Fri/Sat 21/22 Feb08 Luderitz, Namibia

Thursday night, there was finally lovely moonshine - & no fog!! With a clear, starry sky, I could actually see - so much better than Wed night when I had to stay awake so much, keeping an eye on ships around as 'seen' on AIS. I'd had to call several - none knew I was there otherwise - don't think many are bothering with their radar.... No visual on any of them, even though several passed fairly close by.

I managed to keep our speed down around 5 knots or less, although in strong wind conditions that proved very difficult... no genoa + triple-reefed main, centred in a following breeze!! That ploy just about worked & meant I neared Luderitz Bay in daylight rather than having to make a night entry. If I'd had to, I probably could have done, but I prefer to see what's going on in daylight. The wind was consistently up around 20-25kn, ending on a beam reach as we turned the 'corner' to come towards the entrance channel here. I put out some jib to steer better (with just the main, kept tending to head up, of course) and ended up having a nice gentle sail as the sun rose. Fog had come down again overnight, so it was nice to find myself in clear conditions as I got close... and managed to sail most of the way in, only having to put on the motor as I headed south towards the mooring buoys. I picked up a buoy with no trouble in fairly calm conditions with a touch of ebb tide to help.

Luderitz is an intriguing place - a mix of desert (I can see dunes from the harbour), Africa (really feel I'm in Africa with mainly black faces around) & Germany (many old buildings dating from turn of 20th century with a definite German look), with many German-speaking folk around & street names in German. Then there's the fishing & diamond-mining side - lots of working fish boats (many catch crayfish) around me here as well as boats with long pipes which go out to suck up diamond-bearing gravel from the sea-bed to bring back here for processing.

Immigration took no time at all (none of S. Africa's long form-filling!) & when I asked if I needed to go to Customs the guy asked if I had anything to declare .... "No need, then", he said...! I was rowed to shore & shown the way by another single-hander I knew from Simon's Town... & there were 3 other boats I know here... we're all following the same trail to St Helena & on over, of course. I celebrated arrival by going for a nice coffee & chocolate cake!!

I pumped up my dinghy & got the outboard on after a nap in the afternoon, not having had so much sleep overnight - that's the problem with a morning entry - you're so near to shore & possible boats etc, it's difficult to rest properly.

Heiko from 'Stenella' came by to see me when he spotted me entering the harbour (he & family just completed their 10-yr circumnavigation). I first met them in Cocos Keeling. I'm still debating whether to take time out to go to Windhoek to see friends there - but it's such a long way from here...

I spent part of Friday evening trying to sort out some of my shorting 12V circuit problems ... managed to make matters worse in that one outlet which had been working fine no longer is... grrr!!

Saturday morning went by very quickly with a leisurely breakfast and visits from people. I hadn't finally woken up until after 10 o'clock, despite first waking around sunrise - making up on lost sleep again! I heard voices and found a rowboat headed my way. The owner of my mooring, Bjorn, wanted to check how long I intended staying, since his diamond-dredging boat was due back sometime early next week. He agreed I could stay but I said I'd keep my VHF on so he could contact me if his skipper came back needing the mooring before I left. I can easily slip my line & drop my anchor nearby if needs be.

I made my way up to Heiko & Diane's house high up overlooking the harbour, soaking wet from an unintended swim... I had misjudged my approach to the dinghy dock & over-reached... fortunately no harm done & the sun was shining! The local SWAPO supporters were having a rally nearby with much singing & dancing - ladies in lovely dresses and headgear were happy to have their photos taken. The atmosphere around town is very relaxed & friendly.

Diane insisted I have an immediate shower and change of clothes while she put my laundry into her new machine. Later, I headed out with Heiko & their sons to Agate Beach, with its mini sand dunes downwind from each of the many tiny shrubs, to look for ....agates! The scenery en route was dramatic, being right on the edge of the desert with slightly pink, high sand dunes close by and several springbok grazing near to the dusty road. At the edge of a lake made by the outflow from the local water purification plant were lots of pink flamingos feeding and at one point we saw several Nile geese.

The evening was rounded off with other friends arriving for a braai of crayfish and meat accompanied by salads - Stefan is clearly good at catching crayfish & is hoping to get plenty more in the morning at low water.

By the way, Heiko tells me that the patches of red sea I saw were the fatal 'red tide' which causes crayfish (and presumably other sea-creatures) to die from oxygen starvation - they can be seen crawling onto the beaches and collapsing.

Written by : Mike

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