Global Voyage

A Story About Sailing Around the World

Ray & Jenny aboard the ketch Suka

3 years, 35,000 miles, Nov 1982 - Jan 1986

Ray & Jenny Jardine

Chapter 15: South Africa page 92 of 109

Port Elizabeth to Mossel Bay, Lady III.


Map: Mossel Bay
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We departed Port Elizabeth January 19, 1985 at 5 p.m, and after rounding Cape Recife encountered a light wind fine on the port bow. This necessitated our motor-sailing for the initial fourteen hours. Then for the next twenty hours we enjoyed 20 to 30 knot winds from astern.

Three a.m. on a moonless night, five miles out of Mosselbaai, (Mossel Bay), the barometer was falling unpropitiously and the wind had diminished to a whisper. Our timing could not have been better. We groped our way into the small Mosselbaai harbor as sudden headwinds lashed out. We were thankful to have reached this port in time to elude the next gale.

Mossel Bay. Suka and Michael Stuart.

The blow eased after 18 hours, so we departed after having indulged in much needed sleep. The storms were less intense in these southerly regions, and the sailing was not as dangerous because the Agulhas Current had deflected away from the coast. Moreover, south of here a boat can duck into a few anchorages that might afford refuge against a south-westerly blow. Accordingly, I suppose, the port officials were less stringent in their checking-in and -out requirements.


Map: Vlees Bay
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After beating into 10 to 15 knots of wind for five hours, we closed the coast and anchored in a place called Vleesbaai. This was a calculated maneuver designed to remove us from civilization for a day or so, and it certainly accomplished that. Remarkably, the nearby village showed not a single light after dark. It obviously lacked electricity, and we wondered how many more darkened villages we had passed during the night.

Jenny setting the anchor at Vlees Bay.

With the anchor set, Suka swings around to face the wind.

The following day we were enjoying the tranquility at anchor when a pair of Afrikaners paddled out in surf kayaks. I asked if they commonly saw yachts anchored here. "Yeah, one did, what was it... 2 years ago," came the reply.

At any rate, we found it remarkable to be lying at anchor in a quiet bay so near the infamous Cape of Storms.

At 1:30 that afternoon the wind began backing, and sending an increasing swell rolling into the bay. Soon the anchorage would be untenable; however, this was the specific indication we had been awaiting, as it heralded favorable sailing conditions to come.

We weighed anchor and put to sea as the French yacht Lady III happened to be sailing by, and in her company we proceeded. Over the Ham radio waves we learned that several cruisers were coming on strong, astern of us, having departed Mosselbaai the moment the wind had shifted.

Cape of Good Hope in the distance.

Rounding the Cape of Good Hope

Her skipper wearing oilskins over several layers of clothing, Suka Rounds the Cape of Good Hope.

The Cape of Good Hope.

Map: Cape Agulhas
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At dawn the following day, in a southerly wind of 15 knots and in the company of albatross on the wing we rounded Cape Agulhas, Africa's southern-most promontory. As had been the case with our turning Australia's Cape York, this was indeed a momentous occasion. Standing some 10 miles off-shore, at a latitude of 35 degrees we had reached our voyage's most southerly range. To our tropically acclimatized bodies the air felt penetratingly frigid, so while wearing oilskins over several layers of clothing, I adjusted the steering vane to stand a course west by north-west. The Indian Ocean lay astern.

A few hours later, aboard his Spirit of Victory Julio began whooping into the radio transmitter. "We've rounded the cape!" he exclaimed jubilantly. "Today is a day of rest; and we sail only with the mizzen." This explained why he and Lola had not passed us by. The day was most certainly not one of rest for the crew of Suka, though, for with the vicissitudes of the local weather patterns in mind, and now in stronger wind, Jenny and I were sailing harder than we had ever sailed, making 7-1/2 knots.

Late in the afternoon, having rounded the Cape of Good Hope, which lies some 83 miles west-nor'west of Cape Agulhas, we were steering north with Cape Town in our gun sights. Then at midnight, about eight miles from the harbor entrance, we began experiencing a wind blowing with increasing vehemence. Fortunately for us, the tempest was off-shore, but its strength overpowered even our double reefed mainsail, so Jenny handed that, and I motored Suka ahead under bare poles. The tempest was from abeam, so spume and driven spray arced overhead with each sprawling comber. Between powerful gusts I steered shoreward to reduce the fetch, ever weary of standing in too close and collecting any off lying rocks, obscured in the darkness. The temperature had plummeted, such that we now wore practically every piece of outer clothing we owned. So encumbered, we felt like seagoing Eskimos.

“So encumbered, we felt like seagoing Eskimos.”

The weather phenomena we were experiencing was the classic Cape Town sou'-easter that forms the picturesque "tablecloth" cloud that hunkers over the historic landmark Table Mountain. Unknown to us, rather than enter the harbor in such powerful wind, with local knowledge it is preferable to anchor off-shore at an appropriate place largely shielded from the wind. And in fact we passed through a few protected areas of total calm. Had I known what trials lay in store, I would have stood off in one of these calm areas, and awaited daylight.

Cape Town

Map: Cape Town, South Africa
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Instead, we proceeded to the harbor entrance and radioed Port Control, who dispatched a pilot boat on our behalf. The entrance was beset with vicious and nearly impenetrable headwinds. Spray lashed our faces, minimizing visibility and soon drenching us through. Each time I tried to power Suka into the vehement blast, a gust would slew her bow away, and she would lose way. After several attempts, with Perkins roaring we finally managed to claw into the harbor between the stronger gusts.

“Clearly, I had placed Suka in a grave predicament, and could only hope that Perkins continued to run.”

Once inside, we were aghast to find ourselves subject to a most dangerous lee shore - the harbor's inner breakwater, which was being bashed continually by fearful combers. Had Perkins died, we might have hoisted the storm trysail, which we had hanked to its own mast track but still bagged and with its sheets attached. In order to make way under trysail, though, we would also have needed to hoist a storm staysail. And we obviously lacked the sea room, and therefore the time, to accomplish these tasks. Perhaps I could have steered Suka, coasting bare-polled, back out the entrance; perhaps not. Otherwise, we would have deployed an anchor, even though the odds were against its finding purchase on the dredged harbor seabed. Our pilot either could not, or simply would not respond to our radio calls, and he kept his vessel impatiently well ahead of us. Obviously, he was not offering a towing service. Clearly, I had placed Suka in a grave predicament, and could only hope that Perkins continued to run.

By the time we had powered well into the harbor, Perkins was overheating. But the gusts were mauling us with somewhat less vengeance, so I throttled back a trifle. While I stood wielding the helm, Jenny scurried belowdecks time and again to clean my eye glasses. In the process, we covered the one mile distance from the harbor entrance to the yacht club in one hour and fifteen minutes of concerted effort.

As we neared the yacht basin, the pilot motioned us with his spotlight to proceed into the crowded yacht marina. Such a move would have been madness, for inside was a complete lack of maneuvering space. When the pilot realized I was refusing to follow his direction, he rescinded and led us a short ways back and around into a ship basin, empty of ships and surrounded with high concrete walls. From there he left us to our own devices.

At the far end of the basin, in the direction from which the outrageously fierce wind was blowing, were three yachts laying to bow lines secured to massive, shore-side bollards. If we could somehow attach a line to a similar bollard, our troubles would be over. However, in such fierce wind one does not simply saunter in between other yachts and step ashore. The chop was bouncing our vessel like an overgrown rocking horse, and one caress of her bucking bowsprit to the immovable concrete wharf would have spelled instant dismemberment. Compounding the problem, as I eased Suka carefully toward the wharf, the black of night prevented me from discerning exactly where the tip of Suka's bowsprit ended and where the hard lip of the implacable concrete wharf began. Moreover, Jenny was understandably afraid to leap ashore, especially considering that the high-walled basin was unequipped with emergency ladders, with which a hapless swimmer might have crawled out of the water. Three times I attempted easing in, and three times I failed to land my crew member ashore.

Anchoring was not an attractive alternative, considering that the holding might have been poor. So the remaining option was to side-tie to a wall paralleling the wind. For indeed, one of these walls featured a huge, rubber ship-fender suspended from chains. I maneuvered near, and the mate jumped onto this fender and secured a bow line to it. But Suka was pitching so wildly that when her weight fell against the line she pressed against the fender so hard that a bowsprit shroud parted with a loud bang! Above the blast I hollered for Jenny to untie the line and to jump quickly aboard. I could not leave the helm, and therefore I could not leave Jenny ashore.

The basin afforded Suka the barest rudiments of maneuvering space, so I stood off, and mentally prepared another attempt at motoring to the windward wall, and at somehow fastening a line to one of the bollards. Spirit of Victory nosed into the basin, suddenly making the basin seem extremely crowded. "Get ready, Jenny," I yelled against the shrieking wind. "We're going in. But first, jump below and clean my glasses again; I can't see a bloody thing!"

I powered toward the windward wall, steering for the gap between two of the yachts. Then I eased the throttle at the last possible moment, hoping that our speed and distance were correct. By the grace of God they were, and Jenny bravely leapt ashore and threw a line over the bollard, to which Suka immediately fell back on. The time was two o'clock in the morning, and the ordeal was over - almost.

Being nearly twice Suka's length, Spirit of Victory lacked maneuvering space within the basin. Thus, her skipper Julio had but one chance at securing a mooring. However, he had an advantage - me, standing ashore and ready to accept a bow line. He charged toward the wall, and at the appropriate moment his wife Lola tossed me a bow warp. But Spirit had a little too much way on. While I was busily securing his line to the bollard, the vessel's bow bumped against the concrete wall, although not hard enough to damage the boat. However, as the ship bounced rocking-horse fashion in the surge, Lola fended-off the wall mightily, and in the process she became entangled and received a painful arm injury. Subsequently, a doctor diagnosed her injuries as torn ligaments, and advised her to wear an arm sling for the ensuing three weeks.

The gale has eased and we are moored in the concrete basin. In strong winds the clouds often form a "tablecloth" on Table Mountain. Note our dismasted neighbor.

Royal Cape Yacht Marina

The gale persisted another 24 hours, during which time Suka remained safely moored leeward of the wall. Then a few mornings later, when the sky dawned clear and calm we moved the ketch into the marina at the hospitable and congenial Royal Cape Yacht Club. There, the manager had generously assigned us a berth, and by happenstance the one adjacent the Hiscock's former yacht, Wanderer IV. This was particularly momentous because I had garnered most of my sailing and cruising knowledge from Eric Hiscock's wonderful books.

Secure at last in a slip at the Royal Cape Yacht Marina. The iconic Table Mountain in the background.

Tied alongside the equally iconic Wanderer IV, formerly the Hiscocks' yacht.

With Suka safe and secure, that evening I treated my lovely companion to an exquisite lobster and champagne dinner, celebrating our safe crossing of the Indian Ocean, and our rounding of the Cape of Storms.

We remained in Cape Town for ten days. During that time we repaired the broken bowsprit shroud, purchased a new, custom mainsail from a local loft, bought a new pair of eyeglasses for each of us, and effected a number of repairs aboard. Meanwhile, we found it remarkable, ambling the placid and cosmopolitan streets of Cape Town, entering a magazine shop, picking up an American weekly news magazine, and reading of the hostilities and insurrections reportedly besetting harried Cape Town. One could only commend the reporters for their acumen in capturing on film these events; they were certainly keener observers than were we.

Wilfrid and Pat

Our optometrist, Wilfrid Hain, happened to own a yacht moored also at the RCYC, so we found much in common to talk about. As a result, he and his girlfriend Pat invited Jenny and me for a sight seeing drive, and soon the four of us became fast friends. For three days they regaled us with sightseeing tours of the Cape's bucolic environs, and typically after each day's jaunt we would land at their favorite restaurant to sample the cuisine of Wilfrid's homeland, Austria. Our hosts not only provided us with an insight of Cape Town life, but they left us feeling we were almost a part of their families.

During one of our drives, while exploring the Cape Peninsula, Wilfrid stopped the car and allowed a few wild baboons to climb onto the hood. "They're begging for handouts but watch your eye glasses," he cautioned, "and close your windows," Later, at one of the hundreds of roadside public picnic areas he struck a campfire using a bundle of wood purchased from a roadside vendor, then from the car's trunk he withdrew a hinged metal gridiron and from a cooler a variety of meats. Soon he was tending a sizzling and tantalizing meal that comprised chicken, T-bone steaks, chops, and a delicious spicy sausage called boerewors. Watching the sunset over the expanse of the South Atlantic, we enjoyed the traditional Sunday afternoon braai, or barbecue.

Riding the cable car on Table Mountain.

On another day, Wilfrid and Pat accompanied us in the cable car ascending Table Mountain, and at the summit we admired the stupendous, oceanic views. At our feet were furry little animals called hyraks.

Atop Table Mountain.

From the summit of Table Mountain we see Cape Town far below.

Day's end on the summit of Table Mountain, we catch a stunning view of the Southern Atlantic.

Then later that afternoon we drove with Wilfrid and Pat far into the country and stopped at a few farmer's stalls, where Jenny and I bought boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables for provisioning Suka's larder for her forthcoming Atlantic crossing.

Simonstown, on the south-east side of the cape.

Baboon near Cape Point.

Pat and Wilfrid in Suka's cabin.


People often ask what was our favorite place visited during our global voyage, and typically they are surprised to learn that second only to Cocos Keeling, which most folks have never heard of, we cherished South Africa the most. This is a powerful land, strange and compelling, and full of dissimilitudes, interesting sights, and a great many genial people. How reluctant we were to be leaving it so soon.

The story has 109 pages. This is page 92.
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Page Links
GV 001: Title Page
GV 002: TOC
GV 003: Dedication
GV 004: Preface
GV 005: Prologue
GV 006: Beginnings
GV 007: Work Done
GV 008: Making Ready
GV 009: Departure
GV 010: Sailing Credentials
GV 011: First Lesson
GV 012: Sextant Navigation
GV 013: Safety Harness
GV 014: Murphy's law
GV 015: Spirit of Adventure
GV 016: Holding On
GV 017: First Big Storm
GV 018: Storm Intensified
GV 019: Rolling Violently
GV 020: Mizzen Sleeping Bag'sl
GV 021: Freeing the Propeller
GV 022: Visits by Birds
GV 023: Crossing the Doldrums
GV 024: Nearing First Landfall
GV 025: Land Ho
GV 026: Fatu Hiva
GV 027: Trek Inland
GV 028: Anchor Watch
GV 029: Passage
GV 030: Hiva Oa
GV 031: Skin Diving Circus
GV 032: Almost Like a Jungle
GV 033: Polaris Missile
GV 034: Taiohaie Bay
GV 035: Cascade Hakaui
GV 036: Taipi Bay
GV 037: Cyclone Lisa
GV 038: Cyclone Nano
GV 039: Passage of Patience
GV 040: Tuamotu Archipelago
GV 041: Tahiti
GV 042: Cyclone Reva
GV 043: Secret Sharer
GV 044: Moorea
GV 045: Cyclone Veena
GV 046: Aftermath
GV 047: Good Weather in Papeete
GV 048: Huahine
GV 049: Raiatea
GV 050: BoraBora
GV 051: Rarotonga
GV 052: Tonga
GV 053: Fresh Air
GV 054: Tongan Feast
GV 055: Excursion to Maninita
GV 056: Mariner's Cave
GV 057: Fiji
GV 058: Ndravuni Island
GV 059: Mara Island
GV 060: Aneityum
GV 061: Noumea
GV 062: St Elmo's fire
GV 063: Breakwater Reef
GV 064: Bundaberg
GV 065: Life on the Burnett River
GV 066: Engine Sabotage
GV 067: Flying
GV 068: Aground in Round Hill Creek
GV 069: Gladstone Confinement
GV 070: Tropical Queensland
GV 071: Trip into Townsville
GV 072: Cairns Sojourn
GV 073: Cramped Cooktown
GV 074: Lizard Island
GV 075: The San Michelle
GV 076: Lost Mummy Cave
GV 077: Land's End
GV 078: Darwin
GV 079: Christmas Is
GV 080: Passage
GV 081: Cocos Keeling
GV 082: Crossing the Indian Ocean
GV 083: Rodriguez
GV 084: Mauritius
GV 085: Reunion Cirque de Mafate
GV 086: Reunion Cirque de Salazie
GV 087: Passage to Africa
GV 088: Kruger National Park
GV 089: Richards Bay
GV 090: Durban
GV 091: Port Elizabeth
> GV 092: Cape Town
GV 093: Storm Passage
GV 094: St Helena
GV 095: Passage to Brazil
GV 096: Fortaleza
GV 097: Passage to Caribbean
GV 098: Bonaire
GV 099: Passage to Panama
GV 100: Panama
GV 101: Panama Canal
GV 102: Medidor
GV 103: Costa Rica
GV 104: Passage to Acapulco
GV 105: Acapulco to Cabo
GV 106: Baja
GV 107: Home Port
GV 108: In Retrospect
GV 109: Next Time
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