Friday, 22 May 2015

"ORYX" AND BIRTHDAY CAKE! (It's a hard life!)

Port Owen.

This blog's subtitle could be - life on the hard. Much has happened since our last posting. Finally, after two and a half years we were ready to haul out. First to go were our two masts, one after the other. The boatyard at Port Owen is skilled and efficient and the two masts were placed side by side in the yard, ready for sprucing up. Next came the main event, lifting ‘Oryx’ out. Frank Stuyck’s two crew positioned the broad straps near our bulkheads, under Pete’s watchful eye. The crane was attached and off she went. ‘Oryx’ gave one groan of protest as the straps tightened and then she submitted, dangling way above the water.

Somethings missing!

Imagine our surprise as we eased her with ropes to her new resting place on the hard. The starboard keel was missing. Whilst Pete and I racked our brains as to where we could have, uhm, misplaced a keel? We wiped the meringue from faces and finally recalled a bump. Not something that went bump in the night, but rather similar to running into a waterlogged tree, in broad daylight in the middle of the Atlantic. We had both rushed into the cockpit and had peered into the blue depths, but could see nothing. We had thought nothing more of the bump, as ‘Oryx’ sailing was unimpaired.


‘Oryx’ was loaded onto her new cradle and Pete immediately set about hosing the crud off the bottom with the power hose. He was a man on a mission as he was determined to clean the bottom, before the scheduled load shedding at noon. (South Africa's electricity needs have grown and the existing facilities weren't maintained, so to avoid the system crashing , there are scheduled power outages called load shedding.)Afterwards we were moved to the side of the yard and this was our new home for the next few months.

Working against the clock.

Pete set about refashioning a new keel, reshaping the existing battens to enable the sails to have more draught, repairing rudders etc, whilst I set about cleaning, sanding, varnishing, cleaning, painting and oh, did I mention cleaning?

New keel starts to take shape.
Slaving away in the galley!
'Oryx' third set of battens.

The weeks passed in a blur. My friend and childhood heroine Pam Buttle and her husband Seth came to visit. It was lovely to finally meet her after all the years and we had a wonderful weekend, except for the southeaster howling.

Pam, Seth and Pete at the Berg River mouth.

Port Owen is a gorgeous place to visit. The Berg river estuary teams with birds. Cormorants line the one bank, whilst Gannets line the other. Further upriver Flamingos wade through purple heather-like foliage and up Bokkom Lane flocks of Pelicans waddle about entertaining busloads of tourists. But regrettably, the summer tourists excite the southeaster, which howls most afternoons.


Relics of a peer provide roosting for cormorants.

Birds abound.

Blown away at Bokkom Lane.

Wind swept pelican.

We spent several months working away by day and socialising with various friends by night. One of my dearest friends, Pam Duffield, who lives in St. Helena Bay, came to collect me to go shopping in Vredenburg on an almost weekly basis. We gossiped and shopped and it was almost like being back in Jo’burg, but not quite. When we needed to go to Cape Town, we rented a car in Vredenburg and although I gladly accompanied Pete each time, the days we filled with buying boat bits, so I found the journeys a bit tedious, although we always stopped somewhere for lunch.

Newly varnished saloon.

Planing away.
Sadly neglected Crake awaits tlc.

Life on the hard.

Batten adjustments for the sails.

Pete’s tourist visa was coming up for renewal, and once again we rented a car and drove to the Department of Home Affairs in Malmesbury. I had our marriage certificate at hand and we assumed the extension would be a mere formality, but we were in for a rude surprise. The visa applications have been outsourced and the marriage license had to go to Pretoria to amend the population register. We continued on to Cape Town, found parking and there we then became embroiled in the red tape that now exists. Pete needed an appointment and there was a six-week wait for the first appointment, the processing of the application took a further 8 weeks, by which time Pete would be ‘illegal’.

Dulux humour!

The heads before work starts.

Galley awaiting refurbishment.

Saloon after refurbishment.
Working away.

After the paint job.

We returned to Port Owen and began planning a trip to neighbouring Lesotho. Rob and Mary on ‘Capensis’ warned us that, as Lesotho is an enclave, Pete might not get a renewal, so we booked a short break to Namibia. Pete’s 65th birthday was coming up and we decided to spend it in Windhoek.

A welcome lunch break with Pete's techno savy friend, Ed Brittain.

The Namibian escape.

Graeme Murray drove us to Piketberg where we caught the overnight bus. The first glitch was a defunct air conditioner, but this was swiftly sorted out while we waited in the shade at Citrusdal. The border crossing was entertaining; both the South Africans and the Namibians selected our backpack for a random search. A fellow Angolan passenger had glad wrapped his suitcase and forgotten the combination number, which caused some consternation.

The sun sets over the Northern Cape.

Day breaks on the road to Windhoek.
The topography approaching Windhoek.

No shifting sands, rather a bushveld feel.


We arrived in Windhoek at 0700 and wandered around the city centre until we found a Mugg and Bean and had a leisurely breakfast. Our booked accommodation was just north of the city centre and we arrived early and were given our fully furnished tent. The camp is delightful, a haven within the city suburbs. There were indoor and outdoor showers, access to a refrigerator and a small two-plate gas burner. Each tent had its own braai area and we soon settled in. The Urban Camp restaurant opened at 1400 and the only disappointment was the size of the pool, which looked bigger on the photographs.

Pete relaxing outside our tent.

Outdoor shower.

We unpacked and then walked to the local supermarket to stock up. Frank Stuyck had recommended ‘Joe’s Beer House’ as a Namibian institution and as it was a mere five minutes away we called in for a beer. The quirky establishment is delightful and we booked to return for dinner on the Sunday to celebrate Pete’s birthday.

Suburban Windhoek.

The old and the new - cheek by jowl.

A distinct Bavarian feel.

On the Saturday we headed south to explore the city and visit one of the bigger malls. We found the art gallery just off Robert Mogabe road and enjoyed an exhibition of Paul van Scalkwyk’s photographs. Unfortunately, photographing the exhibition was prohibited, but please check out his website, as the photographs are amazing.

The selection of movies at the mall were disappointing and we fell foul of the Namibian liquor laws, not realising that alcohol was not available for sale after 1300 on Saturdays.

Will the Easter bunny replace Rhodes at U.C.T? It seems like he did in Windhoek.

It looked as if Pete was going to have a sober marking of the occasion, but the Urban Camp’s restaurant came to the rescue.

About to pop the sparkling wine. Pate and toast await.

We simply bought a fine bottle of champagne (sparkling wine) at the bar and were given two champagne glasses to take back to our tent. Windhoek had recently had a bit of rain and the town and surrounding countryside was remarkably green. We spent most of the time reading and relaxing, which stood us in good stead for the chaos that was yet to follow.

A thwarted attempt to drive from Mozambique to Angola and a warm welcome at Joe's. In it lies a tale.

The meal at Joe’s was superlative and to mark to occasion we decided to have oryx. I had the schnitzel and Pete had a steak.

Joe's Beer House is legendary.

Crossed horns - kudus die in combat.


Dessert. We had the cake at Urban Camp.

On the Monday we reversed the journey and arrived at the border post in the early hours of the morning. Armed, once again, with our marriage license I asked the border patrol officer to please give Pete an additional 90 days only to be told that Pete had overstayed his welcome and would be given only 7 days.

Needless to say tears of desperation followed, to little avail. We couldn’t leave by boat, although Pete seemed determined to try. After challenging an immigration officer in Cape Town about the Home Affairs slogan of “we care”, there was a glimmer of hope, but after a long debate Pete flew back to England first class, (only joking!)  spent a day in London sorting out a new passport, new bankcards and a new identity.:)

Pete's trip to England.

John Thorpe.

Eau de vie in Truro.

He then travelled the breadth of England touching base with our friends Robin and Mandy Blane of the Junk Rig Association and John Thorpe, whom he hadn’t seen in twenty odd years, before heading for Truro and spending a weekend with David and Julie Duval Hall and two of their sons. They gave him a Captain Cook welcome and took him trekking around Cape Cornwall. He drove to Falmouth for lunch on board ‘Stryx’ with Paul and Janette Watson and Fran Flutter. He also caught up briefly with Paul and Mo Faye on ‘Tai Gito’.

Richard Duval Hall looking cool!

Cape Cornwall.

David Duval Hall's other passion.

Richard, Henri- David, David and Julie Duval Hall.
Paul Watson, Fran Flutter and Janette Watson.

Janette is an accomplished artist and has written an illustrated account of their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. It is an excellent read.

Next was a trip to visit Asmat and Trish Kahn in Emsworth on board their, soon to be converted to junk rig, 32’ Wylo II, before spending Easter with his sister Yvonne and her family in Reading.

Pete, Harry, Jack,Clare, Emma,Andrea,Sarah and Yvonne.

Back at home in the boatyard at Port Owen, I continued to paint and clean in a frenzy. Just before Easter I visited Cliff and Annamarie in Cape Town before flying to Jo’burg to spend time with Irene (my daughter.)

Ready for painting.

Easter with Irene.

Neil, Irene, moi and Eric.

Once again, on impulse she arranged a trip to a private game reserve called ‘Kambaku’ near the Kruger National Park.

Buffalo - first of the big five.

We did two game drives a day and under the skilful eye of the trackers saw the Big Five! On the second morning we dropped Eric, our tracker, in a dry riverbed to track a leopard and I earned an Easter egg by spotting a pride of five lions! Needless to say, we had a wonderful time, although I wished Pete were with to share the experience. The cherry on top was a pair of leopards on our final morning drive.

Pete and I met up at Cape Town International and spent a day relaxing with Cliff and Annamarie before heading back to ‘Oryx’ to complete the job at hand. We were getting worried as winter was approaching and we’d been delayed by three weeks, due only to misinformation on the Internet.

Port Owen.

Positioning the new keel.

New keel in situ.

Antifouled at last

As per the norm for Port Owen, we slaved away by day and socialised by night. We had an outing on Dan’s boat ‘Darby’ at sundown, enjoying sundowners whilst bird watching. The encounters are too numerous to mention, but suffice to say we had a great time and prepared to leave with some deferred invites.

Flamingos wading

Birdlife abounds

Houses along the Berg River.

Dan Ahlers skippering 'Darby'.

Relaunching 'Oryx'.

Ready for relaunch.
Hanging about.

Taking up the strain.

'Sea Mist' looks on, whilst Alister, Max and Pete position the masts.

‘Oryx’ was relaunched on the 24th of April, without a groan, but unfortunately Pete had strengthened the masts with Kevlar, to  take up a bit of slop in the tabernacle and to prevent a rattle. The starboard mast was hoisted into position, only to find the fit too snug. Pete tried to force it into position and the mast lurched forward, ripping the hinge off.


Back to the workshop!

All that remains!

My paint job in tatters!

Fortunately, other than a cracked tricolour light housing and a hinge, the mast was okay. Back the mast went and Pete set about repairing the damage and sanding down the Kevlar.

Holiday 26 Championship, the contestants line up.

Once again our timing was off as the International Holiday 23’ championships were due to start and reigning champion Frank Stuyck just happens to run the Port Owen Boatyard. While Frank and his son J.P. set about beating the others we consoled ourselves as best we could.

The facilities at the Port Owen boatyard are excellent and they can lift up to 10 tons with their crane. Check link for details.

Pete and Daniel restep the mast sucessfully.

True to form the boatyard stepped our masts and with the help of a Holiday 26’ contender called Daniel, the masts went in fine this time. We were ready to roll.

Port mast aligned.

Voila! The new look "Oryx" is ready to rock n roll.

Irene adds glamour to the saloon.

Irene had taking some leave to coincide with us setting out and we took Graeme and Jennie to Aurora to dine at yet another quirky restaurant called ‘l Aurora run by Helmut.

'l Aurora.

An institution in the hamlet of Aurora.

Irene, Pete, Jennie Napier and Graeme Murray.

On the 4th of May we scheduled a sailing trial to St. Helena Bay. All nibbled finger foods and sipped various alcoholic beverages as we were due to leave after lunch on the tide.

Mike and Pam  Duffield wait expectantly.

Still smiling, although the disappointment is setting in. We were going nowhere.

Pete had run the engine daily since we were back in the water, but on said day no cooling water emerged from the exhaust. My stress levels were already high, so my social skills were not optimal as the disappointment set in. Pete and Graeme Murray set about disembowelling the engine and besmirching my nice new paint job. They eventually discovered that the exhaust manifold was blocked After an hour or so, it was evident that we were going nowhere and we drove a disappointed Pam and Mike home.

Graeme working on the engine. Luckily he had the comfortable seat.
The sun sets in Port Owen masking our disappointment.

Fleeing 'Oryx' with Irene.

Baboon and baby at Cape Point.

Diaz beach, Cape Point.

The Cape by land.

Next blog will be the Cape by sea.

Contingency plans were made, but the weather was now playing up as well, so Irene and I abandoned ‘Oryx’ and Pete for the bright lights of Camps Bay, where we spent the next few days. On the Wednesday we drove to Cape Point after picking up the ubiquitous Jotun paint and epoxy supplies for Pete. We hiked around the point reminiscing about previous visits. We caught up with my nephew Jono and did a self drive wine lands tour, starting in Stellenbosch and ending in Grabouw. The highlight was wine tasting at ‘Vrede en Lust’ (Peace and Passion) followed by a late lunch.

Thoughts of 'Oryx' intrude.


Irene and Jono, my nephew.
Back in Port Owen.

Pete and Graeme in action.

In the meantime Pete and Graeme had reassembled the engine and set sail for Stompnose Bay on the tide on Wednesday, 6th May. The first sail was invigorating and ‘Oryx’ light air performance met with Pete approval. The sail to Saldanha was another story. Pete and Graeme beat to windward in light head winds for hours, tacking against the current and gaining little ground.

Getting away at last.

Off to Stompnose Bay.

Eventually Pete put on the engine and they arrived in Saldanha, anchoring off the yacht club after a mammoth 16 hours, 9 of which was under power! Irene and I rejoined a rather disheartened Pete and Graeme only to find further engine problems. The heat exchanger was leaking, but you’ll be pleased to hear, that although Irene has yet to sail on ‘Oryx’, the engine problems seem to be of the past and we have had a thrilling sail from Saldanha to this anchorage in Mossel Bay. But that’s another story, another blog.

Irene in Saldanha.

Club Mykonos

Irene did get a row in 'Crake', but the sail on 'Oryx' had to be deferred.

I must apologise for the delay between this and the previous blog, but it is hard to enthuse about ‘life on the hard’ if you will pardon the pun!