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!