Monday, January 28, 2013

Wish granted

from 21 49 s 11 58 e
One of my fondest wishes was granted today. I saw an albatross flying out at sea from the boat. These majestic birds must have been with us for a couple of hours. Wow, can they soar, skimming along the surface of the water, one second only a foot above the wave, the next second their body tilts and they are ten meters off the surface. Their wing span is enormous and they have special bones in their wings that help them soar so beautifully.

Left Namibia

We have left Namibia. We would have liked to stay longer there. There is lots to see, the Okavanga Delta, the game parks in the northern part, and the desert. We drove about 200 km into the desert on Friday. There were a few dunes at the start and then it was just a flat barren landscape. The further east we got the higher into the mountains we got. We explored a couple of canyons and I felt like I was in an old western movie and the Indians would attack behind the next rise. We walked along a trail about midday and soon decided it was just too hot. I expect it was about 35 degrees, with no shade and a very dry wind blowing. There were hills with caves, where the wind had just carved a indentation into the side of the hill. I walked into one, there was a temperature difference in the shade of the rocks but it was still very hot. The road took us over a dry river bed, it was very lush there with green leaved trees and lots of vegetation. In one of the books I read it said that the river could be dry for 7 years and then a big rain would bring it all back to life. We did a little off road driving but our little rent a car was not made to be 4 x 4ing in. 
At the end of the day we sat and watched a desert sunset by a huge round hunk of conglomerate rock. I clamored up and sat and contemplated the landscape while I read my book, by this time the temperature had probably dropped 10-12 degrees and it was very comfortable. By the time the sun had set it was feeling cool and I was wanting a sweater. During the day we had seen some wildlife, ostriches, just out pecking at the desert close to the road, a warthog, wandering along the river bed and impala type creatures nervously hiding in the shade, there were also lots of birds we spotted. 
We are about 40 miles from Walvis Bay, with 1183 to go until we arrive in St. Helena.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Luderitz, Namibia
The sail from Luderitz to Walvis Bay was magical.  We sailed along the coastline drinking in the foreign views as we whooshed by.  The scenery was absolutely stunning, the Namib desert being one of the oldest and driest deserts in the world.  The sand dunes went right down to the water.  We sailed into 2 different bays before we stopped for the night.  We seldom do that when passage making, this was coastal cruising at it's finest.  

Our last stop was Spencer Bay, as we approached we could see black things on a hill side.  Barry says I think they are seals, I scoffed, no, they couldn't be, they must be cormorants.Sure enough I looked through the binos and they were seals, mountain climbing seals at that.  The hill must have been 200 meters tall if not more and there they were laying around at the top.
The brown stuff on the rocks are the seals, maybe if you click and enlarge and then zoom you can make them out!
As we sailed around the corner a Johnny Depp wreck revealed itself.  It was a big freighter which had come to grief, it was sufficiently spooky looking to rate the name we bestowed upon it.  Along the beech next to the derelict were another congregation of seals, hundreds of them.  They are spread out all along the beach. 

As we came around the corner past the wreck we experienced an acceleration zone.  It had been blowing about 15 knots on the ocean, a great sailing breeze, as we came around the corner with full sails up, gusts of 25-30 knots blasted us.  We struggled a bit to get the sails down and Barry was leery about setting anchor because of the wind, but the anchor caught and stuck well.  I really wanted to go ashore but there were breakers everywhere and the wind was blowing  the tops off the waves.  It would have been  hard getting the dinghy in the water in that wind as well.  I thought about swimming ashore, but it was cold and I didn't fancy my chances in the surf.  As we were leaving at dawn the next day there was an island that was covered in birds, another boat told us they were penguins!!
Another reason for the magical passage was the wildlife in the water.  We had dolphins coming to visit, they were gorgeous, I had never seen the ones with white on their noses before. 

At one point Barry called me up on deck, it was very calm and we were motoring, a huge pod of dolphins were surfing on the waves.  As the swell would rise, they would power out of the top of the wave and then disappear to appear once again on the next swelling.  There had to be over 50, magical.  A wright whale surfaced and blew within meters of the boat, I am pretty sure he heard us coming, we had the auto pilot on.  The fur seals were all over the place, you would be sailing along and see this one flipper just sitting up in the air, just waving at you.  I am sure they must use it for stability but I would wave back and say hi every time I saw them. There were flocks of gulls, a V of cormorants gliding along the water, pelicans and when we arrived in Walvis Bay we saw flamingoes.  I am going for a walk this morning and will try and get some good pics. We plan to spend 4 or 5 days here before heading to St. Helena. 


The man window in the mine managers house.
A nine pin bowling alley
Desolate isn't it?

The veranda on the hospital.

You can't buy furniture like this anymore.

Barry just wishing the water was still hooked up.

I think the walls must have been painted using a sponge or rag. 

The unrestored assistant mine managers house. 
The"swimming" pool

The water train, you were allowed 20 litres a day per person for everything. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

We arrived safely in Luderitz, Namibia a couple of days ago and yesterday we went to visit the ghost town of Kolmanskuppe.   It is an abandoned diamond mining town, being restored by the mining company that is still operating in the area.  As old mining town dwellers both Barry and I were fascinated with the experience.  It had so many similarities to other old towns we had visited in the NWT, there was the very posh mine managers house in the best location, there was the bowling alley, we saw one in Gunnar, an abandoned gold mining town near Uranium City and of course the gymnasium with the stage for local dramas and musicals. The difference was that everything was really well preserved because it is so dry and if the doors had been left open, sand had encroached the boundaries of the dwellings and was attempting to reclaim the area. Wandering around the single man's bunk house we found the drawing of the lady on the wall, we didn't kiss this lady though!
The Germans had control of the area in the late 1800's when the town was built and there are still original tiles on the floor and in a few buildings, beautifully restored wood floors.  There were   borders stenciled on the walls about normal ceiling height, but the walls continued upwards  about 4 meters to keep the building cool.  The doors and windows were very decorative, but the windows in the unrestored buildings were sand blasted and people had etched their names on the now opaque windows.  There was about 250 Germans in the town  and 800 workers, the hospital could house almost the whole town. Back then the doctors had access to the latest in x-ray technology, not only to help diagnose disease but to find diamonds in suspected smugglers.
There was a section on the ingenious ways people figured out how to smuggle the diamonds out.  I thought that cutting a hole in the top off of a guard rail on a train that took the workers back and forth to the mine site and then stuffing diamonds wrapped in cloth in the hole and fastening the hole was quite clever.  The other one  I enjoyed was a fellow that had a ringed notepad with him all the time and he would have to pass through an x-ray machine.  He would always give the notepad to the guard and walk through the machine. One day a guard made him keep his pad as he passed through the x-ray and lo and behold he had stuffed the binding at the top of the notebook with shiny rocks.  To encourage the security crew to vigilante, any diamonds recovered from smugglers netted the finders 33 percent of their worth.
A description of the first diamond discovery in the area filled me with awe.  As an explorer was going through the area, he asked his helpers to hunt for firewood.  He reminded them to keep an eye out for shiny rocks. The worker came back with a handful of diamonds, dropping his wood and stuffing his discovery in his mouth so he could gather more with his hands. After picking up as many as they could they went back to their campsite to get out of the wind and possibly fog.  That night the wind abated and they crept back to their find to make sure it was real and there in the moonlight were the glittering diamonds laying on the desert floor. They named the area fairly land.
We made our way up to the top of the hill behind town and took a look at the swimming pool. I kid you not; they used to pump sea water up to the site and used it to wash the diamonds. They might as well pump a little more for the enjoyment of the employees and their families.  The old diving board was still there and the ghosts must have taken a few plunges on a hot windy day.
We were driven back to town through a landscape that was barren and unforgiving. It reminded us of the north, treeless, rocky and stark.  The sand dunes started a little further south.  We are on our way to Walvis Bay at the moment. Our route has us travelling within sight of the coast.  We are hoping to stop at an uninhabited bay but only if we can find good holding. pictures to be posted later.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

We are having a good sail north along the African west coast. We are heading for Namibia. We should be there on Thursday, Jan 17.  It is supposed to be quite a picturesque town with German influence in the architecture.  There is also an abandoned diamond mining town in the area that is a tourist attraction that we would like to visit.  Namibia also has a desert area that should be interesting to experience.  It has been quite cold on night watches, I have my long underwear on as well as 4 layers on the top. It should warm up as we get further north, the South Atlantic water is cold.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Looking at Table Mountain, from Lion's Head
Camps Bay, a exclusive Cape Town suburb, looking south. 

Down town with the Harbour

I found this unbelievable, with all the wind they have and the rocky soil, how can this tree still be there. 

There were some challenging parts of this hike, Barry coming down. 

The high density shoreline directly below the Lion's Head. 

We went for a hike up Lion's Head with Brian and Dorothy.  It is the peak that is quite rounded just next to Table Mountain if you look back at the last blog,s pictures you will see the pointed round peak,  It was bright and sunny this time and we had wonderful 360 views of Cape Town. There were sections where there were ladders and the steel steps bolted to the rocks.  At times I felt uneasy being so close to the edge with the wind gusting around unpredictably.
Robert Subukwe's house, the structure opposite were the dog kennels, bigger than some of the cells. 

A former political prisoner, leading the tour, he has a sample of the identifications they were required to have on them at all times while they were imprisoned. 

The cleaned sanitized version of the hall Nelson Mandela used to be escorted down on his way to the quarry. 
The prisoners were isolated, not allowed to talk to each other, even while getting fresh air. That is a photo of a young Nelson Mandela on the right. 
Later on that day we headed out to Robben Island where the political prisoners were incarcerated during the apartheid years.  We saw the cell Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in and the quarry where required to work. They had to chip out quarry stones and then move them from point A to point B and then back again.  At first it was so they stones could be used to build roads and then it was just an exercise in punishment..  Robert Subukwe, was imprisoned after he led people in a passive resistance to the law that you had to carry a pass with you everywhere.  He served out his sentence and then when he was about to be released the S. African government invoked a new law, called the Subukwe clause that allowed them to detain him because they were afraid of what he might do.  He lived in that house in isolation for 13 years until he was so sick they released him so he would not die in prison.  
On a lighter note, when Hilary Clinton came to visit the island with Bill, when he was President, they were going to tour the island, there were not enough buses for everyone visiting to go at the same time.  Hilary suggested they fly a bus over to the island, so they did.  The helicopter bringing the bus over had one of the straps break so the pilot released the bus, just short of the island.  So if the tourist miss the last ferry back to the mainland, they can always take the bus. 
We are off to Namibia in a few minutes.  I must say we have loved our time in South Africa and would recommend it as a holiday destination to anyone. 

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Cape Point from  the sea
Cape Point from the land
Cape of Good Hope from the sea
Cape of Good Hope from the land

 We are officially around the Cape of Good Hope!!  It is one of the five great capes in the world, the others being Cape Horn, Cape Leeuwin (in south western Australia), South East Cape (Tasmania) and the South West Cape (off Stewart Island in New Zealand).  As I was goggling the names of the capes I came across this quote from Bernard Moitessier, a great French sailor, it says it all. 
A sailor's geography is not always that of the cartographer, for whom a cape is a cape, with a latitude and longitude. For the sailor, a great cape is both a very simple and an extremely complicated whole of rocks, currents, breaking seas and huge waves, fair winds and gales, joys and fears, fatigue, dreams, painful hands, empty stomachs, wonderful moments, and suffering at times.
A great cape, for us, can't be expressed in longitude and latitude alone. A great cape has a soul, with very soft, very violent shadows and colours. A soul as smooth as a child's, as hard as a criminal's. And that is why we go.

Our trip around the cape was very successful.  We left early in the morning and rounded the Cape at dawn.  We had to beat into the wind and waves for 10 miles so we motored, at the Cape there were very confused seas.  We were quite close and at one point the cockpit was covered in water and Barry and I were soaked.  As soon as we good we rolled our the genoa and were so flying northward at over 8 knots.  
Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope are very close together, in the past it was called the Cape of Storms until it was renamed when De Gama, a Portuguese sailor, discovered the sea route to India, when it was renamed the Cape of Good Hope.  The wind steadily died and I convinced Barry to bring out the spinnaker for about an hour then we motored until the breeze picked up in the late morning. I thought a pod of dolphins had come to visit but it turned out it was fur seals leaping out of the waves, we had to dodge the kelp beds and later on the dolphins came chattering around the boat.  
View from the boat as we sailed into Cape Bay.
 We sailed past the Cape Town coast, it was truly spectacular. Sydney Harbour in Australia was the most beautiful harbour I have seen but I must say Cape Town has the most stunning setting for a city I have seen yet.  The coast line is very rugged and homes are built up the sides of the mountains.  There are beautiful sandy beaches scattered along the coast, but the water is cold and at times great white sharks make their presence known. 
A "table" cloth forming, the view from our boat!!
We drove out to the National Park that encompasses the capes.  Brian and Dorothy from Tagish had rented a car and very kindly offered to take us out there, if you come this way it is an experience not to be missed.  
Proof I was at the Cape of Good Hope.
Some of the interesting flora in the park. 

We are busy working on the boat again,  I borrowed a heat gun the other day and was very enamoured with the ease at which I could get the old varnish off.  I want to get at least 7 coats on before we set off.  Today it is raining so it is a write off in the varnishing department.  We are getting itchy feet and are ready to go.  We hope to get out to Robben Island to see where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for so many years before we leave and there may be a peak that needs climbing.     

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Big News

Our middle daughter Jennifer has become engaged to her partner Mark Stonehouse. It seems there is another wedding is in our future.  Thank heavens we are headed in the right direction!! What a lovely ring, good job, Mark!!
Taken from the train window, but look at that surf. 
We are going to head around the Cape of Good Hope tomorrow.  We will leave about 0400 to make sure we get to the next marina in Cape Town during the day, it is about 60nm so a good days sail to get there.  The winds were howling here today so hopefully by the morning they will have calmed down somewhat so we won't have trouble leaving our berth.  There are about 5 other boats that will be leaving about the same time so decent weather must be forecasted.
We had a wonderful New Years Eve, dancing the night away at the yacht club.  At midnight they shot of a canon on the other side of the bay and they about 3 seconds later I heard the sound. Then  all the naval vessels touted their horns, it was a great way to welcome in 2013.

On Jan. 2nd we headed into Cape Town and took part in the Cape Minstrel Festival.  There was a free live concert at city hall and then groups of minstrels would parade past down the streets.  I was expecting a big parade but a group would go by and then there would be a half hour wait and another group would stroll on past.  I was expecting a continuous parade and after 3 hours of standing in the hot sun Barry and I left.  I was glad we went because it was a great crowd that was there and they were all having a great time.  The announcer was speaking in a language we could not understand so a lot of the jokes and commentary was lost on us. 
I have been walking regularly in the morning with a group of women. Today we tried to find the way up to the top of the ridge above Simon's Town.  We did not find the trail but it was a gorgeous view nonetheless.  Perhaps I will have to convince the Tagish crew that it would be worthwhile to go up this peak.