Take Me 2 New York (Two World Firsts under the belt)

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New York City, USA – It all started with a seemingly innocent request for a holiday to New York, but never in her wildest dreams did Vasti Geldenhuys think it would take 10 765 kilometres of ocean rowing to get her there.

Vasti, a lawyer by trade, has always been the support structure of pioneering explorer, South African Riaan Manser who rose to prominence by completing three unparalleled world firsts; cycling the entire perimeter of the African continent, circumnavigation of Madagascar by single kayak and Iceland with handicapped partner by double kayak.

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The couple, who met in Cape Town, South Africa in 1999 put their fourteen year relationship to the ultimate test when they set out to conquer two world firsts at once; Vasti is the first African woman to row across any ocean on the planet and together Riaan and Vasti became the first ever in history to row from mainland Africa to mainland North America. They departed from Agadir Morocco on 30 December 2013. With no support boat, no ablution facilities, no luxury. Just Riaan, Vasti, their combined determination and a seven meter rowing boat with their supplies.

Early in the expedition they were struck by the misfortune of capsizing in seven meter seas and amazingly while rowing more than 1800 kilometers from the nearest land. What was more unfortunate is that their satellite phone antenna had been damaged beyond repair. This meant no internet to obtain essential weather forecasts.

Manser2

This journey has tested their resolve like no other, mentally and physically. From blistered hands, rowers claw and severed backsides to a case of severe food poisoning from a revengeful Dorado. It has been nothing short of torturous for 133 days out at sea. Despite all of this, Manser’s separation from the boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean was the closest the pair had come to real life tragedy. Further the 1,5 meters box of living space they had to share, not being big enough when arguments arose and fatigue and emotions boiled over. One thing that brought some sanity was the abundance of sea life, dolphins and 30 foot whales swimming alongside their boat to large sharks that frightfully swim up to their hands while trying to film underwater.

But alas, the end is in sight, they can now almost taste victory and it comes with their arrival in New York City on 20 June 2014. What an amazing feeling it will be rowing up to the Statue of Liberty and into the history books, knowing they have done it, they have completed what critics called impossible.

Don’t miss out on this ending to this unparalleled modern day adventure; join us for Riaan and Vasti’s arrival and for the chance to hear their tales of perseverance and determination. Like Manser’s saying goes: “There’s an ocean between saying and doing.” In this case, nothing could be more literal.

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Take Me 2 New York (TM2NY – 22)

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If you believe you understand something because you did an exam about it, but have never experienced it, you don’t know what you’re talking about. We learnt that this week. So much we have read and researched about the so called dreaded Gulf Stream we believed we were ready for its power. We had no idea.

Simply put the Gulf Stream that begins in the Gulf of Mexico; way down South from where we are; is a phenomenon. It is a gigantic river that runs out in the open ocean. A river that at times is in flood and angry and sometimes a river quietly going about its business. I don’t have the figures at hand but I’ve read that billions of litres of water flow every second. We, on this 6.9m little rowing boat of ours, have discovered the gulf streams raw and unbridled power.

Our first day out of that infamous Haulsover inlet where we nearly sank the boat last week, meant rowing fist easterly direction. We needed to find this north flow of water as soon as was possible. Almost instantaneously we were forced; roughly 6 nautical miles offshore; from an easterly heading to a north easterly one. We rowed as hard as we could but had no control of our direction. The second came very soon after. We began rowing at a speed we had only dreamed of while crossing the Atlantic. Nearly averaging 5 knots (9 km/h). This speed, although welcoming was rightfully concerning as well. If the Gulf Stream could do with us as it wished, how would we cater for any contingency we may encounter?

And here is where this journey is again more so special. We have taken on something others have not ever dared in a rowing boat. Everyone had plenty advice and we although very appreciative, understood their terms of reference was from a Super yacht’s or Sport fishing boat’s perspective. Very very different!

Table Mountain to New York 4

The second day was even more surreal. As we began passing the West Palm Beach coast the current seemed to pick up pace. We were now rowing at an average of 6 knots with absolutely no wind assistance. This was unheard of. At one stage of the day Vasti and I put in a huge effort, the fastest speed we had ever rowed on flat water. 7.5 knots ( 14km/h). For a 1 ton boat to move at that speed, with only human power, something phenomenal has to be happening. That phenomenon is the Gulf Stream. As good as the stream can get so can it turn bad. The flow, where we are currently is due north and having an opposing wind into it, the sea will instantly become dangerous. Wind swell being pitched up by a five knot current will create waves 2 meters high and only a few second apart. Again, for a small craft such as ours, that will mean we will almost be permanently under water.

Fortunately for us the following day had brisk but manageable wind coming from the North, into us. The sea was bumpy and rowing very difficult. So you’d imagine Vasti and I had our progress halted? Nope, not at all. Although uncomfortable the rowing speed stayed above 4 knots. More than we ever averaged while crossing the Atlantic. The other crazy fact which we have experienced firsthand is the water temperature. Ranging from a whopping 27deg Celsius to an almost unbelievable 30 deg Celsius. I mean you could literally make your morning coffee or boil am egg with it. We are just blown away by what this journey has taught through actual doing, and not just reading about.

We are halfway to New York and still super wary of the might of the Gulf Stream. It should, if all goes well, get us to the big apple ahead of schedule. For the final leg of this incredible “Take Me 2 New York” adventure we could have hoped for nothing more.

We are honoured to be living this dream and want as many to share with us the final day. Get in touch with friends and family you know over in the US east coast and tell them about our eminent arrival. We would love as many people at the Statue of Liberty as possible. The Gulf Stream should be one of the seven wonders of the world. Because it is nothing short of it.

Table Mountain to New York 2

Follow us on our Facebook page: Take Me 2 New York and @TM2NY or @riaanmanser on Twitter. For live updates on position and progress visit http://my.yb.tl/TM2NY and www.riaanmanser.com  to see the pics and updates we regularly make.

 

Riaan and Vasti have successfully become first in history to row from mainland Africa to New York, USA.

 

 

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Take Me 2 New York (TM2NY – 21)

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We have seen Miami in all its glory. From the open seas in our rowing boat to the plastic razz ma taz of the famous Ocean Drive in Miami South Beach. It has been a welcome rest. A welcome reflection on where we have come from and what we have achieved. But all along we still had the understanding deep inside that we are not done. New York City awaits us. 1900km away.

The weather has been manic since we have arrived. Winds have been blowing onshore nonstop and at above average speeds. We need an offshore wind to get us away from the danger of land. The day of our departure was decided by me, the team navigator, and for good reason. The wind was supposed to drop the evening before. The Entire morning was supposed to deliver easy access to the open ocean again. But I ignored the weather reports the morning of our departure. I ignored them not because of ego or arrogance.  I ignored them because I felt guilty for all the support we had received. All these people we had told we were leaving and out of some sort of commitment process Vasti and I decided we had to leave. No matter what the sea or wind conditions.  For the first time Vasti understood how emotional adventure decisions make insignificant the logic of ‘safety first’ decisions.

Table Mountain to New York 3

Well, it seemed ok for the first 3 hours of rowing. The police escort and support out of Miami Harbour helping our initial effort. We rowed with enthusiasm for another hour, directly out to sea. Gapping our way through sail boat and cargo ship traffic to make it into the initial part of the Gulf Stream. The water flow north that we believed would speed up everything we understood about ocean rowing.

We had a rude awakening as the sea and the thunderstorms above us became even more untenable. Again, as my responsibility for navigation and decisions were now needed, it was one of two options. Either aim for Fort Lauderdale or try aim for a small inter coastal inlet. The only two options to safety for the next 100 miles. I chose the latter, something I could only understand as a map entity. Never imagining in my wildest dreams what lay ahead for us.

We rowed at almost an entirely westerly course to make this inlet; an inlet that would be similar to what we would consider a river mouth. Waves breaking at the shallower areas of the mouth while the tides rushed in either direction. A dangerous cocktail for even the biggest and most powerful boat. Vasti and I realised we were in trouble very quickly. We had navigated to the southerly side of the mouths rocks and hoped this to aid our entry. It didn’t. Our little boat and the human power we were exerting were no match for the forces at play.  I left my oars to try and steer the boat manually while Vasti had the tough task of rowing us. We tried, but failed to keep any direction. The swells swallowing us at every turn. We were panicking. The boat was going to sink. For sure. No way out of this washing machine of turmoil.

We screamed to passing Jet Ski show-offs and large boats heading to sea to help us. We needed a rescue. But no one came. We though could see the lifeguard station alongside this ‘river mouth’ coming to life with activity.  People running to see what was going on. Some people screaming, telling us we were in serious danger. – As if we didn’t know. The skies above us were rumbling. Dark thick clouds had moved from the South and had lightning piercing towards earth on a regular basis. The thunder afterwards, rumbling in our bones. This scene Hollywood would not even be able to replicate.

We tried again to row up into the inlet mouth but got washed back. It was impossible for me to control the steering and to row. And this is where I made the decision. I was going to steer and Vasti would have all responsibility of rowing. First we tried to make it out of the breaking waves zone. The plan was then to turn the boat around and head back. This time in a small counter current right alongside the rocks. Very dangerous with breaking waves. We made it into this counter current, Vasti rowing for her life and me steering for probably the same reward.

Vasti though was not going to be able to maintain this pace as we began to be pushed around again. I could see the angst in her eyes as she strained through each stroke. We were relieved more than anything to hear the lifeguard tower announce on their PA system to us that they have sent somebody to help. We must ‘just hang in there’ the heavy American accent told us. We did not even have three seconds to exchange positions, Vasti and I. The current would have swirled the boat in even less I believe. Vasti had to guts it out and keep us and our boat moving. Or else this journey was at its end.

Keeping a very dramatic adrenalin filled story impossibly short, it was with a salvation to see the rescue craft approach us and eventually tie us to their tow rope for extraction. The captain making a wide turn around the area, in this mouth, we had been caught in. Later telling us his rescue craft is even at big risk there.

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We were pulled into the Bill Bird marina in Haulover Park, thunder, lightning and tornadoes still over the city of Miami. The airport was in fact closed for a few hours after a tornado touched down just west of its runways. Very frightening indeed.  But we are ok now. The hospitable marina master offering us free parking while we sit this unseasonal weather out.

New York awaits, yes, but now we will not rush what cannot he rushed. We will wait either for the weather to be ideal or until the fat lady has finished singing. Whichever comes first.

Follow us on our Facebook page: Take Me 2 New York and @TM2NY or @riaanmanser on Twitter. For live updates on position and progress visit http://my.yb.tl/TM2NY and www.riaanmanser.com  to see the pics and updates we regularly make.

Riaan and Vasti have successfully become first in history to row from mainland Africa to New York, USA.

 

 

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The Table Bay Hotel – Flower Power

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One of the joys, for me, of a visit to The Table Bay Hotel is the huge and joyful vases of flowers they have literally all over the public areas. The other is the peace of the Lounge and the wonderful coffee you get there – and the parking is free.

Marsha Booi & Lucas Mfumisi with one of their fabulous displays

Marsha Booi & Lucas Mfumisi with one of their fabulous displays

Sometimes proteas, sometimes cymbidium orchids, always profuse and generous.

Proteas, part of our national floral kingdom

Proteas, part of our national floral kingdom

I asked Nina of the hotel’s public relations relations department where the flowers come from and who arranged them. Florist Pieter de Bruin has until recently supplied the Table Bay Hotel with all their floral arrangements from his shop in De Waterkant. Sun International saw an opportunity for an in-house florist and approached Pieter to come up with an enterprise development plan. Excited by the prospect, Pieter approached two of his long-time employees, Marsha Booi and Lucas Mfumisi, to be a part of an enterprise that would exclusively service the Table Bay Hotel and in which they would be major shareholders.

Marsha places a Gerbera

Marsha places a Gerbera

Lucas Mfumisi, from Zimbabwe, making The Table Bay Hotel beautiful

Lucas Mfumisi, from Zimbabwe, making The Table Bay Hotel beautiful

Pieter trained Marsha and Lucas, not only to provide elegant Victorian designer floral arrangements but also to teach them essential business skills, from buying, inventory, invoicing, to budgeting, and pricing, amongst other skills. Sun International approved the plan based on the fact that it would be sustainable and not require major capital expenditure. They provided a base at the Table Bay Hotel for the florist, fitted out an area with steel work tables, cold room, an assembly area and supply all the glassware and vases. This dynamic trio in turn now supply all the hotels flowers including public areas, guest rooms and even floral arrangements for events staged at the hotel.

The success of this project lies in the symbiotic relationship between Pieter, Marsha and Lucas. Marsha, an unskilled worker from Uitenhage near Port Elizabeth and Lucas a former Zimbabwean never dreamt that they would one day be given the opportunity to own a business. “It seemed impossible,” says Marsha. “None of this would have been possible without Pieter’s trust and belief in us.”

Sun International share’s Pieter’s vision to empower both Lucas and Marsha and believe this project could be the start of other florist projects being developed at other hotels within the group.

Lovely fuzzy warm story.

 

Michael Olivier writes about wines, food, restaurants, books, chats with chefs, events and introduces you to his winery partners, and their wines.

To hear more from him, visit his website: michaelolivier.co.za

 

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Table Bay Hotel shines at Taste of Cape Town festival

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Taste of Cape TownThe Table Bay Hotel delighted Cape Town’s most dedicated and sophisticated foodies at this year’s Taste of Cape Town festival with a selection of delicious food and excellent wine – all in our beautiful and inviting stand at Taste of Cape Town.

On offer was Oscar Lager braised karan beef short rib with Oscar Lager jus, Herb & macadamia nut crusted Karoo Lamb cutlet with minted jus, and delicious Rainbow cheese cake with mixed berries compote. The icon dish for the festival was the West Coast Rock lobster curry with roti. The taste size portions are delicious and just enough to have you coming back for more.

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The highlight of the day was definitely Executive Chef, Jocelyn Myers-Adams, winning the Taste festival cook off hosted by 567CapeTalk’s Afrika Melane. In a battle of two of the most respected food talents in the country, Myers-Adams was pitted against Executive Sous Chef Chris Mare from Azure Restaurant at The 12 Apostles Hotel.

The challenge was to cook two dishes in twenty-five minutes; creatively incorporating all five of the mystery ingredients they were given: whole chicken, whole angelfish, pork sausage, pear and sweet potato.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Myers-Adams decided to draw on her Asian influences that she picked up in Australia, with an Asian-styled Angelfish made three ways: Angel Fish tartar with pear, ponzu, chive and coriander; chilli and garlic oil poached angelfish on sesame seared pear and; seared angelfish glazed with kecap manis on crispy potato rosti.

Her second dish was a classic French-style poached chicken roulade. The roulade was crusted with smoked almonds, stuffed with pork and served on a cauliflower puree with wholegrain mustard. The impressive food creation was simply garnished with pretty micress to create a dish that can only be described as art.

In producing these meals, Myers-Adams was also able to display impressive skills such as such as knife skills, searing, poaching, puree and pane – just a few of the repertoire required to create the world-class dishes at The Table Bay Hotel’s eateries, The Atlantic and Camissa.

On completion of the gruelling food-duel, Executive chef Myers-Adams also teamed up with Senior Sous Chef Jason Franco to create an unusual dish used to test the tastebuds of a couple who won a DSTV competition.

_PIC5377The couple were seated at the beautifully designed Camissa tent, blindfolded and then asked to identify the ingredients of the dish correctly to win the Ultimate Weekend Experience at the Table Bay Hotel.
The Table Bay chefs created a Herb Crusted Beef Shortrib with Polenta and Celeriac Puree and Wild Mushroom. As an extra twist, they put schechuan pepper to the crust and truffle in the puree to make it more difficult to identify. In the hilarious round of tasting that ensued, the couple managed to identify only one actual ingredient: wild mushroom. They had thought they tasted ingredients as varied as pork, potatoes and lemon!

It was a delightful experience enjoyed by all and certainly one that entrenched the Table Bay Hotel’s position as a world leader in culinary finesse and innovation. We can’t wait to design even more impressive food experiences for next year!

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Take Me 2 New York

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If you were asking and I was being brutally honest with you a year ago, I would have told you I think rowing across oceans is the most boring idea ever. How wrong I have been thus far and especially this last week. Vasti and I have no nerves left. We’ve used them up before halfway!

Swimming has been a special treat, apart from the exotic location we swim in of course, it is a welcome cooling down when the midday heat rises above 30 degrees. I for one have regularly just jumped overboard between rowing sessions, with not too much concern that something like being separated from the boat and drifting off in opposite directions? Yip, never thought it could happen. Our boat can drift at 1.5 to 2 knots which equates to a manageable 3.5km an hour. A speed I can easily swim at.

This Tuesday lunchtime we decided we both were going to swim. Of course after the other for safety reasons. Vasti swam first and had a great time. We filmed her jumping in and hanging alongside the boat in bright blue Atlantic waters. I eagerly followed her and entered the water with a brave backflip off the side of the boat. I was a ball of energy; swimming alongside the boat while Vasti filmed me. We incidentally had put on three cameras that day to film the swim. We want everyone to see how unbelievably beautiful it is. I asked Vasti for the one Go Pro so I could film her sitting on the boat, St Tropez super yacht style. I slowly drifted away, alongside the boat, Vasti continually shouting ” don’t go too far, Riaan! Don’t go too far!”

FloatingI answered her with slight irritation, as if insulted she believed I could let anything go wrong. I knew what I was doing. Just let me be. Sjoe, how quickly things happen. I had now drifted behind the boat, to get the back part of her clearly on film. I was meters away when I decided that I should not take a chance. I rolled the small rope of the camera around my wrist and placed the GoPro firmly in my right hand palm. I began freestyle sprinting towards the back of the boat, with slight difficult but still managing good speed. I could at every breath take to the grab ropes near the right rear end of the boat, but also see that the boat at times accelerated with each passing wave. I lunged once, and missed the ropes. I tried harder this next attempt. But again, my finger slipped as they grabbed at the ropes. I couldn’t swim with the camera in my hand. I could hear Vasti’s loud screaming for me to try harder. Not to stop. But I now was swallowing water on every breath take. And, as you can see in the footage of the one side camera, a bit panicked. I stopped to take stock, and get a breath in as well, think about throwing the camera towards the boat. But I’ve drifted off even quicker now. Vasti screaming at me to try swim again. But I couldn’t.

The boat drifted to twenty meters away from me before we had any plan in place. Remember, we are in a rowing boat, it has no engines to quickly start and use for rescues! Vasti cleverly turned the rudder sharply to combat while I realised the fishing line trawling behind the boat was somewhere in m vicinity. I t was my last chance. Without thinking I stuck the camera into my underpants; yes it was still rolling; and grabbed to my left underneath the water. I found the line. Fortunately a meter or two ahead of the dangerous Rapala. I was not going to let go. I was sure this equipment can catch 100kg fish.

Keeping a very dramatic long story short, Vasti managed with the slowing down of the boat and the reeling me in with the fishing line, to probably save my life. In the three cameras footage we scanned over, Vasti and I both agree we have no idea how lucky we were. It shows the reality of quickly things can go wrong. I just laugh at how demonstrative Vasti can get when she is scolding me, but I know I did wrong and admitted never be so frivolous in open seas ever again.

Now I knew the one story would take up all this space we have. In Short, the week also gave us whales and dolphins. Not just drifting by us unaware of our existence but rather whales and dolphins that followed our boat, swam alongside us, circled us and even swam underneath us. We got plenty of the underwater footage as well.

Washing Hair

While still in the Canary Islands we marked a halfway mark for our journey. A point that doesn’t represent halfway between Morocco and New York but rather middle of the Atlantic Ocean we will cross without seeing any land. We reached that this week. We have completed over 4400km of rowing and still have 2600km to go before we see land again. Incidentally the famous Bahamas archipelago.

We look forward to seeing the winners of the TAKE ME TO NEW YORK competition end of April underneath the Statue of Liberty. What it special picture. Thanks to everyone that has entered.

Riaan and Vasti are attempting to be the first in history to row from mainland Africa to New York, USA.

Follow us on our Facebook page: Take Me 2 New York and @TM2NY on Twitter. For live updates on position and progress visit http://my.yb.tl/TM2NY and www.riaanmanser.com.

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Take Me 2 New York

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The sea has calmed tonight as we sit and recover from another long days rowing. Quietly taking in the special place we find ourselves. The most central part of the North Atlantic Ocean. Yip, almost dead centre. Not a piece of land within 2500km from us. We even had a swim late this afternoon so that we can tell an even more special story about this place. But it’s not a happy time on board. Actually a sad, demoralized one.Floating

I think it would be right saying people have enjoyed my cavalier, entertaining but more so ‘warts and all‘ reporting over the last decade of even when the warts are embarrassing and ugly, they still have had us ask ourselves more honest questions.

I’m skirting my story this week because it’s not an easy one to write about. It’s personal and very painful. Vasti and I have never been this far from each other in our lives. Figuratively of course even the nearest land I’d guess. We have had small disagreements, as couples have, but this last week fireworks have been flying. We fought tooth and nail, about almost anything imaginable. The amount of sugar we are allowed in our coffee to even more ludicrously, how much sunscreen is enough for each, it has been a sad week. We have not spoken to each other, unless gravely needed, for two days. This pressure, fatigue and emotions have just boiled over, out of our control. And I can only share how I feel but I know Vasti feels the same. The bottom line is that this scenario feels way out of our control. It has just consumed us and our environment.

Vasti is my best friend. The only person on the planet that knows me so well. And I’m avoiding her? On a tiny boat in the middle of the ocean? This doesn’t make sense. Anybody sitting back home and reading this would say the obvious. The expected. Say you are sorry bla bla. And I’d most probably agree with everything. It’s just that this scene is very different from the normal one. Very different.

Personally I think the boat capsize had a tremendous emotional impact on Vasti whereas the equipment failure has had me stressed more than ever. The reel with her in my care is not speakable. It is responsibility I have never had or dreamed I’d have. I can’t make a mistake in judgement. And I can understand the realization of last week weighs heavy on her. It will bring angst with the fear. This week has played itself out to be a tough one for us both.

Vasti and I though did make a pact before leaving Morocco. We promised each other that no matter the excuse or the obstacle, we would never ever let each other down in our quest in completing this incredible world first. It’s day 35 since we last saw land and I know I’m sure as heck going to do my cross safely to see land again. I have faith all will work out for the best. I also have faith that Vasti knows all will work out for the best. We knew it was going to be challenging, just not as relationship challenging!

Tomorrow, early morning I will surprise Vasti with coffee and muesli in bed. Fanatically as possible, I’ll help her get her rowing gear ready so we can row another 130km.

Riaan and Vasti are attempting to be the first in history to row from mainland Africa to New York, USA.

Follow us on our Facebook page: Take Me 2 New York and @TM2NY on Twitter. For live updates on position and progress visit http://my.yb.tl/TM2NY and www.riaanmanser.com.

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Taste of Cape Town

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The Table Bay Hotel Chefs Jocelyn Myers-Adams and Jason Franco will debut Camissa at the Taste of Cape Town from 3-6 April, offering up samples of our brasserie’s signature dishes.

To win tickets, simply follow @TableBayHotelSA and tweet, “I want to win tickets to have a TASTE of what the #CamissaTBH Chefs at the @TableBayHotelSA have whipped up @TasteofCT this weekend!”

We’ll follow you back and DM you details of where and when you can collect your tickets … simple.

closes at 12:00 on Friday 4 April, so get tweeting and soon you’ll be eating!Competition closes at 12:00 on Friday 4 April, so get tweeting and soon you’ll be eating!

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We were lucky and not so lucky!

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This week was the week of almost disaster. This was the week where we were put in our place and made to understand the might of an ocean.

FishingWe’ve all seen those dramatic, lump in the throat images on the big screen. Those of huge ocean liners that are rolled onto their sides and engulfed by waves the size of mountains. It always seemed surreal to me, vaguely possible but inevitably it remained in the category of tsunami fiction. This week we had reality visit us like we have not imaged it would. Rowing in our second hour of the morning session in tough conditions; we had a giant wave hit us and capsize our entire boat. I was thrown entirely out while Vasti hung on for dear life. We were lucky; and not so lucky.

Vasti spotted the swell after I had already called for her to row ‘left’. Usually a term to warn each other of a breaking wave. The boat needed to turn for it not to hit us side on. This case the wave was racing towards us from the left. Vasti only had time to join me on one strong left oar stroke before the wave came crashing onto us and over. The wave made contact with the aft(back) left side of the boat forts, exactly where I am seated still trying to make another oar stroke while Vasti says she could see the wave break over me and then she just remember grabbing on for dear life. Her decision at the moment probably wiser than mine. She held onto the safety harnesses either side of her, leaving her oars to flay wildly about.

For me I remember the violent impact, then seeing white, the boat falling down over me and then the realization that my feet were stuck in the foot holds. I thought of Vasti and if she would be able to get out. And then…. Then it was over. I spluttered water out my mouth, wiped my hair away and came to the rope clasped firmly in my right hand. I don’t know how it got there. I was alongside the boat, a few meters away, and saw Vasti still in her original rowing position. Her face draped in fear. For me it still felt like a dream.

For Vasti, she remembers looking to her right as the boat was hit downwards. Then she was underwater and holding on no matter what. It’s what I had begged her to do if this ever happened. The boat had rolled right over her. She too realized her feet were stuck in the footholds and, still while turned upside down, under water, Vasti clearly remembers telling herself to focus on the undoing of her feet. She began to untie her feet but at the same time she could feel the self righting design of the boat kicking in. Relief engulfed her as she realized the boat was turning her back to the surface. And that’s when she saw me in the water, outside of the boat. Vasti screamed to swim as fast as I could, unknown to her that I had the rope in hand. We were lucky.

What though has been a very demoralizing aspect to this accident is that our Imtech Communications Satelite phone has been damaged beyond repair. We spent a day and a half successfully drying out the interior electronics of the exterior dome that holds the satellite receiver, to get it to work again.

This was the way we did all our radio interviews, sent the photos for our articles and more importantly how we weekly made contact with loved ones. I know Vasti especially is going to miss the Sunday afternoon chat to her mom and dad, her very emotional and understandably rejuvenating chats.

As to the guys at Imtech Communications, I can imagine they have already begun mobilizing friends in ships all over the Atlantic Ocean. Maybe we will see some magic delivery of sorts in the next few weeks.

We are safe, rattled but grateful for our good fortune. Africa to USA is not an easy thing, or else everybody would be doing it. Wouldn’t they?

Riaan and Vasti are attempting to be the first in history to row from mainland Africa to New York, USA.

Follow us on our Facebook page: Take Me 2 New York and @TM2NY on Twitter. For live updates on position and progress visit http://my.yb.tl/TM2NY.

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Arrival at the Canary Island

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Let’s just cut to the chase and say that we really didn’t know what we had got ourselves into for this journey. It’s as simple as that. From a ship nearly running over us to waves the size of buildings throwing us and our little boat around for 24 hours! It was a week where we again learnt that there is no reward without hardship.

The dream has been to depart from mainland Africa and arrive a few months later on mainland USA. We didn’t understand why most people have avoided the Africa to Canary Islands section. It’s clear to Vasti and me now after spending 13 days, 500km of slogging away against unfavourable rowing conditions and overcoming storms that locals say they haven’t seen in years.

Samir Benjoulloun, our friend from Agadir Marina in Morocco reported the worst damage his marina has seen in decades. 12 pontoons and three structural pillars destroyed by the storm that Vasti and I believe taught us what we have been missing. Experience. Samir is surprised we didn’t require, or even request an evacuation this last week.

The sea was very angry but reached its peak Thursday. The swell from the North West was advertised at 7 meters and the winds at a gusting 50 knots in exactly the opposite direction! This Thursday Vasti and I awoke at 4 am as usual to a sea that was frothing and agitated like we had never seen. In the darkness you could still see the white foam around us from breaking waves. We didn’t think it could get worse. It did. Waves in the early morning were dramatically breaking entirely over our boat. The afternoon though held the true test. Locked inside our little box cabin we could often visually make out waves about to hit us but normally sound would give it away first. The thunderous rumble of breaking waves is deafening.

Vasti and I lay down at one point to try “de stress”. I heard a huge rumble coming towards us and made her brace for serious impact. The boat shook, the window darkened and we bounced around the cabin. We both laughed nervously but both aware of what our little boat was enduring. No less than ten seconds had passed when we heard another thunderous sound, similar but louder than the one before. I warned Vasti to hold on even tighter this time.

Our boat was smashed, rolled onto its side and then washed dozens of meters to one side. The wave had obviously broken just before us and the foam wall had engulfed us entirely. We were in shock. I was worried for Vasti and my safety right then, as I had not before on this journey. The adventure was ‘real’ now and promptly had us both don life jackets, our GPS rescue beacons and clothing that would keep us warm in open seas!

It was only till the following morning that Vasti and I got to see the brutality of the storm. Our parachute anchor (water anchor), that for us is the most crucial piece of equipment in a storm, had been ripped apart by the ferocity of the ocean. I have always said this in my other journeys; “you will never win against the sea”. The fact is she doesn’t even know she is wrestling with you.

But with trauma does come some happiness. The guys from Dion Wired and Imtech Satellite Communication in Cape Town had been hard at work to make our satellite phone operational all week. The miracle is they had it done the morning right after the storm. It was emotional for me to see Vasti chatting to her parents. They needed the chat as much as Vasti did. This satellite set up, specifically designed for our boat is what will bring the articles and pictures to you from middle of the Atlantic.

The fact that a giant cargo ship, over 300m in length, nearly ran us over now pales into the insignificant category after such a wild week. The captain of this passing ship, via UHF radio, was quite blasé about his near miss though. While I shone a led flashing light in their direction, Vasti chatted to him. Vasti’s main concern was whether he had actually seen us while passing so close by, especially that it was at night. His response was candid, brief and in a heavy Spanish accent.

“We are good sailors, do not worry. Sleep well.”

We arrived safely in Lanzarote, the most easterly Canary Island, on Saturday night. Had a pizza and a beer for dinner and then slept for 12 hours. We plan to row down the islands and hopefully make it to open ocean again by early this week. Remember to enter the ‘Take me to New York’ competition to join us at the finish in the Big Apple. We have a long way to go but fortunately a long way with a tad more experience.

 

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