leg 3: Port Elizabeth to Simonstown
From Denzell: On arrival in PE, Gavin and Will headed off to the airport to fulfill other obligations leaving Josh and myself to wait out a passing cold front. Making the most of our locality we rented a car and headed down to Jeffreys Bay to take advantage of the swell accompanying the front.
After a surf we looked up an ex south coaster Marky G. Mark is a Chokka fisherman and with the Chokka season closed for two months he was keen to show us the bright lights of Jeffreys night life! Limping back to Port Elizabeth the next day we had to double check the plans we had made the night before and confirmed that Mark had booked a slot onboard for the trip round the Southern coast.
Front followed front and we ended up in PE for almost a week. We soon made friends with the couple overhauling the yacht Lady Africa on the hard in the yacht basin. They were great in offering lifts and local advice. The next weather window started showing up on the weather forecast and as it got closer it started looking peachier and peachier. After showing it to Ricky and Simone on Lady Africa it didn’t take them long to book a break from their boat works and sign on for the trip. Also on Lady Africa’s resume is a very serious You Tube channel recording their overhaul progress. This would be an added benefit as Irene would get her 15 minutes of fame in a Sailing Lady Africa You Tube episode.
One of the highlights of the trip down the coast from Richards bay were all the people involved and the Acid-Test-esque, on the bus off the bus vibe. Including myself, Irene would have hosted eight people at different stages during the trip between Richards Bay and Simonstown.
At about 8 am on Sunday the 13th May Irene slipped her moorings off the very wobbly PE walk on, exited the harbour and headed around Cape Recife.
The wind was good to start with but at about noon on the first day we started engines and despite Marks local knowledge of the area the wind and current seemed to elude us for almost the whole trip around the southern coast. On the second day, the wind came up but coming from exactly where we wanted to go, in contrast to any weather forecasts! Thus is the nature of our Eastern and Southern coasts around South Africa!
Fishing was OK and having two excellent fishermen on board certainly helped. Skip jacks, not the greatest but when cooked fresh still awesome white fish. At one point Mark put us onto a reef and despite not having a fish finder we managed to catch a bucket full of Carpenters, the local commercial line fishermen’s staple.
In addition to the fish, Mark bought along a “Block” of local St Francis Chokka. I have had it before but cooked by Mark this was definitely the best calamari I have ever had! If you don’t know already, our local Squid or Chokka is not available on the local market and all of it exported to Europe and the east. Any squid bought from the fish shops locally is imported, usually from the Falklands! Crazy!
Secrets to cooking awesome squid: Clean them properly by removing insides, wings and skin. Remove suction cups from tentacles if eating tentacles. Batter in a thick mix of garlic steak marinade and deep fry on high heat for less than a minute.
Complaining about too little wind along our southern coast is not really a complaint but we did have the engines running loads. On the plus side we had some awesome sublime weather. On one night watch with no moon out there was no distinction between the glass like ocean with seals being lit up with bioluminescence and the starlit heavens. Irene could have been floating through the cosmos. I think she was!
Although this trip was the start of our voyage, it was also a bit of a shake down to find any weak links and the engines certainly showed their weakness when about a day out of Simonstown the port engine completely packed up. There basically was no compression pressure and the crank case was getting severely over pressurised. Hoping for a blown head gasket, Ricky and myself changed this with a new spare but to no avail so the last day and arrival was done on one engine.
After three days of little and intermittent wind, the last day arriving into Simonstown was to be a cracker! We got the asymmetric up at about 8 in the morning and after about 4 hours took it down just before the wind hit 20 knots from astern around Cape Hangklip. Coming into False Bay a proper Cape South Easter developed and once again Irene came screaming into her destination.
False Bay Yacht club had given us use of their emergency mooring buoy for the night and as we got it hooked on the wind picked up to over 40 knots. With the one engine going ahead as much as it could, we still had tension on the mooring line so I was very glad the guys managed to grab it first time.
By sunset the wind had dropped and fearing a mutiny due to an empty beer locker, the Pillager (our tender) was dropped and beers recovered from the yacht club. With anchor alarms set we were all soon in bed for a watch free night on the mooring buoy. The next day in super calm conditions we were helped onto a walk on to discharge crew, fill up with water and grab a few cold ones at the Brass Bell.
Once everyone had headed off in their different directions I stayed on board for a few days to do the groundwork for the engine overhauls and make sure she was safely secured against the Cape Town storms. Once all set, I also headed off home to pack up the rest of the house and pick up the family before driving back down.