Passage report: Cape Town to Lüderitz, Namibia


Totem’s anchor dropped late in the day in Lüderitz, the southern of Namibia’s two ports, three days after leaving Simon’s Town. Weather and boat readiness finally cooperated to help us extract from the magnetic pull of beautiful Cape Town. Even confident I will find the next port fascinating, it’s hard to leave a place where we’ve felt so welcomed, and has so much fun, as we have during our month at False Bay Yacht Club.

motoring out

iPad, check. VHF, check. heading out to sea

We left in a lull that had us motoring to the infamous Cape of Good Hope. Although it’s not the true southern tip of Africa- that’s Cape Agulhas, about 90 miles east- it’s infamous for sailors. Blame good marketing by 15th century Portuguese explorers for the lingering reputation of what’s still called a Great Cape.

ominous cape point

One seriously badass looking point of land.

It’s actually the adjacent Cape Point, pictured above, that feels the most epic of all. Why didn’t Bartolomeu Dias call this one the Cape of Storms? Good Hope is diminutive and non-threatening by comparison…but it is the point where westabout boats finally point more north, on a gradual back up to warmer latitudes.

not what you think

Cape of Good Hope…underwhelming by comparison

Pinterest SA to NamibiaWe’re all missing the warmer latitudes at the moment. Once the fog settled in over Cape Town when we passed by, full foulies were worn in the cockpit. I tried to remember the last time I actually needed full foulies on a sunny day, and I can’t, which means it was probably back in 2008 on the way down the US west coast. LONG TIME. I had to wear socks. Jamie even had SEA BOOTS on! We’ve been barefoot sailing for years!

Sailing up to Lüderitz, Namibia, took three days. It’s the perfectly wrong length of time for a passage, as far as I’m concerned. Day 1, getting adjusted. Day 2, bone tired by the switch from diurnal to watch schedules. Day 3, enough rest to find a passage rhythm. Except then we make landfall, and good rest is mostly assured anyway!

The passage was marked by wildlife. The first 24 hours out, we encountered more whales than we’ve ever seen. I lost count, but it must have pushed into the high teens. Humpbacks, for sure, but were there other species also? This dorsal is distinctive…so is the shape of the spout, in the picture at the top of this post.


Spyhopping fur seals were the most common; they seemed especially curious about our presence, but were too fast for me to catch with the camera.


Clusters of penguins from the colony at Boulders Beach, their bright binary colors standing out on the cold water of the Atlantic

We were accompanied several times by Heaviside’s dolphins, learning that this is a pretty rare species that not a lot is known about. We use Audobon’s Guide to Marine Mammals of the World (great resource for cruisers!), which indicates they’re only found along the southwest coast of Africa. Heaviside’s dolphins don’t put on Sea World shows like spinners, but still leapt jauntily through the big swells, seemed very social and interested in our company.

heavi dolphins

This coast is famous for fog. We were mostly spared, although it closed in periodically. I spent a lot of time on watch double checking visuals against AIS and radar, especially at night. Ship traffic turned out to be very minimal, once we left Cape Town behind. There were a couple of clusters of boats, like off Port Owen, or near the Orange river that divides South Africa from Namibia. There, a half dozen dredges operating in over 100m (400’+) of water just offshore. What would you dredge at that depth? Diamonds. We gave them wide berth!

welcome at the bow

We arrived in Lüderitz late in the day, guided in by a dolphin that played with me at the bow for about half an hour, rolling to see if I was still there, darting back and forth beneath but mostly just a few feet below my seat on deck. Magic!

steel schooner

We arrived in a town that was at once quainter and much smaller than expected. Surrounded by desert, Jamie’s immediate reaction was: “This looks like Tattooine!” NOT Mos Eisley, mind you. It’s a mix of colonial (100+ year old) German architecture with more present day industrial port facilities. Just, very small town / small country style.

totem in luderitz

Namibia itself isn’t small, it’s almost as big as Egypt (and twice the size of Sweden) – but as the coastline view prepped us, there just aren’t many people here. Turns out it’s one of the least densely populated countries in the world, second only to Mongolia…which we can now compare from direct experience with the most dense, Singapore.


Clearing in was easy for our 25th (!) country. It’s never quite the same twice, although the patterns for checking into countries are the same. I think it’s the first time the Port Captain greeted us with a handshake, though! Happily, the paperwork was much easier, and much more sensible, than the paces that South African officialdom puts boat through.

not old yet

Within a week, we’ll be sailing north again to meet Ty in Walvis Bay, then watching weather for departure to cross the Atlantic. And already, I know the time here is much too short.

luderitz harbor

This post is syndicated on Sailfeed.


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8 Responses to Passage report: Cape Town to Lüderitz, Namibia

  1. Duncan February 12, 2016 at 12:02 am #

    Very well written sailing blog; you missed all the cliches and your photos are first class. Are you finishing a circumnavigation? Thanks for the story (we ran the same route) Hope you have time for St Helena… (anchor, moorings are dodgy…)

    • Behan February 12, 2016 at 12:38 am #

      hey thanks Duncan! we don’t have circumnavigation goals per se, although I expect we will close the loop eventually. It’s hard to even guess when. We’d love to go to the Med in another year… wrong way for a circ.! I can’t WAIT to visit St Helena and am glad to visit before tourism gets bigger there with the airport. Tell me about the moorings… heard the anchorage wasn’t so hot either… uhoh!

      • Duncan February 12, 2016 at 12:50 am #

        Hi Behan, we went there in 2011 and about 4 yachts broke free of the official moorings. They are deep (60′) and the surge can run 10’…and more. Our boat broke loose and some alert delivery guys from Leopard put her on a new mooring (total freak out when we hit the jetty and couldn’t see the MOOSE) Port Captain quite blase…not his dept. blah blah blah. I’d take my chances on anchoring in a free spot over toward the mooring field for the locals; put out everything you own! The Consulate (a bar restaurant/hotel) is very nice for food and drink) and trek out to Lot’s Wife and the pools. Great people, you say hi to every single soul you pass. Some neat geo-cacheing to be done, and the museum and Jacob’s Ladder are good fun. We loved it. Have a good run. Duncan

        • Behan February 12, 2016 at 8:08 am #

          Any thoughts I had of picking up a mooring are now gone. We prefer anchoring anyway! Thank you Duncan, much appreciated. Hope we can do all that during our visit!

  2. Rick Meijer February 12, 2016 at 8:33 am #

    Read it with great interest and what is even nicer to see is that all you write is factually correct. Thanks for keeping us up to date, and enjoy the rest of the journey !!

  3. Yvette February 12, 2016 at 4:20 pm #

    The whale might be a southern right whale, no? They’re really common down in South Africa (I saw a ton!), but not sure if it’s the right season for their migration patterns.

    • Behan February 13, 2016 at 2:58 pm #

      It could be – I know we kept hearing about how common they are around here. And, they spend the summer feeding in Antarctica – these whales were all southbound. But Southern Right whales don’t have a dorsal fin. And, they have really stumpy flippers. My photo shows the characteristic humpback ‘hump’ with the dorsal fin on that pic, and the whales we saw also had the longer fins like humpbacks (there was a lot of breeching to show them off!). But it’s a really good thought – and I really wonder if some of the whales passing us were Rights.

  4. Judith February 28, 2016 at 9:03 pm #

    Cute town!

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