An inspiration to young and old

Stephen's Scribble

It’s wonderful to feel inspired. It gives us that extra zest for life. Albeit trying something new or re-inventing the way we already do something, inspiration adds flavour, colour and motivation to our existence. Inspiration comes in many forms and we are all inspired in different ways. Albeit a new idea, the wonders of nature, watching X Factor, an oil painting, a beautiful piece of music, an architecturally designed home or following a person on social media …. inspiration is at our fingertips all the time.

Recently, Dr Otto Thaning from Cape Town completed yet another Robben Island swim. A serious accomplishment for any endurance swimmer. What sets Otto apart is he’s 80 years old! Otto also holds the record for the oldest person (at 73) to have swum across the English Channel. I met him in 2018 in Dover where he was attempting to break his own record. Sadly the weather conditions weren’t favourable and Otto lost his window of opportunity, but that didn’t seem to phase him too much. As a retired heart surgeon Otto also worked with Dr Chris Barnard back in the day. His life story is absolutely fascinating yet when you meet him, he comes across as a vibrant, energetic every day sort of person. No air and graces yet when you look at the sparkle in his eyes you know that he has wonderful insight on life and how to lead it to the full.

Otto & LewisLewis Pugh another hugely inspirational character was on board the pilot boat while Otto did the swim. It took Otto 2Hrs52min. The water was 16 degrees centigrade. He was wearing a speedo, swimming cap and goggles. Think about that for second. The water locally has been cold lately, a pretty similar temperature actually. How on earth can an eighty year old man endure such cold while swimming a marathon!? It boggles the mind. I caught up with Lewis (The human Polar bear) about that experience and what it was like to witness one of his hero’s complete this epic swim.

“You know Stephen, your bodies thermostat doesn’t actually work so well once you get passed 75”, he started. “When you have a Father figure and friend that is in agony, on the verge of hypothermia and on the edge, it can get emotional. I had to remain completely calm. My job was to give feedback on water temperature, distance to go, motivate on how well he was doing and never ever lose sight of the end goal. I knew he had trained well and what what he is capable of mentally. He was very very cold …. but there was never any doubt”

On completion of the swim, (over a lovely warm drink no doubt) Lewis asked Otto what his secrets were to longevity and living such an incredibly active life. The good Doctor shared 4 of his secrets.

1. Genetics. Otto acknowledges being blessed to have be born with good genes. It’s a bit like drawing a strong card at birth.

2. Nutrition. Otto has followed a healthy well balanced diet his entire life and never been entrapped by any of the vices that are ever present in modern day society.

3. Exercise. Get the blood pumping four times a week says Otto. Learn how to push the boundaries without injury. Love being in your body.

4. Mental Health. Stress is not good but it exists. It can be reinvented through a positive healthy mindset. There are a multitude of different ways to nurture our minds. Make that part of your daily routine.

Stephen PraetoriousHaving put down the phone to Lewis, I took a moment to reflect on some of the people in my life that have inspired me. The list is enormous. In fact I was so inspired by how many inspiring people exist in my life that I feel inspired to share more inspiring stories. What better place to start than right here in St Francis where so many incredible people live. If you have an inspiring story or know of that special somebody who has inspired you, leave a comment …. these sorts of stories are so worth sharing.

Article by Stephen Praetorious

Hati Hati – Slowly Slowly and look out for the bumps

Stephen's Scribble

I was at an early Pilates class the other day and somebody observed that three or four cars drove passed one after the other. “Jeepers, the traffic has got quite hectic these days” said somebody “Ja, agreed the rest of us, it’s getting busy!” Remembering several busy cities I’d lived in previously I smiled inwardly at how lucky we are.

Traffic is like a snake and that ‘reptilian energy’ is made up by all those who find themselves on that road getting to where they need to go …. like riding on the back of a long, winding reptile encapsulated in the ‘safety’ of our cars. Sometimes fast sometimes slow, always a little dangerous … yet different from place to place.

Let’s take Bali for example. The best way to get around there is on a scooter and it seems EVERYBODY has one! I’ve seen families of 4 on scooters, children no older than 10 on scooters, scooters carrying chickens and dogs, scooters carrying building materials …..even scooters carrying kegs of beer along with a mobile bar! Lets not forget the gazillion tourists on scooters too. Surfers and yoga bunnies all dashing off towards that perfect wave or next conscious class. Plus of course the usual cars and trucks that one would expect. My point is ….. its busy!

In South African cities, the traffic is also pretty ridiculous…… its mostly cars and taxis though and its different……a different kind of snake. People wake up at ridiculous o’clock in order to try and avoid the South African traffic snake and I am beginning to understand why. The South African traffic snake is like a viscous spitting cobra that ‘owns the road’. It’s toxic its nasty, its fast and doesn’t particularly like obeying any rules. All too often when people are stuck in a traffic jam, they step on their hooters in outrage! Try and push in at the last minute and the car to your left will nudge as far fwd as possible to prevent you from doing so. If you do push in expect an angry hooting with hands thrown up in the air. I’ve been zap signed machine gun style for ‘misbehaving’ in traffic. I’ve heard of people pulling knives and even pointing guns as a result of ‘road rage’ in S.A. The sense of road entitlement in South African cities is nothing short of toxic!

In Bali however, its more like driving on an amicable Anaconda. It’s thick and smelly but chilled out. People don’t push in, they just “join the flow” while happily make space for each other. Cutting inside and driving on the wrong side of the road is commonplace. Nobody seems to bother …. ‘hati hati’ as the Balinese say ….’slowly slowly’. The only hooting is when somebody is greeting or overtaking you and its a “beep beep” ….as in ‘hey there …. just gently coming passed you’ …….. not stepping on the hooter and swearing blind as happens all too often in Cape Town.

So what is the traffic snake in Seals like? I guess it would have to be a sun bathing puff adder. But one without any fangs …. Regularly people going in the opposite direction will actually stop to have a little chat. If somebody pulls up behind …. they’ll wait …. it’s chilled. People DO drive slowly and even wave … that’s cool. Road rage here doesn’t really happen. Another small yet quite significant thing that we can be grateful for.

In fact, it appears that our community is becoming more and more “road conscious”. It’s cool to see some speed limit signs have been erected approaching sea Vista. Also some (reasonably gentle) speed bumps. Of course there’ll always be times when we are in a rush. Thinking about it though, it’s very unlikely that the person who’s expecting us will be freaked out if we’re a few minutes late. That’s how village life should be … and generally is … cool huh?!

Newly tarred Da Gama Road in Cape ST Francis

“Hati hati” on the newly tarred Da Gama Road in Cape St Francis and the speed limit is still 40Kph so drive slowly and enjoy the ride.


You can change names but you cannot change history


A rather well stated post by the Cruthmullet (Don Clark) on Facebook yesterday with reference to changing PE’s name

So now another wave of South African names, which have served the people of South Africa for hundreds of years, are about to be changed.

For what?

Let me state categorically; and this is a fact, not an opinion. You can change the name of Port Elizabeth to Mandela Bay, Verwoerd’s Folly, Gqeberha, or Thiswindisapaininthearse, and it will not FOR ONE MINUTE change the history of this country, or make the people who were marginalized by Apartheid happier, richer, or generally more content.

It will, however, have a huge negative impact on our fiscus because it takes many, many millions of Rands to effect a name change on a practical level. This is money that COULD make the people who were marginalized by Apartheid happier, richer, or generally more content if used to fix all the infrastructure that’s been broken by our useless ANC government.

Name changing is, at best, expensive symbolism in the hands of sulky historians.

But in reality, is just PETTY POLITICAL POSTURING which will serve nobody!

After all, where will it end?

Do these pedantic bureaucrats know that, many centuries ago, the entire continent was named “Africa” by none other than those pesky pink pizza-eating Romans?

So, will they change the name of the continent too?

If so, I suggest we call it Fred.



It takes years to build a brand and Port Elizabeth has done a superb job at creating the Port Elizabeth brand. All that is now lost and so they must start again spending millions on re-establishing the brand under a new name tht many will never be able to spell let alone pronounce. 

And of courst the cost. It will take  well over a year and is going to cost the government, the province and business millions that could have been far better spelt enriching the lives of the poor rather than the pockets of the Tenderpreneurs that are going to emerge from the dark like hungry cockroaches ready to steal as much as they can.

Running the gauntlet in a St Francis 50 #3

Stephen's Scribble

If you haven’t yet read Part One Click Here
and Part Two Click Here

Part Three

Continuing on from Part Three…..  . If we didn’t go now, we’d probably miss the Boat Show. So we left in a hurry trying to duck in underneath the advancing Nicole.

The first few days out of the Bahamas we tried to go as quickly as possible. We had a short 2.5m beam sea and the wind was gusting between 13 and 25 knots. The gennaker wasn’t really an option so we motor sailed averaging just under 10 knots for 48 hours. But the remnants of Nicole were travelling quicker and 300 miles south of Cape Hatteras things started getting interesting. Please note that I use the word remnants because that is what it was. The storm was dissipating when it came over the top of us but it still wasn’t pretty. We had furled the jib away to about 4 square meters. The wind now on the starboard quarter was regularly hitting 40 knots. The sea was big, (about 6m I would guess) and confused. Every now and then a nasty one would feather then smash into the starboard hull causing the boat to twitch a bit. We’d received our last forecast and I knew that the next 24 hours were going to be tough.

The following morning, the wind rose above 40 knots and stayed there. I felt a little knot of fear start building inside. I let it come, recognized it for what it was, but remained calm. Calling on logic I started ticking mental boxes. The boat was handling beautifully. We’d taken a few waves but not a leak anywhere. Nothing was broken. All systems were functioning. We were doing 9-10 knots and surfs were under control. The rig was rock solid and the boat didn’t feel over powered. The crew was much quieter than usual, but calm and ready. Our course was okay and it looked like we’d be able to round Cape Hatteras by nightfall. Feeling better I glance behind at the approaching squall. We register 53.7 knots of wind. (100km/hr) The familiar knot returns just as Kat appears with a ham cheese and tomato sandwich. The “Kazakhstan speed Queen” is a cool customer, if there was any fear there, it didn’t show. I tuck into the sandwich and the knot is gone………….it must have just been a hunger pang!

We had wisely stayed quite far offshore after leaving the Bahamas, so were able to head north and keep the wind on the starboard quarter during the entire storm. The decision to stay offshore, made rounding Cape Hatteras a lot less difficult than it might have been. We approached late that afternoon, Karl at the helm and myself navigating, I understood that when we rounded and started heading towards the Chesapeake, we would be in very shallow water and had concerns of breaking waves.

Looking at the graveyard of wrecks on the chart I decided to keep “pinching” until we were about 15miles past the point. (By “pinching”, I mean trying to come up a bit higher but not too high as to take the massive sea directly on the beam.) We could then turn in about 35m of water as against 20. I’ll never forget that look on Karls’ face as he kept pinching higher helping us to get to that deeper water. Completely focused and absolutely resolute in doing what needed to be done he was operating on a different level…………a level that only comes with experience. He’d been rock solid as a 1st Mate the whole trip and never missed a beat. That wasn’t about to change, we were nearly home and dry.

The Gulf Stream also helped and just before nightfall I was happy that we’d gone far enough passed and made the call to come to port. Now the wind was directly astern and the seas still large. It was still blowing 40 knots plus and very dark. You would hear the big waves before you saw their frothing crests loom high above the stern light. Next thing we’d be screaming down the face, watching our boat speed rocket. Each time Penelope came out beautifully. Our top surf with Deon on the helm was 25.7 knots!

Rapidly approaching the Chesapeake with the storm showing little sign of abating, we furled away The “G string” and continued to hit 17knot surfs under bare poles. In the small hours of the morning the wind suddenly dropped. The storm had passed and within an hour we had 20 knots on the nose.

We arrived in at Norfolk Virginia in the early hours of the morning. U.S customs were friendly and efficient arriving onboard within half an hour of my phone call.

All checked in we were too amped to sleep and after a clean-up, we headed down town. Back in South Africa, Duncan having not slept much either was relieved that all was well. He generously suggested that I take the crew out for a well-deserved meal on him. Kat and Deon enjoying some husband and wife time arranged to meet Karl and myself for dinner a bit later. It felt surreal walking around town. At sunset Karl and I stumbled across a reggae band playing music in a park adjacent to the Marina. Their name…………..”Destination” We had a good chuckle, kicked off our shoes and got into it. The unfamiliar feeling of grass between my toes felt very good indeed.

A few days later we arrived in Annapolis where we set to work detailing the boat before the show. Soon all the stainless on deck had been polished and after a detailed wash down, the exterior was looking like a brand new boat again. The interior had been extremely well protected for the trip. We removed floor runners exposing gleaming teak floorboards, took the protection off the corian tops and settee covers off the leather. Windows were windexed, stainless steel sinks buffed and all the paraphernalia from the crossing stowed.

I had got to know the St Francis 50 intimately on the way across and had been very impressed with how little had gone wrong and how magnificently it had handled.

Looking over the vessel one last time as the show as about to open, I fully appreciated was a fantastic, proudly South African product this was.

And today, over a decade later, the spirit lives on. Of course there have been many upgrades since my tenure at St Francis Marine …. all for the better! I have no doubt Duncan will be very happy that the flag is still flying strong and that his legacy lives on in every boat that rolls off the production line.



Running the gauntlet in a St Francis 50 #2

Stephen's Scribble

This article will be published over the hree days o be sure to join us to the end

If you haven’t yet read Part One Click Here

Part Two

Continuing on from Part One ….. I suppose this marked the beginning of an amazing and memorable voyage. But I had no idea then, (doing some delayed paperwork), that what lay ahead would be far more serious than I would ever have imagined..

The “blue on blue” carries a unique energy.  Day in and day out you progress on your relatively tiny vessel across the vastness of the ocean. Somehow the sky above you feels massive. There is no cell phone signal. Your daily diary becomes appointment free. What you could have or should have done before you left is irrelevant. It’s you, the boat, the crew and the elements. The days of the week are registered in the logbook, but Saturday means as little or as much as Monday. In our case we travelled in style.

All cabins were en-suite. We had a huge chest freezer, two fridges, four plate gas stove, full size oven, microwave, TV, DVD, surround sound (including exterior speakers) etc etc. I divided the day into 3 four hour watches and the night into 4 three hour watches. This works well as the watches roll evenly between sunrise/sunset and the inevitable “dog watch”. The person on the 08h00 – 12h00 prepared lunch as well as did the dishes etc. Similarly the person on the 12h00 -16h00 did dinner. Breakfast was always a help yourself affair.

Steve at the helm on Penelope

Stephen at the helm on the Dog Watch

Aboard “Penelope” everybody (Skipper incl) made a real effort to prepare a meal when it was their turn. Food is always a highlight of the day at sea so; when it’s not your turn (which is 3 meals out of 4) you can kick back and enjoy the other person’s effort. We ate extremely well, baking bread every other day. We caught fish too, but not as many as we would have liked. (Maybe 6 in total) We landed only one good size Dorado but it the hook pulled out of its mouth as we were getting it up the transom steps. Instead of the fish being gutted, I was ! Doradao is my absolute favourite fish to eat.

We sailed practically all the way across the equator, which was amazing. I had received permission from Duncan Lethbridge (Owner of St Francis Marine) via satellite phone that we could use the new gennaker. We did, but took it down every night without fail! We dressed Deon and Kat in their foul weather gear on the day we crossed the equator. They sang to Neptune while wrapped in the remnants of “Patch”. As they sweltered, we toasted Mother Ocean with a bottle of Pongraz. Looking up at the gennaker I pinched myself at how smooth the trip had been so far.

For the Atlantic leg, we’re being weather routed via satellite phone by Duncan himself, and my brother Pete. Pete is an avid surfer and I couldn’t have wished for anybody better. Duncan too, was always spot on. As we approached the bulge of Brazil, the hurricane forecasts started coming in. It’s early September. At this time of year the hurricanes develop west of the Cape Verde Islands and come screaming across the Atlantic towards the West Indies. Generally they bend north from there, but as we all know, many don’t……….. Often slamming into the Caribbean Islands, the Bahamas or South Florida. “Igor” was the first one that we got wind of. Way north of us it wouldn’t pose any direct problems but it was scary. As Pete put it…………”Igor looks like a hung-over Viking who just caught someone in bed with his wife. If that thing gets anywhere near you, best you find some underground parking!” We all had a nervous giggle but the reality was that we were entering “the zone”.

With Igor to the north of us, I decided to tuck in behind it and head straight for St Lucia. After 32 days at sea, the Pitons familiar silhouette greeted us at dawn. Land holds an unusual smell after being at sea for a month. I breathed in its earthy sweetness with satisfaction. It had been a long haul but leg one was over.

Ideally I would have only liked to stay for 2 days but swells from Igor were smashing into the Bahamas and I knew it would be a very uncomfortable ride. As it turned out, we stayed for 4, long enough to enjoy some wonderful St Lucian hospitality and experience the famous Gros Ilet street party. The boat was in great shape and after taking on some fresh produce and diesel we set off towards the Bahamas.

Conditions were favourable and we made good time with the screecher, logging several 200nm plus days. Nighttime was always a little unsettled though with squalls forming quickly. Under clouds we were getting 35+ knots of wind. Lots of lightning as well but luckily never too close. The water temperature was 35 degrees centigrade……. ideal hurricane conditions.

After 6 days we arrived at St Francis Resort on Stocking Island where we were welcomed by George Godfrey and his family. Leg two was over. The few days there were chilled enjoying crystal clear waters and evening games of poker with the locals.

We were constantly keeping an eye on the weather as there was lots of activity south of Cuba. Tropical storm “Nicole” was developing and starting to head north. Our time was running short with winds forecast to go north off Cape Hatteras in a few days. Risking stiff breeze on the nose against the Gulf Stream was not really an option. If we didn’t go now, we’d probably miss the Boat Show. So we left in a hurry trying to duck in underneath the advancing Nicole.


Running the gauntlet in a St Francis 50

Stephen's Scribble

This article will be published over the next three days o be sure to join us to the end

South Africa has numerous catamaran manufacturers that have established a solid reputation in both the cruising and charter world. Right here in St Francis Bay we have Nexus yachts run by the Paarman brothers as well as St Francis Marine owned by the Lethbridge family. Both produce world class cruising catamarans. Many of us remember Duncan Lethbridge tragically passed away not so long ago. I still have many fond memories of my time spent working at St Francis Marine (almost a decade ago now) and would like to dedicate this previously penned article to Duncan, an old school sailing Legend, and one of the founders of St Francis Bay.

South African catamarans feature prominently at every major boat show worldwide. Now being located on the Southern tip of Africa has always presented its challenges to boat builders. Regardless of the time of year, getting their product to these shows on time and in pristine condition is crucially important. Enter the “Delivery Skipper”

It’s a crisp morning in late July as this particular delivery skipper watches the massive sliding doors of Bay 3 open at St Francis Marine. The latest “Phantom” 50 is wheeled into the elements for the first time. It’s impressive but there’s no time to admire her just yet. The brand new rig from Southern Spars has just been driven up from Cape Town on the yards customized trailer. The rigger is standing by and the clock is ticking. We get straight to work.

As we hoist the mast aloft on the yards crane my phone rings…’s one of my delivery crew wanting to confirm the trip. I answer the phone, “Ja Bru, get the U.S visa sorted for you your lady, we’ll be in Cape Town in a week or so.“

St Francis 50 Catamaran - Duncan Lethbridge

Penelppe off to Port St Francis for launch

3 working days later we are sea trialing off Port St Francis enjoying an impressive turn of speed. Full main and the new screecher from Quantum have us doing 12 knots in a heartbeat. As we calibrate instrumentation it appears that all the systems are functioning well. I am happy for the 48-hour shakedown cruise to Cape Town that will follow, but my concerns lie in the Atlantic and beyond.

The Annapolis Boat show runs from the 7th to the 11th of October, some 8200 nautical miles from Cape Town. In order to get there we need to get going soon. It looks like the hurricane season is going to be a busy one and I’m feeling edgy.

We finally left Cape Town on evening of the 12th of August. Four of us, Deon and Kat are newlyweds and both recently qualified Yacht Masters who are doing the trip for the miles. Karl is an experienced Yacht Master and acquaintance from the “Stock”. I was confident with my crew even if we’d only just met. They are good people I told myself, and they all have tickets. Over the next 2 months we would definitely get to know each other, hopefully becoming friends. Carrying extra 600 litres of fuel on top of our standard 880 litres, I was confident of making Trinidad. My logic was head there first. It’s below the hurricane belt. We could re-victual then head up through the Caribbean Sea to the Bahamas where we were to rendezvous with the new owner. I was also carrying an old gennaker from one of the 44’s and was pleased that we had this sail. I intended to fly it as much as possible, should the conditions suite.

And they did………. After 24 hours we had a F5-6 southeasterly and we hoisted that Gennaker aloft. We were still getting to know each other so I took my time double checking the tack line and sheet leads. Then Deon hoisted the sock as I trimmed on the sheet from the helm station. The gennaker ballooned out in front of us and watching the smile broaden on Karl’s face, we took off ! I soon realized that this cruising catamaran is designed to perform. Downwind with just the gennaker we were regularly hitting 15 knots, surfing into the late teens. As I flipped a perfect “easy over” fried egg we hit a 20knot surf! Passing a sandwich of note to Karl at the helm I thought it impossible for his grin to get bigger……..but it did! Surfing down waves at 20 knots with ham, cheese and egg “sarmies”…….we were clearly having a good time! Thank you Angelo Lavranos !

But all good things have to come to an end. The delivery gennaker had been repaired more than once and as we flew along, chewing up the miles, we aptly named it “Patch”. I made a call to keep flying it through the night. The sea was quite big and fairly short with the wind gusting a bit, so in retrospect I should have got it down before nightfall. But we had a deadline to meet and I didn’t. A few hours later right in the middle of a quiet moment on the toilet, there is a hammering above me. “Patch” had blown…exploded actually! We’d punched into the back of a swell off a16knot surf. Boat speed dropped to 9 knots and simultaneously the wind had gusted to 30……….”Kaboom!”……….Patch had gone to sail heaven! All hands on deck we soon retrieved the tattered sail, furled out the genoa and continued on our way.

I suppose this marked the beginning of an amazing and memorable voyage. But I had no idea then, (doing some delayed paperwork), that what lay ahead would be far more serious than I would ever have imagined.

Now read PART TWO