Day 51: Stop theif!

It started as usual, with my alarm blaring, “Do you like American music” Violent Femmes, reminding me that in 5 minutes, it was scheduled time with the shore team. I flick the Thales VesseLINK switch to the on position.
This takes place at 09:00 South African time. Unfortunately, it’s still dark where I am. Officially it’s 06:00 here, but in two days, it will be 05:00 as I cross over another timeline.
The alarm is not there to wake me up. I am already up. Coffee and kids are taken care of already. I have started paddling as early as possible to get shifts in while it’s still cool, and with the moon as bright as it is, it feels like daytime.
I managed to get ahead of the first long-line fishing buoys. I have reached the second one, which is slightly to my North. I am trying to keep a WNW heading which is parallel to the line. It’s 110km long, so it will likely take a day or so to clear it.
Just after sunrise, which was obscured by ominously dark clouds, the wind and swells started to increase. It eventually got to 25kt of winds and steep breaking swells. I thought, “are my last two weeks going to be a repeat of the first two weeks”. Weather Router Robin had made no mention of this!
It certainly felt like the first weeks leaving Cape Town, but a few hours later, it calmed back to typical trade conditions. Thankfully it was just a rather large squall.
The tranquillity of being out here has allowed me to let my mind wander, and this morning I bumped into a memory that has not been visited for a while.
Maybe there was some relation to the long line fishing stealing from the ocean and today’s memory.
“Stop thief!”
In the late ’90, I was contacted to see if I could help find and bring a stolen yacht, which was believed to be in Mayotte in the Comoros Islands, back to South Africa. I had spent some time sailing there the year before, so I knew the island quite well.
“Sure”, I said.
We flew up from Durban in a King Air turboprop which belonged to the owner of the yacht, and he was also the pilot. The insurance representative who contacted me was the third person on board.
If I was going to hide a yacht on the island, where would I go? I suggested a cove on the NW side of the island with a waterfall that falls straight into the sea. A stunning but secluded spot. On our approach, we flew over the cove and guess what we spotted. Yip, there she was.
We had flown to Mozambique first to refuel before crossing the Mozambique channel for Mayotte. When we got to their airspace and requested permission to land, they politely declined because we had not submitted any flight plans. Eventually, we landed as we lacked the fuel to get anywhere else.
It was a weekend, and the courts were closed, so we could not rustle up the local authorities to help until Monday morning. Worried the yacht may leave, the owner decided to confront the thieves.
The “thieves” were actually in the process of/or pretending to buy the yacht, and while doing some paperwork, they somehow got the owners and their names plus signatures swapped around on an official document. With this document, they quickly left Richard Bay. The local customs were none the wiser, and off they sailed.
We headed to the waterfall cove and confronted them. They were all very apologetic. It was a misunderstanding. I went to inspect the yacht to see if she was ok to take back home.
The first thing I noticed was a massive wooden carved eagle lashed to the front beam. The thieves were very Afrikaans and staunch AWB members. It was an old 40′ catamaran. Inside, it was a mess but nothing that would be a problem for sailing.
Back on shore, the “thieves” agreed to sail back, with me being their skipper.
Hang on a minute, I thought.
We agreed to meet the following morning at the same spot.
Back in the guest house, I said to the other two that there was no chance I would sail with those people. They would slit my throat and dump me over the side the minute I went to sleep. Sense prevailed, and it was agreed I would fly two crew up to help, and the thieves would stay ashore.
The next morning the yacht was gone! We left the island, flew north for a while, and spotted the yacht. Nothing we could do but fly home.
The owner never got the yacht back. It was sold twice before it was tracked to the Suez Canal, now owned by one of the canal pilots, but it was too expensive to recover by that time.
The whole experience was a bit like a scene in the movies where they fly to Paris just for dinner, except for me, it was two other blokes. Not quite the same thing.
I am starting to see some more bird life. Not sure what these birds are, but they will come within a hand of me while squawking loudly.

Friendly bird needing ID

It turned out to be a good day made better with food mileage. The best part was a lekker shower with 2L of Cape Town’s finest tap water as I lightened the load.

Emergency 3L water bladders stored in the forward water ballast compartment

Beef lasagne for dinner and a cracker sunset rounded off the day.

Last nights sunset

Raised for Operation Smile: R276,780
New smiles: 50

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