Day 85, Year 6 Maybe Tomorrow

Day 85, Year 6 Maybe Tomorrow
Date: Monday, January 17, 2011
Weather: Sunny and WINDY, Back to SE 30-35+ Knots
Location: Simon’s Town, Western Cape, South Africa

The wind came back full strength today which was not what was forecasted. There is a short period of low winds forecasted for tomorrow morning early, and if that turns out to be correct Windbird will be will leaving South Africa as soon as the winds allow. The book we ordered from Amazon with the Christmas gift certificate we got from our daughter and her family came today. Yeah! The book is supposed to be the definitive book on fishing, The Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing, and we’re hoping it will help us catch dinner more than a few nights in the next few months. So there is nothing else to hold us here except the wind. When it is windy here which is most of the time this year, it funnels straight up False Bay making it almost impossible to fight the headwinds to get out. If we don’t get out tomorrow or Wednesday morning, it looks like it will be another week. So here’s hoping.

So whether tomorrow morning or Wednesday morning or possibly later, the upcoming passage is a long one. From the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, to Cape Cod in the US of A it is just about 8,500 nautical miles. If were to go non-stop that would take us 1,700 hours or 71 days. But we are going to stop to have some fun along the way, so it will take us around 3,936 hours or 164 days-5+ months. It is impossible to really estimate exactly how long a passage like this will take and to anticipate how many days we will stop in different places. But the following schedule gives you some idea of our plan:

South Africa to St. Helena @ 1,735 nm-14.5 days (Jan 18 to Feb 1)
Stay in St. Helena-5 days (Feb 2 to Feb 6)
St. Helena to Ascension Island @ 705 nm-6 days (Feb 7 to Feb 13)
Stay in Ascension-5 days (Feb 14 to Feb 18)
Ascension to Grenada @ 3,000 nm-25 days (Feb 19 to Mar 16)
Grenada to St. Martin @ 500 nm–30 days/stops (Mar 17 to Apr 15)
Stay in St. Martin-3 days (Apr 16 to Apr 18)
St. Martin to Vieques, Puerto Rico @ 140nm-(Apr 19 to Apr 20)
Stay in Vieques-16 days (Apr 20 to May 6)
Puerto Rico to Florida @1,015nm-9 days (May 7 to May 15)
Stay in Florida-10 days (May 16 to May 25)
Florida to the Carolinas @ 475 nm-9 days/stops (May 26 to June 3)
Stay in the Carolinas-14 days (June 4 to June 18)
Carolinas to the Chesapeake @ 460 nm-4 days (June 19 to June 22)
Stay in the Chesapeake-4 days (June 23 to June 26)
Chesapeake to Cape Cod @ 450 nm-4 days (June 27 to June 30)

OR SOMETHING LIKE THIS! We have a couple of hard-wired dates when we know we have to be in certain places. We will meet Mark’s family in Grenada around the 18th of March and we meet our children in Vieques on April 22nd. It will be interesting to see how closely we follow the schedule. All of this planning has been done based on traveling an average of 5 knots. If there is no wind, things will take a bit long. So it will also be interesting to see what kind of speed we can really make.

We had a great sushi lunch in town today and then walked out to Boulders Beach to say farewell to our African penguin friends. Then at Happy Hour, we met with Steve and Truce of Key of D who will be leaving for St. Helena on Wednesday, Pieter and Carla of Odulphus, and Piet Hein and Tory. Piet Hein cleaned out his car today and found that Mark had dropped his extra camera battery in the car on Sunday. This is specialized battery that costs more than $100, so Piet Hein graciously offered to drive it out to the Yacht Club. We feel bad that they had to drive all the way out here, but I’m sure both he and Tory enjoyed the company of other yachties. We all said our farewells which were especially hard for us since there is no longer the chance that we will see them in the next anchorage. Now we are back on Windbird and are getting wind speed readings of 50 knots. Sure hope this calms down in a few hours.

We talked to my sister Patsy and her husband Joe this evening via Skype video talking about coming home and then we talked to our good friends Bruce, Nadine, and Tristen from Hout Bay saying our farewells. We will be forever grateful for their wonderful South African hospitality and somehow feel that we will see them again. We are anxious to leave but parting is really difficult.

110117 Day 85 South Africa–False Bay Yacht Club Snipits

Day 84, Year 6 Invictus

Day 84, Year 6 Invictus
Date: Sunday, January 16, 2011
Weather: Partly Cloudy, Then Rain with Moderate Winds
Location: Simon’s Town, Western Cape, South Africa

The short story for today is that we are now planning to leave on Tuesday morning and that tonight we watched a fantastic movie about Nelson Mandela called Invictus. I’ll have more to say about that in the longer story which begins with getting the main sail and Doyle Stack Pack cover back on. This was our last boat job that had to be done before we leave, so now we are ready. We could leave tomorrow morning, but the weather looks much better on Tuesday and even better on Wednesday. But we will leave on Tuesday if it is at all acceptable. I did a huge laundry today and then did cooking for our passage. I made what we call ‘Leaf Pie’, a combination of flour, eggs, milk, cheese, and Swiss chard which can be frozen and is great for passages, and I also made salmon cakes which are also a great passage stand-by. Mark did a little stainless polishing and weather info gathering. Late in the afternoon we had a Skype video call with our daughter Heather, her husband Jed, and Sam and Jonah. Both boys put on quite a show for Oma and Granddad. Sam proudly announced that he will be four years-old on Friday and Jonah and Granddad got into a water fight. Yes, a water fight through the Ethernet. Jonah had a shower head and pretended to squirt us. We reacted by jumping back and covering our faces. He would then giggle and do it again. Then we got out an old shower head and pretended to spray Jonah and Sam. The interactions we can have on Skype via video are just so much fun.

Since we had thought this was our last evening here, we had invited Pieter and Carla of Odulphus over for a champagne toast to our friendship and for dinner. Even though we are now staying another day, it was a great chance to spend some quality time together. We have so enjoyed the company of Pieter and Carla and will miss them very much. They are headed back to the Netherlands, but we continue to try and convince them to first sail to Florida to visit their daughter who lives there. We have one more day here and still hope to convince them to head in our direction. Adriatica left at first light today and later in the day a boat named Kaisosi left. It was a good day for getting around Cape Point as we had northwest winds slowing out of the bay, but then once round the Cape, northwest would be directly on the nose. So hopefully the winds on the other side of Cape Point were not from the northwest. When Carla came for dinner, she brought over her hard drive with the movie Invictus on it and said that we must watch it while here in South Africa. So we spent the later part of the evening watching Morgan Freeman do a great job of playing the role of Nelson Mandela in the movie Invictus. Matt Damon plays the role of Springbok rugby team captain Francois Pienaar and the movie highlights the political genius of Mandela. In this case, it shows how he worked with the rugby team captain to help the underdog Springboks win the 1995 World Cup and at the same time help the people of South Africa start seeing themselves as one. If you haven’t seen this movie and you are interested in learning more about what has been happening here since Apartheid was banned, this movie would be a great start. Mandela was in his seventies when he was released from prison on Robben Island and became the first President of a free South Africa. In this 2009 film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, the last verse of a short Victorian poem written by the English poet William Ernest Henley, was referenced many times by Mandela. Mandela had recited this poem to other prisoners on Robben Island and they were empowered by its message. The last verse reads:

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

From 110116 Day 84 South Africa–Farewell Dinner on Windbird

Day 83, Year 6 Stellenbosch Wine Tour

Day 83, Year 6 Stellenbosch Wine Tour
Date: Saturday, January 15, 2011
Weather: Beautiful Day, More Wind Than Expected
Location: Simon’s Town, Western Cape, South Africa

It was another great day for us in South Africa. He hopped on the train early to meet Piet Hein and Tory of Double Dutch in the town of Claremont. Here we were able to get the money that had been transferred to Piet Hein for the sale of our Monitor windvane and dinghy wheels and then get it exchanged into US dollars. After the money exchange, we did a little shopping at Dis Chem to get more sprouting seeds for ourselves and for the crew of Bahita (from Maine). We had coffee in a sidewalk café and then headed into one of the many wine routes in the Western Cape, the Stellenbosch wine route, with more than 150 vineyards. Once you get just a little north of the greater Cape Town Area, you are in the Cape Flats which are just that. Flat lands with towering mountains further to the north as the backdrop. In those flats are many of the black and colored townships with acres and acres of shanties built of scrap sheet metal and wood. In places there were shanties jammed one against the other as far as you could see. This was our first glimpse of poverty in the southern Cape area and it was a depressing sight for sure. The government is building tiny little box-like houses, but as soon as they go up, someone else builds a shanty adjacent to it. Everyday more and more people move from the north into the Western Cape, so for now there is no end to this problem. As our guide on the Robben Island bus tour said, South Africa is currently in a sweet and sour state. It is a beautiful county, but there are many problems to be solved with a have-have not population. Seeing the acres of shanties was an eye-opener for us.

After we drove out of the Cape Flats, we were immediately in beautiful wine country. Now everywhere we looked all we could see was one vineyard after another, some in the flat lands with many others climbing up the sides of the mountains. We drove into the town of Stellenbosch and this is where the history lesson began. Stellenbosch was the second settlement in South Africa, following Cape Town. Today it is the home of the University of Stellenbosch. All of the original buildings in the town have been restored and look brand new, but nothing on the outside of the buildings has been changed in the past 320+ years. Each home and building is labeled with a heritage sign that indicates that only layers of paint have been added. Stellenbosch is truly a lovely town with oak-lined streets. Once out of town we were in the midst of Stellenbosch wine country. The oldest building in the Stellenbosch area dates back to1689 and today we had lunch on the patio outside that building on the wine farm of Muratie. Even the cobwebs in the building have been preserved! But despite the cobwebs, it was a delightful setting for a wine and cheese lunch. Muratie was and is a Dutch vineyard, but further up the mountain we visited Delheim, a German vineyard established in the 1950’s. When Spatz Sperling arrived from Germany to work on his uncle’s farm, he took his uncle’s vision and turned the farm into one of South Africa’s many award winning vineyards. Delheim is not South Africa’s oldest vineyard, but the mountainside setting with a view of Table Mountain is really incredible. Our next stop was another relative young vineyard, Simonsberg. And from there we drove up the side of another mountain to a much older vineyard, Hartenberg. In our tour, we had a taste of the very old and the new, and found the total experience most interesting. But it was now time to head back to Simon’s Town as we still needed to stop along the way for us to buy fresh eggs and the last few fresh veggies for our Atlantic crossing.

We drove back to Simon’s Town along the coastal route and arrived at the False Bay Yacht Club just in time for Happy Hour. Pieter and Carla of Odulphus and Jan and Ellen of Witchcraft joined Piet Hein, Tory, Mark, and I. It was six for the Dutch and only two for the USA so much of the conversation was in Dutch. At one point, the whole group broke out in song in honor of the famous Dutch pirate, Piet Hein. We did learn one Dutch phrase this evening–Ik (ick) vinz (vint)-which means ‘in my opinion.’ I think we will remember that one.

During the evening we talked to our son Justin, his wife Jo, and grandbaby Ziggy. Ziggy was cutting apart his wooden fruit (it is velcroed together so little ones can use a wooden knife to separate). He offered us a piece of orange, so we took and quickly grabbed a tangerine and started eating it for real. Then Ziggy wanted a real orange and I think he ate three before we ended the conversation. We are so anxious to see Ziggy, Jonah, and Sam and watch them playing for real instead of through a computer monitor. We will call our daughter tomorrow to see Sam and Jonah, and then it will be a couple of months before we reach the Caribbean and can see them again.

Today was windier than expected here, but we heard that in Cape Town there was absolutely no wind and the boats in the Cape to Rio Race had to leave with flapping sails. There was not even enough wind to fly spinnakers. We are hoping that tomorrow will be calm here so we can get our main sail and Doyle stack pack both back up. That is the last big job we have to do before feeling like we are prepared to leave. We are hoping for an early Monday take-off, but right now Tuesday morning is looking better. We just have to get ready to go and then to wait see what the weather is really like.

110115 Day 83 South Africa–Stellenbosch Wine Country

Day 82, Year 6 With a Little Luck

Day 82, Year 6 With a Little Luck
Date: Friday, January 14, 2011
Weather: Mixed Sun and Clouds; Winds S 20 knots
Location: Simon’s Town, Western Cape, South Africa

When I wrote yesterday’s log we were thinking that we could leave on Monday or Tuesday, but when we checked the weather this morning, it looked like we would need to leave on Sunday. With a little luck, we thought we could be ready to leave on Sunday, so we proceeded with that deadline and went to Cape Town to check out today. We are now checked out, but we surely aren’t ready to go. Our main sail did arrive this morning instead of this afternoon. And if we were to leave on Sunday morning we now have a whole 36 hours until take-off. Thankfully, it now looks like we can return to a Monday morning departure but we will continue to ready ourselves to leave soon if the weather dictates. Lady Luck was with us today. Mark went up to get the receipt for the Ray Marine wind transducer that we ordered yesterday but didn’t expect to get until Saturday morning. Luckily, it arrived this morning. At 10 am we headed for the train station to go to Cape Town to check out. As we walked out of the Yacht Club, Kevin of Opela called across asking where we were headed. When we said Cape Town, he told us to hop in his car as he was headed there as well. Going with him probably saved us a good 30-45 minutes. He dropped us at a spot near the waterfront and only one block from the chandlery where we wanted to stop and buy the line for our Gyb-Easy. We had the mechanism with us and the guy who manages the chandlery was so glad to see one. People have been called him wanting to buy one, but he had never heard of them before. Now he knows they exist and are made by Witchard. He was just sorry that he didn’t have a supply this year as many ARC boats had inquired and he missed those sales. But there’s always next year. After getting the rope for the Gyb-Easy, we walked as fast as we could to Immigration and then back a few blocks to Customs. We were rushing trying to get back to Simon’s Town in time for me to go grocery shopping with the “girls” one last time. They were slated to leave at 2 pm, so we had little hope that I would get back. But after a few minutes wait, the Customs process went quickly. Then we asked how to go about getting back the VAT (value added tax) that we have paid for products here to the tune of 14% on every purchase. The Customs official helping us asked for our receipts and he went through them, stamping the ones that would be acceptable while we filled out the postal envelope so that a check can be sent to our home address. The five minutes we spent doing this will net about $250 US in return, so that was time well spent and it was painless. We then practically ran to the train station as it was nearing 12:30 pm. We don’t have a schedule but we both thought that there should be a train around 12:30 and then not another one until well after 2 pm. We got to the station and saw that we actually had ten minutes to spare as the train didn’t leave until 12:40 pm. And when we got to Fish Hoek where we have to get on the bus. The motor was already running. We called Odulphus and found out the supermarket trip had been delayed until 2:30 pm, so we had plenty of time to get to Simon’s Town, go to the PO to pick up books sent to us by Tony Herrick of Cruising Connections, get money from the ATM, and arrive at the Yacht Club ten minutes early. Whew!

When I returned from shopping, we unrolled the main sail and thought about trying to get it put on, but it was just too windy. We rolled it back up and then Mark went up the mast to put on the new wind transducer. That worked, but somehow in the process, the main sail halyard that Mark ties to himself when climbing the mast steps became incredibly hard for me to pull on my end. He came down tried to figure out the problem and found that not only the main halyard was stuck but the topping lift as well. He went back up the mast and found that the main sail halyard had jumped out of its sheave and onto the sheave of the topping lift. Once he straightened that out, every thing was working fine again and, in addition, the new transducer is working great. Once again we can accurately report the wind speed and direction.

We still need to get the main sail up, buy fishing gear, and try to get more South African photos uploaded. And tomorrow we are going to meet Tory and Piet Hein at the Claremont train station so we can go to a bank and exchange the Rand that was sent to Piet Hein’s bank account by Cruising Connections for the sale of our Monitor wind vane and dinghy wheels. Then we are going out in to wine country for a little tour. Piet Hein promises to have us back between 4 and 5 pm so we can get that main sail up before dark. So conceivably we could be ready to go on Sunday morning, but we both think we will be much more relaxed if we can wait until Monday. The weather will dictate and the report seems to totally change every twelve hours, so we will just have to wait and see.

Tonight we were invited to the Yacht Club for a complimentary braai. It was a delightful evening and in addition to free food, each yacht was given a complimentary bottle of Cape Point wine. Hospitality here on the southern Cape is most gracious.

Day 81, Year 6 Trip to Robben Island

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 80, Year 6 Getting Ready for Take Off

Day 80, Year 6 Getting Ready for Take Off
Date: Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Weather: Sunny; Very Little Wind Early to 25-30 Knots Mid-day
Location: Simon’s Town, Western Cape, South Africa

We want to welcome Kit Martin Roberts to this world. Rachel, my oldest nephew’s daughter, had an 8 pound 9 ounce baby Kit on Monday. So now my nephew is a grandpa. We are so happy for Grandpa Rex and for Rachel and her husband Kit. We checked out Face Book tonight and saw photos of the baby. He is really a beautiful little baby. We just want to say congratulations to all and that we look forward to returning home so we can meet little Kit in person.

It was a struggle to keep ourselves from getting on the train early this morning and heading to Cape Town to go up Table Mountain in the cable car. The winds settled down during the night and it was calm this morning. We decided not to go so that we could ready Windbird for the Atlantic passage, and it is probably a good thing as the winds returned mid-morning. We have not had the really wicked winds today, but we have had a pretty constant 25-30 knots. Mark started his day by lowering the dinghy and cleaning the stern of the boat where diesel fumes seem to blacken the white hull. When he finished that job, the winds had already started blowing, so we raised the dinghy on the foredeck where she rides for all passages. He then helped our next door neighbor, Marissa, get fuel today and he did a lot of searching for weather reports for the next few days. I worked the entire day naming photos and getting them ready to upload to the website. I’m afraid I didn’t make a great deal of progress as the folders I chose needed lots of research in order to name animals and plants. But I will keep plugging away until we leave to try and get most of the South African photos on the web.

Mid-day we took a break and went up to the fresh veggie market that magically appears here in Simon’s Town every Wednesday and Saturday. I decided to buy potatoes, onions, and carrots here instead of hauling them from afar. But after I got the huge bag of potatoes and onions back to the boat and opened them to repack for the passage, I found that I had made a huge mistake. At least a third of the onions and almost half of the potatoes had soft spots. I separated the good from the bad and threw away the really ugly. But I don’t have high hopes for the ‘keep-ability’ of either the onions or potatoes. So I will buy a few more pounds of each just in case.

We went to the Yacht Club for Happy Hour to make our plans for tomorrow’s trip to Cape Town with Pieter and Carla. Jan and Ellen of Witchcraft, another Dutch boat, and Kevin of Opela were also there. We talked about the weather, possible departure plans, and fishing. We are banking on catching fish on our way across the Atlantic and need all of the advice we can get. Tomorrow we head out at 6:30 am to walk to the train station to head to Cape Town for our tour of Robben Island. Pieter and Carla will go with us and we will be tourists for the day. If time permits we might go ahead and check out while in Cape Town tomorrow. We are still working towards leaving on Sunday morning, but Monday morning is also a possibility. We are waiting for books we ordered from Durban and from the US (about fishing), but our departure plans really depend on the return of our main sail on Friday. We can’t leave without that. So we’ll be ready to leave on Sunday morning if the weather is right and if the mail arrives and the main sail is returned on time.