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Smoke and Roses - The Breakaways Explore Namibia

Logged 830 Nautical Miles, 116.75 Hours

41.25 Hours Sailing 75.5 Hours Motoring

January 9 – 16

Cape Town, South Africa to Walvis Bay, Namibia

After being in South Africa for two months, it is time to head into the South Atlantic Ocean. Historically the 1700 nautical mile leg from Cape Town to St Helena has 15 knots of wind with downwind sailing, but the forecast is calling for less than 10 knots of wind for the first 5 days. This could mean more motoring. Some boats are concerned about having enough fuel and they would like to see another country on the African Continent. A stop in Namibia adds a couple hundred miles but affords flexibility as well as interest to the route and we can still meet the World ARC Fleet in St Helena. Along with 5 other boats, we broke away from the fleet and took a more northerly route staying closer to the coast. The guide book cautions of unreliable data for depths, dense fog and sand storms.

Walvis Bay is the ideal stop over from which to explore the Great Namib Desert and the quaint German Town of Swakopmund on the skeleton coast. With the enforced handing over of Walvis Bay by the Afrikaner South African Government, the Namibians have worked on the infrastructure with good roads and rail links to Johannesburg. The bitter military struggle and the rift in the independence movement have been played down.

Leaving Cape Town in light wind we were anxious to fly the new gennaker sail. It did not go well, partly because the wind built to near 30 knots, which is too much, so we took it down. Thinking we did not have the right set up to fly the new sail, we didn’t try again for several days. That was a mistake as we did a lot of motoring. Remembering advice from other cruisers the next try went much better. Bones had sail, if you are struggling, fly it looser and Hal suggested flying it off the windward hull. It worked great and we were very happy. We are now able to sail in a lighter, downwind direction at a good speed which we could not do before. With the new solar, inverter and gennaker all working, we are a fully powered boat again while using less diesel.

January 10, day 2 of the passage was our 16th anniversary, to celebrate I made a rum cake. The water temperature is 68 degrees, 10 degrees warmer than yesterday, it is sunny and cold, and we layer in foul weather gear at night. Dan has a sinus cold with congestion, I always feel tired, we’ve done 4 hour watches before but it is cold and very damp. In the morning and late night there are periods of dense fog, so thick it is like light rain.

We are seeing lots of seals every day; they float on their backs with their flippers sticking up above the water. One morning just out from Hollandebird Island there were hundreds if not thousands of seals all around. We were sailing slow and they were swimming with us playfully flipping in and out of the water. I think they are even more entertaining than dolphins. A little more rested, I cleaned bathrooms yesterday and washed bedding today; tomorrow we will be in Walvis Bay.

Our breakaway fleet of five boats had a short two day stop in Namibia which was amazing. After calling Walvis Bay Port Control to enter the channel that led to the long quayside, we anchored off the clubhouse. It was a large shallow anchorage with good holding. The first day was busy with formalities and errands. Dan checked us in with customs and immigration, and then we went to an ATM to get the Namibian Rand that was required for fuel. We also got a few provisions and reserved a 4X4 off road vehicle for touring the desert. The rest of the crews hired a private tour company. Although it would be nice to be with the group the tour was expensive, we usually are more comfortable and have more fun doing self-explorations. That night we all met for dinner at the Walvis Bay Yacht Club.

A seal slept on the transom of our boat so we barricaded the cockpit before leaving to explore. Walvis Bay is synonymous with Flamingos and our first stop, just a few blocks from the Yacht Club, was to the lagoon to spend some time in the company of these feathered beauties. The Flamingos bizarrely long necks twist in bone breaking fashion, their knees bend the wrong way and they have luminous colors that line their wings. They are some of the strangest and most gorgeous birds to look at. Heading for Dorob National Park our next stop was Namib Dune Belt. Dune 7, one of the highest in the world, beckoned us to climb it. The incline was steep and our feet sunk into the sand, making it harder than we thought. The views and swirling layers of sand were beautiful. Going deeper into the desert we followed the signs to the Goanlkontes Oasis and took gravel roads to the Moon landscape Viewpoints. The earth at this geological wonder was multiple shades of charcoals, browns beiges, creamy caramel and orange. Millions of years ago the course of the Swakop River turned huge granite plain into carved canyons and gullies that is said to resemble the moon. After lunch at the Oasis Restaurant in Moon Valley, we spent the afternoon off roading through the desert. Guided by my Maps Me phone app we visited sites called the Dragon’s Backbone and Musical Rocks. It was great fun. Our last stop was to a German coastal town of Swakopmund, here we walked on the 1905 Jetty and drove past a historic lighthouse.

Back in Walvis Bay, some of the boats who already got fuel did the clearance at Immigration in preparation for an early morning departure. Three of us will fuel one at a time in the morning, clear out and leave later. There were several cruise ships in port the morning we left. The people at all the business’s we visited were very friendly and went out of their way to help us; Walvis Bay was a great stop!

Agnes Long

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