Day 79, Year 6 Winds Back with a Vengeance

Day 79, Year 6 Winds Back with a Vengeance
Date: Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Weather: Sunny; Winds NE 35 with Gusts to 45
Location: Simon’s Town, Western Cape, South Africa

How quickly one forgets. I know we had strong winds for days after arriving here, but it is hard to believe we survived. It has been blowing a steady 30-35 knots all day and this evening we are having a steady 40- 45 knots. It is exhausting to do anything on the deck and when you walk on the dock you truly feel like you are going to be blown away. It is even exhausting to sit below listening to the howling winds. When on Windbird’s deck, I have to hold on to the life lines when walking forward for fear of being blown over. But despite this, I did a big laundry today hanging a few things at time on our stainless rails with huge clips that will hold anything. You can only buy these clips that fit over one-inch stainless rails at boat shows, but I suggest that anyone planning on cruising buy a dozen or so. They are invaluable.

Even with the wind, we took down the bimini that covers our cockpit, as well as the side curtains, so we could polish the stainless that had more than a few rust spots. It was a bit of a chore in the wind, but we accomplished the task and slathered the polished stainless with Penetrol. This is an Australian product that Chris and Geoff of Shambala turned us on to. It is a cross between an oil and a varnish. You mix about a ten per cent of this into your varnish or paint to assure a smooth flow and coat your polished stainless with it to keep it from rusting. We haven’t tried it with varnish or paint, but we did coat all of our stainless with it in Richard’s Bay and true to its word, we have no rust. So coating the cockpit stainless seemed like a great idea before we head across the Atlantic. I bought one small can of this in Richard’s Bay, but if it is available here, I’ll buy more for future coatings. Mark is outside right now putting the side-curtains back in place so that our cockpit is once again a refuge from the wind and waves. Having a complete cockpit enclosure is another thing that I would recommend for anyone cruising around the world. It certainly makes for a warmer and drier trip in the cooler climates!

Our friends Piet Hein and Tory are waiting for a bank transfer from Tony Herrick in Durban from the sale of our Monitor windvane. It ended up that the only way to get the money was through a local bank account. So once that transfer is completed, we will have to arrange a way to pick it up. We need the money sooner rather than later so we can use it for the final provisioning costs. Otherwise we will have to have the Rands exchanged for US dollars at the last minute. So hopefully we can arrange an exchange point after the transfer is complete. Our new found friends, Nola and Giovanni, called us today to say farewell. We have only known them a short time but we feel unbelievably connected to them, so we really appreciated the calls-one from Nola and one from Giovanni. And then this evening Bruce, Nadine, and Tristen called from their vacation home in Langebaan. They will not be returning until Sunday evening, so we will probably miss seeing them again, but they make us feel so welcomed by phoning to check on us.

It is looking like Sunday will be our day of departure, so we are working furiously toward that goal. There are so many things we have not done in Cape Town that we really wanted to do, so we are trying to figure out how to do it all in the next four days. We did some internet searching to check availability of things and then went up to the Yacht Club for Happy Hour with Pieter and Carla of Odulphus and Kevin of Opela. There we decided that Pieter, Carla, Mark, and I will take the train into Cape Town on Thursday morning to do a tour of Robben Island. This is where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and is now a World Heritage Site preserved as a memorial to those like Nelson Mandela who spent many years incarcerated there. We have heard from other cruisers that this is a “must do” while here. We had also hoped to go up in the cable car to the top of Table Mountain, but it was closed today due to high winds and will probably be closed through the end of the week. We are hoping to spend Saturday touring with Piet Hein and Tory, but maybe we can take an early train into Cape Town and go to the top of the mountain before they pick us up. We’ll just have to see what this South African weather sends our way.

Tomorrow the veggie and fruit lady comes to Simon’s Town and we are hoping to buy our potatoes, onions, and maybe even our tomatoes for the long passage from her. And maybe we’ll get to take a walk to see those adorable African penguins again. They don’t seem to mind the wind!

Day 78, Year 6 Shopping, Sewing, Cleaning, Socializing

Day 78, Year 6 Shopping, Sewing, Cleaning, Socializing
Date: Monday, January 10, 2011
Weather: Sunny with Moderate Winds
Location: Simon’s Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Today was a busy one. Mark stayed home and sewed patches on our stack pack that covers our main sail. A tarp we had shading the deck while in Chagos rubbed holes in our then new sail cover, so now it is a not so new patched sail cover. While Mark was working on that, I went shopping with the ‘girls’ and managed to spend all of our money. But the freezer is now full of meat and all cabinets and cubby holes are filled with food but our pockets are empty. As soon as I got home with the food, I launched into the frenzied activity of vacuum packing and putting all of the food purchases away. Then we took the newly patched sail cover out on the dock and did a little cleaning. Cochin, India dirt and Richard’s Bay coal dust have taken their toll on our light tan covers. The scrubbing and cleaning didn’t really get rid of any of the dirty spots, but we feel better for having tried. I then launched into cleaning all of the canvas in the cockpit. There were mildew spots here and there and hopefully I got rid of those. By the time this job was done it was time to go up to the Yacht Club for a cruiser organized braai.

I am always amazed by the diversity of talents and experiences of fellow cruisers. Tonight, talking with Kevin of Ocapela was really fascinating. He grew up in South Africa and has walked across Canada, Europe and Southeast Asia from India to Singapore. From here he will sail to Thailand and will then walk the Great Wall of China. At that point he figures he has walked most of the distance of the land mass around the world. Mark and I both had fascinating conversations with other cruisers and just generally had a good time. There was accordion playing by Carla and singing led by Pieter of Odulphus. The main topic of conversation was about the weather forecast for the week and figuring out who is leaving when and for where. Key of D, Adriatica, and Windbird are all planning to leave within the week and Odulphus will be following soon after. But leaving means we all need to make sure we have seen everything we had hoped to see here and that we have our boats ready for passage. So I think there is going to be a lot of frenzied activity for the next few days.

110110 Day 78 South Africa–Monday Night Braai at FBYC

Day 77, Year 6 All Set for Vieques Reunion

Day 77, Year 6 All Set for Vieques Reunion
Date: Sunday, January 9, 2011
Weather: Overcast and Rainy, No Wind
Location: Simon’s Town, Western Cape, South Africa

I just asked Mark what he thought we accomplished today and he said, “We got up.” Well, that we did, but for a day that we had declared a day of rest, we sure got a lot done. The most important thing was that Jon Schmidt, the owner of the Beach House in Vieques that we want for our reunion with the kids, had emailed with a total price for the eight days that are available and we were able to get back in touch with him to let him know that we definitely want the house. We have filled out the rental agreement and paid the down payment, so we think we are all set with that. We will arrive on Saturday, April 23 and the next day is Easter Sunday, so I figure the Easter bunny is delivering our kids and grandkids to us. And I know we will have a grand time hunting for eggs in the sand.

The diver came and cleaned the bottom of the boat and propeller today, so that big job is done. Tomorrow I will go on a shopping expedition with the ‘girls’ and try to get most of the rest of our provisioning done. There will still be some fresh food items that we will want to get at the last minute, but tomorrow’s trip should fill the freezer with meat and complete filling all of the food lockers with canned food and staples like rice, flour, and the ingredients for making granola. Step by step, day by day, we are getting ready for the Atlantic crossing.

Mark spent a great deal of his morning tracking down a leak in the water system. We have had the slow leak for a couple of weeks now and he has worked daily to trace down the source of the leak to no avail, but today he found it. Unfortunately it is not a loose connection or something that can be fixed easily. It is a leak in our stainless steel hot water tank. Removing the tank is a huge job so we decided to just leave it until we get home this summer. In the meantime, Mark will buy a valve and install it so he can shut off water to the tank. After he does this, we will have to turn on the valve and the hot water heater at the same time, use it, and then turn it off. Otherwise the water pump runs from time to time, using precious water that is just pumped overboard. That is not a problem while at a marina with ‘instant’ drinking water, but when we are at sea making water, we try to be as conservative as possible. Cold showers are the only problem and they won’t be a problem in the Caribbean. But while in the southern Atlantic, I think we’ll be turning that hot water tank on and off for every shower. Pieter and Carla of Odulphus have a similar problem, except their leak is in one of their two main water tanks. They would have to remove a lot of built-in furniture to get their tank out, so they are going to buy containers of drinking water and wait until they get back to the Netherlands to take out the tank and get it welded. Mark also made four new fender covers to replace the ones that have been ripped to shreds by the constant rubbing on the dock here when the winds are blowing hard. I don’t think we’ll put the new ones on until we are far away from this dock and these wicked South African winds.

So Mark, with a bad cold, worked all day and did not rest. I spent most of my day writing a long over-due letter to family and friends. I started the letter in October and only finished it late this afternoon. So the January Letter to Family and Friends is copied below. Now I have to get back to getting our South African photos edited, labeled, and uploaded to the website before we leave here. That’s the goal, but we’ll just have to wait and see if I really get that done. Mark has uploaded all of Chagos and Madagascar, but the South African photos are coming along slowly. We just keep doing too many things!

We just had a wonderful Skype conversation with our friends Alan and Helaine Kanegsberg in Concord, New Hampshire. We saw snow on the ground and almost froze at the sight. They are headed to Florida soon and are hoping things will be a bit warmer there.


January Letter to Family and Friends

Dear Family and Friends,

We’ve deemed 2010 the ‘Year of Good Decisions’ for Windbird. In the first letter we sent on December 1, 2009, we announced our decision to go around South Africa instead of through the Red Sea. And that was a very good decision for us. Our voyage through the Indian Ocean to the tip of South Africa has been just phenomenal.

The second ‘good decision’ was heading north to India before heading back south to the Maldives and to Chagos. While in southern India we experienced everything from beautifully green high mountain tea plantations to fabulous Hindu festivals with all the spangles and bobbles and colors that you can imagine. We loved it but after six weeks we headed south. We made two quick stops in the Maldives as we could not afford the very expensive cruising permit. But the powers that be there have finally rescinded the ridiculously expensive permit, so that is very good news for future cruisers. And I must mention that our decision to go snorkeling just one more time while off the northern island of Uligan provided us with one of the most spectacular underwater photo opportunities we have ever had. We got to watch sea cucumbers spawning. Seeing these normally lifeless looking creatures attach themselves to a rock and then stand upright and dance about in the water was just truly awesome.

The fourth Letter to Family and Friends was sent on June 1 just before we left Chagos. The isles of the Chagos archipelago are truly a slice of paradise. Our decision to stay there for only two months, instead of three, was another ‘good’ one because that gave us more time in Madagascar, but evidently future cruisers are not going to have that choice. Chagos became the largest marine reserve in the world while we were there and the new rules allow cruisers to spend only one month. We are so glad we got to spend two wonderful months there.

The fifth and last Letter to Family and Friends came to you from Madagascar in August. At that time we reported loving our experiences in Madagascar, but things got even better. On our first visit to a magical place called Moramba Bay, we spent day after day communing with the feisty and beautiful Coquerel’s Sifaka lemurs under the gigantic and elegant looking ancient baobab trees. The Coquerel’s Sifakas are all white with maroon patches on their chests and inner thighs and arms and we fell in love with them. And even more special was the fact that all the mothers had babies hitching rides on their backs and tummies. In addition to our lemur experiences, we enjoyed the warm, friendly people of Madagascar, got to see baby sea turtles hatch and go out to sea, had some absolutely fantastic snorkeling experiences, met some very good friends, enjoyed beautiful little islands surrounded by white sand beaches, and got to know some of the ex-pat community by getting involved in making pirogue sails for the locals from a spinnaker donated to the Nosy Be Rotary Club. All of these things together made our time in Madagascar the experience of a lifetime. And we have to thank John Sheppard of Sakatia Towers for making our Madagascar experience one we will never forget. He welcomed us and introduced us to Madagascar in a personal way. After many discussions with John about sailing strategies for getting to South Africa safely, we made the next ‘good decision’ to head further down the Madagascar coast than most cruisers before crossing to Richards Bay. Our trip was challenging at times, but we arrived in Richard’s Bay safe and sound without experiencing a ‘buster’-a storm coming from the south that can make sailing on the South African coast most unpleasant. Whew!

This Letter to Family and Friends was started on October 14 while we were still in Madagascar. Then I continued in December from Richard’s Bay on the northeastern coast of South Africa. Now we are down at the southern tip of South Africa in a place called Simon’s Town and are preparing for our Atlantic crossing. Somehow I am just now getting to finish the letter. We have been in South Africa for almost two-and-a-half months and I’m just not sure where the time has gone. We did spend a bit of time ‘hunting’ (with our cameras) the BIG 5 plus so many more beautiful animals in some of South Africa’s beautiful national parks and game and nature reserves. The BIG 5 are buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion, and rhino and we have seen them all. But we would add a ‘1’ to the ‘5’ making it the BIG 15 by adding zebra, giraffe, cheetah, hippos, wildebeest, antelope of all sorts, warthogs, baboons, monkeys, and a whole flock of magnificent birds. We made the decision to do our game park touring as soon as we could after arriving in Richard’s Bay and we can add that decision to the ‘good’ list. It was just the beginning of spring and there were so many baby animals which made the experience all the more special. We then did as much provisioning as we could before we had to return the rental car we had for a month and then took the first weather opportunity to leave Richard’s Bay. Again that was a ‘good decision’ for us as it was about the only good weather window for another month. We are planning to leave South Africa next week and getting here over a month ago has given us an opportunity to see some of the spectacular sights here at the Southern Cape. We have a colony of African penguins that we can visit just a short walk from the False Bay Yacht Club where we are staying. We have been to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope and to Cape Town to see the magnificent Table Mountain. We have visited the oldest winery in South Africa, walked through Cape Town’s beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, and have been on a boat ride out to see a colony of Cape fur seals up-close. Good friends that we met in Madagascar and the first world cruising friends we met back in the Caribbean (who are now back home in Cape Town) have made sure that we have experienced the best there is here and we are so appreciative. Thanks Bruce, Nadine, and Tristin, Nola and Giovanni (Nadine’s father and step-mother), and Piet Hein and Tory of Double Dutch. You have made our South African visit so very special.

In our last Letter to Family and Friends written in August our daughter was moving from being a full-time mom to being a full-time mom with a full-time job. And we are happy to report that she loves the job and both Sam and Jonah have adjusted very nicely. Sam will be four years-old on January 21, is full of energy, but still looks like the same little boy we left when we returned to Windbird in October of 2009. Jonah, however, was a baby with dark brown hair. He is now walking and talking and has blonde curls. Jo was stuck in England when I wrote the last letter as she wasn’t allowed to return to the US as her Visa had expired while out of the country. She was finally allowed to return in September and we are so happy to announce that just last week she got word that her 10-year green card application has been approved and that her card in the mail. Ziggy is just as cute as he can be. He’s also a blondie but without the curls, and he is walking and talking. Justin and Jo moved to a new house just before Christmas but they are still in Madrid in New Mexico. I never seem to mention Justin or Jed, but they are doing fine, just working, working, working. In the last letter I was dreaming of meeting our children in Brazil in February. But that has been changed to Viequs Island, part of Puerto Rico, in April. The Easter bunny is going to deliver our kids and grandkids to us there. And we just can’t wait. But we do have to sail more than 6,000 miles to get there!

We leave Simon’s Town next week when the weather allows and sail down around Cape Point, around the Cape of Good Hope, and then head the 1,700 miles to St. Helena, an island that is in our path as we head northeast across the southern Atlantic Ocean. We will stop there for about five days and then travel another 700 miles to Ascension Island. After another five day stop we will go straight through to the Caribbean. We are hoping to make landfall in Trinidad and/or Tobago to pick up Mary Ellen and Lee, Mark’s sister and brother-in-law, and his brother Steve who might sail with us to St. Martin. Mark’s other sister Jeanie is also considering joining us. I know we will have a great time if they all come, but some of the Caribbean islands might not ever be the same again after we visit. If they come, we will sail north through the islands for two or three weeks and then drop them off in St. Martin’s and make a bee-line for Puerto Rico to pick up our kids. And before we know it, we will be in southern Florida to see more of Mark’s family in late May, on to the Carolinas for a reunion with Judy’s family in mid-June, possibly make a stop in the Chesapeake Bay to see friends, and back to Cape Cod by July 1st. At least that’s the plan. Since we have many miles at sea in the upcoming months, I hope to be able to write shorter letters more often. If you have made it this far through this long epistle, we congratulate you. We’d love to hear from you, but just make sure you don’t hit reply and send a copy of this email along with your return. Our onboard email system just can’t handle the extra traffic. But do write. Whether you are family, friend, or fellow cruiser, we miss you.


Mark and Judy
S/V Windbird

Day 76, Year 6 Thanks and Praises

Day 76, Year 6 Thanks and Praises
Date: Saturday, January 8, 2011
Weather: Sunny and Cool, Moderate Winds During the Night and All Day
Location: Simon’s Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Our son Justin used to sing a song called Thanks and Praises to the Most High and I started singing that song this afternoon when we finally got responses back from all of our rental inquiries and found that the place that everyone voted as their top choice is available. The owner lives in Colorado and sent us an email late this afternoon from his Blackberry while sitting in a meeting. He confirmed our dates are available and he promised to get back to us later tonight (his lunch break). The only open dates for this house are April 23 through May 1, not quite as many days as we wanted, but it will work. It is a new house, not fancy but quite nice, right on the beach. There is no pool, but the price and the location on the north side of Vieques (vee-A-cus) are great. As soon as we heard those dates were available, we searched for flight prices and almost went into shock when we saw that the price for flights from Albuquerque were almost double what they had been a week ago. I panicked and we wrote Jo and asked her to start searching for flights, but all was remedied when we talked to our daughter Heather and family a little later. Heather searched and found that leaving a day earlier and returning a day later from Albuquerque got the flight price back to what we had seen a week ago. So hopefully we are going to be able to pull this together and have a wonderful family reunion on our own little private beach in Vieques.

We started our day with a walk into town to the library to check out the Saturday morning used book sale. We didn’t find anything we wanted, but it was a nice walk. We then hiked to the train station, probably a little more than a mile, and caught the bus there to the closest town with shopping, Fish Hoek. We bought twelve pounds of chicken breasts, four pounds of chicken thighs, loads of crackers, smoked salmon, canned kidney beans, three pounds of butter, and four huge blocks of cheddar cheese. We bought a new Ethernet cable (the old one is corroded), a new bucket, and then got back on the bus to head home. When we got to the Simon’s Town train station, we were dreading the hike uphill and then down to the Yacht Club with the heavy packs on our backs, but suddenly there was this little red van and we jumped in and said “yacht club” and off we went. It cost about $2.50 and was certainly worth it. When we got back to Windbird, we did a quick freezer defrost and then vacuum packed the chicken in smaller portions to put in the freezer. I don’t think I have ever worked so fast in my life. We were anxious to take our computers to the Yacht Club to continue our search for a place to rendezvous with our kids in the Caribbean. And you have already read the results of that search above. We still have to figure out how to get everyone from the airport in San Juan on Puerto Rico across to the island of Vieques, but that is tomorrow’s job.

Mark has a killer cold and has decided to have someone else dive down to clean the bottom of the boat. I diver came today to check out the bottom and he will do the job for $50. His schedule is filled until the week of the 17th, but since we hope to be leaving by then, he said he would come tomorrow. If that happens as plans, one more big job will be crossed off the list. Duncan and Irene of Moose have flown to Curacao for a week to wrap up some business connections there (that is where they lived before setting sail around the world), and they have left their SUV with Karen of Adriatica. She is talking the ‘girls’ food shopping on Monday, so I will be able to do most of the rest of our provisioning. I’m sure we’ll make a another trip or two to Fish Hoek, but things are starting to fall in place. By this time next week, we should be ready to leave. We’ll go to Cape Town on Monday the 17th to check out, and then leave as soon as the winds allow.

Day 75, Year 6 A New Address

Day 75, Year 6 A New Address
Date: Friday, January 7, 2011
Weather: Still Sunny with No Wind, but Cooler
Location: Simon’s Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Windbird moved from the far end of one pier to the far end of another pier this morning. Slip #218 that we have been occupying is owned by a boat that has been on land and will be launched in the next few days needing their space back. So yesterday the boat in Slip #130 went on the hard and this morning we took their place. Carla and Pieter came to catch our lines and the move was uneventful since there is no wind. I did laundry and Mark worked to get our wireless booster working. We could be getting free internet here on the boat if the booster was working, but it has not been and finally he isolated the problem. We need new connectors on the ends of our Ethernet cable but we will have to go into Cape Town to get the new connectors. And right now we are very low on internet time through our cell modem, but we can’t buy that in Simons Town either. We are going to take the bus to the closest town, Fish Hoek, tomorrow morning and see if we can buy cell time there. In the meantime, we have to go up to the Yacht Club to be on the internet. And we have surely spent enough hours there this week. We once again spent the entire afternoon up there searching for places to meet the kids in the Caribbean and we sent them an email with the best that we can find. Finding everything one would like-beachfront, pool, walking distance to town-is just not possible for under $2,500 for 10 days and that was what we have set as our limit. We’ll wait to see what the kids think of the latest list we sent this afternoon and then make a decision. It could be that we will just have to have our reuion once we get back to the US

We heard from Peppe and Bob of Far Niente today and they think they have solved their starter motor problem. So they are hoping to get out of Richard’s Bay as soon as possible. While we have been having beautiful weather here, further north they have had rain and ugly weather with high seas. So we hope things settle out and that Bob and Peppe will get to move at least to Durbin in the next few days. Our friends Pieter and Carla of Odulphus came by today in a new dinghy that they bought from a local. Pieter and Carla have a small, hard dinghy that is wearing out and a local boat was selling a Walker Bay hard dinghy. These are top of the line and the price for this barely used one was just right. A Walker Bay is also a sailing dinghy and Pieter found the mast and sails in St. Francis Bay here in South Africa and they will deliver this to them here. Mark was insanely jealous. He would love to have a light weight sailing dinghy “just for fun” and the Walker Bay would his choice, but we don’t have room for two dinghies and we would never part with our “rubber duck.”

We ended the day sharing a beer with friends at the Yacht Club. It is now time for dinner and Mark is outside grilling chicken. Unfortunately, he has somehow gotten a cold and is feeling a little under the weather. We’ll make our trip into Fish Hoek tomorrow and then spend a low key weekend in hopes that he will recover quickly.

Day 74, Year 6 The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Day 74, Year 6 The Twelfth Day of Christmas
Date: Thursday, January 6, 2011
Weather: Still Sunny with No Wind
Location: Simon’s Town, Western Cape, South Africa

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love and I searched the internet looking for the perfect meeting place in the Caribbean with our children, brought aboard and stored 20 cases of beer delivered by the local ‘spirits’ shop, had Nat and Betsy from Bahita over for a Mexican dinner, and took down our macramé Christmas tree to end the holiday season. In a nutshell, that was our Epiphany and my true love did not bring to me twelve drummers drumming.

The internet search for the perfect place that we can afford to meet our kids in the Caribbean is about to wear me out. We sat in the Yacht Club for another six hour stint today, this time exploring the US Virgin Islands of St. John’s and St. Croix and we really only came up with a couple of possibilities. Everything is just too expensive or is only for 2-4 people. We’ll review all of our notes in the morning and hopefully come up with one favorite in Culebra, one in Vieques, one in St. Croix, and one in St. John’s. Then I’ll ask Heather, Jed, Jo, and Justin to each send their favorite to us, and Mark and I will do the same. Hopefully one place will come out the winner and that will make the final decision. And since it looks like the kids will be meeting us in the northern Caribbean in late April, Mark’s brother and sisters are thinking about meeting us in the southern Caribbean in mid-March and sailing north to St. Martin with us. Getting the timing right for these rendezvous will be a challenge for us, but if we can do it, we should have a great homecoming in the Caribbean with family.

Late this morning Mark took a break, walked into town, and came back with two pieces of good news. Our Monitor wind vane that we left in Durban to be sold on consignment has sold, so we will receive that money before leaving the country. Yippee! And the secondly, when Mark went to the spirits store to pay for the beer, the manager said he would deliver it all the way to the boat. It turns out that he needed a little help from Mark in order to do this because there is no way to get a cart from the shore to the boat without lifting it across a few barriers, but the man did try and his attempt did save us a lot of time and energy. We also learned today that we will be moving to a new slip tomorrow. We are occupying a slip owned by a boat on the hard that will be launched in a day or so and will want to come ‘home.’ And late today, the boat occupying the slip we are to move to was taken out of the water. So our new slip is empty and waiting for us. Sure hope this NO WIND situation continues until we get moved.