Whenever I think of South Africa, cold and winter do not come to mind. Instead, I think hot, dry deserts or humid, sultry days with a blazing ball of African sun beating down. I don’t think cold. So it’s with regret I have to tell you that it’s starting to feel like winter in Cape Town. Some locals have told us that there is no autumn here. There is no easing into it. But we have felt a gradual change over the past few weeks and it’s getting chilly. On our trip to the Cape Winelands, we noticed the vines and leaves were changing color. Nothing like a Vermont autumn, but beautiful nonetheless.
I’ve found myself wearing jeans lately and long sleeve shirts. I’m wearing shoes AND socks. I’ve dug out my fleeces. Even David, who seems to have a built-in furnace, is wearing a sweatshirt. Typical winter temps here reach an average high of 17C (63F ) and dip to 8C ( 45F) on June, July and August nights. I still find it difficult to think of August as the coldest month of the year. Rainy days are more common with as much as 3-4” average rainfall per month in the winter. The prevailing winds change from the southeast Cape Doctor to northwest gales as Atlantic cold fronts move in. We’re told the winters are fairly mild with the following caveat: “ … spectacular storms are not uncommon in the winter months, earning the region the nickname Cape of Storms.” I nicked a picture of a Cape Town winter storm to share with you. Wow!
Capetonians call it the “green season”. Winter is the time the Western Cape turns from dry and brown to lush and verdant. Flowers bloom profusely. Grapevines begin to come alive after a dormant period. Trees blossom and leaf out. We’re told it’s possible to experience all four seasons in one day … cold and rain in the early morning, warm and dry by afternoon. The drastic weather changes are not so different than what we’ve experienced in Colorado.
Cape Town proper does not get snow, but hail and sleet have occurred in the past. Capetonians head inland to higher latitudes to experience a bit of snow. That’s okay with me … shoveling the deck is not something we look forward to. I remember a snowball fight aboard Cups in Tierra del Fuego … not my idea of a good time when the inside temp was pretty close to the outside temp. Brrrr!
We’ve dug out the flannel sheets and blankets for the bed. It’s downright cold during the nights. The humidity has increased significantly, making mornings raw. We sometimes see our breath on our way to the clubhouse in the mornings. One positive … the fridge isn’t working as hard nowadays as it did in Durban. I know a mid-40F temp doesn’t sound cold to Wisconsonians or New Englanders, but then you have central heat or fireplaces to keep you warm. Nine of Cups has no heat, other than a tiny electric heater which might take off the chill, but is only usable when we’re on shore power or running the engine. Trust me, a raw, cold 40 degree morning chills you to the bone.
The days are getting shorter. The austral winter solstice is June 21st and it’s quickly creeping up on us. Our 0430 sunrises in January are closer to 0730 now and the sun sets at 1800 … only 10-1/2 hours of daylight and diminishing by the minute.
Condensation collects on the portlights and hatches. Dew drips off the lifelines. Cups’ white deck is wet each morning and collects the dust and grime of the harbor, rendering it a constant dirty grey. The fog has sometimes been intense … the pea soup variety … misting us as we try to work on deck. We’ve seen more rain in the past few days than in all our time in South Africa combined. It may be the “green” season, but it’s also the “grey sky” season for the next few months. On the brighter side, the resulting rainbows are definitely a bonus.