South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia and St. Helena Island (November 2018 to March
When we arrived in South Africa on Slip Away in
late October 2018, we were absolutely thrilled! We were not only
relieved to have some difficult ocean passages behind us but also very excited to
see a small part of this huge continent. Jan had visited Tanzania in East Africa
about 25 years ago and absolutely loved it, but it was her first time in the
country of South
Africa. This was Rich's first time ever on the continent of Africa.
|Our first port of call was Richards Bay on the northeast coast of
South Africa, and we would eventually be sailing around the bottom of the
continent to get to Cape Town on the west coast. This would entail
rounding Cape Agulhas (the southernmost point on the continent), as
well as the Cape of Good Hope (aka the "Cape of Storms"), so we still had
some challenging passages ahead of us. But before setting sail again, we wanted to
do some land travel.
For anyone contemplating a visit to South
Africa, we highly recommend reading James Michener's book
Covenant, which is an historical fiction account that provides excellent insight
into the events that shaped this nation. The
movie Invictus about
South Africa's 1995 victory in the Rugby World Cup is also very worthwhile.
The Republic of South Africa (RSA), is located
at the southern tip of the continent of Africa. The country covers an area of 1.2
million square kilometers (471,000 square miles), which is about size of the
U.S. states of New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma combined. The population
of South Africa is approximately 58 million, and approximately
80% of South Africans are of black ancestry from a variety of ethnic groups, including Zulu, Xhosa, Swazi and several others.
The remaining population is primarily European and mixed race, with a small percentage of Indians and other Asians.
The economy of South Africa is the second-largest on the continent of Africa
(Nigeria is the largest). South Africa's primary industries are
manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, financial services, transport,
mining, agriculture and tourism.
Early inhabitants of South Africa included the
Bantu, Khoisan and Xhosa tribes. The first European to make landfall in
South Africa was the Portuguese seafarer Bartholomew Dias in 1488. Dias
was in search of
a sea route to the Far East and discovered the Cape of Good Hope, initially
naming it the Cape of Storms.
In 1498, Vasco da Gama (also Portuguese) was the first European to reach India by sailing around the bottom of the African continent.
In the early 1600's, English and Dutch
merchants were competing fiercely in the spice trade, and in 1652, Jan van Riebeeck,
on behalf of the Dutch East India Company, established a provisioning station
at what would become Cape Town at the Cape of Good Hope. A number of
Dutch East India company employees stayed in South Africa after completing
their contracts, and other colonists arrived, including a group of French Huguenots who
were escaping religious persecution. The Dutch settlers expanded
eastward, frequently warring with local tribes.
The British moved in and occupied Cape Town
from 1795 to 1803, when it briefly returned to the Dutch, and then the British
took over again in 1806. Many of the Dutch (called Boers or Afrikaners) left Cape Town
to avoid British rule and established Boer Republics further east. The late
1800's were a tumultuous time with the British fighting the Zulu tribe in the
Anglo-Zulu War (1879), and then the Boers in the First Boer War (1880-81),
which was won by the Boers, and after that the Second Boer War (1899-1902), in
which the British defeated the Boer Republics. In 1910, Great Britain
granted South Africa "nominal" independence, and in 1931, South Africa became
fully independent. South Africa is a member of the British Commonwealth
During the Dutch and British colonial years,
racial segregation was mostly informal, although some legislation was enacted
to control the settlement and movement of native people. In 1948, the
National Party (a political party that promoted Afrikaner interests) was elected to power and established a legalized system of
racial segregation called "Apartheid." The system classified all
individuals into three races - white, coloured and black. Whites made up
less than 20% of the population and controlled the much larger black
population. Whites enjoyed the highest standard of living, comparable to
developed Western Nations. Blacks were significantly disadvantaged in
every aspect of life - income, education, housing and more. Coloureds
were persons of mixed race or Asian descent and had less advantages than
whites but more than blacks.
Internal opposition to apartheid grew quickly and
anti-apartheid political organizations such as the African National Congress
(ANC) were established. By the early 1960's opposition to apartheid came from both
inside and outside the country. South African security forces cracked
down on internal dissent, and violence became widespread. Several countries
boycotted business with the South African government, and eventually
international sanctions were imposed.
In 1990, South Africa's National Party
government took the first steps toward dismantling apartheid by lifting a
ban on the ANC and other anti-apartheid organizations and when then-President F.W. de
Klerk released Nelson Mandela from prison after serving 27 years of a life
sentence for conspiring to overthrow the government. In 1994, South
Africa held it's first universal elections in which citizens of all
races were allowed to participate, and the ANC won by a significant
majority. The new National Assembly's first act was to elect Nelson
Mandela as President, and he served as President of South Africa
from 1994 to 1999.
South Africa has not had a smooth transition since the
abolition of apartheid, and its problems are complex. While some blacks
have risen to middle and upper class, many continue to live in poverty, and
unemployment is high. Many white South Africans, while overwhelmingly
supporting equal rights for all, feel they are no longer welcome in the
country of their birth and where generations of their families have lived.
Crime and violence are widespread.
Additionally, the influx of migrants escaping war and/or poverty from other
African nations is significant and contributes to the struggle. (As an
example, every Uber driver with whom we rode in South Africa was from Zimbabwe.)
But for all of its problems, South Africa is an
incredible country. Its natural beauty is stunning. Kruger National Park
and a number of private game reserves have taken significant steps to preserve
wildlife. We met wonderful people of all colors who treated us well,
and many people are working for a united country that will flourish. But
others have significant concerns for
the future of their country and are looking for a way to
Richards Bay and Wildlife Reserves
We spent about a week in Richard's Bay settling in
before heading out on a road trip. Slip Away
moored at the International Wharf, which is part of the Tuzi Gazi Waterfront,
and there were a few restaurants along the wharf where we enjoyed celebratory meals and drinks with our fellow sailors. Our local
weather advisor, Des Cason, came to the waterfront for a day, and we were all
happy to meet the man who dedicated so much time and effort to helping us have
a safe passage to his homeland.
The Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve was just
over an hour from the waterfront, and we were planning a visit
there, but we also wanted to venture further afield to Kruger National Park,
which was about eight hours away by car. Jan got to work planning a
trip, and we rented a car and headed off. Tourism is
a big industry in South Africa, and we were traveling during a busy
season. All of the affordable accommodations inside
the parks were booked, but for the most
part, we were quite happy with the places we stayed outside the parks. We
found the best prices for rental cars on Expedia.com and booked all of our
accommodations through booking.com.
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (November 7 & 8).
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi is the oldest game reserve in Africa (opened as a park in
1895) and covers 960 square kilometers (370 square miles). The park is known
for its conservation efforts which have contributed to this park having the
largest population of white rhinos in the world.
One can either take a safari tour or self-drive
through most of South Africa's game parks, and we decided that we would try
the self-drive option. Hluhluwe is the northern half of the park and
iMfolozi is the southern half of the park, and it's small enough that one can
cover the entire park in a couple of days. Most folks make it their goal
to find the Big Five - Elephant, Rhino, Lion, African Buffalo and Leopard -
and we saw four of the big five here, but there is much, much more to see.
While visiting Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, we stayed at
a lovely B&B called Marula
Place in the town of Mtubatuba, which was about a 20-minute drive to the
park. (Our tongue was getting very twisted learning to pronounce all of
these African names!)
"Operation White Rhino" in the 1950's won the
Park world recognition for its White Rhino conservation
Eswatini / aka Swaziland (November 9 & 10). When
we left our B&B in Mtubatuba, we headed further north to Swaziland. Swaziland is
one of the smallest countries on the continent of Africa, and is landlocked
with South Africa bordering it on the north, west and south, and a small
border with Mozambique on its east side. Swaziland is a developing
nation, and its population of just over one million people are primarily ethnic Swazi, which is part of the Bantu group of peoples.
Crossing the border into Swaziland was
straightforward, and took about 20 minutes to pass through Immigration and
Customs. The first difference we noticed between Swaziland and South
Africa was the quality of roads. The roads in South Africa were
very good, but driving in Swaziland was slow and tedious with a significant
number of potholes, numerous speed bumps, and lots of road construction.
Great roads in South Africa
Road construction in Swaziland
We were able to find accommodations inside the
Sanctuary, and enjoyed the walking paths within the
preserve (apparently no lions here!). We spent only one night here and
wished we had stayed longer. In the evening, as we sat on the porch of our
"rondavel", we heard hoof beats and saw a herd of zebras passing not far away.
The next morning, as Rich packed up the car, he turned to find an impala
watching him. He held out his hand, and she came over and sniffed it
before moving on - very cool!
Traditional dance performance at the Swaziland Cultural Center
Our rondavel accommodations inside the
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.
Beautiful view from the front porch!
We came across this croc on a walking path - yikes!
Kruger National Park (November 11 & 12).
The next morning, we were off to
Kruger National Park,
which is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. Areas of this park
were first protected in 1898, and it became South Africa's first national park
in 1926. The park extends 360 km (220 miles) from north to south and 65
km (40 miles) from east to west, so we were only able to see a very small part
of the park, but our experience here was awesome!
While visiting Kruger, we stayed at the
Safari Lodge, which was located just outside one of the southern gates to
the park. The proprietors of the lodge - Alan & Michelle - were super
nice, extremely knowledgeable about the area and recommended routes to
self-drive in the park. We spent two full days driving around a small
portion of the park, and the wildlife sightings were fantastic! We also
had excellent wildlife sightings from the safari lodge because the fence to
the park ran along the front of the lodge property, and the Crocodile River (a
great watering hole) was just beyond the fence. The scenery changed
A group of giraffes is called a "tower"
The Kudu is such a majestic-looking animal
It seemed like there were hundreds of Cape Buffalo in this herd,
and they were in no hurry to cross the road. We waited patiently
until a ranger came by and told us it was ok to drive slowly
through them. We did so but those were some anxious moments!
A couple of lions strolling by
Southern yellow-billed hornbill
Mum and baby zebra
Elephants enjoying the Crocodile River in front of our safari lodge
Our luxury tent at the safari lodge - very nice!
After our Kruger visit, we headed back in the
direction of Richards Bay. When we checked Google Maps for potential
routes south, the options for driving through Swaziland were shorter than
taking a route which stayed in South Africa, but remembering the bad roads in
Swaziland, as well as the time needed to go through Customs & Immigration, we
decided to take the longer route which stayed in South Africa. We were quite happy with this choice
because the roads were excellent on this route, and the scenery was beautiful! Before returning to Richards Bay, we had a couple more stops on our itinerary.
Zululand Cat Conservation Project / aka
Emdoneni Cheetah Project (November 13). The
began in 1994, when the founder, Ida Nel, became aware of three cheetah which
were raised in captivity and were in need of a home. Ida had land
available, as well as a passion for wildlife, and took them in. Not long
after that, an injured serval cat was brought to her, and the project
eventually expanded to include caracal and African wild cats. The center
is dedicated to providing a home for cats which cannot return to the wild for
various reasons, but also breeding, rehabilitating and releasing cats back to
the wild whenever possible.
After seven hours on the road, we arrived in
time for our scheduled afternoon tour at the Cheetah Project. The tour
provided a great education and the cats were awesome!
The project has successfully released a number of cats back to the wild.
This handsome Caracal cannot be released back
to the wild due to a health issue
We never imagined that we could get this close to a cheetah -
we even heard the cheetah purr!
We spent that night at the
Insinkwe Safaris Bush Camp, which was
a short drive from the Cheetah project. This was the one property that
was a disappointment to us. Although the staff was great and the room
was clean, the pool was green, and the place was almost deserted - only one
other family staying there. It felt like the place was struggling to
keep its doors open.
iSimangaliso / aka St. Lucia Wetland Park (November 14).
The next morning, we headed to the
St. Lucia Wetland Park,
which has the largest population of hippos in South Africa. We were booked on
a hippo tour with friends Fabio, Lisa & Lucio (s.v. Amandla) and Dustin (s.v. Tiama), and we spent a couple of hours floating on the St. Lucia estuary
sighting hippos, crocodiles and a variety of birds. Great fun!
A "raft" of hippos in St. Lucia
These pretty yellow weaver birds
build their nests in the reeds
Lunch at the Ski Boat Club of St. Lucia with Lucio, Dustin & Lisa
After our day in St. Lucia, it was a short
drive back to Slip Away in Richards Bay. We spent a couple more
weeks in Richards Bay, mostly enjoying the company of fellow sailors,
including a braai (the South African word for a barbeque) at the Zululand
Yacht Club hosted by the Ocean Cruising Club. We were also watching for a
weather window to start our trek toward Cape Town, and near the end of
November, one finally arrived.
The trip from Richards Bay to Cape Town is
right around 1000 miles, so non-stop would take us around 8 days. It was
our intention to get to Cape Town for Christmas, and we were looking forward
to a visit by our friends Larry & Roxane Bakerjian who were flying into Cape Town
from the U.S. a few days after that. One needs to be very lucky to make it all the way from Richards
Bay to Cape Town in one shot, but there are a few ports along the way to
safely shelter from weather, which can get pretty wild when sailing
along the South African coast. Christmas was over three weeks away and our
friends' arrival was almost four weeks away, so we thought we could get there
in time - but we were wrong!
Richards Bay to Durban (November 29 to
30, 95 miles, 18 hours). We again consulted our local guru Des Cason for
weather advice on making passages. The east coast of
South Africa is referred to the "Wild Coast", and the weather can change
quickly and become very dangerous when southerly gales develop. Strong
southerly winds against the strong south-setting Agulhas current can create
huge seas and "ship-killer" waves - we wanted no part of that!!
We had a forecast calling for north winds for a
few days, which was the right direction, but we sailed only as far
as Durban (95 miles) on the first leg of our journey because the winds were
expected to reach gale force after 24 hours. We departed the International Wharf at Richards Bay at 5 p.m.
so we could get out of the port area well before sunset and arrive Durban the
next morning. Port Control gave us permission to leave the wharf, but
then asked us to mill about for a short while because they had a couple of
big ships entering and departing the port. The "short while" turned into
two hours, and we finally got the OK to exit the port at 7 p.m. - a half-hour
past sunset. There had been a few
gaps between ships when we felt we would have had sufficient time to exit and
be out of the way, but the Port Officer would not give us permission to leave,
and we grew frustrated as we waited.
View of the International Wharf from the Port Captain's Office
Once this big ship came in, we were finally able to depart Richards Bay
After leaving the port, we maneuvered in the darkness
through the many big ships anchored outside. The ships were lit, and our
AIS also displayed the locations of the ships, which helped with navigation.
We also turned on our radar and noticed that "hits" were faint, and a number
of the targets were not showing up at all - that's not good! We cleared
the anchored ships with no issues and found the Agulhas current which would
help carry us south. Winds were very light overnight, and we motored
along. At 5
a.m., we finally had enough wind to unfurl our headsail, and by 9:30 when we
entered the Port of Durban, it was blowing 25-30 knots and building.
We wended our way through the busy port to the Durban City Marina, where our
friends Fabio & Lisa (s.v. Amandla) welcomed us and took our lines as we pulled
up to the dock.
All was calm and quiet inside the marina - impossible to tell it was blowing
so hard outside. Three boats left Richards Bay
that previous day, and two of us decided to stop at Durban. The third
continued on to East London (another 250 miles) and encountered extremely
strong winds (up to 50 knots) and very big seas, so we were very happy with our decision to stop at
Durban (November 30 to December 13). Durban
is the third largest city in South Africa and the country's busiest port.
Durban was an interesting stop, but sadly the city is not what it used to be.
We saw some very nice suburbs of Durban, but the once-thriving central business district
is now crime-ridden and
has a reputation for being quite dangerous. The Durban City Marina is
situated on the edge of the central business district, and it was gated and secured,
but it was a different world outside the gates.
We could and did walk to a grocery store a couple of blocks from the marina,
and we shopped at the fruit and veggie stands along the streets, but the
marina staff told us to take off all jewelry (no earrings, watches or wedding
rings), keep our cell phones hidden or leave them on the boat and carry very
little cash. We never had any problems, and we are not aware of any of
the other boaters having any issues, but we were all very careful and never
walked anywhere outside the gates after dark.
The Durban City Hall was built in 1901
Enjoying an Historical Walkabout Tour
of Durban led by a former school teacher
Mural on the streets of Durban dedicated to two
of their prominent freedom fighters
The timing of our arrival in Durban was excellent because Jan and Fabio
both have birthdays in early December. They had celebrated together
the previous year in Malaysia and were looking forward celebrating together
again this year on a new continent. Fabio's birthday was December 2, and
we went out for dinner at an excellent Indian restaurant. Jan's birthday
was the following day, and after spending the day hiking at
Krantzkloof Nature Reserve,
Fabio (an outstanding chef) made dinner for us on Amandla.
Celebrating Fabio's birthday with the crews of Amandla and
Hiking at Krantzkloof Nature Reserve
on Jan's birthday
Beautiful views from Krantzkloof Nature Reserve
So now it was early December, and we really
needed to get on with the business of getting to Cape Town, but the weather
was not cooperating. We watched and waited and consulted with Des Cason.
Every time it looked like a weather window was going to materialize, it fell
We became friendly with a local guy named David
from the marina, and he invited us to a braai one evening with a small group
of fellow sailors. That evening was a very special one for us because
there was only one other non-local guy with us at the braai, and we had the
chance to talk with these folks about their lives in South Africa.
Additionally, we met a guy called "Tiger" (real name Cyril), and he had sailed
between Durban and Cape Town many times. He told us that the weather for
our trip would be much improved in January, and recommended that we think
about flying to Cape Town to meet our friends (an option we were already
We waited a few more days, but there was still no weather window on the horizon,
and not making it
to Cape Town for our friends' visit was not an option. Fortunately, they
had booked a hotel room in Cape Town and were not planning to stay aboard Slip Away!
Christmas was still a couple weeks away, but we didn't really want to hang out
in Durban for another couple of weeks. Durban Marina was a secure place
for Slip Away, and our friend David said he would be happy to look
after her, so we booked flights and
planned another road trip.
As luck would have it, a weather window opened the day
after we flew from Durban to Cape Town, and it was a good enough window that
had we waited and taken it, we could have sailed to Cape Town by Christmas. Mother Nature isn't
always as gracious as we would like, but we had already accepted that the
fates had intervened, and our road trip was awesome!
Garden Route Road Trip (December 13 to
20). The Garden Route is a 300 km (190 mile) stretch of the southeastern
coast of South Africa and gets its name from the ecologically diverse
vegetation in this area. American friends who had lived in South Africa
years ago recommended the Garden Route to us, and it did not disappoint.
When we arrived at the Cape Town airport, we picked up a
rental car, and headed off. We spent a week meandering along the Garden
stopping first at Swellendam, the third oldest town in South Africa.
From there, we worked our way east, staying a couple of nights at the
Country Lodge, which is owned by Dutch sailing friends Niels & Margret (s.v.
Unwind). While staying at Lily Pond, we were able to visit Nature's
Valley and the
Tsitsikama National Park. After that, it was a couple of
days in Plettenberg Bay then a couple of hours in Knysna enroute to Mossel Bay,
where we spent another couple of days before heading to the Franschhoek wine
region. The coastline was spectacular, and we enjoyed several good
hikes, as well as visits to some historical sites.
The Dutch Reformed Church in Swellendam.
Congregation formed in 1798.
Old church built in 1802.
Present church built in 1911.
We saw this beautiful African Paradise Flycatcher
while hiking in Swellendam's Marloth Nature Reserve
Our friends Margret & Niels (s.v. Unwind) with receptionist
at their Lily Pond Country Lodge.
Lovely place and gracious hosts!
Hiking the Kalanderkloof Trail in Nature's Valley
Storms River Mouth Suspension bridges at Tsitsikamma National Park
Robberg Nature Reserve at Plettenberg Bay
Cape Fur Seals at Robberg Nature Reserve
Cliff side houses at Knysna
Bartholomew Dias Museum in Mossel Bay
Franschhoek Wine Valley (December 21 to
23). South Africa has some outstanding wines, and we had tasted a number
of them, but we also very eager to visit at least one of their famous wine
regions. Stellenbosch is probably the best known wine region in South
Africa, but while we were at Kruger National Park, we met a young couple who
highly recommended a visit to the Franschhoek Wine Valley. In the late
1600's, French Huguenots settled in this area establishing farms and
businesses. The area became known as Franschhoek (Dutch for "French
Corner"), and many of the farms became wineries.
Sailing friends Karel & Phil (s.v. Tehani-li)
joined us in Franschhoek, and we spent a day visiting several vineyards with
the "wine tram" providing transportation (thank goodness!). We had a
great time and tasted some awesome wines and good food too!
All aboard the Wine Tram!
Starting the day with a glass of champagne
Our favorite vineyard on the tour
Beautiful views from Haute Cabriere winery
Cape Town (December 23 to January 4).
After Franschhoek, we dropped our car back at the Cape Town airport, and Karel & Phil
gave us a lift into the city and dropped us at the Airbnb we had booked for
the next couple of weeks. We booked a private room in a beautiful home,
and our host Clyde and his housekeeper Amos quickly became dear friends. Our location was perfect
because we were able to easily walk to the Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront,
a complex of restaurants, hotels, shops and entertainment venues, which serves
as the central tourist area in Cape Town. Our friends Larry & Roxane
were coming from Los Angeles shortly after Christmas, so we had a few
days to settle in before they arrived.
Over the next couple of days, we enjoyed a
Christmas celebration with fellow sailors organized by Neils & Margret (s.v. Unwind) at
the Royal Cape Yacht Club. We did some sightseeing on a walking tour of
Cape Town, and on an absolutely perfect day for weather, we climbed the Platteklip Gorge trail to the top
of Table Mountain. Awesome!
Race classification under the Apartheid system
Statue of Nelson Mandela on the balcony of the
Cape Town City Hall from where he made his first
public speech after being released from
prison in February 1990
Table Mountain standing majestically over Cape Town and calling our name
Hiking up the Platteklip Gorge trail to the top of Table Mountain
Jan and Lisa (s.v. Amandla) celebrating
their arrival at the top of Table Mountain
View from the top of Table Mountain - Lion's Head Mountain,
Camps Bay, Clifton Bay Beach and Robben Island
Larry & Rox arrived on December 29, and we had
six great days of sightseeing with them. We spent a day meandering
around the V&A Waterfront and another touring the impoverished "township" of Guguletu
with a former gang member who now works with the
Contribution to Opportunities organization. We took a city tour
on the Hop-On-Hop-Off (HOHO) bus, which included another trip to the top of Table Mountain (this
time via a cable car), and we also splurged on a private tour to Cape Point and the
Cape of Good Hope. We had tickets booked to visit Robben Island, where
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years, and were hugely disappointed that
it was the only day of bad weather (not really bad, just extremely windy), so
that the tour was cancelled. There was no chance of rebooking because tours
were full due to the holidays. So we did another HOHO bus tour
that day, visiting the Constantia wine region. On New Year's Eve, our Airbnb host Clyde was hosting a party and invited us and Rox & Larry. We
accepted the invitation, and it was a truly enjoyable and memorable evening.
As always happens when having fun, the time
with Rox & Larry flew by, and before we knew it, they were flying off to
Johannesburg, and we were returning to Durban.
We loved the music played by this group at the V&A Waterfront
Our tour guide Mapanya grew up in the Guguletu
township, was a gang member, and spent 17 years
in prison, but he is now dedicating his life to
helping others reform their lives.
Living conditions in the Guguletu Township
Heading up to Table Mountain the easy way - on the cable car.
New Year's Eve with our Airbnb host Clyde
The Twelve Apostles Mountain Range is the back side of Table Mountain.
The beach was very crowded during the holidays!
The promontory at the Cape of Good Hope
Soon we would be sailing around the Cape of Good Hope!
Penguins in Simons Town
Larry, Rox and the two of us with our Cape Point guide
Durban (January 4 to 7). We had
very early morning flight from Cape Town to Durban, and that turned out to be
a very good thing. We landed in Durban shortly after 9 a.m. on a Friday
morning, and when we
turned on our phone, we had an email from our weather guru Des Cason. He
informed us that it looked like there would be a weather window for us to leave Durban
on Monday to start our journey to Cape Town on Slip Away. Even though
this would be a domestic trip, we still needed to get clearance from the
Customs, Immigration and Port Captain's offices - bureaucracy at its best!
The officials' offices are closed on weekends, so in order to leave on
Monday morning, we needed to get our paperwork done that day. We called the marina
and advised them of our departure plans because they needed to issue
paperwork letting the officials know that we satisfied all of our debts with
them. We taxied back to Slip Away, threw our bags on the boat,
paid our bill and picked up the necessary paperwork from the marina office, headed to the bank to pay port
fees and then rushed around to all the officials' offices. After the
paperwork was complete, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up some fresh
provisions and then headed back to Slip Away. Whew! Fortunately, we had
Saturday and Sunday to catch our breath and prepare Slip Away for
We left Durban at first light on Monday and
were able to get as far as Port Elizabeth (394 miles, 2 days + 8 hours) before
stopping due to forecasted headwinds. The weather was very benign on
this first leg on the journey, forcing us to motor most of the way, but we did
have some good sailing winds on our first day at sea. The Agulhas
current gave us a good boost, with our speed over ground reaching 10+ knots
for a short while, but it seemed that the stronger the current, the lumpier
the seas. We also saw some stunning bioluminescence in the sea on our
night watches - gorgeous!
Port Elizabeth (January 9 to
15). We spent six days in Port Elizabeth waiting for
the headwinds to diminish. We were not eager to
spend time here because it is an industrial port
with a nearby iron ore depot, and when the wind blows from the east, boats in the
marina can get
coated with black iron ore dust from the depot. Additionally, friends who
this marina earlier in the season when strong easterly winds were blowing told us that a
large swell entered the marina, and the violent movement of the boats and
docks caused several dock lines to break.
Fortunately, we did not
experience these problems because the winds were blowing from the west while
we were here, but we saw first-hand the mess the black dust made out of the local boats. Since we had some time
to kill here, we rented a car for a day and visited the nearby
Addo Elephant National
Park. We also started doing some planning for our upcoming journey across the
Atlantic Ocean, and since there was a well-stocked grocery store nearby, we
began the process of provisioning with canned and dry goods. The
westerly winds finally abated, and we were able to continue on our way.
Keeping cool at the pool on a hot afternoon
A couple of black-backed jackals hanging out with the herd
After leaving Port Elizabeth, the weather forced us to
make another interim stop - this time at Mossel Bay (190 miles, 37 hours). We were
able to sail most of the passage from Port Elizabeth to Mossel Bay, but a good
part of the trip was not very pleasant. We left Port Elizabeth late
afternoon, and shortly thereafter rounded the eastern cape of South Africa and
headed west along the southern coast of the continent. Winds were light
when we started out, then built to 15-20 knots from the southeast shortly
before midnight, and the sailing was great. By noon the next day, winds
had built to the upper 20's, with gusts in the mid 30's and seas were running
about 3 meters (10 feet) - not comfortable, but
manageable since the wind and seas were on our port quarter. As
expected, we had strong winds all through the day, and we sailed
with just a small part of our headsail unfurled to keep our speed down so as
not to arrive at Mossel Bay in the dark. The strong winds and seas
continued into the night, but then in the very early hours of the next
morning, it suddenly stopped - it was like someone turned off a switch!
At 3 a.m., we had to start the engine and motor for the last few hours
with just a light breeze from the northeast. Very strange and crazy
|Mossel Bay (January 17 to 19). When we arrived in Mossel Bay,
Port Control welcomed us to tie up at the town wharf, but there was still a large swell running from the
east (leftover from the strong winds), which made it impossible. We were however able to
anchor outside the harbor. Although it was a large swell, it had a long
period and was fairly
comfortable, and after a few hours, it abated altogether. Our next
weather window was just around the corner, so we spent just two nights
Our next leg of the journey was an exciting one
for us. We would round Cape Agulhas, the southernmost cape on the
African continent, leaving the Indian Ocean in our wake and entering the
Atlantic. The weather on this passage was quite good with light winds
for the most part and then perfect sailing conditions rounding the Cape - 20 knots of wind from
the southeast and 4-6 foot seas (1.5 meters). We
also reached another milestone on this passage, surpassing 50,000 nautical
miles traveled on board Slip Away.
Although our ultimate goal was to get to Cape Town,
we had decided to stop just short of there and call in at Simons Town (212
miles, 36 hours) to
haul out and do some boat maintenance. We could have hauled out in Cape Town, but we heard very good reports about the boatyard
in Simons Town, and we preferred their Travelift to the rail haul-out in Cape
We'd been in touch with "Spilly" who is the Simons Town Marina Manager,
as well as the Administrator Kim, and they were watching our progress closely.
Offering a tot of rum to King Neptune as we
round Cape Agulhas and enter the Atlantic Ocean
Simons Town (January 21 to 27).
We dropped our anchor in False Bay at Simon's Town early in the morning, and
our haul-out was scheduled for that same afternoon. Although Simons Town is a
lovely place, it can get quite windy here, and westerly winds are usually
especially strong. The morning of our arrival was calm, but we needed to
wait until the high tide in the early afternoon to haul out, and westerly
winds were forecast for that afternoon. We had moved Slip Away to
an end tie on a dock, and as we prepared to depart the dock for the Travelift
winds were fairly light. The marina brought their small motorboat to help guide us into the Travelift, if necessary,
but we were able to navigate Slip Away into the slings without a hitch.
Our timing was quite fortuitous because as the
crew secured the boat in the travelift, the winds started howling - the wind speed
went from 10 knots to 30 knots in a matter of seconds. Yikes! But
we were secured in time, and Slip Away was safely lifted out of the water.
Slip Away spent four days in the Simons Town
boatyard, and we accomplished an incredible amount of work during that time.
The boatyard crew sanded and painted Slip Away's bottom and polished her hull.
A Furuno service rep replaced the magnetron in our radar. A local welder
repaired a broken lifeline attachment on the bow pulpit and reinforced the other
three attachment points. We also purchased and installed a new start battery,
and Rich installed a new depth transducer (brought to us
by Larry & Rox when they visited in Cape Town). At times, we had
multiple projects going on the boat at one time, but we managed the mayhem. This was by far our
most efficient haul-out ever!
Slip Away was scheduled to go back
in the water on a Friday afternoon, and that morning, gale force winds arrived
and were expected the last through the weekend. Spilly came to us to
discuss delaying our launch, and we were certainly agreeable to that but had to work out the logistics of leaving
Slip Away in the boatyard
for another ten days or so because we were flying out to Namibia on Sunday and would be gone for a week. The Simons Town boatyard is small so
does not always have space available, but we were able to work that out.
However, around mid-day the winds died down considerably - still blowing about 15
knots, but certainly not anything like the morning, and they stayed down for a
few hours. The high tide window for launching was late afternoon, so we
revisited the issue with Spilly and agreed to go ahead with putting Slip Away
back in the water. The launch went smoothly, and the marina again
secured their small motorboat to our port quarter to provide assistance
maneuvering us into our marina berth, if needed. We motored toward our assigned
slip and were just a couple boat-lengths from turning into it when the gale
decided to return. We could see the initial wind gust coming at us on
the water - Holy Crap!! Even with the motorboat helping us, docking the
boat was incredibly difficult, as we were being blown off the dock and
were dangerously close to
crashing into another boat. Tensions were extremely high, but with the help of Spilly
and crew, and a bit of luck in having a left-hand rotation prop, which backed
us to starboard in reverse, we managed to secure Slip Away with no damage to
her or the boat next door. We all needed a stiff drink after that!
New bottom paint and polished hull - nice work guys!
Replacing the magnetron in the radar
made a huge difference in its performance!
Blowing a gale on False Bay in Simons Town
We spent Saturday securing Slip Away and
packing for our trip, and early Sunday morning, we headed off to the Cape Town
airport. The timing of this trip was not ideal, but our 90-day South African
visitor visas were expiring, so we needed to leave the country and start the
clock on a new visa upon our return. Our friends Karel & Phil (s.v. Tehani-li)
were in the same situation and had booked a tour to Namibia and asked if we
wanted to join them. Although we don't often join organized tours, we didn't really have a lot of time to
put a trip together, and the idea of letting someone else handle all the details appealed to us.
We also enjoy spending time with Karel & Phil, so we were happy to join them
Namibia Highlights Safari with African Budget Safaris.
Namibia sits just north of the western part of South Africa, with
the Atlantic Ocean along its west coast, Botswana to the east and Zambia and
Angola to the north. Its name is derived from the Namib Desert, which is
the oldest desert in the world, and Namibia is the driest country in
Sub-Saharan Africa. With a population of 2.6 million people, it is one
of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Primary
industries include agriculture, herding, tourism and mining (diamonds,
uranium, gold, silver and base metals).
Early inhabitants of Namibia were
peoples from the San, Damara, Nama and Bantu tribes. In the late 1880's
the German Empire established rule over most of this territory, forming a
colony known as German South West Africa, and developing farming and
infrastructure. In the early 1900's, the Germans committed
genocide against local tribes, killing an estimated 80,000 indigenous people.
German rule ended in 1915 when they were defeated by South African forces, and
in 1920, after the end of World War I, the League of Nations mandated
administration of this colony to South Africa. Namibia gained independence
from South Africa in 1990 following the Namibian War of Independence.
Namibia Highlights Safari
(January 27 to February 3). Our trip had an inauspicious start when
shortly after arriving at the Cape Town airport, our flight on Air Namibia was
cancelled. An airline representative efficiently rebooked us on to FlySafair,
but the new flight departed six hours later than the original one, so we spent
many hours at the airport. The FlySafair flight then departed
an hour late, but once we took off, it was an uneventful flight to Windhoek, Namibia.
We stayed two nights in Windhoek
which is the capital city of Namibia, and while there, we enjoyed a walking
tour of the city, as well as a visit to a traditional San village. When
we left Windhoek, we traveled in a 12-passenger truck (but only 7 of us on the
trip), and our tour guides Daniel and Tinashe took great care of us. From
Windhoek, we drove north to Etosha National Park, then southwest to the
coastal town of Swakopmund, and after that we spent time in the Namib Desert,
visiting Dead Vlei, Sesriem Canyon and the Sossusvlei Sand Dunes. Daniel
was the lead guide and drove the truck, covering a total of 900 miles (over
1400 km), and most of that time, we were on rough, unpaved roads. As we
traveled, Daniel provided very informative commentary on all the areas we
visited. Tinashe was a "guide in training" but he was quite
knowledgeable about animal life because he had previously worked as a park
ranger. Both of them worked quite hard, and they always had smiles on
It was an awesome week, and we were
very happy that we had the opportunity to visit Namibia. We saw a great
variety of terrain and wild animals, including a leopard sighting
(our first!) on the day we arrived at Etosha National Park. Also, the food was good,
including an opportunity to try a variety of game meats, and despite this
being a "budget" tour, accommodations were very nice. But, the tour was
not easy travel. The pace was at times exhausting - up and on the road
early every day and staying in a new place almost every night.
Temperatures were extremely hot, the truck
was not air conditioned, and the roads were very dusty. Not only was it
the dry season but also the country was in a drought, and the
countryside was parched and/or barren. It's no wonder that Namibia is
one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world - it's a wonder that
anyone can survive here!
Ancient San Village
The Independence Memorial Museum in Windhoek,
built by North Korea, with whom Namibia
once had a strong trading relationship.
Our tour transport - "Zazu"
Our first and only leopard sighting -
resting in the shade of a road marker
A pair of Oryx
Driving across the Namib Desert
How can anyone survive out here?!
Sharing our water with some of the desert dwellers
Our guide Daniel (right) and
his assistant Tinashe - always smiling!
Quenching our thirst with a cold beer in Swakopmund
Sand dunes of Sossusvlei
Climbing Dune 45 was hard work!
The trees in the clay pan of Deadvlei are estimated to be about 900
years old, but they have not decomposed due to the dry climate
Accommodations at Desert Camp were very nice!
After our tour, we flew back to Cape
Town and were issued new
90-day visitor visas for South Africa. We breathed a sigh of relief
because by law, they could have limited us to 14 days since we had recently
spent 90 days in their country. But they didn't, and we were grateful!
Simons Town (February 3 to 8).
Once back in Simons Town, we finished up a few more jobs. A local
rigging shop tuned our rigging, we had some canvas repairs done on our cockpit
enclosure by a local yacht club member, and we sold our spare outboard engine.
After a few days, we saw a good weather window to head to Cape Town and took
Cape Town (February 8 to 23). The
trip from Simons Town to Cape Town is 60 miles, so do-able in a day, but it's
a long day. We left the marina the previous afternoon and anchored in
the bay for the night thinking this would make it easier for us to depart at
first light the next morning, but then we ended up losing time removing all
the kelp that had wrapped around our anchor chain! We finally got
underway, motored out of False Bay, and at 0830 we motored around the Cape of
Good Hope with light winds and calm seas - another milestone! We
continued motoring in light winds, and a couple hours later, we were fighting
a bit of a countercurrent, so Rich hit the
throttle to speed up a bit, but the engine did not react. He moved the
throttle back and forth a bit, and the engine slowed, but it would not speed
up when we moved the throttle forward. Another Holy Crap
moment - what's happening?!! He investigated and found that the throttle
cable attachment in the steering pedestal had broken off. He went into McGuyver mode and attached a piece of line to the engine throttle on the
injector pump and ran it out to the cockpit so we could use the line to control the throttle.
Getting to Cape Town in a timely manner became even more imperative, and we
picked up the RPM's to get us there as quickly as possible. We had a
berth booked at the V&A Marina, and called the marina manager to alert them to
our problem. In order to get into the marina, we needed to wait for a
couple of bridge openings, and the marina manager said they would send out
their launch to help us should we need assistance maneuvering. We also had
several friends in V&A Marina on their boats, and they too were on standby to
help if needed.
It was overcast as we rounded the Cape of Good Hope,
but the wind and seas were very kind
Skies brightened as we headed north, and the scenery was gorgeous
Big ship at anchor off Cape Town
The beautiful sight of Cape Town from the sea
with Table Mountain in the background
The wind often picks up in Cape Town
in the afternoon, but we were lucky in that the winds stayed fairly light that
day. When we arrived outside the bridges to the marina, their launch met
us and escorted us through the bridges, but we were able to maneuver on our
own. They found us a berth that had an easy entry, and docking went smoothly. Another
crisis averted! Now that Slip Away was safely docked, we could
our arrival in Cape Town!
Prior to arriving in Cape Town, we
had reserved some time with
a local mechanic to help us with some engine maintenance items, and within a few
days, he had our throttle cable issue repaired too. Overall, our
experience with the trades people in South Africa was very positive.
We spent just over two weeks on our
second visit to Cape Town and thoroughly enjoyed the central location of the
V&A Marina with restaurants, shops and entertainment within walking distance.
Our time here was quite busy with final preparations for the next leg of our
journey. We spent hours shopping for and loading the boat with
provisions, and made sure all of our boat gear was in working order.
Upon leaving Cape Town, we had a long journey ahead of us as we were heading
home to the USA. We were intending to stop at the remote island of St.
Helena in the South Atlantic (1700 miles from Cape Town), and after that, we
were planning to sail to the Bahamas (4700 miles), so by far our longest
Slip Away docked between Sukha and Vanille at V&A
Sunfish are a fairly rare sighting, but there was one swimming in the
In our final days in Cape Town, we
also treasured our last moments with this cruising community. The
journey by sea to Cape Town is a challenging one and the camaraderie with this
group was wonderful. The majority of our sailing friends departed Cape
Town before us, but there were a few stragglers, and the evening before
our departure, a small group gathered on the dock by Slip Away, shared a drink
with us and wished us well.
Amandla departing V&A Marina
Farewell dock party the night before our departure
Passage from Cape Town to St. Helena
Island (February 23 to March 7, 1700 miles, 12 days). We left V&A
Marina and Cape Town late afternoon - our departure was later in the day than
expected due to the dock party the previous night, but we weren't in a big
hurry. When we exited the marina, the sun was shining, but as we headed
offshore and into the shipping lanes, we motored into a dense fog bank.
There were a number of ships in the shipping lanes, but AIS and radar
helped us to avoid any issues with them - the new
magnetron in our radar was working great! We wanted to clear the
shipping lanes as quickly as possible, so we motored directly across them, and
then turned to the WNW on our course for St. Helena Island. We found a
nice breeze - 12-15 knots of WSW wind - set our sails and turned off the
engine. We had a nice sail through the night, but the southerly
component to the wind made it quite cold! We sailed for the next 10 hours,
but then we had light winds for a few days and had to burn our precious
diesel, but the seas were very gentle, and temps warmed up after that first
cold night. Three days after leaving Cape Town, we finally found
consistent winds, and for the most part we had quite pleasant sailing
conditions with winds ranging from 10 to 20 knots from the southeast, and 3 to
6 foot (1 to 2 meter) seas. We noted only "one small squall" in our logbook -
nice! The moon waned into the new moon on this passage, and we had
some cloudy nights which were very dark, but we also had some clear nights
with incredible stars. Three days before arriving at St. Helena Island,
we crossed into the Western Hemisphere - Slip Away was last in the Western
Hemisphere in July 2013, so she had spent almost six years in the Eastern
Hemisphere! After 12 days at sea, we arrived at James Bay on St. Helena Island.
Land Ho! Sighting St. Helena Island off our port bow after 12 days
St. Helena mooring field lit by the sunset
Saint Helena Island (March 7 to
16). St. Helena is a volcanic island located in the south Atlantic
Ocean, and it is considered one of the most isolated islands in the world. It
lies 1,200 miles (1,950 kms) off the coast of southwestern Africa and covers
an area of just 50 square miles (130 sq km). St. Helena was uninhabited
when the Portuguese discovered it in 1502, but by the 1600's, it became an
important stopover for ships sailing from Asia to Europe. From the
mid-1600's, St. Helena was primarily governed by the British East India
Company, and the company fortified and colonized the island. After Napoleon's
defeat by the British at Waterloo in 1815, he was exiled to St. Helena and
lived there until his death in 1821. St. Helena also served as a prison camp for over
5,000 Boers taken prisoner by the British in the Second Boer War (1899 to
1902). St. Helena became a British colony in 1833, and its present
designation is British Overseas Territory. The present population
numbers approximately 6,600, and locals refer to themselves at "saints."
The anchorage at St. Helena is an
open roadstead and very deep, but the locals and have made the anchorage much
more "user friendly" by installing moorings for visiting yachts. When we
arrived, a few other cruising boats were already here, and our friend Fabio (s.v.
Amandla) came over in his dinghy and helped us secure Slip Away to
her mooring. Getting ashore here has its challenges as well, and for the
most part, boaters take the local water taxi instead of using their dinghies.
The water taxi landing on a calm day
One of the more challenging days for getting on and off the water taxi!
(This photo was shared with us by one of our fellow sailors,
but we're not sure who took it so cannot give proper credit)
There was a fair amount to do and see
on this small island. We spent a day climbing Jacob's Ladder,
a staircase of 700 steps which is the remains of an incline railway connecting
Jamestown (the main town) to Ladder Hill Fort. We also took an island
tour, seeing several historical sights including Napoleon's tomb and
residence, as well as enjoying the spectacular landscapes on the island.
Hazel, the owner of the Consulate Hotel, was very welcoming to sailors.
Most days we stopped by for coffee and wifi (very slow on this island!),
and we even ended up spending a night in the hotel
when the anchorage was extremely rolly.
Jamestown, nestled in a valley on St. Helena Island
The house where Napoleon spent his final years
Descending Jacob's Ladder was much
easier than ascending it
Beautiful landscapes on St. Helena Island
The highlight of our visit here, however, was a dream we had been chasing for
many years - an opportunity to swim with whale sharks! Whale sharks are
the biggest fish in the ocean, with an average length of 18 to 33 feet (5.5 to
10 meters) and weighing in at about 20 tons. But they are gentle giants
- one of only three filter-feeding sharks, feasting on zooplankton, such as
krill, crab larvae and jellyfish. So they are not dangerous, unless you
maybe get too close and get whacked by their tail! We had tried a
number of times in the past to find and swim with whale sharks, but despite
our being in the right place at the right time (Bahia de Los Angeles in the
Sea of Cortez and Utila in the Bay Islands of Honduras), they eluded us. Whale sharks
visit St. Helena Island every year in their summer months - January to March -
so we once again found ourselves in the right place at the right time.
St. Helena requires that visitors who wish to swim with the shale sharks go
local tour operator, and we booked a trip shortly after our arrival. But then
was cancelled due to bad weather - we really felt like we were jinxed!
However, a couple days later, the weather settled down and we finally did it!
We went on the whale shark tour with a small group - the two of us, along with Brian, Carol and Matt
(s.v. Prince Diamond) and a couple who was staying ashore at a hotel. The boat operator said he counted 20 whale sharks that day,
and the shore-based couple did not get in the water, so there were five of us
swimming with 20 whale sharks. Incredible!
The two of us, up close and personal with a whale shark
(photo courtesy of Matt, s.v. Prince Diamond)
Wow, three whale sharks in one photo!
Individual whale sharks can be tracked because the pattern
of spots on each one are believed to be unique - like a fingerprint
St. Helena Island was the penultimate
stop on our world tour. From here, our plan was to sail to the Bahamas
and then home to the USA. Most of the cruising yachts who were here with
us were heading to Brazil and then the Caribbean, and we could have chosen
that route too and even taken another year to get home, but after living on
board Slip Away on the high seas for over 16 years, we had decided it
was time for us to "swallow the hook." We were excited that we would be
realizing our dream and completing our circumnavigation, but home was still a
long way away.
The passage from St. Helena to the
Bahamas would be almost 4,800 miles. Prior to this, our longest passage
was 3,000 miles, which took us 21 days, so we were planning to be at sea for
possibly as long as 40 days. We had
stocked Slip Away with plenty of food and fuel, and we believed that
she and we were ready for the journey. Friends who had sailed the South
Atlantic assured us this would be the easiest ocean crossing ever, and we had
our fingers crossed that their words would ring true for us. The weather
forecast looked good, and on March 16, we slipped our mooring line and headed
Sun setting behind Slip Away at St. Helena
(photo courtesy of Chantal s.v. Hokulea)