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!


  1. Still enjoying your story! Keep them coming :))

  2. congratulation, was waiting for your after cape report; enjoy very much reading your sailing stories; what night shift scheme are you using?
    allthebest gerald (L380-doucema, austria)

    1. Hi Gerald ... We normally have Dave on from about sunset to 11pm, then Guds from 11pm to about 3am, then Dave from 3am to 7am .... so far its worked well ;) All the best for 2018 and thanks for the compliment ;)

  3. A belated Merry Christmas. I do love your posts and am ridiculously pleased to see them waiting for me. Thank you for taking us along on your grand adventure.
    Mary O