Sunday, February 27, 2011

What we learnt so far

Maybe I won’t stop writing, but I would like to mention a couple of things. When I met my Johan, 27 years ago I knew that he could change a light bulb, because in his financial number brain, who needs more? He replaced the circuit breaker and hopefully our solar panels can work to their full potential now! Anything that needs help on Catlyn he learnt to do, he learnt to study manuals and not to chuck them in a drawer. Even Johan jr are capable of changing sail drive oil etc on our Yanmar engines. When the alternator didn’t charge enough they tighten the belts and so the list goes on. And so the list goes on….
There is a couple of things on Catlyn that we won’t sail without. Of course our auto pilot, the radar, the Little Wonder water maker who keeps our drinking bottles full. Our gas braai keeps our menu enticing every time, so that we don’t miss our South-African braai too much. I won’t sail without the freezer and fridges, after meeting sailors who have to cope without. Johan will definitely not sail without the ice maker, but you have to test them. We tried five, and found this one from Game not using too much power, and throwing out thick ice cubes in a very short time.
We received these Automatic Emergency Lights ( set of two) from my brother and Anriette two years ago, and hardly a night goes by without us using them. They never stop working, they don’t need to be charged for a very long time. We are trying to discharge them now, keeping them on day and night now for 3 days, and they are still going brightly! You can find them at Cape Union Mart…great for the outdoors!
In the kitchen, the old jaffle pan for a lovely toasted sandwich, when you keep the stale bread in the fridge for as long as you can. And of course the wok to cook up a storm in a short time…
My little Sputnik for washing the tough towels every other day….and on second thought I will definitely consider a small washing machine next time.
And then I will not sail without my family and would have loved it to have the others close for a visit every now and then…

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Exploring St Helena

We booked a car for the day! Fifteen pounds for the day, and fill up your own petrol at about R12 a liter, and when Solomon’s Insurance made sure you are a long time driver, and the Police signed you in for the day on their records, you can hit their roads. They also drive on the right hand of the road, if it is wide enough, otherwise the rule is, uphill vehicles may pass first, and you going down, have to find a spot wide enough to wait. Any way we were off, and not being used to cars any more, after a while Marco wasn’t so nervous anymore and started to trust his dad behind the wheel of this very old, Ford Fiesta.

We found our important package at Customs today, and also went to Immigrations to sign out of St. Helena, so we hope to be off soon. We waived Marionette good bye on their voyage…
With a very basic map, we went to Halley’s Mount, who was here many years ago, waiting for Halley’s Comet to show itself. He studied all the stars, and missed the Comet because of a very cloudy night. Big evergreen trees formed a natural roof, and the ferns followed their trunks up to the sky, while we walked through the lush hills. With enough climbing exercise for the day, we drove with this little car all the way to the other side of this 45 square meter island, called Sandy Bay, but with clothes on. A black volcanic beach awaited us, just passed the volcanic rocks, Lot and his wife and three daughters.
Of course we passed a little shop, and yes we had to stop to see if there was any fresh fruit or eggs available. Sandy Bay shop didn’t have that but we found a delicious salami. Since we bought Catlyn, Johan got this image from Rudi, the builder, ( and I am sure it was just sales talk…) but any way, he envisioned this bunch of green bananas hanging at the aft deck. Just pass this little shop, turn left and you will find beautiful bunches hanging in a dark room. Raymond, the manager of Solomon’s sold him his own bunch!
Marco went for a last hug to the old, Jonathan, and I found eggs at the Spar Supermarket! Eggs are like gold on St. Helena. We’ve succeeded to land the two dozen safely on Catlyn, after a tough ride on the ferry on a very naughty sea, as the Saints call it. For the last week we are experiencing a tough time in James Bay. During these two weeks, 2 yachts broke free from their moorings, and today one was drifted to the open sea with the mooring as well! Luckily the ferry saved the boat. It is important to dive down to secure your lines. We have two mooring lines and our bridle with an extra shackle attached to the mooring!

25 February

Janlie…this is for our girl! We wish you a happy born day, and dream with you the dreams you are dreaming. May all of them be blessed. We miss your muffins and coffee in the mornings, and the boys miss your delicious fudge! And I miss you rubbing my feet, and making sure that my nails are nicely cutexed… I miss just you being around with your soft touch… May all the people around you realize the inner strength you have and the healing love of sharing you can give them! Love from your family and Catlyn.
Janlie, we went to Heart Shape Waterfall after we chatted on FB for a couple of minutes. My heart was crying the whole morning, until we came to this beautiful waterfall! We slipped and climbed to the heart of the waterfall and sat underneath the icy drops of heavenly water pouring down on us. I knew then…you will be fine and looked after, by the loving water of the Universe pouring down on you!

The afternoon the boys were fishing and Dad caught something big! The hawk beak turtle came up for air, and we saw that he hooked him on the leg. We safely brought him aboard in the net and freed this beautiful reptile.

Ann's Place

By now you’ve heard a lot about Ann’s Place. I spoke to Richard, while peeling potatoes, because the sea was too naughty for fishing. He is Ann’s son. His mother, when still a young women, born in St. Helena, saw all the yachties visiting her island sitting on the steps of the Post Office with their bread and cheese, and she realized that she can feed them. She started the restaurant in the Castle gardens, in 1978. I paged through many guest books since 1979, visiting her restaurant , and complimenting her on her heartiness and amazing apple crumble. Today she is in the old age home uphill, suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, and Jane, who worked for her since she was a young girl and became her daughter in law, is now running Ann’s Place, with the same apple crumble to make you feel at home!

Dinner at Catlyn

We invited Yacht Marionette for dinner, and spent the evening chatting away and serving South-African food to the Chileans and Swedish people and a very happy South-African young man. He emptied the pots of “mieliepap” and the girl from Chili, Cathy emptied the dish of Mealie tart… Maybe it was just a lot of hungry people, living aboard a mono hull for a year and a half with no refrigeration what so ever.
They are leaving tomorrow for Senekal on their way to the Canaries, where Thomas, the South African who studied at Tuks, ( BSc) is getting off and hope to find a job… Bon Voyage!
We are slowly starting to prepare, and the RMSPosboot” arrived on Wednesday, and the containers were being offloaded. The little wharf and town at James Bay were buzzing with excitement. We were holding thumbs that our little parcel, with the circuit breaker will be somewhere among the big containers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ships Meeting

What an unbelievable experience when strangers sit around a table being served with the best food on an island. Did Jesus from the Bible experience this when he sat talking to people, touching total strangers with that something….. We were touched. We got invited to Anne’s Place for a braai, and we took out our best steak and made a strong garlic French loaf and joined the group of people. But Richard and Jane opened their hands and their hearts to all these strangers hanging around on this Sunday afternoon and the chicken flavor filled the smoky smells of the wood burning in the fire place.
A table was laid with the most delicious salads and side dishes all prepared by Jane, Anne’s daughter. We sat together feasting, sharing lives with the people from Chili, a boy from Bellville and Saints from St Helena. We were bonded by our boats on the sea….forever joined.
Thank you to Richard and Jane and his family for giving us this memory….

Sunday, February 20, 2011

St Helena

We are getting too comfortable on this island, I think. When I walk down the street I started recognizing some faces, and even greet and chat to some Saints we’ve met along the way… not difficult if you consider the one main street town, and only a small island to explore. We bumped into Paul, speaking Afrikaans from behind us! We’ve met two years ago when Catlyn was launched and both of us were in Elliot Basin, Cape Town. What a lovely surprise! They moored their Sunsail Yacht next to us, and swam over for sweet pancakes and hot chilli con carne…. Paul is a delivery skipper and he and his crew, Brad and Pieter are on their way to Greece. Today we are invited to a bring and braai at Anne’s Place with them and some Saints, and we look forward to the warm coal fire and familiar smokey smells.
Marco is done with school and are studying for the exams. I don’t think he will be able to do his exams, because we were going to be on our way to Brazil then, and he needs internet access for that. I will definitely not tell him that!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Touring St Helena

What a lovely day we had! Early morning we went into James Town to meet our tour guide, Robert. I took the opportunity to send my mom's letter off to her and mail the postcards to my kids and loved ones ( if I have your postal address). Only 40p a beautiful St Helena stamp that will go with the RMS boat soon to Cape Town. Apparently it is a great commodity philatelists to have a stamp from St Helena mailed here and shipped off. It can take a package months to get to it's destination, so I had to do this! If you want a stamp, send me your address via mail ( or comment on my blog and I will send it straight away. Robert came to fetch us with his bakkie, and in the back we jumped. Unfortunately the weather wasn't playing along, and I had to borrow his jacket because at some stages we were soaking at the back. But we had fun! The drive in a vehicle felt so awkward and we hanged onto each other for dear life cruising around the narrow bends, when Robert just hooted to scare or warn a coming vehicle. But we survived the first couple of miles and remembered how it felt like to be land borne again. We stopped at the first residence, Briars Pavilion, for Napoleon, where he stayed for 7 weeks after being exiled and went off to the beautiful Longwood House still with the mouldy smells that made people think that he died of arsenic poisoning. We stood in the very room where he died, trying to imagine the lonely world of the last days of this formidable man. Every time the clouds lifted we were surprised to see the lush green fields of this volcanic island with cattle roaming. Charles, you can come for a nice pot of gholf on this remote island...9 holes but if you go again it can be 18! And so we enjoyed our day having dry cream crackers and a packet of chips for lunch, until we came to the Governor's House at Plantation. Jonathan was awaiting Marco! This big old turtle, 197 old with a cataract because of old age, you know, still enjoy the soft grass on top of the hill. He is accompanied by Emma and a younger David. We sat and rubbed his soft wrinkled skin on his hind legs and he gently lifted his huge heavy body. It reminded me of a very smart car we used to have when I was a little girl. A big blue Citroen with leather seats, and every Sunday morning going to church my daddy used to get into the car early to get the car to lift up his body... Amazing to touch another being, being so long in this life.
Our tour ended with this amazing memory. St Helena is really making sure that she will be remembered.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Problems in the heads

So it was not the end. We are without the master cabin's electric toilet since we left Walvis Bay. Since we started using this toilet almost two years ago, we were always so aware of every slurping noise it made. Sometimes it was a high pitched noice or sometimes it was a low moaning groan...but every noise made me nervous. When will this fancy thing stop slurping and start spitting? It is quite a constipated situation, between you and me. Is it the toilet kicking up or is the thing not properly installed, or is the outlet pipes just too long for this pump to shove the load out in the ocean? All I know is that if I can choose again, I will not install a fancy expensive electric toilet ever, because it is so much easier to pump it in and to pump it out with the old manual toilet at port side. The only maintenance you have is to pour a little vinegar and sometimes cooking oil into it's hungry mouth to lubricate the throat of this monster. No unearthly sounds to make you a nervous wreck! So I actually would like to know if any one with a yacht and a manual toilet aboard would like to swop, please let me know! Otherwise I think a beautiful piece of white porcelain might be hitting the bottom the ocean soon!

Ps. Me and Marco rather went for a swim and snorkeled and we were blessed by the company of the manta ray and the big hawkbill tortoise! A splendid change of scenery...

Monday, February 14, 2011

14 February 2011

Early morning Johan went with the ferry to town. It costs one pound fifty for a return trip, and he had a coffee at Anne's Place waiting for the town to wake up.He had to sort out our "over" powered problem. To all the people joking that we can supply Escom, with all our solar panels, you were right! The 40 amp circuit breaker is not man enough to handle our power supply, so we need a 60 amp circuit breaker. In SA the sun was never shining, and at last there is sun in our lives. He ordered that and a new Dc meter which he squashed with his finger one evening in the dark... This package will come with the RMS Boat from Cape Town on Sunday.

While he was away Joe and I baked the lemon meringue the boys were craving for. We found some tennis biscuits in a little shop...and are going to have a lovely tea time.

I am unpacking some mouldy lockers, and are trying to get as much fresh air into every little dark place on the boat. The boys can't stay out of the water. In the meantime two neighbours left for Granada and one for Ascension. Another yacht broke loose from her mooring and we saw her drifting slowly out to sea. She was rescued by Moose and the Ferryman.
We are thinking of staying a little while longer....

13 February 2011

We stayed home and enjoyed the peace on Catlyn, and snorkeled in the indigo blue water with a visibility up to 30m. Unbelievable! Marco enjoyed being a real diver, exploring this new world. Joe saw a young hawk beak turtle, I still hope it wasn't that big toe of his. Dad joined in and they saw a big Manta Ray, and followed his massive flapping wings. New white dove like birds flew around, crisp white with black feet and beaks; Fairy Tern, and the scarce Red Billed Tropic bird nested in the massive rocks above us.

St. Helena reminds me of lying at the foot of Monaco, but only with no buildings and castles on the cliffs.

12 February 2011

It is close to Valentine's Day, and all the little shop windows are full of something red and lovable. Unfortunately we missed the Valentine's Dance at the Consulate Hotel, where Hazel decorated the Ball Room in pink. The whole morning I could here the piano playing, while I was sitting with the laptop in the blue lounge, on the soft couch with Napoleon watching me from one of the frames on the wall.

With a packet of fresh cold plums and something to drink, we stood at the bottom of Jacob's Ladder. Towering above was 699 steps going straight into the blue sky, to reach the top of the hill where the people live in their houses. A tough climb late, with Marco reaching the top first, of course, the view was breathtaking. dad heard in town about this new pub up the hill where we could get a cold beer, Oasis. So uphill we went, asking around every time we saw someone, even the people in the garden of the Jehova Witness Hall told us: "Up, Up, Uphill!" Many hills later we found the place, and we were the only four people in this dilapidated little pub. Stewart, a saint from St Helena, found us, and entertained us, until we ended up in his humble home listening to Lucky Dube! ...and so we missed the Valentine's Dance...

11 January 2011

We are here! Beautiful bottlenose dolphins danced us into James Bay with massive rocks towering over Catlyn. We were silent for a while... About seven foreign yachts were moored and the water taxi came towards us. Greg showed us where to pick up a mooring. Wonderful to be attached to something!

We hoisted the quarantine flag and got ready for Immigrations and Customs. It was a smooth ride through all the procedures. Everyone told us to have your medical insurance ready at St Helena, otherwise they expect you to take out local medical insurance. Well, no one asked for it. Don't know whether it just slipped their minds.

James Town is a quaint little town nestled between two majestic mountains. We found everything we needed. Anne's Place is lovely for a beer in the Castle gardens. Donny's has warm inviting showers, and even a small brewey. Paul is brewing his own gin from the junipers from the local Cedar wood, and Tungi, like mampoer from prickly pears. It is really tasting better than mampoer. We went home with the gin and a bottle of his coffee liquer, "Midnight Mist".

Saturday, February 12, 2011

10th of February

We are nearing our first foreign island! For the last 40nm it is visible on the horizon. A big cargo ship passed us, calling us on the radio, "Princess" on her way to Cape Town. We only sailed the genoa to slow us down, because none of us wanted to reach a new anchorage in the dark.

While sailing this morning, we spotted fish swimming with us. Immediately everyone saw food, and they tried to catch them with the lures. They threw the lures like cowboys in front of the poor fish, but luckily they couldn't be fooled.

And then the big black shadow of a fish started following us. In the swells behind us a Marlin was surfing the waves, and curiously checking the lures. Dad tried his best to get the massive fish, to grab our lures but for more than an hour he followed us, entertaining a family!

First sighting of St helena!

We saw it! In the fire of the sunset, we saw the impossible. The island of the Saints lay etched on the horizon - St Helena. We were amazed still 250 nm from this big volcanic island, but for an instant we could see it!
Today was cloudy and St Helena was hidden from us. Thank God for that instant, it was like a breath of hope. We imagined ourselves being on one of the old ships looking for land. People like Diaz and Joao Da Nova Castella, sailing the seas and finding an island in the middle of nowhere and then decided to stay for a while, and then decided to name this island...St Helela, because it was the birth day of Constantine's mother, Helena on the 21 of May 1502.
This island was formed 14 million years ago, after a violent volcano erupted. We are approaching this island, a 121 square km. It sits astride an ocean plate, the African Plate, and slowly slides eastwards toward Africa, 18mm a year, We are going to visit 4000 Saints living on this island and we will be 4 of the more or less 1000 tourists visiting this remote island per year!

8 February

Ten days on the water, and 260 nm to go to St helena! We were all lazy today. Maybe it is because you never sleep completely, you always sleep with all your senses still active. Is there a strange noise? Is the boat moving funny?

Dad made English muffins today. What a delight! Johan did some pull ups and hurt his neck. Luckily for lots of herbal ice and an ice pack in the freezer, he is looking better already. Marco finished his science project tady, watching the beans all over the boat grow or not grow. And I found a noaghty green worm in my basil, having a great life at sea....Tiona go check your herb garden! These little ones are really creating havoc!
While the sun is setting we try to make the best of the little wind we got, and we are still trying to figure out where the salt water under the port side cabin bed is coming from....

Still sailing

I am so good with the night sailing now. I am not scared any more and I don't feel so claustrophobic any more. I realise that I am fine, and just sailing like when the sun is shining. I even done a bit of reading, without feeling queasy. It is still overcast and I cant wait to see the stars.

I lost track of time when I was on land but was reminded of reality every now and then. At sea you just exists! The logbook said it is February the 7 th. My shift was from 3h00 to 6hoo.
Last night I could see the rain on the radar, and knew that the big swelling cumulus clouds of the afternoon were creeping closer. For the whole time that we were sailing we were surrounded by clouds, black thunder clouds looming, but we were safely protected and stayed right in the centre of all happening around us. The sea stayed calm and the wind gentle and the soft rain just washed down the salt from the sea.

another day....

At last! Marianne said I will get my sea legs after about 3 or 4 days. Well it took me 5 days but at least I feel like I am alive again. It even felt like a normal day today. I cleaned the yacht for the first time properly since we sailed. I did the washing after a nice warm shower, in my bath tub, and everything is hanging in the fresh air. I asked the three men aboard to consider not to wear underpants any more, it would almost halve the washing. All agreed without hesitation, except my young man aboard, scared of exposing more than I asked for...but he made a plan! (see photo)

Marco is a good student and dad took him for Geography lessons today. He studied the charts and found out about bearing and True North and scale...
We put the hammocks out, and we were enjoying the humid and warm air, swaying away!

Somewhere in February

A light wind was blowing steadily and with the screecher out we had a gentle sail. When out on the deck you can see the fish from the ocean swimming next to us. Big long fin tuna and some steel grey fish wire chaperoning us, The water was an indigo blue, and Anriette the deepest so far is 3500 meters of water underneath us. Johan threw out the lines and the big tuna were lured in! What a beautiful fish! But we "photo" and release this amazing animal back into the sea. For two days a tuna was following us. When you go outside the tuna was swimming next to us, every now and then skimming the surface. I would like to think it is the one we set free.

The night sail was less scary for me, not because the sea was calmer but only because I survived the first darkness! When the first light came and little flying fish was lying on our deck I knew I was going to be okay. For the rest of the time these little silver fish spread their wing over the ocean and fly....amazing!

6 February

The bread and buns that is left are yucky. The kids are excited to start baking bread. Johan was first, and with his nose in the recipe books, baked a wonderful caramel bread for dinner!

Our biological rhythms aren't so scrambled anymore. We are becoming used to the shifts and little sleep. We hardly need a nap during the day.

We still catch Dorado's every day, and the freezer is filling up nicely. dad is trying out new methods of preparing fish!

5 February

The logbook says this is the date. I just don't know what day it is. We have no contact with the outside world except for switching on the satellite phone every other day. What a delight if there is a message from a loved one! Our spirits are still high despite a tough sail and very little sleep. We still not in the new rhythm of sleeping for 3 hours and sailing for three. For the first time since we left, there is a glimpse of sun shine today. Johan taps everything out of the wind by butterflying the screecher and genoa. With a 2,3 knot wind he sailed 5,2 knots. Luckily the current is also pushing us forward.

30 January

We woke up still feeling jet lagged with very little sleep for a tough night. It feels like every movement is a huge effort. Every cell in my body is tired. The new Balance bracelet Annemarie gave me, is not helping either. The pressure point black bands around my arms, are doing nothing to help. The boys are coping and the nausea only struck Marco when he needs to do school work.

he started with his gr5 school work, and we spend 2hours in the morning , when I can still focus. Thank God for a clever child! In between they are playing chess, and Dad is cooking the most delicious food. But the only problem is, I can't look at food...

Leaving Walvis Bay

We left Walvis Bay for the second time. We left for an hour yesterday, popped the champagne, but our main sail gave us problems, and we decided to turn back. Only when we learnt about the superstitions of the Yacht people at the Yacht Club, and then checked the book, Rudi and Deslynn from Maverick Yachts, gave us, we started thinking... So we learnt that departure on a Friday is taboo!! I started reading this book , How to rename your boat immediately! And now I am superstitious too.

We sailed out of Walvis Bay at 17hoo, heading for the unknown. With darkness came the 3m swells and the sea changed into a choppy mass of water. We were rolled all through the dark night and I was so glad to see the first light of day!

Lunch was served when we caught a skipjack tuna, a yellow tail and Marco caught his first Dorado!

Ps. Happy birth day Anton!