TOTAL MILES TRAVELED ON SAIL to SEE EXPEDITION: 22,838
THE LAST LEG
Total Miles traveled on last passage – 604 NM
Miles traveled under sail:181 NM
Miles traveled motorsailing: 301 NM
Miles traveled with power: 122NM
Strongest Wind:-- 40.2 Knots
We spent a month in South Africa but only about 6 days sailing around the coastline between Richard’s Bay and Cape Town. This means we had a lot of time to explore the country by land as well as by sea. After arrival and clearance in Richard's Bay, we made a huge effort to clean the boat and get ready for the new crew arriving in several days so that we could take time to head to a game park. We rented a car and I booked a 5-person Chalet in the Hluhluwe–Imfolozi (pronounced shla-shlu-way – em-fa-lo-zee) Game Reserve and we headed out. When we got to the reception at the game park, we were told that they had double-booked our cabin and that if it was okay, they would put us in a private lodge near a river. Then the manager winked and told me it was a “very upgrade”.
It took us another 45 minutes to get to the lodge on dirt roads. Along the way, we saw a giraffe and a rhino. Once at the lodge, we found 4 separate cottages and a communal kitchen and living room connected by walkways. In the grass behind the lodge stood an elephant on the edge of the river. Nelson, the live-in ranger, showed us everything we needed to know. There was a Braii (African BBQ) that Nelson lit and is where we cooked our dinner outside. The best part of the lodge was a “hide” which is a raised platform in the trees. From it you could sit quietly and watch for wildlife. A troop of Baboons scurried down a tree at sunset and a hippo waddled out of the stream and into the dense woods. We loved our time at the lodge and talking to Nelson about the 33
years that he worked there.
At 5 am the next morning, we met a guide named Bheki who took us all over the park in a large open land rover looking for big and small wildlife. In the distance, a giraffe towering above the trees, moved along a hillside. Rhinoceros, looking like boulders at first, grazed with babies. A troupe of Baboons crossed the road ahead of us. We didn’t know what we might see and around every turn was a nice surprise. Behki pointed out lots of birds that I would have missed. It was a great fun just riding around in the game park and trying to spot animals.
The rest of the day we spent driving through the park in our own rental car looking for wildlife. We came upon several cars stopped and then realized that an elephant was on the road ahead. He was in no hurry to move off the road so we waited with everyone else. Later, the same thing happened when two rhinos were walking down the middle of the road.
Our new crew, Dick and Sandy and Buck, arrived the day after we returned from our safari. A trip to the supermarket loaded us up with food for our crew of eight. In the morning, we assessed the weather and decided that we would not be sailing for a few days. This is when Dick and Sandy, Buck and I decided to drive up to the Drakensberg Mountain Range. I was able to find an AirBNB for the night close to the World Heritage Site area. Along the way we stopped at a Garden Shop/Café in Pietermaritzburg that was just lovely. We sat out back and had open faced sandwiches on homebaked bread and topped with all local ingredients. We also stopped at Howick Falls, a waterfall that is as high as Victoria Falls in Tanzania but not as wide.
It was not especially easy to find the AirBNB though eventually we did. The cottage was a funny little “Hobbit House” with a thatched roof and small windows. Some of the thatch from the inside ceiling had fallen on the floor inside making us wonder if an animal was living in the roof. We sat on the back porch and had a cocktail while watching the sun set behind the mountains.
In the morning, we headed up the hill for a hike to a waterfall. It was steep at times but the scenery was fantastic. Coming down the hill, we stopped at another lovely cafe and bakery for a coffee. By the time we headed off to the second park area, we decided to find another Airbnb for the night. Giants Castle, a long green valley dotted with huge boulders and escarpments was definitely worth the stop. Buck, Dick and I hiked to a cave to see paintings done some few thousand years earlier by the San people who lived in this area long before any Europeans came. The young guide was terrific and explained to us not only about the San people but how they spoke in a language that consisted mainly of tongue clicks.
This second AirBNB was very nice and I had one of the best showers of my life. It was a stone's throw from an Austrian restaurant with a great atmosphere and craft beer. We sat outside under twinkle lights and ate our dinner. The ride back to the boat on Saturday was long. I had been sharing the driving with Dick. It took the full focus of two people as it was not unusual for cattle, carts, goats or kids to be in the road. At one point, a thick fog encased us on a mountaintop and we could hardly see the front of the car. I was hugely relieved when we arrived safely back at Elcie. A good night of sleep and we were off at 0530 in the morning heading to Durban.
We made the 90 NM sail from Richard’s Bay to Durban in one very long day. There was not a lot of wind so we motorsailed nearly the whole way. Cool, grey and drizzly, we had a hearty soup for lunch. Sandy taught Meg how to crochet on the way. We also did a puzzle. We pretty quickly figured out that it was our home of the Chesapeake Bay! When we arrived in Durban, we had to sit outside the harbor entrance for almost two hours waiting for large ships to come and go. Elcie did not get tied up to the dock until almost 10:30 PM and we'd yet to have dinner. With the long day and late night arrival, all were glad to finally get to bed.
The weather then kept us from leaving Durban for several days so we had some more time to explore. Durban is the third largest city in South Africa and crime can be an issue. We used Ubers, stayed alert and had no issues. Durban has a very large Indian population. Someone told us that we had to eat Bunny Chow while we were there so we found an Indian restaurant that served it for lunch. Bunny Chow is a half a loaf of white bread with the middle pulled out and filled with spicy Indian Curry. It is very filling and no one was able to eat the whole thing.
We had our Thanksgiving dinner tied up at the Durban Marina. It was a very traditional dinner with a turkey, stuffing and all the usual side dishes. Sandy brought a can of cranberries and table decorations too! While the turkey cooked, we played cards and ate appetizers. Molly and Meg had made a delicious apple pie for dessert. It was a very enjoyable Thanksgiving celebrated with our American crew!
Our next sail from Durban around the coast to Simon's Town took four days. We had our fastest day ever, making 270 NM in 24 hours! The Agulhas Current runs south along the eastern South African coast at up to 4 knots. We split into 4 watches with two on each watch. There was some great sailing on this stretch though much traffic to watch for. The middle photo below shows just how many ships were on the AIS at one time. A few were also sailboats from the ARC Rally that were also underway around South Africa.
We caught a Yellowfin Tuna and ate it for several meals. We rounded Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of South Africa. Sailing along in gentle winds, dolphins and then a pod of humpback whales entertained us with breaching and fin waving on our last day before arriving at Simon's Town. We didn’t have enough time to get in before dark but we needed to carry on anyway. The wind was forecast to increase from the south and we had nowhere else to go. And did it increase – right up to about 30 knots which we rode with just a double-reefed main all the way up to Simon's Town. The bright light of the Cape Lighthouse helped guide us in.
We arrived around midnight with gale force winds and pelting rain. The highest gust was over 40 knots! Fortunately, we had been given very clear instructions to the mooring which we managed to find in the dark and get tied to. The girls got up to help get on the mooring. At first it seemed that the pennant was not long enough to reach the boat but with both Emma and I pulling and Molly feeding the lines through, we did it. It was an exciting night time arrival and hard to go to sleep afterward. It was fun to wake up in the morning and see where we were. Tall, boulder-strewn hills rose above the town. Simon's Town has an old-fashioned feel with Dutch and Victorian style buildings. The South African navy is based here and has a very large Naval Yard with ships and submarines.
We walked down to a beach to see a colony of African penguins. They were very cute. I was able to take some photos of an adult feeding its chicks. The parents swim out to sea to eat fish and then come back and regurgitate the fish into the mouths of the chicks who pester them until they do so. The next day the other parent will go out and bring back a belly full of food. The penguin colony here has done so well because a protected area has been provided for them to nest in large plastic jugs half buried in the hillside under the cover of shrubs. We also saw a Dassie which looks like an oversized guinea pig. One Dassie we saw was standing on its hind legs eating flowers off a bush.
Some of the crew departed for Cape Town by train and we were sad to see our fantastic Leg 21 split up. Here, Meg is putting the mainsail cover on for the last time!
Two days later, we made our way around the Cape of Good Hope on Elcie (also called the Cape of Storms) by departing around 4 am on a Sunday morning. It was mostly calm when we slipped our mooring and slid out of Simon's Town. The cape itself looked mystical in the early morning light with clouds rolling over its face and down to the sea. There were about 6-7 small, local fishing boats also heading down to the cape so we felt we had chosen the right day to go around - no need for any more excitement for a while. We set some sail but in the end, it was mostly a motor. Table Mountain came into view once we were around the cape and heading up the west side. I had seen photos of Table Mountain before but was still not prepared for the sheer immensity of it.
Our dock space at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront was very close to a floating platform that was set up as a resting place for the African fur seals that lived in the harbor. All day and night we had to listen to the belching and barking seals, especially the males that had frequent arguments. A huge bull liked to lie at the foot of the ramp leading off our dock and we had to walk around him hoping that he wouldn’t growl or snap at us.
While at the V and A Waterfront, we hosted David DeVillier's (Elcie's designer's) mother, Seugnet, for lunch aboard Elcie. It was fun to show off David's work in Cape Town where he grew up! We really enjoyed our time on the waterfront. There was so much to see and do. We visited the MOCAA - Museum of Contemporary African Art and also a store that was like a museum - so full of African masks and other carvings.
Table Mountain always loomed above us and we were planning how to best the make the climb. We got some advice from David DeVilliers (Elcie's designer who grew up in South Africa.) We took a route up Skeleton Gorge on the backside starting from the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens then walked over the top and down the ocean facing side of the mountain.
It was a tremendous amount of UP - scrambling through a rocky gorge, several ladders and many, many steps! Just about the time we thought we would never reach the top we came out onto a flat area with a trail to a reservoir and a white sand beach. Who would have thought that one would find a white sand beach at the top of a mountain?!
The trail then carried on around the top of the mountain to the highest point. We stopped several times for snacks and to nurse sore feet. The path wound around, up and over boulders and across flat areas. The views were amazing and the vegetation was interesting. At this climate and elevation, it is what is called Fynbos – a colorful collection of succulents, protea and shrubs. Protea is the national flower of South Africa. We decided to hike down instead of taking the cable car. It was a long and tricky hike down, over uneven rocks, on a trail that had many switchbacks. We were all very tired at the end but proud of our achievement. We took one other day to go east and north to the winelands and do some exploring.
Now, we are starting to get ready for our big sail across the Atlantic Ocean. We have over 3000 miles to go so we need quite a lot of food and supplies. We are planning stops at Namibia, St. Helena Island and possibly Ascension Island on our way to Brazil. Stay tuned for the next installment coming soon!