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A Cape Town Retrospective

Cape Town, South Africa was without a doubt one of the most anticipated port calls on this voyage, and it did not disappoint. Though we left more than two weeks ago a brief recap of our stay there seems appropriate…

There is plenty to do in Cape Town itself and the crew spent the much of their stay wandering the downtown markets for crafts and goodies for home, eating at trendy restaurants (or at a braii in a township), going to the movies or staying in hotels on Long Street (or off in the bush on safari), hanging out with locals and seafarers alike at our waterfront pub of choice – Mitchell’s, hiking Table Mountain (or taking the cable car) to see the incredible vista and encountering the wily Rock Dassie (or taking a Helicopter ride like Clark did – or parasailing Lions Head like Paula), visiting the numerous museums in Cape Town.

The crew favourites include Robben Island, an amazing museum and one that will remain etched in your memory for years to come. Nelson Mandela was the most famous of its incarcerates, 17 years he spent here banging on rocks and waiting out the aparthied regime, one among many who fought aparthied. This museum, when a prison, was filled with political activists and community leaders who fought against apartheid and injustice. All of the tour guides are ex-prisoners and this makes the tour heart-wrenchingly real and incredibly powerful. Many of the other workers at the museum are ex-guards.

Another crew favourite was the District Six Museum. District Six was by all accounts a thriving artist community and ‘coloured’, ‘white’ and ‘black’ people alike lived there. During apartheid this community was torn down and the majority of its inhabitants were relocated to the townships. Since then little has been rebuilt and the empty lots of the area still reflect a history not soon forgotten. Was ‘urban renewal’ in North America much different? In Halifax the wiping out of Africville comes to mind. Most of the staff who work at the museum used to live in District Six and that gives a powerful touch to the already moving exhibits and forces you to reflect on what it means to have a home. The crew also enjoyed visiting the South African Maritime Museum (but of course!) and the Aquarium, among others.

Many of the crew made it to Clifton Beach and Camps Bay for a Goldfish concert, surfing or simply a relaxing day on the beach in the shadow of the 12 Apostles – a series of mountain peaks that extends from Table Mountain to the Cape of Good Hope. Cape of Good Hope nature preserve was also a crew favourite, but only Clark made it to Cape Aghulas, the true southern-most tip of the African continent. Points to Clark.

Most of the crew made it to the famous wine regions of Stellenbosch and Franschoek for a tour of the vineyards or a relaxing dinner overlooking green, luscious, grape covered farms in the valleys. Some took more extensive trips outside of the Western Cape. Some took the popular Garden Route along the coast. South Africa was voted the best country to road-trip in this year and some might say it was because of this route. Spectacular. Alison and Paul drove out to Bloomfontein in the Free State where they visited with the vanSchalkwyks on their sprawling farm. Their sons Hendrik and Danie have both been crew on the Picton Castle on previous voyages and the family remains good friends of the Captain, the ship and her crew. Others went off to visit Kruger National Park and other distant game parks –catching glimpses of the Big Five (elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino, leopard, hippo, giraffe, maybe zebra, I know, that’s eight!). And still others explored Durban and the Eastern provinces. Yes, the crew certainly did keep busy during our stay in Cape Town. And yet, you could spend your lifetime here in South Africa and not see half of its hidden treasures.

Cape Town was not just a time of exploration. It was also a time of reconnection. Many friends and family came to visit the ship during our stay. Paula and Rebecca both got visits from their mothers, Joh’s parents came to see her from Norway, and Davey’s family flew from Dubai and Durban to visit with him. NickSA and Georgie (both attending the University of Cape Town) spent a lot of time with their old shipmates. Arran, who spent last winter helping with maintenance, repair and up-rig, was also in town to welcome us. The Picton Castle has a long association with Cape Town and Cape Town harbour. Consequently not a day went by that the Captain did not have an old friend dropping by to visit. Julie (who was Bosun on the second world voyage) and her husband Richard threw a braai and invited some of the crew back to their lovely home for a fun evening of dinner and games. The Bestbier family (NickSA’s family) threw an amazing party at their home in Rondebosch for the crew. We dined on sushi appetizers and had a roast beef feast before dancing the night away to a live band –under a canopy tent in the backyard. Our agents also hosted an event onboard the Picton Castle. A catering company dished out a first class meal while our esteemed guests mingled with crew and toured the ship. Gerald, one of our agents, and his wife Serena also invited some of the crew back to their house in the hills above Hout Bay where we spent a lovely evening dining and debating and dancing under the stars. We also held a “marlinspike” onboard one afternoon for the members of the Cape Horner Society. These gentlemen had sailed great cargo carrying sailing ships around Cape Horn in the last days of commercial sail in the four-masted Barques Passat, Pamir, Lawhill – and had fascinating stories to share with the crew. This sailing community of ours is a rich one. Thank you to everyone for your hospitality and generosity and your friendship!

Cape Town marked the end of Leg 3 and the beginning of Leg 4, the final leg of this world voyage. Like all endings and beginnings there are hellos and goodbyes, or farewells rather as we sailors don’t like goodbyes so much and reunions seem inevitable for a crowd such as ours. Tiina, Megan, Vicky, Susie, Michael S and Hege’s time was up and signed off in Cape Town to get back to school, other ships or commitments and their presence onboard is indeed missed! Logan also left us in Cape Town after going through an emergency surgery at the Christian Barnard Memorial Hospital for a rare medical condition. He is recovering well, but for obvious reasons has flown back home to heal. He is missed by all! We did however gain some new crew while in Cape Town. We welcomed aboard Dan, Wendy, Cody, Suzanne, Bas, Christine and our new Medical Officer, Petran. They have all been fitting in very nicely and we are all happy to have them.

We are now sailing toward St. Helena. Stuns’ls are up and we have been flying the royal staysail and mizzen t’gallant staysail. The sun has returned to warm the decks and the crew after a few days of fog, cloud and chill and classes have begun (more on that in a day or two!). We were in Cape Town for almost a month and Namibia for a nice and interesting stop too and everyone truly enjoyed their time. But this voyage is about the ship and the sea and that is where we want to be.

*Thank you to Liam, Adrienne and Pania for their photographs.

Abbey and Dave pinic
Adrienne and Clark at Cape Point
Adrienne at a game reserve
Adrienne spots a giraffe
On their way up to Table Mountain
Pania and Joh at the Aquarium

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