Jan 012017
 

Those who know me will vouch, I’m not a New Year’s Resolution kind of guy. There’s no difference between the 31st and the 1st in my book, no reason not to make decisions and take action when you think of them no matter the time of year.

That said, time off life and work that is typical this time of the year does lend itself to more contemplation and introspection ……

2016 has been a watershed year for for myself and my sailing. This was the year I finally bit the bullet and moved Ocean Blue down to the coast. A very good year in that regard. Somewhat less good because I’m still stuck up here in Jo’burg slaving away to pay the bills.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time reflecting on when and how to move the rest of life down to the beach to join the boat. As with all things in life, it’s rarely simple, rarely just as easy as saying “Sell up everything and go”. Well at least for me it’s not that easy even though I know it’s possible and been done a thousand times by a thousand sailors.

Several more years of ‘varsity commitments remain. Those are best dealt with while the corporate salary trickles in.

Sandy, although she’s slowly getting into the Table Bay sailing, is not of the same “sell up all to sail” school. She likes her house by the beach and if she had to choose it would be that rather than the boat. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d like to only have the boat. The land base by the beach also appeals to me. (Shhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone)

Lastly, South African legislation imposes prohibitive penalties on early withdrawals of retirement funds and annuities before the age of 55. That means that whatever I decide to do I need to make the greatest effort to keep up the payments for at least the next 7 years. Whether I stick it out at the Jo’burg job, find another in Cape Town or find a way to make sipping martinis from the hammock pay, either way I need to generate enough cashflow each month to keep the investments going. Anything else just doesn’t make financial sense.

People looking in on the dream from afar may well believe it’s not happening. It might appear that it’s stalled and we’ll never get it right. But that’s not true. Yes it’s slow. Much slower than I would ideally like. But it’s happening. Most definitely.

The most very hard and difficult thing though is I miss the boat and I miss sailing her. Living an hour away when she was on the Vaal is nothing compared to the gulf of time and space that now separates us. No longer can I just pop in for the weekend to check the lines, see if the bilges are dry. No longer an easy weekend escape from the rat race and a leisurely overnight anchorage in Bunny Brook to take the edge off a hard week in the office.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. But I’d be lying if I said that the current transition is easy.

I harbour ambitions to cruise the West Coast, see St Helena, perhaps cruise Ilha Grande and further south. To do this, there are a thousand-and-one things to do on board. Repairs, improvements, upgrades. With me in Jo’burg and ‘Blue in Cape Town, that preparation phase is very, very difficult. Almost impossible.

And that’s the thing I’m finding most difficult. This period between moving the boat and moving myself. It wasn’t easy in 2016 and it wont be easy in 2017.

As usual, life is all about finding balance and so, if ever there was a resolution made, it’s to try and keep the dream moving forward while keeping the stash growing and future finances healthy. The moral of the story though is “Don’t bury your dreams.” Find a way to make them happen. After all, what will you achieve if you spend all your living days working, saving, hoping one day to find the time to live and youtr time runs out? Many people gamble that way and for some it works out. For many others the gamble fails due to accident, ill health or other circumstances.

Tomorrow may never come. Build your dream today. Take action and make it happen no matter how slowly.

Happy New Year to you all and may 2017 be good to you and your dreams!

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.


 

Dec 042016
 

Larry and Lin Pardey’s homemade vane worked on the trim-tab principle. Their boats were unique though, in that they both had aft boomkins which informed the design to a large extent. However, if it was good enough for the legends, then there must be some merit in the design. It’s worth looking in to!

Modern, commercial designs mostly lean toward the servo-pendulum concept, mainly due to the force-magnification inherent in the design. The only real stumbling block to choosing one is the almost universally unaffordable prices. We’re looking in the region of R35 to 40k. That’s a lot of money. There are cheaper options like MrVee (made out of plastic) at R15k but how long will it stand up to the rigors of offshore voyaging?

DrakeParagon doesn’t seem to have a ‘vane and relies solely on an electric autopilot. Looking at svParagon though, he has made a SUBSTANTIAL outlay on the electrics, so much so that he could just as well have installed a windvane.

‘Blue currently has nowhere near enough battery (and charging) capacity to do a multi’-day voyage under autopilot while still running nav-lights and interior electrics. I even have my doubts as to whether ‘Enry Autohelm (an ST1000 tiller pilot) is actually up to the task? ‘Blue’s captain is also terminally short of funds, so the temptation to cut costs by going for a “cheap-and -nasty” solution is always there.

But ultimately, considering the utility one gains from what is essentially another, tireless helmsman, perhaps cost-cutting in this specific area isn’t a wise decision!?

Anyway, we’re getting way, way ahead of ourselves here. There’s plenty more to be done, plenty more, before considering the fitment of a windvane.

InlandSailing once had some thoughts on the topic.

Nov 272016
 

They say you cannot cruise the South African coast. They say it’s too dangerous, too windy, too unprotected. They’d have you believe you have to sail far, far away and join the crowds in the Carribean….

Well I don’t know about that. Perhaps ‘Blue and I will need to prove them all wrong.

Superb day out in Table Bay

Superb day out in Table Bay

Nov 092016
 

My weekend has been filled with reading, research and dreaming….about a South Atlantic circuit.

Leaving early December – Cape Town – Luderitz – Walvis – St Helena. Then on to Fernando de Norha, Recife and south down the Brazilian coast. A summer season in the islands of Bahia de Ilha Grande sounds grand and then further south to the Rio del Plata estuary, either Uruguay or Argentina, to refit the boat in preparation for the return voyage back home passing by Tristan on the way. It’s an ambitious plan, one that can be accomplished in 4-5 months but one that is probably more relaxed and enjoyable being done over 2 seasons at least.

A plan worth working towards!

I can’t help thinking I’m getting a little ahead of myself here though.

Let’s just take this one step at a time. Baby steps. For now, to find the time for a circumnavigation of Robben Island, to hang out on the anchor in House Bay – these will be challenge enough.

May 222016
 
Ocean Blue - The first voyage

Ocean Blue – The first voyage

Looking at the route map you would be excused for thinking “Surely Durban would be quicker and cheaper?”

Well Yes and No!

Certainly quicker and cheaper into salt water but far from home and with life the way it currently is (work, time off etc) not a real option in my book.

Nope. We’re all in for a one-time road trip to Table Bay!

Apr 282016
 

There’s an inspiring little ship berthed at the Royal Cape ! Not much more than 30 or 32 ft she has an air of quiet confidence, different to the majority of ‘day sailers’ tied up here. She has a well-worn windvane on the stern, a nested dinghy graces the foredeck. Splash covers line the sides of the cockpit and everything looks well used but shipshape and cared for.

While many of the floating palaces around here seem seldom used and if so, only for the odd sunset booze-cruise under power, this is a little ship that’s crossed oceans. I wonder how long she’s been in Cape Town? Where is her skipper now? Where will she voyage next?

Farewell “Adette” from Buenos Aires, I have to fly back to Jhb, heart of the dirt dwellers. I don’t wish to but I must – for a short while longer.

Mar 012015
 

While the rest of the world are rushing out and “investing” in generators for fear of how bad the rolling power outages may become we’ve taken a different tack.

For everything you acquire in life there is some logic in applying a return-on-investment thought process. Is it really worth the spend? Will one really use it? Is it worth the x hours of life I needed to spend shackled to the desk to earn the cash to buy it?

For that reason I’ve never got my head around the generator panic-purchase thing. It’s a fear-driven response to something, that while inconvenient, has never really effected me that badly. Sure, there have been the odd evenings when the power has gone just as we’ve fired up the oven, but they haven’t been so frequent as to prompt me to part with upwards of R8000 for a decently sized personal generation plant.

As Danger Dave once said “South Africans braai. We’re born ready for power cuts“.

Problem is the classic open-coal fire, while good for searing steaks, is pretty limited and very fuel-inefficient. One typically needs half a bag of charcoal briquettes to merely braai the chops for a family of 4. Do that every night and the charcoal costs start to approach the sticker price of a generator.

Enter a superb South African invention – The Cobb! Last night we grilled a 1.5kg beef roast on only 10 charcoal briquettes. Superb meal, totally off-grid and super fuel efficient. It’s small and portable and so, for us, doubles as a camping cooker as well as an easily portable oven for the yacht which, in winter, will double as a cabin heater. Money well spent.

Put your desired number of briquettes in the fire basket

Put your desired number of briquettes in the fire basket

cobb2

Once the coals are well alight pop in the roast and close the lid. Crack a good bottle of red and relax!

cobb3

After 2 hours of slow roasting we have a superbly done beef roast. Bon appetit.

 

 

Jan 132015
 

Everything you buy should have the ability to be put to multiple uses.

I’ve recently been intrigued by hammock camping and found myself the perfect small shelter. It keeps off the rain and weather and also provides shade. After use, it rolls up small enough to fit in my bug-out bag. It’s the perfect, easy overnight plan for use when travelling by bike or car. Quick and easy to set up it rolls away to a minimal size and weight for storage in your pack.

My new shelter, in use over the hammock

My new shelter, in use over the hammock

In keeping with the multi-purpose, multi-use theme, here it is, pressed into service on board O’Blue to keep the hot afternoon sun from baking the interior of the boat.

The new shelter, pressed into service for shade on O'Blue

The new shelter, pressed into service for shade on O’Blue

The fact that it perfectly matches the colour of the harbour water today is just an added bonus.

 

Sep 282014
 
Take OB to Brazil and back.

 Steps:
  • Move to Mantens (2014.09)
  • Truck to Ocean (2017/2018)
  • Sail to FBYC (2017/2018)
  • Ready the skipper and the yacht (2020/2022)
  • Learn Portuguese
  • Sail to Rio via St Helena and Ilha Trindade (2022)
  • Cruise the islands South of Rio [Baia Ilha Grande]
  • Return to FBYC (2023)
Next challenge: Firm the dates! Determine the finances!
Ilha Grande Quest
Cape Town to St Helena,
St Helena to Ilha Trindade,
Ilha Trindade to Rio de Janeiro
Cruise Baia Ilha Grande for a season or two
Back to Cape Town