Well, the weather hasn’t quite been as expected, so I ended up spending a couple more nights here in East London, which has given me enough time to get some decent sleep, relax a bit, and fix the stove, which stopped working as soon as I tied up at the dock.  I’d never really thought about it as a critical piece of gear, but it’s right up there with the autopilot, GPS, and head.  The burner was lighting, but the flame wasn’t big enough to cook anything, or even to keep the safety thermocouple hot enough to keep the flow of propane on.  All I had to do was clean the orifice, which was refreshingly accessible.  I’ve taken a couple of afternoon runs and ventured into town once or twice.

My last run into town was to try to get a new battery for my Blackberry after I dropped mine in the water.  I was trying to practice the guitar a bit (I think I decided tonight that I’m going to sell that thing when I get back to the US) while sitting on the trampoline and pulled out the Blackberry to look up a couple of chords.  I managed to fumble it well enough that I both dropped it and pulled the battery cover open.  It would have been no problem on the old tramps, but the new tramps have bigger openings, so the battery ended up dropping through.  In the islands, that’s no problem, you can just spot it from the surface and then dive down and pick it up.  A muddy, silted river mouth is another story altogether, however, and after a messy and futile diving experience in Durban, I didn’t even attempt to dive for it.

I stopped at one shop that had just closed, but they let me in and tried to help.  They didn’t have the battery, but recommended an area of town that might and told me to walk over two blocks and catch a taxi.  I was counseled to take the street to the north for the two block walk and not the street to the south as the street to the south was “very corrupt”.  I was a little confused because I hadn’t seen a single taxi in town, but I walked to the appropriate corner and had a look around anyway.  It quickly became apparent that there were no taxis as we’d think of them in the US.  There were just private cars manned by “taxi drivers”.  They just slow down and tap the horn if they see someone standing on the sidewalk to indicate that they’re a taxi and then there’s an exchange of finger signs, with the guy on the sidewalk holding up as many fingers as there are people in his party and the driver holding up a finger for each seat that’s still empty.  The taxi I jumped into was like a small SUV with two bench seats and within a couple of blocks there were eight of us altogether.

My destination was a shopping mall that turned out to be like walking out of Africa directly into a nice suburban US mall.  Malls aren’t exactly my favorite, but I generally end up there once a year about this time, so it seemed pretty fitting that I should find myself walking through the mall a couple of days before Christmas.  In the end, it looks like I’ll be waiting for Lauren to come back and bring a battery, but I did meet a really nice Pakistani cell/electronics shop owner that actually drove me all the way back to the dock after closing his shop.  I’d told him I was on a boat and he had lots of questions about the trip.  Don’t let anyone tell you’re not going to meet nice people in South Africa.

Tomorrow is Christmas and it looks like I should be underway by noon.  I’m hoping to sail all the way to Simon’s Town, False Bay, which is about 520 nm away and right across the peninsula from Cape Town.  If I can do it in one run, it should take 3-4 days, but I’ll probably take a little different approach to this passage depending on how the weather looks.  If the forecast stays the way it’s looked today, I’ll probably start near shore like I did last time, but then head a ways offshore to avoid a 12-hour bit of contrary winds near the cost on Monday, stay out of the shipping lanes, and avoid the coastal currents that can pull you into shore if you’re too close in and happen to fall asleep for too long.