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The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

Christmas in Cape Town

Laurence Roberts and Mary Anne Unrau

Traversay III
Waterline 43', Cutter-rigged steel hull
January 14th, 2016

We left the Cocos-Keeling Islands of Australia in late August and had one of the best ‘rides’ ever, crossing the Indian Ocean, with averages of 170-180 miles daily.  We’d enjoyed the beautiful and relaxing islands of Rodrigues and Mauritius and carefully avoided any areas reporting High-Pirate Activity. Clearing Customs in East London on November 5th and stopping at a few other African ports around the “belly” of South Africa, Traversay III arrived in Simonstown just before Christmas. This port was the scene of furious contention between the European colonial powers in the 17th and 18th Centuries and became a provisioning and re-fit centre for British ships and troops during British control of India. It is still a major seaport, and hosts all small ‘cruisers’ making their circumnavigations. Located on the south coast, it’s in the Indian Ocean. Around the corner, (passing the Cape of Good Hope) one comes to other marinas such as the Royal Capetown, which is on the South Atlantic.

We arrived at False Bay, Simonstown, just after the opening gun on the very day that The Governor’s Cup Race was getting underway. This takes place bi-annually and a large number of elegant yachts were vying for position to make the 1750nm trip to St Helena, in the South Atlantic. We coasted around False Bay, attempting to stay out of the way, and anticipating our delayed entry into port and the serenity which would follow. Many race friends and on-lookers were still there as we came up to the dock. Alas, I provided an un-seamanlike spectacle while trying to attach our boat to the dock. I’d forgotten that I’d already unfastened the gate. Without lifelines in place, my body followed my throwing arm and the line into the unwelcoming cold waters! This is not the only embarrassing moment I’ve experienced in our years aboard, but it was one of the most public.

Drying myself off, we settled into our position at the dock. After negotiating through the Agulhas Current and some stormy nights offshore, we really enjoyed the quiet and the spectacular sea and mountain view from our cockpit.

Spectacular Spectacular sea and mountain view from Traversay III's cockpit

Spectacular sea and mountain view from Traversay III‘s cockpit

It was time to get ready for Christmas.  In the Southern Hemisphere, (where we spent seven years) only a super-bright red bow shows up in the extended summer hours. But we decorate the inside with assorted Christmas decorations, gleaned from the many places we’ve visited.  We have a piano, so many of the festivities with other cruisers who – like us – are far from home and family, take place aboard Traversay III. The Christmas sing-along aboard Traversay had been an annual event since 2004. So it was in South Africa. Our pot-luck/sing-along was over-subscribed with 18 souls packed in. Many boats arrived after we’d extended the limit of our hospitality and original invitations, so an additional sing-along had to be held later on in the Marina building.

Carol singing aboard.

Carol singing aboard.

A potluck aboard Traversay in summer weather was easy to organize … single-handers (there are always a few) were asked to bring a dozen buttered rolls; 2-person boats had to bring non-messy squares or cookies for dessert and boats with 3 or more people had to bring a dressed salad. Larry and I supplied the main course of a large paella and paper plates. People brought their own cutlery, glasses and drinks. The event turned out really well, with singing and celebrating far into the night.

Christmas Day was different, with only a few people joining us on Traversay III. Our good friends aboard the Norwegian boat Opportune arrived with the skipper (Rune) and his two crew members – Eva and Cecilie. Eva’s boyfriend at the time arrived with his South African parents. They brought salads and desserts. Our contribution was a ‘turducken’ large enough to feed the eight of us, with some leftovers.

Christmas day on Traversay III

Christmas day on Traversay III

‘Turducken’ is a boon to meat-lovers. A boneless turkey is stuffed with a boneless duck. This in turn is stuffed with a boneless chicken, which is wrapped around a savoury dressing.  A nearby restaurant – we ordered ahead of time and they did all the work – added a lovely, port-laced cranberry dressing as a compliment to the Season.

We drew names prior to Christmas, and each of us had to buy a present (maximum $5CDN). and we opened them prior to the meal. We followed up with some carols … unfortunately, Rune recorded our somewhat –out –of-tune renderings and his YouTube version of our Xmas is now permanently on the internet!

We had long needed some refurbishment of our upholstery, and I’d decided to have this done in South Africa, as the prices are very reasonable. Unfortunately, the ARC Round-the-World cruisers had also arrived, and my order was persistently placed on the ‘back burner’.  I decided to do the work myself. I have a trusty Bernina machine, which can do anything (including most sail repairs). We were able to get spectacular African fabrics at very little cost … I made all the covers and some accent pillows for about $180! My machine sews forwards, backwards and sideways and it took me only 3 days of hard work to finish the job. We’d become friendly with the owners of a very nice shop selling African handicrafts. We’d decided not to buy any from the street – getting back with one such purchase, we found a rather large bug (dead!) enmeshed in the wicker. We bought a number of lovely pieces from the shop to fit with the newly decorated saloon.

Our neighbours at the dock in Darwin, Australia were South African and we’d consistently met up with them in our travels across the Indian Ocean. After Christmas, we were invited to use the little 2-bedroom hideaway home of Jen and Rick, in the middle of Capetown. Their boat, uMoya, was completing a circumnavigation with Jen’s brother, James, as crew. When we arrived in Simonstown, they were off being feted at the Royal Capetown Club and also spending family time in the country. By lending us their jewel of a home, and by only going out during the day, we were able to see the sights of this spectacular city without worrying about the dangers which beset it. We walked everywhere – greeting folks of everywhere with no concern about race and Capetown’s history of violence. We visited the many spectacular sights, including the Aquarium, the old fortress and the top of Table Mountain.

Table Mountain fort.

Table Mountain fort.

We also learned more about the fractured past under apartheid rule and saw the fortress in which Nelson Mandela suffered for so many years. Our friend, Peter, had rounded the corner and his boat Tamasha was tied up in the Capetown city marina. With his crew, we visited the local jazz scene and ate some spectacular cuisine at very modest prices.



Jen and James’ father, Tim Sales, runs a safari business … and he aims to give each customer both a wonderful experience and a bargain. Every one of our crowd of cruising boats had an individually prepared package; we simply named the price we were able to pay, and he sculpted an itinerary to suit us. Our young friends on Opportune had less money and so they had less luxury, but from their enthusiastic accounts of what they’d seen, we found that they had seen as much as we had. Surely Africa is one of the most beautiful countries we have visited – we sailed away with regret.


  1. Margy Krause says:

    Enjoyed reading your accounts of S.A. Look forward to reading your earlier posts.


  2. Hiromi says:

    Hi there, love the photo of the two of you. Hope you are well. See you next Oct in Victoria. Hiromi and Brian

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