Monday, October 3, 2016

Chapter 3 - H: Wednesday 7th March - Logged 135 Miles

The skipper called me at 01.30h to replace him after 12 hours at the wheel, as the wind had moderated slightly.  "Penelope" still logging 5 knots and labouring heavily through rough seas, shipping considerable spray.  The sun rose at 05.00h and I looked in vain for land to leeward.  Juan took over at 06.00h and soon afterwards the wind moderated further and we hoisted more canvas.

The sky cleared somewhat and the sea slowly turned a dark green colour, sure sign we are entering shallow water.  Flocks of South African gannets soon appeared and we say diving birds, shag and a seal.

The morning sight put us 25 miles NW of Saldanha Bay.  At 10.30h it was "Land HO"! as we say at last the long low coastline of Africa stretched out in the uncertain visibility ahead.

Decided to run the engine again and to put into this excellent anchorage to re-fuel and re-water, rather than run the risk of being blown out again into the deadly currents and land up at Port Nolloth, not recommended anchorage, or in the last analysis,  Luderitz Bay!  We soon identified North Head Lighthouse and Schooner Rock and at 13.30h - shortly after logging 4,000 miles from Rio, passed between the heads of the Guano Islands and entered Saldanha Bay.

This bay, about 60 miles north of Cape Town, discovered originally by the Portuguese Admiral Saldanha da Gama is the "natural" for the cape and Cape Town would undoubtedly have been built there had there been at that time, fresh water in the vicinity.

During World War II the Bay was used as a convoy assembly station and on one occasion no less than 104 ships were anchored in the harbour including the "Queen Mary".

We Lowered sail and approached the jetty in Houtjes Bay where some types were fishing, whom we hailed on the megaphone.   The fact that our last port was Rio seemed to shake them a trifle.

We were soon tied up alongside and then fell, almost miraculously into the kindest possible hands of the South African Navy, who maintain a training school at Saldanha.

We were invited immediately to the Commander's house and, lolling back in deep armchairs absorbed quantities of iced beer from pewter tankards.  We find it difficult to walk straight on "terra firme" after 39 days at sea.

Afterwards, we pulled off to a mooring buoy and were allocated accommodation in the officers quarters ashore, whence we repaired immediately.  The joy of a big hot bath, in these circumstances, defies description.

The welcome given us by the South African Navy was stupendous and, whether or not this can be taken as an example of S.African hospitality, to us it was manna from heaven.  The officers are one and all charming and most helpful and they seemed to think we had done something rather exceptional in sailing "Penelope" over from Rio.

Some S.African Sherry, an excellent dinner, and a night-cap completed the evening.  How good it is to sleep in a real bed, which doesn't try to pitch you out every half minute!!

Slept like a log.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Chapter 3 - G: Tuesday 6th March - Logged 96 Miles

With true South Atlantic fickleness yesterday's blow died down during the night, the sky cleared and Penelope's labouring eased somewhat.

On my night watch the wind played funny tricks.  Twice I found the sails aback and was obliged to turn a complete circle to windward before they eventually filled again.  Some freak cyclonic disturbance no doubt, due to the proximity of the land.

The sea turned much warmer and considerable phosphorescence was observed.  Our wake appeared as thick white line astern and they(sic) wavy trails of the dolphins sparkled around us in the dark sea.

Apart from Slang Kop Point Lighthouse, which shows 4 flashes (white) every 30 secs, and can be seen from a distance of 17 miles, there are three other lights which may become visible should we be lucky enough to make our landfall during the night, viz:

In the event of bad weather coming up on our approaching Cape Town we can run for shelter under the lee of Robben Island, as recommended by the Lords of the Admiralty.

The situation, therefore, is, this morning:-

The noon fix, however, gave us a jerk, as we found ourselves exactly 55 files due North of our D.R. position, in Lat. 34°S, 125 miles due West of Cape Town.  The Agulhas and Benguela currents have now entered into our calculations with a bang.  The skipper decided to wear ship immediately but now it is too late for us to hit Cape Town without tacking, even though we are working the auxiliary "all out" in an effort to do so.  To add fuel to the fire the wind increased during the afternoon to force 6/7 and backed two points, which allows us, at best to steer a NNEly course.  We were soon obliged to stop the engine and shorten sail considerably and the skipper 'drove" Penelope, like I have never seen him do before.  He remained in the cockpit from 14.30h onwards without a break.  "Penelope" running with lee gunwales awash, close hauled to starboard, making heavy weather but 6 knots under great reduced canvas.

A tempestuous night.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chapter 3 - F: Monday 5th March -- Logged 116 miles

running the Easting down.

Noon entry in the Official Log - "Fresh following wind, force 7, heavy following sea and swell, overcast and squally.  Vessel labouring and taking water forward, aft and amidships".

At noon the skipper decided to wear, so he took the helm whilst I manned the main sheet and Juan cast off the guy ropes and prepared the back stays.  At a propitious moment, when all was ready, the skipper sang out "jibe-ho" and put the helm up.

Round she came, slowly, whilst I hauled away on the main sheet and Juan ran aft with the windward back stay.  Graceful as an albatross landing on the sea "Penelope's" boom swung over and she bore away on the port tack.  Within a minute we were on our direct course to Slang Kop Lighthouse, distant 175 miles.

Our rig today:

Menu: - Lunch - Lentil stew with bacon and onions
           - Dinner - Lentil stew with bacon and onions

The skipper developed a bad headache in the afternoon and, taking advantage of the sun peeping out around 15.25h I took a sight and fixed our position at: - 
Lat. 35º 16'S
Long. 15º 13'E

Oliver sick, but on duty as usual.

No trollin'
No foolin'
Fresh water tank empty.  ON emergency supply.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Chapter 3 - E: Sunday 4th March - Logged 115 miles

Although the days are very pleasant in these latitudes, with an "English sun" which warms one side of you but leaves the other side cold, the nights alternate between:-
Northerly winds - cold
Southerly winds - very cold
at least from the helmsman's point of view.

Sitting in the open cockpit for three hours during the night is quite an experience.  For the first hour or so the body maintains its initial warmth - provided one is warm to start with and well wrapped up.

Sitting in the open cockpit for three hours during the night is quite an experience.  For the first hour or so the body maintains its initial warmth -- provided one is warm to start with and well wrapped up.  The second hour is a cooler process and eventually a kind of premature "rigor mortis" sets in during the third hour, after which much frictioning with a towel and a tot of whisky or rum is more than welcome, on turning in.

The skipper has a wonderful kapok-lined jacket, bought at Gieves, London which he kindly lends to Juan and me at nights.  It is very cosy although we look like men from Mars, when wearing it.

Regarding "Penelope's" own clothes, her wardrobe is the following:

"PENELOPE'S" Alternative Sail Plans

1.  Ordinary working rig: jib, staysail, mainsail and mizzen.
2.  Light weather rig: Genoa jipb substituting working jib and mizzen staysail added.
3.  Reduced canvas: staysail and main only.  Cutter rig.
4.  Alternative method of reducing canvas: jib and mainsail only.  Cutter rig.
5.  Still another alternative: jib and mizzen only.
6.  Squaresail, for steady (and not so steady) following winds.  Wind must be dead aft.
7.  Storm sails: bikini jib, main trisails and reduced mizzen (with two sets of reef points)
8.  "The twins" (orelhas de burro) for following winds.  These are set on booms in the bows, and clipped to forestay.  The sheets are led aft, through quarter blocks and lashed to the tiller (substituting the wheel).  Self steering.

Rigs 1,2,3,4, and 5 have been used on the Rio/Cape Town run so far.
Main and mizzen only can also be used, winged out, with following. winds.
Altogether there are 20 sails on board "Penelope", including a brand new set of working sails which have not yet even been stretched.  The set we are using is fairly old and it has been the skipper's hope that they will last until Cape Town, even though running repairs are carried out almost daily by Juan.  These sails have not been changed during the shole voyage, so far from:-

Paris - sailed 16th June 1955
Le Havre
Falmough (10 days for stores)
Brest (1 month for engine repairs)
Ponta Delgada (6 weeks in the Azores Islands for filming whalefishing)
St. Vincent (Cape Verde Islands)
Brava Islands ( "      "         "      )
St. Pauls Rocks
Fernando Noronha Island (3 days)
Recife (10 days)
Salvador (4 days)
Abrolhos Rocks (For Christmas dinner)
Rio de Janeiro (1 month)

Since a week out from Rio we have been flying the Rio Yacht Club flag at the main mast head, which has been a handsome and useful wind indicator.

The situation between Juan and the skipper has improved somewhat I am glad to say.

Juan has been teaching me some additions to my limited Spanish vocabulary:

Boom               - bota vara
Halliard            - Driza
Gaff                  - Pico
Shrouds            - Obenque
Topping lift      - Biento
Cleat                - Corna-muça
Jib                    - Foque
Mainsail           - Vela major
Patent log         - carreteira
Cockpit            - Chupeta
Mizzen             - Mezena

His favourite expressive oaths are "Criminales de Guerra" and "caga mi suegra".
It took us some time to understand his frequent reference to "HIN-HAIR-NOOTS" -  our predilection on the night watches (ginger nuts).  He had read the green label on the package!!

At 14.30h today we caught our third tunny, about 50 lbs.  We were hoping for something smaller, to vary our fish diet with another kind of fish.

During the afternoon the wind freshened at the sea got up so at night-fall we shortened canvas.  Two reefs were taken on the main at 22.00h.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chapter 3 - d: Saturday 3rd March - Logged 124 miles

Another show-down this morning on the 01.00-04.00h watch, between the skipper and Juan.  The Skipper, observing the tell-tale compass in his bunk caught Juan off his course 45º to the north on three separate occasions and bawled him out.  Don't know what the reason is but Juan told me afterwards, when I took over from him, that the wind had died down and he bore away to maintain steerage way, rather than "Penelope" should stop completely.  The skipper denies this and says it is an excuse for bad steering caused either by lack of concentration power or a complete lack of interest in the ship's destination and safety.  Maybe we shall have to take Juan off steering at night and put him permanently in the galley.  In this case the skipper and I would have to take all the night watches.

During lunch time we saw a flock of about twelve Cape birds, the first indication that we are approaching Africa (320 miles as the crow flies to Cape Town at noon).  They met and fraternised with our two faithful's: - "Dopey", a brown albatross which never takes the food we throw it, but which has followed us for the last three weeks, and "Blackie" a petrel which has been with us since very shortly after leaving Rio.  He circles around us even at night, when we see him sometimes silhouetted against the moon and follow us, evidently, just for the fun of it.  The albatross seems to disappear at night.  We think he sleeps on the water.

Later in the afternoon we almost ran down three white bellied killer whales.  15/20 feet, estimated 3 tons each:-

The skipper thinks they have come to have a look at us, thinking we might be another whale, and therefore, prey.  He dashed below for the movie camera but they turned tail and sounded immediately, just a few meters from "Penelope".

We have not yet "smelt" africa and hope we don't too soon, as this would probably mean an off-shore wind, the last thing we want right now.

Trolling for fish.  No Catch.

Chapter 3 - c: Friday 2nd March - Logged 129 miles

At 07:00h 500 miles from Cape Town.

During lunch we caught our second fish, a small (+16lbs) tunny which we shall eat immediately, although we still have quite a lot of tunny No.1 preserved in olive oil, which will feep for some time still.

Launched bottle No. 6, with cork and orange stopper in

Lat. 33 08'S
Long. 9 00'E

The noon position put us considerably up to the North, as we had experienced a 40 mile set since noon yesterday.  Heading, as we are to a zone of contrary winds and the probable adverse effects of the aftermath of the Agulhas current we put about on to the starboard tack, to steer a SE'ly course.

Both the British Admiralty Sailing Directions and the U.S. Navy Pilot chart insist that Cape Town must be approached, by eastbound sailing vessels, from the South West, and we are, at the moment in a most unfavourable position to do this.  The Agulhas current sweeps westwards round the Cape of Good Hope, from Durban to Cape Town at a rate of as much as 100 miles a day, then continues, joined by Benguela current, up the coast of South West Africa.  This is a factor which affects us very seriously.  After Cape Horn the Cape of Good Hope is possibly the most dangerous coast in the world for approaching sailing vessels.

We had had no opportunity so far to get sufficiently far South, partly due to adverse winds and partly through Juan's steering at night which is abominable.  He doesn't seem able to concentrate on the wheel at all.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

News (WARNING: SPOILER): a letter sharing love about Penelope Elle

Dear Mr. Frank Aldridge,

I am Francisco O. Martins, and, as I think you already know, I met Your father when he arrived to Lourenço Marques ( actual Maputo ), Moçambique, sailing The Ketch Penelope Elle.
I met him and his wife, together with my father that was at the time the leader of the so called Portuguese Youth Organization.
This Organization had a Sailing School Department so to say, and it was agreed with your father, that Penelope Elle could be used by this Sailing School, that in compensation would take care of her and see to her proper conservation until such time when your father would decide differently.
In fact major reconditioning and conservation work was carried on immediately and  I , together with my Sailing School colleges enjoyed many, many hours of sound sailing on Penelope in the LM bay ( see attached picture ).

Years later and after a missed attempt to sail her back to France ( fire on board and problems with crew to my knowledge ), she was sold to Mr. Eckie Eksteen ( South African pharmacist ), and sailed back to LM from Port Elizabeth  ( were the trip had ended ). Being a great admirer of Penelope Elle together with my colleague Mário Crespo, we were given the responsibility to take good care of her in the name of her new owner, including sailing her frequently down to Durban and back, and we did so until 1970. We lived so many good moments and adventures in Penelope Elle, that, now retired, I and Mário Crespo ( one of today’s leading pivots in the private portuguese TV station SIC ), decided to try and recollect the history of this beautiful ketch, for which we can add a lot of stories and hopefully pictures as well.

We are not trying to write a book, nor do we intend to make any profit out of this idea. It is simply a “ love affair”  with  Penelope Elle. Can you help us?
We will share with you, Adele Aldridge, Gayle Remish, or anyone you point out to us, all the stories and pictures we will be able to collect.

Penelope Elle was ”abandoned” by her owner following the controversial independence movement in Moçambique ( I had already left LM), and unfortunately it seems that she sunk in the LM bay, at her mooring, near the Matola village ( far end of LM bay). I have people in Moçambique trying to collect concise  information on the last years of Penelope.

Hope that you can help us, namely with some photos, pieces of her history, or whatever you think appropriate.
I will keep in touch,
Please accept my Kind Regards,

Francisco Oliveira Martins