Saga Pearl II blog - Captains' blogs
10th March, 2019
It was a sunny Sunday morning which saw us nearing the South African coast, and the wonderful city of Cape Town, from the north. We had been beaten back an hour or so by persistent strong south-easterly winds over the past few days, and I was keen to make entrance to the harbour soonest in order to allow our organised trips to head off on time. However, the weather Gods & harbour authorities were not on side this morning, as the latter informed us when we were about 15 miles distant, that the port was closed due to very high winds.
In fact, other ships including another cruise vessel had been waiting outside the harbour since the evening prior, in order to gain entry. Upon hearing the latest wind indications inside the harbour being around 35-40kts, I requested permission to berth my vessel, which seemed to take them by surprise. Their risk assessment seemed to stipulate that the port would not permit large vessel movement if the wind speed exceeded 25kts. I explained that if this were the case in northern Europe - where we were used to cruising - then ports would not make very much from trading at all.
After much persuasion and having contacted the senior pilot & harbour master, an exemption was finally granted for us to enter the harbour at lunch time - ironically just as winds increased further, in line with the latest weather forecast. We crabbed our way into the harbour entrance making significant leeway, before clearing the outer breakwater and bringing the ship head to wind, after which we slipped astern towards our berth. Needless to say, the other cruise ship still stuck outside was suitably miffed and shortly afterwards called in to request the same...
Despite the gale force winds, it was warm and pleasant with sunny spells and after some immigration formalities the ship was quickly empty as everyone hurried ashore to see the sights. The forecast indicated a slight chance of a shower or two later in the evening, which I took the brief liberty of warning folks about in my announcement, and just as the final few souls stepped off the ship an extended bout of torrential rain commenced. Being British though, nobody seemed to care much and it was rather cool & refreshing - quite the opposite of what we had been experiencing for the past 10 days or so...
Cape Town (or the Mother City, as it is sometimes referred to) offers far too much for me to mention in this text, and Saga offered no fewer than 9 organised excursions for all to choose from. These ranged from all-day game reserve visits, to penguin beach trips, Stellenbosch wine-tasting and cheetah conservation parks. Our berth was conveniently close to the V&A waterfront packed with bars, restaurants & shops, which made for a very pleasant wander ashore too. With the city influenced chiefly by Dutch, British & Malay cultures throughout its history, it makes for a great mix to experience.
Saga had organised a special concert on our first evening in port, featuring a local gospel choir performing in Maynardville open-air Theatre. I popped along to listen, and enjoyed a pre-concert canape and glass of bubbly in the slightly damp atmosphere, before the excitable whooping and singing commenced. No matter how wet the weather, there was no dampening the spirits of the Vumani Choral Project choir.
I ventured out on both evenings in port to enjoy the wonderful food on offer here; principally fresh seafood & superb meat. My 20 minute taxi ride to the restaurant was also worth mentioning, for when we arrived at our destination and I asked how much I owed, the driver told me a few hundred rand. I had forgotten to exchange any cash beforehand and so asked if he would accept Euros and was pleased to hear him agree to this. However, when asking how many Euros I owed instead, he turned and with a confused face admitted that he wasn't at all sure. After a brief and slightly awkward spell of both looking at one another wondering what to do next, I rummaged around in my pocket and offered a sum of 8 Euros, which he seemed pleased with. Both happy, I headed into the restaurant, stomach rumbling.
My first meal was enjoyed in the Nelson's Eye, a little pub-like restaurant recommended to me by a friend with relatives living in the city. It was here that I enjoyed a delicious starter of Kudu carpaccio, followed by a juicy ostrich steak. The following night I spent roaming around the V&A waterfront until I found a menu which ticked my fancy; upon it was written fresh tuna, as well as seafood curry. I spent the next few hours in food heaven before suddenly remembering that our departure time was 23:00 and my timely return on board was somewhat crucial to the success of the continuation of the cruise.
We crept out of the harbour in the late night mist, pointing the ship's head towards the Cape of Good Hope and thence eastward on to our next South African stop of Port Elizabeth. As we left Cape Town in our wake, I still hadn't exchanged any money...
Captain Kim Tanner
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