LINKS FOR THE YEAR 2003
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Log for the week of February 2, 2003 Mossel Bay by PS
6am Monday, we left Port Elizabeth. With an early start, we hoped to cover the 190 miles to Mossel Bay before dark on Tuesday evening. There isn't much current along this part of the South Africa coast, so doing 10 knots over the ground was out of the question. The shipping traffic seemed to stay offshore from our course. I didn't realize why 'til my midnight to 4am watch. Fishing boats were scattered hither and yon along our route. Amy had been dodging them all during her watch. They were well lit up, with lots of deck lights to attract fish, but didn't show up on radar till only five or six miles away. Needless to say, I didn't get any reading done. The wind never really picked up to an "Iwalani" breeze, so we motor-sailed the entire trip to keep our speed up.
Tuesday, at 3pm, we were in Mossel Bay harbor and headed for the marina. The wind was blowing southeast, so I headed for a slip on the lee side. This would allow us to head into the wind all the way to the slip. There were people on the dock waving us to the windward side. I aborted the lee side approach and squeezed between some boats on moorings to make a down wind landing. Not only was I not happy about a down wind landing, but also we were rigged for a starboard side tie-up that now would be port side. Aggg. Can you say "Chinese Fire Drill?" I held the tiller all the way to port and gave the engine full throttle. This is the only way to turn Iwalani in tight places. It's kind of a do or die situation, as you are either going to arrive where you planned, or you have 44,000 pounds of wood and concrete creating it's own berth. I got the bow started into the slip and thanks to many helping hands on the dock; we got in with only a slight scratch in my new paint job. That's why I use house paint and a roller instead of some expensive Awlgrip finish. We had caught up with boats that left Durban a week before us. It's strange how boats tend to "leap frog" on passages.
We spent Wednesday updating the log and exploring the town. Mossel Bay was a whole new face of South Africa. Whites outnumbered the blacks and Afrikaans was the primary language. We were told that walking at night was safe. Not so in Port Elizabeth. It turned out that the lady that was mugged in broad daylight in PE was Genevieve from Inamacas. We had first met her in Durban. Luckily she was not seriously hurt. While Mossel Bay was touristified, it still had a sense of age. So many tourist destinations are new and lacking tasteful architecture. Within walking distance from the boat we had a bakery that made "pain au chocolate", grocery stores, Internet cafe's, DVD rentals, a movie theater and a laundry service. High mountains surround the bay, long white sandy beaches surround warm water perfect for swimming-it looks like we will be staying here a while. And we have electricity at the dock, so we can keep the fridge cool without suffocating our neighbors with engine exhaust. We haven't had it this good since we left Coff's Harbour nine months ago!
The highlight of the week was to be a shark dive with Great Whites. I noticed a Polynesian catamaran in the harbor, sporting large cages on the stern. We arranged for a dive on Saturday. Amy was pretty excited because she always wanted to dive with Great Whites while she was safely in a steel cage. I think her love for animals was getting a bit carried away. What's wrong with cute puppies or cuddly rabbits? I went along as surviving observer, with no intention of getting in the water with a famous man-eater. Fortunately for me (I promised Amy's mother at the beginning of our circumnavigation I would bring Amy back safely) and not so fortunate for Amy, the Great Whites didn't show. Despite all the fish chum we trailed astern and thrashing of the plywood seal silhouette, they decided to take the day off. I was a bit surprised that the Great Whites didn't fit the typical animal-conditioning behavior. You would think that after 7 years of shark tours they would be there like clockwork. It turns out that not all that much is known about sharks; even their age is a mystery.
Sunday we drove to Knysna, 80km to the east. We wanted to hike in the woods and forget about the ocean. I hadn't hiked for more then a few hundred meters when thoughts of a cozy log cabin came to mind. Then it struck me that in a few short months we'd be back on land. Whoa, maybe I'm not ready. It's kind of the reverse to leaving. Returning that is. Maybe life on land wasn't such a panacea. Only time will tell. PS
Log for the week of February 9, 2003 Mossel Bay South Africa by APW
Sometimes sitting holed up in a snug harbor with thirty knots of wind from the wrong direction and rain beating at port lights hopelessly trying to find a way to soak dry bunks below, can be nothing short of a luxury. At the beginning of the week the temperature and humidity steadily climbed upwards, not quite approaching Durban levels, but still unpleasant enough to create the sweat stream. Once again Iwalani's crew had brought extreme weather to a here-to-for never experienced level.
We returned from Knysna via Oudtshoorn along an interior route hoping to tour the Cango caves, or at least ride an ostrich, but the heat sapped us of all energy. The most activity we could muster was to find a pleasant cafe that had cold drinks and big umbrellas under the shade of a giant fig tree in a limp rose garden. We ate springbok and ostrich meatloaf, while watching the petals on the standard roses turn brown in the heat. I had entertained a notion of becoming an ostrich farmer when we returned home, but the few experiences I have had with ostrich on my plate have made me reject that idea. I don't care how good it is for you- the taste doesn't warrant the loss of life even if you do get a few feather dusters and leather wallets in the process. It's obviously an acquired palate that needs to be stored in the brain's pleasure centers before the nose has a chance to smell a feather duster. The sad fact about ostrich meat is that its taste is remarkably similar to the smell of the well-known cleaning implement.
We left the coast driving up and over some spectacular mountain scenery to the plateau interior known as the Karoo. Here, homesteaders try and scratch out a living amongst some of the driest crumbliest land imaginable. Ostrich farms seem to outnumber beef farms almost two to one.
After we had returned to the land of koops, groots and winkels in downtown Mossel Bay, we spent time with a local woodworker named Jan who makes his own tools and was found early one morning studying Iwalani's deadeye's. He showed us a plane he had made which looked like it belonged in a museum rather than the floor of some wood working shop. I was most impressed even if these things are humdrum to Phil. His wife is a school teacher and we kept them occupied as guinea pigs for the new version of Phil's slide show, in exchange for their explaining about the history, people and current events of the South African Cape.
I had read in Nelson Mandela's biography that the colored people didn't support the ANC whereas the blacks did. This statement had me very confused and was sort of critical in understanding the book. I had been working myself up to the notion that any problems in South Africa were strictly black and white. Who are coloreds if they aren't black? The Cape coloreds are a result of the interbreeding probably from the very first Portuguese explorers with the indigenous San-type people. The result is a sort of coppery colored person really neither black nor white. Their main language is Afrikaans, not English. English people arrived after everyone else, resulting in the Boer wars- where the Brits and the Dutch duked it out. The Afrikaners are white, descended from Dutch people who arrived in 1650. The language they speak according to our Dutch friends is equivalent to a modern day person speaking ye Olde English. I have no idea if this is true, as I can't speak a word of either. Most of the blacks are Xhosas, not Zulus, who hang out mostly in the North. It's a real mish mash of races and people, much like the US, but with everyone speaking a different language. Jan pointed out to us that there really wasn't much difference between our two countries, in terms of when they were founded and the ingredients that were all put in the cooking pot. He had tremendous admiration for our country and wondered what led to such differences in achievements. I hadn't really thought about South Africa in this way before, but I think the main difference is having so many different languages within the same country. In order for a country to stand strong together they all need to be reading from the same page in the instruction manual. And that manual needs to be written in one language. Down here on the Cape, koops, groots and winkels are reluctantly being replaced by "buy, big and shops". Up in Zululand, they are going the opposite way and Richard's Bay is supposed to revert back to its original Zulu name.
That's it for this week. We are still waiting for our camera to appear-plenty to do in the meantime. I have finally compiled a final log for Stew, which was a difficult task as I miss him very much. We are trying to refinance our house before interest rates go up to fund Bush's war. Phil has been working on ebooks. APW
Log for the week of February 16, 2003 Mossel Bay by PS
Cape Agulhas 1 Iwalani 0. Just when we thought we had put the worst of the African Coast behind us, nature has its say.
We spent most of this week waiting for a weather window. It's 240 miles to Capetown. We were looking for an easterly for the first day, to get us around Cape Agulhas, then anything BUT a northerly to get us the remaining 130 miles. After stocking the larders once again, (food is cheaper and the stores are closer in Mossel Bay than in Capetown) we prepared to leave early Wednesday morning- like 4AM early. The window wasn't perfect. Easterlies were predicted for Wednesday and southerlies for Thursday till midnight, then a strong Northwesterly was due to hit Capetown. We absolutely, positively had to get to Capetown before Thursday midnight. Five boats planned to leave on this window. "Wildflower" left against 15 knot south-westerlies Tuesday evening. The rest of us waited until early Wednesday.
There was still a 5 knot SW wind at 4 AM. We motored into it at about 5 knots. At 10 AM, it picked up to 10 knots and didn't look like it was going to go SE. I saw the French boat sailing back and got a little nervous. Our speed over the bottom also dropped to 3 knots. Not good. At that rate, we would get to Cape Agulhas just in time for the NW wind to hit us on the nose. Ouch! We decided to wait until the 12:15 VHF coastal weather broadcast, from the South African Weather Service, to decide if we would turn back.
I called Fred (Peri Peri Radio) on the cell phone to find out the 4 meg SSB frequency (4435) for Capetown Radio. I wasn't having any luck reaching them on 6 megs. Fred suggested calling on VHF 16 to reach them. The South African coast is dotted with VHF relay stations. The only trouble is, as you move along the coast, the channels broadcasting the weather change and there are more then 10 channels to chose from. Because they only broadcast the weather forecast twice a day (1015UTC/1615UTC) and the area we were concerned with took up less than 30 seconds of the broadcast, I didn't want to miss it searching for the correct channel. We are certainly lucky in the US, where the weather is broadcast continuously on only 1 channel. After several minutes of calling, Capetown Radio responded on VHF 16. They told me to listen on channel 86.
The forecast was a bit confusing "Cape Agulhas to East London, south-westerly 15 knots in the east, but south-easterly 15knots in the west." Were we in the east or west? We were certainly closer to Cape Agulhas then East London, but we had south-westerlies building above 15 knots and no apparent change in the sky for a change in the wind. We also overheard, on the VHF, that the catamaran had turned back. He had called Easy Rider Radio on his cell phone and confirmed the strong NW on Thursday midnight at Capetown. We did a 180 degree turn and put up all our sail. After 8 hours of bashing into head winds and seas under power, it was a relief. This is what sailing is supposed to be. Wind at your back and the knot log ticking off the miles at 7 knots. It wasn't that hard to decide to turn around. We both enjoyed Mossel Bay. We arrived back at our berth at 4:30 PM. Amy was afraid someone might have taken our spot! Now we will wait until the next window. We won't be leaving until the wind actually changes to our favor. No more motoring into a head wind and hoping things will get better. Of the five boats that left, three turned around.
"Wildflower" and "Paloma" made it to Capetown before midnight on Thursday. "Wildflower" had an eight hour head start and "Paloma" had headed further off shore at the start, so was able to catch a fair current and make 5 knots over the bottom. We will be doing the same the next time we leave.
There was some excitement later in the week. Our friend Isi, a single-hander from Spain, was entering the harbor and having some problems. His roller furling jib, or should I say what was left of it, was blown to shreads. Not unlike the bits of sail you see on paintings of sailing ships wrecked on some forlorn and rocky shore. Amy and I "borrowed" an outboard dinghy from the "Shark" and motored out to help. Isi was trying to anchor so he could get his jib under control. There was enough sail remaining to make maneuvering impossible. The wind was pushing his bow around with every gust. I should also mention that is was gusting 20 knots from the south-west. (The wind never did come in our favor to get around Agulhas!) About halfway out, our outboard quit. In my haste to assist Isi, I had forgotten to open the tank vent and turn on the fuel. Duh! We rowed out the remaining 100 yards. By this time there was quite a crowd on the waterfront, watching the spectacle and possible disaster of Isi being blown onto the concrete jetty. Amy rowed the dinghy back to the dock, while I helped Isi. Single-handers have their work cut out for them when they get to port. As was the case with Isi, they don't get much sleep, so entering a harbor is a bit taxing. Isi hadn't slept for 36 hours.
By the time Isi and I had things under control, the local "rescue" team arrived. They almost swamped Amy with their high speed response. Four guys in wetsuits attempted to tie their "rubber ducky" (African for ridged bottomed inflatable) along side. I could see a disaster in the making, as lines were being strung every which way and fingers were nearly crushed. I tried to talk Isi into sending these guys back where they came from, but he decided they could use the practice. After several attempts to get Isi's boat a safe berth, they got him tied up next to us. We invited him to dinner and got to hear his story. He has sponsors in the Canaries and Spain. He uses an Inmarsat Mini-M to phone radio stations in Spain for live interviews, several times a week. He also updates his website every day.
Speaking of the web, my latest task has been to convert our logs into an e-book. You can download Microsoft Reader from www.microsoft.com/reader and then download our logs at www.worldvoyagers.com/iwalani/ebooks/index.html These are text only files that will also work on iPAQ PDA's with the hand-held version of Microsoft Reader. My son Ben has been doing the beta testing and has read 150 pages so far. Guess it's not as boring as I thought. I really like the format and it will allow people to have the entire log in a book like setting. This will be the direction our Book Orchard Press business will be going. Adobe offers e-book software, but we will be riding with Bill Gates unless the Adobe version starts taking a larger market share. Then we will offer both versions. If you have never seen an e-book, I encourage you to try it. Ben had the software on his PDA, but never bothered using it till now. He is really impressed. There are literally thousands of free e-books available, so I have been stocking up on them for our long passages. What a way to save trees. I am also working on a Microsoft PowerPoint slide show for the our website. If things work out right, you will soon be able to take a slideshow journey of our circumnavigation.
To keep my hand in the computer repair business, I am working on the Yacht Club computer, trying to get their electronic key software to work on their new hard drive. It seems the techs answer to the problem is to re-boot the computer to the old hard drive when you need to use the key software. Needless to say, this is not a very good solution, inserting and removing a hard drive a dozen of times a day! The key software is old DOS, so it's not able to find the serial port. I have some ideas to try. I'll let you know how I make out in the next log. Till then, "Cheers" as they say here in South Africa. PS
Log for the week of February 23, 2002 Mossel Bay to Cape Town by APW
The Indian Ocean is finally behind us. Toward the end of the week a high-pressure system sank low enough under the African continent to give us the fair winds we had been waiting for to get to Cape Town.
Earlier in the week, we finished up projects we were deferring until the Atlantic side of South Africa. Things you have to do for a long ocean passage: Checking the bilge pumps, thru-hulls, changing the engine zincs, greasing the autopilot, backing up all we had created on the computer and worst of all, provisioning. For some reason, I never inherited the shopping gene that is supposed to go along with people of my sex. Instead, I inherited an atavistic "squirrel" gene, which is infinitely worse. I tend to horde and hide, forgetting where and what I have been storing. This necessitated going through all our provisions to make sure things were in order. As an added bonus, I found the answer to why there were so many mini-moths flying about inside the boat- there was a whole weevil village living in the pasta under one of the settees. Yummy.
We gathered our spears and baskets and set off up the hill to the "Pick and Pay" for a hunter- gatherer mission. For too long we had been living off the petite fores and pain au chocolats made by the local bakery- "Doughy's" (which gets my vote for the best pain au chocolat in the world.) Iwalani had a fair supply of gummy worms and "V" soda, but not much else. It was a grueling mission, but it had to be done.
To counter the unbalancing effects of shopping, I spent one entire day repainting the inside of Iwalani. Three years ago, when Iwalani was still in the womb of the barn, I had taken my oil paints and done rose paintings on the settees to make her less like a boat and more like a cottage. They were never meant to be permanent. I had hoped to replace them with four paintings depicting her in four different spots around the globe. Out came the paints and off came the rose motif.
We had been accumulating several yachts in Mossel Bay, all waiting for the right weather to continue to Cape Town. Early each morning, an American-South African, a Swede and a cantankerous old Canadian bush pilot, met off of Iwalani's bowsprit to solve the problems of the world. Because the Canadian was as deaf as a topmast, the conversations were all carried out at a rather high decibel level. I am not sure they accomplished much, but it was entertaining eavesdropping.
When Saturday arrived clear and cool, with fair winds to Cape Town, everyone else took off like horses out of the starting gate. We waited until noon to leave, not wishing to arrive in Cape Town in the dark. It was just as well we left last, as we made a rather undignified exit trying to motor out of our slip. The wind had pinned Iwalani to the dock and she was not about to motor out backwards, turn, and head off bow first. With the aid of two locals offering assistance, but neither one dancing to the same song, Phil shouting, me dashing around with fenders and a splattering sound as one of the dock assistants fell flat on his face after he discovered he couldn't push forty four thousand pounds away from the dock, Iwalani decided she would take control and leave Mossel Bay ass first. Which, undignified as it was, (motoring out of a harbor backwards), accomplished the desired task.
We had motored the entire way down the South African east coast; it looked like we would be continuing the record to Cape Town. We finally got turned around the right way, once we had room, and headed off to Cape Agulhas under power once again. Gradually, the wind shifted to the south and we put up full sail. Iwalani was chewing away the distance between the other boats, all non-gaff rigged, as they were losing their wind when they fell in the trough of the three-meter southerly swell. "You just wait until the wind shifts twenty degrees and we can set our spinnaker!" a few boats radioed to us as we sailed by.
We had an entire ocean of white-sided dolphins join us, rippling and whitening the water around Iwalani; sucking our keel into the forward momentum of their undulating mass. A cormorant landed in the cockpit wondering what was for lunch. Fishing boats saw all the activity and began steaming toward us. Still, my pathetic fishing lure dragged behind, attracting anything but fish.
Sunday at noontime we rounded the southern most tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas. The sun was shining, the wind blowing twelve knots from the southeast. Penguins swam in the water. One albatross sailed by, wings outstretched, not one wing beat needed to make long slow loops around Iwalani. Rafts of seals floated by, one flipper raised in a seal salute, supposedly for thermoregulation, although I prefer the anthropomorphic explanation that the seals are waving to us so we yachties won't run them over. At times they would float head down, tail fins out of the water, for a few seconds. Again, supposedly for thermoregulation, or to see if a great white shark is around. (I cannot imagine that for the ten seconds or so, that these body parts out of the water, much heating or cooling is accomplished!)
After supper we arrived at Cape point, the true separation of the Atlantic from the crazy Indian Ocean. The wind was starting to pick up and Phil's parting remarks to me, as he headed off to sleep- "Don't let her gybe!"
We only had two boats ahead of us now- "Jenny" and "Spice" and several ships further offshore. I monitored everyone like an air traffic controller with our radar. Through the binoculars, I saw a ship ahead of us, with the Christmas tree configuration that gets my hands shaking- two white lights near the top of the tree and a green light and a red light at the lower corners. I saw him on the radar, half a mile opposite "Jenny". According to my mental math, he was ten minutes away from running us over. I got on the VHF to tell him our situation. We only had maneuverability to port, as we would gybe if I tried to head further away from him. The wind by this time was blowing a strong twenty knots, we still had all of our main up, plus the forward jib. Too much sail. The autopilot was slewing the tiller around trying to keep us on course. If the tiller stays right amid ship, I know we are balanced for the conditions. When the tiller starts banging around, we have too much sail up. The ship was ignoring my radio calls. Earlier in the day we had a fishing boat crawl up our rear end and pass us to starboard. Not a soul could be seen on the deck or in the pilothouse, as they passed by a mere hundred feet away. It was mildly amusing, but the sea conditions then were much calmer. During the day, near collisions only seem irritating, not life threatening.
I called "Jenny" on the VHF hoping they could see the name of the ship, but they said it was too dark, too far astern and Neil couldn't find his glasses. Phil, by this time had woken up and was trying to get the ship on the radio. I no longer saw the ship's green light. The white lights were configured the way they were supposed to be, but were incredibly high off the water. 'Forget it.' I said, 'He's altered course'. I turned the cockpit light on and shone it on our mainsail. Using the downhauls and most of our muscle, we got the sail down and put in the second reef. I had ignored a remark made by Phil earlier about putting one in. Our motto has always been "When you see celery, buy it, when you think 'reef'- it's time to put one in." It was entirely my fault not to heed our own credo.
The ship passed us leaving a gap of about two hundred meters. During the day I had seen another ship pass by, so fully laden with containers that I couldn't see how the captain had any visibility. There was no sign of the plimsel (sp?) line, the funny hieroglyphic marking on the side of a ship that shows the authorities how laden the ship is. In South Africa they seem to ignore those strange circles and lines, which may be one reason why ships get into trouble here.
When all the excitement was over, Phil headed back to bed. Because of the disruption in his beauty sleep, I gave him an extra hour. With two reefs in the main, we passed Jenny and Spice. Actually, "Spic" hove-to in the middle of the highway, with their sailing lights on and a cockpit light burning. They had more guts than me, as these crazy commercial ships out here had no qualms about adorning their bows with yacht rigging.
By one am, we had to gybe, otherwise we would have run into Brazil. I woke Phil up and we scandalized the main to reduce sail for the gybe. Because I was now dozy, I forgot to take down the leeward backstay. I usually take care of it and wrap it around the shrouds when I go forward to undo the preventer. As the big heavy sail swung around in an arc, filling with twenty five knots of wind, I saw it. Too late. THWACK! The sail swung right into the backstay, like a freight train playing the harp. It sent a shudder through Iwalani's hull and up our own spines. Nothing broke. Nothing ripped. We were lucky. Or so we thought, until we looked aloft and saw that the peak halyard had been scoring its own set of Murphy points and was wrapped around the crows nest platform. Using a jib halyard, Phil freed the peak halyard and we took the main down completely. At times like these, we think of all the other normal people in the world at home tucked under their covers, their big concern when going to bed, is what socks to wear when they wake up the next day. We were still going seven knots on the jib alone, which meant an arrival in Cape Town in the dark. The Indian Ocean was still clawing at our stern, unwilling to release us to the Atlantic. I went to bed.
At four thirty I woke up to the sound of the engine running briefly, then a hot stream of cursing, punctuated by the clinking sound of unwanted tools tossed around in Phil's toolbox. The wind had dropped off and when Phil turned the engine on he heard a strange tat-a-tat sound. It was the sound of a dying fan belt. He changed both belts on the alternator in less than two minutes.
For the first time in three years I was freezing. Not just a 'Boy it's cold' kind of cold, but a 'Shut the hatches, open the engine room door, where are my mittens?' kind of cold. Less than a hundred miles away, according to the Inmarsat, icebergs are careening around, calving off of Antarctica and moving northward toward their summer pastures. And then fifteen minutes later, the cold was replaced by a searing hot whisper of air blowing down from tree-less, buttressed mountains, whose tall spires had been lopped off by the scouring effect of a sculpting glacier; the crew-cut tops creating a chiseled militaristic look. Looming over all was the grand general of the pinnacled army, protector of the waters of the Atlantic from the insane waves of the Indian ocean- the famed Table Mountain. It is no wonder there are impressive storms here, such a variation in temperatures is bound to make wind, storms, or- could it be? For a second, the briefest suggestion, the tiniest whiff on the waves- I am sure I smelled it- Atlantic fog. And then I saw it. Low, gray, far off to the west. A fogbank. Not quite the same smell as Maine fog, but almost. Home is truly just over the horizon! APW