Preparations for Big Crossing and Delay

We began on Thursday to do our final preparations to depart South Africa and sail across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean. We expect it to take over 30 days with a few days stop at St. Helena. Our route shows over 5500 nautical miles to cover, so this is a big one. Actually preparations started when we arrived in South Africa and spent over a month in the boatyard getting many things done on the boat. See route map below:

Route Plan

Route Plan

I had one high priority/critical path project left for the boat – a part for our hydraulic steering – the hydraulic ram – had been leaking, so on Thursday I took it to an engineering outfit called Hydron that assured me they could fix it with new seals by Friday, and provide me with new oil. Our plan was to leave on Monday, so this job had to be completed, which I explained to them. The engineering outfit were ready around 1:45PM on Friday, and they were closing at 3:30 – it being a Friday.

So, I drove up to Cape Town (a little over an hour), and arrived at 3:10 to find they did not have the oil. They said the place they used didn’t have a driver, and I would have to hurry if I was going to get there by 4PM when that company closed. So, they encouraged me to leave right away without paying, I rushed out to drive 45 minutes to West Somerset. Got the oil at 4PM on the dot, but was not happy with the run around (literally), and I didn’t get other things I had planned to pick up in Cape Town.

I got back to the boat at least confident I could get the critical steering job done. I took a look at the part and realized they had installed the main part that connects to the rudder backwards. Argh! So, we aren’t leaving on Monday. I’m going to have to wait until Monday to get them to fix the problem they created. Due to weather, we’ll be delayed at least until Thursday now. Grrrrrr. On the plus side, the pressure to be ready is greatly reduced.

Saturday I felt better after finishing a job that had been an annoyance for weeks. We had a malfunctioning pump that takes care of filtered water from our shower. It started acting up two weeks ago. I had tried to order a new pump – but, the pump is an old style no longer made. The new style is larger and wouldn’t fit into the box. So, I tried to repair the pump instead. It worked for a few days, but stopped again. On Thursday I disassembled everything, made some modifications and got the new style pump to fit. I had to wait a day for glue to cure that would hold it in place. Saturday morning I reassembled everything, hooked up the wiring, tested it, and then closed up the box and hose connections. Tested it with real water, and it works! That at least was satisfying.

Another good aspect to the extra days is that I should be able to process more photos from our second trip to Kruger. We had some great animal sightings, so I’m excited to see how the photos turn out and share them with you.

These kinds of delays are something you just have to live with sometimes with sailing. Despite months of preparations, you can have little things go wrong that cause delays. It’s better to delay when you get a critical part like something effecting your steering, navigation, or sails though. Boats today are ever more complex and require a lot of attention and care to keep running smoothly.

We know a couple of other boats who are leaving for this crossing at about the same time. So, we hope to be in radio communications with them and rendezvous in St. Helena.

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More Cape Town Sightseeing

Patrick and Ren

Patrick and Ren

Our daughter Ren and her boyfriend Patrick came to join us a couple of weeks ago. They flew into Cape Town, and after a long flight we took them back to the boat in Simons Town first. We had lunch in a restaurant on the coast overlooking the marina and they enjoyed the warm summer air, good food, and some live African music. Then they went to sleep on the boat for a few hours.

Top of the World (click)

Top of the World (click)

We spent almost a week in Cape Town doing the sights. First we took the coastline trip up towards Cape Town (which we did a few weeks earlier with friends from s/v Solace). Ren and Patrick were keen to do the hike up Lions Head and we had very good conditions so we made the attempt. I was proud to see Ren made the hike to the top with very little complaint. She has been exercising, and her boyfriend has been working out a lot during the last year. Table mountain was enshrouded in clouds, and the views were magnificent.
I took a 360 with Ren and Patrick in it and I generated a “little planet” projection of the 360 which makes it look like they are standing on top of the world!

Table Mountain View

Table Mountain View

We spent a day going to wineries, we went to see the Penguins in Simons Town, we went to the V&A waterfront and did shopping and had meals, we went to a Beer House in Cape Town to try local beers, and they got a taste of the cruising life joining in for dinners and drinks with sailing friends of ours. And, one of the highlights was our trip up Table Mountain. We ended up with a really perfect day – sunny and great visibility, and no wind. Make sure to see the pictures in the album below. We took the cable car of course, because the climb up the cliffs is crazy. Picture here shows Ren and Patrick with Cape Town behind from Table Mountain.

Patrick actually got a taste of “sea legs”. After sleeping on the boat the first night he felt a bit unsteady on the land the first day. But, probably the long trip by plane and sleep exhaustion had a little to do with it. We had hoped to take them out for a sail on Tahina, but the winds kicked up to 30+ knots so it wasn’t possible. The next day we were leaving to go to the Kruger Game Park – more on that in a later post.

The slideshow below gives you a taste of the wonderful weather, fun activities, and pictures of penguins.


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Last Days in Kruger

After our last days in Olifants and Letaba camps, which are in the north central part of Kruger Game Park, we needed to go to the south end of the park to Berg En Dal Camp. Since Kruger is so big, that was over 150 km away. Even further because we would take several side trips to see sights along the way.

Rhino stop

Rhino stop

We went pretty fast down the main road in the central area because there were few animal sightings there. Probably because the area was more arid and less vegetation. We stopped for lunch at a rest area where there were facilities, including a convenience store and picnic area, and had some lunch. We had our first rhino encounter on the main road which stopped all traffic for a few minutes. A male rhino was trying to get closer to a female who had a young calf with her and was having nothing to do with him. She snorted and chased him off several times before they finally got off the road.

Trisha close to elephant

Trisha close to elephant

We had a really fantastic elephant encounter after stopping on one side of a road and an elephant family decided to come around our car as they fed. One female was so close Trisha could have reached out and touched her!

Lion in bush

Lion in bush

We saw on a messaging app that lion males had been sighted only a few km away, so we drove out that way. As we arrived there were dozens of cars and trucks crowded on one section of road with a brush everywhere. We could just barely see the lions through a lot of brush. After waiting several mintues and trying several spots, we never got a clear view to take photos. The one here is about our best shot.

Rhino wallowing in mud

Rhino wallowing in mud

We finally got to Berg En Dal Camp and checked in. We had a really nice chalet-like lodging here which had lots of room for the three of us. After cooling down we went on a sunrise tour and our guide said he was feeling lucky. We hadn’t been on the road 10 minutes and we saw a rhino wallowing in mud, zebra, and close-up elepants! In the next two hours we had several elephant, rhino, giraffe encounters, and a variety of the other more common animals. But, our guide’s luck didn’t include any rarer finds like lions or leopards.

The next morning I went off for one last sunrise search and found a few animals, but we soon had to pack up to head to the airport so we could fly to Port Elizabeth and go to Addo Elephant Park.

The photo album below is a sample of the best photos from the rest of our time at Kruger. Please watch!


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Awesome Elephant Encounter

On our second day at Kruger, Karen and Trisha took a nap after our sunrise safari walk. I decided to take the car out on a drive and see what I could find. I found some kudu, a couple of giraffe, impala, and even a lone elephant or two across a river. I also saw a hippo out of the water in the heat of the sun (unusual). And I saw a crocodile and a variety of water birds. Then I tried another road near a different river. That’s where I had an amazing elephent encounter.

giraffeclosebyIt started with suddenly driving around a corner with some bushes to find two nearby giraffe eating some tree vegetation on the right side of the raod. I stopped and turned off the engine to take some pictures. They didn’t seem bothered by me and continued to munch. A couple of minutes later, they seemed alert and then started walking away. I wondered why?

Large female comes up

Large female comes up

I looked to the left of the road and saw an adult female elephant just a dozen meters away. Near her was a young elephant calf. It was too late to move the car. The two of them crossed about 10 meters in front of the car to the right side of the road. Then another even larger female shows up 5 meters away headed straight for the car! She saw me, and then stopped and non-chalantly ate some grass while three slightly older calfs walked around behind her. Then ANOTHER adult elephant appears.

Crossing in front of car

Crossing in front of car

At this point, I’m taking pictures with multiple cameras – and video. I’m gleefully snapping away and just stunned at how close they are to me. A little worried even. Then another adult, with a tiny baby calf, crosses behind the car a dozen meters away. Meanwhile, the big one next to the car, and her entourage, passes right in front of the car not 3 meters in front!

Tiny elephant calf

Tiny elephant calf

There were so many, it was hard to keep up with them all. They all wandered on the right side behind a large shady tree about 40 meters away. One of them came back out and started throwing red dirt with his trunk up on his back and head. Then more started coming back in front of the tree. A female came out with a VERY tiny young calf – not a month old I think – and it was wet. Apparently there was a watering hole there. It’s rare to get to see such a young calf like this.

I spent the next 20 minutes or so watching them as they congregated around nuzzling each other and corraling the kids and adults into a tight bunch. There was even a large bull – and I understand adult bulls rarely remain with the family groups. This was a close-knit family, but they stay bunched together like this to keep the young ones protected from predators. Several were throwing red dirt up on their backs. They apparently do this to protect their skin from the sun. It’s like sunscreen I guess.

It was a hot day, but these elephants knew where the shade and clear water was to stay cool. I was just entranced. But, I needed to leave to return back to my family. To see even more of this elephant family, see the photo album below. Someday I’ll upload the video that shows the moving action. It was awesome!


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Leopard Found

We went out for our first night tour during our stay at Olifants camp. We had to use spotlights as we drove the roads in the dark. After 3 hours, we had found a number of animals (elephants, impala, giraffe, owl and more). But, we all wanted to find something really unique like lion or leopard.

Leopard

Leopard

Frank suddenly saw a leopard not far off the road in tall grass! He told the driver to “STOP”, and everyone excitedly started looking and taking pictures. It had recently killed a hare and was having it for dinner, so it stayed there while we watched. I captured most of the action as it lifted the hare and moved to another position on video camera.

This was quite an experience as leopards are quite hard to find. They are very sly hunters, almost always alone, and have very good spotted camoflage. They are considered one of the “Big Five” and Karen and I had now officially seen all of them. Trisha, on the first day, already had two (elephant and leopard).

We were almost back to the camp at the end of the tour when we found the leopard (about 200 meters from the gate). The photos are taken from the video camera and are low resolution. So, not a lot of detail, but you can see it clearly. Check out the album below with 5 photos.


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African Safari Walk

Safari walk

Safari walk

On Christmas Eve Day, we took a sunrise safari walk with two guides from Lataba Rest Camp in Kruger National Park. This was the first time we have taken a walk out in the wild like this and it was quite stimulating. Our two guides each carried a large calibered rifle and told us to walk in single file behind them. We were also told to be quiet and do NOT run away if we encounter a large animal. The larger animals will usually run away when they detect us, they said, but if you run they will give chase and are usually faster than you.

We only had one large animal close encounter on our walk. We did see plenty of impala, zebra, and evidence (dung and tracks) of many other large animals (elephant, buffalo, leopard, giraffe, and more). We did see and hear many, many birds. Our guide was able to recognize pretty much all the birds, and had bird calls on his phone which he used to make the birds fly out. Birds are very territorial and would fly out to see who the intruder was.

Guide describing dung beetle

Guide describing dung beetle

Our guide told us about the dung beetle and how they will roll the dung into a ball and then plant a larvae of their young in one, then bury it in the ground. Some animals can find them and dig out the larvae for a snack. He also told us about spiders that burrow in the ground and teased one out for us to see.

During a break, a cape buffalo just wandered into view only 50 meters away. He suddenly got a whiff of our scent and bolted back the way he had come.

Our guides took us to the site of elephant bones, an almost complete collection. We were amazed how heavy the bones were.

On the way back, Trisha spotted a young impala laying on the ground. It was dead at the bottom of a small creek bed. Our guide said it looked like it was simply weak and perished from falling behind the herd. He was surprised scavengers hadn’t found it yet, and said it probably only recently died.

Here is a small photo album from the walk. A truly memorable event for us.


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Kruger African Safari Part 1

We have finally processed a reasonably small collection of quality photos from our first two days at Kruger National Park that are ready for sharing. This first album (at the bottom of this post) has a little over 60 photos and shows some of the best shots of the many different kinds of animals our daughter Trisha was able to see on the first two days. This collection does not include photos from our night guided tour (including our leopard sighting), or our two guided safari hikes. I’m saving those for later posts.

We started out the day by flying from Johanessburg, South Africa. Then picking up a car at the Nelspruit airport (the closest airport to Kruger). We were surprised to see that the local people near Nelspruit had a slightly higher standard of living and better housing during the long drive north before we entered at the Orpen gate on west-central part of the park. Kruger National Park is over 340km from south to north, and about 60km wide east-west in most places. It’s big!

Olifants Camp entrance

Olifants Camp entrance

Once in the park, we started driving to Olifants Camp which is where we stayed the first night. We had 4 hours or so before checkin time, so we started driving and looking for animals. By the time we arrived at the camp 4 hours later, Trisha had already seen gnu, impala, warthogs, giraffe, steenbok, zebra, teripen tortoise, waterbuck, leopard tortoise, elephants, and a huge variety of birds. Yeah, this park has a lot to offer!

Hippo mouth

Hippo mouth

As you will see in the album below, we saw even more animals over the next couple of days (including the crocodiles we shared earlier). Some other highlights seen were hyena, baboon, lots of hippo, kudu, rabbit, hares, more birds, and cape buffalo. Here’s a nice shot we got of a hippo with a big yawn.

Old baobab tree

Old baobab tree

We aso saw some fantastic scenery, including a famous old baobab tree in the park, sunsets, classic african trees and bush, rivers, creeks, and watering holes, and plenty of dirt roads.

Please take a few minutes to look through just a sample of the hundreds of photos we took in the first couple of days. Make sure to choose the full-sized version. We had some awesome animal encounters that will forever be imprinted on our memories.


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Crocodiles in Africa

Crocodile meal

Crocodile meal

The amount of photos we have to process for our 10 day tour of South Africa with our daughter has been overwhelming. This first sample of photos shows one event we witnessed while in a “hide” (a safe fenced in hut) on the edge of a river in Kruger National Park. One of the few opportunities we had to be out of a vehicle observing. We had been watching birds and hippos close to us. I decided to look further up river with a zoom lens on my camera and spotted some crocodile heads just barely visible (like sticks in the water). While looking, one of the crocodiles suddenly had a flurry of motion and I started taking pictures. He had caught a huge cat fish! Several other crocodiles moved towards him hoping for a bite, but he turned away from them and started gulping the whole thing down. He was a large crocodile – probably close to 3 meters (9 feet). The other guys were smaller.

Here are five zoomed in pictures showing the event. It was over 1 km away.


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2014 A Year of Travel Adventures

This year has been so filled with events that it has been very hard for us to document it thoroughly on the blog. There are so many places and things that happened, followed by even more things, that we simply haven’t been able to keep up with the same pace of blogging as in the past. I’ll summarize a few of the events with links to relevant links to blog posts at the bottom of this post. The map below shows a few of the highlighted places we visited, and you can look at our Tahina map to see the tracks of where the boat has gone.

Highlight Map 2014

Highlight Map 2014

We actually sailed over 8400 nautical miles this year. We also flew on planes many thousands of miles with Karen flying back to the states in late February for a graduation of one of our daughters from culinary school, a trip back to US for Thanksgiving, and multiple flights for tours in several countries.

We have had some real adventures with unexpected events mostly in the categories of broken boat parts and a couple of mistakes while sailing the dangerous waters of the Indian Ocean, but also while making repairs on land and traveling on land exploring new places and encountering wild animals and people. We also have rented more cars and motorscooters than in all the years previous as we attempted to range far and wide in Thailand, Mauritius, Rodrigues, Reunion, and South Africa. A fun-filled, and stimulating series of experiences, and also a lot of boat work which tried our patience and endurance. All this generated thousands of photos and a lot more video – of which only a small portion has been published.

Here’s a quick summary of the highlights of 2014 (with links to relevant blog posts – usually with photos):

  • Started out the year in Rebak Marina, Langkawi, Malaysia and sailed along with our Amel friends on s/v Kilkea and Callisto to Thailand with stops in Ko Lipe, Ko Lanta, and Ao Chalong. Later we sailed around Phuket and up the coast all the way to Ko Phayam near the border of Mayanmar. We continued with two months of sailing around these waters with awesome stops at Phang Gna and James Bond Island. We had adventures while sailing up the coast of Thailand and with my phone breaking, and riding around in Phuket on a motor scooter.
  • We decided not to go the northern route across the Indian Ocean, as I needed to have my last eye surgery in Singapore. So, we sailed back down to Puteri Harbor near Singapore. My eye surgery in late March was successful and my eye had great results. I have very effective use of the eye with good peripheral vision and vision correctable to about 20/40 in the center. It’s way better than even my doctor expected, who is one of the best doctors in all of Asia.
  • While healing from the eye surgery, we made lots of preparations for departing to cross the Indian Ocean. We made several trips to Singapore for provisioning and for follow up eye checkups. I went to the gym three times a week the entire two months we were in Puteri to get in good shape. We finally left on April 23 to begin heading southeast towards Sunda Straights through Indonesia.
  • We visited Krakatoa and the active Son of Krakatoa volcano islands in the Sunda Straights, after sailing (actually mostly motoring) from Puteri over 5 days, and we managed to get fuel in the area. We met up with new friends on s/v Gryphon II at the volcano.
  • After a 650 mile sail we made it to Cocos Keeling – a territory of Australia. We had some great times at Cocos Keeling, and our friends on s/v Three Ships also arrived while we were there. We had a lot of fun snorkeling and taking kite aerial photos with my Go Pro there.
  • Next we made the 2300 nautical mile trip to Rordrigues Island (part of Mauritius). We had lots of good times in the few days we spent there. Had some real adventures exploring the island by motorscooter, bus, and on foot. And photos.
  • After a 2 day sail to Mauritius, we settled in to spend over a month. We made some great friends on many other boats, and especially our new friends Paul and Gina of s/v Solace. We did lots of sightseeing as well. Many of the new boats we met had come from the Maldives or Chagos.
  • While in Mauritius, we changed our long-term plans and decided not to spend time in South America and get back to the US a year earlier (2015 instead of 2016). We had a little fueling adventure before we left.
  • We then sailed an overnighter to La Reunion – a french island with awesome terrain and fantastic driving, hiking, and French food! But, on the way we had a snafu with some sailing gear.
  • Next we sailed over to the east coast of Madagascar and checked in at Ile Saint Marie. We saw whales many times starting with our arrival. We sailed up to Diego Suarez (where we had a real scary moment during a wild sail there) and waited for weather, and then sailed over the northern tip of Madagascar to the west coast where it is more ideallic sailing. We had an awesome time sailing and exploring the west coast of Madagascar and saw whale sharks (almost hit one), lemur, and all kinds of other interesting animals. The people of Madagascar were realy interesting as well. Oh, and we had another gear failure/screwup and also caught a fish in a crazy way.
  • We needed to get to Richards Bay in South Africa early to insure we could get our arrangements for a haul-out arranged. So, we sailed to Richards Bay on a good weather window and it only took us 7 days for the crossing (see real summary here).
  • We spent over a month in the boat yard at Richards Bay and got most of the things on our list done. It ended up costing a lot more than I expected, and we had some issues with the boatyard which I’ll talk about in a later post. We also managed escape a few days our first Africa Game Parks – at Imfolozi and St. Lucia. We had an awesome time seeing the African animals! After we got back in the water, we went to test our hopefully repaired saildrive on the port side and had a real scare when it appeared to not work. But, that was amusingly found to be another easy problem to solve – read the story.
  • We celebrated having lived five years on Tahina since we left the US in 2009.
  • After our trip back to the US for Thanksgiving we immediately left to sail our way to Simons Town near Cape Town over 800 miles away in some of the most challenging waters of our circumnavigation. They call this the “Wild Coast“. We had a great stop in Knysna where we met up again with our friends on s/v Kilkea. We made it to Simons Town on the 11th of December.
  • Our daughter Trisha arrived in mid-December and we have been finishing up the year with visits to African game parks and awesome sightseeing around South Africa. More to come on all that in future posts.

Happy New Year!

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Safari Fun with our Daughter

Sorry for the lack of recent blog posts. Our daughter Trisha arrived on the 21st of December to Johannesburg, and we flew out to meet her. We have spent the last 10 days on a whirlwind tour of mostly African animals. We first went to Kruger National Park which is a huge park (about the size of North Carolina), and we stayed in the park several nights at three different camps (Oliphants, Letaba, and Berg-en-dal – which are in the central and south portions of the park). We saw a LOT of animals including all of the Big Five except for the black rhino. We also went on night tours, sunrise tours, and even walked in the wild with guides and armed guards on a real safari!

Then we flew to Port Elizabeth and drove up to Addo Elephant National Park staying in a B&B outside the park. We went on guided tours of Addo for 1.5 days. We saw two lions stalk and eat a young Kudu and got pictures (although it was over 1km away). We had some amazing encounters with elephants, leopard, Cape Buffalo, giraffe, hippos, and much more. We have so many photos I can’t pick and choose which ones to share.

Trisha Safari Fun

Trisha Safari Fun

Trisha is a big animal lover (she got a degree as a veterinary technician a few years ago). So, this was an experience of a lifetime for her. She had a great time at the parks as you can see in a few photos here.

After Addo, we drove our car rental all the way back to Cape Town and returned to Tahina in Simons Town. We stopped for a night at Aguhlas National Park in a beautiful beach house. There we got to stand on the dividing line between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, and we were at the southernmost point of South Africa. We will spend a few more days sightseeing in and around Cape Town before she leaves.

I will process and compile animal photos in the coming days and weeks and give you more of the exciting details of our park experiences then. Our other daughter is coming in less than two weeks, so we’ll be going back out to Kruger again. Tomorrow I’ll post a summary of 2014 with links to some of the best blog posts and photos.

Meanwhile, we hope everyone has a great New Years Eve and a wonderful 2015!

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