Etosha National Park, five hours to drive from Walvis Bay and seven hours to drive back from a different entrance. We stay only two nights in the park at Okaukejo Camp and Dolomite hotel. Dolomite was amazing, with small wooden bungalows situated on a hill looking at the vast flat park with animals all around.
We saw plenty of wild animals including a couple of lions walking towards us just few meters from our car.
But also countless zebras, steenbok, oryx, …
and many Elephants. We stopped in a water pond where many of them came to drink…
Amazing experience, but if we will be back to Etosha next time we would rent a 4×4 with a tent to also stay at Ozonjuitji m’Bari camp to be able to see animals at their water hole at sunrise and sunset.
We spent 28 days in Walvis Bay, waiting for new friends to join Eidos and as base for few very interesting tours. It was much more than what we planned but at the end a nice experience.
Walvis Bay has a natural harbor more than five miles deep. Going to our anchorage near the yacht club we sail through drilling platforms, large fishing vessels, massive floating pontoons and any kind of commercial vessels. Walvis Bay is the most important commercial port for Namibia and many other countries in Africa. The town economy appears to be only based on the activity related to the harbour and it is not particularly attractive.
There are not many services for yachts, the only exception is Namib Marine Services that specializes in services for commercial vessels, however the owner, Steven, is a cruiser and he is well known to help yachts stopping here as possible. Namib Marine Services can provide diesel and water and Steven is very helpful in providing basic information on where to source basic things you always need on a yacht. The other source of information is the Yacht Club.
The Yacht Club is also one of the three recommend restaurants in Walvis Bay and it has the best internet available (even if not great). The other two restaurants are very close to the Yacht Club. The Yacht club can provide buoys but we decide to use our anchor that works fine other than for one night when the wind changed from north. In general, in this period of the year there is a strong wind from South East starting in the afternoon and dying before night, we recorded more than 30 knots many times during our staying there.
About 30Km north of Walvis Bay there is Swakopmund, a small touristic town with typical German architecture and a nice long waterfront. We visited Swakopmund few times just for a walk or for a change from the very industrial environment of Walvis Bay.
Few miles from the yacht club there is Dune 7, what locals claim being the highest sand dune in the world, we obviously went to climb, and moon valley near … oasis and all-around Walvis Bay there is the Namib desert, apparently the oldest desert in the world.
Close to our anchorage there is a large lagoon with a sea-side track of more than 5km ending in the desert, ideal for walks or runs. In the lagoon there is no shortage of birds, especially different type of Flamingos (white and pink flamingos). During the summer the Lagoon is ideal for kite surfing and windsurfing, but it is too cold now. We really enjoyed a day trip to Sandwich Bay that needs a guide a 4×4 car.
Walvis Bay is at about 250 miles from Luderitz and we decide to leave early in the morning to be sure to arrive in day time at the new anchorage. The weather forecast is good with wind and wave from the back and we all really want to sail the new asymmetric spinnaker. It does not take long to have the perfect conditions to hoist it. I am the only one on board that hoisted it before with the help of three people from the sail maker with plenty of experience with it.
The passage is very comfortable and fast, we soon sail for quite long time at over 10 knots speed and often at 12-13 knots sometimes going faster than the apparent wind. It was amazing to go so fast while remaining flat on the sea. Broad reach is clearly the best wind direction for Eidos.
Being our second passage with Eidos we are still learning how to simplify all the manoeuvres and we often have to experiment new setups. We are finally happy with the setup of the mail sail preventer, we replaced two shackles with snap shackles to move lines faster and added redundant soft shackles for safety. We are also happy with the process to take a reef and go back to full sail with wind from the back without having to go into the wind, it works nicely as they told us – I was quite sceptical about it. We still need to practice with the spinnaker; with 20-25 knots of wind we were four people to hoist and lower it. I hope we will manage to use it also when we are just two, at least with light winds
We drop the spinnaker in the afternoon as the wind becomes stronger and the boat is going too fast, the gps registered 17 knots speed. We continue with only the main sail with on reef for all the night still maintaining a good average speed. The second day the wind gradually drops and we go up to full main and genoa keeping our average speed above 8 knots. We have to change course to avoid a cargo ship and before arriving the wind dropped further, we motor for the last few hours and anchor in front of the Walvis Bay Yacht club around 4pm. Just in time for a cold beer. We heard that at the anchorage the wind can be very strong, so we drop more than 40 meters of chain in less than 4 meters of water to be safe, we plan to move to a mooring buoy the next day.
We planned two stops in Namibia, Luderitz and Walvis Bay. Between the two towns there are 250 miles of desert.
Luderitz is our first stop. Not ideal if you need to do any type of work on your yacht, but we really enjoyed it. It is is a very small town with German style buildings, clean, quiet and relaxing. We spent there almost a week and took the opportunity to visit Kolmanskop and Aus. In 1908 a german guy working at the railway discovered a diamond in Kolmanskop and the town grew rapidly until larger diamonds were discovered in a different location after 1930. Apparently initially diamonds were found just in the sand and a vast region around Luderitz is still controlled by a single private Diamond mining company. Now a ghost town, it was a very wealthy city with a large hospital, large houses, ice delivered in every home daily, electricity and an entertainment centre with opera singers coming regularly from Europe. The town is very well preserved and now an ideal location for tourists and photo enthusiasts.
Aus is another small town in the middle of the desert. It used to be a prison where the South Africans kept german prisoners during the first world war, now the only attraction are the about 200 wild horses that can be seen around the town. Apparently these horses have adapted to the desert and can stay many days without drinking any water.
For the rest of our time in Luderitz we just enjoyed the anchorage, and the town.
We spent more than five months in Cape Town, buying and preparing Eidos to sail, it has been much more demanding than expected. It is done now and we can finally start cruising. There is still work to do as always on boats but we are on the move and it feels really great.
Onboard for the passage from Cape Town to Walvis Bay with me and Marcella there are also Michael from NZ (he is cruising around the world on a very nice motor yacht – now in the Caribbean waiting for the next cruising season), Jodi and Terence from South Africa (they have been working on super yacht for many years) and Luuk from the Netherlands (a surf coach that is travelling around Africa). The last two days before leaving have been hectic, my phone flies out of my pocket into the water – a clear sign I do not need to be always online anymore, the pump of the water maker does not want to work, the impeller of the generator with only 3.5 hours of use is in pieces, riggers are still replacing parts on board, we are still buying last spare parts, packing food everywhere for the passage, etc. But when it is time to leave all looks fine. Special thanks to Michael and Luuk that really worked hard with us for the preparation. We leave around 8am of September the 2nd under the rain, with not much wind and relatively flat sea. After half day we see that down here it is not like the trade wind passages we were used to in our previous cruising experience. The forecast was not that accurate, we had to tack upwind in short waves and motor in no wind; not much reaching/downwind sailing we normally did in the tropics. It was cold during the night and we were not lucky with the fishing.
However the night sky, sunrises and sunsets were amazing, as you can only see in ocean passages.
The passage from Cape Town to Luderitz was overall slow and with more motor than expected, I was pleased with the boat sailing performance upwind and not having any major issue. I realised that after 15 years from our last living onboard experience I am quite rusty with the routine of sailing, there is so much to do and keep under control: weather forecast, route planning, clear in/out, watch shifts, safety procedures, find safe anchorages, pick buoys, maintenance work, manage energy, manage water, etc. A lot of work and until it becomes part of our new life it needs a lot of focus. I quote a comment of our friends of Paw Time “Now the fun starts and the learning curve goes upwards”, absolutely what I feel. It is great to have Michael onboard with his current cruising experience.
We arrive in Luderitz on the 5t around 4pm anchoring in 25kn of wind. We have some challenges anchoring and it adds few lines to my to-do list in order to improve our anchoring process. Then the time finally slows down, after immigration and customs we have a cold beer at the yacht club, a nice dinner in a German style restaurant and finally a flat night at anchor. On the 6th we move to a buoy, we spend some time in places with wifi and plan some land tours. Luuk goes out kayaking in really freezing waters, I have a short run, others go for a walk, a quiet day in a very quiet town. Thanks to Jodi, Terence, Michael and Luuk for the help during this first passage. Great team!
There was a symmetric spinnaker in the boat as we bought it. We had it checked by Ullman sails in Cape Town, they say that it is in good conditions, probably not used much but that it may have been wet for long time and that it is not that strong anymore. We think it is about 180sqm probably 1.5oz with a sock.
We should be able to use it with up to 20 knots of apparent wind but the material may break given age and bad conditions. We ask a friend in Cape Town with a lot of racing experience to help us hoisting the spinnaker for the first time on Eidos, Francesco. We go out with just 10-15 kn wind, not much waves and some rain. After a quick discussion on how to rig it, the spinnaker is up. Marcella is at the helm and the sheet, Francesco at the sock and I am at the winch (small manual winch at the mast).
I immediately discover that I am not fit enough to easily winch it up, but slowly it gets there. I need to move the halyard back to the main electric winch to do this faster, especially if we need to hoist it in two. Once up the sailing is very smooth, much better than with the main and the genoa. We can sail it up to 110 degrees, much more than expected. I think that the width of the catamaran helps with it. We have a short run and we have to take it down, it is quite easy with the Francesco experience. It looks very reasonable to do it just in two plus the autopilot, we need some practice. We are back in the marina after only few hours with more than 20 kn of wind, the mooring is fine. It has been a very pleasant sailing. In conclusion we now need to practice and master how to sail the spinnaker without extra help and the first step is moving the halyard to the main electric winch. It is clear that the spinnaker will be very helpful in our next passage from Cape Town to Cape Verde, mostly downwind.
We are back in V&A Marina and it is a strange feeling. It is like we we have been cruising for much longer than just five days and at the same time as we never left. In the past five days we learned a lot about Eidos and identified what needs improvements or more practice. We also completed quite few tasks in our todo list and added new ones:
Add control of main winch from the helm
Add control of windless from the helm,
Consider a chain counter
Install a boom preventer for downwind sailing
Consider to replace the lazy jack with a lazy bag to simplify the closing of the mainsail
Check why the two MPPT/Solar panels appear to provide different power
Calibrate depth sounder
Go out with some friends to test the spinnaker
Investigate more the Pactor for emails
As in any boat the todo list is an endless document, but at least nothing in there that stops us from cruising. For today we do not work on the boat and spend some time on the computers to organize pictures and thoughts.
Early start to check again the weather forecast and go through our safety checklist before leaving. There is not much wind and it comes from behind with less than 2mt swell from the side. We leave at 8am motoring, it is quite cold and cloudy, we also expect rain around midday. We anticipate about 8 hours passage.
Marcella proposes to have proper shifts of one hour each, great idea, it allows both of us to plan some rest or other activities. We meet three other boats going exactly on our route but in the opposite direction, all fishing vessels, all with an AIS on. We did not have the AIS in 2002, it works extremely well and increases safety during the passages. We keep testing and familiarise with our new instruments. I test again the HF radio and the pactor that still does not work. I may be too close to the winlink station I am trying to reach. The HF radio is mainly a backup, we have an Iridium phone and an Iridium Go, both able to download weather forecasts during offshore passages. After few hours we open the sails, we motor-sail for most of the time to Cape Town and arrive in Cape Town around 4pm. We should have used the spinnaker today, but we did not feel to do it for the first time with just two of us on the boat. It would also help to have a boom preventer in place for downwind sailing , something to organize when we are back in Cape Town. When we enter the marina there are 20kn of wind, more than the previous time we went back to the pontoon. We call the marina to have some help with the lines but there is no answer. I am still quite nervous when we enter the marina with this large boat, especially with strong wind. But fortunately there is enough space to maneuver in V&A Marina and all goes well. At 5pm the engines are off and we go for a walk. V&A waterfront in Cape Town is very nice and after four months it feels like home.
We need to leave KraalBaai around 8am because of the tide. Going out is much simpler as we can follow our track recorded on the way in. We go back to Yachtport that is a convenient anchorage to leave from tomorrow. This time the Yachtport coffee shop is open and we spend some time there for breakfast and then go for a walk.
In the afternoon I do few tests with the HF radio and confirm it is working properly for voice connections. However I still do not manage to use the pactor to send/receive emails over HF radio. We spend a very relaxing day, we check engines, bilges, weather and get the boat ready for the 60 miles passage planned for tomorrow to go back to Cape Town.
It is very nice to be back in the cruising routine. The day starts early for me. I have a hot tea, check the weather that confirms we can sail back to Cape Town on Tuesday, look for possible anchorages or things to do around us, check the todo list looking for the simplest tasks to schedule for the day. So much better than start the day cleaning 100s of emails from the inbox! Marcella normally starts her day reading a book and joins me a little later when we decide the plan for the day.
It is another sunny day and we go for breakfast at the yacht club by dinghy that fortunately works very well. When we arrive there is no breakfast, just instant coffee and tea. The club is a very nice and cozy but no proper coffee.
The members of the club are very welcoming and give us useful tips about the area recommending to go to KraalBaai. It is one of the anchorages I selected earlier in the morning, a patch with just 2mt depth to be reached in high tide only (today around 4pm).
Eidos draft is 1.5mt but I have no confidence on how well the depth sounder works, we will have to rely on the map and what they told us. In the meantime yachts are convening for the Sunday club race. There is no wind and by 11am the race is cancelled. The bar opens and the crews jump directly to real reason for club races, a nice beer, or few more. At 12:30 we leave to KraalBaai, I want to go through the shallow passage 2-3 hours before high tide. The shallowest part is 1.2 mt, the minimum tide today is 40cm that is already what we need if we keep Eidos in the middle of the channel. We are also to pass halfway the min and max tide that should give us additional 40 cm for safety. My expectation is that we should always have more than 2mt depth, instead our depth sounder reads 1.6mt that giving us some exciting moments. Especially considering that there is also a current of 2-3 knots I believe that our depth sounder is not properly calibrated and when we arrive at the anchorage I drop a line with a weight to check the real depth and compare with the instrument. Our depth sounder reads 80 cm less than the reality. Great, now I only need to change the setting.
At KraalBaai there are three other yachts that soon leave and we are again alone for the night. I play with a Samsung 360 camera doing a time lapse of the sunset. We could go ashore but it is so nice onboard that we just have another quite evening.
Few weeks ago we discovered that our windlass was not working properly, it was using almost 200A at 24V even without any load. It took a lot of time to understand that it had been wrongly installed and it was always running with the break on. We changed all the old electric wires (that were causing a big voltage drop), serviced the electric motor and finally connected the control of the break correctly. It is nice to see it working well with our massive new 55 Kg Rocna anchor and an heavy 12 mm chain. We really need it to work, there is no way we can pull up the anchor by hands.