Saint Lucia: A Short Stopover

In the early hours of the morning Dad woke me up and we quietly raised the anchor on Catching Up. We carefully navigated around the yachts in Bequia and rounded the corner to make way to St Lucia. We already decided to skip the island of St Vincent due to time constraints. What I noticed about these passages that if you stay on the leeward side of the islands (the Western side), you get a much smoother passage.

Shortly after helping dad get going, I went back to sleep for the duration of his shift. 3 hours later I took helm as we were in line with St Vincent. I watched for hours at the isolated spots of lights on the island imagining what it would have looked like during the day. I returned to sleep for 3 more hours as dad came back up.

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Caribbean Gem: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

After a lovely long month exploring Grenada it was time to sail north to bluer waters. We cleared out in Carriacou and did a short sail (5miles/ 1 hour) to Union Island. Union island is one of the southern most entrance points for the Grenadines. What was was unique about Union Island was the little anchorage was almost a water Roundabout/Traffic Circle. In the centre of the anchorage is a giant circular reef with a channel surrounding it. We found a tiny sandy spot off what’s called roundabout reef and Dad and Dantelle went ashore to clear in. Soon enough they returned to come collect us and take us ashore.

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Caribbean Cruising: Grenada

After our quite frightening night before, off the coast of Carriacou, we rounded the corner and dropped the anchor for the first time since Fernando De Noronha. Dantelle, Dad and I dropped the dingy and we all boarded it to make our way into the bay to clear into Grenada. The anchorage was filled with all sorts of cruising boats. We cleared in with ease and took a few days to recoup after the long and bumpy passage. After doing a small re-provision in Carriacou we sailed south to the main island of Grenada. This is where we sadly losing our last crew member, Werner.  We pulled into Secret Harbour in Mount Hartman Bay and said our goodbyes to him.

Sitting in Secret Harbour
We found a fellow Knysna, SV Impulse in Secret Harbour
Enjoying Catching Up at night!

Secret Harbour became our base of operations for Grenada for a few weeks. During that time, we began to settle into the cruising life, making friends with other cruisers and joining the weekly grocery run from the marina to the local IGA for our groceries. During these weeks Dantelle surprised me with a little island adventure of our own. For valentine’s day she organised 2 nights at the Cabire Beach Lodge. Read more

Fernando De Noronha to Grenada: Celebrations, Confused Seas and Close Calls PART 2.

Most people have heard about piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia but few have heard of Piracy in the Caribbean … and no, I’m not talking about the exploits of Captain Jack Sparrow and his desire to attack the English fleet.

Off the coast of Venezuela near Trinidad and Tobago, there has been an increase in illegal approaches and attempted boarding’s of yachts. Apparently these people just want to steal your possessions either to aid other illegal activities or to make money from sell the goods. Most of these boats come from of Venezuela, where there has been some serious economic and political unrest. For this reason, it was recommended that everyone making passages towards the Caribbean take extra precaution around the waters of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, which is exactly what we did.

The passage continued to be as bumpy and rocky as ever with the non-stop waves hitting the side of Catching Up. At this point, we had been at sea for about 12 days so it was getting slightly irritating being unable to walk in a straight line without bruising your hip against a counter. We were finally entering the “danger zone” as I like to call it. We sat down and decided that there was no point in going  to Tobago or Trinidad and opted to enter at the top end of Grenada at its northerly island called Carriacou. Our new track pushed us North Westerly way above the original reported areas of pirates but it still meant we were about 100 miles off Trinidad and Tobago.

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Fernando De Noronha to Grenada: Celebrations, Confused Seas and Close Calls PART 1.

Firstly, we are so sorry for the missing articles! We have been having a blast cruising up the Caribbean. In between the cocktails, cleaning and exploring islands we have had little time to write. Not to mention the wifi has been less than satisfactory. Anyway heres the next one. Enjoy!!:

Leaving the iconic rock of the Brazilian island behind us, once again we set off on a long passage with one less crew member. Now only having 5 people on board we decided to change our watch schedule to 3 on 6 off. Unfortunately, this watch schedule did not work very well and quickly we returned to the 3 on 9 off watch schedule we were used to. This was at the cost of me losing Dantelle as my watch buddy. Yet again, it was back to the monotony of doing long distance passages. The nights got broken with squalls and the odd container ship that would pass near by. We were warned about possible debris in the sea and the countless fishing boats that hug the coastline up to 100 nautical miles away from land. We opted to sit about 200 miles off the coast. The passage did give us good fortune with a huge current pushing us along Brazil’s coastline. Read more

Fernando De Noronha

It’s time for another slightly different perspective on this adventure. Dantelle has written this story.

I have been welcomed into a country in many different ways, but one experience that will always stick with me is the one we had in Fernando de Noronha, a small island off the coast of Brazil. As we were approaching the anchorage we were greeted by a playful pod of dolphins, jumping out of the crystal clear, turquoise water, doing flips. A truly remarkable sight! After anchoring next to the local fishing boats, we set off to Customs and Immigration. Besides the language barrier, it was a delightful experience. 

The local port with all the fishing boats out in the back

After a good night’s rest, Lloyd and I set off to explore this stunning island. With snorkels and flippers under each arm we headed to the Marine Park. It is home to turtles, dolphins, reef sharks, manta rays and many more tropical fish. 

Our first stop in the Marine Park was Sancho beach, known as the most beautiful beach in Brazil and popular for its snorkelling. I have never been snorkelling, so I was buzzing with excitement to have my first snorkelling experience. What brochures tell you is that you walk through a forest-like trail for about 5 minutes and then you’re greeted by a spectacular sight, what it doesn’t tell you is that you have to descend down two ladders of about 5 metres, through narrow rock tunnels and then walk down steep steps to get to the actual beach. It felt like Jacob’s Ladder from St Helena island all over again. 

The incredible view from Sancho Beach
White sand and turquoise water

After a snorkelling lesson from instructor Lloyd, we made our way to the water. I have to admit, I wasn’t blown away by the sea life that we saw. A few colourful fish here and there and some rocks, but nothing worth writing home about. We decided to check out some of the other beaches in the Marine Park instead, with hopes of finding some better snorkelling spots. 

We walked 3.5km to Sueste beach, yet again, a beach known for its snorkelling. We arrived there at about 3:30pm, thinking we would have a chance to snorkel, only to be told that the beach closes at 4pm and that we could not hire the mandatory float vests to go snorkelling anymore. We walked along the beach instead, taking in the beautiful sight when Lloyd commented on the murky water in the small bay, saying it was a perfect spot for the nursing of sharks, he was right! Not even two minutes later we saw many baby black tip reef sharks swimming in 10cm shallow waters. Honestly, I wasn’t disappointed that we couldn’t go snorkelling anymore, because mama shark could be lurking around. 

We found the rest of the crew on the way back to the boat, stopped at a restaurant and had some Caipirinhas, a traditional local Brazilian rum/lime drink (very strong), before retiring back to the boat for the night.

Enjoying some drinks on the beach

Waking up the next morning we had to say goodbye to one of our crew members, Monica, who has been on the boat for a good 3 months. We were sad to see our MasterChef leaving as she made some incredible meals on the trip, but she was on to a new adventure. Werner went along with her to the airport while the rest of us went snorkelling in the port, which is not part of the Marine Park, yet had more sea life than the other beaches we had been to combined. 

We saw a turtle before even entering the water and that was only the beginning. The 28°C port water was home to many pufferfish, crabs, zebra fish, disco-looking fish and rock cod. A manta ray made its appearance a short while later. I was very relaxed, looking at some astounding sea life, until Mr1.3m nurse shark swam right under us, and yes, I know it wouldn’t do anything to me, but you try keeping a calm composure with this animal passing so close to you and this is merely the second time you’ve been snorkelling.

We spent a few more days exploring the island and stocking Catching Up with some of the finest Brazilian fruits, vegetables and foods. One of the favourites that was discovered was a wafer biscuit called Bis. It is a chocolate covered wafer biscuit that is incredibly addictive. Other interesting foods were these tear drop shaped fried pastry foods stuffed with potato and chicken. Fernando De Noronha had an excellent selection of fresh fruits like bananas, mangos, pineapples and as many limes as we could carry. After stocking the yacht, it was back to exploring what the island has to offer. 

We sat at the Port Control making use of the free WIFI available when our friends from Elcie, that we met in St Helena, showed up to clear in. They stopped at Ascension Island before making their way to Fernando de Noronha, hence their later arrival. We invited them to have some traditional South African Bobotie onboard Catching Up. They brought us some lovely Mahi-Mahi that they had caught on the way to the island. Having only caught a 6kg tuna the whole trip, we were happy to have some fish, that we didn’t take out of a tin, onboard. After the meal, they went back to their boat and the 5 crew on Catching Up prepared the boat for the passage the next day. A saying in Afrikaans ‘Haastige hond verbrand sy mond’ (all haste no speed) became a reality, when trying to tidy up the boat in a haste, I dropped the aft locker door on my hand, fracturing it… You live and you learn.

I really liked this little island and I didn’t want to leave so quickly, but the Caribbean was calling our name and were ready for the next leg of our trip.

Passage: St Helena to Fernando De Noronha, Brazil

The time had finally come to say goodbye to our friend Andre and our new friends the Benjamin’s. On The 30th of December 2018, Catching Up lifted her mooring lines and set off for Brazil. Originally, we were set to travel to Fortaleza, Brazil however, due to the increasing crime rate it was decided that Fernando De Noronha would be a better option. After contacting St Helena radio to inform them of our departure, they quickly responded with a relay message from SV Bahati a fellow Knysna 500Se (hull 88) that was inbound. Malcolm Van Der Merwe was skippering Bahati to Barbados and then onto Florida and held some of our spares. St Helena radio patiently played back and forth to let us know that we needed to wait a few hours so Bahati could catch up and deliver our spares. After going adrift for a few hours, Bahati finally was around the corner and made radio contact. Malcolm carefully positioned Bahati so her bow was on our starboard side and the box was thrown to us and landed on our trampoline. A few short hello’s and a chat later, Catching Up was off to Brazil!

The first day was as usual mixed with excitement and nervousness at the 1500-mile journey lay ahead of us. Our watch schedule would remain the same so soon it was back into the routine of wake up, eat, sleep watch and repeat. The first night moved on very fast and it was time to celebrate the New Year on Catching Up! On-board we set all our clocks to UTC so we have no issues confusing time zones; as such, we commenced our countdown with 10 seconds to go. We had a Cargo Vessel just passing us as the clock ticked over to midnight. Suddenly a faint little voice on the radio popped up and said “Woo happy new year!” and then silence. It was nice just hearing other boats around the area were celebrating as we were, in the dead of night at a shift change. The days continued to blend together with the only other major highlight being the fish we caught.

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Saint Helena: An Unexpected Gem

The long days of the same view finally broke near lunchtime on Christmas day. I was on watch when this little rock in the distance appeared and grew ever larger. As the Christmas celebrations continued late into the afternoon, it became evident that we would be able to make entry to St Helena by sundown. We put on the engines, raised our full mainsail, unfurled the screecher and made a straight line for the edge of the island. Sure enough, we made it around to the entry right after sundown. We were greeted by an entire hillside covered in Christmas lights combined with the single line of lights from Jacobs Ladder, a major landmark in St Helena. The decision was made to hold off making a night entry, due to it being an unfamiliar destination and instead go adrift right off the island. I spent the midnight to 3am shift staring at this inhabited rock in the middle of the ocean thinking what on earth will we do here!! At 6am I was woken from my sleep by Dantelle sticking her head out of our hatch saying we are about too pick up our mooring. I was called up to the cockpit. I threw on a shirt and some shorts and as I got to the cockpit was instructed to hop off the stern of the boat right onto the massive floating mooring ball. Half asleep, I took the step off the boat onto this bobbing yellow platform. After stabilising myself, we put two mooring lines through rings securing Catching Up to her first international destination. After cleaning Catching Up, we collected all our documents and radioed the St Helena Ferry Service for a pickup to the harbour. After collecting the crew from SV Elcie, this small funny looking boat came alongside us to take us to shore. Landing at St Helena is slightly difficult and is known to have insane swells crashing straight onto the rocky shore. It is famous for its rope swing-landing zone where we stepped off the ferry and had to swing onto the shore. We all made the short walk down from the harbour towards the harbour masters office. Once cleared with the paperwork we were instructed to make our way up to the police station for immigration formalities.

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St Helena is like a time capsule to bygone colonial days. The buildings are all ancient colonial British buildings with a slightly modern feel to them. It felt like I was walking onto the set of some BBC drama. As we made our way up a hill towards the police station, the local population smiled and greeted. The island has a very kind people who are happy to have visitors. Once up at the police station we met one of the local police constables who informed us that immigration was closed and we would need to return a few days later in order to get our passports stamped. We were still welcome to see the island. After filling out the immigration paperwork and the constable inspecting our passports, we were free to walk the island. St Helena has been privy to one member of Catching Up before … when Dantelle was a year old, her mother and father took her on the RMS St Helena to visit the island and the local Benjamin family. The island is small and the Benjamin’s were expecting the crew and Dantelle. Walking back down the hill towards the town, an elderly gentleman asked us if we came in on a yacht and whether Dantelle was perhaps on board, she stepped forward and said hello to the couple, they hugged each other and introductions were made. Eric Benjamin was a former Prime Minister of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan De Cunha Islands. We were given permission by the skipper to spend some time on the island. Dantelle and I immediately returned to Eric’s house to have tea with him and his wife, after a few phone calls the entire Benjamin family arrived and filled their tiny colonial style kitchen! There were numerous discussions on how to show us their “country” as they called it. A few moments later, we were in a vehicle and on our own personal guided driving tour of the island.

The view of St Helena from the ocean is very rocky and barren, yet as you go further inland the vegetation becomes dense and lush. The landscape is incredible and somewhat resembles Wales or Scotland with lovely green rolling hills. I was absolutely amazed at how lush this rocky island was in comparison to the barren and dry coastal area of Jamestown. After our tour, we were taken up to the neighbourhood of Half Tree Hollow that overlooks Jamestown and the water where Catching Up was moored. We went to one of the younger family member’s home for a delicious cooked Christmas lunch. We enjoyed our meal then driven back to the harbour so we could catch the last ferry back to Catching Up. The following day Dantelle and I explored the island, we walked around and decided to climb up the 699 steps of Jacobs Ladder. Once at the top I decided to run down and climb it again getting a time of 10 minutes 30 seconds. The locals are apparently very competitive about seeing who can climb up and down the stairs the fastest, the current record is held by a 14-year-old Saint youngster at 5 minutes 17 seconds. Our climb was steep and tiring as the steps are uneven pieces of rock stuck together making a step. At the top of the steps we were met by another member of the Benjamin family who saw us and offered to take us on yet another driving tour up to the Fort before taking us back to Jacobs ladder so we could descend.

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The next few days included boat work, finding a reliable Internet connection and spending more time with the Benjamin’s. We also made good use of the medical facilities on the island as Mum unfortunately had a bridge with 3 teeth dislodge and fall out and Dantelle had come down with a throat infection. St Helena was also where we would be seeing Andre off, he is our instructor skipper, he’s confident that we are capable of continuing the crossing without him.

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The day arrived and we brought Andre ashore. We all met outside Eric’s house with some of their close family to take Andre and the rest of our crew to the airport. Once Andre was airborne the family were giving us all a tour of the island, then we were all meeting together for a farewell meal. St Helena has recently built an airport and it is still one of the islands tourist attractions. We sent Andre off and watched as his plane took off before leaving on a second driving tour of the island. Sadly, low cloud meant there was poor visibility near the mountains of Dianna’s peak with heavy rain falling on the home and resting place of Napoleon. The lovely rain continued and Eric decided to take the crew to Half Tree Hollow to enjoy a home cooked St Helena meal at yet another Benjamin household. As the convoy of cars pulled up, we were brought inside and allowed to make use of their Wi-Fi. Everyone caught up on emails and social media while Dantelle video called her family back in Cape Town. We were then offered this traditional St Helena curry called “pillao” (pronounced Plo). The rest of the Benjamin family arrived to join us at the meal and long discussions were had with many laughs shared.

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We were all escorted back down to the harbour where the Benjamin’s had graciously found and purchased fresh produce … a huge branch of bananas and other fresh vegetables that we struggled to find on the island. They had also made us traditional St Helena fishcakes and a whole tub of Christmas Mince Pies. Dantelle and I stayed back to square up the final payment for her doctor’s visit, then popped into Eric’s house for a last cup of tea and to say our final goodbye before being picked up by the dinghy and brought back to Catching Up.Thinking back to when I first saw the barren rock of St Helena, it held a sense of wonder and amazement. I never ever thought I’d find a family that would accept us with open arms like the Benjamin’s did. We can’t thank them enough for their hospitality. St Helena is a gem in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and the Benjamin’s make it shine! You are what makes St Helena so special!!

The Benjamin family with the crew of Catching Up!

Crossing the Atlantic: South Africa to St Helena

Dantelle and I had just finished up our camping trip near Worcester in the Western Cape when we realised that we needed to prepare and sort out her things for her move onto Catching Up. We spent many days in supermarkets and shopping centres buying various things. Then it was the difficult time of saying goodbye to her beautiful family and her precious dogs, we loaded up her Dads ute (bakkie) and drove back to Saldanha where. Catching Up was moored for few weeks, as there being no available space for us in the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town..

The next stage was hectic, provisioning Catching up for an ocean crossing requires a load of food and essential items to make life bearable. We provisioned for the duration of the trip with an extra 30% as spare. This meant we raided every store in the Langebaan area for longlife milk, meat, flour, fruit and vegetables and other non-food related items. Every free spot in the boat was loaded with cans and other goods while our outdoor freezer was packed full of beef, chicken and lamb. The yacht was all stored, packed and prepared the last thing required was to clear immigration. We had a few issues clearing originally due to some documentation that was not provided, however the South African Customs officers in Saldanha were exceptional in their assistance with the clearing process once we had the correct documents. After clearing customs, we all loaded up into the two rental vehicles to drive down to Cape Town to clear immigration.

Clearing immigration is difficult in Cape Town when your vessel is not there. To clear immigration they require signed letters from the various marinas to say that they are full nor have the capacity to accommodate our vessel. We did the long drive down and were all prepared to clear when they required further forms. These forms meant we would need to sail all the way down to Cape Town to clear out, only to turn around and sail north towards Namibia and onto St Helena!! Everything worked out fortunately and we managed to source the forms later that day. In the mean time, we all descended back on the V&A shopping mall. Dantelle and I separated from Monica and Mum as we split into two groups to finish off the last of the provisioning. The highlight of our provision run was retrieving 12kgs of biltong from the supermarket and waiting to pick up spare hatches delivered to us in a shopping cart while we waited for them at a café. The day was super long with Dad running around collecting last minute items in and around Cape Town and picking up a single vehicle to take us all back up to Saldanha. We all finally reconvened at the same café with our 4 shopping carts full of provisions. What followed was a miracle as we managed to load 6 people and 4 shopping carts full of food into a Volkswagen Tiguan. It was then back to the immigration office to get our passports stamped, pick up Andre (another miracle to fit him into the car) and commence the 1.5-hour drive back to Saldanha.

Everything was packed, stored and the boat was clean, lines were dropped and we were off. Catching UP departed Saldanha on the 12th of December 2018 at 12pm bound for St Helena. The small marina waved us all off wishing us fair winds as we did a ceremonious blast of the air horn to say goodbye to the new friends we made in Yachtport. Leaving Saldanha the swell was about 2 metres. The sea became more choppy with the wind gusting up to 20kn. We began to beat into the wind as we motored further out past the Traffic Separation Scheme, heading northwest along the South African coastline. Dantelle soon began to feel the effects seasickness, followed by Werner. Mum and Monica had pre-empted this and had already organised a cooked meal for the evening. With two crewmates out of action, it was upon the rest of us to raise the mainsail and screecher to get our good 6kn. As the sun began to set on day one of the passage, Neptune blessed us with a pod of over 100 dolphins that came to play alongside and in front of our bow, this lasted for an hour.

The days soon began to blend together, wake up, eat, stand your watch, sleep, repeat. With the number of people on board, we stood a 3hr-on-9hr-off watch schedule, allowing for a large amount of free time to watch movies and relax. I would have to say though, with all the free time, many of us opted to sit and stare at the ocean or the horizon. Dantelle’s seasickness ended about 5 days into the trip. We had a few days of no wind, allowing us the amazing experience of swimming in the Atlantic Ocean in about 5km of water. There is something eerily uncomfortable knowing that there is such a large distance between you and the bottom of the sea with who knows what in between. Days included cleaning, polishing stainless steel, BBQ’s and socialising on this 50ft box with nothing but sea around us.

We spent Christmas on-board with presents being exchanged earlier that morning. The satellite phone was buzzing with the family and friends around the world being contacted to share our Christmas wishes. Lunch was very festive with a delicious roast lamb, vegetables and salads, not to forget the Christmas crackers, hats and champagne. Dantelle made her family famous trifle, delicious! Just as we were finishing lunch, land was spotted on the horizon … St Helena finally came into sight. Whew! It had been 13 days since leaving Cape Town and we pulled into St Helena’s tiny harbour. We tied Catching Up to the mooring and spent a few days enjoying the island. The trip was a challenge, but incredible, we had only used our engines for 8 hours, meaning that we used our sails over 90% of the entire trip. Our family, friends and delicious food made this trip something that I will remember forever. The ocean and wind made our passage from Suldanha to St. Helena the best introduction to blue water sailing.

We had finally found the milk run that other sailors had told us about!

Langebaan, South Africa: Passage and Training

After spending about a month and a half in Cape Town busy with boat works, boat shows and training it was finally time to get moving to a new spot. We spent the morning doing a small provision shop for the passage north and for the week of training ahead. Our training instructor Andre De Ridder from Yacht Master Sailing School was already on board working and getting the yacht ready for blue water sailing. After securing and storing all our equipment and food on board, we collected our mooring lines and floated off the dock at the V&A. As we headed north, we left the view of Table Mountain in our wake as the passage settled in. Unfortunately, for us, the wind was very low so with a headsail out we cut our engines and sailed at about 3 knots. Soon enough the fog set in. There is something eerily incredible about sailing in fog. You can’t see anything further than a few metres in front of you and have no idea what is around you. At that moment you are reliant on technology to tell you what’s nearby. Thankfully Catching Up has a Garmin XHD Radar that can effectively pick up nearly every type of vessel.

At approximately 2am in thick fog, we arrived in the Small Craft Harbour in Saldahna. We dropped anchor and went to sleep in preparation for the week of intensive training. We believe that training is very important and you never stop learning. Having previously only done a few hours of sailing on Catching Up we decided to approach Yachtmaster Sailing School enquiring about the possibility of getting a qualified instructor to do a week of sailing instruction with us on own boat. Andre had already joined us on the passage from Knysna to Cape Town and already being familiar with Catching Up, he was the obvious choice.

The thick fog made it near impossible to see

We woke up to a slightly foggy morning before lifting anchor and going for a sail. The Langebaan and Saldahna area is home to a massive port with large bulk cargo ships frequently entering and exiting. The area also has tidal streams, cardinal marks and sand banks. It provides an excellent area to do training as it exposes many different scenarios. The week flew by incredibly fast with Catching Up taking everything that was thrown at her. For those familiar with Yachtport Marina in Saldahna, we brought Catching Up right up into the bay under a headsail alone tacking back and forth getting ever closer to the sea wall before cutting back and sailing back out. She handled herself exceptionally well and made the large lagoon incredibly small with her cruising speed sitting comfortably in the high 7s.
After a number of days doing MOB (Man Over Board drills), sail handling, knot work and reefing, the week had finally ended. Mum, Monica and Werner were all hopping off and going back to Cape Town while Andre, Dad and I were to be joined by our good friend Steve for an extra few days of sailing. The first thing I noticed was that once Mum and Monica left the yacht, the food quality went down drastically. The delicious gourmet meals prepared by Monica throughout the training were only fond memories leaving us no option but to eat greasy meals in restaurants or heat up frozen meals. The few days with Steve focussed more intensely on sail maintenance, trim and reefing while also deploying and furling our screecher and spinnaker. We had an interesting evening after returning from a day out of heavy sailing. On returning to the lagoon we decided to take a previously safe route back through to an anchorage near the Saldanha Bay Yacht Club when we were approached at high speed by an unmarked, unlit vessel. The operator of the vessel informed us with anger that there were divers in the water and we were cutting through their training ground. These fine gentlemen, from South African Navy, had failed to inform the Saldanha Port Authority or any other vessel that dive operations were in place. After a long heated discussion, we slowly made our way to our track using our trusty Stryker HID GO Spotlight to provide extra spotting for any potential divers. The week flew by very quickly and soon it was time for me to step off Catching Up for the first time in 3 months.

I packed my bags, loaded up Steve’s car for the drive back to Cape Town to spend some time with Dantelle and her family. Two weeks later we all returned to Saldanha ready to leave South Africa bound for St Helena.

Falling In Love with a Cape Town Girl.

This article is going to be slightly different. When I started this I wanted to document the entire journey, new revelations have meant a significant person has entered my life and I will continue to do as I intended…. Document it.

When I left Australia, I never thought I would end up meeting anyone let alone falling in love. Even tho that thought did cross my mind, I never thought it would happen in the first country at the very start of this adventure. Having sat in Knysna for a few weeks, I got talking to this amazing girl in Cape Town named Dantelle. She lived near a place called Durbanville, a 30-minute drive from Catching Up!’s berth at the V&A Waterfront. After countless back and forth messages between us, I struck up the courage to ask her to be my tour guide in Cape Town and show me the sights when I arrived. She of course said yes and the plans were set.

Pulling into Cape Town a few days later, I asked if she wanted to meet up before going on the tour. She came down to the Waterfront and we took a stroll through the area. We decided to go to a Greek Restaurant in the area before ending the night with a ride on The Cape Wheel. The wheel was completely barren and the wind was howling, however it did nothing to take away from the beauty of Cape Town at night. The night ended there and soon enough we were messaging each other again. Dantelle was competing in a tournament in the area the next day and offered to come past and see me again. Once again, we took a lovely walk through the waterfront where I was challenged to a game of Chess on the oversized public chessboard. For those that don’t know, Dantelle is a National Chess champion so it was safe to say I was publically annihilated in the shortest game of chess I’ve ever played. We returned to the yacht and spent the rest of the evening relaxing on the deck of Catching Up! looking at Table Mountain.

During the boat show preparations, I decided I needed a break from the chaos down in the marina and Dantelle was kind enough to take me up on my request to show me Cape Town. We got all set and hopped on the Cape Town Red Bus Tour right outside the Aquarium at the V&A. The first stop was Down Town Cape Town where we had a small layover before hopping on the Blue Route. Soon we were back in motion… right into the chaos of Cape Town traffic. It gave me the chance to carry on talking and spending time with this girl who was quickly becoming my favourite person to spend time with. Soon we left the confines of Cape Town City on route to Devils Peak and the lovely drive through the Kirstenbosch botanical gardens. Our first hop off point was the Constantia Nek Winery where we had a beautiful view of the Cape. We returned to the bus with a long beautiful drive down to Hout Bay. It still sticks with me how vast and diverse the Cape area is. Hout Bay is completely different from the forests of Kirstenbosch and the wineries near Constantia Nek. After an amazing local fish lunch it was back on the bus where we decided to hop off at Camps Bay and walk along the coast to Bantry Bay.

All was going amazing until two lovely individuals decided we looked like nice targets to try mug. Unfortunately for these two less intelligent individuals, we noticed their not so smooth plan quick enough to spook the guys making them leave. Being rattled and shaken we decided to quickly walk to Clifton’s first beach to calm down before getting an UBER to the next pickup point. We hopped on the bus and finished back up shortly after at the V&A. To finish the afternoon on a high I pulled the portable speaker and a blanket out and set everything up to watch the light fade away from Table Mountain. Despite the two fine idiots who tried pulling a knife on us, I couldn’t ask for a better tour of the Cape area.

The days with Dantelle continued to become more frequent as we grew closer to each other. Dantelle spent multiple days with me at the boat show, breaking up the repetition and adding some fun to the long drawn out days. It was this growing connection and bond that made me ask her if she wanted to join me on the trip to Namibia and onwards. I am happy to say she has accepted and decided to join me on this amazing adventure as we sail around the world. The time in Cape Town has been amazing and most if not all of my fun in this amazing city can be attributed to this incredible person. She has helped me grow a new love for this City and its people. I can’t wait for what’s to come as we continue to build and grow closer to each other.

Into The Fire: STCW’s Part 2

The biggest and probably the most dangerous risk on Catching Up isn’t sinking … it’s fire!!!

If we have any other kind of emergencies we can stay on board and manage with whatever is left of the yacht! A fire on board has one outcome, we would have to abandon our yacht because it’ll burn till there’s nothing left.

Due to the high risk of fire on board, we decided to enrol in a 3-day course at Pulse Training where we would be introduced to marine fire fighting. We arrived on the Monday having already completed two other STCW courses at the Maritime Safety Training and Development Centre the previous week. We were all led into the classroom where we spent the first few hours doing the required paperwork before starting the theory learning. Before going into this course I had a basic understanding of fire, this theory though was brutally eye opening, especially how quickly fire can get out of hand. A video was put up on the screen with a timer. The video was of a couch with a cigarette dropped down the side of it,. within 3 minutes, the entire room was engulfed in flames. On a boat, you have approximately 3 minutes to evacuate before the entire vessel is on fire. This is why fire awareness is so important!

Once we’d completed the theory, we were divided into two smaller groups. Our group was seconded to the side area where we were given an introduction to breathing apparatus or to the layman, oxygen tanks. The breathing apparatus has three components: the mask, tank support frame and the tank. We were shown how to connect the tank, pressure test it, then to hoist the tank support onto our back and breathe using the oxygen tank Our group moved on to the fire extinguisher component of the course, this involved  using a powder and CO2 extinguisher to put out a class C (Electrical) and Class B (Liquid) fire. The first thing I noticed when using the powder extinguisher was the huge mess it makes, it covers everything in powder but it will extinguish the fire. CO2 extinguishers are incredibly effective in extinguishing electrical fires; powder can be used on both but given the mess I would prefer to use the CO2 extinguisher, should the situation allow. I have never operated an extinguisher before so it was a good learning experience to know how to actually use one. After safely going through extinguishing the fires, we had the opportunity to see how a wet chemical foam extinguisher works. These are more commonly used for liquid fires or cooking oils and tend to be less common. The instructor Leon showed us the various methods to effectively use this extinguisher. The extinguisher component kept us busy until it was time to go home for the day.

The next morning we arrived early to our awaiting exam on the theory from the day before. Once completing the exam we were yet again set up on the fire ground for an instruction on how to use the fire hose and nozzle. The other instructor Zack Botha  instructed us on how to operate the nozzle when we would enter the fire simulator. On completing this, I was selected to be a part of the first fire team to enter and extinguish the fires in the three floor simulator.

We would enter from the top deck and use ladders to make our way down to the ground floor to fight the fires. Both Leon and Zack would accompany the 6-person team with a third instructor Sydney De Jager providing external support should it be required. The rest of the class was separated into a BA Officer, the backup fire team and a support team.

As I was part of the first team, I was sent off to don my fire fighting gear, breathing apparatus and then get into my spot. Once we had all our equipment on and the fires in the simulator had been lit, we were guided to the top entry point. One by one, we carefully descended into the pitch-black, smoke filled room. The entire area was dark with only small beams of light entering through the gaps in the container doors. There was no noise except the inhales and exhales of our group. It was a very surreal experience mixed with fear and excitement. Once all 6 of us were set, the fire hose was fed through a small opening in the container wall on the second floor. We did a role call, before opening the hatch to the ground floor. As the door opened you could immediately feel a change in the temperature. We descended through the thermal layer, it was extremely hot, probably about 190 degrees The fire-fighting suit did an excellent job insulating my body however I could feel my left ankle getting incredibly hot and painful as the hot air penetrated through the equipment. Team member 1 and I (number 2) both then moved further into the room on the ground floor to combat the first fire. We kept low and slowly moved over an obstacle to get into a second room. As we rounded the corner we saw a bright glow coming out of a cut open barrel packed with burning timber. We hit the barrel with a burst of water before slowly moving forward right up to the barrel and fully opening the hose to ensure the fire was completely extinguished. We then returned to the staging area to assist the rest of the team in fighting two more fires. On completing this exercise, we returned to the top floor before exiting the simulator. The heat in the room was not nearly as hot as it could have been but exiting the simulator, I was covered in sweat and felt incredibly hot.

The last day of the course consisted of some more hose training, search and rescue training throughout the simulator and an evacuation exercise from the simulator filled with a fire fighting foam bubble solution. I would have to say after completing the 3-day course I can easily say I never want to be a fireman. It takes a special type of person to enter a burning structure and extinguish a fire. Zack and Leon provided very good tips on the Do’s and Don’ts when dealing with a fire. I strongly feel that at least everyone should experience how to use a fire extinguisher and be aware of how quickly a fire can spread. Zack, Leon, Sydney and the rest of the team from Pulse Training provided an excellent fire safety course. If anyone ever intends doing a STCW Marine Fire Fighting course, I would highly recommend them doing it here. Leaving the course, I felt more confident knowing that I know what to do should I ever have to deal with a fire. I also left with a much higher respect for the men and women who do this daily.

Training Day: STCW’s PART 1

A common saying within fire fighting is “Let no man’s ghost return to say his training let him down!” I am no fire fighter but I feel this quote is very relevant when dealing with Mother Nature. The ocean can be very dangerous and we believe that training is essential to know what to do should an emergency take place. We decided to enrol into a number of international accredited maritime safety courses. They are known as STCW’s or Standards of Training and Watchkeeping. These safety courses are required for any professionals intending to work at sea. We were seriously expecting to feel like “a fish out of water” when walking into the lecture room on day one.

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Boat Works in Cape Town

Everyone who owns a boat or yacht knows that no matter how new your boat is, there will always be something broken, about to break or dirty. Catching Up had just finished an onslaught with hundreds of people touching, feeling and walking through her at the Boat Show. She was in need of a well deserved clean. After doing a full exterior detailing she was back in a presentable condition. Since leaving Knysna, we never had the time or chance to fully sort out the storage and layout of all the things on-board and the boat show provided an excellent opportunity to do so.

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Cape Town: A Boat Show and New Friends.

Having made it to Cape Town, it was full steam ahead preparing the yacht for the Cape Town International Boat show. Malcolm, who came down with the yacht from Knysna, stayed on board Catching Up to finish up the last minute work projects that were required on the yacht. Grant Boshard and Peter Abbot were not far behind, arriving a few days later with more supplies. The week purely involved cg, touch ups, wiring, sorting and storing all our personal belongings.

During the process preparing for the boat show, a St Francis Catamaran named S/V Wanda Rose came floating in at night into the V&A and docked next to us. Quickly Wanda Rose became more than a yacht you’d pass on the way to the ablutions. On board were Rorke (The owner), Joe (his brother), Meryl (Rorke’s partner) and Geoff (Rorke’s best friend). These Americans had travelled all the way from around the world to pick up this yacht and like us, were preparing to leap across to the Caribbean before they’d head up into the Great Lakes of the United States. After having a few chats on both yachts, the group invited me to join them on a trip up to Table Mountain. Having only gone up Table Mountain once as a child, I was super excited to jump at the chance to go back up and experience one of Cape Town’s natural wonders. I was the only one with a South African sim card and decided to order an UBER to the base of the cable car, however, if anyone was paying attention to the number of people on that boat it would become very clear that the UBER was not big enough for all of us. This resulted in a squished up car ride with 4 in the back and me in the passenger seat. Table Mountain is notoriously deceptive, one moment the skies above the mountain are crystal clear, the next it’s covered in a thick layer of cloud, the locals say that Table Mountain then has a tablecloth on it! We arrived at the base just as the cloud had descended onto the top of the mountain. The views from the car park were already fantastic. The ride up was amazing until we hit the clouds, then there was no visibility. We returned down after a short walk on the top of the mountain, before departing back towards the V&A Waterfront.

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The Maiden Passage of Catching Up! Knysna to Cape Town

It’s been a few weeks since an article was posted. Cape Town has been a non-stop adventure from the moment I got here however, these stories will be discussed in articles to come.

Catching Up has been sitting in Knysna since it’s splash in August. With the final fit out and testing taking place, Catching Up never left the Knysna lagoon apart for the photo-shoot with the Knysna Yacht Company. Mum and Dad flew down specifically for the passage, however, due to abhorrent weather conditions around Cape Agulhas, the passage was delayed for another week. Our expected departure soon arrived on Wednesday the 10th of October. All was on track until Tuesday when Malcolm the delivery skipper approached me and informed me that due to worsening weather we were departing at 17h00 that day. I quickly got into action to prepare our yacht for the passage. I ran to the shops to get meals for the yacht while Grant from Knysna Yacht Company decided to provide catering for the yacht. After a long day of preparations, two last minute guests arrived on the yacht. Dave and Iolanda, boat owners of sister ship SV Impulse decided to join us on the passage. We loaded them up along with Andre, our sailing instructor and Malcolm and set sail to the Knysna Yacht Club Dock bound for Cape Town.

The cloudy afternoon leaving Knysna on way to Cape Town

As the sun started to set, we settled in for what was going to be a very long night. The swell caused big waves to crash against the side of the boat, the resulted in Dave, Iolanda and I suffering from the effects of seasickness. I managed to hold it off by lying down and falling asleep until 3am, when I heard that Dave and Iolanda were not as fortunate as I was! Malcolm and Andre were nice enough to struggle trough the entire passage ensuring that one of them was awake for watch at all times. Having never done a night crossing before, it was very reassuring knowing that we had two highly skilled sailors on board with us for our maiden passage. As we continued through the moonless cloudy night, bioluminescence trailed in the wake of Catching Up. The first night passed and soon dawn was rising behind us with the Western Cape off to our starboard/right side.

One of the first of many spectacular sunsets that Catching Up! will see.

Day 2 on the ocean was much more exciting. The ocean calmed down greatly and the wind was no more than 16 knots off our port/left forward quarter. The wind angle didn’t give us much of an opportunity to get a sail up, however, as the morning progressed the wind began to slowly pick up again giving us a more favourable sailing wind angle. We raised the sails and started picking up a few knots and dropping our time to the next waypoint. Dolphins would come up and play off the bow and just as fast as they arrived, would skirt off back into the deep blue waters. Massive whales would be seen breaching and their spouts going off. The amount of nature on this passage just blew my mind. The wildlife kept us busy for a few hours in between navigating, looking out and just listening to music. Catching Up was well stocked so there was no shortage of food to snack on during the long watch throughout the day. As sunset was approaching, Catching Up achieved her first major milestone … she passed the southern most point of South Africa! Cape Agulhas separates the Indian and Atlantic Ocean. As the sun set, Catching Up crossed into the Atlantic Ocean. The next time she will be back in the Indian Ocean will only be in approximately five year’s time. After the celebrations were complete it was back to the long night watches with ships pinging up on the radar screen. After a while we could see the lights of Hermanus off in the distance before I left my watch period and went to bed.

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The Faces of Knysna

Having lived most of my life now in Australia, South Africa has become a holiday destination. Before starting this adventure with the yacht, I didn’t know a place like Knysna existed. I thought all the Western Cape had was Cape Town and the rest was just little towns dotted along the coastline. Most of my experience of Cape Town was in Stellenbosch so when it came to Knysna I had no expectations or idea of what was to come. I have to say looking back now I can safely say I was so far wrong, it’s laughable.

Landing in Knysna I started looking at this town as more than a tourist destination where people stop over for the night, soon it became a home. Faces became routine, people became friends and locations became familiar. Little by little, life began to settle and the weeks started to roll past. After writing about my first week on-board Catching Up, I quickly began the process of trying to figure out what to make next, what to film and what to write about. I started filming early in the morning and soon the marina would be alive with activity. Standing on the deck of Catching Up trying to capture shots, person after person would walk past her and say their morning greetings as they began their day. Local workers would stream in with their tools all prepared to tackle that issue that they’ve been struggling with for the past week. Four legged friends would be rushed down the jetty to the patch of grass for their first bathroom break for the day. It was just a flurry of movement around Catching Up as we slowly began to blend in. I continued trying to attempt to capture the perfect shots but life just seemed to get in the way.

A common view of the yacht club on my runs around the Lagoon.

Days would start with a coffee, a quick clean up before Malcolm, (the delivery skipper and all round handyman for the Knysna Yacht Company) arrived. From there onwards over a coffee we would discuss the days activities, who would be coming down to the yacht to do what and the snag and extras list that he had been working through. The morning would move on with countless faces appearing on the boat. Peter Abbot would arrive early and stay late working on wiring and connecting power to all our creature comforts on the yacht. Peter would provide true words of wisdom as he carefully and meticulously conducted his work making sure to focus on the primary task. He would bring such positivity to the workers on the boat and really brought the overall on-board mood up in the busy days. One of the assistant workers Sheldon would spend his days on the yacht doing odd jobs, paint touch ups and help run wiring. He would bring his lunch with him, sit on the back of the yacht enjoying his sandwich. This became a common occurrence throughout the week while I was on the yacht. Conversations would continue day after day as they blended and transformed with new topics. These conversations made it so hard to say goodbye to the people in Knysna as we cast off and set sail for Cape Town.

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1 Week of Living on Catching Up!

It’s been officially one week at the time of writing, living on Catching Up! The week has gone insanely fast and even this article had been placed in the background.

Flying down to George already started with a delay. Arriving at the airport with my luggage limit maxed, I was so excited to take the massive step of the adventure and move down to the boat. After getting all checked in and arriving at the boarding gate, I patiently anticipated the arrival of our aircraft. Boarding began and we got fas far as the boarding ramp before hitting all stop. There we waited for half an hour as the plane was cleaned and prepped for the flight. Finally we got to board and just as boarding was completed we were informed of a further 30 minute delay due to some overheated brakes on the plane. After take-off, I got chatting with the flight attendant. It turns out the flight was delayed for an hour due to the previous pilot having had a heavy foot with the brakes and overheating them.

Arriving almost 2 hours late we quickly drove down to the boat where I started the mammoth task of unloading all the stuff I’d brought down in my baggage. While unpacking, Grant Boshard from Knysna Yacht Co came down to discuss the action plan for the next few days. I was informed that we would be having a camera crew on board on Tuesday for a few hours to do some reshooting and then have a full day of film shooting on the Wednesday. We agreed to help Knysna Yacht Co do a corporate film and marketing shoot with Catching Up being the flagship of the company for the shoot. The film shoot on the Tuesday was only supposed to be a quick few hours however, it turned into a whole day ordeal.

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Breakfast Then Launch: The Launch of SV Catching Up! Part 2

Previously – Journey to The Ocean: The Launch of SV Catching Up! Part 1

Where we left off… our baby had just been delivered to the Knysna Yacht Club on a bitterly cold morning. By now, it was 07h00 and the sun had already started cresting the horizon. As we all huddled around trying to get some feeling back into our fingers I noticed out the corner of my eye, two ladies in swimming costumes strolling down to the water. We collectively commented that they had to be crazy to get into the water when it was almost unbearably cold outside. I did admire their commitment though! We decided that by now there was no point in being at the yacht seeing as there was no way for us to get on board her, as well as no one would be working on her until 10h00. We decided to head back to our accommodation, warm up with a hot shower and go grab some breakfast. For those inquisitive, we decided to go to what appears to be South Africa’s national breakfast hangout WIMPY. The place was packed and the food was not half bad… explaining the high occupancy rates of the restaurant.

After breakfast, it was straight back down to the Yacht Club where we were met with our mast, rigging and boom all sitting on this massive trailer system. On our mast, most of our gear had already been installed such as the security cameras, mounting brackets for the Garmin Radar and our spreader lights. Our mast kind of resembled a Christmas tree with all the ornaments neatly arranged. At about 10h00 the real work began, our static dissipater for our lightning system went on, as well as the antennas for our range extender. While this was all happening, someone brought over a flimsy rusted ladder and placed it under the sugar scoop. I decided to risk it and climb up to see what was going on inside. Out in the daylight, the interior really came to life. While it was still quite dusty, most of the interior was already clean. You can only really appreciate the woodwork when you have good lighting conditions these were perfect. I admire how the Knysna Yacht Company has such a good attention to detail. For example, on our helm seat we have a lifting cushioned armrest for those long days on watch. When the armrest isn’t being used, it’s stowed upright. Knysna realised that the underside of the armrest would always be visible when stowed upright and decided to add a stunning wooden finish to the polished stainless steel.

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Returning down to the ground I strolled around the car park turned worksite getting footage of the yacht. As you can imagine, tourists, boat workers and the public were walking past us. The yacht was in the heart of the tourist spot, as well as in an operational marina. My favourite thing to do was to stand back and pretend to be one of the media crew that Knysna Yacht Co hired and to listen to these strangers’ opinions on the yacht. The comments I overheard just brought a smile to my face. People commented on the style, size, height and even our Flexofold propellers with rope cutters. Every single comment was positive; I never overheard a single negative comment that entire day.

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