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Out of Africa

life of lia

Out of Africa

Well, well, well, if it isn’t our favorite li’l darling, Lia Ditton!

The square running chute was up and the Gunboat 48, ‘Nirvana’ that Bill Biewenga and I were delivering from Cape Town to Dubai with the owner onboard, was romping merrily down wind in the low teens. This was 9.30 pm last Sunday, a mere 70 miles south of the African coastline. We were both inside and sitting down when the boat took a blow to the port bow. For a moment it was like hitting a ‘soft’ wall. Then the boat darted off again, continuing to sail into the inky blackness. A big beam flashlight showed the sacrificial bow section skewed off to one side with the glass on the underside now baring teeth. It was time to wake up the boat’s owner, Monish and his Colombian girlfriend Dora.

The hull inner skins were in tact, as far as checking from the port forward storage compartment was concerned, but a mere three days out from Cape Town, it was prudent to turn back than push on with our 2300 mile journey to Mauritius.

Back towards the South African coastline, the entrance into Port St. Francis was barely discernible; then narrow, shallow and chock-a-block with calamari fishing boats. We were extremely lucky to have John Henrick and Jonathan Paarman to guide us in, who in fact are both due a huge thank you for making our whole experience in Port St. Francis pleasantly enjoyable. Stemming from a famous surfing family of 7 brothers, all of whom have represented South Africa at some time, Jonathan Paarman has been building notable boats for decades, including internationally known racers such as ‘Nicorette.’ We were fortunate that he happened to be in Port St. Francis leading the build of the new ‘Nexus 600’ performance cruising catamaran (www.nexuscatamarans.com) and that we were able to borrow him for a couple of days of precarious balancing with epoxy pots and a grinder, operated from the comfort of lying across a ladder inches from freezing water! 

Finally after a week of waiting for 30 knot winds to abate and a group effort to secure, float and sink a very kindly-loaned power boat dry dock, (as necessary to achieve further access underneath the Gunboat’s port bow) the repair is nearly done. Bill enjoyed catching up with fellow Whitbread legend, ‘Thirsty’ (many a hilarious story there) and the hospitality of John Henrick, co-owner of the new ‘Nexus’ catamaran building company ensured that the attractive port of St. Francis with its stunning views across surfing hot spot, Jeffrey’s bay will not be forgotten on our voyage. 

Look out for news of the launch of the ‘Nexus 600 Catamaran’ at the end of next month. Long-range and surfer orientated it sports some great features- cubbies galore, plenty of hanging space for wetsuits, larger storage hatch windows wide enough to maneuver in a long board and longish hull keels to ride out those big waves…