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.

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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