St Helena to Brazil, Day 4

We are now 1/3 of the way to our destination in Brazil – Jacare near Cabedelo, and a pattern to the weather is finally emerging. Happily we have more wind than during the passage to St Helena, but the wind direction and speed is very variable. During the day it backs to about 110-120T, and then veers during darkness to 140-150T. As we are using the auto pilot in wind angle mode, that means that as the wind changes direction, so does Pipistrelle, so we do not have to worry too much about gybing, where the wind direction alters across her stern. The biggest problem is when the wind speed drops to <10 kn, and the boat rolling causes the mainsail to slat badly, we then put in a reef, harden up and start motoring in the worst case, until the wind fills in again. Ugh, horrible!

So currently, 10.00 UTC we are about 50nm north of our rhumb line, now steering 317T. Think we will stay on this until late afternoon, and then gybe, which involves poling out the genny on the other side, but no big deal. We will probably stay on that tack for the next 48 hours. Reckon if we are lucky it will be another 8 days to Brazil. We have 1200nm + to run.

Pipistrelle is rolling, but not too badly. The biggest problem is the combination of a big swell, and a drop in the wind, which creates huge slatting of the main. So at night we come up into the wind by 20-25 degrees, and harden the main, which doesn’t help the course, but means we can sleep between watches. This where a square rig would help enormously, providing Harry Potter were on board and could magically transform Pipistrelle back to a sloop rig in the Caribbean!

We are now sailing at between 6-7.5kn, and fishing at these speeds is ok, big tuna and mahi mahi look for a squid they can chase after! The problem is slowing down quickly enough to avoid breaking the line or tackle, with a poled out genny and preventer on the main. So currently having lost two lures and accompanying tackle, we have dumped the rod in favour of our original hoops which Tim Goodwin will remember well!

Frequent showers, some of them heavy, come through during the night and early morning. As we are running before the wind, this means putting our acrylic hatches in place, and closing up all other hatches, so it is stuffy for a while down below.

Otherwise all’s well on board. Will provide another update in a few days.

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Ocean TV – Part 3 – Arrival St Helena

We arrived at St Helena at 12.19 today, a distance of 1709nm from Saldanha Bay, completed in 12 days, 3 hours and 51 seconds, an average speed of 5.9 knots. Very courteous and polite Port 0fficial. Customs and Immigration a breeze at quaint Jamestown.

St Helena is certainly an impressive sight approaching from sea, with its towering cliffs, hundreds of tropic birds wheeling overhead, turtles swimming and pleasant climate.

From our mooring, a launch took us ashore to the landing stage where we disembarked for completion of formalities and had a quick look around town. Exploring the island beckons, so does an excursion to swim with whale sharks. We’ll be here for about a week we think.

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Ocean TV – Part 2

Today’s episode has been shot primarily in monochrome reflecting the sea that turned the colour of slate. Grey clouds covered the sun, much reducing the effectiveness of our solar panels.

Yesterday’s scene was totally different. Not one cloud in the sky all day, white caps on the azure blue ocean and a good sailing breeze, giving way to a starlit night. And a reason to have a modest celebration having reached the halfway mark as we continue to head NW for St Helena. The pundits’ best bet is another 4 days on passage.

If the bird and marine life is sparse out here to the naked eye, life on board Pipistrelle has settled into a routine of watches, trimming sails, maintenance, food preparation and consumption thereof in large quantities, that catch of the day so far eluding us.

But switch to colour TV again for the final scene. Under a cloudless sky, there’s a tug on the line, the prize for patience a small mahi-mahi. Tonight’s supper is assured. Victualling in the outpost of St Helena has been occupying our minds, but our confidence rose as the monthly supply ship ‘St Helena’ passed us this afternoon on its way from South Africa.

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On Passage South Africa to St. Helena

Ocean TV

That’s how Hannes has aptly described the passage so far. Hannes joined Bob as crew from Port Elizabeth to Simon’s Town in December, and has been a welcome addition for this leg and on to Brazil.

From The Cape of Good Hope to Saldanha Bay where we spent a very useful 48 hours making final preparations before setting off six days ago, we’ve had it all!

Flocks of gannets, cormorants on high and perhaps an albatross, seals frolicking, dozens of whales blowing and playing in the waters nearby – just nature at ease with itself as we slid past on Pipistrelle. This ever changing programme of nature and weather saw days 2 and 3 marked by boisterous following seas – literally ‘near gale at times’ with 30, gusting 35kn winds and 4-5m swells. With 2 reefs in the main, reefed staysail we battened down, wrapped up to keep warm and held tight. Character building!

Yesterday we were enjoying gentle cruising, no swell, blue skies. The red orb of sun sank below the horizon to the west as the moon rose moments later to the east. Today’s highlight was taking a dip off the back of the boat in 4000m this morning while there was still no wind. Some experience!

And here we are now, sailing at 25.21S and 07.31E.

Distance so far: 745 nm

Distance to run: 935 nm

More in this series of Ocean TV to follow. Photos to be added later.

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On Safari in Namibia

With Pipistrelle safely moored in the False Bay YC marina at Simon’s Town, the opportunity presented itself to fly from Cape Town to Namibia and collect a 4×4 at Windhoek airport.  Elaine made all the arrangements through Namibia Tours and Safaris while still in the UK, and Bob booked us into the Cape Grace Hotel for 2 nights to celebrate Elaine’s birthday before we set off.

We had stayed at the Cape Grace in March 2007, and in 2008 it had had an interior revamp, and the service and comfort was just as good if not better!  Located on the V&A waterfront, this part of Cape Town is safe, so after the welcome, bubbly on ice and petits fours waiting for us in our room, a swim in their lovely pool, we walked to the Beltezhar for dinner on the first night. Our menu choice – South African game washed down with a great pinotage.  Panama Jack’s in the docks area on the second night was a taxi ride away, and we would never have found it had it not come highly recommended by our good friends Jackie and Adrian.  Another delicious repast – fish this time.  Thank you Cape Grace for a marvellous stay in 5* surroundings.  When we feel rich again, we hope to return!

It is a 2 hour flight to Windhoek where we were met and taken to our overnight accommodation in town, admittedly not the luxury of the Cape Grace!!  After a meeting with our travel rep we set off northwards for the five hour drive to the Etosha National Park and the Okaukuejo Resort, where we stayed for 3 nights.  The park was created in 1907, and was originally 80,000 sq. km.  It has now been reduced in size to 22,912 sq. km, too big an area to cover in 5 days!

The difference in this safari was that it was self-drive, so we could decide when and where to go and explore, how long to gaze at rhinos, giraffes or elephants, when to stop dead in the road to photograph that bird, tortoise, ostrich, or kudu. We were not sure to start with, but by the end we had seen more spectacular wildlife, species of bird and flora than ever before.

At Okaukuejo we had room W9, overlooking the waterhole, which would attract various animals at different times.  Witnessing the unexpected spectacle of two rhinos jousting has to have been the highlight.  It was just as though the scene had been orchestrated for a TV documentary..

After dark sodium floodlights bathe the waterhole in orange light and as if by magic a rhino was there right in front of us, drinking leisurely.  Then a second rhino appeared walking down towards the other.  Now watch what happened next!!  (Video to follow)

The jousting match continued for about an hour, at which point they disappeared into the darkness and the curtain came down on that particular performance.

The following are pictures taken whilst staying at Okaukuejo – focus on animals.

We then headed west to the Dolomite Camp, and little did we know what spectacular views were in store for us from this tented ‘resort’ constructed on both sides of a rocky hill in 2011 complete with two small restaurants, bar and infinity pool overlooking the plain.  Like Okaukuejo it is run by the NWR (Namibian Wildlife Resorts) and extremely carefully thought out, but is let down by poor maintenance, when so many staff try hard to make the stay enjoyable.

We spent a full day visiting the accessible water holes, and the following is a selection of wildlife we enjoyed watching – focus on birdlife.

We then had a long drive to Damaraland, and the remote Twyfelfontein Country Lodge, constructed by a Namibian business man we understand, who has his own aircraft and we guess enjoys good food!  So after choosing the location set against a rocky backdrop with its own petroglyphs, the airstrip was high on his list of priorities, followed by an excellent bar, restaurant and small pool.  But we guess he has never stayed overnight, so probably hasn’t understood what is essential for his guests’ comfort in what is a very hot environment.  To be fair all the accommodation is currently being upgraded to provide better air circulation, fans and mosquito nets.  When complete, it will certainly be a destination of choice.  Interestingly, neither air-conditioning nor fridges can be provided due to the power supply and size of generator required should the supply fail – as it does frequently.

The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its rock engravings – petroglyphs – dating back to between 2 and 6,000 years ago.  The following are pictures of the area.

We also briefly visited the Organ Pipes, which are slightly disappointing when compared to the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.  The Burnt Mountain is yet another phenomenon in this country of such geological diversity.

From Twyfelfontein we took the road south to overnight at very teutonic Swakopmund on the Skeleton Coast where we noticed this trawler had run aground we guess in fog, for which this coast is notorious along with its strong currents.

Our final sightseeing stop was at the Sossus Dune Lodge, located within the Sossusvlei Park in the Namib Desert, an area renowned for its incredible red sand dunes.  We took a tour – a far safer option than risking getting stuck in the sand even with a 4×4.  Not famous for being early risers unless for something special, an alarm at 0400 was followed by coffee at 0420, before being driven by our excellent guide Sammy, to the sand dunes where we arrived shortly before 0600, to then climb with difficulty a ridge towards Big Papa to see the sunrise.

These dunes, the highest in the world are remarkable for their formation and shapes, carved by the wind.  After climbing about halfway to the peak it was then a steep and rapid descent (slide) to marvel at the limestone base created by flooding, and the shapes of other dunes in the vicinity.  Breakfast with our group, laid out in the shade and prepared by Sammy, before returning to the lodge by 1030.

Apart from the intense dry heat during the day, almost like being in an oven, and far hotter than anything we have endured before, the staff at the lodge do an excellent job, the best of our stays to date.  Fortunately the pool area was comfortable and shady – a great place to retreat, cool off and linger.

A road less travelled …

In two weeks we covered a total of 2,700 km, mostly on unmade gravel roads of varying quality taking us across vast plains, through mountain passes, across river beds, admiring the diverse and ever changing landscape.  Besides the wildlife, whirlwinds, spectacular displays of fork lightning (just glad we were nowhere near on Pipistrelle!), buying from Himba women, driving through settlements in the remotest of locations have all been part of our unforgettable Namibian experience.

As to driving, though 2×4 rental is available, we were so glad we hired a decent 4×4 with aircon.  The ride was reasonably comfortable but often bumpy over uneven and rutted surfaces – still challenging for the main driver (Bob).  The vehicle from Desert Car Hire came with a Garmin satnav but we found it unreliable, so to navigate we used backed up by the paper map of Namibia.

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Happy New Year!

Coming Next …



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Warmest Season’s Greetings

From South Africa we wish all our family, friends and blog readers a very

 Happy Christmas

We wish you a healthy, happy, prosperous and above all, a safe year ahead.

To our fellow cruisers: fair winds and safe sailing in 2016 on the oceans of the world.


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Little Penguins

And they really are busy, tiny, cute creatures.  Boulder’s Beach, part of the Table Mountain National Park is home to a colony of South African penguins.  Safe from predators and sheltered from the fierce winds that as sailors we know sweep along the coast, the penguins are the only variety to breed here.  It’s a stone’s throw from Simon’s Town and about a ten minute walk from the marina at FBYC

The photos tell the sweet tale of nesting, moulting, swimming and togetherness.

They nest just wherever they feel comfortable.

And December is the moulting season

A thoroughly enjoyable time with the locals!

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The Wild Coast Passage

Changing Oceans – Durban to Simon’s Town

Towards the end of November, Bob returned to Pipistrelle in Durban while Elaine stayed on for another three weeks in England.  By the time Bob arrived, Ullman Sails in Durban had made our new staysail.  The original North Sail had lasted for 9 years, but bearing in mind it was superior quality and how little it is actually used, it does not say a lot about North.  Further repairs and replacements were needed to the electronics, together with some rigging work; the hydraulic backstay and vang had also been serviced.  We had also had to replace the old 3.5HP Mercury outboard, this time with a 5HP Tohatsu.  As always it is a continual process of checking the entire boat to ensure that kit is replaced or repaired before it breaks!

Durban is a big city, and Bob valued the friendship of Andre and Sherryn of The Napier House on the hills overlooking the harbour.  They are members of the Point Yacht Club, and looked after Pipistrelle whilst Bob was away, and also provided fantastic and fun hospitality in their home.  If anyone is looking for an upmarket B&B in Durban, do contact them at Napier House  It is also for sale, to enable them to up sticks and enjoy some sailing!

The waterfront beach was also a lively place, though now very much run down.  Sand sculptures were cleverly made, and Dani who Bob sailed with on a race night was having fun with friends.

South Africa is a beautiful country with so much to offer but seems intent to head for disaster under the leadership of President Zuma.  Apart from the security situation, where it is essential to keep your wits about you during the day, and at night walking anywhere in the city of Durban is out of the question, crime and corruption are major problems.  Nationally crazy decisions were made in the last few weeks and months at the highest level, taking South African Airways to the brink of bankruptcy.  The recent dismissal of the Finance Minister sent the Rand crashing to the lowest level since 2000.  Four days later his successor was replaced!

Our good friend and sailor, Tim Goodwin kindly flew to Johannesburg and then on to Durban for the sail south, and a local girl Karen also joined in Durban.  Pipistrelle had a brilliant send off by Andre and Sherryn, and then a very interesting sail south which involved searching out the Agulhas current.  Once found, they were doing 11kn over the ground, and on the second day achieved a run of 220nm in 24 hours – a record for us.  Being uncertain of exactly when the next front would arrive, the crew put in to Port Elizabeth, unaware that a manganese ore carrier was loading its cargo.  Overnight, once the wind went to the east, a layer of black dust covered the whole marina and of course Pipistrelle.

Karen took the hose to the top of the mast to clean it and all the rigging.  It took 6 hours to wash down and make everything as clean as possible.  The marina officials are helpless to make changes, and with the government owning the loading facility, corruption and a ‘don’t care’ attitude take over, even though all the houses to the west of the marina are affected as well.  The promise of change in 2019 is understandably not taken seriously by the locals.   We have filed a report on Noonsite and on the Ocean Cruising Club website (see below).

Some of the yacht club members there were so kind and helpful.  Chris Cocks is involved with the management of the Algoa Bay YC, and couldn’t have been more helpful or pleasant as far as dealing with the dust problem was concerned.   Special thanks to Tony and Sigi Bailes who extended an invitation to a braai (BBQ) at their lovely home on the outskirts of PE, provided loads of information, and finally Tony flew an acrobatic aircraft he had just finished constructing, over us on a low level test flight just after Pipistrelle left harbour!   How special and unique is that?  (Unfortunately, it was such a surprise the moment wasn’t captured on camera).  We very much hope we will meet again at some point.

Tim ran out of time before the next weather window to sail west, but before he left, he and Bob spent half a day at the Schotia Safaris Private Game Reserve.  Aimed at a niche of those wanting to spend just a day seeing South African wildlife, but offering some accommodation too, it was an interesting visit.  A very good ranger looked after them well and the day finished with a delicious complimentary dinner with wine at a lodge in the reserve.

Then it was all change for crew, with Tim and Karen leaving, and Johannes from Hamburg joining.  He travelled from Cape Town where he was studying for his RYA Coastal Skipper ticket, and arrived just in time for the next brief weather window towards Simon’s Town.  They left PE as the wind moved from SW to south, and decreased from 50kn to a more acceptable 20kn!  It then eased as they headed west until they were motoring, and as it backed further to the east they were able to sail under genoa alone.  This got them as far as Mossel Bay, some 200nm, and within an hour or so after arrival the wind veered to the west and was blowing 30kn + by the afternoon.

They set off the next morning in company with Mike and Nicky on Zen Again, and Thomas and Annette on Anke Sophie.  Whilst Pipistrelle had some sailing, in the main she was motoring to try to round Cape Agulhas, and arrive at Simon’s Town in time to take part in the Ocean Cruising Club wine tasting event – she did!  This took us to the Constantia Glen vineyard and to lunch at the Jonkershuis at historic Groot Constantia, ably organised by Robert Ravensberg, Port Officer for Cape Town, and attended by John Franklin and Jenny Crickmore-Thompson, the Commodore and his wife.

A couple of days earlier, Elaine had arrived in Simon’s Town from the UK, and had checked in to A Boat House, and with its Nantucket style interior this B&B is truly remarkable.  Beautifully appointed rooms, communal areas full of boat memorabilia and family photos, magnificent views across the bay and an extremely friendly welcome was exactly right while Elaine waited for her ship to come in! See their website at  She had the pleasant surprise of waking on the morning of the wine tasting to find Pipistrelle anchored in full view of A Boat House, some 250ft below her, having arrived at 02.30.

For those interested, the Ocean Cruising Club is truly international and has a huge amount to offer the cruising yachtsman.  We have been members since 2011, and information can be found at   See also the link in the side panel and our ‘About Us’ page.

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An Evening with Jimmy Cornell

Sandwiched between his arriving in the UK from the Canaries and flying on to Singapore, this was a brief encounter with sailing legend and author, Jimmy Cornell, who was guest speaker at one of the Gerrard’s Cross Sailing Association’s (GXSA) winter talk series in November.

Since beginning to sail with his family 40 years ago, Jimmy has covered 200,000nm AND completed 3 circumnavigations, putting our nearly 40,000nm sailed and nearly completed single circumnavigation in the shade!  But we’re still proud of our near achievement.

Founder of the World Cruising Club and Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) back in the 80’s, and in which we took part in 2009 on Pipistrelle (follow link), Jimmy has recently created the ‘Odyssey’ series of rallies.  From the round-the-world Blue Planet Odyssey to the Atlantic and the Canary Island Odysseys, he is very actively involved in them all with their focus on climate change.

After talking about passage planning for an Atlantic Crossing, came the most exciting part of the presentation – taking his new purpose built yacht Aventura IV through the Great West Passage in the High Arctic.  Not without its problems including getting a rope caught around the propeller and freeing it in freezing high latitude water, together with riding out an Arctic storm at anchor, the crew of Aventura were finally successful in achieving their goal.  Setting off from London on a passage taking them to Nuuk in Greenland before Baffin Island, and trying the East to West route, they faced the insurmountable problem of getting stuck in ice and could go no further.  So they turned round to make an attempt from West to East!  This involved heading south towards the Caribbean, transiting the Panama Canal and sailing to Costa Rica.  But time was running out if they were to make it in the Arctic summer, so Aventura was put on a ship to Victoria in Canada.  Jimmy and his crew re-joined for the passage through the Aleutian Islands, the Bering Strait and onwards.  Though challenging and hazardous at times, the attempt was successful and some 10,000nm later Aventura returned to London in September 2015.

For more about this intrepid sailor and the Arctic voyage with wonderful photography capturing icebergs, glaciers and polar bears, see

Note: Our well-thumbed 6th edition of the Jimmy Cornell ‘World Cruising Routes’ (now in its 7th revised edition) has been an invaluable constant companion on board Pipistrelle since we set off from the UK seven years ago.  The thumbing doesn’t, however, extend to pages devoted to extreme northerly or southerly latitudes!

Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Routes

 Las Palmas 2009

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