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Cape Town to Albany Austraila=4800nm

Onora at Manuel's boatyard with Table Mountain-View from Pete's Window

Our favorate boatyard operator, Manuel Mendes

Jean and brother Pete at Cape of Good Hope

Going after the big game at Sabi Sands.

One-fifth of the Big Five.

Monday December 23, 2013

Cape Town,33° 54 S 18° 25 E 17°58’S 38°41.5’W

The only weather a sailor chooses is that in which he leaves. We are in Cape Town and ready to go, just waiting for good winds from the north or west for two days to get us down to the roaring forties where westerlies lie to speed us to Australia. Meanwhile, the biennial Cape Town to Rio race and a round the world rally for Oysters, along with the summer holidays makes the waterfront vibrant. After the holidays, one hundred boats will head west in the trade winds while we head east in the cold currents of the south. Cape Town, known as ‘Tavern of the Seas’, has long been a sailor’s favorite. Today, besides having all of the services a sailor dreams of, from welcoming people and skilled technicians to anchor galvanizers, it is also one of the world’s most beautiful cities. The rocky shore is broken by shining beaches and green parks behind which lies a mile of orderly development to the edge of the majestic Table Mountain National Park. Think of San Diego with the Tetons lopped off to make a mesa and the clouds just spilling over the top.

The big news has been Mandela’s death. I was surprised by the country’s celebration of his life rather than a mourning of his death. Fred, a twenty-five year old ranger at our safari camp, explained that this is the culture in South Africa and memorial services are followed by parties that the deceased would be sorry to miss. My question to South Africans is ‘what does this mean for the country?’

Like most South Africans we have talked to, Manuel Mendes, who owns the boatyard, does not expect big changes. Manuel is an Angolan who, in the 1970’s, loaded into a van and drove to South Africa when rebels, backed by Russian and Cuban troops, took over the former Portuguese colony. “Jim, nothing bad will happen. South Africa will continue to be a stable democracy”. Manuel and most of the others point to the multiracial constitution that Mandela and De Klerk developed as the bedrock that safeguards all citizens. Yet, my sample of successful white business operators and cab drives, excludes the overwhelming black majority which forms the cheap labor pool that, coupled with the stable government, attracts investment and steady growth. Mark, from Johannesburg who also sat with us at the game park, cautioned that there is one party worth worrying about, run by Julius Malema, who preaches that the white man’s wealth should be given to the black majority. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has done just this and, though he ruined his economy, Mugabe received thunderous applause at Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesburg.

Our time here has been the usual mix of pain and pleasure. The pain arrived on a bright morning last summer while in Chicago in an email from South African Revenue Service informing us that our boat had been seized by Customs because I had left the country, leaving my boat behind. This set off two months of tail chasing which, after getting the boat industry association involved and the excellent work of Craig Garrow, a customs broker on my behalf, resulted in the lifting of the seizure which had been put in place by an overzealous revenue agent enforcing a law that no one knew about.

Pete Igoe, Jeannie’s oldest brother, arrived December 3rd and checked into the V&A harbor side hotel where he could look out his window and wave to us on our boat. We spent five days enjoying South Africa’s lovely wine estates and a day trip down to the spectacular Cape of Good Hope; then boarded a plane for a two hour flight to Sabi Sands for a four day, five-star safari. Sabi Sands combines with the much larger Kruger Park for a ten million acre (twice the size of New Jersey) unfenced home for wild animals. For eight hours each day we smashed through the bush in a Land Rover driven by enthusiastic Fred, following tracker Martin’s signals to creep up next to each of the ‘big five’ and more.

Back in Cape Town, the ‘Pete Tour’ continued with a three hour minibus trip to the south west where we climbed aboard a forty foot boat; squeezed into wet suits; and climbed into a shark cage dipped into the freezing water on the South Coast. The captain chummed for great white sharks and then lobbed a couple of tuna heads in front of our cage. Seven of the monsters lunged for the tuna heads that, tied to a line, would be snatch out of their jaws at the last second causing the beasts, jaws wide open, to land almost on top of us. Clearly, this operator, which claims to be research affiliated, has a different philosophy than our Sabi Sands rangers who were so concerned about stressing the animals.

Pete is gone and Onora is ready. It is lovely and warm.

Our next leg will be a long one-a month and 4,850 miles across the southern Indian Ocean in the roaring forties. We will miss Cape Town and South Africa. We have made friends here: Dirk and Ronald in Jacobsbaai who invited us into their village and home on the rocky northern coast; Errol and Michele who wined and dined us here in Cape Town; Skip Novak who guided me to the best resources for getting Onora ready to go; and most of all to Manuel Mendes, the magnificent boat yard operator who helped us with Onora and made us part of his family. Manuel will be our shore based weather router as we cross to Australia. Before building boats he was a solo sailor who circumnavigated and almost went down after a container collision on an Atlantic crossing. For us, he will forward weather data and suggest routings every two days just like he has done with a Brazilian boat that arrived today with its mast and sails lashed to the deck. Manuel has been losing sleep over this one since disaster struck thirteen days ago in the middle of the Atlantic. As the yacht motored east dwindling its fuel reserves, Manuel organized a fishing boat to head west. The yacht ran empty two days ago, just as the fishing boat arrived with supplies. It looks like the weather will be good for us on the 26th. Before us are days with too much wind when I will question why we chose to do this and days of too little when we will wish for more wind. Most days will be spent reading, sleeping and watch keeping. Then there will be time when I will be busy with repairs, sometimes in the worst conditions. This is when all of our inner resources will be called on to face the challenge. I think we are ready.

Happy Holidays

Jean and Jim




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