After a tearful goodbye we left la Réunion together with our friends from MILANTO and LOUMARAN. SEA LOVER waited for a crew member to fly in and followed after lunch. As usually on passages friends boats disappear very soon from the AIS because every boat has a different pace and routing but with MILANTO we finally found a buddy boat with very similar speed. We were able to talk to each other regularly on the VHF and once on a sunny morning we even got a short guitar concert from Lorenzo via VHF and we crossed. We sailed together the last day of our passage with 30 knots wind from behind and strong Agulhas current with us and the coast of Africa in sight. It was beautiful sailing and a special and unforgettable day.
We arrived in Tuzi Gazi, Richards Bay and were welcomed by our friends Rudy and Tom who crossed on MONFREID, our neighbour boat in La Réunion. They had left Reunion on the 1st of November. Also Alejandro and David from SEALOVER were there and took our lines. Unfortunately it was Friday afternoon and the PCR test could not be done before Monday. So we were not allowed to leave the boat and could not yet move to the Zululand Yacht Club where our friends from Réunion were. The waterfront was very busy on the weekend. Locals were strolling up and down the pier, taking pictures of the boats. Every morning at sunrise the monkeys came to the boats on the pier and were looking for open hatches to steal some food. We had been warned before so we had closed the windows and the companionway over night. On a catamaran they had found an open window and they managed to steal a few oranges before they were discovered and chased away.
A staff member of one of the waterfront restaurants was very clever. He brought us the menu and offered delivery to the boat. What a treat! On Monday we could finally do our PCR Test but unfortunately it took a while until we got the results. After that we had to go to customs and immigration to fill out some more forms… Mélanie and Romaric had rented a car and took us to the grocery stores. We had heard about the braai culture in South Africa and after we had seen the meat in the supermarket we understood why it was so popular. We have not had meat in that quality at such a reasonable price for a long time…
Finally on Wednesday we could move to the Zululand Yacht Club. There we met more of our Réunion friends again. Mélanie and Romaric were there of course, Fred, Rudy and Tom from MONFREID, Daniel with his crew Marcella, Alejandro and David from SEALOVER, Valerio and Lorenzo from MILANTO and Alain with his crew Jenny and Mia from TEC’HADENN. It was nice to be together again. There was also the Swedish boat DAWNBREAKER. Lars had flown home from Réunion and had the boat on the hard for most of the time there so we had met him just towards the very end of our Réunion time.
Richards Bay was a good starting point to go on safaris. There were a few nature reserves within a few hours driving distance. As South Africa had just opened his borders there were not a lot of tourists yet and the safari lodges offered discount rates. Together with MILANTO, LOUMARAN and SEALOVER we had booked a stay in the Rhino Ridge Lodge in Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve. It is the oldest proclaimed reserve in Africa. Still very wild with a size of 96000 hectares. The last half hour of the drive to the lodge led through the reserve. We already saw some zebras and impalas. The location of the lodge was a dream. It was on a hill looking over the nature reserve With the binoculars you could observe the rhinos and zebras drinking at a waterhole. There was always a morning safari with a coffee break and an afternoon safari with sundowner drink on a beautiful view point. It was beautiful! We saw lots of warthogs, zebras, impalas, nyalas, rhinos, girafes, wildbeests and elefants. Our guide was very experienced. He was very good at spotting also the smallest creatures like leopard turtles along the road, baby crocodiles in a creek or a dung beetle rolling his huge ball of dung to create the perfect home for his future family. He also knew a lot about the plants. He tried hard to show us a big cat like a lion or a leopard. I always had a sharp lookout too if I would spot a sleepy leopard on one of these beautiful amarula trees… but no luck. But also without seeing any wildcats this was a unique and unforgettable experience. After three nights we drove to St. Lucia and visited the Isimangaliso Wetland park there on our own. You think twice when there are some rhinos or buffalos close to the driveway. Should we stop or should we try to pass slowly… or maybe turn around…. it is very different to drive by yourself a normal car and pass these powerful creatures than sitting in a safari jeep with an experienced driver and ranger. These people know so much better how to read the animals signs. But nonetheless we had a great day in the park and in St. Lucia. We stayed at the Urban Glamping tented village which was a lot of fun. The staff told us to lock the tent because of the curious monkeys… and indeed there were a lot of them all over the place. It was fun, to watch these clever mammals from the veranda of our tent. The following day we were heading back to Richards Bay.
If you want to sail around the Cape of Good Hope you have to be patient and wait for the right weather window. There are just a few stops on the way where you can hide. The wind is usually blowing full speed North or South and changes direction very quickly, which makes the weather windows very short. There is also the strong Agulhas current pushing South. You absolutely have to avoid having the current against the wind as this can produce high standing waves.
To make things short the passage to Durban did not get very high ratings among the crew but we made it in time to Durban before the wind was turning again. Valerio always said it is not a pleasure cruise it is a delivery that is how you should see it!
Durban is not a very nice town. People told us it was nice once but now it is very rundown and even on the short way from the marina to the Durban Beach Front we did not feel very comfortable and safe. We were really just waiting for the right weather to head further South. If possible we wanted to skip East London and sail directly to Port Elizabeth. We wanted to visit the Addo Elephant park from there as it is very close and in addition we wanted to visit the parents of a former colleague from work from André. After 4 days we left Durban and really got a window that took us all the way down to Port Elizabeth. MILANTO and SEALOVER were with us, LOUMARAN decided to pull into East London. More boats of the Reunion fleet followed early next morning like Mélanie and Romaric on REDER BRO and Niklas on HAFSORKESTERN.
The marina in Port Elizabeth is in very bad condition. The pontoons are all moving around a lot and the wind blows all the metal dust from the iron ore storage just next to the marina on the boats. And of course there is a lot of wind and therefore a lot of dirt. Because of that you can not really sit outside in the cockpit and downstairs you get seasick because everything is moving. For the boatschooling we moved to the nearby restaurant on land and most of our cruising friends were there too because of the same reasons. It is a DELIVERY we were once again reminded from Valerio… But in spite of the bad maintained marina we had a nice lunch at Donald’s parents place and a great day in the Addo Elephant park together with Mélanie and Romaric.
Our next planned stop was Knysna. The entrance is only doable in settled conditions as it is narrow with dangerous rocks on both sides. It looks spectacular and beautiful but you have to pay attention to get your bearings right. The Knysna Yacht Club is one of the most welcoming Yacht Clubs in the world and definitely the best Yacht Club in South Africa. They let us stay at their dock at the prime spot, free of charge and even brought us a wooden staircase (normally only the superyachts have those)! What a treat after the rocky pontoons and howling winds in Port Elizlabeth! We felt at home immediately. There is a nice restaurant in the Yacht Club, a lively bar and even a small playground just around the corner and the view over the Knysna lagoon is fantastic. Welcome back to the cruising mode… the delivery was done – not yet around the cape but it seemed at least the worst part of it.
While MILANTO and SEALOVER soon wanted to move on to Cape Town we decided to stay a little bit longer. André had found a paragliding school in Wilderness where he could do his licence and I made a few beautiful excursions with the girls. Lars and his crew from DAWNBREAKER asked us if we would like to join them on a excursion to Plettenberg. We visited together the huge free flight bird santuary “Birds of Eden” and the Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation & Awareness Center. Both places we can highly recommend.
Of course we also wanted to see where André was doing his flights. One day we accompanied him to Wilderness and Mélanie and Romaric joined too. We had a great had a great day at on the beautiful beach together and joined André later in the afternoon to watch him paragliding. As the monitor asked me if I would like to come on a tandem flight I spontaneously said yes. It was really beautiful and I could understand André’s excitement about the paragliding there. You fly alongside the cliffs and you can even spot the dolphins in the clear blue sea!
The amazing thing when you travel with kids is that they make new friends in no time. On Friday, 18th of December, André was back from paragliding and had to do some work on the boat and I went off to do some laundry. When I got back late afternoon Jaël was all excited telling me they got two new friends and as I stepped on the boat there was a woman in the cockpit I had not seen before. She introduced herself as Silvana and was mother of two boys, Michael and Gregory same age as Amina and Jaël. Her boys were invited at a kids birthday party on the Yacht Club terrace. Jaël and Amina were hanging around and kind of joined the party. They told the other kids that they live on that blue sailboat and had sailed all the way to South Africa. So Silvana (she has Italian roots) of course wanted to know if this is all true and asked them for a boat tour…. and there she was 🙂 her husband Warren joined, we offered them a drink on Mirabella. Later on we all moved by dinghy to their holiday apartment for a BBQ. They were from Johannesburg and spent their Christmas holiday always in Knysna where Warren’s father lived. They invited us over to a big family lunch at Warren’s uncle’s place. It was a beautiful afternoon with a lot of laughter and fun. Thank you again Warren and Silvana for inviting us! And of course thank you Jaël and Amina for chatting up these nice people!
As most boats of our Reunion fleet were already in Cape town and we wanted to spend Christmas with them we thought it was time to move on. André had accomplished his paragliding pilot licence and there was a good weather window ahead. On the 21st of December we passed the heads of Knysna and left for Cape town. We rounded the Cape Agulhas, the most southern point of Africa the following day in settled conditions. What a mile stone of our journey! We arrived in Cape town on the 23rd of December. One of these moments that I will never forget… arriving in Cape Town on our own sailing boat, seeing the famous Table Mountain in the morning sun.
We decided to stay in the V&A Waterfront Marina as you can discover the town on foot. Andre’s sister Karin was supposed to visit us and therefore it would be much easier to explore if we do not need a car. The other option would have been the Royal Cape Yacht Club which is less expensive and very cruiser friendly with a nice BBQ area. But it is located near the industrial harbour area and from there you do not get anywhere without car. The location of the V&A marina is simply unbeatable. It is well protected and very calm. From the boat you can watch the sealions swim around and at night you find them sleeping on the pontoons. Within a short walking distance you can reach supermarket, shops, restaurants and also a playground.
Our French friends from Reunion were all in Hout Bay so we spent the 24th of December there together with REDER BRO, SOLEDAD, MONFREID and TEC`HADENN. The 25th December we celebrated together with the boats who were at the V&A Marina, like MILANTO, SEALOVER, LOUMARAN, SEABISCUIT, OSPREY and ANNA CAROLINE. As the Covid-19 cases were rising the gouvernment implemented a night curfew and selling alcohol was prohibited in restaurants and supermarkets. Normally we would not have cared about the ban on alcohol but being in South Africa with all these great winerys and not being able to go on a winetram in Stellenbosch was a bit of a shame… Most of the restaurants closed earlier as everyone was supposed to be home at 9 p.m. But during the day everything was open, so no need to complain.
One day André took the kids to go climbing near Hout Bay with Charles, Fanny and Tom. We arranged to meet at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in the afternoon. Mélanie, Romaric, Charles and Fanny would join for a visit too and I would take the kids while André would go back to Mirabella. I had a nice city stroll in the morning, I walked to Greenmarket square, the Company’s garden and the Bo-Kaap area. Cape Town is a beautiful town with a lot to discover. The history lays still heavy on it though and you still rarely see black and white people together. Too many things have happened and still happen. The call for redemption was so loud that now things seem to turn the other way around which is not good either and will only cause more hate again. You can not make things undone but you can learn from mistakes. It is never good to legally favor a group of people. I do hope that South Africa will find a way to solve these difficult conflicts. Naturewise it is a beautiful and very rich country. We cought a glimpse of that beauty in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. The location is a winner already and the variety of protea flowers (South Africa’s national flower) is incredible. On New Year’s eve we made a small get together with all the cruising boats in the Waterfront marina. By the our French friends were all in the Cape Town Yacht club and because of the curfew we could not celebrate all together. Instead we made a BBQ at the Yacht Club early January.
Karin had booked a flight to come and visit us in Cape Town but things had become quite complicated with the new South African variant of the virus. Her flight was firsts cancelled, then put back on schedule and finally postponed by a day. We could hardly believe, that she managed to come and visit us in these circumstances . But there she was – she arrived on January 1st! The last time she stayed with us on the boat was from Niue to New Zealand in September/October 2018, that was a while ago. So nice to have her back again. André managed to rent a car for a few days so that we could also explore the surroundings of Cape Town with her. There were plenty of things to do and see . One day we drove to Simons Town. It is famous for it’s colony of African penguins at boulders beach. This picturesque area, with enormous boulders dividing small, sandy coves is home to a colony of some 3000 African penguins. Fascinating to see those funny walking creatures that close. They can make quite a noise…
On another day we booked the Cape Canopy Tour near Grabouv. We left Cape Town early morning and had a late breakfast at a cool Sunday market, the Elgi n Railway Market. There was a big selection of delicious food stalls located in a beautifully restored old apple warehouse. What a great start into a beautiful day. We continued our drive to to the Canopy tour location. We got equipped with helmets, harnesses, gloves and the zipping device. A 4×4 jeep took us on a 45min. mountain trip to the starting point of the Canopy tour. All in all there were 11 slides and a suspension bridge all beautifully hidden in the mountainous scenery. It was a lof of fun and we would highly recommend it!
The Elgin Railway Market is just one of many cool weekend markets in and around Cape Town. In the waterfront area there is the Oranjezicht City Farm Market. It is a great location and the perfect way to start a Saturday or Sunday. There is a huge variety of food stalls and it is difficult to make a choice. The Old Biscuit Mill is another cool place we visited one weekend. Valerio was with us that day and there we met Maurizio and Catherine, who were selling delicious salami on one of the numerous market stalls. Maurizio is Italian and if an Italian sells salami you can be sure that it is really good! We bought some for our next passage and Valerio exchanged phone contacts and invited them over.
While Karin was still with us, André and me could go on a hike together without the kids. We normally wanted to hike up Table Mountain but unfortunately there was too much wind that day so we decided to hike up to Lion’s Head instead which offers a beautiful view on Cape Town too and you can walk down Signal Hill afterwards, where they still shoot the gun at 12 o’clock midday. Karin had to head back to Switzerland after 8 days. We had had a great time together!
Maurizio and Catherine visited MILANTO and came to see us on Mirabella as well. We suggested to go on a hike all together and Maurizio and Cathering picked the hike to Suther Peak. What a great choice. There were some friends of Catherine joining as well and so we met Nina from Geneva, Elena, a very experienced sailor, and Sylvie, an English Teacher. It was an unforgettable and beautiful hike with stunning views. Nina and Sylvie wanted to see our boat as well, so we invited them over another day. Maurizio and Catherine joined as well and also Alessia, who had two kids, Aline (10 years) and Conrad (8 years). It was just great to meet all these people. The longer you stay at one place the more connections you make and the harder it gets to leave. Alessia invited us over at her house (by the way a really cool house) and the kids had a lot of fun to play together in the pool and in their tree house.
Our friends from SOLEDAD; REDER BRO and MONFREID had already left for Brazil early January. St. Helena whose borders had been open all the time suddenly closed the borders because of the spreading South African variant of the virus. What a pity! We had been looking forward to stop on that interesting island in the middle of nowhere… Frank from MAXIM had decided to sail directly to Martinique, many others decided to stop at the northeastern tip of Brazil. Cruising friends recommended us a marina in Cabedelo where they would let us in even if Brazil was closed. We were not yet ready to leave. André had helped Valerio with his engine problem and after what he had seen there made him think that maybe he should take a closer look on our engine as well…. It is like opening Pandora’s Box… What he discovered was not so good. The turbo was completely stuck. To get the turbo cleaned he litterally had to take all the engine apart. A quite adventurous thing. Luckily he found a good Diesel engine specialist, a very relyable guy named Werner (with German roots) who could clean all the parts. It was a challenging two weeks project. But at the end André had put all the cleaned parts back together and the engine worked! Well done Captain!
While André was busy with the engine project we focused on boat school and bicycle practice. Very close by there was a bicycle rental where. We went there several times in the afternoon and rented a bike for one hour. It was not a very busy area and Amina and Jaël could do rounds and practice their bicydle skills. At the beginning I had to hold Amina and run along with her but she quickly made progress. At the end she just needed a little help to start. We also went on a short bike tour in Stellenbosch, that was fantastic. There André rented a shadow bike for Amina .
As soon as the engine project was finished we were getting ready to leave. We ordered some first class parmiggiano and more salami from Maurizio for the passage which lasted by the way until Antigua and was a real treat! Best cheese on board since a long time!!! Thank you Maurizio! Nina brought us some Ragusa chocolates and Jaël and Amina got two heart shaped boxes with Lindor chocolates from Maurizio and Catherine which they both kept like a treasure. Before we left we had a lovely dinner at Maurizio and Catherine’s place and farewell drinks with all our cruising and Cape Town friends on LOUMARAN. When we left Cape Town for Brazil we even got escorted by MILANTO with Lorenzo singing a farewell song. It had been a lot of fun cruising together. MILANTO, LOUMARAN and SEALOVER were not ready yet to leave beautiful Cape Town and we where not sure if and when we would see each other again. Thank you South Africa for a wonderful time!