Rounding Cape Agulhas
We've left Mosselbaai en route to Cape Town and we've rounded Cape Agulhas! Cape Agulhas is the southern-most geographic point of land at the tip of the African continent and according to the International Hydrographic Organization, it is the official dividing line between the Indian and the Atlantic Oceans. We're back into the Atlantic.
Named Cabo das Agulhas (Cape of the Needles) by Portuguese navigators c. 1500, the name does not reflect the ragged headland of the cape, but rather the fact that they noticed that magnetic north and true north on the compass needle were the same. There was no magnetic deviation at the southern tip of Africa.
Last time we were here, we were land-touring the Western Cape, taking pictures of the rugged cape shore and the Cape Agulhas Light, the third lighthouse to be built in South Africa, and the second-oldest still in operation. Built in 1848, its light first shone in March 1849. The original building now serves as a restaurant and museum and a new automated aluminum structure has taken its place as sentry.
The nearby little fishing village of Arniston, with its whitewashed sandstone houses, was quaint and picturesque.
The sea off Cape Agulhas, like most major capes, is notorious for storms, big winds and big waves. There have been lots of shipwrecks off this coast and we paid attention to the cruising guide which recommended hugging the coast as we rounded the Cape. We stayed about 3-5 miles off and had no problems.
The figurehead of the French ship, Marie Elise, was on display at Agulhas National Park when we visited … salvaged parts from a shipwreck in 1877.
Unfortunately, the rounding of the cape was at 0400 in the morning and there wasn't much to see. We toasted Neptune with his tot of rum and asked for his continued guidance and protection as we left the Indian Ocean and sailed back into the Atlantic.
Though Cape Agulhas is the southern most point in Africa, it's not considered one of the Five Great Southern Capes and we're not sure why. Instead, the Cape of Good Hope, the most southwestern point of the continent at the tip of Cape Point claims the title, and so, we still have that cape to round before claiming our Five Great Capes badge. Always something to look forward to.