• Carla

leg 9: Luderitz to Walvis Bay

We were pretty eager to get out of Luderitz after the huge winds we’d experienced in the anchorage. The conditions didn’t look perfect for the sail up to Walvis Bay, but if we didn’t leave now, we’d be stuck here for another week with more gales on the way. We left the mooring at around 8am together with Karen and Graham on Red Herring II and Roux and the crew on Era, and headed out of the relative protection of Menai Creek. The swell turned out to be a lot bigger than predicted. And then it got steadily bigger peaking at around 5m when we rounded the point. It was extremely uncomfortable and took me far out of my comfort zone. I spent the day pretending it wasn’t happening whilst popping seasickness pills. The kids handled it far better than I did, happy to play lego and watch TV and sticking their heads out for fresh air every now and then.

The following day the swell had calmed down a bit and the wind also started backing off to my extreme relief. Denz put some lines out and caught us a Cape Yellowtail for supper. The seasickness pills clearly work brilliantly because I managed to make us a sushi platter for dinner and generally life felt pretty amazing. That happiness was short lived though when the wind turned onto our nose in the evening and we were slamming into it in that special jolting motion that catamarans have where it sounds like all the rigging is about to come crashing down. Together with a moonless night and heaps of bioluminescence in the white horses it was a freaky night watch.

The third day brought the exact opposite conditions with virtually no wind at all. We inched onwards to Walvis Bay. Just before sunset we spotted the lighthouse on the sandspit but it was still a long way around into the harbour. Every year the spit gets steadily longer as more sand is deposited, so the lighthouse is actually now about halfway along it which really gives a weary sailor a false sense of achievement. Red Herring II had made it in before us and called us up on the vhf to tell us where to anchor. Denz had also spent quite a bit of time working in this harbour before, so we were reasonably confident to enter in the dark. We dropped the anchor just as we reached the other yachts at about 10pm.

In the morning we realised we were actually anchored quite far from the yacht club so we decided to move in a bit closer. After finding a potentially good spot I dropped the anchor again. Finding it odd that I could still see the anchor chain snaking all over the sand I asked Denzell what depth we were in. When his answer of 20cm came back I rapidly hauled the anchor back up and we moved back out to where we’d been before. It was a long, wet ride in the pillager every time we went ashore. It turned out that this anchorage was also pretty uncomfortable with a strong wind building up most afternoons coupled with currents from the tides. We put out all our anchor chain and set every anchor alarm we had after we saw another yacht drag their anchor and almost end up on the breakwater.

Our spare engine parts arrived by courier from Singapore, which was still less than half the price of getting them sent up from Cape Town, and Denz got to work getting the port engine repaired. Once that job was done we arranged to move onto a mooring buoy so that we could safely leave Irene whilst we went camping in Etosha National Park for a few days.

We picked up our rental 4x4 with camping gear and set off for Etosha. It had been quite cold and foggy on the coast and we were still in our winter woollies so the heat of the interior came as quite a shock. We reached Etosha in the late afternoon as a thunderstorm was brewing and had a spectacular drive to Halali camp, seeing three Cheetah right next to the road. Setting up an unfamiliar tent with no instructions in a desert sandstorm was less fun than we’d bargained for, but the spectacular sunset that followed with a G&T in hand made up for it. The kids loved sleeping in the ‘treehouse’ rooftop tent but we found a rather cross looking pearl spotted owlet in the morning who was less than impressed at us pitching a tent next to his house.

We spent three days exploring the reserve and saw plenty of game, but the lion eluded us right up to the last day. We were told that they’d been spotted at a watering hole quite near to our camp, so we set off early with our breakfast packed and settled in to watch and wait. Eventually we were getting bored as there were absolutely no animals other than a few skittery buck, so we turned to drive out and were confronted by a huge lion sunning himself right behind us! We stopped a respectful distance away and were totally engrossed in watching him when Denz caught a movement in the grass just outside his window, it was a lioness completely hidden right next to us. The windows were rapidly wound up. We went back to that spot later in the afternoon and saw the lion and lioness again, this time they gave our kids an interesting biology lesson.

We drove back to Walvis Bay via the Torra conservancy and Skeleton Coast, stopping at an incredibly interesting petrified forest on the way. Our guide told us the trees were pine trees and were washed down here from central Africa in a flood 280 million years ago and then were slowly turned to stone. There are massive trees lying still intact, some of them up to 40m long, in this unassuming site next to the main road.

I’m so glad we took the time to explore a tiny bit of it of this spectacular country, but we still have a long way to sail and it was time to get back to Irene and our make our final preparations for the crossing to St Helena Island, our first ocean crossing.

I put a lot of effort into this sushi platter

dodging oil rigs coming into walvis bay

our first game sighting as we entered Etosha National Park

thunderstorm brewing

pitching camp in a sandstorm

G&T time

we shared our camp with this little pearl spotted owlet

feeding granola to the cheeky ground squirrels

spectacular petrified tree

skeleton coast

shopping for desert roses

dodging the oil rig again leaving walvis bay

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