Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wine Tasting, an Engagement, Christmas, New Years Eve, New Grandparents, Valentines Day, Birthday and Wedding Aniversary

13th December 2016 to 16th February 2017

We have spent over 2 very enjoyable months in Simon's Town and in that time we flew to the UK for a 3 week surprise trip to see Ash and our first Grandchild Isla 💗. Isla was born on the 14th of January, also my (Jacqui) mum Dorothy's birthday. Shared birthdays seem to be a family tradition on both sides of our families.☺

Over the last 10 weeks here we have had a lot to celebrate.

1. We Crossed the Indian Ocean
The Ocean Cruising Club (OCC, and we are members) organise a special day in Cape Town for all members and non members who crossed the Indian Ocean in 2016.

What a wonderful day, and a lovely way to celebrate “We Made It," that is, we crossed the Indian Ocean. The day was spent catching up with new and old cruising friends, in a stunning setting, whilst enjoying some of the great local wines and food. 

Wine Tasting at Constantia Glen Wine Estate
In the morning we tasted 7 Premium Wines at “Constantia Glen Wine Estate”,  then a long lunch way  into the mid afternoon at the 330 year old winery, “Constantia Wine Estate”. 

Lunch was outside on long bench tables, surrounded by ancient oak trees, reminiscent of a typical Italian village gathering, with sweeping views across the oldest wine producing vineyards in South Africa, and down the valley to the coastline of False Bay.

Us after a few tastings 💜 vineyards in the background
Later that month we explored by car both the Stellenbosch and  Franschhoek Wine Regions.
The Stellenbosch Wine Route has over 150 wineries, and Franschhoek, Afrikaans for "French Corner", is one of the oldest towns in South Africa, known as the "food and wine capital" and famous for its beautiful scenery.

Looking down over Franschhoek
2. An Engagement 
Gorgeous couple Tom and Susie from SV Adina announced their engagement and celebrated with their cruising friends by having a Pontoon Party  at the Victoria and Alfred Marina (V and A). We could not be happier for this lovely couple who we have gotten to know crossing the Indian Ocean. 🍾
Sue and Tom the happy couple
From L to R: Ants, Mike, Kevin, Divs, Tom, Don, Karen and Phyllis

3. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 🎄
We celebrated the "Cruisers Christmas" on Christmas Eve with the majority of our cruising friends at the Victoria and Albert Waterfront situated at the foot of Table Mountain, in the heart of Cape Town's working harbour.

Jacqui and Divs Christmas Eve
Christmas Day was organised by the lovely Sue (SV Camomile) for any foreign boats in Simon's Town, False Bay Marina. We started off the day with our traditional swim then celebrated Christmas with a Braai and delicious salads and desserts.
Secret Santa was kind to Kevin he was given 6 beers I was not so lucky, I received a bottle opener ie for ???????. 

12 egg Christmas Pavlova cooked in TINTINs new Oven, delicious
Jacqui and Sue relaxing and enjoying the day
Kevin thanking Santa Bill for his present 
4. New Years Eve 
New Years Eve and Day was spent with the gorgeous Divs and Ants on their yacht Divanty, berthed at the V and A. We started celebrating early by enjoying delicious fresh oysters and a very cold bottle of white wine at the Oyster Bar, and toasting Happy New Year at 12 midnight Sydney time, ie 1500 SA time. Then off to our  "Pontoon Party".  

New Years Eve entertainment
After the midnight Fireworks, TINTIN, Chapter 2, Solstice, Camomile, Antares, Norsa we all went back to SV Divanty  for more celebrating until 0430 am.
After an amazing Smoked Salmon Omelette and Champagne Breakfast we returned to TINTIN to prepare to leave Simons Town in the next week or so.
Table Mountain in the background
5. New Baby
We are now Grandparents, a scarey thought as this means we are getting older. 
Ash and Matt are the very proud parents of a baby girl, Isla born on the 14th of January. We celebrated her arrival at the local pub, however could not party long as we were leaving Simon's Town with SV Camomile at 0200 hrs to head around to  Cape Town.

Very proud Grandad and Isla
Well as things happen, we never made it due to gearbox problems. After fixing the gearbox, we decided it was a good time to fly to the UK and surprise Ash, see our new grandchild and catch up with Kevin's family. Everyone but Ash knew we were coming over. 
We arrived on Ash's doorstep and was greeted by a beautiful rather surprised Ash holding a tiny absolutely gorgeous bundle called "Isla".

Jacqui and Ash whilst the men watch the Rugby
We had a lovely time, lots of cuddles, lots of walks in fog, rain and snow and delicious cream teas and cakes as it was freezing. 
It was snowing in London as we took off from Heathrow ⛄.
We even made it to London town to see the show "Wicked".
Matt, Ash, Isla, Kevin and 7month old Reggie
View across to Weymouth UK
Velma and Dom, Kevin's lovely parents who always make our stay so special 💗
6. Valentines Day
Now back in sunny, warm but windy Simons Town we celebrated Valentine's Day at the popular Lighthouse Restaurant.  

Beautiful but always windy Simon's Town
Both our birthdays and Wedding Aniversary are this Saturday and we are unsure where we shall be, hopefully tied up in Cape Town's V and A, but i doubt it.

View across False Bay SA

Friday, January 13, 2017

Simons Town_a maritime naval town rich in history and character

Departed East London: 10/12/16 0700hrs
Arrived Simons Town: 13/12/16 1400hrs
A very basic chart of where we sailed in 2016
After spending the last 12 months crossing the Indian Ocean we have now arrived in the South Atlantic Ocean. And what a journey it was, through so many beautiful, diverse and fascinating countries, meeting wonderful friendly and welcoming people wherever we went.
Entering False Bay, 45kts,  scenery  is just stunning
Other than the very last night in the Indian Ocean, when we got knocked down almost onto our beam ends, we were lucky in that we never experienced any of the very difficult conditions the Southern Indian Ocean is notorious for and subjected many of our friends too.
View Looking down onto Simons Town (right) and the Marina (Left)
What an arrival into Simons Town. 45kts of wind and the gearbox started making a terrible clunking noise. Turned out the flexible coupling had come undone! Only managed to find two of the missing 4 bolts and then I could not find the correct size allen key so was not able to fully tighten it back together. It did not help that I (Kevin) could hardly move after hurting my back when leaving East London.
Entering the Marina, Marina clocked 60kt Gusts!
So we sailed as close to the mooring as we dared before starting the engine and had the False Bay Marina's workboat standby alongside us while we motored up to the mooring. Fortunately the flexible coupling held together.
False Bay on calmer days!!
Because I'd (Kevin) crooked my back I had to get the guys off the workboat to lift the mooring line. Just as well they came aboard because it took 3 of them, 20 minutes to pull the line aboard in the gale force winds. I'd never have managed it myself even without a crook back.
Happy now to not be sailing and to be able to lie down for a cuddle with my hero Jacqui and rest after a couple of difficult days. I can feel a beer or 2 coming on.

It did not take long to settle into marina life. The following day after moving TINTIN onto the marina pontoon, Jack had a glass or 2 of wine whilst writing our Christmas cards, we hired car for 3 weeks, and the washing was delivered to the “Washing Well Laundry”.
Jack and her glass of wine whilst writing our Christmas cards
We had a lovely welcoming from our friends Sue and Bill from Camomile who had arrived a few days before us, Kevin unfortunately remained flat on his back still in a lot of pain, and sorted boat repairs lying down via the Internet. 
Looking from the Yacht Club Bar across the Marina and Naval Base
Simon's Town is located on the eastern side of the Cape Peninsula, is a maritime naval town rich in history and character. Between all the boat jobs we have enjoyed spending our time strolling along the historic lanes, visiting the Naval Museum, Admiralty house, and sampling the local food and drink, including regular visits to the famous "Lighthouse Cafe".
Jacqui sitting on the steps in one of the many lanes
Whilst enjoying a coffee/glass of wine and using the yacht club facilities we have met some amazing and interesting people, including a lovely local ex South African navy girl Stellamarie on holidays here, however now living on Sydney's North Shore. Yeah and little piece of home for me!! Stellamarie kindly gave me the “informal cook's tour” of Simons Town. Visiting some of the historical navy sites some still in use including the Officers Mess formally known as “Rhodesia By the Sea”.
Our Neighbour, who loves to play around TINTIN, playing with squid and doing very smelly, loud burps!! 
View of Simon's Town from our Marina
Of course we visited the statue of “Able Seaman Just Nuisance, RN”. This Great Dane was a resident of the town and a firm favourite of the sailors. A request to have the dog enlisted into the Royal Navy was sent to the British parliament ... and hence the legend of Able Seaman Just Nuisance was born.
Kevin with some provisions for our next passage, Navy ship in the background.
Just around the next bay and in walking distance from our Marina is the famous colony of African Penguins - once called Jackass Penguins for their hilarious braying call. From just two breeding pairs in 1982, the penguin colony has grown to about 3,000 birds in recent years. This is partly due to the reduction in commercial pelagic trawling in False Bay, which has increased the supply of pilchards and anchovy, which form part of the penguins' diet. See next blog for photos.
Sue's (previous owner of TINTIN) lovely family visiting TINTIN and us.
Bordered mainly by indigenous bush above the high-water mark on the one side, and the clear water of False Bay on the other, the area comprises a number of small sheltered bays, partially enclosed by granite boulders that are 540 million years old.
View looking across the coast from Simons Town 
Similar view after the bushfires
Feeling under siege in Simons Town. 
Day 1:
For the past 5 hours we have been engulfed in thick bush fire smoke. Even inside in the yacht club bar and on TINTIN we are struggling to breath and our eyes are stinging. Local evacuees and their furry friends are filling the yacht club, and the Community Centre is full.
Day 2 & 3: 
Now we can see where the fire has raged down the sides of the mountains and how close the fire was to the houses on the edge of Simons Town. The wind continues to shift and every now and then a fire reignites.

Helicopters for the last 3 days have continuously water bombed these re ignitions, however they just keep reigniting. Presently there are over 100 separate fires raging around Cape Town. This number of fires in a small area stinks of being highly organised terrorism thru arson organised on a military scale. It's like being in a war zone.

At time of posting this blog, more fires have reignited and 2 helicopters are continuously water bombing, who knows when this will end. 

Our thoughts are with the people who have or nearly lost their homes, all the volunteers and the amazing firefighters on land and in the air. Today we also saw evidence of the wildlife who have been affected by these fires, very very sad.
Yacht Mast in foreground

Simons Town After to Fire

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

South Africa_The Garden Route and Route 62

Famous for it's charming towns and villages, bountiful vineyards, inspiring coastal scenery and spectacular mountain passes we decided to hire a car for 3 weeks and get out and explore beyond the City of Cape Town and Simons Town.

First stop was Cape Agulhas 170 kilometres southeast of Cape Town.
Cape Agulhas is the southern tip of the African continent and the dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. We sailed passed here only a couple weeks earlier however to stand at Africa’s southernmost point and where the Indian Ocean finishes and the Atlantic Ocean starts was for us a significant milestone.

Our route was along the N2 the main coastal highway between the Eastern and Western Cape, and famous for the densely vegetated stunning coastline, rich in diverse natural beauty, known as the “Garden Route”. 

Then on return to Cape Town, we crossed the mountain range and drove the “Route 62 “ the inland tourist route from Oudtshoorn to Cape Town. 

The Wild Coast
The “Garden Route” the coastal road, is dotted with white sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, beautiful lagoons and lakes, secluded little bays, deep gorges and majestic mountain passes. Along the way we stopped off at Swellendam, Heidelberg, Knysna, Wilderness, George, Plettenberg Bay, Mossel Bay and Storm River. 

Kynsna Lagoon
We spent 2 nights in a delightful B&B overlooking the Kynsna Lagoon and spent our time exploring the surrounding sites. Knysna's most famed attraction is the Knysna Heads, the treacherous entry into the Knysna lagoon where many a sailing vessel met its doom. Glad we made the decision to come here by car and not on TINTIN.

Knysna Heads, the treacherous entry into the Knysna lagoon
From Knysna we drove north as far as Storm River and on the way crossed South Africa’s five highest bridge spans all along the same stretch of highway. They are amazing feats of engineering, spanning deep river gorges, and the N2 is the only highway in the world, other than roads in China and Italy, to have three bridges over 150m in height.

Bungee jumping off the Bloukrans Bridge
We stopped at the Bloukrans Bridge for morning tea, whilst we watched all the very brave bungee jumpers jumping off Africa’s highest bridge, in fact it's the world’s highest bridge bungee jump.

Storm River is surrounded by the Tsitsikamma National Park, the coastal reserve that protects the remaining indigenous forest that once covered this region. The coastline around Storms River is wild and rugged. We walked along the cliff path through the Tsitsikamma forest to the swaying suspension bridge 7m above the churning, foaming water of the river as it enters the Indian Ocean.

The Storm River Suspension Bridge
After 2 days exploring this spectacular coast it was now time to cross the Outeniqua Mountains via the Montagu Pass. These mountains form a range that runs parallel to the coast and forms a continuous range with the Langeberg to the west and the Tsitsikamma Mountains to the east. The range was named “Serra da Estrela” (‘Mountain of the Star’) on old Portuguese charts.
One of the spectacular views from Montagu Pass
So after a hearty breakfast we left the beautiful wild coast and climbed the Quteniqua Pass across the mountain range into Oudtshoorn, the "ostrich capital of the world". Then we drove through the quirky delightful town of De Rust and onto the Meiringspoort Pass.

Other side of the Mountain Range

Entering Meiringspoort Pass
Meiringspoort Pass is simply magnificent. The road is jaw-dropping as it carves its way through the mighty Swartberg mountains. 
Oudtshoorn, the "ostrich capital of the world"
We spent the night at the Old Mill, in the foothills of the Swartberg mountains. Apart from being a tranquil and beautiful location the “famous” De Oude Meul Restaurant was only a 5 minute walk from our “Honeymoon Cabin”. The “Oude Meul Restaurant” has the Old Watermill still inside the Restaurant, and is known for their wide variety of Ostrich dishes. So it was Ostrich for entree and Ostrich for mains. We thought Ostrich meat would be more like chicken meat however it's a red meat, looks and tastes similar to beef but is lower in fat than chicken or turkey. It was delicious!!! 

Next morning we were up very early i.e. 0400 to watch the sunrise with the meerkats in “The Wild”. This has been on my (Jacqui) bucket list forever. So I dragged Kevin along for another very early start.

After we met our guides we had a cup of coffee and watched the sunrise. Meerkats hate the cold, so they’re only up once sunlight hits their burrow.

After a short hike we sat in our camping chairs near their burrows and waited for the Meerkats.
Then suddenly one meerkat came up, she is the “sentinel”. 

She then gave a quiet, regular chirrup, reassuring them that all is well.
Then, one at a time, she was joined by the others.
They then all lined up to greet the sun and warm up. 

The younger meerkats in the family then started to play, and after about an hour they took off looking of food and another burrow for tonight.

There is something quite magical about watching a meerkat suddenly pop up and greet a new day.

On the road again heading south to Cape Town where we passed through farming towns such as Calitzdorp (famous for Port Wines), Ladismith (wineries and Ronnies Sex Shop), historic Amalienstein, Zoar and the fruit growing and wine producing towns of Barrydale, gorgeous Montagu, Ashton, Bonnievale, Robertson, McGregor, Worcester, Rawsonville, Ceres, Wolseley, Tulbagh, Wellington and Paarl.

We are unsure why so many people/tourist buses stop here as its a “”.dingy, bra adorned bar”
We are constantly surprised how stunningly beautiful South Africa is both on the coast and inland. 

Now back in Simons Town we plan to do a few day trips to explore Cape Town, the local wineries and visit the Cape of Good Hope.