Sunday, March 8, 2009

Harbours and finding our way

Harbours are fascinating places. The activities of working harbours can make them ugly (and smelly) yet simultaneously give them a certain beauty, while small-craft marinas can show off the clean lines of beautiful yachts juxtaposed alongside tatty, old, seldom-used yachts that have been adopted by the local bird community for their homes.

We loved living at the marina of Hout Bay harbour, South Africa’s biggest fishing harbour, despite the attendant whiffs from the fish factory. The small craft are moored cheek by jowl with the fishing boats and the colourful cheery fishermen along with sailors from around the world enhanced our experience of this home.

Simonstown’s naval flavour added a new dimension to a working harbour (although our arrive-at-midnight and subsequent pub “navigation” till 3:30 am somewhat dampened my (Irene’s) enthusiasm for it!)

Similar naval influence was felt at Saldanha Bay, which also offered huge working monstrosities. One of the latter, however, became an absolute jewel in the late-afternoon sun.

The Saldanha Bay small craft are generally embarrassing as they exhibit lack of loving care... except from their resident home-owners, the gulls and cormorants; however, wherever you go, you can always find Nemo!

Mykonos’ yuppie marina displays beautiful, relatively new yachts and powerboats, reflecting the bright-white holiday style of the resort. It also houses its windmill: a landmark precious to sailors, who use it to get bearings to guide their way into Mykonos or to-and-from Langebaan.

Landmarks and buoys are vital in helping one to negotiate safely and efficiently in the water, and it has been very interesting to see what they are like in real life compared with the little reference specks we see on the charts.
Saldanha Bay has a one-of-a-kind giant lit “candle” at the end of a long (Iscor) jetty serving huge steel ships, while lateral marker- and cardinal buoys are much bigger than I expected (which probably indicates stupid expectation on my ... Irene’s... part!)

Cardinal marks warn of dangers or obstructions to one side; the one pictured is overlooked by Saldanha Port Control.

East cardinal (warning of the mussel bed)

So this update indicates a bit of nostalgia as we have come to the end of our training. But speaking of nostalgia, back to knots again.... Where our previous update speaks of a week of wonderful stress-free sailing, our last prac week was set up to be repeats and practices of procedures and strategies in order for the instructor to drill us for the coming exam (an assessment which involved the RYA external examiner coming on board and staying for two days while getting students to sail for him and exhibit their skills under pressure situations.) And the knots? In addition to the bowlin / clove hitch / reef / rolling half-hitch etc, we had to deal with knots of a different kind: anxiety / stress / fear! So... in view of the fact that only one Coastal Skipper ticket was required on the yacht, Irene decided that Rolf would be this candidate and she would participate in the week’s learning...but shelter from the storm and not do the exam. So Rolf brilliantly (despite his own anxieties) picked up the ball. We now have two qualified Skippers on board: one Coastal and one Day Skip (who can do the Coastal stuff but needs more time to practice....!)

All we need to do now is wait patiently for our catamaran to be ready to take us to more exciting harbours.... the photo indicates progress in the right direction as her bimini (cockpit roof) is put in place. The delay in build completion is disappointing, but evidently completely inevitable in the boatbuilding industry the world over! We are however very happy with the build quality and the various selections and options we have made – particularly so, after seeing and sailing and living on some other boats in the last few weeks. In any event, spending an extra summer month in Cape Town can’t be all bad.

We have grown to absolutely love Cape Town in the past seven weeks, but have not had sufficient time to actually enjoy its offerings – the long sunny evenings; the commuter drives along the incredible scenery between Sea Point and Hout Bay; and on occasion Pinelands via Kirstenbosch and Constantia to Hout Bay; the cosmo / metro life of our time in Sea Point; the easy access and walks and cycle rides along the esplanade of Sea Point’s Beach Road and the many coffee shops and restaurants; the various harbour waterfronts; the dodgy shipping container / kiosk in Hout Bay harbour that sells the best calamari; dinner at upmarket ‘linen napkin and tablecloth’ restaurant straight off the boat after a couple of days’ sailing and still unkempt and badly dressed (even by Rolf’s modest standards). Now that the distraction of the intense training is over, we can really settle in and enjoy!

A word on wind: wind strength is measured in knots in the sailing industry, where a knot is about 1.86km/h (a nautical mile being 1.86 km). A 20-knot wind is great for sailing. The same cannot be said for cycling. Thus, cyclists’ hearts sink when they hear they will be cycling in a 40kph wind. Tell them to do that for 110km and they will growl. There was a lot of growling in the Argus cycle race today. Irene loved the tour round the Cape on the bike but would have preferred to use that wind for sailing. Rolf faithfully seconded.... a role at which he is really accomplished!

We are trying to find a self-catering type place that we can occupy until end April to avoid the constant packing and unpacking of our entire worldly belongings every few days. We need a base where we can unpack files and set up computers and printer to finish winding up the business, etc. and assemble a pile of equipment and information – everything from satellite phone, hand compass, navigation charts, medical kit and documentation, searchlight, tools, spares, repair kits, more spares, dinghy tender and outboard, EPIRB, handheld VHF, liferaft, harnesses, scuba tanks, spear gun, watermaker, more spares, drogue, various ‘ropes’ shackles and blocks, ships papers and certificates, etc. etc. – and all this before the final round of food, crockery, cutlery, pots, bedding, more food, etc that will occupy the first week after we actually get the boat.
First a week with friends to clear our minds – and then we will need to focus and apply ourselves to enjoying Cape Town for a couple of months!