Archive for January, 2011


Most of our days of late have continued to be lacking in adventure but necessarily productive. Dallas found his way back to the engine rooms and cleaned up the fuel in both tanks. I’ve been trying to patch things up, including the dinghy (one of the chains that it hangs on has hose around it but still caused it to chafe through almost to the core) and cushion covers in the salon.

Last week I had the serendipitous opportunity to meet one of my best friends from high school in Cape Town for a trip up to the Stellenbosch region. I’ve actually known Ryan since 2nd or 3rd grade, and each year for the last 16 years, he has organized a reunion of some of our best friends from high school for a Christmas dinner. While attending the dinner last month, I learned of his business trip to Cape Town, and I’m sure you can guess my response when he asked if I wanted to join him in heading to Stellenbosch for wine tasting!

The trip from Cape Town to Stellenbosch coulda/shoulda/woulda been easy if it weren’t for the fact that determining our mode of transportation was left up to me. Haha. No, seriously. My reputation in the planning department precedes me! Dallas is definitely the planner, but since he wasn’t going and Ryan was en route, the logistics were up to me. I located the train timetables and figured out a plan for getting to CT, meeting Ryan, and then catching the train to Stellenbosch for the winery tour that I booked reservations for, but somehow I missed that the train from CT to Stellenbosch was not direct at that particular time/day. The result was that Ryan and I rode the train until the end of the line, only to look at each other and say, “could we have passed Stellenbosch without noticing?” No, we learned. We should have transferred to a different train 4 stops back. So now what? I called the tour company, and they suggested that it would be faster for us to catch a minibus (a small van that serves as a taxi) than to backtrack on the train. Initially we tried to find a minibus stop, but it turns out there is no such thing. People just stand on the side of the road until one of the minibuses comes screeching to a halt to pick them up. In our case, there were two minibuses that stopped, and young men riding in the front from both buses emerged to fight over who would get our business. The minibus that won was spray-painted black with a graffiti design on the sides and appeared to be at least as old as our boat. Ryan and I squeezed inside among the 12 others packed in like sardines, and off we rode with hip hop music blaring at full volume. Did I mention Ryan had just arrived the previous evening? I think he was quickly immersed into South African culture – thanks to my error! We eventually made it to our destination, but not before the minibus broke down (dirty fuel apparently)! Fortunately the next minibus stop was only a couple of blocks away, as it was sunny and HOT, and we were supposed to be tasting wine, not hiking!

We went to four wineries on our tour and sampled some very approachable and reasonably priced wines. The Cape region is particularly known for Pinotage, which is a blend of Pinot Noir and Hermitage or Shiraz. I found it to be smooth on the front end but spicy on the back end. Our favorite wine of the day, though, was the Shiraz Reserve from Spiced Root. Mmmmm. This came from the Fairview winery which in general was very nice and had a variety of fantastic cheeses displayed for purchase and tasting. 

stellen The climate and geography of this region is similar to Northern CA

wine groupRyan and others from the Easy Rider Wine Tour

Part of the fun of going on an organized tour was the chance to meet others who were doing the same thing. In our case, there was a great group of tourists from Italy, Ireland, Australia, Japan, the U.S., and South Africa. By the time we got to the last winery, I had met most people and was sharing my observations about how violent Australians can be with a few others at our table, only to discover that the couple sitting across from me who I had not yet met was from Australia. Oops. Fortunately they were in total agreement with what I said!

The Western Cape region really is an excellent tourist destination, and we are reluctant to leave. However, we are excited about the next stage of our journey as well. Our next stop will be Namibia, the country northwest of South Africa that is famous for its red deserts. We will then begin our Atlantic crossing, stopping at St. Helena en route to Recife, Brazil. We are trying to time it so that we can be in Brazil for Carnival, which means that we will be able to stick around here (Simon’s Town) for another couple of weeks before we need to embark. This should give us plenty of time to address must-do boat maintenance tasks (e.g., fixing bilge pumps as usual and diagnosing the problem with the propane sniffer alarm that keeps going off…), see our friends in Cape Town again, and if weather permits, climb Table Mountain!

Simon’s Town

It’s easy to blog when our life is filled with the adventure we’ve become accustomed to, but we’ve been fairly boring the last few days.  We’ve settled down nicely here at Simon’s Town and have been anything but adventurous.  We’re enjoying a bit of “normal” land-like life for a bit.  We even have a membership at the local movie rental shop.

Simon’s Town came well-recommended to us by a couple of South Africans and we haven’t been disappointed.  It’s a small, walkable place with two pubs, a “historic mile”, numerous shops, a couple of backpackers’ hostels, and a few corner stores.  Seals swim and play in the marina and along the rocky shore, and a stretch of shoreline called Boulders Beach is home to a penguin colony.  There’s one robot (traffic light) in town that’s just there to allow pedestrian crossing across the main street that runs along the waterfront on a narrow strip of fairly flat land between the steep mountainside and the bay.  It’s a pretty safe place, the pace of life feels very relaxed here, and people not only have the time to talk to you, they actually seem interested in you and want to chat.  Families are often sunbathing and braaing on the yacht club lawn with kids playing in the cold, fairly clear water, climbing up onto rocks, jumping off the footbridge and swimming platform, swimming through swaying kelp, and paddling kayaks.  The town’s most famous resident is a dog called Just Nuisance that lived here during WWII when Simon’s Town was an often-bustling naval town. He was formally made a member of the Navy in order to allow him to ride the train and carry out his desire to always be around the town’s seamen.  There’s still a Navy base here with a few seamen in uniform wandering the streets, but the two modern-looking Navy ships here haven’t moved once since I arrived and the flashing Christmas lights still strung about the top decks would seem to indicate that they aren’t going anywhere soon.

The prices here are a bit higher than Durban, but they’re still a good enough bargain that we ate delicious wood-fired pizza from the same great restaurant three days in a row.  On the third day I promised the waitress that we wouldn’t come back the next day, so we ended up down the street for dinner at a combo sushi/Italian place for what else, sushi and pizza.  Lauren loves sushi, and it’s not an easy find in many places we visit, so having a sushi place across the street where I can get a pizza as well is really something to take advantage of.

DSC_0001 A still life for all the cheap, gourmet pizza lovers like us

Our Swedish friend Jonatan from S/V Marionette came by the other day, and we enjoyed a relaxing day chatting and hanging out at Boulders Beach soaking up some sun and photographing penguins.  There is a colony of about 3,000 jackass penguins here, and we were able to get pretty close to about 20 of them hanging out on some rocks at the edge of beach.  Even though they can mangle a finger pretty badly if you get too close and try to feed them by hand, their jackass name doesn’t come from their behavior.  I actually didn’t know they were called jackass penguins until later, but as soon as I heard the name it was obvious where it came from.  They make loud, strange sounds, and the end of it, it sounds a lot like a donkey braying.  I was commenting about how much they sound like a donkey before I even know about their name, and it’s clear whoever “discovered” and named them was thinking the same thing.

DSC_0877 Doesn’t look like a penguin beach does it?

DSC_1007 Making the donkey sound is a full-body effort for these little guys

They are sort of fun to watch, although they weren’t incredibly active while we were there.  Their combined solitary behavior, standing alone and well apart from each other, with social behavior like cleaning each other, “kissing” while hidden behind the rocks, and taking walks/swims together.  Their walks are fun to watch as well due to their short legs.  They can waddle/walk if the ground is fairly flat or gently sloping, but due to their short legs, even small discontinuities require them to jump or hop, which is pretty cute or comical, again because of their short legs (imagine Will Ferrell trying to hop up some steps with his legs tied together down to the ankles and both knees locked).  I don’t know if penguins hold the record, but they have to be very near the top in terms of leg length relative to total body height for an animal that stands and walks upright.  They make a dachshund look like a leggy cheetah.

DSC_0883 Typical jackass penguin action shot

DSC_0904 This high-stepper should be featuring in Johnnie Walker’s “Keep Walking” campaign

DSC_0913 Lauren’s off to the left (apparently penguins also notice the pretty girl on the beach)DSC_0929 Sunning a bit after a swim

DSC_0967 Handsome devil

DSC_0996 Awwww

After a nice long break, I’m trying to get back in the routine of doing boat work as the time to leave and cross the Atlantic is fast approaching.  So far I’ve done a better job of calling people to help with jobs I can’t do than tackling the long list of stuff I need to do myself, but at least it’s a start.  Today we had a couple of rusty motor mounts on the starboard engine replaced, the scratch I put on the hull on the way in has been repaired, and a really nice German woodworker is about finished repairing one of our ailing hatch trim pieces.  I do have to put in a good word for Clyde at Texwise in Durban just in case any other sailors are reading.  Clyde did a lot of canvas-type work for us and was a pleasure to work with.  Unfortunately, virtually all of the snaps on the new suncovers started rusting badly within two days of being installed.  I gave Clyde a call a couple days ago to tell him about the problem and he immediately admitted to getting a bad batch of snaps that had rusted on another job as well.  He told me who to call here in Simon’s Town to have them replaced and is having the bill sent directly to him.  So cheers to Clyde for standing behind his work as well as being a nice guy in general.

HNY from Cape Town!

After a joyous and much-needed reunion with friends and family, I am reunited with my husband in South Africa! With his newly clean-shaven appearance, you’d hardly know that Dallas just rounded the Cape by himself!

He picked me up from the airport in Cape Town late on the night of the 30th, and we enjoyed a bit of luxury in a nice hotel near the waterfront for the next two nights. This was practical since we wanted to be in Cape Town proper for New Year’s (and the boat is in neighboring Simon’s Town), and it also allowed me to gradually reenter the adventurous but much more rugged lifestyle of the cruiser. A mere two weeks in Johnson County is enough to remind one of those little pleasantries like dishwashers, hot showers, and spacious homes along with greater comforts such as access to old friends and a mother’s hug! But with that said, I’m happy to be back aboard Pura Vida and eager to see what the remaining months of our circumnavigation will bring.

Cape Town is a beautiful city. The architecture seems to be British-colonial, and many buildings in the central district are white or pastel. The most striking features (besides its extremely diverse population) are geographical, as both beaches and mountains surround the city. In particular, Table Mountain appears as a prominent backdrop by day and by night, at which time its features are illuminated from powerful lights along its base. 

CTThe Company Gardens in Central Cape Town with Table Mountain behind

On the 31st, it was sunny and hot in CT, but due to a gale watch (not unusual here), the cableway ride up Table Mountain had been suspended, so we opted instead to spend the afternoon exploring the city by foot. We happened upon the National Gallery of Art, which was really amazing. Most of the exhibits were comprised of photographs taken somewhere in Africa, so you can imagine the kind of material that was involved – war, poverty, and tribal custom to name a few. From the gallery, we walked around Central CT and found a bite to eat in an al fresco cafe before heading back to the hotel to rest up for the late night festivities. Eventually we made our way over to the marina basin and joined several of our friends aboard S/V Itusca, the spacious and modern catamaran that our Brazilian friends are sailing around the world thanks to their sponsors. Around 11:30 we made our way over to a 188’ superyacht called Pangaea! Our friends aboard the superyacht Drumbeat managed to get us an invitation to the very exclusive party there, but I’m not sure that they were expecting a group of 14 young(ish) rabble-rousing cruisers! They allowed us to stay long enough to watch the midnight fireworks from the top deck before kindly asking us to leave. We weren’t quite ready for the party to stop, however, and walked around the waterfront area for a little while until one of our group befriended a small group of African ladies with a destination in mind. We followed them through the mayhem of Central CT to the Zulu Bar. En route we passed what appeared to be a one-sided fight in which a very wound up, heavy-set African women had left two large African men on the ground rubbing their heads and was attempting to pull herself away from the man restraining her to have a go at a third! All in all, it was a memorable but not TOO eventful evening, which is the way we like it these days.

HNY Who wouldn’t want this crew aboard?

pangaeaStill smiling after getting booted off of Pangaea

central CT The scene at the waterfront just after midnight

We got around slowly on New Year’s Day but eventually joined our American friend Nat from S/V Bahati along with his newest crew members from Maine for a trip in the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain. It was an ideal day for it – blue skies and not too much wind. As a result, we were not the only ones with the good idea to go up the mountain, and we had to wait in line for over an hour to board the cable car, but it was well worth it. The views were incredible, and the 5-minute cable car ride was quite an experience in itself. The car rotated 360 degrees, and toward the top of the mountain the speed with which we ascended, just a few feet from the steep rocky cliff face, was enough to make people squeal! Atop the mountain, we sat and enjoyed a beer and some good conversation with our friends overlooking the city and the sea. It is easy to see why the Table Mountain cableway is considered a must-see if in Cape Town.

lion's head Overlooking Lion’s Head. Behind and to the right is Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for so many years

cable carI enjoyed our transportation up the mountain, but next time we’re planning to hike!

Today we returned to Simon’s Town and to Pura Vida. She’s looking good with her new trampolines and sun shades. It’s good to be home.