A Flying Visit

Mike and Liz Downing
Wed 26 Feb 2014 21:48
The last update was written on an airplane heading home to the UK!  It was a flying visit in more ways than one and we were only there for just over two weeks. The primary objective was to see our first grandchild! He is already taking after his grandparents as he struggled to arrive on time! Being 5 days late, he arrived just 2 days before we touched down in the UK. You forget just how small a new born baby is, but looking like Winston Churchill (as most new borns seem to do) he started putting on weight almost immediately. The proud parents are coming to terms with the sleepless nights!
While in the UK we took the opportunity to see family and friends, and, as always, to stock up with as many spares for the boat (mostly the engine, generator and watermaker) as our luggage allowance would allow. Flying with Emirates, via Dubai, we were allowed 30kg each in the hold and 7kg each for carry-on baggage, and we used the lot! It wasn't that difficult to reach the limit when bringing back a new alternator and seawater pump for the engine! Being dead on the weight limit was important as every kilo over would have cost £40! The flights all went well apart from the return trip into Dubai. A variety of tools that Heathrow had allowed us to have in our carry-on baggage were not acceptable to Dubai security and they were confiscated. But only for a while - a very helpful Emirates official suggested sending them as a separate package in the hold. So security gave them back, I had to go out through passport control, so in to Dubai, get the items wrapped up as a new package, go up to the check-in area and check-in again with the new package for the hold, and then go back through passport control to get back to the departure area for the connecting flight. Dubai airport is very modern and huge. The biggest concern was would I ever find Liz again! We had agreed that she would stay put until I returned and despite being the navigator I had to ask half a dozen officials to find my way back. But we made it and, much to our surprise, so did the new package! (Incidentally, the new package weighed 1kg and as we were already up to our limit of 60kg the check-in official was considering charging excess baggage, but a more senior member of the staff stepped in and decided that considering the circumstances they should just put it through and not charge, so that was nice.)
The weather in the UK was dull and very, very wet, with the country seemingly appearing to slowly sink as flooding affected more and more areas. The one good thing from our point of view was that the temperature didn't drop below 5C and was closer to 10C most of the time, so mild for the time of year. Just as well as this was our first winter experience for 7 years! Buying thermals in advance probably kept the weather warm!   
We've been back in Cape Town for just over a week now and unfortunately having to get all the work done that people had promised would be done while we were away, but wasn't. It was primarily rigging related, but the sprayhood had to go back for adjustment and the windlass motor was worse after the repair than it was before, so that had to go back again too. Things are now starting to come together, but it's put our departure back at least a week and our tight timescales have become even tighter. It's all still doable, but we won't be able to stop long at places along the route. The weather here hasn't helped in that although dry, it's been very windy and over the last 4 days it's been between 30 and 50kts the whole time. With wind of that strength the sails couldn't go on and they only went on today when the wind finally eased. And with no wind and clear blue skies, the temperatures have rocketed up to 35C. It's 10.30 in the evening as I write and it's 33C in the cabin! We have 5 electric fans in the boat and they're all on. The winds keep things cooler, but they also keep things dirty - they pick up all the dust and dirt from the city and blow it over the marina. Keeping the boats clean is a major activity, but it's not worth starting until the winds stop as within a few hours it's just as dirty again.
A problem with crickets! A family of crickets had taken up residence in the boat's scuppers while we were away. The scuppers are outside the boat (but go through it) and are pipes that allow the water trapped on deck, by a relatively high toe rail, to drain into the sea. We have two drains each side and they're connected making a nice set of connecting tunnels for any creatures that likes that sort of thing, provided, of course, that it doesn't rain, and it didn't while we were away. Crickets are not as bad as the 'unmentionables', but they do sing at night, if that's what you call it. And singing that loud and close is not good for sleep! So we had to oust them and the only way was to close the seacocks on the scuppers and fill them with water to deck level. The crickets surfaced on deck and were successfully chased off the boat. We left the scuppers full of water for several days and that seems to have done the trick in persuading them not to come back.   
As the boat hasn't moved for 6 weeks I spent an hour in the water with mask and snorkel cleaning the water line and as far down as I could reach. All the scum came off with a sponge, so that was good, but the main objective was to see how I would cope with the very cold water to decide if I could use the scuba gear to sponge off the rest of the hull and keel. With a 7mm semi-dry wetsuit, gloves, hood, and boots, I survived! But diving under in that temperature was not pleasant. (The cold Benguela current flows along this coast and comes straight up from Antarctica - it is very cold!) However, having survived I decided I could use the scuba gear, but before doing so thought, after our experiences in Australia, it would be wise to check if I could get my scuba tank refilled afterwards. The short answer, is no! They will only fill tanks that have been painted the South African regulation colour. To get your tank painted you have to have it hydrostatically tested in South Africa and that takes at least 2 weeks, which we don't have. So we're looking at getting a local diver to do the bits I couldn't reach. Incidentally, the South African dive shops have never heard of 'burst discs', the things we had to get fitted in Australia to get the tanks filled there. Scuba tank regulations could do with world-wide standardization! 
We hope the winds remains light for the next few days so we can really make good progress towards getting the boat ready to head off.
William - just 4 days old!
A few days later.
A few days later again - almost grown up!
A very soggy British countryside in winter (with the river water rising in the background).
A touch warmer - the Dubai desert!
The futuristic airport terminal at Dubai, and .......
....... the Dubai airport control tower.
Table Mountain comes into view and we're almost 'home'.