May 5, 2008
"In the end, everything is a gag."
Today we went to Signal Hill, where the South African Navy shoots off the daily Noon cannon, and has been doing so since 1806 (except Sundays and public holidays).
We decided to follow up on one of the previous blogs where it was reported that a cannonball from the noon gun destroyed a car 5 kilometers away.
Originally intended to signal the ships around Table Bay, via the noise and smoke, to set their chronometers (vital for accurate navigation) modern technology has turned this into just another tradition.
The guns were designed by Captain Thomas Blomfield in 1786 and cast by Walker & Company early in 1794. The British brought them to the Cape during their 1795 occupation and they were probably used by the Royal Navy in the battle of Muizenberg against the Dutch on August 7, 1795.
Since 1864 the guns have been fired automatically via a direct link to the South African Astronomical Observatory.
There are two guns and both are set up every day. They alternate firing one, with the other as a backup in the event the main gun does not fire and the backup needs to be fired manually. On January 7th, 2005 both guns failed to fire due to technical problems (the first time that happened in 200 years).
The gunner packs the barrel with a 2 Kg. powder charge and uses a ramrod to push it all the way in. He then punctures the powder bag with a metal rod through the firing hole, places a cartridge in the hole and arms the firing pin. At precisely noon, there is a loud bang accompanied by a huge puff of smoke and the tradition has continued.
I asked the gunner about the Chico killing shot: It was all an April Fools joke! He says he is still receiving phone calls about it. Even his superior officer called the day the article was published. What hurt the most was that he was referred to in the newspaper as a "rookie".
May 3, 2008
"Always carry a corkscrew and the wine shall provide itself."
We went to Clifton Beach and Camp's Bay on the western side of Cape Town yesterday as it was warm (28 C). We lay on the white sand beach and went for lunch at a sidewalk Café.
The place was loaded with models. I tried to get Donna to take my picture with some of them as I want to add a photo gallery, but she refused. The area reminded us of Miami's South Beach with the outside dining and beachfront views.
As we mentioned before we are running out of things to do here. Donna checks the newspaper daily to find "fun" things. Today she decided we would go to the Olive festival in Rieebek. The ride out there was just beautiful, olive groves, vineyards, mountains and farms. We sampled wines, of course olives, and multiple other ethnic foods which I could never pronounce. Donna is far more adventurous, eating "biltong" which is dried who knows what meat. It is some things I think we saw on safari, god knows I would be dead if I ate that stuff. The big event was an olive pit spitting contest which was fun to watch as I expected someone any minute to aspirate on the pit, but things went well.
Whenever we talk, folks know we are from America and ask us all kinds of questions. We simply say we are from Boston as almost everyone knows New York or Boston. I am sure we were the only Americans today at the Olive Festival. It is nice to think we "fit "in, as folks were speaking Afrikaan to us although we clearly don't know a single word they are saying.
To answer a question we have been frequently asked about our blog: where do we get our quotes? Donna and I have collected quotes for years, and we like the ones that are short and to the point. It is unfortunate that we cannot seem to remember any of the quotes at the appropriate moment, but rather 30 minutes to 30 hours later. Wait until you read the ones we have been saving for when we are sailing!
Donna is now looking through the newspaper for other fun things to do - we have participated in so many wine tastings that I think we just may have to go to the Betty Ford Clinic when we return. Oh god she just found another one in Cape Town this week!
April 30, 2008
"Just do it"
Today we went to the boat in anticipation of finalizing the launch next Tuesday.
It didn't work, as there was a delay in the finish carpentry which puts the launch off another week. We are disappointed but gratified at the progress and quality of the work.
If we do not launch soon Donna may not be able to sail back as she has to return to work at some point. I am looking to see if we can possibly sail from St. Helena direct to Trinidad which if the weather is good would save a couple of days and may allow her to fly home the beginning of June.
The biggest problem is what to do for an additional week as we have purchased and eaten our way through most of South Africa and may now have to explore Botswana. Donna has become addicted to a National Geographic's show which I believe is called Street Monkeys, which shows groups of monkeys and their societies which are coping with urban sprawl. All of the "characters" have names and Donna knows them all. A new problem has arisen relating load shedding, the extra holidays and Street Monkeys: because of the load shedding and power interruptions when the power is turned back on it has caused power spikes which overloaded and blew out our buildings satellite TV amplifier. Because of the four day holiday a replacement cannot be obtained and installed until next Monday. Only in Africa.
What more can we say. Just hoping to have the boat back for the 4th of July.