Thursday, 22 February 2018

10 February Table Mountain

Having just spent three hours climbing up and down Lions Head we felt we'd earned the right to take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain. The mountain is over a 1000m and visible to ships (on a clear day) 40 miles out to sea.

Hout Bay harbour in distance

towards Hout Bay

Arriving mid afternoon there was a short queue for tickets and no queue to get on the cable car. The car is an unusual design; as it rises the car rotates 180° around the central control section. You begin looking up and at the top you're looking down the mountain.
We were lucky with the weather; clear skies and a light breeze. Heavy winds close the cable car. The views are spectacular. We took the longest path around the edge of the plateau, 45 minutes maximum, looking each way and down into the gorge that separates it from Devil's Peak. I don't know what I expected the top to be but it is flat and covered with low level bushes and heathers, birds, viewing platforms and seats where you can sit and contemplate.

Cape Town
Devil's Peak to right
By 5 o'clock the queue to take the car back down the mountain was snaking along the path so we popped in to the cafe for a coffee and to shelter from the cool evening breeze.
Red winged starling
Lions Head with Robben island centre of picture

10 February Lions Head

Lion's Head seen from Table Mt
Lions Head (699m) lies between the sea and Table Mountain. It was a beautiful morning so we decided it was time to join the locals and climb to the top. There's shaded car parking at the bottom and a handy mobile coffee van at the start of the trail. The first part is a sand and gravel road way, easy to step out as the path winds in a clockwise route around and up. The second part is narrower and you step rock to rock with a sometimes steep drop to your left hand side. The third part is rock climbing, steep rock climbing. One section has steel foot and hand holds to help you up.
hand holds / steps
But the climb is worth it for the views over Cape Town. We'd taken our sandwiches and enjoyed the sights while being stalked by hungry Dassies. It doesn't look like it but the closest relative to these small mammals is the elephant. That's what I'm told.
juvenile dassie

view to Table Mountain

Climbing down the top section was a stretch for my short legs, but we made it and then carried on across the road to the Table Mountain cable car.

Signal Hill

Queen of the hill

8 February The finer things in life

Franschoek church
Our pre dinner aperitif last night was a glass of MCC. To a Brit MCC is synonymous with Middlesex Cricket Clubs, all known as Lords. In South African wine parlance MCC is Methode Cap Champenoise. The same method as French champagne.
The wine was so fine we had to find the source of the amusingly named Miss Molly Bubbly. The vineyard was Môreson on the outskirts of Franschoek village where we discovered who is the eponymous Mis Molly. She's a Weimerraner guide dog for the blind who belongs to the owners. Miss Molly wine was designed to reflect her fun character and passion for life. We didn't meet her, but we did buy the Molly Bubbly and a 'special' bottle of pink bubbles. In sterling terms the wines were £6 and £10 respectively which we think represents VGV (very good value).
We came out of Môreson's gate and crossed the road in to La Motte, one of the large estates with historic house, gardens, restaurant and fine wine tastings. Although the tasting rooms published prices of around R20 to R50 (£1.25 to £3) for five tastings we were never charged and always treated warmly by the enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff.
La Motte winery

In the La Motte house I spent a quiet hour wandering around an art exhibition, the gardens and I looked in to their tasting room which looked so formal and high end I didn't stay to taste.
There was time for one more winery visit before we began the journey home. The red wines at Stony Brook were lovely, but I felt we had enough good stuff to drink before the non ideal storage conditions of a yacht ruined them. Thereafter we'll be back to the quaffable Chateau Casque du Cardboard.

On our journey back to Hout Bay we passed through the fruit growing district of South Africa, home of Cape fruit, and the main reservoir for Cape Town.  The reservoir is now a dust bowl at less than 10% capacity.
Cape Town reservoir reduced to a dust bowl
This is the third year of drought in the Cape and water levels are at critical.   Everyone has been asked to reduce their personal water usage to less than 50 litres per day (which would be a luxury for most cruising boats) or face having running supplies turned off and stand pipe collection points introduced.  

7 February Vintage cars and Vineyards

Our first road trip from Hout Bay was a two day one night excursion to the wine region called Franschoek. The wine areas are close to Cape Town so very easy to vist. Hard to leave though.
We began our trip yesterday driving through Stellenbosch town and our to Franschoek. We chose Franschoek (named after the French Hugeneots who began wine production here in 17th century) because it is supposed to be the prettiest of the three wine valleys. I also chose it because there is a vintage car museum at the L'Omarins estate; a private collection of 400 cars amassed by a family who made their fortune selling legal drugs – cigarettes.
oldest car 1903


Quite by chance we arrived in time for a guided tour of the 80 cars on show in four purpose built hangars. Our guide, Erica, was a devoted petrol head with an encyclopaedic memory for details and trivia of the cars in the collection. I'm not a petrol head, but I found it all fascinating. I would have been more interested to tour the horse racing stud owned by the same family and on the same property.
Less than a mile from L'Omarins is one of the largest estates in the valley, Boschendal vineyard, hotel, bungalows, restaurants, farm shop and wine tastings. The literal translation of Bosch en Dal is woods and valley.
Boschendal lunch

Because we arrived at lunchtime we began our visit in the less formal restaurant. The food was divine, roast belly pork and a platter of pates and cheeses which we shared, and, for the non driving navigator, a glass of chilled rosé wine perfect for a summer day. Post lunch we wandered in to the estate house which is furnished with original pieces and has the 'speciality' wine tastings, ie too expensive for my uneducated palate. Here we met the manager who happens to be a direct descendant of the original de Villiers family. Francois gave us a personal tour and history of the building and showed us two large eared owls which were sitting in a tree outside the door.
It would have been rude to leave Boschendal without a wine tasting – we bought some of the rosé I'd had a lunch time and a few bottles of 2016 Pinotage.
The afternoon was passing quickly so we grabbed our goodies and turned for Franschoek village where we staying at a central B&B (our designated driver enjoys a glass of wine with dinner too). The village is definitely picturesque and aimed at the tourist dollar with many art galleries, smart clothes shop, more wine tastings and plenty of swish up market eateries.

6 February Penguins at Boulder Beach

Close to Simons Town in False Bay there is a colony of African penguins. We took a drive across the peninsula to see them at the reserve in Boulder Beach.
Sadly their numbers are declining and it is estimated 50,000 have been lost over the last few years due to declining fish stocks and predation by a growing seal population. Today there are about 2,700 birds when once there were hundreds of thousands.

The reserve has raised walkways for visitors to view without disturbing and nest boxes to help with successful breeding.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

2 February Raymarine / Navionics repair

When we left Richards Bay (of so long ago) we discovered our Raymarine chartplotter wasn't able to disply the information on the Navionics chart chip. In Durban a Raymarine 'expert' took the chartplotter away to repair it. The repair lasted less than five minutes.
Now we're in Cape Town we've had more time to investigate and using our other Navionic chips in the plotter has ascertained it is a chip problem. Navionics in Italy tried to do a remote fix but our internet connection is too weak. The next plan was to contact the main Raymarine / Navionics supplier in Cape Town. The very kind man there offered us the use of his main line computer to do the remote connecting.
It was late Friday afternoon. He was preparing for a trip to HQ in UK but he still had time to help.
With his stock room Chartplotter he found there wasn't a problem with the chip. So what was the problem? Why couldn't our chartplotter read this one card?
His suggestion was to do install the latest software and if that didn't fix it, a factory reset of our plotter. He showed us how to do it all, emailed detailed instructions and wished us well.
Back on board our plotter has the latest software. Chip didn't work. A complete reset to original and it works!!!! Who would have thought you could find a expert who really is an expert and a really nice man to boot?

1 February Wheels and flowers

V and A Waterfront
On Monday we picked a hire car in central Cape Town. Getting in to Cape Town from Hout Bay is easy – we catch the bus from just behind the yacht club which whisks us along the coastal route and into the city centre. We've got the car for four weeks which should give us time for boat shopping and sightseeing.
Our first day of wheels we went to Southern Ropes to drool over their extensive locally manufactured range at bargain prices, were disappointed by the lack of product at the largest chandlery in the area and picked up a special fuse at the electronics shop. What we also did was linger too long and ended up in the rush hour traffic. A forty five minute journey turned in to an hour and a half.
Next day we were at a an upholstery foam warehouse to replace the worn out foam in our salon seats, to drop the head sail off at Ullman sails for repair to the Sunbrella strip and Southern Ropes to buy new mooring lines, sexy, black 12 strand for less than half the price we were quoted in Thailand, new halyards, Dyneema equivalent for the main sail out haul, braid to replace the rust staining wire of the lower guard rail. We're lovin' Cape Town for the investments we're able to make.
Leaving town early afternoon our route takes us past the Kirstenbosch Gardens. Originally a fruit farm and then a botanical garden, owner Cecil Rhodes gave it to the city. It's situated on the lower slopes of Table Mountain with views over the city and is stocked with only African plants. We were delighted to discover a mature African Mahogany tree which is the same wood as the interior of Jackster. Further up in the park there's a new tree canopy walkway which we had to walk and then it was meander here and there as the fancy took us. The entrance fee is small for what you get and I'd love to return on another sunny afternoon with a picnic and my book it is such a peaceful place.
sculpture in the garden

African Mahogany tree

on the canopy walk

feeding time

More energetic friends began their walk to the top of Table Mountain from a path within the Garden.

28 January Constantia

On a beautiful Sunday morning our friend Shirley took us to two of her favourite vineyards which are very close to Hout Bay in an area called Constantia. We met Shirley and husband Taffy of The Road many years ago in the Caribbean. The Road, with boat parrot, Rubbish, has returned to her home port of Hout Bay after her circumnavigation, but very sadly, Taffy passed away last year.
Shirley drove us first to the oldest vineyard in South Africa to see the grounds and house museum and then we moved on to Constantia Glen for lunch on the terrace. I could easily get used to this life.

Constantia Groot

Lunch with Shirley, Constantia Glen
After lunch we took a ride over to Simons Town to see the marina and came back along the scenic Chapman's Peak road which has great views of Hout Bay. Today in perfect conditions.

Hout Bay from Chapman's Peak

22 January Gun battle in Hout Bay

You've survived 60 knots winds entering Hout Bay and on your second day in the marina there are gun shots on the wharf.
We'd spent an hour in the yacht club using the Wi-Fi and on leaving we hear pop pop sounds coming from the area on the jetty where a salvage company are raising a sunken trawler. People on the balcony of the yacht club beckon us back inside the security gates and we watch an altercation between police in flak jackets and some very angry local men.
The story we learned later was as follows. The salvage team had divers in the water when a large rib belonging to abalone poachers roared past where they were working. The salvage team called the police who arrived ready for serious work. The police used their rib to confiscate the poachers rib and as they were towing the boat away rocks, iron bars were thrown at the police, a flare gun appeared and the police retaliated with shots, probably rubber bullets, fired over the heads of the antagonists on the dock.
Welcome to Hout Bay, a not so sleepy fishing port.

19 January Arrival Hout Bay

At 2am we glided past Cape Agulhas, the most southerly point of Africa, with 100nm to go to Hout Bay. Our sail from East London had been peaceful, motoring when the wind died. At midday we were on a NNW heading approaching the Cape of Good Hope. The wind had picked up to 25 knots and the swell from the SW had also picked up. Mid afternoon and only six miles to go to the marina. The wind had strengthened again to 30 to 35 knots, but once we turned east to make our final approach the katabatic effect increased this to 35 gusting 40 knots. The closer we got to land the stronger the wind and more fierce the gusts until we were motoring with a scrap of headsail, up to 50 knots on the starboard beam and looking a cloud of sea spray right in the bay.
When we entered Hout Bay at 4.30pm the wind was blowing a steady 45kts, gusting to 57kts, Force 10.

Before making an approach into the harbour we tried calling harbour control on the VHF and Roy (Ocean Cruising Club Port Captain) answered my call. In the conditions we were experiencing it was extremely difficult to hear what he was saying clearly. I then phoned the marina manager for his advice on entering harbour and getting in to the marina. His reply was that someone would be on the dock to take lines.

However, before we made a decision to enter the marina there were two factors we had to consider; was this the katabatic wind we had read about and would it pass over quickly? The second consideration was the entrance to the harbour is on the leeward side of the bay and our concern of not being able to motor away if the entry was dangerous, let alone manoeuvering safely inside the harbour to reach our berth.

Considering these two factors we decided to anchor in 16m of water close to the windward side of the bay as we felt the mountains could offer more protection from the SE and we would have plenty of sea room behind us. With the wind still blowing a houlie I crawled along the deck to untie our 33kg Rocna anchor. We have 100m of 10mm chain and put out 70m to begin with. I was being washed by sea waves coming over the bow, Jackster was like a terrier staining on her lead, but our anchor held, much vicious swinging, but no backward movement.
Jackster still on anchor, rescue arived

Shortly after anchoring Sea Rescue (SA equivalent of the British RNLI) called us on the radio to offer their assistance. I asked if conditions were expected to improve and they informed us no, conditions were not expected to improve for two days and they could offer us a tow into the harbour.
Sea Rescue deploys their swimmer

Taking the tow line

two boats hanging on our anchor

Twenty minutes later the Rescue tow boat arrived. A swimmer jumped in the water and lightning fast climbed aboard via the transom, not by the side swim ladder which we were in the process of putting in place. Callum then took the heaving line followed by a tow line from the Rescue boat. The tow line was secured to our bow cleat and we were asked to raise the anchor. The Rescue boat at this point was downwind of our anchor (we later discovered they had a turbo issue causing steerage problems) and we now had the weight of both Jackster and the Rescue boat on our anchor. The anchor held but under the strain our chain started to skip over the gypsy wheel. Once the situation was relayed to the skipper of the tow boat he was able to reduce the strain of his boat on us and under full throttle we powered forward and recovered our anchor.

During this time a second NSRI boat joined us and a second man was able step on board when they came alongside.

under tow
While we were under tow in to the harbour I and the two NSRI men prepared lines and fenders to come alongside. Jackster came in to the harbour still under tow. Even within the harbour walls the wind was still blowing between 40kts to 50kts with gusts approaching 60kts.

harbour entrance

The consensus of the rescuers was it too fraught with danger to attempt to manoeuvrer us into a marina berth in the current conditions so decided to put us on to a concrete wharf. At this point they asked if we could manoeuvre under our own power to which we said yes. The tow line was dropped and we motored alongside the wall where the Sea Rescue guys were waiting to take and help with our lines.

The NSRI Captain advised us to stay alongside the wall until conditions improved. Our first night was not comfortable, Even though we had all our fenders between us and the black truck tyres the movement of the boat on the tide, and gusts continuing over 50 knots, shifted the fenders. The black rubber from the tyres shifted to our white hull. Overnight we burst our largest fender and chafed through two lines. But we were safely tied alongside, not being bashed on anchor hoping the holding was good.

We thank and praise the speedy response, professionalism and dedication of the Hout Bay National Sea Rescue Institute, all volunteers, who were happy to turn out in horrible conditions to help strangers. Their selflessness to help others is the best side of human nature and we thanked them profusely.

Our 'rescue' is not something we were proud of. Could we have done things differently? Did we under estimate the weather forecast? Yes. When the forecast shows 30 knots at sea in this part of the world add at least another 10 knots on top. Time your arrival for morning when the wind is less. However, we are told these were extreme conditions, not seen for three years. The last time it happened was when the World ARC Rally tried to enter and Sea Rescue had to help then in.

Next morning we contacted the other boats who had been travelling with us on the same weather window from East London. They too had had a tough time and had been caught out by the extreme conditions. One boat trying to reach the marina in Simons Town also found themselves overpowered by the same conditions and had to call out Sea Rescue to assist them on to an emergency mooring ball outside the marina. Another boat also found it impossible to enter Simons Town marina; at 1am they anchored in Pilgrims Bay on the south side of False Bay to wait until the wind reduced. They were there for two days.

Three boats continued on to Cape Town. They too had to anchor and await better conditions before being able to enter the harbour safely.

To conclude the story of our epic arrival in Hout Bay twenty four hours after our ignominious arrival on to the wall of the ice factory the wind did drop and we were able to move in to our berth in the marina. Our hull is rubber black, the fenders rubber black, but we are tied up safely. Within five minutes of getting in the wind came back and blew forty knots once more. That night we had dinner with Jackie and Gary of Inspiration Lady, a 'we're here beer' and slept deeply.