A Newspaper article about us that appeared in the Cape Argus Newspaper
05 December 2011
Plain sailing after a rough start
December 2 2011 at 09:00am
By Diana Cullis
“The weather was terrible. The wind got up to 38 knots. And, with the huge waves and swell, the autopilot could not hold the motion, so Leon had to hand steer.
“We knew that we were in for a long night. At 4pm, I was securing a line on the winch when a rogue wave hit me – I was drenched. I got the fright of my life and just burst into tears. A combination of being tired, of having ghastly weather, of knowing that Leon was going to have to steer for possibly the next nine hours all came crashing down.”
This is what Nicci Mulholland, 35, wrote in her blog five days after sailing out of Simon’s Town harbour with the rest of the boats in the Governor’s Cup yacht race on December 1 last year.
Having had an amazing send-off by the navy, friends and family, Nicci and her husband, Leon James, 40, both of Cape Town, encountered stormy weather with gale-force winds a few hours later as they rounded Cape Point. The next six days would see them being tossed about in rough seas, battling high winds and at one stage being hit by a rogue wave that swamped the cockpit – all with their two daughters, Zoe, then 7, and Nina, then 3, in tow.
Two years ago, Nicci and Leon began planning a five-year around-the-world voyage aboard their 38-foot catamaran, Iza (Xhosa for ”come”), on which they lived for a year moored in Simon’s Town harbour, preparing for the trip and to get Zoe and Nina used to life on a boat.
Having had such a rough start to their journey, it was plain sailing the rest of the way to St Helena island, where the Governor’s Cup race ends.
The family arrived on December 15 and came ninth overall, but were awarded a trophy for being the first family to cross the finishing line.
Although the end of the voyage for most contestants, this was just the beginning of a much greater adventure for the family, one that would take them across the Atlantic Ocean to Brazil, then to the island of Tobago and on to Grenada where they are currently.
They arrived in Salvador, Brazil, on January 19, having spent three weeks in St Helena – where they celebrated Leon’s 40th birthday on December 22 – and one week on Ascension Island. Crossing the Atlantic took them 12 days and went relatively smoothly “with down- wind conditions most of the way”.
Nicci says Zoe and Nina coped well with the crossing. “They have never moaned at being bored. They also do not get seasick, which is incredible because we have been through some terrible weather.”
As for the rough stormy conditions, the girls stayed in the cabin “somewhat oblivious to what was going on outside”.
Nicci says they brought along a bag of toys for the girls to keep them entertained and gifts which they give them when they reach certain waypoints (certain positions on the chart). As for Nicci, she tucked into her food; “what else is there to do on a boat for 12 days (at sea)?
“You cook, bake, experiment and just have fun with your stores on board. Every meal was planned and when you finish washing up from breakfast, you are thinking about lunch and so it goes on. We stocked the boat well with our favourite foods and enjoyed wine with our evening meals.”
They also did a lot of fishing, or rather, the boat did. They would secure a handline to the back of the vessel and “when we remembered to look at the line, we usually found something dragging behind – tuna, dorado, wahoo, barracuda”.
None of the family has succumbed to any serious illness, which is surprising, says Nicci, “as we have collected water from some dubious sources at times”. There have, however, been a few injuries: Leon has needed stitches from reef cuts sustained while surfing, which Nicci tended to, putting to use what she had learnt during the first aid course that she and Leon attended before leaving Cape Town.
Nicci has broken two toes kicking a cleat, as well as a finger, jamming it in a hatch. And Leon suffered second-degree rope burn.
“Considering the ‘risky’ lifestyle, this is not so bad,” says Nicci.
The “home” schooling is going well and Zoe has become an avid reader. “She is seldom without a book,” says Nicci. “We also do a lot of practical stuff. For example, when we arrive in a new country, we learn everything we can about it – write stories, draw pictures, get information online. And we have days set aside for learning about the boat – be it our dodgy alternator or learning different knots. Zoe has to write at least two stories a week. The stories she likes the best she types out for the blog. It’s a great incentive – she sees her story with a photograph of herself posted for all to see.”
Zoe completed Grade 1 at Springfield Convent School, Nicci’s alma mater, before setting sail.
So far, says Nicci, their most enjoyable time has been in Brazil.
“There is so much to see. We travelled from Salvador right down to Paraty, 160km south of Rio. We visited at least 30 different coastal towns. The rivers are amazing and the way people live in the rural areas is like stepping back in time. We would love to go back there one day and explore some more.”
One river the family decided to explore was the Paraguaçu River in Salvador, where they hit a bit of a hurdle – a sandbank to be precise. “We were left high and dry for six hours until the tide turned and we got off. As the water was fresh water, we got out our beach chairs, sat in the river and had a few beers.”
They left Brazil in August and set sail for the island of Tobago, where they spent three months before heading north to Grenada, where they have been for five weeks.
The next four years will see them transit the Panama Canal and visit the Galapagos and Marquesas islands, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Tonga and Fiji. Then, it’s on to Australia, Indonesia, the Andaman Islands, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, the Chagos Archipelago, Seychelles, Madagascar and finally back home to South Africa.
My sailing adventure – A blog by Zoe James, 8
“We sailed to charlotteville. When we were sailing we Caught a fish it was a tuna, it had blue and darker blue!!! When we got there we anchord and my dad cleaned the fish and my mom cooked it for supper. In the morning we went in town and went to a small shop and got some food. Then we went to the library. I met a friend called Zoe!!!!! And she is from France.The same name as me! She came to my boat and we played together. We also picked the fruit of the trees.
“There is a beach called pirates bay beach and we go there in the rubberduck and play on the beach.
“There are lots of fruit trees there. The waves are very big and I love to take my Board and go ride the waves!! It is so much fun! There was a baby turtle swimming past the boat. We picked it up to look at it. It was so small and he swam away really fast. We also swim at the boat the water is very very blue. There are 4 children on a boat from Denmark and they came to play. We went to walk to the fort on top of the hill and you can see all the boats from up top. There was a big green lizard in the tree with a long tail.
“On Monday we are sailing to Grenada and my friend Zoe is also sailing there on her boat called Taugl.
The end - Cape Argus