A Newspaper article about us that appeared in the Cape Argus Newspaper
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
CORIANDER AND GARLIC NAAN BREAD
280g white flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 garlic clove finely chopped
1 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp clear honey
100ml lukewarm water
4 tbsp natural yoghurt
1 tbsp veg oil
1 tsp black onion seeds
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1. Sift the flour, salt and ground coriander together in abowl and stir in the garlic and yeast. Make a well in the centre and pour in the honey, water, yoghurt and oil - stir well until dough comes together, then knead until it leaves the side of the bowl. Turn out and knead well for about 10min.
2. Shape dough into a ball and put in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave to rise for 1 - 2 hours until it has doubled.
3. Put 3 baking sheets into the oven and preheat to 240 C. Preheat the grill. Turn out the dough and knock back. Divide into 3 pieces, shape each piece into a ball and cover 2 of them with clingfilm. Roll the uncovered one out into a teardrop shape about 8mm thick and cover with oiled clingfilm. Roll out the other pieces the same way. Place the flatbreads on the hot baking sheets and sprinkle with onion seeds and chopped coriander. Bake for 5 - 10 minutes until puffed up. The breads should then be grilled over a hot grill pan - I don't have one on board so I put it under the grill for 3 minutes until slightly darker on top.
I have not been able to find any plain yoghurt in Tobago, so was luck to find another cruiser with a "starter" for me.
The starter can be a good quality plain yoghurt that you have OR a special yoghurt starter that you buy in a kit form. The French Yacht Taugl gave me a good starter from a kit they had bought in New Zealand.
1Litre milk (I use powdered)
3 tbsp powder milk (this is to make it thicker) - add this to the 1l above
Heat this very slowly until it reaches 34-36 C NOT MORE - turn off heat
Add in the starter (or your bought plain yoghurt) - about 3 or 4 tbsp and stir it in.
Decant into some jars and place in a cooler bag that is well insulated and will keep warm - I wrap a towel around the jars and place into a soft cooler bag or you could use a sleeping bag.
After 4 hours the yoghurt should be a bit like soft jelly - place in your fridge.
Remember to keep back a few tbsp for the next batch you make
Sailing to Charlottesville by Zoe James
We left bloody bay and saild to chorlotteville. When we were sailing we
Caught a fish it was a tuna, it had blue and darker blue!!! When we got
There we anchordand 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.
Store Bay - Charlottesville
After waiting for 6 weeks for engine parts, it was time to leave Store Bay and start exploring the rest of the island. We had already been to Mt Irvine but were keen to get back as the surf was expected to pick up in the next 2 days. We spent 10 days here enjoying the unusual good surf conditions - so good in fact that the locals from Trinidad had flown down for the week and some had even come from Barbados. Ten days later when the swell died down, it was off to Castara, 10 miles up the coast. A very pretty town surrounded by steep hills. The anchorage was unfortunately very rolly, so the next morning we carried on up to Bloody Bay. After another uncomfortable night we decided to head straight on up to Charlottesville - hopefully we would find a protected spot to anchor in the large bay. About 1 mile outside C.ville bay we caught a black fin tuna! We did not expect to catch anything as the sail from Bloody Bay was only 3 miles. There are 2 anchorages here - Man of War bay or Pirates Bay - we anchored just off Pirates Bay beach. Getting to the beach with the dinghy can be a wild ride as the beach break is huge. How we did not flip the dinghy on our first attempt, I do not know! So after that we decided to rather leave the dinghy at the town jetty and do the walk over the hill to the beach or we just rowed there without the engine.
C.Ville is a lovely small fishing village surrounded by very green hills, no through road and no loud music from beach bars! We have been spending a lot of time at the library, it is well stocked with children's books and of course it is air conditioned!
It is also quite easy to get diesel from the fuel station - it is right across from the beach. When we got here there was no diesel as the truck was unable to get here because of all the rain so we had to wait a few days before we could start "stocking" up on diesel. The diesel in Tobago is about 1.50 TT p/l (about R2.00 p/l) so we stocked up on 700l. Water is available from the town jetty, although we have had rain every night and have managed to keep our tanks topped up.
We have also met a family on S/V Taugl who have already circumnavigated - they are into their 4th year. Their daughter, Zoe is 7 so a perfect friend for the girls.
The plan is to leave on Monday for Grenada. We will be back in Tobago next year for hurricane season.
My Secret Island by Zoe James
I am looking for a secret island.
I am planning to go live on this island It is a secret.
The island must have palm trees and there will be a beach with lots of
Mountains around it.
I will need milk, eggs, butter, sugar, rolls, buns, pasta, cereal, and other food. I will also have some wood and some nails and a
Hammer and I will build a small house for my food. I will
get boxes and put food in them and then I will build one for me
to sleep in if it is cold and when it is hot I will make a bed out of
leaves and sleep outside!!! My sister called Nina will be coming
She is 4 and I am 8 years old. I have my own rubberduck.
I will go there in my rubberduck.
I will need lots of pillows and blankets. I will need lots of
Supplies. I have a sewing kit and some plasters.
I will bring two pairs of shorts and two t-shirts.
It is not difficult to understand why Robinson Crusoe chose this island as his own. With its lush rainforests, coral reefs and beautiful beaches, Tobago is the gem of the Caribbean.
For cruisers Tobago not only offers a refuge from the hurricane season. With its calm anchorages and abundance of sea life it is an island not to be missed.
The public transport system is good and services most seaside areas. Another option is to hire a car and do your own exploring. Starting in the capital, Scarborough - a visit to Fort King George is a must. With its well kept buildings, gardens and beautiful views over the Atlantic Ocean - this site is a great opportunity to get a bird's eye view of the island.
Scarborough also has all shopping amenities as well as customs and immigration for entry formalities.
Further south is Store Bay. This anchorage is calm and well protected from the Southerly swells. There is some good snorkeling along the Kariwak reef teeming with Parrot fish, Wrasse, French angel fish and if you are lucky a manta ray. Marine services are available at Store Bay - this is the best place to order in parts, take on diesel, water or do laundry. There is also a large well stocked supermarket nearby.
A short dinghy ride around the point takes you to the most famous beach in Tobago - Pigeon Point. The water is clear and shallow and very clean. There is an entry fee of TT$18 but the beach is well kept with ablution facilities. The beach is also popular for kite surfing and windsurfing. Tourist glass bottom boats leave from Store Bay beach for day trips to Pigeon Point and to the Nylon pool. Buccoo Reef is a Marine Park and is a protected area - anchoring is not allowed.
Heading North, the first anchorage is Mount Irvine Bay. The bay offers an excellent surf break over a shallow reef. There is a fish market on the beach and
Mr Irvine village is a short walk away.
Around the point at Stonehaven Bay, is a beautiful well kept, clean beach with some good snorkeling spots. The beach is backed by bamboo trees and palms. Anchor your dinghy just behind the shore break and wade ashore.
Englishman's Bay is a very secluded and quite anchorage. Some great snorkeling is on offer here and the possibility of seeing some turtles. This bay is possibly the prettiest on the island. Plan ahead before you go as there are no shopping amenities close by.
Lying on the Northern tip of Tobago is the quaint town of Charlotteville. This town's basis is fishing and the fish market is located right opposite the Man of War anchorage. There is a small supermarket as well as a small internet café which also offers a laundry service. There is a well stocked library if you plan to stay here for a while. Fuel and water is available in town.
A short walk takes you over the hill and down to Pirates Bay beach. The 144 steps leading down to the beach are surrounded by fruit trees teeming with bird life. This beach is secluded with very calm water - a real Pirates hideaway!
Heading back toward the windward side of the island is the village of Speyside which is noted for diving. There are numerous dive operators which can take you to some of the island's best dive spots. From here you are also able to take boat trips to Little Tobago which is a bird enthusiast's paradise.
A little further on is Roxborough with its colonial style buildings it is the capital of the Northeast. A walk up to the Argyle waterfall is a must - the waterfall has 3 tiers and a fresh water pool at its base.
As you head back toward Scarborough do not miss out Bacolet Bay. This is the legendary beach of Robinson Crusoe. With the cool Atlantic breezes the beach is popular with surfers and locals. The beach is accessed by a narrow path off the main road. This is a pretty beach, which is well maintained by the Blue Haven Beach hotel.
One cannot visit Tobago without tasting an authentic "double" which consist of: curried chick peas (known as channa) sandwiched between to soft fried pancakes which is made of split pea powder and flour. Or try a "roti" with curried goat or chicken. Other local dishes to try are the curried crab with dumpling and a "bake and shark" sandwich.
If you enjoy lively entertainment, be sure to be in Tobago for Carnival. Carnival lasts for 2 days before Easter, but preparations are well under way just after Christmas. This colourful event has its origin from the slave days when the slaves rebelled.
As the island is only 300sq km - it is possible to sail the length of the island in a few hours. With numerous anchorages on both the Atlantic and Caribbean side, Tobago has a lot to offer.Tobago is one of the quieter islands as far as tourism goes. It is still possible to anchor with just a few other boats in beautiful, calm bays. The island's unspoilt interior gives you the feel of what the Caribbean resembled 30 years ago.
To get to Trinidad you can either go by Ferry or fly. The ferry terminal is located at the harbour in Scarborough. Ferries depart daily for the 6 hour trip to Port of Spain. Flights leave from Crown Point International - this is a 20 min flight.
With its laid back lifestyle, friendly people and easy going island style living Tobago is a great place to cruise.
Our plan is to leave Tobago at the end of this month and head over to Grenada.
Toboago Fun by Zoe James
16/09/11, Store Bay, Tobago
We are anchored in store bay with six other South African boats.
Every afternoon at 4.clock we all go swimming at the beach. We went on a picnic on a beautiful beach with palm trees. We swim there and collected coral on the beach. We snorkel on a reef where a boat sank, there are plenty of parrot fish and Angel fish! One moning we caught the bus to Scaborough. The bus had aircondioning, television and music. When we were in Scarborough we went to the fort. The fort had beautiful views looking on the ATLANTIC OCEAN. We sat on the lawn and had some snacks. One day a baby turtle washed onto another boat on their steps. They asked me to come with them and we put it on a reef so it will be safe, it was very tiny and I held it. We met a French boat and they have children and we went to their boat to play. One afternoon the coast guard came to check our passports, they even checked iniside the boat. We are still in store bay because we are waiting for engine parts to arrive. After Tobago we are going to Grenada.