Leaving Cape Town

Ultimately, it was the dentist that changed everything. 

We had planned to leave Cape Town on January 8, bound for St. Helena and then Salvador, Brazil.  After passing almost two months in South Africa, I had shifted from traveling mode to being a liveaboard at the dock at the V&A Waterfront, at the height of the summer/Christmas tourist season in the most touristy part of the city.  Which means my days were filled with touring, shopping, and doing all the things we had not been doing for months.

This, of course, meant that I left the most important things to the last minute.  Like the dental visit.  It wasn’t entirely my fault.  When we arrived in Cape Town on December 11, we had a frantic few days before the city shut down for Reconciliation Day and then the Christmas holidays.  No one really came back to work until Monday, January 6 and, since I didn’t know that, I hadn’t made any effort to get the dentist appointment ahead of Christmas. 

I lucked into an appointment with one of the few dentists that had actually returned to work (most were closed until the following week) and got appointments for all of us.  It was supposed to be a general check-up and cleaning but I had a sneaking suspicion that there would be some issues with a crown that had been problematic from its origins. 

Sure enough, Nico (the dentist) told me that the crown should be replaced.  It might last years or months – there was no telling.  I told the dentist we had plans to leave Wednesday and he told me there was no way they could get a new crown before Thursday afternoon.  I tracked Joe down and asked if we could delay until Thursday.  We were also waiting on some steering arms that were being fabricated that would hopefully solve our steering/auto-pilot issues so he said I should have it done. 

Every day when we walked anywhere from the boat, we passed by the aquarium and, across from the aquarium, a small dock that the aquarium had built for the seals that lived in the harbor.  The seals liked to congregate on the dock and play and sunbathe.  They also emitted a horrendous odor that made us squinch up our noses every time we passed.  I told the kids that when the dentist pulled off my crown and blew some air into the area, the stench was almost identical to that of the seal dock under a hot sun.

I will spare you further gory details.  Over the course of the next three days, I spent more time with Nico and his assistant than I did with Joe and the kids.  Somewhere in that time frame, Gemma, a friend from Aurora B, a boat that traveled with us on the first half of the World ARC, arrived and helped do frantic provisioning for a 10-day trip, followed by a 3-day interlude in St. Helena, followed by another 12-day trip to Salvador, Brazil.

The World ARC fleet, normally traveling closely together, has been split apart by boat repairs, travel plans, and dentists.  Several boats decided to head to Namibia where they might encounter better winds and could have a way to break up the trip to St. Helena.  Others were heading straight to St. Helena but would then skip Salvador and island-hop to Ascension and other remote Atlantic islands before reaching Cabadelo.  One boat delayed travel to avoid leaving on a Friday, considered bad luck in the sailing world.

So, there we were, waving off the boats that were leaving on schedule on Wednesday morning, January 8.  One of these boats was Lunatix, who had taken on Niobe’s former crew member, Josie, and her father, who were very excited to be traveling together.  But that morning, Lunatix was leaving without Josie on board.   The night before they were to leave, Josie was on the phone by the marina gate.  She left her backpack on the ground and walked away for a few minutes, distracted by her phone call.  When she returned, her backpack with her passport and wallet inside were gone.  The security camera showed someone walking off with it three minutes after she had set it down but they had no way of tracking it down.

Without a passport, Josie wouldn’t be able to enter the next country so she was stuck in South Africa until she could sort it out.  Cue the dentist.  Since we were on a dental delay, we agreed to take Josie with us.  Cobin generously volunteered to share his room yet again, and Gemma and Josie, both from the UK, were already friends from the first half of the trip so it was an easy decision. 

Our destination, wavering between St. Helena and Namibia, now seemed to be solidifying towards Namibia, as we might be able to catch up to Lunatix in Walvis Bay and allow Josie to rejoin her father for the trip to St. Helena.

The steering parts showed up Wednesday afternoon and Charm was almost fully stocked with food for the next several weeks.  Our 10-day trip had turned into more of a 3-day trip with the possibility of stopping in Luderitz to see a deserted mining town preserved by the sand, so the huge quantities of food suddenly seemed rather senseless but it was too late to un-buy the supplies.  I picked up my new Mac which was replacing my old new Mac which I have been trying to get fixed since Mauritius.  I sent it off as soon as we arrived in Cape Town but they couldn’t get a new mother board in time so I had to order a new one from the US and have John on EQ2 bring it to me.  We have had bad luck with our Apple devices.  Out of a total of 5 laptops that have come on board, one has been stolen and two have died.  Out of four phones, one is fully dead and the other is only partially functional.  The only Iproduct that is dependable at all is the oldest laptop from 2012 that continues to chug along.  So, my “new” Mac is actually from 2015 – here’s hoping it lasts longer than the 18 month life cycle of the rest!

I went to my dental appointment and had the rare experience of feeling like I was in an artist’s studio.  In addition to dentistry, Nico enjoys painting and playing the piano.  I asked how he could saw away at my crown and not cut into the tooth behind it and he explained how they would practice doing this with eggshells in the role of the “tooth.”  In order to pass the class, they had to drill away the crown without breaking the eggshell.  I truly feel like I have a piece of art in my mouth.  Nico, more conscious of aesthetics than I, told me that my new Zirconium crown would out-perform my old porcelain-veneered metal crown in so many ways, not least of which was its appearance. I told him that not many people had the opportunity to look at my rear-most right molar but that any that did would certainly be impressed with his work.  It is a delightful improvement over the old one.  My tongue regularly checks the line where the old one never quite met the gum and is pleased to find that the new one fits just like a regular tooth should.  Best of all, my mouth no longer tastes like seals smell!

With the new crown in place and Josie’s emergency passport arriving late Thursday, we were able to leave Cape Town on Friday afternoon.  This made me happy because my fresh produce, purchased in preparation for a Wednesday departure, would have been well on their way to maturity if we had to wait through the weekend.  Joe, Gemma and Josie did a last hike up Table Mountain and then we cleared out of Customs and Immigration.  I took Marin for a long-delayed trip to the Cape Town public library and Tully tagged along.  The others did a few last-minute snack runs and bought pizzas and donuts for our first dinner at sea.

Our 4 pm departure was delayed because the two bridges we needed to pass through couldn’t open due to “load shedding” (Cape Town’s term for a scheduled blackout).  Joe radioed the bridge and they said we would be able to pass through at 6 pm.  So the kids played a little longer with their friends on Niobe and I tried to upload a few more photos to our website at www.charmof5.com (now updated almost through Mauritius).

We’ve been at sea for almost three days and will be heading to Luderitz for a short stop so I can see the abandoned mining town and the German village on the Namibian coast.  We’ve heard from Lunatix and they are having engine problems which should keep them in Walvis Bay (a little farther up the coast) long enough for us to get Josie to them. 

We have had delightful conditions and Charm is sailing like her namesake once again.  Not without difficulties, of course.  Joe fixed many issues when we were in Cape Town, including our steering/autopilot/rudder problems which we may have finally traced (at least in part) to a bent arm in a pump.  The autopilot and steering are almost 100% – we should resolve the final issues when we get to Luderitz and can recalibrate.

You may remember my harrowing climb up the mast?  The rigger who ran the new halyard blamed our issue on a dyneema halyard that flattened out and got stuck outside the sheave at the top of the mast.  Apparently, he was wrong. Our first night out from Cape Town, after everyone was asleep, Joe ran the main up and met resistance about four feet from the top.  Winds were about 15 knots and the seas were calm but if we couldn’t get the sail down and the winds built to 20+ knots, we would be in the danger zone for catamarans.  If a catamaran is overpowered and gets knocked down, unlike a monohull, it can’t right itself. 

Joe said he needed to climb the mast and cut the halyard unless I could think of an alternative.  I suggested that we could wait until morning but we had a full moon and good conditions and I agreed that it would have to be done eventually since we couldn’t head into a harbor with a full main up nor did we want the stress of being overpowered hanging over us.  We woke Gemma (next on watch) and ran Joe up the mast where he quickly cut the halyard and came back down.  It was far less dramatic when he did it and he claimed that the conditions were much better than when I did it but I think he’s just tougher than I am.

All are well aboard Charm and we are enjoying being at sea again, especially with the ideal conditions we’ve had.  Calm seas, following winds, and good food and company.  Cobin finally got to set off the fireworks we’ve been carrying around since Mauritius.  South Africa has a law against fireworks and we’re not sure what we will find in other places so we figured Charm was the best place to set them off, as long as there were no passing ships that thought they were flares.  Joe helped construct a “rocket launcher” and we had a great show off the starboard stern last night.

I hope all of you have similar pleasantness wherever you are.  Tomorrow we will arrive in Luderitz and I will let you know what we find there.

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