Black Watch 2007 Leg1

Preparations commenced many weeks before, with the stocking-up of household items for Andrew while we were to be away. Just before Christmas, he passed his driving test and this was to be a great help, as he would now be able to use John's car in our absence.

Itinerary = ports at anchor
Friday 5th January-Southampton, UK
Saturday-at sea
Sunday-at sea
Monday 8th January-Cadiz, Spain
Tuesday-at sea
Wednesday 10th January-Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Thursday-at sea
Friday-at sea
Saturday-at sea
Sunday-at sea
Monday-at sea
Tuesday 16th January-Takoradi, Ghana
Wednesday-at sea
Thursday 18th January-Sao Tome Island
Friday-at sea
Saturday-at sea
Sunday-at sea
Monday 22nd January-Walvis Bay, Namibia
Tuesday-at sea
Wednesday 24th January-Cape Town, South Africa
Thursday 25th January-Cape Town, South Africa
Friday 26th January-Cape Town, South Africa

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Black Watch & the colourful Waterfront, Capetown

The serious business began after Christmas which was something of a side-show to the "main event". Lists long completed were re-done and re-done again. Finally, my estimate of 3 suitcases had to increase to another hold-all, as well as my lap-top and camera-bag! What with 5 bottles of mouthwash, 4 cans of anti-perspirant and all the creams and tablets, I was a travelling branch of "Boots the Chemist"! Even John had 1 large and 2 small suitcases, one of which was full of books!

In a 6-person people-carrier full of luggage, we were waved-off from the Lynch by Dad, Andrew & Lesley and by mid afternoon we were safely aboard Black Watch, our home for the next 11 weeks.

Show Picture Full Size At 7.30pm, Black Watch sounded her ship's whistle and without further ceremony, we slipped away from Southampton into the cold January night. At dinner we were introduced to our table-companions, Lynn & Gareth (going "all the way round") and Val & Malcolm (just on as far as Capetown). The lively conversation was to set a happy tone for the rest of our voyage.
I took this photo of Black Watch in Southampton in October; just as now, she was about to head across the Bay of Biscay for Spain.
Formal Photo >> Our Table Group: Me & John with Gareth & Lynne (on the right) and Val & Malcolm (on the left).

Our crossing of the Bay of Biscay was in a Force-7 "near gale" and a bit of a swell. John was poorly for much of that first day but was up again in time for tea and the Captain's Cocktail Party; after buying some wrist-bands in the shop, he had no trouble for the whole of the next 11 weeks.

Our Accommodation
My cabin 8024 was nice and spacious; lots of wardrobe space but too few drawers, so I had to improvise with suitcases as drawers under the beds! The small bathroom had just a shower but was fine for me and I had a little balcony above the Boat Deck. John's cabin 4008 was on a lower deck and was just as spacious and well-appointed, but with twin portholes and a large Show Picture Full Size
single bed. Following the practice introduced by P&O, tea-making trays in all cabins were a new feature and an unexpected bonus; evidently, my supply of Earl Grey tea-bags would not be wasted!

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Cadiz Cathedral
Monday 8th January
Cadiz, Spain
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Cadiz is the oldest inhabited city in Western Europe and is actually on an island today connected to the mainland by another narrow island, giving the impression of a narrow peninsular. We had hoped to have the morning to explore the city but even doing more than 20 knots, the Atlantic headwinds resulted in our being an hour late arriving. However, by this time the sun was out and we were soon setting off on our first shore excursion.

The White Villages of Andalucia
First stop was at Medina Sidonia, said to be one of the most unspoilt medieval villages in Spain, complete with its Gothic church on top of the hill overlooking the countryside.

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Medina Sidonia
(The Gothic Church)
The Arab Gate
(Medina Sidonia)
Orange Trees Arcos
(the old town)
Arcos de la Frontera
( view from the Parador)

Further on, we visited the old Arab town of Arcos de la Frontera, spectacularly perched on a cliff. Now a National Historic Monument, the town can be very busy with tourists in summer. We stopped for refreshments at the beautiful Parador Casa del Corregidor, where there was an amazing view from the terrace. The Parador was once the Palace and government seat of the King's Magistrate.

Wednesday 10th January
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Is.
From Cadiz and with the wind now behind us, we made such fast going that we nearly over-shot Tenerife and had to slow right down to 12 knots 2 hrs before arriving in Santa Cruz - backwards!

Following a tortuous pedestrian route out of the port, there is a very pleasant sea-front promenade but we were disappointed to find the fountains out of commission at the great Franco Monument.

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Memorial to
General Franco
Gardens of
Risco Bello
Gardens of
Risco Bello
The New Opera House
(by Santiago Calatrava)
Opera House Detail

Our afternoon tour took us to Puerto de la Cruz on the other side of the island, to see the small but interesting Botanical Gardens, founded by King Carlos of Spain in 1788. Picture 1 >> - Picture 2 >>. Rather more picturesque are the exotic aquatic gardens of Risco Bello, laid out with tropical and sub-tropical plants over 5 terraces incorporating bridges, fountains, caves and waterfalls.

Back in Santa Cruz, I was fascinated by the New Opera House, designed by Santiago Calatrava and opened in 2003. The design is based on the shape of an ancient Greek helmet - don't ask me why!

Thursday 11th - Monday 15th January
5 Days at Sea
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At 2,424 nautical miles, this was our longest uninterrupted sea-passage on the whole "Around Africa" cruise; time to settle in and establish our new routines. We were soon part of a winning team for the twice-daily quizzes and I found a regular dance partner in Lynne, who's husband Gareth didn't seem to mind in the least!

Crossing the Tropic of Cancer, I christened the swimming-pool and this became my regular evening exercise when it was quiet and the sun was going down. I even tried the "Swimmex" machines but later regaled them at dinner with the "Wallace & Gromit" image of the speed setting going wrong and me frantically trying to avoid being "whooshed" out of the machine! Show Picture Full Size

The weather became increasingly warm and humid and one morning, we were thrown into confusion when breakfast was moved from our "usual" Cafe to the open Lido Deck. It was foggy, humid and uncomfortable but then the heavens opened and it shattered-down with rain, whereupon everyone was drenched to the skin. Meanwhile, in the only place under cover, a deck-hand was using cellulose paint on the windows and that area was all taped-off. The smell was unbelievable and what with the fog, the rain, water in the pool, rainwater flooding the deck and in the dishes and in the cups, it was just like a scene from "Monty Python's Flying Circus". John was in fits of laughter!

Tuesday 16th January
Takoradi, Ghana
Cape Coast Castle was where the slaves were held before being shipped to the New World. Built by the Swedish in 1653, it became British in 1664 and remained so until independence in 1957. Now it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Slavery was abolished in 1807 but the dungeons were still dark and eerie and it was all too easy to imagine the terrible injustices of our history as we passed through the "Door of No Return", beyond which most never saw their homes or their families again.

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Cape Coast Castle
The "Door of No Return"
Cape Coast Beach Schoolchildren
Duakor School
Duakor Village School
Duakor School

Ghana was this year celebrating 50yrs of independence but their relative poverty was more than matched by their obvious pride - and their care of us. We even had an armed guard on the coach as well as a motor-cycle escort!

At Duakor Village, we were introduced to the Village Elders and entertained by the schoolchildren; many of the younger ones seemed quite fascinated with us. A couple of the passengers had brought bags of sweets to share out amongst them and there were Show YouTube video-clip
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squeals of glee when they saw their own pictures on our digital cameras, while in the classroom it was chaos! Here we were also shown some of what village life was like and watched gari (or cassava) processing. Resembling semolina, gari is a staple food in Ghana.

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Gari Processing
Duakor Village
Coconut Grove
A Rock Lizard "Elmina John" Elmina Castle

There was more entertainment laid on at the The Coconut Grove Resort, where we were given a buffet lunch of local foods beside the beach, while at Elmina Castle, another UNESCO World Heritage Site with a history of slavery, a local 17 year-old youth latched onto me; collecting sponsors towards his education, he pestered me until I gave him my e-mail address. Settled by the Portuguese in 1482, the main interest at that time was gold - this was known as "The Gold Coast" - but the traffic in slaves was just as lucrative. It was also a major provisioning-port for ships of the Dutch West India Company en-route to the Cape of Good Hope and by the time Elmina was sold to the British in 1872, this was its greatest significance.

This salutory education into the history of slavery left us both feeling quite humbled. To us it seemed amazing how matter-of-fact they were about their past and we were struck by how proud and friendly these beautiful people were.

Thursday 18th January
Sao Tome Island
Africa Route Map Sao Tome Location Map
Almost touching the Equator and probably one of the least well-known in the world, this tiny & poor country was formerly a Portuguese colony until virtually abondoned in 1975. Together with the tiny island of Principe to the north-east, it is today one of the smallest independent countries in the world. The population of about 157,000 is governed by a tender but relatively stable democracy and the fragile economy based on the sale of cocoa is just beginning to be augmented by tourism.
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Tendering ashore

This was the first visit by a Fred Olsen ship to the island and Black Watch was one of the first large cruise ships to call here. Docking facilities being primitive, we had to tender ashore and our arrival in the little harbour attracted a lot of attention, not least from the local TV station, who's reporter was there. I couldn't help noticing the cameraman, weighed-down by his large "Betamax" camera!

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The Portuguese Discoverers Fortress of
Sao Sebastian
Sao Sebastian Fortress
Squid Fisherman Fishing Boy

The main attraction of the town is the Fortress of Sao Sebastian, where there is a tiny museum. From the ramparts, we watched the squid fishermen at work and many of the boys swimming unashamed and naked in the harbour.

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Sao Sebastian Fortress Wrecks along the Promenade Casa Rosa
The Presidential Palace
Constellation Aircraft
Relics of the Biafra War

Our brief bus tour also showed us the town, its cathedral and the Presidential Palace, "Casa Rosa", which they said you were not allowed to photograph! We sampled the local smoked fish at a nearby fishery and they even laid on a sort of folkloric dance-show in the main square.

Show Picture Full Size Near the airport, there were two dilapidated Lockheed Constellation aircraft, once involved in the Biafra War (1967-70). One had been converted into a restaurant!

We ventured ashore on our own later but found the chaotic and bustling town a bit overpowering in the heavy tropical heat. Nevertheless, at no time did we feel at all threatened as we walked along the Promenade, looking at the sad and rusting wrecks in the harbour.

Crossing The Line
Leaving Sao Tome, we crossed the Equator and the following morning were entertained by the ship's staff in the traditional manner with the "Crossing The Line Ceremony".

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Captain Trond Lippestad
before King Neptune
Mrs Overall
cleans up
The Chief Purser
prepares to be dunked the pool! "Having the Operation"
or being "splurged"

In these days of "Health & Safety", it's considered too hazardous to put passengers through the traditional rituals they used to; so instead, the staff made a full-scale production show out of it, rather in the style of a Pantomime - and a splendid job they made of it too!

Even Captain Lippestad (who had developed a reputation as a bit of a "lad"), and some of the Senior Officers took part in the ritual humiliation of "Kissing the Fish", "Having the Operation" or being "Splurged" and being tossed into the pool.

The ladies' favourite (and mine!) was Malcolm, the Food & Beverage Manager, but he didn't seem all that keen - I can't imagine why! It took the rest of the day for the deck-hands to empty the pool and clean-up all the mess but it was great fun!
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A Late Night Plumbing Emergency
One evening, I returned to my cabin at 11.15pm to discover soaking wet carpet over half my cabin! To give them their due, the Engineers arrived within minutes of my telephone call and diagnosed a blocked drain in the duct outside my cabin. The sound of the water-vacuum couldn't have been popular at that time of night but I was thankful that it wasn't a foul drain that had blocked! I went to bed with fire blankets all over the floor and had damp carpet for 5 days after that but at least I got a nice letter of apology and a bottle of Champagne out of it!

Monday 22nd January
Walvis Bay, Namibia
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4 days & 1,558 nautical miles south from Sao Tome, almost on the Tropic of Capricorn, we reached the chief port of Namibia on a stretch of coast known as "The Skeleton Coast". It derives its name partly from all the bleached whale-bones that used to litter the beaches but also partly from the skeletal wrecks of many ships drawn ashore by the unpredictable sea-fogs and treacherous currents.

Walvis Bay is also one of the World's greatest natural sea bird habitats; the dunes and nearby lagoon are home to thousands of pelicans, flamingos and other sea birds.

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Black Watch alongside Pelicans The Skeleton Coast German Swakopmund The Tug Restaurant

Our tour today was to the German-built resort town of Swakopmund, about 25 miles away. Completely surrounded by the Namib Desert, (Picture >>) the architecture is an anachronism but nonetheless fascinating. We were just a bit disappointed that they didn't show us more of it.

Show Picture Full Size We visited a small museum near the beach and then The Crystal Gallery where there were some impressive examples of semi-precious stones and minerals mined in Namibia, including the World's largest quartz crystal, discovered in 1985 and weighing-in at 14.1 tons! Picture of John beside it! >>

This was our first view of "real" desert and the ever-changing shape of the dunes attracts adventure-tourists who come here dune-bashing and parasailing. Picture >>

On our 19th evening aboard, there was the usual "Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party" but on this occasion, it was the Captain leaving and not us! Sadly, we were also saying goodbye to our table companions Val & Malcolm (front left & centre in the picture) who had been great fun for nearly 3 weeks.

At dinner, there was the usual "Parade of the Baked Alaska" and this was followed by a delightful international show put on by the cosmopolitan crew. But while we were revelling in the knowledge that we were remaining aboard for another 2 months, nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to experience!

Wednesday 24th January
Cape Town, South Africa
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On a brilliantly clear morning, we entered the majestic setting of Table Bay and this was the view!

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Table Mountain towers over Lion's Head and Signal Hill in front, with Devil's Peak to the left and the Twelve Apostles to the far right.

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A spectacular entrance! John Entering the harbour Yours Truly Parked!
The Table Bay Hotel

Show Picture Full Size Our orientation tour of the city took us to the Companys Gardens to see the Parliament Building and the statue of Cecil Rhodes, founder of De Beers and illustrious colonialist considered by many the greatest influence in the success of Cape Colony Province. He was borne in Bishops Stortford in 1853.
The Tuynhys, Office of the State President in The Companys Gardens

After seeing such poverty and sorry dilapidation in Ghana & Sao Tome, it was a striking contrast to see such a bright, clean and modern city - and such a vibrant, prosperous one, enjoying an enviable geographical position in the shelter of the 3,563 foot high Table Mountain.
The dramatic mountain range known as The Twelve Apostles, above Camps Bay and Maiden's Cove
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Upper Cable Station The "Rotair" cable-car
rises to 3,500ft
From the
above Lion's Head
Top of the World!

The exhilarating trip up the mountain was in the "Rotair", a semi-open cable-car carrying 65 people & which rotates through 360 degrees so that everyone gets a good view. The queuing arrangements were well-organised and sheltered
from the heat; even with the large crowd, there were no frayed tempers; just the most fantastic view! Show video-clip
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From the "plateau", you can see Cape Point and if you don't mind snakes(!), you could spend all day following the various nature trails. Picture >>
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From Table Mountain; notorious Robben Island in the bay.

Show Picture Full Size Our ship was berthed close to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, the regenerated dock area centred on the 2 harbour basins commemorating Queen Victoria & her son Alfred and built between 1860 & 1920. Here street musicians now entertain throngs of people visiting the colourful cafes, restaurants and shops.

Berthed right outside the Table Bay Hotel, the view from my cabin balcony was good-enough to match that of the best suite in the hotel! My Cabin View >>

Thursday 25th January
Day 2 in Cape Town
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On my Helicopter Flightseeing Trip I was disappointed my seat wasn't the best for pictures but it was still good fun - & the dishy pilot was rather nice! Just as we landed, we had a good view of Saga Ruby arriving in Cape Town.
Saga Ruby (ex-Vistafjord) arrives on a 1-day call on her World Cruise via Australia and the Far East. She left Southampton 2 days after us but came across the South Atlantic via St Helena & Walvis Bay.
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Helicopter Flightseeing
View south to the Cape
Botanical Gardens
A township settlement Hout Bay
Local kids at play
Hout Bay

A sweltering day with temperatures up to 38 deg C, we took the "Blue Route" bus tour, stopping off for ice-creams at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens where the Giant Agapanthus were in full flower.

You can get on and off these sightseeing buses all day and it's an excellent way of seeing the local area. Passing one of the "township settlements" on the outskirts of Cape Town, the bus also makes a 15-20 minute stop at Hout Bay, a small fishing harbour - popular today with the local youths, cooling off by jumping in the dock.

One of these youths was repeatedly showing-off and seemed to delight in running around with his shorts half-down and deliberately showing his bum!
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We returned to Black Watch to discover that there had been major problems with the flights from the UK; having touched down to refuel in Accra, Ghana, there had been a problem with contaminated fuel, resulting in delays and diversions. The passengers leaving us were supposed to return on the same planes bringing the "new" passengers for the next leg of the cruise. We felt so relieved not to be affected by any of this but we had to feel sorry for our friends who had all but wasted a lovely day in Cape Town waiting to be told what was happening.

Show Picture Full Size Meanwhile, having learned that an old friend of mine would be on holiday in South Africa with his boy-friend and would be in Cape Town at the same time as us, I had contacted him by e-mail and made arrangements to meet. All went to plan and we met up with Stephen and his friend Chris and spent a great evening on the V&A Waterfront catching up with all their news.

So far, our "Cruise of a Lifetime" was proving fantastic and we still had another day in Cape Town, to be followed by another 2 glorious months on this truly fabulous holiday............

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

1st Leg Mileage: 7,141 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 111,355 n miles

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