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1st Report for  2008:        

South Africa Part II, 

and the journey from Cape Town to Salvador de Bahia including a visit to St. Helena

(January 15th - March 15th)


Richards Bay to Cape Town:

We had been following the weather in South Africa, even while we were back in Germany and so we knew that one front will pass just shortly after our arrival back at the boat, but it also looked like right after that there might be a good window  allowing us to move south for at least 3 days along the shore.



























Taniwani has been ready anyway, and so we didn't waste much time. As soon as the front had passed we started out in the morning of the 18th. Clear of an incoming freighter we were ready to set sails, when we found that we could not get the brand new mainsail out of the mast. We had put it on when Quantum finally shipped and rolled it away with some trouble as it seemed bulkier than the old one. We had then thought that it may just take a bit of time for the new material (very tough Spectra) to get into shape, and we had never thought that getting it out would be more of a problem.


So out in the shipping channel, leaving Richards Bay, we almost thought we might have to turn back and miss another good weather opportunity. Climbing up and down the mast and pushing the jamming sail back in, we finally were able to work it loose and get it set. From now on we would not furl in the last part of the sail and get it fixed in Cape Town.


At least this was a workable compromise and we could go on that way. Still it worried us a bit, as we had never before had any problems with our mast furling mainsail.


We soon found out that the reason was a wrong tack angle on the new sail. The usual way to do these sails is to raise towards the clue at about an inch per foot, so that the thicker material at the reinforced foot does not come to all lay on top of each other.


Having that thing under control, it was time to report back to Neptun with one of his favorite drinks.


Usually that pays off with favorable conditions and we sure wanted no foul weather along this notorious coast.


The next possible stop would be Durban, but as explained before, we were not eager to enter that port other than in an emergency.


So we had at least to make 330 miles to East London in one run.



The first day was fine, though the wind was light and with some help of the Agulhas Current we made 200 miles.


The second day we had no wind, motored at about 5.5 knots and made 240 miles!!


The current is incredible:

There was a long swell from the southwest running, that one would barely notice under normal conditions, yet in the current it became short and steep and our motoring in calm conditions felt like we were beating into a force six wind.
One can easily imagine what this current would do even to a light gale from the South West. One would have to go closer to shore, where we found the current ends abruptly. 

Near Port Elisabeth the current separates more and more from the shore and eventually we lost it. We then set course for Mossel Bay as a light westerly was approaching. 


Now past Cape Recife, this was not dangerous any more, on the other hand we didn't feel like beating into it towards the Cape made much sense.


We reached Mossel Bay after 3 days and 6 hours and anchored outside the harbor.

We came to like that little town, the climate is good, the water temperature still warm and most things are in walking distance. With a bit of a struggle there would be space for a boat of our size in the harbor, which would be better than the anchorage when the wind goes to south-east. But for the time being we were perfectly happy at anchor.


Mossel Bay has a very nice maritime museum that features a replica of the old Caravel that Vasco da Gama sailed when he discovered these places. 


He had chosen Mossel Bay as the best harbor down at the southern end of Africa. The replica was built in Portugal and sailed down to South Africa as a big event. 


Visiting the museum with us was Jeanne who single handed her smaller Najad 361 "Nereida" around the world at a rather fast pace. We had first met her in Richards Bay and now she had just anchored next to us.



Jeanne would be sailing through the South Atlantic about the same time as us, but then head for the Caribbean and Panama. She wanted to be back on the U.S. west coast just in time for participating in the single hand Transpac.



Sadly we heard that half a year later, she lost her lovely boat on a remote beach on the Mexican Pacific shore.



We had two days in Mossel Bay before we expected the southeasterly to cut in. Joao came by bus to join us and only a few hours after the wind swung around, we weighed anchor in the middle of the night and were off to a fast run towards the southern tip of Africa.

















Now this part of the trip around South Africa was really most enjoyable:


We had the nice company of "cape-expert" Joćo and the traditionally strong southeaster pushed us along at maximum speed or better. Quickly, Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa, and the official divide of the two oceans came closer and closer.



Agulhas is a rather flat cape and not as prominent as the Cape of Good Hope, but still is a special place to sail by.


Unfortunately one has to keep some distance as the water is rather shallow far out.





It is still over 80 miles from Agulhas to Cape Point and so it is difficult to pass both capes at daylight.


We would pass the Cape of Good Hope in a moon lit night and have early light half way along the cape peninsula towards Cape Town.



Well we saw the big cape, towering high above us in the moonlight as we passed and later the early morning views of the Cape Peninsula were something never to forget.





                    Sailing by Northhoek, Joćo called their new home and Ligia could see us passing by far out.



As expected we lost the wind at some point close to Cape Town, and on this day it didn't flare up when we entered the harbor and waited to get a berth assigned at the Royal Cape Yacht Club.


One of the finest sailing trips ended there,  30 hours and 240 miles from Mossel Bay.


Now we finally had the opportunity to inspect the fine new home of the Mahi-Mahi family. 


A very nice house in a beautiful place which should help to make their life on the hard more bearable. Like on the boat you can see the ocean and  jump in the water right off your terrace - only it doesn't move.


One of the reasons to sail Taniwani to Cape Town, rather than stay in Simonstown was the crane at the yacht club.


We had ordered a replacement for our generator while still in Madagascar. Our old one had given us much trouble over its lifetime. While we managed to get it rewound in the Seychelles and keep it working till South Africa, we felt that after 3000 hours different things were failing in short intervals.


Soon most of the work scheduled for Cape Town was done and we could enjoy a weekend sail along the peninsula with Mahi-Mahi family, including Joćo's parents Karin and Vasco.


The weather was friendly and the sights as spectacular as they get.




For lunch we anchored off Clifton and later had some very nice sailing in a rather mild Southeasterly.


Certainly the Mahi-Mahies were back into their true element rather quickly.


We had to wait for our mainsail to come back from Quantum and could never manage to get a date confirmed. Once we had decided that we would not visit Namibia, but rather sail straight to Brazil with just a short stop at the island of St. Helena, the sail was not so urgent any more and we could spend a bit more time around Cape Town.


So we checked out several more wineries and loaded Taniwani with many a good bottle to share at home with family.


We also had time to leave Taniwani for a few days and drive along the Garden Route as far a Knysna, which we were told is a must see.


The route goes east from Cape Town to Mossel Bay and on to Knysna and Plettenberg.


In a small town, half way to Mossel Bay we were able to listen to a Cape Jazz band.


Mossel Bay we knew already, but we really liked the place and decided to make it our base for two days and to explore other places like Knysna from here.


We had a very nice room on top of the hill overlooking town and harbor and all the way across the bay.



It isn't very far from Mossel Bay to Knysna and so it is easy to visit for the day and come back in the evening.


Already in Madagascar South African sailors had been marveling about Knysna and recommended we take our boat there.


But from a boat perspective Knysna is tricky. It has a very narrow, shallow and rock strewn entrance that breaks in anything but a modest swell.

In other words it means that one may not be able to enter or exit the place for many days, depending on weather.


The impact that this can have on your schedule was one of the reasons we sailed on to Mossel Bay.


Some people say it isn't so difficult to get in and out, and some books say it is a quite dangerous pass. 


So we went up on one of the Knysna Heads, as the steep cliffs to each side are called, and looked for ourselves.



We were lucky to see a local day tour yacht take their guests out through the narrow passage.


It was probably a "normal" day with the surge breaking only once every five minutes on the outer bar and maybe every minute on the inner which is just over 3 meters deep.


In the picture the yacht is waiting just inside the inner bar for the right moment, it was just knocked off course by one of the breakers. The timing in this case was perfect, almost slack high tide, the current still setting in slowly. Even in these conditions it didn't seem easy to us.


Once you are in, you are rewarded with one of the few opportunities to anchor safely in any weather in South Africa.


The nicest place is off course at the heads with their dramatic views, further in it flattens and so does the water in the lagoon.


The town itself has a good marina and hundreds of souvenir shops and is bustling with tourists.


Some of our friends liked it there and stood with their boat in the marina for several months.

In the evening we drove back to our favorite Mossel Bay and the next morning we took the road along the coast to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost cape of Africa that we had sailed by only two weeks earlier.


Maybe it does look more impressive from land, as one looks at an infinite row of breakers rolling in from the southern ocean onto the slowly swallowing land. 


Even though the Southeaster was not as strong as when we sailed by, it felt stronger as it swept over the flat land.


The old lighthouse from 1849 was only recently restored and opened to the public, after having been out of commission with cracks in the walls for several years.


With new equipment it is now serving its purpose again and in addition houses a small lighthouse museum and a very small restaurant.






It is good fun to climb its narrow staircase and finally a long and steep ladder to make it through a man hole onto the upper deck.


Stepping outside the wind shrieks around the tower and one almost has to hang onto the rail to make it to the sheltered side.


From up there we had a nice view and could imagine us passing by out there...



Well, our Garden Route tour was now coming to an end and we headed back to Cape Town.


There, Taniwani was waiting for us at the Royal Cape Yacht Club. A club that is rather welcoming to foreign visitors and it is almost the only choice in Cape Town as neither Grainger Bay or the V&A Marina are willing to take live aboard yachts.


The down side is that it is far out in the industrial suburbs of Cape Town and having a car is a must to get anywhere except to the nice club restaurant and the on site chandlery.


The other, and more serious down side is that the area gets the brunt of the furious  "Cape Doctor", the strong southeaster falling down table mountain.


It was blowing 80% of the time we were there with an average of 40 knots, but we had days where we saw 60+ on our wind speed indicator.


The old pontoons are squeaking and groaning, but seem to hold up ok.


The real problem is the dirt that comes with it. The wind that sweeps over the industrial areas, quickly soils rig and sails and coats the front sides with a thick dark brown layer.


Our brand new sails didn't look white for much longer and we had to climb the mast and wash down sails, mast and every wire to get the worst of it off.


After all the cleaning we didn't feel ready for another treatment by the Doctor. Instead we got ready to move on: Shopped, cleared out and then were only waiting for Quantum to deliver the sail. 


It took another day, and the wind had piped up a bit again so that even with the help of the sail maker we couldn't properly fit it and test it.


When at 4 in the morning we noticed that the wind was gone, we rushed out and completed the sail fitting task.

The reefing seemed to work now, if a bit reluctant and since we were up and ready we quietly slipped out of Cape Town harbor.


A last magnificent view with the lights of Cape Town shimmering and the sun slowly coming up behind table mountain.


We could still see the prominent features of table mountain and the twelve apostles when we had put some 60 miles between us and Cape Town.


In truth it was not the best timing as Fred pointed out on his Peri-Peri Net: "You will not have much wind for the next two days, you should have waited two days".


It didn't matter to us, we had time and we had now been mentally ready to move on and leave this fantastic country behind, still not sure what to think about it.


And it wasn't so bad, we had some wind and with the occasional help by the engine we did between 130 and 140 miles a day in the first two days.


Our first time in such light downwind conditions was when we left Australia for Southeast Asia. It was there that we found that nothing helps, maybe except for lots of sail.


Not having a full size spinnaker, the best we can do is to fly the 160 m2 genaker together with the poled out genoa. The little bit of main, sheeted tight just reduces the slight roll.


This setup became a pretty common thing for us when crossing the South Atlantic.


Days three, four, five and six had a bit more wind again and we made 168, 204, 189 and 180 respectively.


After that we were back down in the 140-150 range until one morning, after pretty exactly 11 days we reached the island of St. Helena and dropped the hook just off the main settlement of Jamestown.



While a rather smooth ocean to sail, the southern Atlantic isn't rich on islands. If you rule out South Georgia and the Falklands as already part of the Southern Ocean and count Fernando de Noronha as a Brazil offshore island, then there is just Tristan da Cunha and Ascenson Island left aside of St. Helena.


The good news is that those three are all placed along some of the old sailing routes.

Tristan da Cunha is on the route from the Rio del la Plata to Cape Town, and both St. Helena and Ascension are along the typical route from Cape Town to Europe or to the Caribbean. 


St. Helena is the biggest one of these, fairly round with a diameter of about 16 km.


It is about 1750 miles from Cape Town and pretty exactly 2000 miles from Salvador. So for us it was almost half way to Brazil.


Coming from sea, St. Helena looks barren and dry and only when getting closer to Jamestown, one can spot a few green trees right in town.

As this picture from the interior of the island shows, this isn't the whole truth. Only the cliffs towards the sea are bare dry rock and most of the inner parts of the island are amazingly lush green.


Despite that we found that there isn't much agriculture, and while they keep some cattle, they do not bother to produce milk or any dairy products.


As they say, it is so much less hassle to have it shipped in from South Africa.


Jamestown is situated at the bottom of a narrow valley that ends at the sea front. There isn't much space for growth and the steep eroded slopes on both sides are a permanent problem with rock falls and earth slides. 





Lacking space in down town, there is a whole new area developed up on the hill.


One of the bigger problems was the cliff above the harbor, where rocks kept falling down, damaging buildings and threatening the health of people on the pier.


To stabilize the wall, St. Helena had contracted a French company who were now at work.


Unfortunate for us, it meant that there were only few times during the day that we could get ashore or back to the boat: Before 7 am or after 5 pm or for half an hour around noon.



The good news is that you don't have to bother launching your own dinghy as there is a shuttle service from the anchorage to the pier that you can simply call on VHF.




Being in mid ocean, there is a permanent surge running and to make landing easier, they have installed a frame from which ropes are hung down to the landing. That way you grab a rope and swing in or out of the boat like Tarzan.


When we arrived at St. Helena, there was only one other yacht there; Our friends Rita and Walter  on Noa.


They had been through Namibia and from what we heard we felt a bit sorry to have skipped it.


We spent the first days of our stay exploring Jamestown and vicinity together with the two.

Anne's Place right in town is the place to be and to meet.


A nice hang out and decent restaurant, for yachties a bit like Cafe Sport in Horta 30 years ago. It is fun to scan the visitor books and find many a well known yacht in there.


Off course we looked for the entries of our friends on Mahi-Mahi and the one of their first circumnavigation on Solmar.


And yes off course, we left an entry too.




The look of Jamestown is very British by any means, and maybe comparable to Gibraltar. 


And while the people of St. Helena are British citizens and hold British passports, they are an interesting blend of what had come to the island over the years. 


To us it didn't look like a disadvantage.



There is one thing that everybody visiting St. Helena needs to do: It is climbing the so called Jacobs Ladder. Steep stairs with some 600 steps going up the 200 meter high cliff.




It was originally build to bring ammunition up to the fort on the hill and aside of the steps featured an inclined plane to drag up the heavy stuff on little carts.




From any height up along the steps, the views on Jamestowm are great and the best thing for the knees is to take the steps uphill and walk back down the winding road.


And then there is off course Napoleon. Most people have only heard about St. Helena in conjunction with this prominent historic figure.


And so it is no surprise that every island tour includes visits to Napoleon's last places.


We learned that when Napoleon was brought to St. Helena, he spent his first night at a guesthouse down in Jamestown, to then move to a small guest house of a Belgian Family.

Apparently he liked this little guest house on the hill better than the final bigger house which at that time was being prepared for him.



Off course our tour guide showed us all these places including the site of his tomb, which Napoleon had carefully chosen. A secluded and peaceful plateau, surrounded by tall trees and flowers.

But even aside of all the Napoleon sites, the island is always worth a tour as it offers many nice views and special sites.


On recommendation we had hired Roi with his old Nissan pick-up to show us the island.


By the time we were ready for our tour, David and Annette from Nordlys had arrived from Simonstown and with them a sistership of Mahi-Mahi, a cat named Indigo.



And so all of us went on tour and filled Roi's Nissan.



As can be seem from the pictures, Roi took us all around this little island, which didn't seem that small after all.



Most views show the same trend: Very green and lush inside, but fading to bare rocks towards the sea.


We had met big turtles before and in their native environments.


These turtles had been brought to the islands, but seem to enjoy the place and they are rather friendly.


Without an airport the island is depending solely on the regular visits by the supply ship, also named St. Helena. 


It carries passengers as well as cargo and cruises between Cape Town, Namibia, St. Helena, Ascension and occasionally England.


It usually takes a few days to unload individual containers onto barges to bring them ashore. Craning them off the barges in the surge is a delicate task.


We spent 6 days in St. Helena, which is more time than most yachts allocate to the visit. Maybe we were lucky, as the anchorage was quite tenable with only very moderate swell. Small as the islands is, it is certainly not difficult to see it all in three days, but on the other hand we found it rather relaxing to stay a few more days.



For us St. Helena was the last place to be with some of our longer known sailing friends who had arrived over the days. From here we would sail into different directions: Aquila, Nordlys, Bel Brise, Nereida and Indigo would head for the Carribbean, some with a possible stop at Ascension, and some with another possible stop in Fernando de Noronha.

Noa would head southwest to Uruguay and Argentina and just Taniwani would sail straight west to Salvador.


Nevertheless we had good radio contact with the other boats along the whole trip, even when our friends eventually were 3000 - 4000 miles away.


In hind sight it would have been the better choice to sail the detour via Ascension, as our course was dead downwind which in the light trades of the South Atlantic isn't quite optimal.


Our 2000 miles passage to Salvador was slow but extremely comfortable. At times one would think we were at anchor in a tranquil bay. 



The relaxed life of sleeping, reading, cooking and a bit of maintenance work was suddenly interrupted when something really big struck our fishing line.


With the break fully on, it was taking line with horrible speed and we were worrying that we would run out of line.



We are no sport fishing folks and really only fish for some fresh food. But we knew something big was on the line and we noticed that at times the tension ceased and we were able to reel back some of the line.


Meanwhile Taniwani was sailing on, but when it got really bad we furled the genoa and put the engine in reverse to slow down the boat.


It took an hour to get the fish closer to the boat and have a look at it. It was obviously something like a marlin and now after an hour it didn't move much any more. So we could attach extra ropes around the bill and the tail. We attached it to our crane on the radar post, but with the fin all the way up to the crane arm, the nose would still drag through the water. We had to rig another line to edge it over the rail.


By the time we were able to remove the hook from the bill, the fish seemed finished and it seemed to late to release it.


Once on deck, we measured 2.52 meters from bill tip to tail fin. With the help of our book we identified it as a black marlin. An Indian Ocean type of marlin that as the book explains sometimes comes around the cape and up the African coast to swim on to the South American shores.


It is way to big for our scale, but length to weight tables suggest around 130 kg.


It is definitely more than our 40L freezer can take, so we just took the best meat and filled the freezer to to rim.





All this excitement happened about half way between St. Helena and Salvador and from then we didn't put out a fishing line again.


So we just had a continuation of light downwind sailing and no more fire drills.


Eventually, the Brazil shoreline appeared from the haze and we started to prepare for our arrival by setting the Brazil and quarantine flag.


From far away the skyline of Salvador looked like any modern town dominated by high raise buildings.


After 2008 miles and exactly 14 days we entered the harbor basin of Salvador and as always we were anxious to see what the new place was like.




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NAjad 490 round the world