Simon's Town is more than just Boulders Beach and penguins. It's a delightful little touristy, but quaint seaport town with the Simon's Town Marina and the False Bay Yacht Club offering a welcome respite for cruisers sailing across South Africa's rugged south coast. We only had a couple of days here and wanted to make the most of our time. When I asked David if he had any repairs to make, he smiled. “Nope, none at all. Plan our day.” Gotta love my captain!
According to Simon's Town historical information, the town was originally named after Simon van der Stel, the Dutch governor of the Cape Colony between 1677 and 1699 who determined that this harbor, tucked into False Bay on the east side of the Cape Peninsula, would make a good alternate harbor to Cape Town during the stormy winter months. When the Brits took over (for the second time) in 1806, it became the Royal Navy Base and a huge man-made sandstone breakwater was erected … which still stands today. Among other things, this British squadron was tasked with keeping tabs on pesky Napoleon who was imprisoned 1,800 miles away on St. Helena Island. The base is now a center of operations for the South African Navy. Below is an old sketch of Simon's Bay from 1806.
Actually, my plan for the day was no plan at all. I was happy to walk and just wander around town and see what we could see. We ambled along Main Road, which changed its name about six times in the course of our travels. The mountains form a dramatic backdrop to the town which is built along the shore and creeps up the steep mountainside. Many of the buildings are historic and it was interesting to differentiate the British from the Cape Dutch architecture.
One very notable past resident of the town was Able Seaman Just Nuisance, the only dog ever enlisted in the Royal Navy. According to legend, the local navy men took a liking to a Great Dane who lived and wandered about Simon's Town and they adopted him as their mascot. A request was sent to the Britain asking that the dog be allowed to join the Navy. Permission was granted and the dog was brought to the Recruiting Officer. “Name?”, inquired the recruiter. “Nuisance, Sir”, the sailor replied. “First name?” “Just Nuisance, Sir,” the sailor affirmed … and so the legend began. There's even a statue of Just Nuisance in Jubilee Square near the town wharf.
Just up from Main Road, we noticed the Old Seaforth Burial Grounds (1813-1910) and stopped to read and admire the early gravestones. Some were fallen and in sad shape, but some had withstood weather and time, still bearing tribute to those whom they remembered.
There are several sets of steps leading up, up, up the mountainside. Flora Steps, Clarks Steps, Tredree Steps and more … we had no urge to climb any of them.
Craft stalls and kiosks are all over town with every imaginable (and some unimaginable) type of souvenir on offer ... carvings, weaving, artwork, masks, clothing, jewelry. I enjoyed looking, but didn't buy a thing except stamps and postcards. The beadwork, in particular, was intricate and had I had a place for some of the larger pieces, I might have considered buying. It's one of those things though that catches your fancy at a particular moment and place and then you question your sanity when you get it back home and wonder where you'll put it.
We ended up back at the False Bay Yacht Club for a late lunch. It's a pleasant, friendly place with nice amenities like clean, hot showers, a restaurant, a bar and free wifi.
You can see the marina nestled behind the Navy base from most any high vantage point in town. It was always easy to spot Nine of Cups. Hers was the only American flag flying high in the marina.