Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The true tourist

cape town - 34
Originally uploaded by brisegalets
If you were an experienced and seasoned tourist, you would visit museums and shopping malls on a rainy day and do the outdoor when the weather is perfect.
Well, we did exactly the opposite. On Sunday, basing our plans on the weather forecast, we went for the red tour on the CitySightseeing bus, planning to get off at stop 13 and go up the Table Mountain on cable car. We did the first 3 stops on the uncovered top of the bus and enjoyed the beginning of the rain, drizzle at first, then real heavy rain. By the time we decided to escape the rain and go downstairs, everybody had come to the same conclusion and were crammed in a space with twice as many people as there were seats available. So, we decided to get off, have lunch, and then surely the rain would stop and we could continue touring. We had a nice kurdish lunch and went back on the bus just in time for the rain to start again. The rest of the bus tour was done staying downstairs and hanging on like in a subway on a traffic hour, with fog to add to the misery. There was a commentary, but nothing to see.
On Monday, there were still clouds covering the top of the Table Mountain, so we decided to be wise, and we went for the Maritime Museum and checking out shopping malls and supermarkets. That day, the weather was nothing short of perfect, with blue sky and sunny weather.
That is the hard life of a tourist !
On Tuesday, we gave it another go. This time we had the weather and we could see what we had been through on Sunday on the red tour. But once we got to stop 13 (cable car to the mountain), we realized that everybody else had had the same idea and there was a two hour line to get on the cable car. So we gave up and decided to have a walk along the beach, have lunch, and then go back to stop13 as we were told that the line was much shorter in the afternoon. Only we got off the bus one stop too early and walked nearly 10 kms in search of a restaurant that we never found. In the end, we hopped back on the bus one more time to go to the Waterfront, have lunch, and then taxi back to the boat, exhausted by another touring day !
Today, no more touring. Another very nice member of the club had offered to drive us to a good shopping spot and so we did. We went with him to a shopping center and did most of the provisioning that we need doing before leaving for Saldanha and then Luanda.
Tomorrow, time will go fast when we have to do immigration formalities out of South Africa, then top up with fuel, go back to the Waterfront for fruits and veggies, and hopefully some time with Manuel who is landing tonight late. There probably won't be any time to spare to do more touring in Cape Town. Pity ! I feel that you probably need to plan for 3 to 4 weeks stay here if you wanted to visit everything worth visiting. One more time, I almost forgot to smell the roses !

Friday, September 24, 2010

Royal Cape Yacht Club

Capetown - 21
Originally uploaded by brisegalets
Almost one week has gone and we have been able to accomplish quite a bit.
First, the electric autopilot. Graham, who runs the weathernet of South Africa on the radio had pointed me towards a friend, Tom, who sails extensively and is knowledgeable and helpful. Tom came to the boat, took apart the autopilot, and concluded that the only thing wrong with it was the fact that two bolts that secure the electric motor to the casing has gone loose and the contact with the brushes had been lost. He took the unit home and will bring it back tomorrow morning fixed. Really fantastic.
Then Ivan who works with Manuel, a boat builder himself, and the only brother of the coast who lives in Capetown, has put in place the six new opening portlights of the main cabin, all of which were leaking somehow. On Monday, he will come back and try and fix the forward hatch. After that, we should have conquered most of the leaks. We know that there is still some moisture coming from the starboard side forward, but we hope that fixing the hatch might help with it.
We ourselves replaced the aft bilge pump and the float switch which had failed, and did the little jobs that you always find that need be done after some passage, checking the rigging, taking care of the batteries and of the engine, cleaning inside, etc....
In the meantime, we also had the opportunity to go to the waterfront, where the real harbour lies. It is a place where there are boats and boatyards, but also shopping centers, maritime museum, shopping mall, all that in a very pleasant setting.
Unfortunately, Manuel had to go home just before we arrived for family reasons, so we have not had a chance yet to meet any of the brothers of South Africa. My understanding is that most of them live in Saldanha, and I will have to wait until I get there. If all goes well, we should be sailing to Saldanha on Friday, October 1st, but of course all will depend on the weather. Capetown is a very windy place and we will have to depend on a wind coming from a southerly direction.
Today, a member of the club, Barry, very kindly took us on a tour around the table bay mountain through some vineyards and back via Hout Baai et the waterfront. Very pleasant ride which gave us a good feeling of the layout of Capetown. And this was extremely nice of Barry whom we had not met before coming to Capetown, to drive us all afternoon for sight seeing.
The Royal Cape Yacht Club is obviously dedicated to racing. There is first of all the famous Cape-Rio race which starts in January. Then there is the race from Capetown to St Helena. And then, there are races in the bay with many boats taking part. As a result, the club is very lively and we meet quite a few very nice yachtmen and we see in the marina a lot of finely tuned racing yacht of different sizes.
So far, we have had a very pleasant time here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Turning the corner !

Originally uploaded by brisegalets
Crossing the Agulhas current already had been a kind of anticlimax, so I was bracing for the Cape of Storms, anticipating the real thing this time.
At the start, it looked that we were in for some excitement. We left Mossel Bay with an easterly gale force wind, 15 foot seas, rain and for us coming from the tropics, a temperature that made the weather feel like brass monkey weather (for those who don't know, the full expression is "it's cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey" probably irish expression), being in the low 60' and a very high humidity. I thought that this was going to be a rough but quick passage. Alas ! Around midnight, the wind which had been declining since early afternoon dropped to a point where we had to start the motor, once again. We had albatross, dolphins and whales around us to keep us excited, but this was not enough to forget our disappointment.
Then, as we were approaching Cape Point, the wind came back up to 35 knots and 20 foot seas to go with it. By the way, the Cape of Good Hope is the one called the Cape of Storms, but it's nothing of a cape. It sits like a small dent on the side of a peninsular at the end of which is Cape Point, which looks formidable. We could hardly see anything as the weather was kind of foggy with less than 2 miles visibility and very low clouds that were hiding the top of Cape Point.
At that point, the locking device which keeps the movement of the water paddle of the windvane in sync with the steering wheel broke, and there was a brief moment of high tension. We first tried a wooden plug, but it would not hold, being chewed up by the movements of the wheel. Eventually, we found the axis of a shackle that was the right size, and we were able to continue under the guidance of Firmin, our windvane.
Again, this was not a walk in the park with that kind of wind and sea state, but at least, we were flying, with on top of that the help of a 0.7 knots current. But this was to be short lived. As we passed Hout Baai, which is about 20 miles from Capetown, the wind died, then came back up at 20 knots in our nose, then died again staying in the northerlies directions.
We then finished motoring and entered the harbour of Capetown at 1 in the morning on Sunday. All our efforts to contact Port Control on 16 and 12 failed, so we went directly to the Royal Cape Yacht Club basin and tied up at the first berth available. And within 10 minutes, we were fast asleep, happy and relieved to be now in the South Atlantic. No more known weather monsters ahead of us !

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mossel Baai

We have been stuck here for five days by the weather, but finally, we don't mind at all. I would even say that we like it.
This is a charming little town, touristic but also fishing harbor. It is very clean and nice looking, lots of building having their front covered with sand stones. Lots of restaurants, shops are well stocked. From the boat, the downtown area is less than a quarter mile away, including a small shopping mall with a supermarket. Extremely convenient.
At the marina, we have electricity and if we wanted, we could fill up our tanks with water. We won't do it as we have enough to reach Capetown and we are told that water is a scarce commodity here.
There is also a museum, part aquarium, part maritime museum, quite interesting and which helped us understand better the portuguese influence here. In the museum, there is a replica of the caravel on which Bartolomeu Dias came to South Africa in 1488. Amazing to look at the charts available at the time and to think of the courage and the maritime skills of those explorers.
It is a pity that there is so much security, so highly visible everywhere. There are probably very good reasons for it, but it does not help the image of the place. To go from my boat to the bar of the Yacht Club, there are four gates, all with different systems (key, magnetic badge, security guard, intercom system) that certainly does not incite you to visit the club for a drink.
The bay is very active, with quite a few whales, we are told on their way to antartica. There are also dolphins and sea lions, some of them right into the harbor.
The harbor itself is very much alive, with an intense activity from the fishing industry. Although it is quite well protected, the swell still manages to get in and alongside the pontoons the continuous movements of the boats are hard on the mooring lines.
This is, I hope, our last port in what is still technically speaking the Indian Ocean. Tomorrow night, we will go around Cape Agulhas and enter the South Atlantic Ocean.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Are we there yet ?

This time, we were definitely going for Capetown. The night Friday to Saturday, we knew we were going to be motoring, but then after, the nice 20 knots easterly wind was going to help us all day. Then on Sunday, we were going to be motoring in a light westerly breeze before pushing on on Monday with an easterly to north easterly wind getting us to Capetown on Monday. Nothing of that happened, except for the motoring. And if we motor with no wind, then we have to steer by hand with no electric auto-pilot. The story of that auto-pilot is so long that it is not worth writing. We do not know whether it is the hydraulic pump which burnt (we could know if we looked, but we have not done it yet), or if it is the brains that we bought in Townsville to replace that of the Navico, but what matters is that it does not work and we need wind to use Firmin (the windvane).
So, after motoring all night, and all day, and again all night, and when I realized that we were in for motoring all the way to Capetown, I decided to call it quit and call in into Mossel Baai. We arrived there at 6 in the morning, and we have been sleeping most of the day, but with the little that we have seen, I am glad we stopped here. This time round, with no serious work to do on the boat, we will have time to be full time tourists and I like it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Things that don't change. . .

. . . .remain the same.
We had left East London already bragging that we were going to make Capetown in one go. The sea and the weather decided otherwise. When we left East London, there was absolutely no wind, but that did not worry us since we knew that the wind would come back from the east around 8 in the morning. Guess what ? It did not. In a way, that was good luck because when we got a long line caught in the rudder, if we had had wind and the wind vane working with the water blade down, then we would have sustained again severe damage to the wind vane. As it was anyway, we were not too happy. That line was probably several hundreds of yards long and we quickly realize that there was no point trying to haul it on the boat. So we cut it, short on the port side and long enough to secure it on the boat on the starboard side. If it had not been pitch dark, we would have done it the other way round and would have been able to clear it there and then. There was a splice on the port side and we could not pull the rope through the gap between the rudder and the shoe because of that splice. But the rudder was still working good, and best of all, it did not catch the propeller. So, after one hour of trying to do something, we just resumed sailing on.
Then around 3 in the morning, (again during my watch), I saw that the depth was down to 50 feet when it should have been 300, with a very clear signal. Then it went up to 45, then 40, then 35, then 30 and I got very very concerned. As I was checking with various navigation aids our position, the depth plunged back suddenly to 300. Phew ! And everything went back to normal. And then, like 20 minutes later, a huge breathing sound next to the boat, probably less than 10 yards, and which was undoubtedly a whale surfacing to breathe. Major scare ! And I could not take out of my mind that picture of that sailboat in the bay of Capetown, where a whale jumped out of the water and dropped back onto the sailboat, destroying the rigging but fortunately injuring no one. This is the last thing we want.
After the night was over, we saw whales around us, but fortunately none of them close.
Then, before sunset, we got into Port Elizabeth and could safely tie up at the local Yacht Club. There were people there to greet us and direct us to a berth. Seems like a very friendly place.
On the boat opposite us was the boat of Miguel who helped us tie up. So we invited him for a drink at the club, where we met many members, all very friendly and all white.(Ooopppsss !)
After drinks, we bought a bottle of wine, and I invited Miguel to share dinner with us. This was steak (excellent meat from South Africa) and green beans, and the bottle of red wine, after a few more drinks before dinner. I don't know if this had anything to do with it, but leaving the boat Miguel managed to fall into the drink. :-(
I did not see that, but apparently what happened is the classic case of having a foot on the pontoon and a foot on the step of the boat. Then the boat moved away from the pontoon, and Miguel had legs only that long. After which, gravity took over. Fortunately, he only got wet.
Today, Thursday, we cleared the rope, filled up with Diesel, and started to wait for the southwesterly to go through. It is now 5:00 p.m. and the wind is in the 30 knots. Good to be in port.

Monday, September 6, 2010

We did it !

Originally uploaded by brisegalets
After the incident of the genoa halyard, it felt like this was going to be smooth sailing all the way to East London. Well, not quite.
First, the wind quit again and we found out that the hydraulic pump that drive the rudder has seized up and we have to steer by hand when we don't have enough wind for Firmin to work well. And I am not going to wait for the wind as I want to get to East London as quickly as I can.
The wind eventually came back, first quite strong, then weakening by the hour, but still strong enough for us to use the windvane and make good speed.
Then at 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, all of a sudden and without any warning, the wind switched abruptly in a matter of minutes from NE to SW, which is in the nose, and building up to 30 knots. I was quite concerned, because we are right in the middle of the area where the freak waves can build up and especially if the SW wind were to freshen up even more. I checked the barometer, but it remained steady, which is a good sign. Anyway, to play safe, we ducked inside the 200 meters depth line and continued motoring. Those last 35 miles seem to last forever. Eventually, we got to inside the breakwater of East London around 3 in the morning. Surprisingly enough, Port Control answered us at the first call and directed us to tie up at Latimer's Landing, wherever we could. Which we did. And then slept heavily until 9. After we woke up, I called again Port Control to find out about formalities to clear in.
Well, it turns out that almost no sailboat makes it directly to East London from Reunion or Mauritius, and they don't really know what to do. The Port Police, next door to us, tries to call Immigration, but there is a civil servants strike going on, and it seems that we won't be able to get anything done on Sunday. But we can go to town and do whatever we want, no problem. In fact, on Sunday, everything is closed and we achieve nothing.
On Monday, it appears that immigration is not in a hurry to come, so we are told to do what we need to do and then tell them when we are back. So, we went back out to town, and finally managed to get a cell phone and an internet connection via a 3G broad band USB stick all set up. When we return to the boat, the police told us that immigration can't come, but if we would come to the police station with our passports, they will put some stamps on them.
The weather which is nasty today, as forecast, should ease up tomorrow afternoon, and we plan on leaving at the end of the day and head for Mosselbay. Apparently, it is very rare, we are told, that a sailboat can make East London to Capetown in one leg, so we will probably spend a couple of days in Mosselbay which we believe will be a lot nicer than East London.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Is it boring or what ?

Quite often, people wonder whether we are not getting bored to death
after days and weeks at sea on long passages. Well, on Papy Jovial, we
never have time to get bored as there is always something going on to
entertain us.
The day before last, evening, just after dinner. It's pitch dark with no
moon, we are on broad reaching with more than 25 knots of wind and the
boat is going at more than 7.5 knots. This is the end of my watch. Then,
the dreaded sound of something crashing on deck. What is that ?
Well, that is the genoa that just fell on deck after the halyard broke
at the block on top of the mast. And very soon, it is all of it in the
water, dragging along, fortunately still secured to the boat by the tack
point. And the boat, under reefed down main is still going at 6 knots or
Fortunately, I had replaced the spare halyard that I did not like, with
a brand new one, which is in place. So, it took us half an hour of
frantic efforts, but without stopping the boat, we had the genoa back up
and running. It had been a little physical and I was almost out of
breath, but happy. I rewarded myself and Olivier with a shot of rum from

Next morning, still on my watch, we lost the wind. And this for almost
two and a half hour. We had to go motoring, since we have an appointment
with the Agulhas current. Fortunately, the wind came back, strong, and
we could resume sailing toward the south african coast.
We had been lazy trade winds passengers, leaving the steering of the
boat to Firmin, and having little change to make to the sails until we
hit that counter current on the east coast of Madagascar. Since then, we
are a lot more alert to the currents and we zigzag across the Mozambique
channel to try and minimize the effect of those "ebbies".

We are now around 10 hours from entering the famous, or infamous Agulhas
current which can be hell or heaven, depending on which direction the
wind is blowing. Obviously, we are trying to make it heaven and it looks
like we are going to be successful. So much so that if we get lucky, we
might be able to push on and make Port Elizabeth before the dreaded
South Westerly wind shows up which is forecast for Sunday morning 3 o'clock.
No matter how eager we are to make Port Elizabeth, we will play safe
anyway, as this is not the kind of circumstances where you want to take
We shall know very soon.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

All bets are off !

Decision made, agonizingly, to try and make it to East London. We have
594 n.m. to get there, with probably 6 hours of SW wind on the way,
therefore almost a guaranteed loss of three hours. And then, we have to
make it before September 5th midnight, after which a strong
Southwesterly is forecast to run up the Agulhas current, worse possible
scenario. If that were to happen (being late I mean), we would have to
go back out away from the current, let the southwesterly go through and
then get back in, at which time, we don't know yet what it is going to
look like.
This at least guarantees us four days of intense stress and a telephone
bill going up quickly as I keep checking on MaxSea grib files, UGrib and
Predictwind grib files. Surprisingly enough, today they all agree. It
must be a good sign.
We shoud normally making, but now it's in the hands of the weather.
Inc'h Allah !