Four Days in Gansbaai Harbour

We had tied Nolwandle up on the outside of three fishing boats – seine trawlers. The outer most one’s name was “Merlene”. Inside her was the “Arno Louis” and inside her the “Berggans”. Moving to and from “Nolwandle” required climbing over each of the three fishing vessels till finally the West Jetty was reached. On the jetty is a hut for a security guard and a gate without a lock, but an impressive gate none the less.
Nolwandle and trawlers“Nolwandle” on the outside of the fishing vessels moored to the West Jetty. Duinefonteinberg is the mountain covered in cloud. If you look carefully at the top of Nolwandle’s mast you can see a large duiker (cormerant) sitting on the windex, which one of them later broke!

The West Jetty becomes a groyne off which there is a berth for “White Pointer”, a shark cage diving boat and then in shallow water another jetty. At the foot of the West Jetty is a beautiful white sandy beach. It seems that the development of most of South Africa’s fishing harbours has been at the cost of a number of beautiful beaches – in some cases it was not even necessary to destroy the beach, but this still took place. I know of cases of the theft of the beach front in Hout Bay, Kalkbaai, Saldahna and now Gansbaai. There are probably examples at other harbours.
White pointer and beach“White Pointer” and a Flamenca off the beautiful white sandy beach in West Harbour

However a part of the beach in Gansbaai harbour remains, and I hope that in the future it is not destroyed by a few truck loads of rock, as the south-west shore of the harbour already has. I had a swim each morning from the beach, once in the rain. At all the times the sea temperature was between 18 and 22 degrees, the water sparkly clean and very pleasant. There is also a long concrete slipway which has collapsed on that shore of the harbour.

West harbour filled inMCM’s House of Sin, dolosse and the west shore of the harbour destroyed by rock fill

After Peter, Dick and Nicky left I sorted out the boat. I took the table which Peter had taken off its mountings out of the saloon and left the box in the cockpit. The table top stored easily on the bunks. Anyway I was alone on the boat so there was lots of space.

Supper was fried pork sausage and as I was sitting in the cockpit finishing off my first plate, a hard rat face appeared over the gunwale of “Merlene”. He said that he was Hennie and the security guard in charge of the gate. I introduced myself and offered him a sausage roll which he grasped with two hands. He claimed he had woken up late and had left home without eating, to be on time for duty at 1900. This according to him was non-negotiable and stipulated in his contract with the trawler owners, who were his bosses.

Nolwandle from beachHennie’s charges – Nolwandle and trawlers seen from the sandy beach

Hennie was immediately bought by my pork sausage. From then on he and I were “friends” – he having summed me up as an average white South African racist, just like him. That night he told me how he spent 23 years on the SAR (South African Railways) mainly as a shunter in Walvis Bay. He left school to at the age of 16 to join them – doing his military service later.

The next night he told me how he liked to sabotage the “kaffirs on that poesboot. Piece of shit, I tell you they made a fortune when they sold it to a BEE company! Serves them right, only I don’t allow them to bring their meide here. No, they don’t go through that gate whilst I’m here. Fucking kaffirs just want to suip and screw all night till they go to sea!”

“Poesboot”. An unusual design for a South African fishing boat. Constructed out of fibreglass. Held to the jetty by just one spring!

Hennie also had his opinion on the comings and goings at the Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) building which had been used as a fish store in the past but was now used as accommodation for MCM staff deployed in the area to combat poaching. I had observed that there was a continual flow of vehicles, mainly MCM bakkies and including the occasional police van, to the building. Clearly there was an all-hours party going on and there were many young girls present. This was the “house of sin” and Hennie was sure that nothing would ever stop the evil.

He told of, “klein hoere (small whores) van Blompark who partied with the poachers sometimes and the MCM staff at others.” Perhaps they were even sent by the poachers to party with the gamekeepers?

Of course at the centre of every evil is money, and in this case the money made from perlemoen (abalone) poaching. Gansbaai is a key hub of a multi-billion dollar perlemoen poaching operation, and the harbour is a central piece of real estate in this hugely profitable cat and mouse game.
West HarbourWest Harbour with West Jetty on left and West Breakwater behind

West Harbour has no offices or factories around it and thus is relatively dark at night – ideal for bringing high speed rubber-ducks in and out without lights. So especially in the early hours of the morning – from 02:00 till 04:30 when it started to get light before sunrise, there was a steady flow of various craft without lights in and out of the harbour, mostly at speed and right in front of the party at the MCM base.

Hennie also claimed to have been offered R20 000 if he switched off the jetty lights for 20 minutes, to allow poachers to off-load perlemoen into the harbour.

Net storage
Fishing nets stored under shade cloth

But this was holiday time, so on Boxing Day I was privileged to see numerous floating things, including boats, taking families for rides. These included many rubber ducks which were clearly Christmas presents – a few hundred-thousand rands of rubber, glassfibre and outboard and I was happy to note that Santa had not only been visiting white families, with quite a number of black owners at the steering wheel. I also spotted a few other 8 meter plus ducks – high powered with rigid bottoms and inflatable tops, mainly darker in colour, well used, well serviced and much faster than the Christmas presents. These looked to be the work-horses of the poaching industry taking the “neefs en niggies vir ‘n rit” (taking the nephews and nieces for a ride) on Boxing Day. So what? Poachers also have families!

Poachers also have connections to gangsters of all kinds. There’s is is a hugely profitable export industry, with connections to the Chinese triads and of course a number of the local high fliers are also in on the game. The centre of this quick cash is Gansbaai – under its face of harsh fynbos beauty is a crooked town. It is like many of those in what I used to call the “Fynbos Republiek” – the Fynbos republic – a large section of the Western Cape coast where everywhere you look are beautiful fynbos plants, mountains and proteas, but behind the walls of the large houses is a den of gangsterism, drug dealing, sex, racism, the NG Kerk, the broederbond and poaching. All this and more monsters than you can imagine.

Merlene bridge close up

Merlene’s pretty bridge – too much wood work for me

Speed, not the drug high – though tik is everywhere – but high velocity, also worried me in the harbour, as it does on the rivers of our country. Boats of every kind travelled at very high speed, the worst offenders being the Trans-Agulhas speed cats which launched off the beach and then immediately attained a high speed as they passed “Nolwandle” turning hard to starboard on their way to the harbour entrance. Even “White Pointer” came in at high speed on occasion, not being able to see around the bend of the harbour entrance. An accident is sure to happen soon. Perhaps that is what it will take before speed in our harbours is policed. This situation is worse on our lakes and rivers.

On the last day of my stay Errol and Eddie brought Melly and Karl, his brother, who were to sail with me the next day.

Eddie, Errol MaxEddie, Nolwandle with Melly and Karl, Errol, Max, Merlene

It was great to meet up with Errol again – he has been living in England for nearly 2 years. He had not been out on “Nolwandle” since May 2006 when the old crew came to see the then new Nolwandle. Eventually, after helping with chaotic shopping at OK Gansbaai they left us to prepare for excitement of the next day. Departure was set for 05:30, which was sunrise, with wake up planned for 04:30. We turned in at about 23:00.

gold sunset