Archive | August, 2010

being irish

26 Aug

As many of you will be well aware, travelling on the green mamba* can be grimace-inducing. Many Saffas try to hunt out tenuous anscestoral (or other) links with “acceptable” countries so we can avoid the visa-nightmare that comes along with our passport. I, for example, am also an Irish citizen.

Let’s get this out of the way: I have never been to Ireland. I can not drink more than a 1/2 pint of guinness at a time (full tummy). Reassuringly, my favourite colour is green. Importantly, my grandfather registered my father on the foreign births registry, who registered me and voila! I am Irish.

The other day, I went to the consulate in CT to get my passport renewed. I had carefully filled out the (green) forms and taken the regulation photos (I wore a suitably green scarf) and I traipsed the 8 blocks downtown to hand them in for renewal. Except “Frank”** (the only person employed by the embassy in capetown) was not there. There was no indication as to when/whether he would return. Nor did he answer his cellphone.

I was starting to wonder whether I should just jolly shove my envelope under the door (actually, the space wasn’t big enough, so I was moving onto hatching another plan) when a little old couple shuffled round the corner. I aplogise for that cliched description, but they were little and old and a couple and they shuffled (around the corner). They too had hoped to renew their passports.

We moaned and chatted a bit. From their accents, it quickly became apparent that their claim to an Irish passport was a little bit more legitimate than mine. I think it appeared that way to them too:

Little Old Irish Man: So are you even Irish?

Saartjie: Well… I’ve got an Irish passport.

LOIM: I’ll bet ya do.

S: Well I’m not giving it back now!

LOIM: (*Thinking*) Och, well, at least you’re not over 65 and can’t get it for free…

I think both sets of our “irish” eyes were smiling.

We agreed to courier our appliactions to the embassy in Pretoria.

*SAfrican passport is green. A green mamba is also a highly poisonous snake.

** Frank is apparently his real name… I’m just not too sure whether he ACTUALLY exists, so the inverted commas seemed appropriate.


a picture

26 Aug

This blog has been rather text-heavy : picture-light of late. Mainly because Stof took the camera to Cowes. Hopefully he can be persuaded to provide you with a photographic essay of his experiences there at some stage in the near future… (*hint*, *nudge*, *wink*)

For the meanwhile, here’s a shot of the SAfrican small boat team during Commodore’s Week. Stof is the fella sitting on the rail with the grey oily pant and red oily jacket. And his dad’s boots (thanks, Rick!).

(The photo is by Kurt Arrigo and is lifted from here)

PS: I forgot to let you know how Team SA did in Commodore’s: they lost. Or they came about 7/8 out of 10 which made them feel disappointed and blame their boats and the IRC rating because they all felt they should have done better. Ireland won. BUT: the Saffas still LOVED it and I am still proud.

waiting game

26 Aug

I tell you: there’s something very tricky about having a boat in Mexico and then carrying on as if life were just the same ol’ same ol’.

While Stoffel hopes to continue his business while we adventure (gottalovetheinternet), the nature of being an advocate/barrister means that I just cannot carry on. Which means that my practice stops at the end of the year.* Which also means that I have to make my hay while the sun shines and work like a crazy person while I can because little jaunts across the Pacific are Not Cheap. Basically, what all that means is that I’ve been carrying on with work as if nothing is happening in the hope of attracting lots more work that can be completed before we leave. Tra-la-laa.

This is not very easy. I’m a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve, calls a spade a shovel, and is generally as straight up and forward as she can possibly be. So you know: Sometimes this is a positive attribute, sometimes this is not.

Right now, it is frustrating living a split life. I have told some colleagues that we are sailing off into the great big blue yonder next year, but to most of the legal world, I appear firmly entrenched in my profession. I have set as the last weekend of October the date when I will “come out” to the bar and I’m pretty much counting the sleeps. Biding my time. Trying not to daydream too much. Etcetera etcetera…

On the topic of waiting, however, I am no longer waiting for my husband to return to my bed/arms/headspace/city. Stoffel returned to ct on Monday to a jubilant Saartjie! We celebrated by indulging in massages and spa facilities at the Mount Nelson spa, followed by equally indulgent high tea (also at the Nelly). All for R1000! A bargain! And a glorious way to spend the first day together in a month.

BUT, we are still waiting to move into the matchbox-sized garden apartment in Oranjezicht I found for the Hillratts (Cowboy included) to inhabit for the next couple of months. For some reason (read: me) we have committed ourselves to family engagements every night. Which means we just haven’t had the time… So we’re waiting it out with my mumsie in suburbia until we can bring ourselves to pile all our (remaining) worldly goods together and move back to the city.

All this waiting reminds me of the sage advice of my Mumsie regarding enjoyment: An event seldom consists of just the moment, although that’s often where the gush of experience happens. Before the experience is the dreaming, planning and anticipation. Afterwards is the reminiscing and the reliving. All three parts plait together to form the enjoyment of an event. To play down or undermine any one of these is to deprive yourself of part of the essence of the experience.

For now it’s part one: the waiting (and dreaming, planning, anticipating…)

* I really don’t know if it will resume when we return. Right now I think it will not. I do not know what will take its place, though…


12 Aug

On fetching the car at the brandspakingnew King Shaka Airport in Durban (the car which would take us north to diving in Sodwana), I was involved in the following exchange:

Saartjie: So how do we get out of here to the N2?

Car Hire Guy: Drive through that exit, turn right, go across the circle, then turn left and past the toilet to the highway…

S: A toilet! Why don’t people just use the toilet in the airport building?

CHG: (funny look) Tollgate.

Hmmm. It provided hours of mirth for the scissor and me. All the way up and down the N2 as we approached a toll, we’d cackle loudly and proclaim we needed to use the toilet.


10 Aug

It’s ours: the sale of the Laura finally closed yesterday evening (our time)!!! Wow. Wow. Wow.

It took some time due to the intricacies involved in international monetary transactions from SA, but the Hillratts are now officially owners of a beautiful boat in Mexico. What a flippin awesome start to the week!

In other news, Stoffel’s team in Cowes cleaned up their pretty competitive J109 class sailing on Jeroboam. I am so proud. So are they! Particularly as prior to this week, Jeroboam has (apparently) not been a big performer. They “won” two trophies. Basically, they got to have their photies taken with two trophies and then they had to give them back… but they still got the glory.

Now they have a hectic week of getting ready for the Commodore’s Cup where they are sailing on the Zelda (also a J109) and representing southafrica! Commodore’s Cup is a serious international competition in which each country puts forward a small, a medium and a big boat. Zelda is SA’s small boat, Tokoloshe is the medium one and Wind Power is the big one.

Here is an article about how well they did in Cowes Week, and here is an article about the SA team for Commodore’s. Glorious.

husbandless scuba diver

4 Aug

Stof is in the UK sailing boats. Actually, he’s sailing one particular boat called Jeroboam in Cowes Week and they are winning. Which makes his absence for exactly a calendar month somewhat more bearable. After they complete the sailing this week, his team will practice for another week and then sail in a competition called “Commodore’s Cup” in which he will represent South Africa. I am very proud.

Another thing which makes his absence bearable is knowing how much joy trimming a sail gives my Stof. It makes him feel free and creative and controlled and ohso chuffed such that he grins and grins (even sometimes only with his eyes).

For my part, I moved out of our house (sigh, sob) and then ran away to Sodwana Bay.* With my sis. We flew to Durban and rented a car and drove all the way to the northern bit of SA’s east coast and spent 4-5** days learning to dive. It was the cleverest thing I’ve done in years: it filled me up again. I also (1) had a marvellous time with my scissor; and (2) learnt a new skill (erm: scuba diving). My New Skill will be of pivotal importance as we visit the most wonderful dive spots in the pacific. I. Loved. It.

Hmm. While I loved my holiday, I was less enamoured with the weather of the supposedly balmy northern coast. For two days we teeth-chattered our way through pool exercises and our first dive. It gradually warmed up until it was 27C (on the day we left of course).

However, there were many things I also liked a whole lot: awesome tented accommodation (dome tents with twin beds); cheeky monkeys (requiring great skill in hiding food); and delicious food prepared each night and noon and morning by the scissors instead of pricy and average lodge fare.

Presently I am back in CT and squatting between my generous relatives (principally, Parents and Sister-In-Law). Hoping to find some suitable accommodation for us and Cowboy by the time Stoffel returns.

*Sodwana Bay rhymes so gloriously with things like “ran away” and (particularly) names that include “May”. Like Laura May; Jenna May and Barbara May. I spent much of my dive time composing rhyming couplet messages… although I did not send most of them. 

** We arrived in sodwana on tuesday afternoon and left at sunday lunchtime.

Postscript: Perhaps I should mention that we did our diving with Coral Divers. Highly recommended.

first sight

3 Aug

It’s a very strange thing to glimpse in the real life fibreglass flesh a boat that you’ve obsessed over on the interwebs for hours. When we finally pulled into the boatyard and marched over to the Laura (sitting on stilts), we felt this strange mixture of excitement and trepidation. I think we both wanted desperately to love her, but not be taken for a ride. We really really really (but REALLY) wanted this boat to be The One: it was too (mainly emotionally) exhausting a prospect to start again; to fly back to SA “empty-handed”; to have to maybe endure the same disappointment again (if it could go wrong once, it might flop a second or third time)… But we knew we couldn’t let our hopes get in the way of objectivity. It’s somewhat important to have a boat that is a goody, especially when it comes to crossing oceans.

We were met at the boat by owners Mike and Laurie and our intrepid surveyor: Cecil Lange. Cecil is a proficient Kiwi boat-builder, retired to La Paz and “just loves boats too much to stay away from them”. We marched around the hull, peering and inspecting. Correction: Stof and Cecil did the knowledgeable stuff, I mainly just ran my hands up and down (collecting powdery blue residue) and took photos.

Standing to the side I asked Laurie whether the boat was named after her? If so, why? “Aah”, she smiled blushingly, “my husband always wanted to name a boat after me. He’s a little romantic like that.” Perfect. We’d not minded the name Laura for our boat, but had wanted to know the reason or meet the person after whom it was named to see if we liked her. I liked her already.

Then we walked up the ladder to mount the Laura and explore her cabin.* Frankly, it looked like the pictures. But spacier. And comfier. And so solid. I told Stof later that stepping onto the Laura felt like I’d come home.

While I was completely falling in love (“oooh, pretty boat”), Stoffel was Being Objective. I was trying to be objective with him. But even “bad cop” let on that he was impressed.

The next step was the sea trial. Obv, before we could trial at sea, we had to getoffhardandintowater. Which was a fairly mesmerising process. This beeeeeeg three-sided square moving contraption moved up to the boat so that she sat within its three sides. Then they attached two beeeeeeeg slings under her belly, the contraption fired up and lifted the boat off the stilts and she was floating on air! And then they drove down the road (with our boat) to a double pier where the boat could be lowered into the water (the wheels of the giant contraption fitting on either pier, the boat into the water between the piers). All the while, the vertigo-stricken Mike was pretending he was ok with travelling down the road from the vantage point of his suspended boat.

In summary, the next few days were spent as follows:

Day Two: Sea Trial – light wind, hoisting of beeeeg asymmetrical sail, chomping of Walmart-bought picnic (first trip to Walmart! Surprisingly delicious!), boat being solid and swift. Followed by dinner with Shelly, Mike and Laurie (more Mexican deliciousness).

Day Three: Inventory, tutorial, general chit-chat with Mike and Laurie on the Laura while spending loads of time on the Laura. Meeting with Cecil about What Should Be Done.

Day Four: Meeting with sailmaker, canvas artisan, metal magic-worker, rigger, electrician (Cecil’s beady eye promising to keep a watch over it all). Lifting boat out of the water, back on Contraption, re-securing on the hard in the yard. Farewell to MikenLaurie (a bit emotional). Drive around town (boat shop, fishing shop, bank). Return to boat for StofnSara for plugging the valves, pulling the rigging, measuring up the spaces, generally packing her up. Climb off Laura, exhausted. Trudge to the Walmart at 22h30 to find a taxi. Sign language to taxi-driver to get back to bnb (it took a bit more time than we originally thought)…

Day five: return home as owners of a boat. W-O-W.

It was one of the craziest, most fantastic experiences. (**Cliché alert**) It was made more wonderful by the people. Shelly from La Paz yachts couldn’t have been more helpful and accommodating. She is frank and friendly and genuine. The way she ferried us around, constantly chatting and sharing, blew us away. And we owe her a taco lunch!

Mike and Laurie are gems. We like them whole-heartedly (i.e. with our whole hearts… sometimes it’s necessary to breakdown the word). It’s a privilege to buy their boat: the Laura is tangibly imbued with their love, care and dreams. They are people whose “flag” we hope to fly while we travel. And that we hope to invite into our home one day, and visit them in theirs.

* “mount the Laura and explore her cabin” sounds like it could come from an exceedingly poorly written  Mills&Boon. It’s not… sorry.