Day 81, Year 6 Trip to Robben Island
Date: Thursday, January 13, 2011
Weather: Mixed Sun with Low Clouds; Winds SW 40+ knots
Location: Simon’s Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Day before yesterday I went out to check the wind speed and direction and saw the wind was from the NE. I even recorded that in my Tuesday log, but after doing so I mentioned it to Mark. It seemed strange that the wind indicator was reading NE when the wind was definitely was coming from the SW. But we just wrote it off to windy conditions that were confusing the wind indicator and I forgot about it. Then late yesterday Mark took a good look and found that either it is so windy here that it has blown our wind indicator and bottle-brush lightening protector right off the top of the mast or some very big birds must have tried to take a seat and broke those things off. One way or another, they are gone.

We left the boat to walk to the train station at 6:30 am to go to Cape Town and it was on the trip in that Mark relayed this information to me. As soon as we got to Cape Town, we called the chandlery here in Simon’s Town to see if they could get a Ray Marine wind indicator. They can but it will cost us dearly. It looks as if half the profit we made from selling the Monitor windvane will go right back into the purchase of the wind indicator. You win some, you lose some. But on a boat I don’t think you ever get ahead financially!

The weather in Cape Town today was beautiful and sunny with very little wind, unlike here where it was only party cloudy and as windy as can be. We went into Cape Town on the train with Pieter and Carla of Odulphus, walked the couple of miles to the V& A Waterfront, had a cup of coffee while watching seals playing in the harbor, and then went into the Nelson Mandela Gateway to see the displays and get on the boat that would take us across to Robben Island, the Susan Kruger. This same boat took many prisoners to the island in the 1960 to 1990 era. It is about seven miles from the harbor to the island and it takes thirty minutes. Once on the island, everyone on the boat was funneled into a bus for a tour of the island. Our tour guide was a young man named Tambo and he was really excellent. In our forty-five minute tour he gave us a very clear and concise history of the island. Since the 1600’s it has been used as a prison for slaves, a medical haven for lepers, a maximum security prison for dangerous criminals as well as for political prisoners during the Apartheid years, and during World War II South African and British troops were stationed there. After the bus tour, we went to the maximum security prison to hear the story of incarceration from an inmate that was detained there in the 1980’s. The maximum security prison was built by prisoners from 1960 onwards. It was built by them out of rock from the quarries on the island where the prisoners worked long days chipping out the rocks. The history of the political prisoners is a long one, but the short story is that in the 1950’s Pass Laws were enacted in South Africa requiring all blacks to carry a document something like a passport at all times. They were only allowed to move from one place to another at certain times and often without their whole family. Black men who had to work had to leave their wives, as children were not allowed to leave their designated ‘homelands.’ In 1960, things came to a head in the Sharpsville massacre where many blacks protesting these laws were either killed or wounded, most of those being shot in the back. Robert Sobukwe was the president of the Pan African Congress at that time and was charged with organizing the demonstration in Sharpsville against the hated pass laws. Over 18,000 demonstrators were arrested, including much of the African National Congress (ANC) and Pan African Congress (PAC) leadership and both organizations were banned. By June of 1963, seventeen members of the ANC were arrested and tried for treason, among them Nelson Mandela. Seven of the members, including Mandela, were sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island. Sobukwe was kept in solitary confinement. Mandela and others were at first in solitary confinement and later some were allowed in live in a communal cell with others. I cannot possibly describe the pain and suffering experienced by those imprisoned on Robben Island, but a “must read” on the subject is Nelson Mandela’s auto-biographical account, Long Walk to Freedom.

After returning to Cape Town on the Susan Kruger, we went to lunch at the V & A Waterfront. By the time we walked back to the train station, took the train to Fish Hoek, waited for the bus to Simon’s Town, and walked the mile back to the Yacht Club, it was 6:30 pm. So it was a full day.

We are honestly not sure what are plans are for tomorrow. We can’t check out until we get the bill of sale for the wind indicator so that we can get the VAT tax paid on it refunded. Yachts in transit are charged the 14% tax but can get it back on departure. And we can’t get the bill of sale until 8:30 am. So we might go to Cape Town to check out tomorrow or, if the weather is looking like we can wait until Tuesday to leave, we will go to Cape Town to check out on Monday. We’ll just see how things go in the morning. We have talked to North Sails a couple of times today and the main sail should be here tomorrow afternoon. And then we have the hassle of how to deal with the money from the sale of the Monitor windvane. It had to be paid to us in Rands and that had to be sent from Durban to Cape Town to a local bank account. So Piet Hein and Tory have the money in their account, but we need it in US dollars. They tried to do a money exchange, but South Africans cannot get US dollars in an exchange unless they have an airline ticket to the US. We called our bank tonight, and they gave us all the numbers necessary for Piet Hein’s bank to do a transfer to our account in the US. So many little details to attend to at the last minute–sure hope this all works.

110113 Day 81 South Africa–Trip to Robben Island
Day 82, Year 6 With a Little Luck
Day 80, Year 6 Getting Ready for Take Off