Lat: 31 05′ S
Lon: 16 41′ E

After so many full and fun-filled days ashore, I was actually hoping that being offshore would be a bit boring and make it easier to stay caught up on blogging, but it’s been anything but. Oh well, at least we don’t have any excuses about not having the time to blog. Our last couple of days were full of last-minute repairs and socializing. Six or eight boats all took the same weather window out on Wednesday, so there was a big send-off braai on Tuesday night. The grills at the False Bay Yacht Club were filled with boerwors, chicken, steak, sausages, corn, potatoes, and of course a few veggies sausages. As the night wore on, the crowd separated into those who were planning to leave at a particular early hour of the morning (and headed back to their boats) and those whose departure time was contingent how the night played out. The Frenchmen on Revuer de Jour were in especially high spirits as another French boat (a family on a Wharram catamaran) whom they had met in the Indian Ocean had just arrived that day. Maxim and Thibaut pulled out their guitars and began to play, insisting that Lauren join them to sing (her voice is generally in demand wherever we go). They treated us to a number of sing-along songs and performances in both English and French that were both fun and impressive, and Olivier, the father on the Wharram cat pulled out a large bag of his personal reserve of Madagascar rum. We hadn’t had a chance to stop in Madagascar, so we were curious to try it. Madagascar rum is special stuff — think $1 US per liter, harsh, burning 110-proof moonshine. The approach generally used by sailors to drink the stuff is to add natural flavoring (which Madagascar grows in abundance) and sugar to the bottles (which may be water jugs, water bottles, etc.) and then wait a week or so to drink it. Olivier’s personal reserve included vanilla, cinnamon, vanilla and banana, vanilla and Mars bars, ginger and honey, and other flavors from an assortment of plastic containers. We were all strongly encouraged to try every flavor, but needless to say, a little goes a long way. The bartender at the yacht club told us that we were the best group of cruisers to come through since she’s been there and we would definitely have to agree that leaving was bittersweet.

When we left the fuel dock in Simon’s Town we headed straight for Seal Island. It wasn’t on the shortest route out of the bay, but we had time according to the weather forecast and we were keen to see it. It’s one of the few places in the world where great white sharks breach during the seal pup season in winter, waiting near the bottom and then shooting up to the surface and jumping completely out of the icy water as they snare small seal pups learning to swim at the surface. This wasn’t the season for shark spotting, but we did see (and smell) loads of seals. They even swam toward us in groups of 3 or 4, jumping in graceful arcs like dolphins. I had no idea seals jumped like that, so it was pretty fun to watch. We didn’t spot whales leaving the bay like a couple of other boats did, but we did see plenty of seals all the way out. I even had one walk me down the dock in the marina before we left, spinning slowly underwater as he swam beside me, looking up at me as he was spinning and keeping pace with me for nearly the entire dock.

weathers Hopefully we’ll be down with the cold weather clothing soon!

seals1 Seals jumping near Seal Island in False Bay

The point of land at the southwest tip of False Bay is the Cape of Good Hope as it’s known to landlubbers, or the Cape of Storms as it was originally and called and and is still thought of by sailors. We gave it a wide berth as we rounded it and Tracey kindly informed us of the South African tradition of calling it the Cape of Good Hope as you’re approaching it and only referring to it as the Cape of Storms once you’re safely around it. The cape and Simon’s Town are usually beset by strong southerly winds (e.g., we had 45+ knots in the marina, had the chartplotter sun cover blown away, and had to patch rips that the wind made in the mainsail cover and bimini) so we’d all picked a rare day with light or northerly winds to leave. We rounded the cape in NW winds, which were good for leaving the bay, but it took a couple of hours before they changed to southerly and allowed us to head north up the coast. I took a nap during that time, and Lauren had to deal with the strong, then light and changing winds. The result was that one of our fishing lines was caught in the port prop by time I woke up. I’d normally jump in and sort it out, but with such icy cold green water I decided to just sort out what I could from above deck and then cut the line. It’s tied off to the rail now and will be at the top of the list when the wind dies offshore or we make it to Luderitz.

rdj Sailing in light winds beside the French guys on RDJ as we head out of False Bay

cape_point The Cape of Storms (a.k.a. The Cape of Good Hope)

We expected some strong winds and big seas the first couple of days and we weren’t disappointed. The waves from the southerly winds combined with a sizeable SW swell to make things pretty lively. The boats sailing directly to St. Helena have been complaining about the rough conditions, but we have it a bit easier sailing a northerly course and being on a catamaran. It was a bit lively, especially last night, but the boat handled it well as usual, Lauren was able to stay down in the galley long enough to cook some excellent hot meals, Tracey has had no problems with her watches, and nobody’s been doing any seal talking.

So after about 1000 words I’ll get around to the title of the blog and what was really a special experience. The sea last night was amazing. The greenish water here has more phosphorescent plankton that anywhere we’ve been (even more than I had between East London and Simon’s Town). There’s half a waning moon now, so the moon doesn’t rise until about midnight and in the black, starry night the rough seas were so aglow with phosphorescence that I was actually concerned that it would be difficult to spot distant ship’s lights on the horizon. The seas were frothy and white-capped and every disturbance in the water, no matter how small or large gave off a white, slightly green glow. There were so many glowing patches that even in the black night you could see the waves rolling and breaking. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before, but was sort of like sailing in a rolling, splashing crater of lava, only the glowing bits were greenish white instead of reddish orange. The hulls were surrounded in a bright glow as they pushed through the water and waves that splashed against the windward hull and fell back into the ocean as a thousand droplets looked like a bucket of small white coals being tossed onto the surface of the water. Just before midnight I saw something I’ve heard about and wanted to see but have never seen before. Off to port streaks of light like glowing torpedos with snaking, glowing wakes behind them headed directly for the boat. It was a pod of dolphins. We were much farther offshore than we usually see dolphins, but a pod of 10 or so joined us for nearly an hour. When they swam a few feet underwater you could make out each of their fins as especially bright spots in their glowing shape and wake. You could see their tails glow brightly and pump quickly up and down when they wanted to accelerate and when they broke the surface to breath, their dark forms were silhouetted against the glowing water around them. We watched as the dove, jumped, and darted around, their paths twisting and then fading into soft glows as a group of them would dive down deeper together. As we sailed along watching them, we also saw schools of fish startled by the boat or the dolphins break into smaller brilliant streaks and scatter in every direction, like underwater fireworks. It’s hard to do it justice in words and pictures would never have worked with all the motion and no light, but it was yet another new and unforgettable experience. It was a fitting farewell to South Africa, a vibrant, active, and friendly place that we’ll always remember fondly for all of the wonderful people we’ve met and incredible wildlife we were able to see.