Dec 172016

Like Lin & Larry said, “As long as it’s fun”.

Ocean Blue at sea

Ocean Blue at sea

And Thursday’s sail most definitely was fun. It wasn’t epic when you compare to world circumnavigations but for us, a circumnavigation of Robben Island**, is the first step to cruising further afield up the west coast.

We’d initially planned to sail earlier in the week but Tuesday’s 25 to 30kt SE’ly had us changing our minds. Not that SAM wasn’t keen to sail if I was, but baby-steps dude, baby steps. Last thing I want is to scare her off now that she’s started getting enthusiastic about being on board. So we delayed until the Thursday and what a good decision it was. Super sailing in a 15 to 20kt south westerly with enough time on our hands to tackle a milestone [even though insignificant and small compared to the adventures of others].

Robben Island Circumnavigation

Robben Island Circumnavigation

The trick is to ramp the experience up slowly, to build the confidence in the boat, the skipper and the crew in tiny increments to that it remains fun. Sailing is hard enough when it all goes right let alone when things go wrong. It’s not that you want to never test your limits, never sail in that 30kt SE’ly. You need to, eventually. But there’s no sense in taking it on too early in the game, not if you want to keep her on board.

SAM was on the helm virtually the entire voyage. And a fine job she did. She’s getting a real feel for the boat now and, despite us both feeling a little sick-at-sea for a brief while there, we had a really pleasant voyage. Table Bay sailing is never totally flat, not the same way False Bay gets. There’s always some swell rolling in from the Southern Ocean, always that “open ocean” feel once you head a little west and out of the shelter of Green Pt and this got to us both a little west of the island.

We didn’t get dolphins surfing our bow wave yet, but at least we sighted other marine mammals. Pity the whales we sighted were so far off. I really need to replace the binoculars with something decent so we have a better chance of seeing the wildlife. The tally on this day: at least 3-4 whales, seals, birds and a lone penguin bobbing off the north of the island.

I tried out the autohelm for the first time since ‘Blue arrived here without much success. Even in the 1-2m swells [i.e. pretty much a total calm for this coastline] ‘Enry became very, very active, driving his little rack-and-pinion arm full travel across each crest. That’s a surefire way for him to wear himself out or drain the batteries. Perhaps there’s a setting that will damp the action a little?

No breakages, no bleeding, no vomit – that’s first prize in “keeping it fun”. Robben Island done and dusted. One step closer to Dassen!

**Navigation around the island is fairly straight forward with very few off-lying dangers. There’s a south cardinal marking a wreck at roughly   S33.84069 E18.38536 and about 0.34nm north west of this mark is Whale Rock which breaks even in calm weather so it’s visible and easy to avoid. The west of the Island seems pretty much clear of dangers and as long as you keep a prudent distance off it’s easy to avoid the large breakers crashing on the shore, generated by the infinite fetch from South America. There’s a wreck washed up on the beach on the north-west shore, proof that things can go wrong and a visible caution to the complacent sailor but rounding the north of the island is pretty straight forward as well. Turning south and beating down the eastern side we, in retrospect, maybe followed the shoreline a little too closely because we didn’t really keep a good watch on our depths. Off the south eastern shore there are some rocks close in that could be dangerous, but you have to be really close inshore for them to be a problem. Next time though, we’ll aim to keep in at least 10-15m of water rather than the 6-10m that we did cross and in a south easterly you’ll definitely want to keep a greater margin in hand. Oh, and keep an eye out for the Robben Island Ferry. It’s quicker than your sailboat and travels on the direct route between V&A and the little harbour in Murray Bay. In good visibility it’s no problem but I’m guessing a sea fog changes all of this a little.


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