Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Port Elizabeth to Cape Town

This is a picture of us all bundled up as we pass Cape Agulhas, the southern most point of the African continent. The Cape of Good Hope seems to get all the popular press, but it is actually 80 miles further west and about 29 miles further north. Cape of Good Hope was also traditionally known as the the Cape of Storms. Cape Agulhas is also the separation point between the Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic Ocean. In the pic I am pointing at the Indian Ocean and Chris is looking forward to the Atlantic Ocean. I can honestly say I am not sad to see the Indian Ocean in the rearview mirror. One cruising friend of ours refers to the Indian Ocean as the Adult Ocean. We've done about 4,760nm since we left Langkawi, Malaysia in early February on the eastern side of the North Indian Ocean. All and all some interesting stops including the Maldives, Chagos, Seychelles, Mozambique and South Africa, but not the most pleasant sailing we've done.

The clouds flowing off Table Mountain on our approach to Cape Town

We left Port Elizabeth around 1:00pm on Friday and arrived at Cape Town around 10:00am on Monday. The second night out was rough and a bit ugly. We unfortunately had a 3:00am unintentional jibe (when the main sail flies uncontrollably over from one side to the other). It was at a watch change and the discussion of reefing or taking the main down were in progress. Question answered - take it down. The preventer was on (holds the boom to one side to prevent a jibe). The Spectra climbing strap that held the preventer turning block near the bow snapped.  This slowed, but did not stop the jibe.

The preventer line then proceeded to tear out the pulpit stainless steel leg. Not pretty, but at least no one was hurt. This week on the Atlantic ARC crossing a cruising sailor was killed by an unintentional jibe. Put it on the 'gotta repair this stuff in Cape Town' list.

As we approached the entrance to Cape Town Harbour we saw these kayakers stopping to gawk at the bobbing whales in front of them.

Surprisingly, and a little scarily, as we entered the harbour we saw about half a dozen whales, I believe small humpbacks, inside the harbour. Here are two following us after I turned away to avoid them. These guys get up to 60 tons, not small creatures.

Well its nice to be in Cape Town knowing we have a few months of no more passages!


Thursday, December 2, 2021

East London to Port Elizabeth


Made the 135 mile run to from East London to Port Elizabeth when we saw an open, but short, weather window.  We left at midnight motoring into light winds and a bit of bouncy seas. Headed almost straight offshore for 12 or 14 miles to get into the Agulhas Current sleigh ride. Near shore the water temperature is 60*F. In the current it is 75*F. We had a good sail all day with the current pushing us 4 or 5 kts and decent downwind sailing. By about early afternoon we had to gybe and turn toward land. Made Port Elizabeth around 9:30pm. 

We left East London with two other boats, our friends on Hylite and the South African catamaran Blikke. The photo above is Blikke approaching Port Elizabeth at sunset. PE is a very industrial and busy port. Continuous freighter movements inside and outside the port. The yacht club locals greeted us in the dark to take our dock lines. We are in a berth sized for a boat half our size. A few hours after we settled into our berth the SW winds started, so it was nice to be secure and tied up.

The yacht club seems to have multiple names, including Nelson Mandela Yacht Club or Gqeberha (includes a glottal click) Yacht Club. The docks are pretty run down and the boats get covered with manganese dust from all the bulk carrier loading. The winds are howling from the west right now, so we'll sit it out and hope they turn easterly soon.


Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Richards Bay to East London


The East London wall

Buffalo River Yacht Club trot moorings

Sporty passage from Richards Bay to East London for Georgia. Left Richard's Bay around 6:30 am local. Worked our way about 14 miles offshore to get current. Had 1 to 2kts. This had us passing Durban 20 miles or so offshore. Probably worth going out for the current if you are going to East London, doubtful if you are going to Durban.
Winds picked up from E or NE and we dumped our main all the way at the first thought of putting a reef in, as we expected some stronger breezes. Rolled out the jib. This ended up with a large reef in it by the time we arrived.
Wind picked up and the current picked way up, for parts of the trip the Agulhas Current was near 5 knots in our favor. Winds were mostly high 20's low 30kts. Seas were pretty benign to start, but ended up around 3 to 3.5m. For extended periods we were doing 10-12kts SOG, with a few surfs to 15kts. At sundown second night it appeared things were easing as the wind backed down and a little sun broke through the overcast, but no, there's more. The wind came back with sustained 40's, gusting 45kts. This part was less fun.
As we approached about 60nm out of EL we were closer to the coast and the current slowed a bit. For the last 40nm the current was much less. So factor that into your arrival time. We motored in light wind for the last 3 hours and tied to the "wall" at 2am in East London.

When it was blowing hard and we were making a lot of boat speed we were visited by a few surfing dolphins.

The Buffalo River Yacht Club is super friendly and accommodating. A club member came out with his dinghy to help us onto the trot moorings. These are fore and aft moorings and are tricky to get on even in light conditions. The help was appreciated. Everyone at the yacht club has gone out of their way to make our stay comfortable, with local advice, rides offered and even help with the washing machine. 

The Sea Spirit is a really good lunch place. Lots of fresh local fish grilled, fried or whatever. You can take the dinghy upriver under the bridges or walk over the bridges.

We are now waiting for a weather window to make the next jump down the coast to Port Elizabeth, hopefully in less harsh conditions.


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Hluhluwe Game Park


Let's get the hard part about Hluhluwe game park out of the way first. It is pronounced something close to Shlu-Shlu-Hee and which Google translates to "scratched". The park is actually two connected parks Hluhluwe and Imfolozi. Combined they are about 235,000 acres.

The landscape is generally light to heavy bush, with rolling hills, interrupted by the occasional stream and some big rivers.

No shortage of Cape Buffalo. The males have the massive center part of their horns that look like their brains are overflowing. You see many single and small groups of old males. They are called Duggers. As the males get older they get kicked out of the breeding herd and spend their retirement years wallowing around a mud hole till a lion or hyena decides they are easy picking for a snack.

Might as well put up the Lion pictures now in case our reader doesn't get any further in this post. We were really lucky to come across this pride of lions as our guide drove the back roads of the reserve.

I don't usually post videos, but here's a short one of the young lions vocalizing.

A kite

These are Dung Beetles rolling the dung ball they made from elephant poop down the road. It is fascinating to see them frantically work together to roll this ball that is ten times their size.

Some type of Monitor Lizard

These are Weaver Bird nests. They are built by the yellow male. His potential partner then goes inside to inspect. If all is good then there is marital bliss. If she rejects the nest the male tears it apart and rebuilds for another try.

A large Vulture spreading its wings

A Terrapin working his way out of the water

A Baboon troop blocking the road. The males are big and really look like they mean business.

Cape Buffalo carcass, probably taken down by a lion.

We did a three hour walking tour through the bush. This is our guide at the start of the walk loading his rifle with .375 H&H Magnum rounds -- the choice of big game hunters since they were introduced in 1912.
A giraffe wondering why we are walking by his turf.

We were stopped along the road by this heard of Cape Buffalo. While waiting for them to move we saw the heard spread out a bit and this large White Rhinoceros started strolling our way, with a baby by her side you can just see.

Once Mom turned side ways we could see this baby Rhino walking through the herd too.

Guinea fowl

Some very young wobbly Impala babies

This guy has a lot of horn to protect from the poachers

Baby Warthogs -- what else needs to be said?

Warthogs are just not so cute when they get older

Steppe Buzzard 

Taking off for a snack

We stopped along the side of the road when we started seeing these groups of Vultures on the tree tops on one of the game dirves. Our guide said there must be a new kill somewhere close, maybe a lion kill.

After hunting the hillsides with our binoculars we found this fairly fresh Rhino carcass. Not sure if it was natural causes or a poacher's doing, but not lions. You can see the first team of Vultures doing the preliminary work on the carcass. It will be picked clean by the next day.

A male impala with impressive antlers

Helpful suggestions from the park

Carrying our bags to the front door of our room at Hluhluwe Hilltop Lodge. If you look close on the right hand side you can see a large, male Nyala sitting in the shrubs and watching me move in.

Another hours old Impala

Black(?) Kite

Another Vulture in the cleanup crew

A widdah bird. This male has grown his oversized tail for showing off during mating season. When they fly with this tail it looks like they can barely stay airborne. 

Hluhluwe has elephants, but they were clearly more cautious of vehicles than in Thula Thula park we were in earlier.

Enough of the animal show and tell from Hluhluwe for today.



Monday, November 22, 2021

Thula Thula Game Reserve

One of the great things about stopping in Richards Bay is that you are close to many game reserves, both private and national park. The locals often say Oh, its only a bit more than an hour drive away. That would be true if you are willing to take your life into your hands passing trucks every 10 minutes on a two lane highway that the trucks and locals have decided is a four lanes including the shoulders. Along with the innovative four lanes, there seems to be some special communication that goes on between drivers that intermittently turns the four lanes into three in one direction and one in the other, as the passing cars and trucks force the other direction drivers onto the shoulder in a death defying act.

Thula Thula is famous for the 2009 book The Elephant Whisper, written by the reserve's founder Lawrence Anthony. His wife, Francoise, wrote a follow on book, An Elephant in my Kitchen. Both the elephants and the food were remarkable.

Needless to say we were up close to a lot of elephants. This is two young males showing off who is tougher.

Chris getting a drive-by from a young elephant.

The accommodations at Thula Thula are pretty nice and the pricing in Covid season was not cheap, but reasonable.

The food was excellent, as it was three French-style freshly prepared meals a day--- as long as you ate it before the monkeys got involved.

There was no shortage of giraffes here either,  looking for food in the wild.

Mom and some young ones.

Like all parks that have Rhinoceros, they have 24 hour security at Thula Thula. These guys were OK with me taking their picture once they put their face masks on. Don't want to be identified in the local towns, too risky. Our guide asked us not to post any Rhino pictures from their park on social media. The Rhinos are hunted by poachers who shoot them and then cut off their horn. The horns go for more than gold in Asia, mainly to men wanting to increase their performance. Why not just stick with the reliable little blue pill?

Iridescent starlings

On each drive in the Land Cruiser, Chris insisted the guide go find elephants.

A vulture waiting for some carrion to clean up.

The older elephants are respectful of the truck. The young ones sometimes get too close. The bottom picture is Bill jumping back from a few tons of nosey elephant.

Cape Buffalo. These guys are considered the most dangerous animals in the reserve because of their unpredictability and tendency to use the herd to attack.

Leopard Tortoise

Hippopotamus relaxing in the pond

Nyala, much like Impala but with racing stripes.

The male Nyalas look just like the females when they are young. As they mature they get much bigger and their coat changes so that look like they are wearing short pants.

A male Nyala hanging by the bungalows.

There were a lot of crosswalks in the reserve.

Kingfisher with his snack

Baby Zebra

I got my eye on you!

Hippo action

After a hard day safariing

Your smiling host for this safari 

Did I mention we saw a lot of elephants?

Finish this safari off with some majestic Giraffes on the hillside