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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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.

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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