We slipped out of our berth at oh-dark-thirty into a cold, inky, wet, windy morning. It doesn't get light here till 0730 now and we wanted to be on our way early. We didn't sleep well in anticipation of our new passage. We were all bundled up in layer upon layer of warm clothing with a topper of offshore foul weather gear and we could still feel the chill. I coiled the lines and stowed them in the forepeak locker along with the fenders as David wended our way out of the marina. We wouldn't need fenders and lines for awhile. I had the bottle of rum handy to offer a tot to Neptune as soon as we were under way.
We hoisted a double-reefed mainsail in the calmer, protected waters of Duncan Docks and headed out the channel into Table Bay. As we let out the yankee and a gust caught it, I noticed that the tear in the luff I had recently repaired had torn out again. We cranked in the headsail, started the iron jenny and headed back in. Sailing across the Atlantic without a useable headsail obviously didn't make sense and Cape Town is the best place to make repairs. It was then, as we were motoring back in, that David noticed we were not getting a charge current out of the alternator. Then, the cockpit GPS just stopped working. Yet more problems to investigate. I rigged up the just-stowed fenders and lines and we reluctantly headed back into our very same berth at Royal Cape. The increasing wind made tying up in the dark a challenge. Not an auspicious start to our passage.
Cancelling our departure meant we needed to recheck in with Customs and Immigration … not a pleasant thought since our visas are expiring within a couple of days. We waited till the staff at Royal Cape arrived and explained our plight. They immediately wrote a letter for us describing our problem and sent us on our way to see the officials assuring us that there had never been a problem in the past extending visas for unforeseen boat problems. We had no idea what the officials would say, but we were hoping for a reprieve that would allow us to make the necessary repairs. Maritime law allows the boat to stay in port if it is not seaworthy. In other words, we can't be forced to leave port with a problem such as ours, but how understanding the officials would be and how much time would be allowed was another issue.
Well … the officials weren't very understanding at all. We trudged the mile back to the Immigration office and were told: “The boat can stay. You must leave.” Really? Our choices: 1) leave on the boat immediately; 2) extend our visas for a total of 7 days to complete repairs and then leave (not enough time); 3) leave Nine of Cups at RCYC and fly back to the USA (our country of residence) to extend our visas.
Now what to do? We returned in the evening to speak to a supervisor. He listened to our story and pondered his alternatives. Our stomachs were in knots as we waited for his final decision. Finally, with some reluctance, he stamped our passports and allowed us another 30 days. We sighed with relief as we headed back to the yacht club. Whew!