December,7 2022-December,11 2022
Rounding the Cape of Good Hope , AKA Cape of Storms , did not disappoint. It was an exhilarating , memorable experience . We leave Durban with a forecasted 2-3 day weather window of 20-30 knot winds from the northeast before the next low sets in. We are looking forward to getting in the famous Agulhas current where we hope for 3+ knots of current going our way . We got our wish and with the exception of half a day of motor sailing we had 20-40 knot winds. Infinity had her wildest ride ever . Fabian’s brief 0300-0600 log entry says it all “Max wind 46Kn ; Max SOG 21.9”. It was a very fun and quick sail where we averaged well over 200 miles/day with many watches recording average speeds of 13-14 knots. Most of the passage we are doubled reefed wing on wing and for a time we have to pull the entire main in. Big waves , big swells and at night a little scary. We hand steer most of the 4 days so by the time we reach CT we are spent especially Fabian who helped Daniela during her watches.
One interesting night watch episode:
Coming On Watch at 2300 I notice a Chinese fishing boat 5 miles behind us doing 13 kn on a collision course. Numerous attempts over five minutes to raise him on the VHF are unsuccessful. I replaced Daniela on watch and as she is finishing her log notes I asked her to try and raise the Chinese fishing vessel again . She briefly gets a comment back in Chinese with no meaningful change in course. I asked her to wake Fabian up as the boat is now 3 miles away from us . Fabian spends five minutes trying to raise them on the VHF unsuccessfully. Finally he sends them a DSC VHF message with their MMSI encoded in the message and there is an immediate change in their direction. Five minutes later the vessel passes us less than a mile off our stern.
A good lesson. We often encounter freighters where their crew has limited English or are non responsive to our calls.
Arriving Cape Town in the late morning was a special treat. It was a glorious day with Table Mountain providing a classic CT backdrop. Infinity had sailed the southern most part of her voyage (latitude 35degrees20.5minutes). While there is only ocean between us and Antarctica our southern latitude is not that far south ;roughly the northern hemisphere equivalent of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Once here we clean up, celebrate and then I quickly get ready for Gail’s arrival the next day. I have rented an AirBnB for everyone to use as base camp while we explore the Cape Town area . We are on Bakoven Beach in Camps Bay and it is a welcome change ; looking at the ocean not being on the ocean.
South Africa is a country of exceptional beauty, a troubled past and massive wealth divide between the rich and poor
Historically during Apartheid, a system of institutionalized racial segregation from 1948-1991, blacks were not allowed to physically enter Cape Town without a special “passport” showing they had a job or reason to be in all white Cape Town.
Black’s homes were destroyed at the beginning of Apartheid and they were forcibly moved out of the city limits into townships. Since the end of Apartheid the ANC party (African National Congress)has lead SA beginning with Nelson Mandela who was released , after 27 years in prison, to become the first black Prime Minister in 1994.
Mandela’s successors from all outward appearances have not been up to the job. The practice of overt corruption is widely recognized and accepted with estimated hundreds of millions of dollars “stolen” by top government officials annually. I hear this daily from all South Africans, black and white alike.
An example of governmental incompetence: there is a practice called “Loadshedding”which is a euphemism for shutting off the electrical power. This happens in all of SA between 8-12 hours everyday usually during the busy morning , lunch and evening hours so you can’t make coffee between 6 and 10 most mornings nor can you cook between 6-8 at night. It is crazy , has being going on since 2019 and is just accepted by everyone. No one complains to the government. The reason for loadsharing is hard to discern but is probably the result of the government failing to maintain and modernize the government owned electric grid.
Despite loadshedding CapeTown appears to function. It is clearly the jewel of SA. Most affluent Afrikaner’s travel to the cape for their vacations.
One thing needs taking care of in Cape Town: my teeth. I developed a tooth infection on the Indian Ocean crossing for which I saw a dentist in Mauritius. He recommended waiting til Cape Town to get a root canal so Adrian Nadic ,a friend , kindly set me up with his dentist . It has been a long uncomfortable process aggravated by delay in getting proper treatment. One of the challanges of being out on the ocean . With all my dental visits there is one clear takeaway. Dentists in this part of the world don’t get paid like they do in the USA. My dental bill including X-rays and antibiotics costs less in Mauritius than the taxi fare to get to the dentist. My total bill for all dental care in Mauritius, Reunion Is and South Africa is only a few hundred dollars. The equipment in each dentist’s office is very modern, the dentists very professional and highly competent from this radiologist’s perspective.For comparison Gail’s daughter’s estimate for some dental work in Carson City, several cavities and wisdom teeth extraction, is over $8,000.
With the exception of gasoline the cost of living is much lower here than in the states.Groceries are 25-50% the cost and restaurants/wine etc less than half prices in the states. We visit a lot of restaurants and the staff are universally polite, knowledgeable and helpful . Struck by the quality of service I asked many employees and managers how they accomplished this. In short it comes down to high quality management , most employees get 2 weeks of training before starting to work and the employees are very happy to have a good job. The restaurant wait staff are universally black and are among the best I have experienced anywhere in the world .Friendly ,knowledgeable , resourceful , extraordinarily polite and funny. I found this truly remarkable.
When South Africa is taken as a whole it is extraordinarily appealing. So much so that the owners of Man of War decided to drop out of the rally, buy a home and move permanently with their 2 little girls to CapeTown. The OWR has radically altered the trajectory of many of her participants.
With Teddy, McKenzy and Gail in tow we explore the Cape of Good Hope , climb Table Mountain and spend several days visiting wineries in Stellenbosch , Franschhoek and Hemel en Aarde during our first week. Then it is off on safari with visits to Kruger, Victoria Falls,Zambia and Botswana. We spend New Years Eve in Johannesburg at the famous Saxon Hotel. The Saxon is a beautiful “old world “ hotel known for being the residence that Nelson Mandela stayed for 6 months after his release from Robben Island prison. During our tour of the original residence the manager was kind enough to show us the presidential suite where Mandela stayed during his time at the Saxon. His presence still permeates the suite though art, sculpture and memorabilia . Very special.
This is my second visit to SA ; in 2009 I came with McKenzy to meet Cooper after his exchange program at the University of Cape Town.
A few observations:
Crime is extremely high in all SA cities with all buildings surrounded by high walls, Constantino wire and video cameras. The wealth devide is the most extreme I have encountered anywhere on our journey. The people we met are very friendly and helpful; they love Americans however most tourists are from within SA or European. It is a 35-40 hour flight from the USA to get to CapeTown.
The camps and safari’s we went on in SA and Zambia were fenced off with barbed wire fencing to keep poachers out and animals in. Only in Botswana and the Okavango delta did we experience the wide open spaces and ability to go off road anywhere , no fences anywhere. We saw all the animals including the big 5 at all the other parks; however we only got the “Out of Africa” feeling of being completely removed from civilization and enjoy the spectacular beauty of these majestic animals natural surroundings in Botswana. If you ever get the chance to visit Botswana don’t pass it up, it is extraordinarily special.
McKenzy and I spent the final days in South Africa after Teddy and Gail returned home. Special father daughter time . Our last few days we take a treck out to Point Agulhas where Susan and Dom from Makara graciously host a party at their beach home, Susan grew up in South Africa. Dana from Ocean Pearl joins us for the long drive making for spicy conversation. Every participant on the OWR is wonderfully interesting and all have a story to tell that is vastly different from our own…. Great fun.
Time to head home for McKenzy and because my tooth is still bothering me I decide to return home and have the root canal done in Reno. Infinity and her crew will meet me in Brazil. I am sorry to miss visiting St Helena Is; but super excited to be able to see my first grandson Gus Golding .