Scenic Drive to Cape Town

Panorama of False Bay

Panorama of False Bay

On Sunday our friends Paul and Gina of s/v Solace invited us to a scenic drive up the coast towards Cape Town in their rental car. The destination was ultimately Signal Hill, with stops planned along the way including lunch at Hout Bay. The weather was gorgeous, with clear sunny skies and it wasn’t too windy along the shore. We stopped many times along the way for scenic views over False Bay, the coastline, Long Beach, the lighthouse, the scenic overlook of Hout Bay on Chapman’s Drive, and more. Chapman’s Drive is carved out of the rocky cliffs and at one point goes under part of the rock with large man-made buttresses holding up the cliff above the road. The photo here is a panorama of False Bay with the marina and Navy base on the right.

Hout Bay

Hout Bay

At the scenic overlook of Hout Bay, I took the first 360 panorama. This overlook is really beautiful – you can see “The Sentinels” (huge rocky hills west of Hout Bay), the rugged coastline, and the entire Hout Bay. The photo here shows Hout Bay from the lookout.

Next we drove through Hout Bay to the Bay Market which has arts and crafts and lots of eateries. We went over to the fisherman wharf side later and found a fish restaurant for lunch and enjoyed the beach view while eating.

Cape Town and Table Mountain

Cape Town and Table Mountain

We continued to enjoy the views north along the coast as we approached the south side of Table Mountain and Lions Head. We went to the Lions Head and Signal Hill road where we got our first view of Cape Town and a proper view of Table Mountain as well. We then drove on up to Signal Hill for wider views of the area. The picture here shows a panorama of Cape Town and Table Mountain from the road.

Lions Head lookin south

Lions Head lookin south

Gina and I were itching to hike to the top of Lions Head (our trail is from lower center going up to the right). A 2+ hour walk up and back with some climbing required. Paul and Karen both have trouble with climbing, so they kindly offered to wait for us in the car. Lions Head is almost as tall as Table Mountain, but with spectacular views of the city and coastline as well as Table Mountain. Gina later said the views were better than Table Mountain. We took the trail from the ridge towards Signal Hill and through the NW side of Lions Head which recently had a fire. We took a lot of photos on the way up.

After a short break on the shady side, we began the final stage which involved some climbing – but they have ladders, handles and chains available for safety. We were pretty tired by the time we reached the very top, but were so excited by the views we were distracted. I immediately climbed a pedestal rock that is the highest point and took the first of several 360 panoramas from there. The photo below is one of the better wide-angle panoramas. We spent a while taking photos in every direction and enjoying the views. But, soon left to begin the hike down to return to our spouses.

Cape Town wide-angle

Cape Town wide-angle

After our faster walk back downhill, we started in the car back towards Simons Town. We took a slightly more direct path back with fewer scenic views and were back in time for happy hour at the yacht club. A fantastic day!

Check out a small sample of the many awesome photos we took during the day. Later I will post links to the six 360 panoramas. It took two days to process the photos, which is why this post didn’t go out sooner. You can definitey see why Cape Town is a very popular place to visit!

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Arrival to Cape Town Area

We left on Wednesday at the crack of dawn from Knysna intending to make it to the marina in Simons Town where we plan to keep the boat while we visit the Cape Town area for the next few weeks. The winds were forecasted to be light and the seas pretty smooth for this trip. And that’s exactly what we got. We had to use more fuel on this 1.5 day trip than we used in any one trip for the entire time we crossed the Indian Ocean. The reason is that we had a reservation at the marina and they are completely full. So, we didn’t want to miss our reservation. So, we couldn’t afford to wait for a better weather window.

Knysna 500

Knysna 500

A few interesting things to note from the trip. The night before we left, we met the owner of Knysna Yachts – a company which makes a quality South African catamaran. They have just started building the Knysna 500 – a 50 foot cat similar in size to Tahina. He told us he modeled his company on the quality put forth by St. Francis (our boat’s manufacturer), and in fact has raced our model before. He was quite enthused to find out that we were leaving the next day at the same time as one of his boats who were also leaving for Cape Town. Until he found out the forecast was for non-sailing conditions and so a race wouldn’t have much meaning. The picture here shows the Knysna 500 we traveled with about a mile away.

Dolphin fishing

Dolphin fishing

As we were motoring up the coast, a pod of dolphin (along with a lot of sea birds) were giving chase to some fish. They almost came to Tahina, but either the fish dispersed or the dolphin grew tired because they dropped off before reaching us.

We had a nice bright moon for much of the night which made the watches at night a little easier. There wasn’t much to see really except the stars and water, except for the ships going by in the night in the shipping lanes around the bottom of Africa. We knew the ships were there anyway with our AIS system which shows the position of all commercial vessels within 30-50 miles typically.

At 3AM we passed Cape Agulhas – the southernmost point of Africa and the official end of the Indian Ocean and beginning of the South Atlantic Ocean. It was a momentous occasion, but we put off the celebration given the late hour. I did post about it on Facebook. The Indian Ocean was the most consistently challenging Ocean that we’ve travelled around the world. So, we are glad to have it behind us. It wasn’t especially bad, but we needed to have good sailing skills, good weather skills, and a lot of patience, to successfully cross it.

Spinnaker pano by phone

Spinnaker pano by phone

Our motoring successfully allowed us to keep up the speed to allow us to arrive at Simons Town during the day. Even better, during the last four hours the winds kicked up a notch and we were able to put up our spinnaker and sail it for part of the way. I took this panorama with my smartphone and was surprised the stitching software could do such a good job considering how much the boat moved. As we entered False Bay, the winds changed direction around the nearby mountains which forced to to drop the spinnaker and use our normal sails. Still, we were going 9 to 10 knots for the final run.

Along the way, we were in communication with the marina. There was someone occupying our slip at the marina, and they had to find the skipper to get him to move the boat. We ended up having to wait about 15 minutes in the anchorage area until he moved out. Then we were able to move into the marina. Our friends on s/v Solace came over to help the linesman from the marina. And a couple of other yacht skippers lent a hand as well. The slip they gave us was just barely wide enough. There’s a small monohull occupying the rest of the space and we had to put out fenders to keep ourselves from touching it. There were some breezes blowing while I tried to park, and I eventually realized backing up the slipway and then turning into the spot backwards was the best way to get us in there. Thank God both our saildrives now work again or this would have been a real pain.

We joined our friends from Solace and s/v Gryphon 2 for some drinks at the marina bar in the evening and we toasted goodbye to the Indian Ocean properly. Then we went out for dinner and had a good time catching up with the travels of our friends. Below is the map of our location now and you can see Cape Agulhas to the bottom right:

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360 Panoramas of The Heads at Knysna

During our visit on Monday, I took two 360 panoramas while at The Heads located in Knysna, South Africa. This dramatic entrance from the ocean to a safe harbor up a river is through two large rock cliff rocks with lots of hazards to the unwary boater trying to pass. In the first 360, I was standing next to the first of two important navigation markers which the navigator uses to line up to the proper approach. We used these markers ourselves just a day earlier when we came through the entrance on Tahina. You can also see to the east of this position a red canvas pyramid-shaped roof which is home to the East Heads Cafe where we had lunch just minutes before the photos were taken. The west side of The Heads (across the water) was enshrouded in some fog making for an interesting effect over the cliffs. Make sure to click on the “Full Screen” option to see these 360 panoramas in all their glory. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard or the mouse to move your view around.

The Heads at Knysna Nav Marker

The second 360 panorama was taken a hundred or so meters closer to the entrance to seaward. I was standing on some rocks (which you can see by looking down) at the end of a nice path leading to the rocky edge before the waters of the pass. You can see the way we came in through the pass, which sometimes has breaking waves coming through if you don’t time your pass when the swells are down and when the tide is coming in instead of clashing outward with the waves.

The Heads at Knysna

Hope you enjoy these photos half as much as I do taking and processing them.

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The Heads at Knysna

Webcam of Knysna entrance

Webcam of Knysna entrance

This post shows photos from our entrance into The Heads at Knysna. From the dramatic photos below, you’ll see why this is such an attraction. You can also see why boaters are very cautious about entering this dangerous looking place. As mentioned before, there is a webcam view from a close-by restaurant which shows the conditions at the entrance. This is very helpful for boats arriving to see whether the waves are breaking over the entrance. The photo here shows what the entrance looked like a few minutes before we went through. In the slideshow below, you will see photos as we approached and went through the entrance – taken by Karen (I was busy driving the boat).

As mentioned we met up with David and Marian of s/v Kilkea, and went ashore a few minutes later to the charming waterfront area behind the Knysna Yacht Club. There we had a nice lunch and later had a surprise encounter with some other yachties (see previous post). That night we went to the yacht club and had a nice BBQ (they call it Braii) potluck and ate in the club dining hall.

Pano of The Heads

Pano of The Heads

The next day, we piled into a taxi with the crew of Kilkea and went to visit The Heads as tourists. We ate lunch at the East Heads Cafe where the webcam is located. After an excellent lunch, we walked along the shore and took lots of dramatic photos. I also took two 360 panoramas which I’ll share properly later. But, here’s a photo to whet your appetite of the spectacular views we had.

And here is the photo album to give you a full taste of The Heads at Knysna:

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Stopping at Knysna

As mentioned in the previous post, we were having a wild ride down the south coast of South Africa. We left Richards Bay on Wednesday morning. The South African coast is notorious for being a challenge. After we “parked” the boat during some contrary winds for a night, we got up at dawn and continued moving. Karen was still not feeling well, but we needed to continue moving. The motion wasn’t as bad in daylight, and the winds had eased a tiny bit. But, it took a few hours before the forecasted wind change which finally settled the seas. Then we were riding in the strong Aghulas current and were making 11-12 knots average for several hours in much more comfortable conditions.

Our route to Knysna

Our route to Knysna

Unfortunately, at about sunset, the winds died as forecasted. We ended up motoring through the night and into the early morning light hours as we passed Port Elizabeth. At least the seas were pretty flat. We were headed next to St. Francis. As we were going along, Karen was expressing frustration at feeling bad still. And was wondering about the new medications we had picked up in Richards Bay before we left. They were generics and maybe they weren’t working right. I said we should get online and check if there were problems with it. So, she went to get the box out and realized suddenly she had been taking the wrong medicine! It turns out the result was that she was having bad effects from wrong chemical makeup and it was probably the cause of her motion sickness and other things. Thank God we figured that out and she was soon feeling much better.

Our boat Tahina is a St. Francis 50 catamaran built in South Africa in 2007. We were hoping to meet and go ashore at St. Francis to see the place of her birth. Unfortunately, we arrived on an early Saturday morning and the yard I knew was likely to be closed. We were unable to reach anyone. Also, as we were enroute, the forecasted easterly winds had grown and we sailed there quickly. There is no protection at their bay, and we couldn’t anchor to wait. Since we have plans to drive by later this month, we decided we’ll visit on land then.

Not being able to wait at St. Francis presented another problem. We had been planning to stop at Knysna – a beautiful safe harbor up a river with an infamous challenging entrance between two large rocky cliffs. But, you have to enter at slack tide or, better yet, at a rising tide (where the water is going inwards and not conflicting with the seas causing breaking waves). Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to happen during daylight hours until 10 AM the next morning.

So, we ended up going part way to Knysna, and having to hove to (park) the boat yet again at sea shortly after sunset. But, the winds were even stronger. We ended up with 30-35 knot winds much of the night. The wind itself wasn’t an issue as we only put up a tiny amount of sails. But, while slowly drifting we had to endure 3-4 meter (9-12 foot) swells contantly tossing our boat back and forth. It wasn’t a very pleasant night of sleeping. We did have clear skies and a full moon though, so checking for other boats was not an issue.

The next morning, we made our way to the entrance. The winds dropped as we were on our way. There is a web cam that shows the entrance at which shows you what the conditions are like. We were able to use our phones to check the web cam and make sure things were acceptable. Fortunately, the swell had a chance to drop by the time we arrived, and the tides were right. There were still a few breaking waves, but we just timed ourselves after one breaker and went full throttle through. We were literally only a few feet from ugly rock cliffs on one side when we made the pass, but that’s where the best depths of water were located and is the recommended route. I had contacted the local rescue office who watched our approach to provide advice if needed. He congratulated us on doing a good job and welcomed us to Knysna.

A few minutes later, we were up the river and found the anchorage near the yacht club. Our friends on s/v Kilkea soon came over in their dinghy and took us to shore for lunch. They said the yacht club was very social, but the restaurant closes on Sunday. So, we went to the charming waterfront restaurant area and had an excellent lunch.

SONY DSCWhile we were exploring the shopping area nearby eating ice cream, I saw someone and realized it was another yachtie we know named Sven from s/v Solar Planet. Turns out he and Katrin had driven down from Port Elizabeth to check out Knysna since they plan to move down here. We were lucky to run into them! So, we sat with them as they had some lunch and had more drinks and food. it was a delightful afternoon!

Here is a map of our final location at Knysna. You can zoom in for a look at “The Heads” – the entrance to Knysna we had to negotiate. We ended up going 628 nautical miles to get here in 4.2 days from Richards Bay. Not at all our best speed, but not bad when you considered we “stopped” two nights because of weather along the way.

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The Wild Coast

We left Richards Bay at dawn on Wednesday. We had a good run and passed Durban by 2:30 PM. A little later, the winds got lighter and we lost the Aghulas current advantage. During the night we only made about 7.5 knots average as we hunted for the current.

Thursday during the day we made our way down the SE coast towards East London. But, late in the afternoon the winds started coming from the SW. The weather forecasts had predicted some SW winds, but they were stronger and earlier than expected. We found the current which was good news/bad news. With the contrary winds the seas got really choppy. We started hugging the coast and were tacking our way up wind, and the current was helping us make better headway than we would normally. But, the ride was getting rough in the early evening.

Karen was having some issues with the motion, so we elected to hove to (turn into the wind and let the sails “park” the boat). We were still in the current, so we were making 2-3 knots average in the right direction. We did this all night until first light.

The winds are still strong from the SW, but we are doing ok. We expect to be in lighter winds before we pass East London in a few hours. We just hope we don’t lose the current while we’re riding along the justly named “Wild Coast” of South Africa.

Here’s the map of our position as of dawn Friday morning:

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Back at the Boat and Prepared for Departure

Our flight to South Africa went smoothly. Too smoothly apparently. We could not arrive soon enough for the evening flight to Richards Bay, so we had already booked a hotel in Johannesburg for a night to catch the next afternoon flight. Everything went fine until we went to the gate for the short flight to Richards Bay, and there was a 30 minute delay. Which then stretched to an hour, then another hour, and so on. To make a long story shorter, there were even more delays until finally we left after 6:30 PM (the flight was scheduled to depart at 2:30 PM). We had a smooth flight and arrived by 7:45PM in Richards Bay.

We got a rental car and got to the boat by 8:30. Then proceeded to lug our 4 big bags plus carry-ons to Tahina. The boat was fine and our fridges were cold, so no problems with food this time. I checked the weather one more time, and we decided we would try to get the boat ready for departure on Tuesday.

First thing Tuesday morning I started on a prepared-checklist to get the boat ready. We had to make a trip to town to get prescription medications filled, which fortunately went very smoothly. The medicines were even cheaper than in Malaysia, and we were able to get a 6 month supply. Then I got the paperwork required for clearing out of Richards Bay for Cape Town, and filled it out. I had to run around town to 3 official’s offices (immigration, customs, and the police) to get forms turned in, stamped, and signed. Then back to the yacht club where they confirmed we had paid our bills and I paid them for our marina fees. Then they filed our paperwork with the port officials and confirmed we could leave as soon as 5PM. We also did a provision run and I returned the car we rented at the close of the day. I also did some final boat preparations as well.

After all the work though, we decided to wait to depart until first light on Wednesday. Karen needed more rest (she is recovering from the flu she got at the beginning of our trip), and I had a busy day as well. We’ll both be better prepped in the morning.

We have a weather window that could take us all the way to Cape Town. There’s a brief 24-hour weather change which we think we can push through, but otherwise the weather looks good. We’ll stop if the weather dictates in one of several possible stops along the way. But, otherwise we should be able to report in a couple of times during the 5 or so days we expect to take to get there.

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Wonderful Thanksgiving and Heading Back to the Boat

Our trip home for Thanksgiving has been a wonderful success. We not only reconnected with many friends and family, but also reconnected our taste buds and stomachs with many of our favorite foods. Too many! Our stomachs were about to burst by the time we finished the Thanksgiving meal! But, that’s the American tradition. Who can argue with turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and topped off with pumpkin pie, apple pie, and pecan pie? Of course, spending time with family was the best part of the holiday. And, that was a joy as always.

We also took care of business while here dealing with our tax accountant, checking on our property in the mountains, and checked on our storage of our belongings that have been awaiting our return now for over 5 years. Everything went smoothly with those things, with only a few follow-on actions required.

The biggest disappointment of the visit here was that one of our daughters has moved to California, and her work did not allow for her to fly over and meet with us. But, she will be coming to join us in January in South Africa – so we’ll get to re-connect properly then. We did do some delightful Skype video calls with her since we have excellent Internet here. And, we got to spend some quality time with the other daughter living close by which was also delightful.

Speaking of excellent Internet, I spent a lot of time working on backing up our photo and video archives to the cloud. And, I also bought new storage devices for our computer and picture backups so I could leave our previous set in the US as an “off site” backup. I also discovered someone finally created an adapter for the Thunderbolt port on my MacBook Pro to create a USB 3.0 port so I can now do much faster backups on my laptop. And, one of the drives works wirelessly so our devices can tap into our archives with minimal hassle. I also bought a USB 3.0 flashdrive (with 128 GB!) so file transfers are 3 to 10X faster!

The most common question we were asked on this trip was “What will you do when you get back next year?“. Our standard answer was still: “We don’t know yet.“. We do know that we will spend a few months re-connecting with our friends and families, and the country where we were born. We’ll probably get an apartment in North Carolina for convenience, and so we can start going through our belongings left in storage. Then we’ll have to decide whether we’re going to do more travel, continue sailing, or find a place to live and buy a house. We have no firm ideas about a location, including whether it will be in the US. We do know it will have to be a place with good Internet, and convenient access to travel so we can stay connected with our scattered friends and families. A bonus would be somewhere where we can keep Tahina.

We had a little scare on Thanksgiving morning when I got an E-mail from one of our boat neighbors who noticed our power cord had been unplugged. It turns out the plug was disconnected the day before when someone was doing work on the dock, and they forgot to replug. Our boat can easily managed 2-3 days wi.thout shore power (relying on batteries and solar), but our freezer/fridges will drain the batteries if it goes too long. This is why we had people checking the boat while we were gone. Special thanks to Chris of s/v Gryphon 2, and Whilly of s/v Freebird, and our neighbors s/v Gromit.

We are all packed and ready to leave today for the two day return trip to Tahina. Naturally, we are coming back with the maximum two checked bags each. We have stocked up on lots of stuff most easily bought while in the US. But, surprisingly, none of the bags are at the maximum load this time. So, maybe I won’t hurt my back while lugging the bags. The heaviest items this time are mostly foods, but we do have one boat part that weighed 8 lbs (a new 12V inverter).

Our big goal when we get back is to be ready to depart as soon as weather allows. We need to get Tahina to Cape Town quickly since we have a reservation for the 15th and our first daughter is arriving on the 20th of December.

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Flying home for Thanksgiving

Rhino mother and baby

Rhino mother and baby

As mentioned last week, we booked our flights and today we are departing South Africa to head home to the US. We are so excited for the opportunity to see some of our friends and family. We wish we had time to do a proper visit with everyone, but that will have to wait until after we return with the boat to the US next summer. We need to return to South Africa right after Thanksgiving, so we can move Tahina to Cape Town before our daughters start arriving to visit us here and go to the game parks. We have a bunch of new photos to share soon from our second game park tour, this rhino is just a sample. I’ve also put up more animals from our first trip which you can see in the album below.

Meanwhile, our friends on other yachts visiting here in Richards Bay have been helping us recuperate from our stressful time with the boatyard experience here. We have been enjoying many nights out for dinner and drinks. The time has also been spent getting Tahina situated and properly stored for our trip. Tahina is pretty much ready to go when we return. We might get a few liters of fuel before we leave, and will need to put some equipment back out on the deck, but we’ll be ready to leave within a day upon our return (if the weather allows).

Here is the expanded album (79 photos) of animals from our first Africa game parks trip:

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Five Years on Tahina

Frank and Karen 2009 - 2014

Frank and Karen 2009 – 2014

On November 14, 2009 we departed from Carolina Beach, North Carolina beginning our circumnavigation of the Earth which we planned to take about 5.5 years. We are now in South Africa planning to return to the US next year by summertime. You can see here a picture from when we first arrived in the Caribbean, and a photo of us this year in the Indian Ocean for a comparison. I think we looked more relaxed in the second photo!

In celebration of our 5 year “cruising-versary”, I created a short 4 minute video that shows a selection of photos from the last five years. It highlights pictures of ourselves, the people who joined us along the way, the other cruisers we met up with, the places we went, pictures of Tahina, the sea and animal life we encountered, and even some of our underwater experiences. It finishes with a few photos of animals from Africa. Hope you enjoy it!

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