Written by: Kate Addison
Arriving into Kaapstad: Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, Lion’s Rump: the Cape Town skyline is iconic. Sailing in past False Bay aboard Tall Ship Picton Castle was magnificent – the crew running up aloft to furl sail as we motored the last few miles in light winds, the ship surrounded by an entourage of birds and sea lions.
We anchored for the night in Table Bay ready for our morning appointment with the tug boat pilots and finally slipped in past the breakwater to the V&A basin and the city.
We are now tied up right under the Table Bay Hotel. ‘The Best Address in Town’ is their strap-line, and staying practically in their back garden we have to agree.
You don’t have to stray far from the ship to have a great time in sunny Cape Town: if you never leave the V&A Waterfront, you’d still come away with a great impression of the city. Shops, restaurants, hotels, sculptures, musicians and street performers: all set between glimmering water and majestic mountains.
And we like to think our tall masts, neatly furled sails and miles of intricate rigging add a certain something to the elegant holiday atmosphere.
We’ve been doing some exciting rigging and sailmaking work aboard the ship: removing the heavy wire main stay that supports the main mast and making a new one to replace it; cutting and stitching up bolts of snowy cotton canvas to make brand new sails and sending down yards and a topmast onto the dock for maintenance.
Then there’s always ‘gooping’ to do: tar, paint, pitch, oil, grease and varnish must be applied aloft in the rig, on deck and everywhere else it’s needed – the hardest part of this is not dripping it all over the rest of the ship!
But it’s not all work! Highlights for the off-duty watches have included wine tours – especially horse-back wine tasting in Franchhoek – and eating all manner of wonderful food!
From sushi and salads to bobotie, boerewors and kingklip and sour aromatic Ethopian injera and wot. I’m having a lovely time sampling the world class restaurants here – though the variety and choice is almost too much for a sailor not used to making food decisions beyond adding ketchup or hot sauce!
And what shall we do with the drunken sailor? We’ll take him to Mitchells of course! It’s a pub and second home of every sailor I’ve met in Cape Town – certainly the Picton Castle crew are right at home here. Then there’s Long Street and the hectic fun of a big night out – if you’re not stiff the next day, then you just didn’t dance enough last night!
But first: it’s time to scrub up – traditionally sailors have always looked snappy stepping off the gangway on shore leave – and our crew are doing their bit to pay this tradition forwards. The transformation is nothing short of miraculous when the girls swap tarry shorts and grimy T-shirts for pretty dresses and clean hair, and the boys dig up long forgotten shoes and shirts out from the dark corners of sea-chests and under-bunks .
In a city as stylish as Cape Town anything less than your Sunday-best feels like you’re letting the side down!