and steals yogurts.

This caged fridge is monkey-proof.

Below, elephant families ford the river.

On a night drive we see springhares, mini kangaroos.

Uprooted trees show elephants have visited.

A tortoise crosses the road.

At Tamboti we have a safari tent.

Joel codes and stands monkey guard.

Baboons parade in the dry riverbed in front of our tent.

On the way south a lady sells bananas and avocados.

Fugitive's Lodge view.

... and that from our farmhouse terrace.

Zulu homes are mud brick and thatch,

some round, some rectangular.

Our guide, Mpiwa Ntanzi, paints an exciting portrait of the Battle of Isandlwana...

...where 25000 Zulus trounced 1300 invading British, spears against bullets. The rock cairns mark British graves.

On the way home we see more giraffes...

...this time we can get out of the car.

No problem unless we get between the male and his pregnant female.

Two juveniles neck-wrestle.

Final braai dinner at the farmhouse.

Mud brick rondavel shows branch ribs.

December 6 - Post Partum Blues

We are suffering mild depression with Joel gone, though we hope to see him in a few short months in the Caribbean.

Dave has started running gribs and listing to the Peri-Peri net. Time to move along. We have booked a berth at False Bay Yacht Club for 3 weeks over Christmas, 900 miles away around Cape Aghulas, and have started watching for a weather window for the 7-8 day passage. Might be one starting middle of next week.

Dave hired a diver to chisel the barnacles off our prop, shaft and thru-hulls. Several thru-hulls were blocked solid with crustaceans. I spliced lines onto our new super chain hook, and we are getting other small boat projects done while we have the luxury of dock moorage. We are hanging on to the rental car for a few more days. Richards Bay (and we hear Durban) have onerous clearances upon leaving, an all-day affair. Surprising, since clearing in is so easy.

December 10 - Africa impressions

"My country is rich in the minerals and gems that lie beneath its soil but I have always known that its greatest wealth is its people, finer and truer than minerals and diamonds." -Nelson Mandela

We have now been in South Africa over a month, long enough to form first impressions. There is an obvious economic divide between blacks and whites, legacy of a colonial history and apartheid. Whites live in compounds, ringed with barbed wire and electric fencing. We are warned repeatedly to be careful about crime - keep car doors locked while driving, don't stop on even major roads in some areas, don't stop at tourist sights if yours is the only car, don't walk after dark, or even in daylight unless in a group. Stopping in Mtubatuba to use a cash machine and fill our gas tank, we felt intimidated, though no one acted threatening. At the mall we are expected to pay the parking mafia to keep our car safe. Everywhere are "armed response" security signs.

On the flip side, there is obvious wealth here - Richards Bay is a major coal exporting port, has a huge aluminum smelter, and north of here are gigantic tracts of planted timber and rolling farmlands. The countryside is lovely, greener than we expected, and mostly scenic.

Nearby are the rondavels (round houses) of local people, built of mud, dung and thatch, many lacking electricity or plumbing. Under 40 years of apartheid, blacks were restricted to townships, requiring passes to travel to jobs in towns. Formal apartheid is gone, though in fact there is still a huge gap in wealth and services.

We benefit: Hebron, a local man, will work all day on our boat for 200 Rand - about $22. I have been culling rarely used items, and he is appreciative of anything I can spare.

On the western cape, grape field workers are striking for a minimum wage of 150 Rand per day. Farmers have hired mercenaries for protection. Meanwhile, Dave and I can enjoy a bottle of Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc for 26 Rand - about $3. Hmmm.

December 12 - Underway tomorrow...

The Gribs this morning show a nasty little short-lived buster coming this weekend. By then we should be secure in either East London or Port Elizabeth. The former is a river (where anchors can drag in flooding rains), the latter is a magnesium port - crusty with dirt when windy. We will dither here at Richards Bay one more day to keep an eye on it, then jump to one port or the other. The coming Monday shows a likely window for making it the rest of the way in one hop... though things can change rapidly. We have a healthy respect for South African weather! Yesterday Dave made the rounds to check out - no fees but a 6-step waltz that took several hours, in contrast to our easy check-in. They want next-of-kin(where to ship the bodies) plus any boat characteristics that would help identify the boat in an emergency. On this coast we essentially file a flight plan from port to port, something we have not seen since Australia.

December 14 - Kicked along (again) by the current

After 5 relaxing weeks, 3 on a fun safari with Joel, we untied from Tuzi Gazi Marina early yesterday morning, radioed for port clearance and headed out to sea. Within 20 miles we were enjoying a nice 3+ knot boost from the Agulhas, at one point clocking 10 knots, helped by a tail wind of over 20 knots. Too good to last, the current got increasingly lumpy, and by evening the wind died. Wandering too close to shore, we found a nasty counter-current, and are headed back out. Our reefed main flogged miserably, and every item aboard added to the cacophony, a din of clinks, clunks and rattles. We are motored past Durban, an orange glow on the shoreline, headed for East London by Saturday morning. A southerly is forecast late Saturday, so we will sit that out before carrying on.

This morning we are motoring in flat calm, edging out again to ride the Agulhas, one of the world's great ocean rivers. The current is marked by a cloud bank, hovering above the warmer water. Our water temp gauge tells us if we are approaching, a 5-degree change.

December 15 - East London

We are tied to the derelict wall at Latimers Landing, East London, squeezed into a slot 6 inches longer than Baraka. As an alternative we could have anchored in the river. May do just that if I start seeing lots of rats.

We arrived not without drama. Very early this morning Contrails lost their engine (shaft backed out). They had the same problem back before Belitung and thought it was fixed, with Harun's help. But the set screws backed out of the dimples. They discovered this becalmed in thick fog with 2 huge car-carriers steaming toward them, in 3-4 knots of current, yikes! Because they had an AIS transponder we were able to find them in the fog, and took them in tow. We circled outside East London a couple hours for the car ferries to come in and dock, then got permission to come in. Dave had floated back to Jim a 110 AC drill and some bits. Jim was able to drill the dimples deeper, and got it back together, so we dropped the tow line outside the breakwater and they motored in. Amazing he could fix it in a rolling boat at sea.

We had lots of adventures with the currents, occasionally counter, but as we were approaching EL, too fast, so much so Priscilla went under bare poles to slow down, still making 4 knots through the water, 8 over ground. We almost considered running the engine in reverse to arrive in daylight. The Agulhas rocks! The fog is apparently a function of cooler night air laying on the warm Agulhas. First time we've seen fog in years.

The other gob-smacking development was our radar display, heads-up, at almost 180 degrees to our navigational course-up map. This was because we basically were headed north but being set south, as shown by our track. Very disturbing until we realized what was going on. We had been tweaking the autopilot more and more west, then NW, in order to stay on our SW track to EL. When Dave turned the radar on, he couldn't believe what direction the bow was pointed, and assumed the radar had developed a mysterious disease.

Anyway, we are safely landed here to sit out a short SW buster coming tonight. Seas may not lay down until Tuesday or so, so we might be here a few days.

Charts can lie, radar is honest.

The top section is our radar display, which reads heads-up (bow is pointed directly at the red shoreline). A vertical extra smear is a squall line. The lower section is our navigational chart, which shows us tracking toward East London, to the SW. Normally these are oriented the same. The skew on the chart was caused by the 4-knot current. The radar told the truth of how we were pointed, though not how we were going. Baraka was effectively facing forward but crabbing sideways.

December 16 - underway again

After much mulling over buoyweather, passageweather and gribs with Contrails and Priscilla, we have decided to leave East London this morning, and attempt to go non-stop 4 days to False Bay. The problem is a combination of light unfavorable winds, unfavorable largish seas until Wednesday, and then light winds around the south end of Africa, meaning lots of motoring. Not ideal conditions, but probably doable. If we need to bail out somewhere, there are almost no safe anchorages for southerly swells along the south coast, and Mossel Bay is presently full up with boats waiting to round Cape Agulhas. If we wait until the seas lay down by Wednesday, we miss the best window for rounding the Cape.

So we will give it a try. If necessary we can pull into Port Elizabeth tomorrow, though the small marina is full and there is no good anchorage. We would have to raft to a squid boat.

We tie up in East London to a crumbling dock.

The cloud bank hovers over the Aghulas current.

December 17 - Motoring in calm

We are just past Port Elizabeth, motoring in calm seas under blue skies. The forecast is for more of the same all the way to False Bay. We have enough fuel, though are hoping for some sailing breezes. No complaints though! Could be a lot worse. The seas we were concerned about materialized as long slow swells with little effect on our progress. Saw a flock of black and white penguins swimming. They submerge as we approach. Last night we layered up with fleeces and hats, long pants and socks, and are sleeping under a quilt. East London was 10 degrees colder than Richards Bay, and Cape Agulhas is another 10 degrees colder! Actually pleasant, compared to tropic swelter.

December 18 - rounding Africa

This morning the winds came up enough to fly Fat Albert, our spinnaker, for a few hours. As the winds grew, we decided to douse it and pole out the jib, but going forward to blow the tack on the spinnaker, I found the tack downhaul block had broken, and the tack was only attached to a bow cleat! Dave and I muscled it back down, though we are now concerned the angle of the load may have possibly damaged the jib furler foil where the ATN collar was riding. So far it seems ok. We won't know for sure until a shoreside inspection.

So now we are tooting along nicely with reefed main and jib, making 6.5 knots across the Southern Ocean, at 34 44S, 022 49E. Dave says Antarctica is a mere 2000 miles away. I say that's close enough. Tomorrow midday we should reach Cape Agulhas, then turn for the final leg up into False Bay, arriving on the 20th. Conditions look good with pleasant sailing. Gazillions of seabirds all around, and lots of freighters. All is well.

December 20 - anchor down at False Bay

More drama this morning. As we approached False Bay the "Cape Doctor" winds kicked into high gear, full gale. Priscilla read 50. Table Mountain is a gorgeous surprise, steeply scenic. It was wearing its lenticular hat, sure sign of gusting winds. We turned into big seas to drop the main, then tucked into the relative lee behind the Navy base where we anchored, all chain out, with our new chain hook. It is still blowing 30 in the anchorage but we seem to be holding, our GPS track carving a little happy arc on our chart. We are done cruising for the year, a very long way from where we started in Thailand.

Tonight the gale will clock to the east, making our anchorage even more exposed though that is hard to imagine. We have arrived 2 days before our marina slip is available. On the 22nd a bunch of boats take off on the Governors Race to St Helena. So that day we should be able to move inside. Until then we are boatbound, keeping anchor watch. All is well.

We arrive at False Bay in a full gale. Note the lenticular cloud on the hill.

At anchor, just off Simons Town.

December 21 - Simonstown

The winds built to 45 knots through the evening, gusting 50, but the anchor held. At 50, the boat shudders and the rigging shrieks. A couple waves broke over the bow, hitting the dodger. The bimini top started tearing. By midnight it was moderating, but we were fast asleep. This morning Contrails pumped up their dinghy and came by to ferry us ashore, first time walking on land since Richards Bay a week ago. We joined Priscilla for lunch in town, then walked to a nearby beach to see African penguins. Some hopped right up to us. Back in town we visited Maggie and Kuheli, who will leave tomorrow on the 2 week passage to St Helena, as part of the Governors Race, and caught up with Orca in the yacht club happy hour. Contrails dinghied us home in flat calm, an amazing contrast to yesterday's howler. Fun day today, maybe we won't sell Baraka quite yet after all!

This Indian Ocean year has been hard. Once again we find a landfall that seems to make it all worthwhile.

We walk to Boulders Beach...

...happy to be on land again.

Penguins hop up the hill toward us.

It is courting season.

Off to the nest.

December 22 - False Bay Yacht Club Marina

This morning the Governors Race boats queued up at the start line. At noon the horn blew, and they were off for St Helena, 1700 miles away. We are rooting for Maggie (Norway) and Kuheli (Sweden).

Once the boats were clear, we could bring Baraka into the marina docks. Nice folks on Alk shifted their boat back to give us more room. Winds gusted to 25, but Dave drove us in, and many friends were on hand to catch our lines, so we came alongside with no drama, tying 6 lines to as many cleats. It blows almost all the time here, so it is be very nice to be securely tied. I caught the train to Fish Hoek with Priscilla to buy eggs, fruits and veg. Christmas is coming, then Boxing Day, and shops will be closed. Neither Dave nor I have done any Christmas shopping this year, but we will hang our empty stockings and lift a glass of good cheer to the successful completion of all the year's passage making.

Don't pet the penguins.

Kuheli sets of for St Helena.

December 27 - an African Christmas

Nice to be here! Though we are far from home at this family-oriented time of year, we are happy to be in pretty Simons Town, securely tied to a dock while the cape winds howl. It is wonderful to be able to step off the boat and go for long walks knowing we are unlikely to be mugged or eaten. On Christmas Day we joined Priscilla for a steep walk up to the grave of Just Nuisance (Navy WWII great dane mascot) high on the ridge behind the town. John (Orca) chased a large cobra into the brush! Other days we walk to the penguin colony at Boulders Beach. Mating season, they are all over courting, or huddled in small caves guarding eggs. The seaside town is packed with good cafes, cute shops, and museums, housed in old Victorian buildings.

On the downside, Dave has found a couple engine problems, a new oil leak, and fuel getting into the engine oil. We took the mainsail down to access damage and discovered serious problems, so will contact 2 sail lofts here for bids on repair and replacement. Meanwhile this is a gathering spot for many friends resting from the Indian Ocean and preparing for the Atlantic, so there are daily social hours as we swap gear and discuss repairs and strategies.

Our South African Christmas, presents from Dave.

We climb signal hill for great views.

The Navy base is below, with the False Bay Yacht Club Marina and Simon's Town in the foreground.

Sadly, our mainsail did not survive the Indian Ocean. It is riddled with small tears.

For groceries we ride the handy train to pretty Fish Hoek.

A sign suggests you leave your assagai at home.

Please use the doors rather than the windows to embark.

And by the way, please don't break the windows.

At the beach colored flags warn of the shark danger level.

The locals don't seem worried.

January 4 - Cape Town

Yesterday we caught the train to Cape Town, an hour's ride away, 28R pp RT, about $3. Our goal was to apply for a visa extension. Ours expire February 6, and we need some engine parts and likely a new mainsail, neither of which is arranged due to the holidays, so decided to buy some breathing space. Armed with forms and photocopies, boat registration, and proof of financial status, plus a letter from the yacht club, all was in order. We walked to the Home Affairs office on Barrack Street, grabbed a number, and were out on the street in only an hour. It takes a month to process, so we will have to go back to get the visa extension added to our passports. Cost is 425R, less than $50.

We walked to the nearby District 6 Museum for a piece of SA history. Apartheid formally started in 1948. By the mid-sixties many areas were declared white only as part of a highly racist urban renewal. District 6 was the home of 15000 blacks, mostly Bantu, and "Cape Coloured", mixed descent. A forced evacuation moved them to townships in the flats outside the city. District 6 was bulldozed to rubble. Cape Coloured men could obtain jobs in Cape Town, living in dorms away from families. Blacks could not. Blacks had to carry an identity passbook that showed where they were allowed to be. All others had an identity card that denoted race. By the late 90s some compensation was being paid to those who lost their homes. It's a sad chapter in South African history.

We walked on the Woodlands, a fantastic leather store, with high quality skins piled on shelves to high ceilings. I needed suede to replace worn edging on the dodger. Easy to find something suitable. Train home, nice day.

We find the Fringe District in Cape Town,

with the terrific Woodlands leather emporium.

January 12 - progress

We are happily ensconced in Simons Town, enjoying the area and easy access to stuff we need. We took the metro rail into Cape Town, then a couple more stops to Paarden Eiland, an industrial area where we were able to find rope, nuts and bolts, and other boat parts, but no joy on a canvas maker (to restitch the dodger) or the Perkins engine parts. Back home, Dave worked the internet and phone, and Speed Ease, though expensive, will deliver what he needs. Craig from Quantum came to the boat and measured for a new mainsail, confirmed ours is dead, and came back with a bid we can handle. Quantum will also restitch our dodger, yippee! We love the dodger. Fabric is good, but stitching is worn away wherever we brush against it. We have also elected to get a stack pack type mainsail cover. We need to play with it to make sure it won't interfere with reefing.

Every day we work on the small boats projects that accumulate - replacing worn lines, inspecting rigging. I need to take Dave up the mast to check the Profurl screws, a little challenging with the swells that rock us here. A winch is being repaired by a welder, who may also make us security grids for the hatches, something we have not felt was needed, but now we have Central America in front of us.

January 20 - new mainsail!

Quantum delivered and installed the new mainsail - looks great! plus the stackpack cover. We have a learning curve with the latter, to make sure it does not interfere with reefing. The restitched dodger is also back. Dave went up the mast to install hardware to support the stackpack today, while I scraped oxidation off the water tank covers in preparation for painting them.

The winds have been howling all week at gale force, gusting into the 60s, yikes. Last night we had some excitement. A week ago a cruiser's hand was injured during surges in Mossel Bay. He flew home to Canada for treatment. Friends here volunteered to bus to Mossel Bay to bring the boat the rest of the way. They had an easy overnight sail until they approached Simons Town, when the winds piped up. We were on the dock to catch their lines, but they decided it was too wild to attempt to dock, so tried to pick up an emergency mooring. Third try, they lost the boathook! Giving up, they decided to anchor, but the windlass isn't working, so Lew pulled 60 meters on chain on deck, then tossed the anchor over. This slowed the boat but it continued to drag, closing on another boat on a mooring with a lee shore not far behind. Meanwhile a dozen of us waited on the dock, unable to help. By now the winds were blowing into the 40s. They elected to have us call Sea Rescue.

We were very impressed with Sea Rescue. They mustered a crew, manned 2 boats, and got underway fairly quickly, then did a great job of calmly and quickly assessing the situation, pulled the anchor back on deck, laced the support boat alongside and motored them to an open space at the dock. All ended well, but the outcome could have been very different.

Every time we see an event like this we learn a lot and discuss what could have been done differently, what contingencies could have been in place for each failure. Dave commented that the Sea Rescue people moved slowly and deliberately, staying in control, with a clear leader in charge, making sure crisis didn't become disaster.

January 26 - Road Trip

We took advantage of a lull, awaiting engine parts, to take a small road trip around the Western Cape. We rented a beater car with a lot of flaws, but the price was right. First stop was Cape Point, what we call Cape of Good Hope, with its dramatic cliffs. Cape Point is commonly misunderstood as the southern tip of Africa, but that honor belongs to Cape Aghulas, further east, which actually divides the Atlantic from the Indian Ocean. Then we drove to Cape Town's Paarden Eiland to buy line and other boat stuff. Next morning we headed toward Aghulas, following the gorgeous coastline around False Bay, past the Cape Flats, a large region of desperately poor shanties housing several million blacks in several townships. Sand dunes shift their way through the flats and winds howl. A few miles further on, we were in Gordon's Bay, enjoying a pub lunch overlooking the marina. South Africa is a study in contrasts.

We continued along the pretty coast, then inland over wheat farms to Bredasdorp, to visit the Shipwreck Museum. Fantastic! We are amazed we made it around Agulhas unscathed. This entire coast offers little shelter and many storms, so hundreds of boats were wrecked, including sizeable numbers in the 2 world wars. Account after account described ships being "embayed" - caught in a large bay open to the south in a storm. The square riggers could not sail upwind, and once caught, deployed all anchors to keep off the beach. When the ships started to break up, the crew raised sail, cut the anchors free, and ran the boat up the beach to save crew and cargo, but more lives were lost than saved. Whatever landed on the beach was salvaged and auctioned, and the museum collected many artifacts that way.

We drove on to the wine country, Franschoek and Stellenbosch, situated in beautiful valleys ringed by purple and orange mountains. A South African couple, friends of a friend (and now ours) met us and guided us for the day to 4 different wineries to give us a sampling. The South Africans have produced wine for several hundred years, of a quality that competes with the best of France. Fun day and great company!. Rolling homeward, we stopped at the Waterfront in Cape Town to scope out where we will be bringing Baraka in about a week, then drove to Hout Bay for a seafood lunch at Mariners Wharf, finishing our road trip with the coast drive called Chapman's Peak. Great to see another corner of this magnificent country before we must sail on.

Cape Point Lighthouse...

what we call the Cape of Good Hope.

The Aghulas Shipwreck Museum is delightful.

As is a wood-fired pizza lunch in Franschoek...

where we sample fine wines... a gorgeous setting.

February 9 - Moving on to Cape Town

After 6 delightful weeks in Simons Town as guests of the False Bay Yacht Club, we are ready to move along. We'll leave at 5 am for the trip around the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Town, arriving by mid-afternoon tomorrow at the Victoria and Albert Waterfront Marina. The V&A is in the heart of the Cape Town waterfront, steps from excellent groceries. We plan a week there, to sightsee and fill the lockers for the Atlantic crossing.

February 10 - Cape Town!

The alarm buzzed at 4:30 am. We woke to dead calm, and pulled away from the False Bay Yacht Club docks at Simons Town, in company with Mike, an experienced offshore sailor who joined us to round the cape.

Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, though not the most southern points in Africa, are far better known than Aghulas, and their rocky cliffs far more dramatic. We motored around the cape in light breeze, smack into a wall of fog! Couldn't see much beyond the bow. Very nice having Mike aboard, as he stood on the deck to keep lookout. The breeze that did come up felt icy - time to break out fleeces, hats and gloves. By late morning the fog started lifting, and we closed on Cape Town. Dolphins passed by, and Mike spotted a swimming penguin. Dozens of seals lazed on the surface, one fin in the air. Passing Lions Head, we could see paragliders soaring high above.

Cape Town is spectacular to approach by water. We called Port Control for permission to enter, then the swing bridges, asking them to open for us. Passing through, we grabbed a slip at the Victoria and Albert Waterfront Marina, in the heart of Cape Town. Standing on the dock we are facing Table Mountain. It is exciting to be here, a significant landmark in our journey. The V&A is a bit expensive, but the location is prime - walking distance to major groceries for provisioning, and we will have a few days to tourist about before the long passage ahead.

Kathie joins me for a line-splicing-bee.

Early dawn we approach Cape Point...

...aka the Cape of Good Hope.

Soon fog rolls in.

Mike stands bow watch through the fogbank.

We arrive at the gorgeous Vistoria and Alfred waterfront...

...where we will park to provision.

The marina is full of seals.

They float lazily around the boat.

February 13 - Table Mountain Sunset

Yesterday Mike and Ilsa called to say the day was perfect for a sunset picnic at the top of Table Mountain! They picked us up and we drove through rush hour to the base of the cable car. Their website offered a half-price sunset special, so the line was a bit long, but moved quickly. The cable car is amazing. It climbs a vertical rock wall carrying 50 people. The floor rotates, giving everyone a view of the climb and the city below.

From the top we could see far vistas, Cape Flats to Muizenburg to the Cape Point lighthouse, with Cape Town splayed below. This is one of the most scenic places we've been in our many travels. On the mountaintop there was not a breath of wind - rare on the windy Cape. The orange-red sunset lingered as the city lights came up. Because the top half of the mountains are all parkland, the city lights blanket only the lowland, resembling a lava flow. We watched the moon set, then caught one of the last cable cars home. Memorable day!

We ride the cable car up Table Mountain...

...for a sunset view.

The upper station is on the table top.

From the top we see Lions Head, Signal Hill and Robbins Island, where Nelson Mandela was jailed.

Cape Town below, with the V&A waterfront at center.

We position ourselves for a sunset picnic.

We are not the only ones to come this fine evening.

The city lights below look like a lava flow.

February 15 - Lowering the boat

The past few days we've been loading up for the passage - Dave making fuel runs with the diesel jugs, and me cleaning out the shelves at Pick n Pay and Woolworths. I maintain a spreadsheet of all the products we consume. Just before a passage I inventory the stores lockers. We figure out how many days to the next good provisioning stop - in this case Tobago or Trinidad 40+ days away - then calculate how much peanut butter and paper towels, etc. we would use in that time. The spreadsheet shows the quantity of each item already aboard, and how many I want to carry. The difference is how many to buy. I have repeated this exercise in Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Langkawi and Singapore and now have a pretty fair idea of our rate of consumption. Offshore the foods need to be simpler - less spicy, and easy to prepare. One pot meals are best. The biggest constraint is how long fresh foods will keep - this time eggs, fruits and veg won't make it all the way, though we hope to find a few things in St Helena. If it's calm enough I will bake bread and prepare real meals. If it's rowdy we will snack and sip soups.

Dave just found a way to get NOAA ocean current info via sailmail and viewfax, from information in the Puddlejump yahoo group. This will be very helpful, especially as we approach the equator off Brazil.

Suzie joins me for a happy hour.

Next door is a large drydock, not empty for long.

Nearby old cannons serve as bollards.

A bascule bridge encloses the marina.

Next door seals serenade all day and all night.

Baraka and Priscilla at V&A.

February 21 - Almost ready

The to-do list is getting short. Weather this weekend is holding favorable, so we plan to clear out Friday, leave Saturday. There is still plenty to do. We have an offshore checklist of last minute chores, topping off water tanks, placing passports and GPS in ditch bag, etc. Those things really can't be done ahead, so our final day is busy.

We have enjoyed South Africa far more than expected. Although crime is an issue here, we can travel in daylight and avoid the high crime areas, so it was easy to be a tourist here. The critters and scenery have been fabulous! And the tough Indian Ocean crossing is now a distant memory, enough so that we feel ready to go to sea again.

We went to a 3D movie - Life of Pi - excellent, though maybe not the thing to watch just before a passage (shipwreck in storm plus adrift in lifeboat).

Quantum fixed an issue with the stackpack (slot for 3rd reef needed better placement). They have been great and we recommend them for sailwork if you come to South Africa. We love our new mainsail.

We'll make a final trip to Paarden Eiland, where most boat stuff can be found, again to Southern Ropes to get a replacement for our tired main halyard. Dave and I have gone over the boat from top to bottom, stem to stern, checking everything. I've added chafing sleeves to reef lines and the windvane paddle lines. We are in good shape, and feeling ready to move along.

February 22 - Cleared out

Today we did final laundry, paid up at the marina, got their letter for clearance, then went to immigration and customs, a short walk into town, to finish clearance. We said we will leave by end of day tomorrow, but I have come down with a cold - rare occurrence, but I hate going to sea with a bug. The only time I get seasick is when something is already wrong with me.

Reports of boats underway are light to moderate winds and rolly seas.

Tomorrow is final provisioning for eggs, fresh fruits and veg. We are down to the final details.

Underway, a final postcard view of Cape Town.

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