Captain’s Log March 2012

Early Easter Greetings to you all!

Well, a big change from our last log, here we are in Brazil!! Not only a new country for us, but a new Continent!!!
We are presently anchored in the Paraiba River near Cabadelo on the north eastern coast between Recife and Natal. We had a great trip across the Atlantic ocean from Namibia to St. Helena, then from St. Helena to here with mostly light to moderate winds giving a slow but comfortable downwind passage. Now we are preparing to cruise the northern coastline of Brazil and French Guyana with our destination and possibly our next internet contact being Grenada, so we are making sure that our Easter Greetings go out early and find you healthy and happy. We look forward to hearing your news when we are next online.

In the 3 months since our last Captain’s Log it feels like we have cruised more miles than we cruised in the previous 10 years since crossing the Indian Ocean from Australia to Tanzania back in 2002!!

Whilst it was never our plan to spend 2 years in South Africa (or 7 years in Tanzania prior to that) circumstances were such that it happened that way, however we have made some wonderful friends along the way and we hope that our paths will again cross in the coming years. Never say never, as we discovered when we reconnected with various ‘Tanzania’ friends during our stay in SA and of course it was a real treat for us to return to Tanzania for a quick visit last October. Having spent much of the past 20 years in Africa, it is unlikely that we have left for good!!

On our departure from Saldanha Bay on 30th December, after a busy, but fun final few days saying our farewells to the great friends we had made there, the weather was a bit TOO kind giving us 35 knots from the South East to help us on our way!

 SBYC had a small flotilla to bid us farewell, or maybe to ensure we finally left (ha ha), but treasured memories for us all, Chui & Scrumpy included.

NAMIBIA – Our passage from Saldanha to Luderitz, Namibia, varied from strong SE winds to almost nothing, which did help us to re-establish our sailing skills, with a number of sail combinations and settings, plus a degree of motoring.

 At 0400 on the morning of 2nd January a front came through and the snuffer on the spinnaker jammed, as we attempted to haul it down. Consequently it blew out…., the front rapidly abated and we finally motored the last 2 hours into Luderitz arriving at 1300 that afternoon.
By 1500 we had cleared all entry procedures, even though it was a public holiday. The next morning we awoke to a rather large neighbour – ‘The World’ cruise ship had just docked alongside the main pier in the port! We last saw her in Zanzibar back in 2004 when we were on the Dar es Salaam to Tanga Yacht Race!

The winds in Luderitz during our first week there blew up to 40 knots much of the time and we seriously contemplated moving on to Walvis Bay, however we were keen to visit the Fish River Canyon and after a chat in a coffee bar with a couple of friendly locals, we decided to get organized, hire a car, make a reservation at a dog-friendly lodge (Canyon Mountain Camp)

and arrange for a watch on ‘Amarula’ in our absence. Fortunately, prior to arriving in Luderitz, we had made contact with a former cruising family from the area and they kindly kept an eye on the boat, thus giving us peace of mind whilst we travelled. The father & son team (Heiko & Stefan) now run daily catamaran trips out to the seal and penguin colonies off Diaz Point and Stefan is a Namibian Kite Surfing champion! Luderitz’s Second Lagoon is certainly the place to practice!!

 Fish River Canyon was well worth the effort in getting there. Driving in Namibia is challenging, in that only 13% of the roads are paved, as it is such a huge country with a tiny population. Despite cool conditions at the coast the weather at the canyon was 40 degrees and VERY dry. The drive there took us past the eerie, sand-swept ghost town of Kolmanskop, where we stopped off to join the 9.30am guided tour. Kolmanskop is a former diamond mining town, which had its heyday during the early 1900’s before richer deposits were discovered further south and the diamond town of Oranjemund was developed on the southern border with South Africa. From here we drove on past Aus, which is known as the starting point for viewing the wild horses of the Garub and its historical associations with WW1.
Another 100 km further on we noticed a symbol for a fuel station on our map at a town called Goageb, however as we drove past the few houses and the ‘fuel station’, we noticed that everything was boarded up and the bowsers had even been removed! Between here and the Canon Roadhouse, another 150km further on, we saw no more towns or villages, let alone fuel stations or even any shady spots to pull over and take a break.
We decided a stop at the quirky Canyon Roadhouse was in order, as not only did we enjoy a cold beer and a slice of their ‘legendary Amarula cheesecake’, we also managed to refuel! Despite still having 2/3 of a tank, we took it whilst we could get it, as we had no idea when the next fuel would be available.
An interesting statistic published in the car hire brochure stated that 10% of hire car patrons in Namibia have an accident/incident, a timely reminder to drive with caution where there are long distances between any infrastructure, generally in searingly hot conditions with very little mobile phone coverage!

We arrived at the delightful and friendly Canyon Lodge at around 4pm and were guided to the Canyon Mountain Camp, a further 6 km along a dirt road, where we were the only guests, so we had the grassy, shaded courtyard to ourselves and the ‘boys’ played Frisbee to their hearts content, whilst we enjoyed sundowners in our isolated haven. We took a brief walk up to the kopje above the camp, which gave a splendid sunset view over the parched landscape.

Early the next morning we drove to Fish River Canyon, where we watched the sunrise 

 casting its light on the edges of the canyon, gradually melting away the shadows and lighting up the depths with its almost dry river bed far below us. We enjoyed a cool 5 km return walk along the rim from the main viewpoint to the start of the 85 km hiking trail.  This 4 – 5 day trail which ends up at Ai-Ais Hot Spring resort is closed during the hot summer months from around mid-September through to May. Although the canyon is 160 km long, 27 km across and 500 m deep in places and the second largest canyon in the world after Colorado’s Grand Canyon, there is only limited access to 2-wheel drive vehicles along the canyon rim. So, after cooking up our breakfast  and some coffee on our little camp stove, we took another short, hot walk and a drive as far as the 2-wheel drive track would allow, then we returned to our accommodation to shower, pack up and set off on the long drive back to Luderitz.
We returned via the southern route taking a detour down to Ai-Ais Hot Spring resort, then we followed the Orange River for 120 km as it wended its way along the border with South Africa. We turned off to the mining town of Rosh Pinah, where a loooong paved road took us back via Aus to Luderitz. The steep, winding road down to Ai-Ais did concern us, as we weren’t sure whether we would find the resort open at this time of year, but we were delighted to find that it was open and there were pleasant, shaded picnic areas, where we ate our lunch before continuining on our journey.

As we still had the hire car for an extra day, we spent the Sunday (8th January) exploring the desolate Luderitz peninsular with its landmark Diaz Point at the north and Grosse Bucht in the south and the numerous rugged, rocky bays in between. At Diaz Point we enjoyed coffee and a delicious chocolate cake at the tiny café before climbing up to the monument, which commemorates the landing by the Portuguese Navigator, Bartholomeu Diaz, on 25th July, 1488.
Whilst up at the Dias Cross we noticed Heiko & Stefan pass by with their Sunday champagne & oyster cruise. We could hear, see and smell the seal colony close by and we watched as they sailed on to Halifax Island to view the penguin colony. We drove there to see the penguins & waved as Zeepard returned to Luderitz with their clients and we continued towards Grosse Bucht. Despite the barren landscape we appreciated the beauty of the place and the longer we stayed the more subtle the colours became.

In Luderitz itself there is some interesting old German architecture, specifically the Goerke Haus, which was built in 1910.

Materials were brought out from Germany so the owner, Hans Goerke’s wife would feel comfortable when she was finally brought out to join him, but the isolation proved too much for her and she returned to Germany within a short time. We found the staff at the Information Centre and the Museum very helpful and friendly, however we met up with a wonderful couple, Rudae & Mike, friends of our Saldanha Bay friends, Shirley & Brian, who were not only great fun and delightful company, but also extremely knowledgeable about Namibia in general and Luderitz in particular.

After a fabulous lunch at Shearwater Oysters, we bid a fond farewell to Rudae and Mike and set off for Walvis Bay. The passage took 48 hours, again with variable winds, but we made it in time to join friends from another yacht at the Walvis Bay Yacht Club for their 3 course Sunday Lunch special.

Walvis Bay is the main port of entry for Namibia and works efficiently, servicing the landlocked countries on its eastern borders. Furthermore Namibia is the tenth largest fish producing country in the world, due to the nutrient rich Benguela current, that emanates from the Antarctic and upwells along the south west African coastline. Due to the magnitude of the bay the port activities don’t detract from its natural beauty. The bay, the lagoon and wetlands support huge populations of flamingoespelicanscormorants and seals, not to mention dolphins and whales.

We were interested to see a busy, polished tourist operation with a number of charter vessels capitalizing on these natural assets. The seals and pelicans in particular being so habituated to human interaction that they happily hop onboard the vessels for photo shoots with the clients!!! They obviously also considered us as a potential feed station, as they regularly popped up alongside showing off their antics and even hopped onto our swim platforms from time to time, much to the disgust of Chui & Scrumpy! These natural attractions are presumably one of the highlights for the many cruise ships which call in at walvis Bay. We were particularly delighted to witness the Queen Mary 2’s maiden visit here!

During our stay in Walvis Bay we made some repairs to our blown out spinnaker,

however the split across the top sector was more complex and it was repaired by a local upholsterer who did the job without our input and it subsequently blew out again between St. Helena and Brazil. All that hard work in vain!

From Walvis Bay we hired a car to head inland to visit Sossusvlei and the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Again we found a great lodge which was happy to accommodate the dogs, whilst we visited the incredible sand dunes of the Namib Dessert. After our long drive with only 1 shaded picnic spot where we had lunch both on the way there and back, we were happy to exercise our legs with a sunset hike up to a steep, sharp, rocky outcrop which housed some ancient cave paintings. Leaving the dogs to sleep in we arose before daylight the next morning to drive to the gate for the sunrise opening of the park. Words and even photographs are inadequate to describe the size, colours, and sense of isolation we felt whilst wandering along the edges of the dunes and out on the vleis (pans) in between. We were surprised by the amount of wildlife, in particular gemsbok (oryx) and mountain zebras, that appear to survive on seriously scant vegetation.

Just beyond the popular Dune 45 we spotted a hyena skulking in the early morning shadows. The day heats up quickly in the desert, so we were glad of our early start, but before we left we stopped off at the Sesriem Canyon. Whilst not as impressive as the Fish River Canyon, it is still worth a visit.

After returning to the lodge to pack up and collect the dogs, we had a cool off in the pool and stopped off to buy bread at the isolated ‘town’ of Solitaire, famous for its bakery and the delicious Apple strudel, which of course we had to taste! We arrived on the outskirts of Walvis Bay just as the sun was setting and decided to climb up Dune 7– we were feeling guilty for not exercising the dogs. We all had a ball running up and down the sand dunes there – so much fun! The next day we drove along the sandy coastal route to Swakopmund, a delightful old German seaside resort with some wonderfully preserved old buildings. Lynne enjoyed visiting the Krystall Gallerie, whilst Eric walked the dogs along the seafront.

After celebrating Lynne’s birthday on 6th February with dinner at the Raft restaurant, which sits on stilts looking out over the stunning lagoon sunsets and serves unusual and delicious food, we departed Walvis Bay on 12th February for St. Helena.

From our brief experience of Namibia we were thoroughly impressed and can understand why it is sometimes described as Africa’s Best Kept Secret! The only downside is the weather – the winds in Luderitz and the damp, grey mornings in Walvis Bay.

ST. HELENA – This part of our 2012 March Captain’s Log was reposted here

We departed St. Helena on 27th February and for the first time ever we joined a radio sked, whereby the participating yachts listen in each morning at a set time and give their location coordinates, weather details and any other updates or news. It was good to listen to each other’s experiences on passsage as various of us hit the doldrums, lost lures whilst fishing and just the generally comforting feeling of knowing that we’re all in contact to support each other if necessary.
After a fairly uneventful 2 weeks at sea (other than blowing out the newly repaired spinnker) we arrived at the entrance to Cabadelo in Brazil in the early hours of the morning. We anchored off and attempted to sleep until just before daylight as it was raining heavily and we couldn’t see the lights to negotiate the channel. The next morning we carefully made our way towards the entrance to the Paraiba River, motored the 5NM upstream to Jacare and anchored off the marina.

Brazil will be in our next log, as time is running out and we want to get this Log posted and set sail again, so all that remains is for us to wish you all a very HAPPY EASTER and we look forward to hearing from you as & when you have time to drop us a line.

Whilst we are between countries, we will be limited with our communications, but please bear with us and do keep us informed of your news. We will respond as & when we have internet access. For more pressing communications and any business enquiries, we can be contacted via our HF radio email, which will come in an auto-response from our yahoo address.

Best wishes,
Lynne, Eric, Chui & Scrumpy xxx