Happily tucked into the False Bay Yacht Cub

entering false bay

We arrived in Cape Town weeks later than originally planned. Conventional wisdom was that multi-day windows out of Durban should cycle through regularly, but we ultimately waited nearly a month! It necessitated a road trip to meet up with visiting relatives in Yzerfontein, north of Cape Town, a road trip adventure of more than 2,000 miles and a story of its own.

When the weather did finally break, it did so in glorious fashion, letting us sail from Durban to Cape Town in just four days. Totem clocked up two of her fastest days ever: 239 nautical miles for one, and the other 234. It was breezy, but our speed was thanks to the push from the Agulhas Current. It sped us along with more than five knots of current! Most of the time, Totem had a double-reefed main and no headsail in 25-30 knots of near dead downwind.

sailboat main ocean

I turned 46 on the last day of the passage, and earned a pass on night watch; Jamie and Niall took turns for me instead. My wonderful guys! Unfortunately the weather had turned unpleasant, and sleep was elusive. Wind funneling around the southern tip of Africa and accelerating around points of land, making the sea state lumpy and the conditions a little uncomfortable and sleep elusive. This did nothing to diminish our excitement on arrival.

We’ve actually been a short distance south and east of Cape Town, in the seaside village of Simon’s Town. We expected to spend a couple of weeks there at the False Bay Yacht Club, then move around the Cape of Good Hope to the Royal Cape Yacht Club. But it wasn’t meant to be, as this is the busiest time of year and the RCYC hasn’t been able to accommodate us.

There hasn’t had a chance to be disappointed, because FBYC has been truly wonderful. We’ve felt a very warm welcome from the members here, literally from the moment of arrival- when we were emailed a photo one member took of Totem entering the harbor from her hillside home!

kids lawn

The kids have great freedom. There’s a grassy lawn at the club where they can play. And, town is safe: unlike Durban or Richard’s Bay, they can go unchaperoned into town for ice cream.

dock kids

A resident seal doesn’t bother the docks, but sometimes gives us a show slapping fish to split the skin for dinner.

We feel hospitality from every corner at FBYC. I’ve never felt so welcomed by a hosting club! A friendly chandlery where Jamie’s been able to find many of the bits he needs, as we get Totem ready for her Atlantic passages. A restaurant where I can have a breakfast of kippers, two poached eggs, toast, jam, and a latte… for a little over $4. A bar where we’ve spent evenings taking in the view and enjoying South African wines with a sunset. People here really know how to have a good time: not that it’s not just kids playing in the water! The club also put on a New Year’s Eve party for the books, and with regular live music, I’ve done more dancing here than I have since… since I don’t remember when.


Last weekend, on a sunny afternoon they put on a potjiekos dinner to welcome the cruisers. This traditional Afrikaner dish is a kind of stew, cooked over an outdoor fire in a potbellied cast iron pot. It cooks over hours, melding into flavors and tender texture. A half dozen members each made a personal potjie recipe: spicy lamb stew, chicken and herbs, local seafood, and more. It’s served over mealie-pap (like grits, but more dry) with chakalaka (a kind of tomato sauce condiment) on the side.

potjie at fbyc post

And, once again, live music for kids of all ages to spin to on the grass.


The cruising community is adding to the fun as well. There are paths converging and diverging. Boats we’ve known by name and email that we’re finally meeting and really enjoying, like our sistership Windarra with the Hittinger family on board, homeward bound to Florida. It’s bittersweet knowing that we may not see many of these faces again; there aren’t a lot of routes and schedules on a westbound path across the Indian Ocean, but there are a countless options once we all point into the Atlantic.


The most challenging part of Simon’s Town is the wind (which we hear is just as present at RCYC, but not so much at the sheltered V&A Waterfront). In a recent nine day span, we had seven days where the wind was routinely over 50 knots. Those two days were it wasn’t? It was STILL hitting 40+. It’s crazy! I literally have to lean to one side (and watch my step) to avoid being blown off the dock and into the water. One of our friends did actually get blown in by a gust while checking his lifelines! Apparently it blows a gale nearly 1/3 of the year here, literally, so locals are used to it. We’re not.

nsri lifeboat
Doesn’t this look cold?

It’s also COLD. Now I realize this is all relative, and people at home are in the middle of snowpocalypse or snowmageddon or whatever it’s being called this year. But it’s been years since we’ve spent time in less than about 70 degrees, changing our definition of cold. So when we woke up to 64, we actually put on SOCKS. Wedon’t just need a sheet on the bed at night, we need a blanket! It has literally been years (about four of them) since we experienced this kind of chill. Siobhan still prefers to go barefoot everywhere, but even she has conceded to shoes now and then.

Too soon, we’ll checking out. I miss South Africa already.

This post is syndicated on Sailfeed.


9 Responses

  1. I love reading your posts. Since actually being out on the water, I’m wondering if I’ll ever figure out this interacting with new humans thing. I sure hope so, because it sounds like you meet am awful lot of interesting people.

    We feel like we’ve already acclimated somewhat because it’s been in the 60s here in the Keys and we’ve felt chilly, too.

    1. Thanks Byn. Re interacting with other humans, I think it helps to be not just living on the water but “away” – gone from the familiar land/language/customs. Gives those from the tribe an interest in connecting, and spurs mutual curiosity. with people in new places. 60s in FL., brrr!

  2. Hello Behan,
    I love reading your blogs!
    About the windy conditions at False Bay Yacht Club – well, 9 days of strong South Easter, yes. But 50 knots every day? Surely you mean 50 km/h? Our local weather forecasts for landlubbers are usually in km/h, on no day did even gusts get higher than 60 km/h (33 knots). Maybe your wind indicator on board is overcautious and needs calibration?
    As for 1/3 of all times gale force winds – not really, just a good wind from time to time. We got used to it and sail only when it is less than 20 knots.

  3. Hi Toby- nope, that was knots! We leave our weather station on and track a histogram of windspeeds. It topped between 52 and 57 kts during those seven days. Are you sure you’re not just used to it? 😉

  4. I beg to differ with you. Surely your weather station is just not used to the winds we have here and needs to be adjusted. Have a look at
    where the wind history is kept (although, admittedly, only the forecasted winds and not the recorded wind). It is nowhere 50 knots.
    The mountains above Simon’s Town sometimes funnel the wind along the shore, making it a bit gusty at the Yacht Club.
    Did you know that the area seaside of the navy harbour wall is called “Hurricane Alley”? It can get a bit windy there when the SE is strong.
    And, no, I’ll never get used to 50 knot winds, I’ll always worry about the anchor, even so I live in a house now…

    1. I didn’t know that the harbor wall was called Hurricane Alley – ha!! As they say- all weather is local! I’m sure the area weather station you’re linking is correct, just as I’m sure our boat’s masthead station is correct. There’s definitely some funneling that happens around here and I don’t doubt the reading on our Maretron system. Happy that it’s abated. Now if we could just get all the ash that’s blown all over Totem cleaned up… she has never been so dirty!

  5. I believe you. The SEaster has been howling, although it has quitened down a bit now. Windguru indicates direction well, but not strength. I’ve been kitesurfing on table bay and it’s been a great three weeks.

  6. Just wanted to wish you a belated happy birthday! sounds like you guys aren’t staying long in Cape Town? what are your plans for the crossing? still headed to St Helena? or are you going for more direct route to So America?

    can’t wait to see more!

    God Bless and Fair winds!

    1. Hey Fred, thank you for the birthday wishes! We’re ultimately spending about a month in the Cape Town area (Totem is in Simon’s Town, 45 min drive from CT proper). We’ll head up to Namibia first, then cross to the Caribbean via St Helena and Ascension. At least, that’s what we’re aiming for today!

Comments are closed.