Oct 112008

I’ve been wanting to get down to Oranjeville ever since I started sailing the Vaal. Having visited by land, I can safely say that there really is nothing much to this little village, so I suppose the attraction is sailing as far as I can on the dam, more than just seeing the place.

Vaal Marina Sunrise

Vaal Marina Sunrise


It’s approximately 16 NM from LDYC to the low level bridge at Oranjeville, so a normal 2-day weekend doesn’t really give enough time to get there and back comfortably and still have time to potter around the town for a couple of hours. The 4 day Easter break looked like the ideal opportunity to do this, but as usual plans change.

The entire crew decided they were coming with, but the thought of spending 3-4 days aboard a 20-footer with a 4 and 6 year old is just plain scary. With only 2 days allowed by the Admiral for sailing, another destination was needed. The little town of Vaal Marina looked enticing. After a long afternoon spent on the water, it would be good to to get the kids out on land and have them shake the beans out ashore.

As usual, we had a late start – around 13h30 on Friday afternoon. As is typical, the wind forgot to show up, so we threw all purist thoughts of proceeding under canvass to the wind [or should that be calm] and motor-sailed. Heading east, we made good time, leaving Mistral Point off the starboard quarter and rounding Villian Point at about 15h00. Any hopes of the wind picking up were dashed as we continued on through the Confluence, giving the tree stumps south of Cruiser’s Cove a wide berth.

Now, after a couple of minutes of motoring, the going gets tedious and having made it as far as Big Bend, there was no way we were sticking to the south of the river as is recommended by the charts. We decided to cut the corner over the shoal spit that extends out SE from Fools Point. Thank goodness for shallow draft. Rounding Fools Point with the last rays of afternoon sun glinting off the water on the port beam, we laid course for Pennant Nine YC – our final destination, the northern-most corner of PNYC bay.

By now the crew were getting fidgety, so we beached the yacht and wandered about the town for an hour or so. There’s a little cafe about 10 minutes walk from the bay, ideally placed to stock up on Cokes and ice-creams for supper. Suitably refreshed and burdened by our new provisions, we ambled back down to the water. Clambering back on board by way of the pulpit requires a bit of agility, so once up, I decided to lend the Admiral a hand. As she began climbing up, I over-balanced and oops, my grip slipped and she was nearly flat on her back in the water. Good thing she has lightning fast reactions and a sense of humour…… Oh, yes I forgot, this was after she got a fishing hook almost stuck in her toe. Shame on all you careless fishermen out there.

The laughter and merriment eventually subsided and we anchored 20 meters off-shore in 3 meters of water. As the last rattle of the anchor chain faded into the night, we huddled around the cockpit braai watching a blood-red moon rise in the east. Soon after supper, the wind that had been absent all day, freshened and then changed direction. The anchor reset by itself and with the bed-time tales of Peter Rabbit and friends, we drifted off to sleep.

At 4am, I woke for the second time that night to check our position. Everything was still as it should be. The wind was blowing quite steadily from the north-east, and the night was brightly lit up by the full moon. I suppose I could have gone back to sleep, but the lure of the wind and the water was too enticing. I further reasoned, that if we got underway at 4am, we could all be happily back at Lake Deneys YC by the time the kids were awake.

Fumbling around in the dark, I managed to tangle the anchor chain and the genoa sheets, which I only discovered once I wanted to sheet in the headsail and get going. It took some nifty work to undo the mess and get going in the right direction, before the wind had chance to run us aground.

Quite obviously of course, the water looks very different at night. With only the nav-lights and the moon for company, I set sail for a cluster of distant lights. Navigation wasn’t as tricky as I imagined it would be, the features of the shoreline faintly discernable in the darkness. Keeping a close eye on the depth sounder, we again rounded Fools Point over the foul area indicated on the chart. I had flashes of how unhappy everyone would be if they were awakened and told the boat was sinking, so I doubled checked the surroundings and the depth, and gave the shore a wide berth. By the time the sun started showing through the cloud, we were already through the Confluence. I was surprised at how quickly the time had flown.

Back on the jetty at LDYC by 9am, with the crew sleepily emerging from their bunks to the smell of hot coffee and porridge, I had time to reflect on the voyage. Oranjeville still remains as elusive as ever, but Clewless and the crew had racked up yet another exciting journey. You know you’ve had a good time, when you’re not even off the water and you’re already planning the next trip…….

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