Nov 28 - A very busy day

I had chipped a tooth yesterday and finally found a Dentist who would see me immediately. This morning, we took the train to Fish Hoek, and Dr Kloppers (office number 021 782 1404) did a commendable job of using a composite to fill in the area and fix the problem. After, we ate lunch at the Beachcomber Restaurant, and returned the scenic train route back to Simon's Town to do some browsing along the shops lining the beautiful waterfront. In the late afternoon, we met with Sam (ZS1SAM) and his wife Marijke. Sam is the dedicated Amateur Radio enthusiast who runs the South African Mobile Maritime Net, and who provided us with weather summaries every morning (and some afternoons) on our passage from Madagascar to Richards Bay, then from there to here in Simon's Town, with assistance from Graham and others on the Net. His advice was spot on, and we came to rely on his interpretative skills. We had long looked forward to meeting him, and he and his lovely wife Marijke came over to the False Bay Yacht Club to get together. The conversation was lively, but was then interrupted by a waitress who brought over a couple of trays of hors d'oeuvres and we found ourselves at the book signing of a long time member of the FBYC who had just published a Commemorative History of the FBYC. To cap off that ceremony, the Club's cannon was set off, and Sue caught the moment perfectly from our vantage point on the bar's balcony. We later drove to nearby Dixie's Restaurant in Glencairn, where we had a very nice dinner. It was a wonderful evening, and we really enjoyed Sam & Marijke's company.
Pic: Cannon firing

Nov 27 - Happy Thanksgiving to all our family and friends!

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration aboard Infini. For me, the morning started with a brisk walk to a nearby barber for a long awaited haircut. Returning to the boat, preparations were well underway by Sue & Matt to get the 7 pound turkey in the oven (about the maximum size bird our oven holds), the artichoke dip made, and get the boat ready for company. Nine of us from four cruising boats enjoyed a holiday feast. Cor & Olga (sv Fortune), Dave & Mary Margaret (sv Leu Cat), Randy & Jenny (sv Mystic) and the three of us had turkey with dressing, apple sauce, cranberry sauce, whipped carrots, garlic mashed potatoes, string beans, fresh baked bread, chicken, and a huge salad. Desert was an apple crisp pie with yogurt topping. Everyone contributed to the feast and we were all stuffed. The weather cooperated, and we were able to sit in the cockpit as well as the salon to enjoy the food and one another's company. We all had lots to give thanks for this year, and tops on everyone's mind was the many blessings bestowed upon us by having completed safe crossings of the Indian Ocean.
For more pictures, check out Leu Cat's site:

Nov 25 - Simon's Town; the winds are howling!

It took exactly three days for us to get from Port Elizabeth to the anchorage just outside the False Bay Yacht Club. Most of the time the wind was E-ESE-SE but a bit variable in strength; the last 12 hours it was just ornery. Winds were sustained mid 40's with higher gusts, and I was very happy we had put that double reef in the mainsail; we had long since furled the headsail. I would have been even more happy if the mainsail had been doused and the storm jib was flying, but with winds so high, and seas running about three meters, turning from a very broad reach so that the main would come down was not a good approach. The boom was way out, the boat was surfing along at 8.5-9.5 knots and, thank God, the autopilot worked flawlessly. Surprisingly, the high winds lasted about 1.5 hours, before falling to a much more acceptable 25-30 knots. It was all good. The sunrise was beautiful and we made the anchorage in daylight (wind still mid 20's). After a few hours we received our berth assignment from the False Bay Yacht Club and motored into the marina. Fortunately for us, Dave (sv Leu Cat) was there to help with our lines or it would have been a mess with the winds doing their best to swing us into the neighboring boat. We now have doubled-up all our mooring lines, have visited the Yacht Club and Marina offices, and have met up with Cor & Olga (sv Future). Randy & Jenny (sv Mystic) have stopped by to welcome us; they're anchored nearby in the bay. Btw, we've now officially crossed the Indian Ocean, as Cape Agulhas is the southern most cape of Africa and this area is where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. A school of playful dolphins, and another of seals, welcomed us as we were abeam of the Cape Agulhas light; how cool is that?!
Pic: Heading to False Bay Yacht Club from our anchorage outside.

Nov 20 - Fuel Games

We've fueled up in the most remote places; some are easy to use the fuel hose at a dock; most you need to carry 20 liter (5G) portable fuel tanks to the pump, then back to the boat, then filter and decant into the tanks. It's often a 1/2 day to full day affair, and the trick, of course, is to get more fuel into the tanks than into the dinghy or onto oneself. Often, easier said than done. Today was one of the easier times. Dave of sv Leu Cat and I shared the cost of a rental car for the day. They're not running free taxi service around here, so after the cost of multiple runs to the fuel station, the cost of the rental car looked pretty affordable. We each toted our gas cans to the station, filled up, and returned to our respective boats and transferred the fuel to the tanks while the other person made a run to the station. It took each of us two trips to top off, but it's good to know we're set for motoring, if necessary, without worries during this upcoming leg to Simon's Town. In the late afternoon, we made a visit to one of the Spar supermarkets and picked up some last minute provisions. After, we drove to the Bridge Street Brewery, a local hot-spot, micro-brewery nearby the port. No museums or forts visited this trip; the cultural experiences will have to wait. Of course, many of us think drinking beer is a cultural experience, don't you know. For dinner, we ate at the Algoa Bay Yacht Club. The servings are large and the food delicious; a good choice for any cruisers coming this way. Tomorrow, we'll pick up the anchor we deployed off our port bow to hold us off the dock, hoist the dinghy, secure the fuel cans to the rail, and top off the water tanks. We expect to depart Port Elizabeth very early Sat morning as a favorable wind is forecast for passage all the way to Simon's Town. We'll report on the reality of this over the next few days.
Pic: Doesn't M look happy?

Nov 19 - Port Elizabeth

Apparently, the weather Gods and the weather gurus had a bit of a disagreement. The 136 mi distance between East London and Port Elizabeth was supposed to be an over-night passage with fair winds. Instead, it took us 35 hours. Lets see: that included head winds from the SW-WSW of 18-20 knots (not forecast), adverse current (not forecast), short, choppy seas (lol), and motoring just about the entire way (what else is new?). The good news is that we docked in Port Elizabeth before sundown, which is always a good thing coming into an unknown port. Two fishing lines trailed the boat; no hits. One of our tougher passages, mainly because it was so slow, and listening to the engine for so long wasn't expected.
Pic: Safely tied to the end of a very long, rickety pier; it's a long walk to the YC and showers.

Nov 15 - Off the boat

It took hours to recommission the Yamaha 15 motor. In the end, I rebuilt the fuel pump, stripped down the carb and thoroughly cleaned it, replaced the 6 gallon fuel tank pick-up unit, replaced the fuel bulb/hose assembly and replaced the two spark plugs! I told Matt he could work his way around the world being a small engine mechanic! After a bit of fiddling and adjustment, the motor started and we eventually dinghied over to the Buffalo River Yacht Club to check it out. The showers were hot (10 ZAR each) and the small, fully stocked bar was accommodating. On the TV, South Africa was playing England in rugby, and we, once again, tried to discern some of the many rules of that sport. The weather has been beautiful, albeit windy, today; I likened it to waiting for the hammer to drop; tomorrow is forecast to be overcast with high winds; temperature has been in the 60's F. While Matt and I worked on the motor, Sue did a bit of grocery shopping, going along with Dave and Mary Margaret with their friend Debbie (she and her husband Patrick live here) to see the local sights. In the evening, back aboard, we played dominoes (Sue won) and did a bit of reading.
Pic: We can watch the crew teams practice on the Buffalo River from our mooring.

Nov 13 - Happy Birthday, Matt!

We had a wonderful birthday celebration, but first some other details. When we first arrived, we had anchored near Leu Cat in front of the bridge nearby the Buffalo River Yacht Club. Holding is in thick black mud, but we, and Leu Cat, dragged anchor when a frontal system roared thru with winds topping 40 knots, and we both decided to check out the fore and aft mooring system found directly in front of the YC, alongside of us. By dinghy, we helped each other get our lines sorted and tied to the large orange can buoys fore and aft, and we're now in-line, fore and aft of each other. The buoys are rented from the YC at 50 ZAR/day, and as there is a strong weather system arriving tomorrow, we're more secure and comfortable on these YC maintained moorings. Winds are expected in the 40-50 knot range, for 2 days straight - Yikes! Btw, for those arriving here, a flight plan must be filed with the Port Police as well as Port Control. The Port Police have a one page form to fill out and hand in, but you may email same form to Port Control at OK, moving along to the afternoon...Dave was kind enough to pick us up by dinghy and the five of us had a really nice birthday dinner at Footprints Restaurant at Latimers Landing, about 100 yards away from our moored boats. Finding a spot to tie up the dinghy is a challenge but Dave had reconnoitered the area, and we tied up to a small, private dock and walked up the short ramp to Footprints. The food and presentation was good, and we can recommend this restaurant to others. After dinner, we watched another episode of "Game of Thrones." And to think, we had never even heard of that series (books and HBO TV) before our arrival in Richards Bay! So, Matt enjoyed a unique spot for a birthday celebration, a far cry from Orlando!

Nov 12 - East London

Pos: S33deg01.425min/ E027deg53.854min. The weather window was a very narrow one. We had two days to get into East London before gale force winds from the SW were forecast to arrive at 1800 UTC Nov 12 enroute and covering much of the coast around here. Note to self: next time, dive the propeller to ensure there's no growth; motoring out of Durban at 1630 hours was painfully slow; 3-4 knots. We had 260 miles to East London and several times discussed turning back to the harbor basin in Durban. I had spent hours, along with Dave from Leu Cat, filing a "flight plan," and visiting the marina office, Immigration and Customs. The thought of doing it all for naught, and having to go thru the same rigamarole again wasn't very enticing. Of course, a slow passage south along with weather warnings from Cape Town Radio just accentuated our discomfort. We called Leu Cat at 2200 on VHF. We were doing our 3.5 knots; they were doing 6.7 knots. Talk about getting more depressed by the minute... We were further offshore than they were; maybe they had found the Agulhas current ?; we certainly hadn't. Also, the expected shift in the wind to the NE at 2200 hours never materialized; it was 0230 before it filled in. Up to that time it was SE at about 15 knots, and we beat into it with the motor on. But, when it did turn NE, it came on strong. Wind in the 20's-30's was the norm all night; occasionally higher gusts got our attention also. We were running dead downwind, had a double reef in the main and the pole to windward, and had to do multiple gybes thru out the night. Our speed was consistently around 8-9+ knots, with the highest speed we noted 10.4 knots. The Agulhas current helped a bunch! It was becoming apparent that if we could maintain those speeds, making port before the SW'er hit wouldn't be a problem. And so it went. We entered East London and dropped anchor at 1030 hours, very happy to be here before the weather turned. We're all tired, but Infini and crew are doing well.
Pic: M & M putting up the storm staysail on the inner forestay. This was our weather most of the trip. Thank goodness the wind was from behind. We maintained 8 knots speed under bare poles for awhile, when we had a batten come loose trying to put a third reef in the main. We kept the main down for the remainder of the trip. We can see why they've given the name 'wild coast' to this stretch.

Nov 8 - Durban

The overnight passage from Richards Bay to Durban had a few minor hiccups, but hey, we hadn't been sailing for almost four months, since our arrival in Richards Bay way back in July. What can you expect? The weather window wasn't ideal, but I wanted light winds to get acclimated once again to being aboard, as well as give us some prep time for the expected somewhat heavier winds (20-25 knots) which were forecast to develop around Durban, just in time for our arrival. Well, the winds did indeed stay light, flukey and inconsistent, but at least we didn't get too much of the heavy rain and lightning we saw in the distance. In other words, we ended up motor-sailing most of the way, but, on the positive side, had a mid-morning arrival at the dock here in Durban and all is well. We checked in with the marina office, found out there is no reciprocity with yacht club membership elsewhere, signed a few forms with Immigration, and then moved Infini by squeezing her with a shoe horn into an available slip that will take a very calm day to get out of due to the proximity of other boats around her. One of the members of the Point Yacht Club, Bob Fraser, came over to introduce himself and invite us for a beer, so being the naturally courteous cruisers that we are, we took advantage of his kind offer, also dragging along our dear friend Gaye, who lives nearby in Mt. Edgecombe who had come down to welcome us back to her home turf. The PYC has the internet, showers, bars and restaurant areas the yachties use, so Bob's intervention was most timely and appreciated. Btw, we're berthed alongside Solar Planet (and a big thanks for their help with our dock lines!); Leu Cat is a stone's throw away, Rhythm is nearby, and some friends of ours we haven't seen for a while aboard Alumni are several berths away.
Pic: A landmark coming into Durban; the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Nov 5 - Preparation for departure

We've been here at the Zululand Yacht Club since July, and it's now time to head south towards Cape Town. There's lots of little details to take care of, a few amongst them: provisioning, filling the FW tanks, running the Perkins, doing the laundry, closing out our local chandlary account, washing the deck and cockpit, ensuring the windlass works properly, and filling out a "flight plan," which here, in Richards Bay, means making sure all bills are paid at the marina or yacht club you're at, ensuring all vendors are paid in full, and visiting Immigration, Customs and the Port Police. Their respective stamps go on a four page form, the aforementioned "flight plan," which then allows you to depart the port and go towards your chosen destination. In our case, we'll be using a short weather window to head to Durban, with plans to wait there until the weather once again turns favorable to head further south.
Pic: Matt playing a ball game with the crews from Gromit and Eros.

Nov 1 - Game parks

This past week we took a road trip to Hluhluwe-iMfolozi and Kruger National Parks. The animal encounters were first-rate, up-close and personal. The picture of this male lion was taken as he was lounging with two other males about 30 feet away from us! They were one of several lion sightings we had. There were also herds of elephants crossing the road directly in front of us, as well as a large herd of (we approximate) 500-800 cape buffalo which stopped traffic for about 30 minutes! The giraffes, zebras, and impala were kind enough to scamper across and not hold us up! We also saw white and black rhino, hippos, wildebeest, spotted hyena, wild dog, warthog, nyala, eland and kudu. Of birds, we spotted the lilac-breasted roller, magpie shrikes, crowned hornbills, weavers, African fish eagles, the tawny eagle, and the rare Verreaux eagle. These lists are not inclusive; the wildlife and birds were awesome! Sue enjoyed using our new Canon Power Shot SX50 HS camera, and has posted a Picasa album of our trip. Enjoy!