Friday, July 13, 2012
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Due to the lack of visitors, the entire island is a promotional center with tourist brochures every few feet. We took a day tour around the island checking out the Napoleonic sites, museums, flax plantations, as well as some incredible ocean views. We met Jonathan, who the Saints (people of St. Helena) claim to be the oldest living land creature at an estimated age of 197. He wasn't much of a conversationalist, but maintains a privileged life on the Governor’s estate.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
We tested our safari knowledge on a game reserve nearby meeting more animals. We captured a picture of one animal we did not see in Kruger...
Knysna is a laid back coastal town and a hidden treasure for most South Africans. The Knysna heads boast some spectacular ocean views.
In general, Capetown was a vacation from sailing. Berthed in the middle of the V&A Waterfront, the Broken Compass blended into all the other tourist attractions. Makai took an interest in the Cape Fur Seals that lie on the docks next to the boat. In the height of mating season, they were quite vocal throughout the nights. Exhausting the bar hit list and South African checklist, we are back to business and ready to lift the well used sails. The trial and error aspect of sailing has transformed to systematic execution. After one last milk and honey ale at Mitchell's Scottish pub, the Atlantic awaits and we are prepared.
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Day 2 is the way modern sailing is not designed. The alarm clock rang at 2:30 am. The wind died rendering the sails useless. We fired up the motor. The less time spent on this coast the better. At 4am, the wind switched to Southwest and increased. At 6am, the wind picked up to 20 knots and the waves followed. The motor was useless. The strong Agulhas current has one deadly weakness, a strong southwesterly. The current moves quickly in one direction and when introduced to head on waves the effect is what you may see on the north shore of Hawaii. These waters are the birthplace for the term “Freak Wave.” We decided to bail and sail close to land. Our auto-helm is useless in such conditions. We grabbed the steering wheel and sailed toward shore. We may have made a mile before the steering cable snapped. It is important to recognize a big problem from a little one. No steering, 30 knots, 20ft waves and a heavy counter current. Big Problem. We bobbed like apples waiting to be a Halloween snack. By now, we know every rusty tool and scrap material on the boat. The inventory presented a solution. We hack-sawed the old cable and fabricated a replacement with a old lifeline, a few shackles and a cable clamp. The altercation ended in 3 hours and we emerged with steerage. We sailed toward shallow water and calmer seas. On the way to safety, the wind picked up again ripping through our head sail. Laziness and fatigue may have played a larger role in the death of this sail. Crippled again, we took stock of our condition. Under no power we still logged southwestern progress. The Agulhas current proved stronger than 30 knots of wind and 20 foot seas! We took the hint and drifted for a few hours before pulling the last from our scanty sail supply. We flew a recently bartered storm sail capable of weathering 60 knots in addition to the mizzen. That worked. We spent the remainder of the day and half of the next pounding upwind for bonus miles until the unexpected southwesterly winds decided to pass.
Day 3 Another favorable wind switch. We hugged close to shore. The mild wind and current carried us past Port Elisabeth, a safety checkpoint. In reading weather, important indicators include pressure and temperature. We pulled the warm clothes from the lockers and in 24 hours the barometer dropped from 1022 to 1007. My interpretation of weather: we were F#@*ed! Luckily I am no weather expert. The wind died to a whisper and the only thing that burnt was diesel.
The next three days granted light wind and slow miles. The wind and waves were kind. We said farewell to the Indian ocean and entered our final challenge, the atlantic. The seals, dolphins, whales, penguins were curious and welcoming. As the sun set on the 6th day, the light pierced the cloudy sky from one of my favorite cities in the world. Cape Town.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
We have discovered the best way to meet an array of people is to frequent the local pubs. Africa however is a different story. In traveling to a pub after sunset you are likely to be robbed, stabbed or killed. All three are not uncommon. We have come to believe South Africa under reports international statistics of crime rates. It is battle for life everyday on the streets. Understanding the danger, we met a local who played for the Nigerian national basketball team at moderately safe pub. A couple days later he invited us for a tour. The bar he took us to had a cage to protect the bartender from the patrons. Walking into the bar we were surveyed like a lion stalking an duiker. Half the men had drinks, presumably the other half could not afford them. There were two pool tables in the small room and fortunately, Bret and I are no strangers to the game. We treated the game similar to a prison economy. Win enough from the prisoners to pay off the guards. In this case, the guards were the big dudes and the prisoners were the small dudes. The bribes were paid from winnings of a bottle of dark stout. After a couple games, the lions were getting restless. A brawl ensued when one of the larger guards challenged the small white guy (Bret) to a fight. Bret diplomatically altered the challenge it to a wrestling match. The 'white man's' rules were simple: first person to the floor, no weapons. Bret applied a standard wrestling move. A front headlock. The jaws of the crowd dropped with the man's face which Bret skillfully recovered inches from the floor. The man, seemingly to have witnessed a miracle that such a small white man could subdue figure of his stature; forged two additional attacks. These attempts met identical outcomes. Cashing in our chips while we were ahead, we departed the bar unscathed.
As previously mentioned... Africa is a dangerous place. The coastline is no exception. Stories of ships lost, wrecked and capsized are as frequent as Nantucket during the whale trade. Our weather man informed us no yachts had wrecked or capsized this year. This year is an exception. We carefully prepared Broken Compass for the 750 mile stretch to Capetown. Our inspection report coupled with a promising weather window kept us in Durban for an extra month. Attempting our third scheduled departure, we are off to Capetown. We previously had the luxury of pulling into one of the safe harbors on the coast. Unfortunately we are pressed for time. We have a friend scheduled to arrive 10 days hence in Capetown. Of course we will pull over warranting ferocious weather, but schedules push limits and we will put the ship and crew to the test. Pray for wind and mild seas.
Monday, February 6, 2012
Lightning storms at sea are an interesting experience. They are beautiful to watch from far off in the distance. At some point as the dark clouds and flashes of light move over head you come to realize your situation: Two hands on a metal wheel steering two tall trees held down by steel cables across a relatively flat ocean. If lightening bolts were tails, the Broken Compass would be the donkey. Resigning to the very real possibility of getting struck is the only way stay sane for hours of blinding flashes amongst sheets of water and ripping winds.
Day 3 we spotted a orange life ring floating a few hundred meters away. Taking the opportunity as a practice man overboard, we made some fancy maneuvers under sail to retrieve the prize. The 25 knot breeze taxed our victory as we limped away from the event with two pieces of our head sail instead of one. The faded Chinese symbols on the life ring concealed a boat's story we would never plumb.
The ocean highlight is always the fish. We caught a nice Wahoo shown above in addition to a few large Dorado. One day we hooked into the fish of a lifetime: the blue marlin. Neither of us have ever seen its equal dead or alive. The creature performed a series of acrobatics and entertained us for about five minutes before effortlessly breaking through the 150 lb leader. Following the fight, he breached one last time to wave farewell as he swam off in search of the old man in the sea.
(NASA satellite image of Tropical Cyclone Funso)