Passage Planning Part 3

This post will focus on the “where of it all.” Wild Rumpus will cover a lot of territory between the shakedown cruise and the passage itself, so I’ll focus on those distances, destinations, and make an effort to put it all in perspective. And, the passage plan changed a bit since the earlier planning post, which I’ll cover as well.

The Nature Of The Two Trips

After our on-boat training with the manufacturer, we have two voyages, each with its own specific challenges. First up is the shakedown cruise staying along the coast of South Africa, going around the Cape of Good Hope, and visiting South African coastal towns. The second voyage is the Atlantic passage, which will take us from Cape Town across the south Atlantic and up to Grenada with several stops along the way.

Shakedown Cruise

The image to the left is a good metaphor for a shakedown cruise. A sedate sail in moderate wind on calm seas makes for a lovely day-sail but is not the goal of a shakedown cruise. We want to shake some stuff loose, so lively seas and higher winds would be perfect. Testing the reefing systems, putting significant tension on lines to check for chafe, and searching out wonky blocks (pullies), clutches that don’t work correctly, leaky hatches, leaky through-hulls, mechanical and electrical connections that shake loose, and any number of other potential problems will be our goal. The southern coast of Africa should offer some opportunity to really test Wild Rumpus and the crew. At the end of the shakedown cruise, we will return to Cape Town and turn Wild Rumpus back over to the manufacturer to fix anything we could shake loose while we go ashore to explore a bit.


The passage, on the other hand, is a long-distance slog that will take weeks and cover thousands of miles. With luck, we will have consistently good winds, calm seas, and enough food (and toilet paper) to complete the journey. We won’t try to shake anything loose, but constant use, pressure, and the inevitable chafing are likely to cause their own problems –and that is just the boat. Seven people for weeks on a boat in a big ocean will be its own challenge.

You Can’t Get There From Here

I tend to be a visual learner, so geography and distances are somewhat meaningless to me unless I see it. That is particularly true for understanding long unfamiliar distances. So, let’s take a look at some pictures to help put things in perspective. First, none of us has ever sailed near South Africa, so this entire coast will be new to us.

Cape Town is just about 40 nautical miles north of the Cape of Good Hope, which makes it a very attractive target to sail around. There is no particular magic about the Cape of Good hope in terms of sailing. The weather isn’t any worse than the rest of the coast, the seas aren’t any rougher, and nobody thinks it is the point at which the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet anymore. Nevertheless, the Cape of Good Hope remains a cool historic landmark to include while exploring the southern coast of South Africa.

The distances we will travel on the passage are somewhat more daunting. The following picture is the planned passage route.

Cape Town to St. Helena is roughly 1700 nautical miles (1956 land miles). For perspective, that is roughly the distance from:

New York to Santa Fe

or London, England to Athens, Greece.

St. Helena to Ascension Island is roughly 660 nautical miles (800 miles). Ascension to Fernando de Noronha, Brazil is 1100 nautical miles (1275 miles). Fernando de Noronha to Devil’s Island (made famous by the movie Papillon) is 1540 nautical miles (1770 miles). And finally, Devil’s Island to Grenada is 780 nautical miles (890 miles). In total, that is 4000 nautical miles (4600 miles).

For some more perspective, 4000 miles is roughly the same as a road trip from Miami, Florida to Seattle, Washington, and then onward to San Francisco.

You Aren’t In Kansas Anymore

On a typical vacation, we Americans may go somewhere new, but everything around us is designed to be familiar. The hotel may be in an exotic spot, but everything else is curated to be familiar: the check-in desk is in the lobby near the restaurant, and the bus for our “local excursion” is just outside the front entrance, often in a bus with an English speaking driver/tour guide.

We’ll still be stopping in exotic places, but the crew of Wild Rumpus will be traveling across a good bit of the earth without tour guides, front desk clerks, room service, or even a reasonably convenient supermarket. The result will be less cultivated local experience and more Beverly Hillbillies in a water-borne RV rolling up to people’s neighborhoods just to say howdy. Like the hillbillies, we will be pulling up in our home, but need to interact with locals on a different level than those staying at hotels. We’ll meet the immigration folks, harbormasters, use the supermarkets, and there won’t be any neatly packaged tour bus when we explore.

So, let’s check out some of the cool spots we plan to visit.

Cape Town

Cape Town will be our longest land-based home for this endeavor. We will visit in November 2021 to see Wild Rumpus still under construction, and then again to take possession of the boat in March 2022. Luckily, Cape Town is the home of one of our au pairs who I am really looking forward to visiting. Emma was awesome and her mom, who visited for a few weeks, was great too. They told us a lot about Cape Town and I’m looking forward to the tour. In particular, I am genuinely excited to check out the Eastern Food Bazaar!

I’ll leave the description of Cape Town to the better educated and more eloquent travel writers at Lonely Planet.

Kalk Bay and Knysna

Kalk Bay and Knysna appear to be cool small coastal towns that I would love to visit. Both seem like worthwhile targets for the shakedown cruise, though Knysna’s entrance is a bit persnickety. While we aspire to visit these spots, we will rely on local knowledge to determine where we should go. We’ll be in new waters on a new boat, so humility and caution will be the order of the day (or week).

St Helena, Ascension Island, Fernando de Noronha, and Grenada

I’ve discussed these spots in an earlier post, so just follow this link to check it out.

Kourou/ Devil’s Island

I am adding a stop at Cayenne and Devil’s Island as a somewhat mid-point between Fernando de Noronha and Grenada. Cayenne is the capitol of French Guiana and cruising reports indicate it’s a worthwhile stop. Of particular interest though is the very close-by Devil’s Island, which was an infamous penal colony and the subject of the movie Papillon. We’ll decide on the fly whether want to make this stop as the safety of the city itself requires more investigation. If nothing else, it may be a quick stop to Cayenne for provisions and then anchoring out at Devil’s Island. If anybody has any experience in this area, please chime in.

To Be Continued

More lists will follow with a focus on checklists of tasks for the crew to perform before leaving shore and while on watch.

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