On arriving in the small port of Luderitz, we had a local diesel mechanic, named "Duppie", come down to the boat to look at our port engine. The verdict was: "It's buggered" - basically the same verdict as mine, except I used different words to define my verdict.
Then the satellite phone started ringing with the message that a new engine was on it's way from Cape Town in a pick-up driven by Graham Kirk and accompanied by a Robertson & Caine mechanic. Now, let me explain to those folk who do not know - Luderitz is in a country called Namibia, which is just north of South Africa and prides itself as being independent. Luderitz is also a solid two day drive from Cape Town. When Graham arrived at the border post, he had all the necessary documentation to import the new engine into Namibia but unfortunately the mechanic was a Ghanaian citizen and, unknown to all, needed a visa to enter Namibia. He did not have one and was denied entry. Graham had to turn around and take the poor fellow back to the South African side of the border, find a holiday camp and he is now having an all paid-for safari on the Orange River.
Next thing the satellite phone is ringing again and I was informed that a new mechanic with the necessary travel documents was flying up on Thursday morning and work would start immediately with the engine replacement. Well, you all know when things go wrong, go wrong, go wrong. Eric, the new mechanic, arrived and was only given a 24 hour visa and refused permission to be able to do any work. So, all he could do was stand on the quay whilst Duppie, the local mechanic, and his assistants were busy dismantling the broken engine. Whilst this is happening, Graham was running around trying to get the customs inspector so that they can open the new engines box - it could not be opened without a customs inspector present.
Eventually it was out with the old and in with the new, sea trials and we are ready to go again. Neels is heading back to Cape Town with Graham Kirk whilst we wait for the wind to change from north west.
It is now Saturday morning and we have been up before the sun was, preparing to depart. We all went to the emigration office and were stamped out after paying N$80 for the service - we cleared with the port authorities and customs yesterday afternoon.
What caused our engine to fail is unknown but our thanks to the Robertson & Caine factory and staff who made the engine swap as fast as possible. So, as we head northwest, regards from the three of us - Andries, Hardy and myself, John.
It has been an interesting first few days at sea, with all of us, except Neels, fully getting our sea-legs. Neels, unfortunately, has not fully recovered from his sea sickness even though we have a relatively calm sea at the moment. However, his prayers may have been answered as we have lost the use of our port engine and are busy making our way to the port of Luderitz in Namibia for mechanical repairs. I think Neels will be departing the boat if he can find transport back to Cape Town - and I do not blame him as being sea sick on a small boat in the Atlantic Ocean is not what I would wish on my worst enemy.
We should reach Luderitz during Monday morning and hope that we are able to repair our engine with great speed as I have been to the port before and there is not too much to get excited about there. However, the rest of the crew will be able to explore the old German town with its unusual architecture and may even be able to visit the old "ghost town", a mining town just outside Luderitz which was deserted and is now mostly covered by sand dunes.
This morning I spoke to David Savage, the skipper of a Leopard 40, also en route to Annapolis. He had departed Cape Town a few hours after us and was only 20 odd nautical miles to the east of us. He and his crew were all well and were preparing to change course for St Helena island - we were busy changing course for Luderitz and would thus cross close to each other. Although we kept a good lookout and gave a few calls on the marine VHF, we never saw each other.
On Saturday we managed to catch our first fish, a small Yellowtail, which was just large enough to feed all four of us. It was really delicious and was served with baked potatoes and some gem squash. The chef of the day was Andries who did an excellent job cooking the fish. This morning (Sunday), Neels, although not feeling great, set out the line and managed to catch a fair sized long-fin Tuna. It is in the refrigerator and is our Monday night meal as this evening I cooked up an Indian curry, which appeared to go down well with all on board.
As soon as we know what is happening to our engine, I will update the blog and add a photo or two of Luderitz. For now, regards from Neels, Andries, Hardy and myself, John.
We finally departed Cape Town on the morning of August 6 - a few weeks later than we had hoped. Our first twenty four hours was not the most pleasant as we had massive swells and freezing weather. All of us were not feeling too good but that has now mostly past with only Neels still feeling a bit "off".
Our first leg is to the island of St Helena, a distance of approximately 1700 nautical miles. Due to the fronts moving across the South Atlantic at this time of the year, we are sailing the first section up the South African west coast, as far as the Orange River mouth from where we will then lay a course directly for St Helena.
Although we are quite loaded with provisions, diesel and water, the boat is handling it's self quite well. The wind (16 knots) is from the south west as is the swell (3 to 4 metres). We are sailing with the genoa only and are doing quite well, averaging over 5.7 knots - not too bad considering our size and weight.
I will do a more updated blog entry in a few days when everybody is acclimatised to the motion. Regards from Hardy, Andries, Neels and myself, John.
26/07/2009, Cape Town, South Africa
It has been an interesting few weeks since the launch of Leopard A4001 - with some frustrations thrown in for luck! The boat was moved to the "M" berth at Royal Cape Yacht Club where Robertson & Caine have their workforce and there has been a flurry of activity to complete the alterations and changes TUI Marine has requested.
To slow down the process we have had the professional photographers on board on two occasions to do their shoots for brochures and advertising and have had the boat out in Table Bay for test sails and more photographs. Each time this happened, we had to strip off the markers placed all over the boat to indicate faults - and then put them back afterwards.
On the crew side, Hardie (1st Mate), Andries and Neels (crew), are all waiting for the boat to be signed off and move aboard. We have done all our provisioning and now only need to prep the boat for the delivery, get the provisions on board and purchase the last minute perishable stores, before going through the clearing out procedure and departing.
I have been told that final sign-off is on Monday 27 - let's hope that it is!
Looking at the weather, there is a cold front moving across the South Atlantic which should reach Cape Town about mid-week, bringing unfavourable winds and seas with the associated rain. Hopefully this will pass quickly but, unfortunately, there is another huge frontal system following it, which will introduce NW winds and large seas, making it very difficult to get away from the Cape. We may sail up to Saldanha Bay during the lull and depart for St Helena Island from there as the front swipes the Cape - we will have to judge what to do closer to the time.
Well, hope the above updates everybody. The above picture is of our proposed route but may change as we progress north. John