Trips to shore, by Nichelle Swanepoel

I am sitting in the cockpit, the sun on my back, slightly warming my cheek and neck on the right side. It is early morning and the first slow-start day on the boat in a while. The past week was filled with sunrise dinghy trips to shore at the crack of sparrows. It is nice to wake up and stay in my pj’s a little longer.

Seeing the sunrise every morning, especially with the silhouettes of the other boats and open space around, is really something I cherish and appreciate. I realise so many wish to be in our shoes.

The mornings have been surprisingly calm and quiet.

Here and there a few boat engines get fired up. Seagulls noisily chatting away. Our dinghy slides through the dark blue as the first rays of the sun falls on the water. The new day sparkles. We tie off at the dock, move over bag for bag, carefully and onto the floating walk-ons; computer bags, some laundry, maybe a rubbish bag to put in the bin. The wood is still wet from the morning dew. A short walk to the car. Load and leave.

Cape Town is just over an hour’s drive away from Saldanha, make it 1.5 hours. And most of it is open road. A two-way tar strip with vastness on each side. Depending on exactly which route you take, you pass the West Coast National Park and can sometimes have a view of the ocean too. We have left before curfew a few times but have never been stopped. The road is a popular route to the border, but with restrictions in place, only minibus traffic for industry workers and a few bakkies are on the road with us.

The commute is like a tiny road trip each morning – long enough to want to stop for a coffee en route. We mostly stop for a refuel. The rent-from-a-friend bakkie is thirsty. The petrol station can easily be mistaken for an 80’s movie set. Stuck a bit in time. We have to plan well, their service is also stuck in time. As we get closer to the city, the iconic Table Mountain signals as a beacon. It is a city we have said goodbye to so many times, but get pulled back time and time again. She is not letting go easily.

Meetings, work, some friends to see and admin while we are in town.

In the afternoon we head back. Tired. We drive south to north. The sun bakes on my side of the car. The seat is uncomfortable and warm. It is summer, so the sun stays up long enough to arrive in daylight.

The distinct Saldanha skyline structure tells us we are getting closer. Perhaps a quick store stop to grab something fresh for dinner. We arrive at the sandy parking bay at the club. Boats on the hard in the yard and to the side, the dingy and small boat storage bay. Some movement around the storage garages as people lock up for the day.

A short walk back to the dock. Load the bags, computer, clean washing, the shopping. All this while the outboard is warming up.

We untie and head back through the boats on swing mooring, past the ones on anchor and across the bay, occasional a waving of hands as we pass other liveaboards on their boats. Past the fishing trawlers and then over open water to the protected bay at YachtportSA where we are based and hiding away from the South Easter. We arrive at Pluto on anchor – we start to offload; bag per bag on the bumpkin; computer bags, washing, shopping. Then, again, one by one from the swim platform to the cockpit and aft coachroof before I make my way to release the jib halyard and drop the line to the side, over the guardrails.


The dinghy gets manoeuvred from the stern to further forward on the starboard side. Two lines underneath, one forward and one to the back of the dinghy, under and out. The four ends get pulled together and clipped into the halyard. Climb onto the boat and winch up out of the water. This keeps both the inflatable and outboard save from potential theft. It also keeps the hull out of the water limiting unnecessary growth. Winched high enough with the painter secured onto the windlass cleat, the dinghy is now safe.

Back to the cockpit.

Unlock and open the companionway. Each washboard has its secure storage spot. Move the bags again, one by one, from the cockpit to inside the boat. Open the hatches. Unpack. Each thing has its specific place. For order and space saving. Also, for safety – the wake of a trawler or tugboat can cause chaos with everything sliding off the surface or falling around.

Now we can start dinner and have a shower, or maybe a sundowner first if the sun is still up. Get the ice, a whiskey, sit in the cockpit if the wind allows. This is also where you would want to read: “and then we kick off our shoes and relax”. But see, any sailor would know that was done long ago as the golden rule on most boats are “no shoes on deck”.

So this morning it is nice to wake up, have a coffee and sit. Just sit. Watch the sunrise from the boat. The dinghy is still secure and suspended, hanging on the side of the boat. It will stay there today.

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