More Reflections on Entering Gansbaai Harbour

There are a few other things I want to say about Gansbaai harbour, which I could not find space for in the previous post.

In “Nolwandle’s December Holiday Part 1” I described our difficult entry into Gansbaai Harbour. The “South African Sailing Directions Volume 2,” SAN HO-22, Fourth Edition, Section 7-7, Paragraph 50 begins,

“The approaches to Gansbaai are fraught with danger, and entry into the harbour should not be attempted without local knowledge.”

Well, we entered without local knowledge and survived! Facetiousness aside, I have a number of times gone through our steps and the various options open to us on that day. In retrospect the best approach may have been to go to Hermanus harbour which is about 15 miles away. Hermanus has serious problems with scend, but the sailing directions make no mention of it being difficult to enter.

Forward control cabin of the “Arno Louis”. This is used when fishing.

Paragraph 51 says,

“A rocky ledge over which the least known depth is 4.3 m extends for 0.5 miles in a WSW direction from near the head of the North Breakwater. The sea breaks over this ledge during moderate westerly or northerly winds or when even a slight swell is running. Breakers also occur over Langebank, another rocky patch 6 to 7 cables to the westward of the North Breakwater Head, where the least known depth is 8.4 m. Local fishermen start the run into the harbour with the lights at the heads of the North and South Breakwaters in line bearing approximately 083 degrees. This takes them over the tail of the first-mentioned rocky ledge, but clear of the other rocky patch. When any sort of sea is running, it is necessary for the skipper of a trawler entering to watch carefully for a lull before crossing the distrubed water at good speed. When strong westerly or northerly winds are blowing it is inadvisable to attempt to enter.”

When we entered, both the rocky ledge and Langebank were breaking. I found it very difficult to identify the North and South Breakwater lights and then get them in line. Partially this was because we arrived at sunrise and the sun was straight into our eyes. But the problem is also that the lights and their pillars/towers are not distinct.

On my second run I was able to use the notch, about a third of the way up Duinefonteinberg on it’s west side, as a guide. I noticed that this notch was in line with the North and South Breakwater lights. This notch is clearly visible in the this photo just to the right of Nolwandle’s mast.

After some observation during my time there, I would also suggest an approach a bit closer to the West Breakwater and a bit more from the south-west. A study of this Google earth map would seem to suggest this as well. If you are entering the West Harbour, I would alter course to run parallel to the West Breakwater wall once abeam the West Breakwater light. It seems to be deep right next to the wall. Once the entrance is reached turn hard to starboard.

Paragraph 53 says,

“Because of the persistent swell in this locality, heavy surf breaks right over the North and West Breakwaters when even moderate westerly or northerly winds are blowing. It is extremely dangerous to venture on foot along the West Breakwater under these conditions, so much so that access to it has been entirely barred to the public.”

This is true and not true. The swell often breaks over the West Breakwater, even sometimes when the southeaster is blowing. But it has not been “entirely barred to the public”. I went for a number of walks there and it is a favourite spot for fisherpeople.

West Breakwater

End of the West Breakwater. Note the fishermen’s bakkie and their fishing lines.

Paragraph 54 says,

“The spire of the Dutch Reformed Church at Gansbaai is conspicuous.”

I have yet to see this spire and definitely could not see it on entry. By the way the Dutch Reformed Church is English for the “NG Kerk” mentioned in the previous post!

Lastly I want to say thank you to Ou Bols, the owner of “Merlene”. I hope that I have spelt his nickname correctly and if it is correct I wonder how he got this name? “Ou” means old in Afrikaans and “Bols” is a type of brandy, so maybe it has something to do with that? I met him the second day that I was there when he came down to check on his boat. He was very friendly, quite happy that I tied up to his boat and we had an interesting conversation about fishing for sardines and the coming fishing season.

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