Christmas and New Year!

Mike and Liz Downing
Wed 1 Jan 2014 20:07

It's been a bit of a holiday for us as we've been preparing for and enjoying Christmas and New Year, and not doing a lot on the boat. We have been here almost 3 weeks now and the time has just flown by. Simon's Town is a lovely little town and we like it here. It's the sort of place that we would be happy to stay a long time, if only we could.

The weather has been very windy, 20-30kts with the occasional day when it's closer to 50kts, but it's been fine. In fact since arriving in Simon's Town we've woken to lovely blue skies virtually every day and the days have generally been sunny and hot. In the time we've been here we've only had half a day of rain, and we hope that continues. It makes working on the boat a lot easier. Not that we've done much during the holiday period, but we have quite a bit to do and will have to get busy tomorrow. I did go in the water to clean round the waterline (the first time since Australia) and it looks a lot better. The water in the marina is pretty clean and clear and you can see the bottom most of the time,  which is just as well as Liz was keeping an eye open for anything nasty coming along. They have sharks in the bay outside the marina and the local beaches have shark nets, but according to the locals they don't come into the marina (but we were told to be aware, just in case!). The only visitor we had was a playful fur seal. We had seen it (or one very much like it - they all look the same to us!) in the marina before when it played between the boats for a couple of hours or so. It was quite big and they do have sharp teeth, but it didn't come too close, so wasn't a problem. However, it came back again a day later and gave me quite a scare. As I got off the boat onto the finger pontoon, the fur seal (which we hadn't seen since the previous day) came out of the water at speed next to the bows between the boat and the finger pontoon (so very close to me) and reached the height of the top lifeline! Quite a shock when you're not expecting it! After that it gave us a display of aquabatics at the side of the boat - it was just like a show at Seaworld! It would seem that entertaining comes quite naturally to them! 

We've made several trips into Cape Town by car and the coast route is quite spectacular. As is the backdrop of Table Mountain once you reach Cape Town. It is very dramatic and dominates the city skyline, particularly as it appears almost sheer for much of its 3,487ft. Most days it's been completely clear, but a couple of times the cloud has been rolling off the top and down the mountainside. That normally heralds very strong winds down at the Royal Cape Yacht Club marina (where some of our friends are), with gusts over 50kts! Like Simon's Town, the mountains in Cape Town are so close that the suburbs are built up the lower slopes. Whenever you look up from wherever you are in the city, you see the mountain!

Our Christmas dinner went very well - there were 22 of us from 9 boats: 3 Norwegian, 3 British, 2 German and 1 Finnish. The 4 turkeys were cooked in Cape Town as 3 of the boats are in the marina there and they drove over to Simon's Town. The Cape Town marina had better cooking facilities available, so as soon as they were cooked they were brought over (30 minutes - just enough to allow the turkeys to stand before carving!). The cooking of the rest of the meal (including Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, chipolatas in bacon, stuffing etc.) was shared between the boats here. We even had two flaming Christmas Puddings (without setting the building alight!). When staying in the marina here you become temporary members of the False Bay Yacht Club (the bay here is called False Bay), so they allowed us to use the small club restaurant, which made it a lot easier. And 3 days later, 20 of the 22 went on a wine tasting tour of one of the wine growing areas around Stellenbosch, near Cape Town. The wineries are situated in valleys between mountains and it's very picturesque. We really went for the scenery, but did find a couple of desert wines that we liked (that's a first for Liz!), so bought a couple of bottles of each. I'm not drinking alcohol at the moment (doctors orders!) but hope that a little now and again won't be a problem in the future.

With the strong winds predominantly from the south east, there is nearly always a surge in the marina here in Simon's Town. As a result all the boats are constantly on the move and straining on their ropes. You rarely notice it down below, other than for the ropes that creak as they get stretched and the occasional jerk as the boat pulls up against one of the ropes. We have 3 ropes on the bow and 3 on the stern, plus 3 springs (2 stopping her going forward and 1 stopping her from going backwards) all holding her in place, but the ropes always stretch and even with all those ropes she still moves quite a bit. When we get the really high winds, she also heels quite a bit. Actually, it's a good marina to be in before going to sea as with all this motion you never lose your sea legs!   

The penguin colony is just 20 minutes down the road and it's a nice early morning walk, as I attempt to get a little fitter. (Sailing does generally keep you fit, but you don't do too much walking when confined to 43ft for days at a time!) We've seen several hundred penguins on the beach and apparently the colony has over 2,200. They're lovely to watch as they come out of the sea and waddle up the beach. 

Last night, New Year's Eve, a number of us went to the Royal Cape Yacht Club in Cape Town to see in the New Year and see the fireworks. A BBQ (they call it a braai here), live music, lots of people and fine weather made it a lovely evening.  Like Australia last year they had fireworks at 21.00, for the children to see, and again at midnight. The fireworks were good, but didn't quite reach the standard of last year -  Sydney fireworks are going to take a lot of beating! We got back to the boat just before 02.00, just in time for New Year in the UK!

Have a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!
One of the best red skies we've seen - our last evening at sea before arriving at
Simon's Town.
3 pictures of Simon's Town, taken from the boat, showing the hills that surround it. 
Little alley ways lead from the main street up to the houses on the slopes.
The train line stops at Simon's Town.
It's a direct route into Cape Town and we took the train yesterday around midday to get into Cape Town for the New Year's Eve celebrations. It runs for quite a way along the coast, between the road and the sea (like at Dawlish on the South Coast), before turning inland. It's only about 20 miles into Cape Town, but there must have been around 25 stops and it took over an hour to get there. Needless to say, we didn't return by train at 01.00 this morning (it's not recommended after dark!) and had pre-booked taxis.  
Noordhoek Beach. One of the routes by car to Cape Town follows the coast. Known as
Chapman's Peak Drive, it has been dug into the cliff side and is quite spectacular - both
the road itself and the views as you go round each corner.
Overhangs and concrete canopies help prevent road blocks from falling rocks, but the
repairs we saw being carried out suggest they still happen quite frequently.
The road winds around the cliff face.
Hout Bay coming into view.
Looking out across the Atlantic Ocean it feels as though we're closer to the UK!
The lovely Hout Bay.
Closer to Cape Town on the coast road are the '12 Apostles' overlooking the sea.
The week before Christmas we attended an OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) get-together at
the Royal Cape Yacht Club. It just so happens that the Commodore of the OCC spends
time in South Africa each year as his wife is South African. So they flew down from
Johannesburg one day and back the next.
It's not difficult to see why it's called Table Mountain! It dominates the skyline from
all views, even at night as illuminations have just been installed so it can be lit up after
It's just like the Sydney Opera House - well actually it's nothing like Sydney Opera House,
except like the Opera House it's so impressive it's difficult not to take pictures every
time you see it. So these are likely to be the first of many!
A very small part of the V&A Waterside development that must have transformed this
part of the docks and is huge! Shops, restaurants, hotels, marina; it has it all. It's named
after Queen Victoria and her second son Alfred. 
The Christmas tree at the V&A Waterfront, with Table Mountain behind.
The cloud rolls over the edge of Table Mountain and down the sides before evaporating.
Christmas table for 22!
Everything except the plates and cutlery was provided by the yachts attending. It was
quite a feast! And putting it all together was quite a feat - including cooking 4 turkeys.
Empty plates all around! (A sweet/pudding of Christmas pudding, pavlova and mince pies,
followed by cheese and biscuits.)
Goodbye to 2013 and welcome to 2014!
It's our 6th Christmas/New Year away from the UK. We enjoy the blue skies and warm
sunny weather, but still find it a little strange celebrating Christmas in the sun.