Slowly, surely, the plan comes together. Catarina still languishes on supports in the busy, dry, sometimes wet and windy nook of the boatyard. Amidst the comings and goings of so many other boats, she has been enjoying the ministrations of dozens of pairs of hands, powerhosing, scraping, epoxying, sanding and painting her hull with several coats of antifouling.
A few more minor additions later, a final clean and buff, and she should be ready to float again. She’d like that, and so would we. It’s not much fun in the boatyard, just hanging out with the flocks of local hornbills nesting in the neighboring casuarinas, listening to the far off calls of the fish eagle. Keeping her company, the neighboring boats in close proximity, are in various stages of their own spa treatments, all in readiness for their own star studded debuts once back in the water. Like schoolgirls, I imagine they giggle and whisper together in the quiet of the night, discussing their own personal destinies. Some will travel to Mocambique or onwards, on fishing excursions, carrying the dream of the best catch in the Skipper’s heart. Some will happily ferry families on breezy holidays to romantic sounding places. Some have carefully formulated plans, some have not. Some might brave storms, some might not. Some are destined to just sit another long season in the dusty boatyard, forgotten under ragged tarpaulins, waiting for their owners to fall in love again, bring them to life and reconcile them once again with the sea and all she has to offer.
Zululand Yacht Club puts up the tastiest T/Bones ever tasted. Braaied to your exact (well nearly) specifications over the hot coals by their cook, people flock to get theirs in time before they run out. Served with fresh vegetables of the day (creamed spinach and butternut squash), salad or “pap en sous” (South African polenta and spicy gravy), they are best eaten straight off the fire, either in the cool of the upstairs air-conditioned bar, outside in the gardens overlooking the water, or, better still, back in the comfort of your own boat. This we have taken to doing lately as monsieur “le Chien” (our Yorkie), has accompanied us on our visits to the boat and Yacht Club Rules decree that dogs are not allowed in or near the club facilities. A mere wrinkle in the cloth of our lives, we take it in our stride, but ensure to never reveal such social injustices to our well-behaved furry one. He remains blissfully unaware of his social unacceptability on those hallowed lawns and struts his stuff in the drive like he owns the place. We have had to take him aside on the odd occasion though, and point out that his own predjudices against certain members of the local, randomly wandering, fish-eating feline population are not to be tolerated, despite their colourful dockside language! Instead, he has been strongly advised to hold his head high on passing by on his way to his ablutions and to quietly ignore their caterwauls, having had the futility of engaging in sordid waterfront fights pointed out to him in no uncertain terms. (Especially since most if these said specimens have lived ferally on the docks for years and are much larger than him).
Catarina is now tucked in her new moorings at the Zululand Yacht Club and we are slowly enjoying getting well acquainted with her over the weekends when the weather is kind.
Little dog, Milo, (“le chien”) now accompanies us for the odd weekend stay and has settled comfortably into boat life, which means that our visits can become a bit more frequent.
Sailing with our friends Marc and Annie on their boat “Anushka” recently afforded us the opportunity of comparing the feel of their monohull to our multihull, and we were very pleasantly surprised at how smoothly she sailed. Anushka is very wide and thankfully handled beautifully without leaning uncomfortably. The inevitable queasiness quickly abated and we were soon able to enjoy Annie’s fabulous sandwiches, worthy of gracing any “high tea” table, with wind and brilliant sea all around, whilst the men went to work on their fishing endeavours.
Christmas Eve 2016 was a glittering culinary triumph for Annie and, as guests aboard Anushka, we were honored to partake in her sophisticated blue, silver and white-themed finger supper.
Our first excursion was anticipated with much excitement. Richards Bay was a veritable hive of activity with boats of every size and shape occupying every available berth at the ZYC Marina.
The World ARC 2016-17 Circumnavigation Rally, having departed on January 9th from Saint Lucia (a sovereign island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean and located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique), had stopped over to enjoy Christmas and New Year in South Africa.
Some boats would have left the rally in Australia, with more joining for the restart of the second half of the adventure from Darwin in September 2016. Avoiding the troubled areas of the Indian Ocean, the World ARC route takes in Lombok, Cocos Keeling, Mauritius and Reunion and then South Africa.
From Cape Town, later on, the boats will visit St Helena, before enjoying carnival in Brazil and then heading back into the Caribbean via Grenada to finish the circumnavigation in Saint Lucia in April 2017.
So amidst this august fleet of bravehearts, we too planned an epic journey of our own – the journey to “nowhere in particular”. Stout-heartedly joined by our nephew Richard, his girlfriend Pam, and our recently-made friends Mark and Annie, hailing from Bourges, France, we prepared Catarina and tossed off the dock lines with gay abandon.
Mark, a seasoned sailor and owner of a sailmaking business back in France, was a source of invaluable information and guidance and our little excursion proved to be an enjoyable lesson for Nigel. Richard was thrown in at the deep end and proved to be a very able-bodied seaman and line handler, reefing and winching with enthusiasm all under the watchful eye and guidance of Mark.
Once outside of the harbour mouth, engines cut and sails hoisted, Catarina soared through the waves like a flying fish. At one stage we spied another catamaran on our tail and to port side, struggling to overtake. Alas for them, Catarina is a fast boat and effortlessly retained her upwind position, forcing the opposition to fall back and veer off, to save face. Lots of sun and sea air brought us back into harbour and we found a sheltered, secluded spot near the beach area and anchored securely out of the ship traffic area. Gently bobbing and swinging on the anchor, the ladies lay out the picnic lunch of wholewheat rolls, cold roast chicken, avocados, lettuce and tomato, cheese and potato crisps. Idyllic setting and we close our eyes and succumb to that certain afternoon time of rest and repose.
Later, textbook docking procedures ensued under a myriad of blatantly watchful eyes from neighboring moored boats, but Catarina was safely secured and bedded down in her new berth with nary an incident! Capt Nige drawing from the sage advice of those hardy sailors who have gone before him advising that one shouldn’t approach a dock any faster than the speed at which you would not mind hitting it.
The gorgeous blue skies of the morning begin to cloud over as big fat cumulus puffs gather, the sea is a bit more grey and wind (still directly on the nose of the boat) freshens. Now, instead of motoring ahead confidently, Catarina is digging into big waves and shuddering over what feels like corrugations and potholes. The dreaded seasickness creeps up on me and the snappy chirps and photos shared with family and friends along the way get fewer, despite a dose of stugeron taken as we leave Durban harbour, (just in case) and, with each building wave, I finally succumb to a full-on, savage bout of mal de mer. Around the Tugela River mouth, Hubby settles me and my green face onto my bed in our cabin and advises me to sleep, which I gratefully do. Hours later I awake to my world lifting, slamming with a violence of such magnitude I fear for the structural integrity of the boat!
The wind has strengthened, now gusting at around 35 to 40 kts, still directly onto our nose, huge waves push from the stern of the boat into smaller waves to build against the boat’s forward motion and together with the Agullhas current also against us, Catarina hoists up against wave after wave and crashes down into the trough between them. I lift my leaden head to peek out of the cabin porthole but see nothing but grey seas, dark grey skies and the relentless white caps of breaking waves thrown up all round from a confused sea! Although it feels like we are careening along at the speed of light, we are, at times, only doing 3 kts or so with everything pushing against us.
Eventually, in the pitch darkness I make my way up to the gently lit saloon area and hear the crackle of the marine radio. Hubby, tired and not doing so well himself is still locked in at the helm station and calling Richards Bay Port Control requesting entrance into the harbour. At last! We have made it! Feelings of great relief rush over me though the seas have not yet calmed and the boat still feels like we are locked in battle with the elements.
At 10:30 or so at night, I hear the crackle of the radio as it comes to life with the port authorities informing us to “stand by” as there had been a dredger working near the harbour mouth, preventing us from entering. What seems like ages later, my intrepid Captain Hubby calls in again after “making donuts” outside the harbour entrance in huge seas, for what seemed like forever, but this time there is no answer. Calling again, the dredger captain answers and informs us that they are nowhere near the harbour mouth and have no intention of entering the harbour tonight. Hubby calls up port authorities again and finally gets the go-ahead to proceed.
We motor in slowly, making our way through unfamiliar territory in the black of night. It’s never a good idea to enter an unknown harbour after dark. Harbour lights veer off to port as we turn to starboard and make our way down a narrow, unlit and unmarked gulley toward Zululand Yacht Club, hubby relying solely on his GPS and chart plotter. Suddenly, the lights of the yacht club mirror across the water as we enter and find our pre-arranged berth. Now, at nearly midnight, with no line-handlers to assist with tying her down to her moorings, hubby and our dear friend successfully get Catarina tied down securely on the teetering floating dock, then we make our way, through the driving rain to our car waiting parked in the car park.
The car is quiet on the drive back to Salt Rock, exhausted we are and looking forward to a good sleep even though it’s after midnight. Tomorrow we will come back to Catarina and in the light and calm of day, assess and marvel at the strength of her build and capacity to take the might of the elements seemingly effortlessly in her stride.
She is a great boat, our Catarina and we look forward to safe adventures, not necessarily stormy dark ones, but having gone through our “baptism of fire” early on, we feel we have tucked away a wealth of experience from that one night. A steep learning curve behind us, hopefully no “curved balls” ahead.
Night ends as murky darkness lightens to pale grey, then flings soft swathes of pinks and pale gold higher and higher from the horizon, until the whole sky is bathed in a glorious symphony of soft colour to celebrate the new day. We ease Catarina from her berth in the Durban Marina and Himself motors her through the harbour entrance on our epic voyage to Richards Bay. It’s a big day for us as it’s the first time we have sailed her on our own and we bounce around excitedly.
We had a friend with us who was keen on the chance to join us on this journey and to fish. I felt relaxed knowing that “1st mate duties” did not fall entirely on my shoulders. Himself would have someone to confer with whilst loading up fishing gear and all other manner of manly stuff, leaving me to fiddle in the galley, crochet or just laze and while away some hours reading/dozing.
Early morning rowers setting off energetically.
Rods out and set up pretty quickly
Wind was very light and directly “on the nose”, so to speak, which made sailing impossible, so we motored happily straight into it. Himself plotted a course on the chart plotter and we settled in for a good trip anticipating arrival in Richards Bay at around 4pm, plenty of time to dock easily in daylight and disembark to head back home in the car.
Passing Ballito and Salt Rock, friends found us and photographed Catarina from the land.
Don’t miss the next post about the other half of the journey and arriving in Richards Bay ….
Meals on a boat, or so I have been told, are hugely important pastimes, breaking up the day during long, boring passages, into manageable time lapses (bite-sized portions, as it were). The long, slow days at sea when “making passage” are now, because of the anticipated meals, broken up into “breakfast”, “teatime”, “lunch”, “afternoon tea”, “Captain’s Hour (with a cold beverage and snacks) and then, of course, “dinner time”, (whether or not one participates in all of the aforementioned, but at least they are welcome options). On arduous passages, when neither the weather nor sea state are kind, presenting a grey and gloomy atmosphere, the thought of mealtimes at least provide the welcoming promise of sustenance, warmth and comfort; a welcoming reminder perhaps, that although it may not seem so outside, at least inside the boat, all is just as it should be. Mealtimes are, therefore, events to look forward to and the preparations, no matter how humble, are welcome distractions.
Or so I’ve been told….
Approaching this task with much enthusiasm, (which could, I acknowledge, wane somewhat as time goes on) certain relevant cookware was transferred from home onto the boat and I set about making my first, scratchmade (fascinating Americanism) meal onboard – Italian Lamb Casserole.
Potted herbs growing on the boat provided a handy snip of oregano, thyme, parsley and garlic chives, which, after a quick sauté of onions and lamb knuckles, the addition of baby potatoes and small white beans, leeks, celery and tomato, yielded a slow simmer of unctuous tomato goodness.
I am aware that obtaining and keeping a steady supply of fresh produce can be problematic when travelling to far away places, especially since the shelf life of certain fresh ingredients such as lettuce, for instance, is very short. At home, I have been experimenting with keeping salads and fresh smoothie components in my fridge and have found that if stored in glass jars, I can get away with at least five days of storage. Another good tip I tried is storing salad leaves between thick layers of paper towelling inside a Tupperware container, dry and tipped upside down, changing out the paper towelling every so often if it gets damp. This worked well and I may continue this, as well as planting a few small lettuce plants in my planter on the counter top, only snipping off the outer leaves as and when I need.
I have also invested in a sprouting system from http://livingseeds.co.za/ for a ready, steady supply of fresh sprouts and microgreens for salads, sarmies and stir fries.
Catarina is going to be a crochet, crafting, knitting travelling experience and how better to get her nicely initiated than by having my weekly crafty friends over for a trial run?
So, one fine Tuesday morning, we met up at the Marina in Durban to work our way through some yarny projects and a cake or two. After a bit of exploring her fine decks, the ladies soon found their favourites spot and settled in for some knitting/crochet, puncuated by coffee and cake.