Friday, December 31, 2021

Cape Town for Christmas


The top of Signal Hill with Table Mountain in the background

 'Cape Town for Christmas' has been our mantra--repeated amongst almost every cruiser headed this way--for so long that it was hard to believe that we were actually here (in time for Christmas, with a day to spare).

Getting excited about the one harbor seal in Knysna seems so quaint now.

Like many hard-won goals, the journey was just as significant as the end-result. Actually, there was hardly any evidence of Christmas at all here in Cape Town besides a smallish tree and the odd decoration. Even Muslim Malaysia was more 'Christmas-y', with loads of decorations and Christmas music.

View from Signal Hill

There was holiday socializing aplenty: we had eggnog and watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Perry with Sonrisa's projector, enjoyed a happy-hour get together with all the other cruisers with oysters provided by Ohana and Dafne 2, and Sonrisa hosted an upscale Christmas morning dock breakfast. Unfortunately, on Christmas morning itself, Matt was laid out with a stomach bug but we had a pleasant, low-key day.

The cannon fires every day at noon.  Yes, it's loud.

The journey to Cape Town from Knysna marked the end of our stint in the Indian Ocean. We have officially ranked the Indian Ocean as the third favorite of the three Oceans we have sailed in due to its usual combination of large and confused seas (we might even rank it 4th, just on principle alone). Ironically, the worst part of our leg from Knysna to Cape Town was after we had crossed the invisible line into the Atlantic Ocean. With Cape Town almost in view and most of the passage complete, I was starting to feel pretty good about having 'completed' our journey past the southernmost point of the continent. The wind had filled in nicely and we were sailing along at a nice clip after having been so light that we had to motor for a good part of the prior evening.

Skate park with Table Mountain as a backdrop

But as we passed Hout Bay, the winds started to pick up and kept getting progressively stronger. When Table Mountain came into view, we could see the 'tablecloth' (the sheath of clouds that sometimes blankets the mountain) being pushed down its side by katabatic winds. After breaking our mainsail batten recently too many times with strong and unpredictable winds, we decided to douse the already triple-reefed sails and motor in. 

For the next hour, Perry was tossed around by confused seas surpassing our trip from Curacao to Cartagena. There were sustained winds of 40 knots with at least one 57-knot gust. We broke dishes that have lived unscathed on Perry for nine years because of the weird way the waves jerked the boat around. Matt and Conrad were soaked by waves as they stood in the cockpit, which is unusual on Perry. This last battering by the local ocean was mostly just uncomfortable rather than dangerous but we were relieved as we entered the calm waters of the port just before sundown.

Mark and Conrad finally together again with these guys

As it turned out, we had bad timing, bad luck, or both. Boats that came into Cape Town earlier in the afternoon and the following morning had completely calm seas. On our approach, we were lucky enough to see a penguin and breaching humpbacks in the midst of dozens of seals and dolphins.

We have been enjoying the V&A Waterfront, which has the feel of Disneyland without the rides (though there is the giant, slow-moving Ferris wheel). Shopping isn't our thing, but it is a luxury to be within walking distance of a grocery store that has pretty much everything. We have also taken advantage of a few of the many restaurants, rationalizing that we went so long without eating out that we can afford to splurge a bit. This is the kind of thinking of course that will drain our bank account and give me ulcers. But the delicacies beckon.

We are ticking boat projects from our list and at some point will rent a car to play tourist. This is wine country (and our dollar goes a long way in South Africa). Wine tasting is almost a sport here and the vineyards resemble Napa Valley. We also want to go to the top of Table Mountain,   see penguins (the last ones we saw--besides the guy en route--were in the Galapagos), and a hundred other things. One thing we are not planning to do is swim in the 56-degree Fahrenheit water.*

*Matt and Conrad considered doing a Great White shark cage dive, but killer whales have mostly chased them away from the area.

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