Thursday, 31 December 2015

Simon's Town - Touring the Cape Region

Hi everyone,
Yesterday we drove around the peninsula south of Cape Town.  We visited Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, then drove around Chapman's Peak.  This morning we visited Boulders Beach to see the African Penguins.

We arrived at the Cape Point entrance to Table Mountain National Park at 0715.  There was no queue.  When we departed at 0915 there was a kilometre-long queue - so get there early!  It's also a good idea to get there early if you plan to walk around - it can get pretty hot by mid morning.
Cape Point lighthouse
Early morning view over Cape Point
Long way down
Long way home!
From the Cape Point car park we walked the 1km or so to the Cape of Good Hope.  Along the way we came upon a troop of baboons.  Two of them were engrossed in grooming one-another.  We walked past quietly, carrying a big stick.  They are quite large animals.

Just keep grooming guys
One of many small lizards
View to the NW from Cape of Good Hope
After walking back to the car we drove around to the Cape of Good Hope car park to explore the beach there.  We counted over 80 small motor boats apparently fishing off the cape.

At the Cape
Rocky beach at the Cape
We then drove out of the park and via Noordhoek to the very scenic drive around Chapman's Peak to Hout Bay.

Scenic Drive (note mist out to sea)
View across Hout Bay to the town and harbour

Yesterday afternoon we did some important boat jobs.  We refuelled, adding 80 litres of diesel to the main tanks and another 100 litres in our five jerry cans.  That was hot work so we jumped into the water to cool off and clean the keel.  The underwater surfaces are now quite clean.

This morning we walked from FBYC to the Boulder Beach area of Table Mountain National Park.  A colony of African Pelicans live here.  There were many young penguins still in their down coats, and others in their "baby blue" coats.

Busy beach
Artificial nests
and a Rock Hyrax
Locally but incorrectly called a Dassie
Size of a small wombat
Closest living relative?  Elephant!!!
On our way back to FBYC we paid homage to Just Nuisance, the Great Dane who escorted sailors back to their ships (from the pub) during WW2.  A bit of a local legend is Just Nuisance, the only dog to have officially served in the Royal Navy.  He died in 1944 and was buried with full military honours.
Just Nuisance
Happy New Year everyone!

Simon's Town - 3 Days in Stellenbosch

Hi everyone,
We spent a very pleasant three days from Saturday to Tuesday at Stellenbosch, in the heart of SA's farming and wine growing area.  We travelled with the crews of Minnie B and Sea Bunny.  We all stayed at the Rustenbosch B&B which made it a very social outing.

On Sunday we joined an all-day winery tour with Easy Rider tours.  We visited Simonsig, Fairview, Dieu Donne and Zorgvliet wineries.  These wineries were widely scattered around Stellenbosch, with one close to Francshoek  We particularly liked the "champagne" at Simonsig, the wine and cheese at Fairview and the environment at Zorgvliet.

Simonsig winery - very nice sparkling wine
Cellar at Fairview
Tasting at Fairview
Vines and views at Dieu Donne
Marvellous gardens at Zorgvliet
On Monday morning we walked around Stellenbosch.  The town was the first established after Cape Town, with the goal being supplying both Cape Town and passing ships with food and wine.  It was settled way back in the 17th century.  It is a very pretty town with the old Cape Dutch building style being very well preserved.

Stellenbosch - full of beautiful oaks and buildings
And nice gardens
Botanical Garden
On Monday afternoon we visited the Van Ryn's brandy distillery just outside Stellenbosch.  Apparently their brandy is the most awarded anywhere.  We can certainly vouch for it being very nice indeed.  Our tour included a barrel-making demonstration.  The cooper was also a musician, playing a tune on the rings as he finished the job - apparently that's the traditional way to brag "another barrel done".

Van Ryns Brandy Distillery
Brandy distilling gear!
The barrel-making demo was impressive
On Tuesday we drove back to Simon's Town via the four passes - Hellshoogt, Franschoek, Viljoen and Sir Lowry's.  Very scenic.

Amazing countryside
Just another "overlapping" cloud
This was probably the last inland tour we'll do in South Africa.  We feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to see so many parts of this amazing country.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Simon's Town - Boat Maintenance Part 1

Hi everyone,
We've been using the last few days before Christmas to start preparing Zen Again for the Atlantic Ocean.

There are excellent services on-site here at False Bay Yacht Club.  The Raymarine man (Robert at Galley Electronic Services) is outstanding and the stainless steel man (Baden at BR Stainless) is too.  The chandlery is small but the staff are very helpful.

So here is the "done" list...

  • Polished all stainless steel
  • Washed manganese dust from yankee jib and mainsail
  • Washed manganese dust from all running rigging, end-for-ending sheets
  • Replaced worn webbing strap securing boom brake's "figure-of-eight" to boom
  • Cleaned the hull, skeg, rudder and propellor (keel still to do), watched by the occasional seal
  • Serviced the engine - freshwater system is still clear of black debris
  • Removed old autopilot ram mounting block (see below)
  • Cleaned the upholstery - we use AutoGlym which works very well
  • Replenished depleted consumables - engine oil, whipping twine, electrical tape etc
  • Obtained quotes for new anchor chain and another new autopilot ram
  • Repaired tattered ensign and club burgees

The short life of our autopilot rams has been one of two troublesome problems we've faced this year.  The other was the engine freshwater system problem.  Robert, the local Raymarine guy, is well connected to Raymarine HQ and has helped us figure out why the rams are wearing out so quickly.  Raymarine HQ say they have only seen wear like ours during their accelerated lifetime testing - where they deliberately work test units "to death".  So why is this happening?  Here's what we think is contributing...

  • Raymarine's "autolearn" calibration process doesn't always work well
    • In our case it set Rudder Gain and Counter Rudder parameters very high
    • It did so on both our autopilot systems which were calibrated independently
    • These settings caused the pilot to work very hard
    • We reduced the user-accessible Response parameter but apparently this doesn't entirely negate the effect of the two other parameters
  • We have a (Raymarine supplied) 150mm extension on the tiller pilot's shaft to reach the tiller
    • The longer the arm the more likely resonance will occur and accelerate wear
    • Our autopilot is mounted on the starboard side so on port tack extension can be large
  • We have the tiller pin at the recommended distance from the rudder shaft
    • Apparently this can be shortened to reduce the stroke needed by the pilot
    • This is only the case on boats with reasonably light helms (such as Zen Again)
  • I'm still not fully convinced the tiller pilot rams are designed for the same life as below-deck units, but am willing to try to optimise our installation to improve their longevity
We plan to address these issues by...
  • Manually changing the parameters via the "Dealer Calibration" settings (Done)
  • Fitting s/s mounting rails which move the outboard end of the ram inboard by 150mm
  • Fitting mounting rails (and electrical sockets) both port and starboard
  • Fitting two sets of mounting points on mounting brackets and tiller - one 150mm aft of the  nominal placement
  • A nice feature of multiple pins on the tiller and mounts on both sides is fault tolerance
If we can significantly reduce wear on the rams we'll be very happy!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

2015 Cruising Summary - Fremantle to Simon's Town

Hi everyone,
Having completed our sailing for this year a summary seems appropriate.


Zen Again 2015 Track

  • Overall
    • Distance Logged (ie through the water) = 6751 nm
    • Sea Time = 1194 hours (49 days 18 hours)
    • Percent Sea Time (of 183 total days) = 27%
  • Engine
    • Engine Hours = 278 hours
    • Percent Engine Time = 23%
  • Speeds
    • Average Daily Run = 136 nm
    • Average Speed = 5.6 knots
Interestingly our final passage of the year filled the last page of our current log book.  Twas meant to be!

Chasing the sunset
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

  • Good
    • Zen Again (thanks again to Ken Hayashi, Yamazaki Yachts and Precision Shipwrights)
    • Mainsail and Yankee (thanks to Extreme Sails)
    • Autopilot (did a fantastic job in challenging conditions, except see below)
    • Manson Supreme anchor
    • Iridium Go! with email
    • PredictWind weather data
    • Vesper XB-8000 AIS - not just for AIS but also for its WiFi broadcast of instrument data
    • SEAiq chartplotter app
    • Icom IC-M802 HF radio
    • Aries vane gear (did a good job in regular seas - we're using it more & more)
    • Fridge (our new fridge has been on continuously for 6 months - marvellous)
    • And of course all the great people we've met and friends we've made
  • Bad
    • Our autopilot rams only lasted 5000nm each - two failed enroute
  • Ugly
    • Over-galvanised chain (we've been hauling up the chain by hand since Rodrigues)
    • Tuzi Gazi marina in Richards Bay deconstructing itself during each southerly buster
    • Port Elizabeth ship loader "fallout" of manganese dust

So here we are in the South Atlantic, or at least west of Cape Agulhas.  The Cape of Good Hope is still to the west of us but only a few miles (literally).  We feel we've "eaten the elephant" (see here) and achieved our goals for the year.

Eat Who?  Only metaphorically big boy!
Do we love the cruising life or what?
Next year's goal is as ambitious as this year's.  We'll talk about that in a post early next year.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Simon's Town Arrival

Hi everyone,
We arrived at False Bay Yacht Club in Simon's Town at 0645 this morning.  There are a large number of other international cruisers here and we arrived just in time to join an Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) day out.
Zen Again at FBYC

Here are the usual graphics for the passage...

Zen Again Track
Zen Again Speed

And here are the vital statistics for the passage...
  • Distances/Speeds
    • Route distance = 220nm
    • Logged distance = 188nm
    • GPS distance = 217nm (so we appear to have gained about 30nm from the current)
    • Duration = 43 hours
    • Average boatspeed = 4.4 knots
    • Average speed over ground = 5.0 knots
  • Weather
    • Wind speed = 0-12 knots
    • Apparent wind angle range = all!
    • Seas/Swell up to 4m
  • Engine
    • Total = 43 hours
    • Driving = 43 hours
    • Charging = 0 hours
  • Failures
    • None  - engine freshwater is clean!

Yesterday evening we experienced our first Atlantic sunset from aboard Zen Again.  That was followed by a pleasant night spoiled only by having to motor through it due to lack of wind.

First Atlantic sunset
 The approach to Simon's Town was straight-forward.  We did see some kelp but only small amounts.

Approaching Simon's Town
The entrance to FBYC is quite constrained so we were happy to have arrived in daylight.  The marina is nestled close alongside the naval base.

Approaching FBYC
After cleaning up the boat and crew we were urged to join a group of OCC members heading off for wine tasting and lunch.  Happily there just happened to be two seats free on the minibus so off we went.  It was a good day out and great to catch up with the crews of Minnie B, Impala, Vulcan Spirit, Sara II and others.  We visited Constantia Glen for wine tasting and Groot Constantia for lunch.  The scenery around this part of the world is spectacular.

View over Constantia Glen Wine Estate
View over Groot Constantia Wine Estate
We now feel we've fulfilled our goal for this year, namely "Cape Town for Christmas".  We've "eaten our elephant" on time (and more or less on budget) and now look forward to a few days R&R.  We have a list of jobs to do on the boat (of course) but they'll be moderated by the festive season.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Cape Agulhas

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 34 58S 20 00E, directly south of Cape Agulhas. We have left the Indian Ocean and entered the South Atlantic. Passing one of the Great Capes doesn't happen every day so we will shortly be drinking a nip of rum, with one for King Nepture.

Sadly we are still motor-sailing. The engine has been on since departing Mossel Bay but we have had periods when the sails have adding to our speed. Sailing is made especially difficult by the swell which is refusing to die down as it is supposed to be doing. On the plus side we are consistently getting about 0.5knot of assistance from the current. We have 94nm to go to Simon's Town.

Last night the skies were almost totally clear and the air was exceptionally so. The night sky was amazing, so bright that Jupiter was laying down a narrow path of light on the sea (a "staircase to Jupiter").

All's well here - trust all's well where you are!

Mossel Bay Departure

Hi everyone,
We departed Mossel Bay at 1145 this morning. We are currently at 34 27S 21 49E, motoring at 4.5 knots on a course of 270M. The wind is 3-5 knots from the S with a long 3-4m swell also from the S. The mainsail is giving the motor a little help but the headsail won't set due to the pitching caused by the seas.

We are in company with Pipistrelle and Anke-Sophie still, although I expect they'll gradually pull ahead of us. We all spent yesterday at anchor in Mossel Bay as the westerly blow came through. It wasn't particularly strong but it blew from the W-SW all afternoon and most of the night. It was nice to have a lazy day at anchor, although we did get some jobs done. I gave the waterline, the log impeller, the engine intake and the rudder a quick clean. The water was surprisingly mild at 22C. The water offshore is about 19C around here.

The weather for this passage isn't great. We expect to have to motor most of the way in very light winds. Happily the 3-4m swell is predicted to die away overnight to 1-2m. The passage is about 220nm and we have 195nm to run at present.

Speaking of motoring, there was no sign of black debris in the engine's fresh water system when we checked it in Mossel Bay. So perhaps the previous debris was a one-off event caused by the brief overheat in Reunion. We'll know more after this passage!

Trust all's well where you are.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Mossel Bay Arrival

Hi everyone,
We arrived at Mossel Bay at 0600 this morning and are now anchored at 34 10.6S 22 08.5E in 6m over sand.  There are three other international boats here and one more arriving.  It's a nice sunny morning but we expect a strong westerly wind to come up later today.

View of Mossel Bay Boat & Yacht Club from Zen Again at anchor
Here are the usual graphics for the passage...

Zen Again Track
Zen Again Speed
And here are the vital statistics for the passage...

  • Distances/Speeds
    • Route distance = 195nm
    • Logged distance = 150nm
    • GPS distance = 200nm (so we appear to have gained about 50nm from the current)
    • Duration = 40 hours
    • Average boatspeed = 3.8 knots (very slow)
    • Average speed over ground = 5.0 knots

  • Weather
    • Wind speed = 0-20 knots
    • Apparent wind angle range = all!
    • Seas/Swell up to 1.5m
  • Engine
    • Total = 27 hours
    • Driving = 27 hours
    • Charging = 0 hours
  • Failures
    • None
    • Waiting for the engine to cool before checking the freshwater coolant

We believe our log was under-reading during this passage.  The hull is quite dirty and there may be weed interfering with the transducer.  Alternately the log is accurate but the dirty hull is slowing us down a lot.  Probably a bit of both.

Approaching Mossel Bay harbour
Yesterday afternoon a light E wind came up which allowed us to motor-sail initially and then sail from 1800.  It was marvellous to turn the engine off.  The breeze lasted until midnight by which time our speed had dropped to 2 knots and the motor went on again.

It was nice having Anke Sophie and Pipistrelle in sight throughout the passage.  It was also nice sailing along a scenic coastline.  There are impressive hills inland.

Last night the stars were very bright and we saw a number of shooting stars.  We saw a group of seals which followed us along for a minute or two.  The bioluminescence in the water was spectacular.  Every bit of white water - breaking waves, our bow wave etc - created a glow.

We'll be here overnight so may dig out the dinghy to go ashore this afternoon.  The dinghy hasn't been out since Mauritius!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Mossel Bay Inbound

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 34 14S 23 37E, motorsailing at 6 knots on a course of 310M. We have a light SE wind of about 10 knots. We have full sail up which is adding a couple of knots to our motoring speed. We have logged 95nm on the passage so far and have 75nm to run. The passage is 200nm over the ground so we are getting assistance from current - perhaps 1 knot on average.

We motored across a windless sea from 2100 last night until 1200 today when the light SE breeze came in. As the night wore on the clouds dispersed and we had moonless but starlit early hours. The bioluminescence stirred up by the propellor was impressive, extending a boatlength or so behind us.

We have caught up with the two boats we're in company with. The three of us have been in VHF range of each-other all the way - a first for us since leaving Fremantle. We seeing lots of birds on this passage, and think we may have seen a seal in the distance. Expecting to see more of the latter along the south coast.

We hope to arrive in Mossel Bay around dawn tomorrow morning. We expect a brief period of strong SW winds on Tuesday afternoon and overnight. If they die down as predicted we will be able to depart for Simon's Town on Wednesday afternoon.

Port Elizabeth Departure

Hi everyone,
We departed PE at 1430 this afternoon. We are currently in position 34 08S 25 26E, motoring on a course of 280M at 4 knots. The wind is about 5 knots from the SW and there's a slight left-over sea still running and a low S swell.

Our final full day at PE was fun. We returned the hire car then took a taxi to the Boardwalk which is a few kilometres south the the port. We watched the Bond movie Spectre then had a very nice lunch at a restaurant overlooking the beach. It was a very windy day, with 40+ knot winds in the marina.

We are sailing for Mossel Bay, taking advantage of a short weather window. We are in company with UK yacht Pipistrelle and German yacht Anke Sophie. Initially we had a nice sailing breeze which took us south from PE past Cape Recife. Sadly the breeze died at 2100 and we've been motoring since then.

Sadly we expect to be motoring for a while. This forecast is for light winds but it was time to move on. The weather windows are proving few and far between so one has to take whatever comes along. It will be interesting to see if we find more black debris in the engine's freshwater system after this passage. It is only 200nm to Mossel Bay where we can shelter from the next front which is due on Tuesday night / Wednesday.

Trust all's well where you are!

Friday, 11 December 2015

Port Elizabeth - Garden Route National Park

Hi everyone,
Yesterday we drove part of the "garden route" from Knysna back to Port Elizabeth.  We visited the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park to see the mouth of the Storm River.

Our night in Knysna was good.  We enjoyed the waterfront area and the B&B we stayed at was very nice.  We found the town to be "totally touristy" which isn't really our thing.  It is certainly set in a lovely estuary environment.

The mouth of the Storm River is crossed by a pedestrian suspension bridge.  We walked from the visitor centre to the bridge.  Nice walk and a nice view.  The park is popular with kayakers and hikers.

View from above the bridge
The bridge from the west side
The gorge
The mouth
Bridge from the east
From the park we drove to St Francis Bay where we had a nice lunch overlooking the small marina.  There was an Amel ketch in the marina so it's possible to get reasonable sized boat in.  From there we drove home to Zen Again.  Our four day tour was fantastic.  We particularly enjoyed the inland areas we visited - big mountains, deep gorges, broad plains and "big sky".

Yesterday evening we met the crews of UK yacht Pipestrelle and Swedish yacht Anke-Sophie here at ABYC.  Both arrived while we were away and we are all are planning to move on over the weekend.  The weather isn't ideal but is certainly not looking bad.  We should be able to reach or broad reach most of the way to Simon's Town.  Might be a few hours on the wind but Zen Again enjoys that.  Continuing to watch the forecasts.

We spent all this morning cleaning the rig and deck of the boat.  The manganese dust was thickly coated on mast, standing rigging, running rigging and all over the deck.  I spent at least an hour up the mast scrubbing everything clean with a rag and a slow-running hose.  I don't think I've ever spent that long aloft before and I have plenty of aches and pains to show for it!

With the rig clean we set to work on the deck.  It took us a while to find something which would lift the greasy deposit off the deck, particularly the non-slip areas.  Eventually we found that rust remover works very well indeed.  Bring plenty if you plan to stay a while in PE!!!

At present the wind isn't easterly and there's no ship at the manganese ship loader.  Hopefully at least one of these will remain true until we leave!