Thursday, December 28, 2017

An African Christmas

Very early on the morning of December 13th, a sleepy Cool Runnings crew emerged from their cabins and assembled on deck. We didn’t have a sailing emergency…we had a plane to catch! Our 6:30am flight to Johannesburg from Cape Town meant we had to leave our floating home at about 4:30am. We had a last check of the lines to ensure our boat would be OK in our absence and walked the short distance to the roadside where we were able to catch an Uber to the airport.

Winging our way to Johannesburg
Our plane took off as scheduled and we arrived in Johannesburg 2 hours later, where we were met by my brother, Detlef. (I have 3 brothers: Thorsten is the oldest, and also lives in Johannesburg, Volker is next in line, now living in Nottingham, England, but whom I was able to see in Cape Town, and Detlef is the “youngest”…I tell him he’ll always be my baby brother!). It was a happy reunion for both the siblings and the cousins. I had briefly seen Detlef, my sister-in-law Karené, and my 2 nieces, Téa and Maya in June of 2013, when they were living in Germany, and I had a business trip to Vienna. I had also seen Detlef again in 2014 when he came to see us in Florida after a work trip to Mexico. But the kids had not seen each other for 5 years, although they had connected over Instagram over the last couple of months.

My brother Detlef and my sister-in-law, Karene
Sadly, Detlef had to leave for Scotland that evening, as the whole family is in the process of moving to Glasgow! So, to give the cousins some extra time together, we took the girls with us on a short 5 day trip to Mpumalanga, or what was formerly known as the Eastern Transvaal. Our main aim was to spend a few days in the Kruger National Park. We had had a fantastic time in Mkuze Game Park when we first arrived in South Africa, but we took the opportunity to visit the Kruger Park , because, let’s be honest, how soon will we get the chance to see these majestic wild animals in their natural habitat again? 

The Kruger Gate ("Hek" is "Gate" in Afrikaans) - one of the main entrances to the Kruger Park

A statue of Paul Kruger, the then president of the Transvaal Republic, who had the foresight to establish a national game reserve in 1898.  At that time, it was called the Sabie Game Reserve.  It was later changed to the Kruger National Park in his honor. 
We left early on Friday morning, and drove towards the Kruger. After a breakfast stop in the small town of Dullstroom, and a drive through the beautiful countryside, we decided to take a back road to the Blyde River Canyon, to check out the Bourke’s Luck Potholes. The “potholes” are the result of decades of swirling eddies of water where the Treur River meets the Blyde River. Extensive erosion, as the water swirled around, has formed these amazing, smooth, holes in the rock.

Ben explores the pools at the top of the Potholes

The water then cascades down in a series of small waterfalls into pools below

The rock has been eroded into smooth, round potholes

Bourke's Luck Potholes
Unfortunately the weather closed in, and we were not able to fully appreciate the beauty of the rest of the canyon, as low cloud cover and mist obscured some of the magnificent views normally visible from the viewing points. Instead, we drove on to our destination, the Protea Kruger Gate, on the Sabie River, right outside the Paul Kruger Gate, one of the entrances to the famous game park. It had been a long day on the road and sightseeing, so we decided to take it easy the next day and just enjoy the amenities of the hotel. 

Dave takes in the view as the clouds close in

Blyde River Canyon

We spent two full days in the Kruger Park, and were very lucky with our game viewing. The first day we drove into the park, we were getting very discouraged. We had been driving around for at least 2 hours, and had not seen a single thing, bar a few Impala. 

We started feeling sorry for the Impala, as there are so many of them, most people don't stop to admire them. He's still awfully handsome, isn't he?

Then our luck changed, and we stumbled upon a herd of elephant! I never tire of seeing these huge creatures lazily flapping their big ears and wrapping their long trunks around branches, ripping off leaves munching on grass. There were also many babies among the animals we saw, and what’s not to love about a baby ellie?! 

Baby Elephant crosses the road

Mom follows

Such majestic creatures!
A stop at the “Lower Sabie” camp, situated on the Sabie River, gave us our first glimpse of hippo and water buffalo. Life was getting better. After some lunch at an enclosed picnic spot, we continued on our drive around the park. A short distance later, we noticed a car stopped on the side of the road, a sure sign that there’s a sighting of something! Before we could get to the spot, the car pulled off and came towards us. The driver rolled down her window and told us that they had been watching a hyena at the waterhole ahead. But better than that, she told us they had just seen a cheetah under a tree, about 5km away! We drove on, and did see the hyena under the tree, but it was the cheetah we were really interested in.

Hippos wallowing in the Sabie River

We drove on, carefully monitoring the distance and the landscape around us. It is amazing how camouflaged these animals are, so it was all hands on deck for cheetah spotting! We were soon getting discouraged as the 5km mark approached, and we’d had no sign of the cheetah. Another car came past, and confirmed that they had seen the cheetah too, and even offered to turn around and show us where they’d seen it! We declined their kind offer and soldiered on. Not a minute or two later, Dave spotted it! The beautiful, sleek cat was no longer sleeping under a tree, it was walking along the side of the road! We slowly followed it, driving alongside it as it walked along the road, sometimes crossing in front of us, once lying down in the road in front of the car! Before long, it walked a little deeper into the bush, and in seconds, it was gone! We felt so lucky to have seen it, and see it so close!

Sleek Kitty Cat

Feeling happy that we’d seen elephant, buffalo, hippo, many buck, giraffe and the cheetah, we decided to call it a day, and head back to the hotel!

The next time we went into the park, we decided to make it an early morning, as game viewing is often best early in the morning or at dusk, when it’s not yet too hot. We all rose at 5:00am and were in the bush by 6:00am. We took the first dirt road we could, and our strategy paid off. Running across the road ahead of us, was a frantic herd of buck…chasing them was a wild dog! Wild dogs are pretty rare, and we were thrilled to see one hunting! But it got better…soon 2 dogs crossed our path, unsuccessful in catching the buck, but back on the hunt in the grass next to the road! We followed the dogs as they sniffed and ran and even dug up and ate some kind of meat that they had buried under a log. We thought that was great to see, but it got even better. 

Something caught his attention

 About 10 minutes after spotting the first wild dog and following the 2 dogs hunting, a pack of maybe 20 dogs ran across the road to meet up with the 2 we’d been watching! Their tails wagged and they yelped and sniffed and greeted each other, just like any dog would do!! As the cars multiplied, the occupants watched in awe of this amazing sighting! The wild dogs pretty much ignored the cars and went about their business, many of them lying in the road, in the path of the cars, so we couldn’t move for quite a while!

The pack of wild dogs cause a traffic jam!

Wild dog can be distinguished by their big, round ears and mottled fur

This guy was in front of our car, so we weren't going anywhere!

Once mobile again, we saw giraffe, more elephant and many impala, some kudu and nyala, and were enjoying our game drive tremendously. Soon we noticed something lying in the grass in the shade under a tree. At first we thought it was just one animal, probably a hyena sleeping. But something startled it, and first one, then 2 little heads popped up, and we realized we were looking at 2 hyena pups suckling from their mom!! We watched them for ages, the pups drinking their fill, and the mom just lying down. Every now and then, they’d pop their heads up, to check on their surroundings, and then lie down again. I have to admit that I think hyenas are rather ugly, but even the ugliest baby is cute, and that goes for hyenas too! The pups were adorable…actually looking more like the wild dogs we’d seen that morning rather than hyenas! 

The two pups look up.  Mom is still lying down

Just as we were about to drive on, and leave the mom and her babies, she decided it was time to move, and got up, and started walking along the road. The naughty pups followed, but took their time, playing in the grass, and falling further and further behind their mom. Every now and then, she’d turn her head around to check on them, and at one point, she was so far ahead that she stopped, turned back and waited for them, essentially closing the distance between herself and her pups. The naughty pups then disappeared into the bush behind us, and the poor mom, turning around and not seeing them, started to panic. She walked back, and then started running, frantically looking for her babies. She too disappeared into the bush, in the direction where the pups had disappeared, so we assume she found them, and gave them a good spanking for not sticking close to her and straying off the path!!

Mom gets up

She waits for her pups

They take their time emerging from the bush

Clearly a hyena with its shorter hind legs, giving it a hunched appearance

Mom looks back as the pups play around behind her
Onwards we went, and our luck stayed with us. We saw 2 male lions sleeping under trees, just once or twice lazily looking up in our direction. Did you know that lions will sleep for up to 20 hours a day?! Lazy buggers…! 

Lazy Lion
Still a favorite...the good old Zebra

We were also rewarded with 3 rhino, looking prehistoric with their armour-like skin and horns. Tallying up our sightings later that day, we realized that Lady Luck had certainly been shining on us: we’d seen wild dog, giraffe, elephant, lion, rhino, hippo, baby hyenas, wildebeest, zebra and countless buck! All that was missing was a leopard, and although we tried hard, we had to count our blessings, and leave the park without seeing a leopard. We are so thankful, and feel so blessed to be able to experience seeing these incredible animals living their lives in the wild, and share this beauty and these experiences with our children!

Rhino grazing in the grass

An elegant giraffe...just to give a perspective to its size!
We came across this group of elephant surrounding a small elephant that was lying down.  We don't know if it was just resting, or if there was something wrong with it.  

Soon it was back to civilization, and Christmas preparations! My parents drove up from KZN, and my brother Thorsten joined us from his neck of the woods here in Johannesburg. We were almost a complete extended Wedekind family unit, just missing my brother Volker, who was back in the UK with his family. 

With my oldest brother Thorsten, my dad, mom and youngest brother Detlef on Christmas Eve, 2017

The kids having fun with their cousins
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as the preceding days, we were rewarded with beautiful, hot weather. The kids were able to swim, jump on the trampoline and play in the park, while the adults chatted, reminiscing of childhood Christmases and past times, enjoying family time and wondering what the future held for us all as we would soon be going our separate ways again; my folks back to their little house in New Germany, Detlef and his family to Scotland, and the Cool Runnings crew about to embark on their last major ocean crossing before the adventure of a lifetime slowly comes to a close!

Merry Christmas from the Cool Runnings crew!


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Arrival in Cape Town at Last! (and Merry Christmas!)

Well folks, once again, I’ve left it too long between blog posts, and I have a lot to catch up on! This covers our arrival and subsequent 2 and a half weeks in Cape Town, and with so much going on, this is a long one! Feel free to simply scroll through the pictures, or, if so inclined, skim through the paragraphs and get an idea of what we’ve been up to! We are currently in Johannesburg with my family, on Christmas Eve…it’s hard to believe another year has gone by! We’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very, very merry Christmas and blessed New Year. Enjoy and appreciate every day and every moment. If it’s one thing we’ve learnt on this trip, it’s that life is short, and it is precious. Hold your loved ones close and enjoy every moment. Aim to make every day the best day of the year! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us on Cool Runnings!

Merry Christmas!! Ben and Gaby with their cousins Tea and Maya

Arrival in Cape Town at Last!

Being a little weary of the South African coast, we left Knysna with trepidation, but it turned out that we finally got it right, and had an uneventful, pleasant sail to Cape Town, arriving a good 7 hours earlier than anticipated! We rounded both Cape Agulhas (where the Indian and Atlantic Ocean meet) and Cape Point, two of the most notorious points along the Cape of Storms, with no problem at all!

Happy to conquer the Cape of Storms!  It was SO cold!
We left Knysna in the early morning, and made it out over the heads without incident. Just before sunset, we spotted a sailing vessel on AIS. It was “Alma” skippered by our friend Jonas from Sweden. We had met Jonas in Durban, and again in Port Elizabeth. He had left PE a day after us, and had spent some time in Mosselbay, and was now also on his way to Cape Town. Jonas is sailing single handed around the world in his boat, which is 26 ft (7.9m) long! We hailed him on the VHF, and had a long chat before settling in for the night. It was uneventful, and we rounded Cape Agulhas at around 5:00am. It was crazy to think that at that point, Cool Runnings had officially crossed the Indian Ocean! We received a text from our friend Stephan (who had been with us on the Seychelles to Mayotte passage) asking if we wanted to come in for coffee! He has a house in Agulhas and had been tracking us, so he knew we were in his neighborhood!!

Rounding Cape Point was also uneventful. As we made it in daylight (about 5:00pm), we were able to marvel in the beauty of the landscape, aware of the extremely rugged coastline and rocks and reefs that jut out of the point. We watched the tour busses driving up and down Cape Point, looking like little ants scurrying back and forth. Their passengers, no doubt, were at the lookout point, looking at US, probably wondering what our story was, where we were coming from and where we were going! 

Rounding Cape Point

It gets dark around 8:30pm in the Western Cape at this time of year, so we still had plenty of daylight left for the remaining passage. We knew, however, that we would arrive in the dark, and our deepest thanks go out to Dave Booth, Dave’s sailing coach from Optimist days (when Dave was around Benjamin’s age), who guided us in. Dave Booth had heard we were heading to Cape Town, got our number from the Royal Cape Yacht Club, where we had a booking for a berth, and got in touch with us to offer any assistance. He even offered to help us berth the boat (at 11:00pm at night!), or drive to an anchorage and flash his lights to let us know that we were in the right place! Dave, thanks so much for your efforts, assistance, and also later for the lovely time spent catching up on the boat, and then spoiling us all with dinner at RCYC!

Last sunset of the passage

It turned out we didn’t need to anchor, or even go to RCYC. We also had a berth booked at the V & A Marina for a few days (Cape Town’s famous waterfront, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is commonly known as the V&A), and, since our arrival in Cape Town coincided with the arrival of the Volvo Around the World Ocean Race boats, the V&A was alive and buzzing with excitement and the bridges working, so we headed straight there! By midnight we were snug in a berth amongst all the power motor yachts in the V&A, thrilled to have made it at last, and conquered South Africa’s treacherous coast, the part of the entire trip that I had been dreading the most!

What a backdrop!  Cool Runnings at her berth at the V&A with Table Mountain behind

We woke up to the sound of cranes lifting boats out of the water. More Volvo yachts had arrived during the night, and they were being hauled out of the water and lifted onto the ground, where “pit crews” would work on them for the next 2 weeks, while the crews got a bit of rest. The boats were right next to the pontoon we were on, we were so close, we could almost touch them! The Volvo Ocean Race (formally the Whitbread Around the World Race), is a race around the world in 11 legs. The boats arriving in Cape Town was the end of Leg 2. Leg one was a short leg from Alicante, Spain to Lisbon, Portugal. The leg to follow, from Cape Town to Melbourne, Australia, would be one of the toughest, with the boats having to sail through the Southern Indian Ocean. There are only 7 boats competing, and it is hailed as one of the toughest races in sailing. It was incredible to see these boats, with their enormous canting keels on the hard, a few feet from our boat! 

"AkzoNobel", one of the 7 Volvo Ocean Race boats with "Turn the Tide on Plastic" next to it, on the hard.  The orange thing on the right of the picture is the long keel

The hype around their arrival and presence in Cape Town was also huge, with a massive “race village” erected, where the general public could learn about the race, the crews of each boat, and of course the sponsors. There were tons of interactive activities, lots of displays and little booths set up all along the waterfront. There was also “The Boatyard”, which included a full scale sail loft, where sails could be repaired, or new sails made, and other repairs could be made as needed. It was an impressive operation to see, and to know that the entire village is packed up and shipped to the next destination as the boats race around the world, was mind blowing!

The front view from our boat. 

The sail loft inside "The Boatyard"

The other really cool thing about the Volvo Ocean Race was the message they were conveying…it was all about keeping the oceans clean, recycling and bringing awareness to the public about the amount of plastic that is found in our oceans. One of the boats is called “Turn the Tide on Plastic” and many of the boats promote a message of sustainability across the world. In Cape Town, one of the booths was run by Consol, who make glass products, where you could hand in a plastic bottle, and they would replace it with a glass one. Trying to decrease the use of “one use plastics”, there were also stations around the waterfront, where you could refill your GLASS bottle with water, even with Cape Town being in a severe drought.

As luck would have it, my brother Volker was in Cape Town for a conference just at the same time we were there. Volker and his family moved to Nottingham in the UK in April this year, so I would not have seen him at all, had he not had this work-related trip. (We still didn’t get to see Jean, Isobel or Max, my sister-in-law, niece and nephew, which was sad, but I am glad to have had the opportunity to at least see Volker!). We spent Monday afternoon together, after he landed, and before he had a work engagement that evening.

Siblings...Gudrun and Volker
I was also able to meet up again with my dear friend Vicky, who also happened to be in Cape Town for a few days…that worked out well, didn’t it?! Just after Volker left, Vicky arrived, and we had a great afternoon and evening together, after her husband Haydn, and son Cameron joined us and we all went out to dinner. Earlier in the afternoon, at one of the Volvo exhibitions, I was lucky to be able to secure 4 seats for a ride in the Volvo RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) support boats! Unfortunately there was an age limit, and the kids were not able to come along, but Vicky joined Dave and me for a ride of our lives! Kitted out in the beautiful official Musto Volvo Ocean Race jackets we went out the harbor and as far as Camp’s Bay. It was a beautiful day to be out, and we had the most spectacular views of Cape Town from the water. Used to going at a relatively slow speed in our “tank” (Cool Runnings), this was an exhilarating ride, at times reaching up to 45 knots!! Haydn and Cameron joined us at the boat after they had finished working, and we had one last evening together before they headed off to Stellenbosch where their daughter Amber, Cameron’s twin, is studying.

Vix and I on the RIB all kitted out in our Volvo Ocean Race gear!
When Volker had a free day after his conference ended, he hired a car, and we went on a lovely Peninsular Tour. We drove to Hout Bay, along the famous Chapman’s Peak drive over to Simonstown, saw the adorable little African penguins there, and then had a lovely seafood lunch at Kalk Bay. Back to Cape Town through Muizenburg and then eventually back to the boat. By Friday, sadly our time together was over. After some lunch on the boat, Volker headed to the airport to catch his plane, but I am so grateful to have seen him, and be able to spend some time with him!

Love these little penguins!

Boulders Beach...all the little dots on the beach are penguins

Lunch with Volker!
We’ve been able to reconnect with so many people, and it’s hard to put it all sequentially, so I’ll try and remember as best as I can. It has been wonderful to see so many of Dave’s old sailing friends, as well as make new ones:

On Sunday morning, a few hours after our late night arrival, and as we were looking at the Volvo boats on the hard, we heard someone shout, “Hibberd!!”. It was Dave’s old friend Alistair Fraser, who had driven all the way from Knysna, (where we had just come from!) to come and find him! We had just enough time for a cup of tea before he had to head on back.

Dave and Alistair
Stephan came that afternoon after kite surfing at Blouberg strand, and explored some of the Volvo village with us.

Dave and Stephan with MAPFRE and Dongfeng on the hard behind them

Monday was the day we met Vicky and Haydn, and spent a few hours with Volker.

On Wednesday evening Pete Shaw dropped by the boat and stayed for dinner. Volker was also with us, and a great evening was had by all!

Dave Booth came over to see the boat on Friday and then invited us to dinner at the Royal Cape Yacht Club. Thank you, Dave and Carol for the lovely evening!

Rick Nankin has been fantastic in getting our new North sails made, delivered and fitting perfectly!

We even managed to see Ian Ainslie, one of Dave’s Olympic Team mates, who now lives in Hungary, but happened to be in South Africa for a few weeks! Dave got to go with Ian on Greg Davis catamaran to watch the Volvo race start of leg 3, and at that time also met up with a couple of old finn sailors that were also on Greg’s boat, that he knew from many years ago….a great day by all accounts.

Ian and Dave on the water watching the Volvo boats
Last, but not least, we had a special visit from Jenny Arthur and her daughters Victoria and Kate. Jenny is my sister-in-law, Jean’s cousin (are you following?) and has loyally followed our journey through our blog. She lives in Johannesburg, but was coming to Cape Town on holiday. It was touch and go that we saw each other, as we were leaving for Johannesburg the day after they arrived in Cape Town! After being on the road for 2 days, she came straight to the V&A to meet us and see the boat. Jenny, it was wonderful to meet you and we are so glad we were able to get together, even though it was so short!

On Cool Runnings with Jenny
After a week at the marina, (we managed to extend our stay at the V&A, and did not have to move over to RCYC), and after watching it fill up with boats from the ARC Rally, as well as other cruising boats, we were thrilled when our good friends on “Moby” arrived on Sunday, December 3rd. We had not seen each other since we parted ways in the Seychelles, so it was really fantastic to see them again and catch up with them on their travels. They made it all the way from Richard’s Bay to Cape Town in one go, only hitting a bad patch 24 hours out of Cape Town, with headwinds and some bumpy seas.

Moby arrives on a rainy morning.  Anna, Arthur, Victor and Benedicte are in front.  Loic is at the helm.

Later in the day, Victor, Ben and Gaby, the "Bean Team" (or should they now be called the "Hat Squad"?), catch up over a game of XBox in Ben's cabin!
We spent much of the second week on what I call “boat stuff”. If you recall, one of our windows cracked on the passage from the Seychelles to Mayotte. We had the window replaced here in Cape Town, and while we were at it, we re-caulked much of the outside of the boat. This entailed Dave and I gouging out the old silicone, and then Ishmail and his team, who replaced our window, then also re-caulked those areas where we had removed the old silicone. This should help with water-proofing, and it also looks much nicer!

We also had our new North sails fitted and they look beautiful! We then took them off again, and are keeping them as a spare set, as we decided our current sails can make it back to Florida, and then we have a brand new set when these give up the ghost. We now just have to find somewhere to store 4 brand new sails…not an easy task, as they are not exactly small!

I also took the time to go through all our provisions again, and started working on our provisioning list for our upcoming Atlantic crossing. It’s important that we have enough food to get us at least to the Caribbean, as we have a very long passage ahead of us (the longest individual non-stop since setting off from Florida will be just over 3,100 miles), with no opportunity to buy anything along the way. However, we also don’t want to be carrying unnecessarily extra weight, (especially with the extra weight of the sails), so it is a fine balancing act of having enough, but not too much!!

Dave also sourced an element that we needed for our hot water heater, so we could have hot showers when we run the generator, which we sometimes do on long passages to charge our battery bank. Currently, we only have hot water when we run an engine, or through our little solar hot water heater. He’s also been up the mast again to do a full rig inspection, ready for our next long ocean crossing. His other big job included servicing the two boat main engines, and servicing the generator!

Ben helped Dave service the engines.  They changed the fuel filters...old and new!

By Friday, December 8th, all the Volvo Ocean Race boats were back in the water, polished, cleaned up, and ready to go again. That afternoon, there was a scheduled “In Port” race, which is important to the yachts, as it can mean the difference between winning or losing the overall race. The scores of the In Port races count towards their overall score, and since the level of competition is so high, the boats sometimes finish within minutes of each other. One year, 2 boats actually tied, so they looked to the results of the In Port races to determine the overall winner of the entire race!

The boats back in the water

I never tire of getting a photo with the iconic Table Mountain in the background!
Since Cool Runnings was on “bed rest” (we couldn’t put her under any stress since the glue on the new window was curing), Loic and Benedicte invited us to go out and watch the race on Moby. Loic did an excellent job jostling amongst the many spectator boats, and we had a fantastic view of the start, and thrilled in watching these huge boats screeching past us at incredible speed! We could hear their rigging groaning under the pressure the massive sails exert as they tacked along the course and rounded the marks. It was thrilling sailing to watch! Loic and Benedicte were supporting “Dongfeng”, as the skipper, and the majority of the crew on board are French (even though the boat is racing under the Chinese flag)! Much to our delight, “Dongfeng” won the race…”Vive la France!”

5 of the 7 Volvo Boats in action in the In Port Race
As we sat with Loic and Benedicte at the Heineken tent, enjoying a cold beer and watching the world go by, we suddenly saw 2 familiar faces…Eric and Birgitta from Aerial IV! They had just arrived in Hout Bay at 4:00am that morning, but wanted to come over to see the Volvo boats race, and meet up with Sophie Ciszek, one of the crew members aboard the Spanish team “MAPFRE”. They were walking with her, and briefly introduced her to us. We told her how Gaby was inspired by all the racing (Gaby was on the boat with the other kids, and not drinking beer with us at the Heineken tent!), and she offered to sign an autograph for her, and possibly take her aboard Mapfre the following day! Unfortunately, the following day (Saturday) was so windy, that the autograph signing and possible boat viewing was cancelled, so Gaby never did get her autograph!

A beer with good friends.  At the Heineken tent with Loic and Benedicte from Moby

On Sunday, December 10th, the boats were ready to leave on their next leg to Melbourne, Australia. We watched as, one by one, they left their berths at the V&A, and headed out into Table Bay. Ben, Gaby and I watched from shore as they did one more short course around a buoy in the Bay, and then headed out into the great Southern Ocean. Dave was lucky enough to go out on another boat with Ian Ainslie to watch them leave. As we walked back to the boat, we could already see the village getting packed up, and over the next few days, tents were dismantled and containers were loaded and all the excitement was packed up along with them!

Ben and Gaby watch the final race from Grainger Bay
One of the things I really wanted to do while in Cape Town was to visit Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and many other political prisoners were imprisoned during the Apartheid era. While time just got away from us as we worked on getting the boat ready for the next big crossing, we put aside Tuesday, December 12th as our day to go to Robben Island. I finally got the tickets after standing in a line for a very long time, but on the morning of our scheduled tour, we were told the tour was cancelled due to strong winds! Since we had put the day aside for sightseeing, we decided to go up Table Mountain instead. Not to be! The cable car was also closed due to strong winds! So instead we walked over to the Castle of Good Hope for some history lessons.

The castle's moat. The castle was originally positioned at the waterfront, but land reclamation has caused it be situated inland
 The castle is a bastion fort built between 1666 and 1679 and is the oldest existing colonial building in South Africa. Beautifully restored in the 1980’s, it is considered to be the best preserved example of a Dutch East India Company fort.

One of the cannons protecting the castle

Looking back towards Table Mountain
After we had toured the castle, we took an Uber to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, and spent a few hours walking around this magnificent site. You could spend a whole day here, meandering through the 36 hectare garden, nestled on the eastern slope of Cape Town’s Table Mountain.

Dave checks out some flowers

The gardens are nestled on the slopes of Table Mountain
Beautiful flowers, beautiful bee

They actually didn't pose for this photo!  I caught them like this, looking at something with interest! (It warms a mother's heart!!)

Reluctantly, we left the gardens and headed back to the boat. We had to pack and get the boat secured for the time we would be away. We had always planned to be in Johannesburg at my youngest brother, Detlef’s house for Christmas, but our original plan was to take our time and drive from Cape Town to Johannesburg (about 1,500km or over 900 miles), but as time slipped away from us, we decided to rather use some saved airlines miles, and fly. So, early on Wednesday morning, December 13th, we said goodbye to Cool Runnings and the seals that make the docks at the marina their home, and took an Uber to Cape Town International Airport, to catch our flight to Johannesburg!  That story along with our time spent in the Kruger National Park, and a family Christmas coming up in the next post!