Welcome to the blog of the sailing yacht Sea Bunny.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Sailing - Durban to Cape Town

Back in Durban after Cape Town and Stellenbosch we continued to wait for a weather window that would allow us to head towards Cape Town.

Eventually it looked as if one was materialising on New Years Eve so we carried out the procedure to get our "flight plan" on 30 December. This involves filling out the form and taking it in turn to the marina office, Port Control, Immigration, Customs and back to Port Control, getting the form stamped in each place. The Port Control office then fax the completed form to the control tower where it is valid for a departure within 36 hours.

In the event the New Years Eve weather window did not look so good in the morning, so trip aborted. The next window was on Sunday 3 January. However this would be outside the flight plan's 36-hour limit. The Port Control office was to close at 1200 on the 31st, opening again on Monday 4 January. The marina office telephoned and confirmed that, because of the holiday, the flight plan would still be valid and this proved to be the case.

Once we found the south-setting Agulhus current, under the band of cloud, we were making up to 11 knots over the ground with generally easterly or north-easterly winds and travelled 600 miles over the ground to Mossel Bay in 3 days and 5 hours.

Mossel Bay.
Dias museum (green roof) and yacht club (right foreground)
We stayed 3 days in pretty Mossel Bay, but the predicted strong westerly forecast then heavy rain, didn't happen.
Leaving Mossel Bay the wind was south-easterly 10-15 knots until we returned to the Atlantic Ocean, passing south of Cape Agulhus at 0935 local time on 10 January. Wind and sea then gradually increased as we headed west.

However, at about 2300 a big wave broke over the stern of the boat and into the cockpit.  Water flooded in through the vents in the aft cabin, soaking Susan in her bunk. As it had been relatively benign up to then the main hatch was open so a minor waterfall came in and onto the chart table. Richard, who was downloading a weather forecast on the work surface aft of the navigation area was missed, as was the computer, but the chart was soaked and the AIS (Automatic Identification System) was no longer operating, so we had to increase a visual watch for ships.

Friends were concerned as our AIS signal disappeared and, by coincidence, our position reporting via the Iridium Go had ceased as the power supply plug had pulled out some time earlier and the internal battery had run out.

As we closed the coast north of Cape Point katabatic winds off the mountains were up to 50 knots - the most we've experienced at sea. It was also cold. Full foul weather gear with a fleece underneath. Rather like a spring night in the English Channel but this is high summer at 34° S.

Approaching Cape Town
Arriving safely off Cape Town we picked up a mooring in 40 knots outside the Royal Cape Yacht Club marina around 0700. After hearing reports of other yachts attempting to berth and getting blown broadside on to other boats we wanted assistance and an easy berth.
In the event our friends on Gosi went to find marina staff who came out to the boat, took us in to view our allocated berth and then returned in a work boat to assist us. The wind conveniently dropped, we got into our berth without assistance and once we were tied up the wind increased to its normal level of 25-40 knots. Most evenings it was blowing 35-40 knots in the marina (i.e gale - severe gale, Beaufort 8-9).
It's taken a couple of weeks to dry things out and get the boat ship shape again.
As all sailors are we are relieved that tackling the Agullas current is now behind us - it certainly sorts the men from the boys!

Christmas in Cape Town

Very civilised Christmas on Minnie B with a yachtie lunchtime braai which included impala + other meats ended at 1700hours.
Immediately after Christmas three couples - Phil and Norma (Minnie B), Mike and Nicki (Zen Again) and ourselves headed up to the wine country around Stellenbosch to sample and/or purchase the local products.
On an organised tour (no driving) we took in four vineyards, sampling up to 6 wines in each. Glasses did not have to be emptied!

First was Simonsig - the vineyard that pioneered MCC (méthode cap classique - as used for champagne) production of wines in South Africa. We hadn't realised how much higher the bottle pressure in in an MCC wine - 8.5 bar was quoted but this obviously depends on the temperature. Removal of the cork with a sword was demonstrated (an upward stroke with the edge of the blade). This is only to be tried with MCC type wines; with ordinary "fizzy" you will apparently get shards of glass in your wine!

Next up was Fairview, where the wines were matched with locally produced cheeses. Here we were shown into one of the cellars

After lunch in the scenic town of Franschoek it was on to Dieu Donné. This vineyard is set in an impressive location, surrounded by mountains.

Finally Zorgvliet - possibly the most low key of the visits but some excellent wines and another scenic location.
As we were to fly back to Durban we will have to return to purchase our selected wines.
Happy tasters!
An evening walk in Stellenbosch to a restaurant saw Susan try out the Segway used by the University security unit.

By road - Durban to Cape Town

Once it became apparent that there was not to be a weather window that would get us to Cape Town for our planned Christmas festivities and wine tasting we decided to go there anyway - by land. It's only 2000 km!
A car was acquired from Hertz and we set off on 18 December.
There are basically two routes - one goes north of Lesotho, via Bloemfontein and is slightly quicker and shorter. We chose the southern route via Port Elizabeth and the Garden Route along the south coast. 

Art deco high street, Grahamstown
A fuel stop took us into Grahamstown where we were surprised to find a main street full of art deco buildings. It was somewhat bizarre, on the day that the pressure to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College Oxford was being reported in the British press, to pass the apparently thriving Rhodes University in South Africa.

Transkei view from the Nelson Mandela Museum
The route passes through townships - we asked ourselves "which do you see first - the medical clinic or the funeral palour?" all very sobering. In the arid Transki farmland of the Xhosa speakers we found Nelson Mandela's birth place the tiny village of Mvezo. We stopped at the Nelson Mandela Museum overlooking there. Museum is probably a bit overstated - it consists of two large spaces with chosen storyboards outlining his life, interspersed with selected quotations.  Outside is a reproduction of his cell space on Robben Island, which we hope to visit later.
On the game drive, Mpongi
This extended visit made us late arriving at the Mpongi Private Game Reserve, but no bother - we were whisked  off in a jeep for dinner. Could not resist an early game drive the next day.  The lodge however was let down by staffing and security issues.

Blue wildebeeste, Mpongi
Artistry in thatch - Elephant's Footprint Lodge
Next was the Addo Elephant Park, reported in separate post, where we stayed just outside the park at the Elephant's Footprint Lodge. This is when we realised what a fortune South African thatchers could make in the UK!
Storms River Gorge
The Garden Route crosses several rivers in deep gorges, of which Storms River Gorge was probably the most impressive (and also the one where it is possible to stop for photos).
Knysna entrance
We had to include a night in Knysna. We had glowing reports of the town, some from 30 years ago, but had been put off visiting there in Sea Bunny by write-ups of the entrance. Our observations from the heads justified our reservations!
Knysna lagoon from the Heads
The lagoon, however remains picturesque. the bar where we had dinner could have been an English country pub.
Bartolomeu Dias
For a dose of history we stopped in Mossel Bay and visited the Bartolomeo Dias museum (when Susan said we should go to the Dias Museum Richard wondered why Cameron Dias would have a museum in South Africa!). Part of the museum complex commemorates the first landing by Europeans in South Africa in 1488. It houses a life size replica of Dias's caravel which was sailed from Portugal to Mossel Bay in 1988.
A diversion to take in two mountain passes, supposed to be very scenic, was aborted as there was serious haze over the mountains so there would be no views.
Dutch Reform Church, Swellendam
A lunch stop in the Old Jail cafe in Swellendam seemed appealing - it was very good! The Dutch Reform Church opposite was an impressive building
At Cape Agulhus
Southernmost human in Africa!
Cape Agulhus, not Cape Point or the Cape of Good Hope, is the southernmost point of Africa. As capes go it's not overly impressive - fairly flat  and approached via a long drive over arid land and then opulent holiday homes after passing through the local township