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Ready Set Sail in South Africa - Part II Simon’s Town to Cape Town

2._Bruce_Jaya_Pepijn_Max_Kippy_and_Darren_in_front_of_the_Cape_of_Good_HopeBy Kippy Gilders

Dodging great whites, penguins and seals, we arrived in Simon's Town, marking the start of a two-month stay in Cape Town. Although the boat needed much TLC, we first decided to give ourselves a break. So we rented some relics on wheels from the 1970s and set out to explore the Cape. The next time we go out to sea for an ocean crossing the Atlantic, it will be the last time! With a brief stop in the remote St. Helena, we will visit South America before sailing back up the Caribbean chain.

South Africa is a multi-ethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages and religions. About 80 percent of South Africans are of black African ancestry. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European (white), Asian (Indian), and multi-racial (coloured) ancestry. The white Europeans mostly originate from a long history of settlement between the Dutch and British. In 1652, a way-station for ships traveling to the Dutch East Indies was established, and slave labour was imported from Indonesia and Madagascar, many of whom became ancestors of the current Cape coloured communities.

Simon's Town is located on the South East of the Cape Peninsula while the centre of Cape Town is on the Northwest and it is at least an hour-long carried between them. Simon's Town is home to the South African Navy, but otherwise it is a very small and quiet port. Even so, there are some sights nearby. Boulders Beach, a few kilometres south, is home to the African Penguins. With our friend Pepijn still visiting, we rented two Citi Golfs. One of our first stops was the airport to pick up Alex. Alex crossed the Pacific Ocean with us and was in Cape Town for the Christmas Holidays.

At the Southernmost point of the Peninsula is the National Park of the Cape of Good Hope. A whole day can be spent driving around this park. In the fynbos (South African shrubland), we spotted ostriches, baboons, spring bok and many other kinds of bok (deer). Max also showed us Olifant's Bos, where his ancestors owned a farm before the area was closed to become a National Park.

THE HIGHLIGHT OF CAPE TOWN is definitely Table Mountain and the neighbouring Signal Hill and Lion's Head. The city wraps around this gorgeous mountain range and it's virtually impossible to spend a day without basking in its beauty. Even while driving up the west coast, the profile of Table Mountain can be seen for miles. One especially beautiful evening, we took the cable car up Table Mountain and enjoyed the sunset. It's also possible to drive to the top of Signal Hill to enjoy the views, but Lion's Head is only accessible by hiking. Well worth it if you can hold on despite the gale force winds!

A few hours' drive from Cape Town is the town of Stellenbosch. Max's cousin who studies at the University of Stellenbosch showed us around this popular wine region. We were amazed by the numbers of beautiful vineyards and wine estates – and for the low price of 20-50 Rands (approximately $2-5) a bottle. You are welcome to any of the estates to taste a selection of their wines, from small family farms to the most elite estates. Many days were also spent at Blouberg Strand and Big Bay, which are beaches north of Cape Town that are famous for kite surfing. Other popular spots are Kalk Bay and Muizenburg, which both offer some of the best fish and chips we've ever had!

Because the waters around the Cape are renowned for their ferocity, all boats stay in marinas. The Corina IV, which is quite big for cruising standards, was absolutely enormous for South African standards! We were very lucky to have our spot in Simon's Town. Unfortunately, the spot was reserved for a boat that was soon arriving. So after one month in Simon's Town, we had to find somewhere else to go. After a bit of hunting, the only available spot was in the Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront Marina on a makeshift jetty made for the Volvo Ocean Race boats. After saying good-bye to Pepijn, we sailed around the Peninsula to our new dock space.

The V&A Waterfront is built around the docks of the Port of Cape Town and is the city's most visited tourist attraction. Nestled right under Table Mountain, we found ourselves very happy to be so close to town. Our jetty was right in front of the Two Ocean Aquarium, which is very busy during the day, especially the seal platform that was only five metres from our stern. The former penitentiary island, Robben Island, which is 10km from the city, can be visited by ferries departing from the V&A Waterfront. Many famous political prisoners were held here for years, perhaps the most well-known was Nelson Mandela, who was released at the end of apartheid and went on to become the first black president of South Africa.

It's a South African tradition to camp for a few weeks over the Christmas holiday. I have an Aunt who now lives in Montagu, a quaint town about 200km from Cape Town. We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to do some holiday camping of our own. On our return journey from Montagu, we stopped halfway at the Braandvlei dam to kite surf. Here we met some wine farmers who live near Worcester and kite surf on the dam in their free time; they invited us to camp on their vineyard.

The time had come to say farewell to Bruce. He'd been sailing with us since Australia where he decided he'd take a year off work to join our adventure. Darren and Jaya also decided to return to work. So we loaded the boat with a few of Bruce and Darren's relatives and our new wine farming friends and sailed around to Clifton Beach to have a farewell Braai for everyone.

With basically every company closed from mid-December to approximately January 4, we were "forced" to enjoy the holidays without boat projects looming over us. After enjoying a wonderful Christmas with Alex and his family, we set out to get some work done. Getting work done in Cape Town is great. They make all the products in the country, and prices are reasonable. The only setback is that you have to really search for what you want. With our rented relic, we spent days driving from factory to factory.

We accomplished some projects that had been waiting since Australia for proper facilities. We also replaced all our ropes and got new blocks and fittings to support them. And whatever we couldn't find was brought from St. Maarten by Max's dad who had flown into Cape Town for two weeks. Another big task was having our engine properly serviced by a licensed technician who repaired an oil leak we had been battling with. We also received a new and improved spinnaker sock that was kindly donated by Ullman Sails St. Maarten.

The most important job was hauling out the boat and applying a fresh coat of antifouling (paint designed to stop underwater growth). With our boat being large for South Africa, there were no cranes that could lift us! Luckily, the Royal Cape Marina (RCYC) has an old slipway which they use for larger boats. With a backlog of boats waiting, the only time we could get was over a weekend; we'd have to work fast, but it was better than nothing! There were no workers as it was the weekend, so the job was left to Max and me. We were able to buy a massive drum of antifouling from a commercial paint shop. It was quite amazing to see the Corina standing on nothing but her stubby keel, pointing upwards and towards Table Mountain. When the wind gusted, the whole boat would flex and vibrate, making it very interesting to work and sleep! Exhausted but relieved, we were lowered with the slipway and glided through the water with our freshly painted hull.

With three crew members down, we were in need of replacements for the Atlantic Crossing. Having just solo navigated the ICW, Allard Stamm flew in from America to join us, and Dani Wooley decided to drop everything and learn how to sail! With last preparations completed, provisions bought, and two new crew members secured, we were ready for our last ocean crossing. Our new refits and freshly painted hull will ensure a fast and comfortable crossing to St. Helena.

We want to thank Budget Marine, the Caribbean's leading chandlery for its support along the way. Although we are far from home, we know we can count on them to help us out! Follow our trip and see more pictures, videos and information at www.readysetsailnow.com or www.facebook.com/readysetsail.