‘CATLEYA’ “We would definitely pay for some peace of mind”

Terri Clingham, SHBC

On Monday 23rd April I had the opportunity to visit the massive catamaran, Catleya, anchored in our harbour. Captain Ian Engelbrecht and his First Mate, Ibi are travelling from France, delivering the 82 foot ‘cat’ to Cape Town. Ian owns a company called Worldwide Yacht Deliveries. “I’ve been delivering yachts for 15 years, that’s  a long time, but this one is very substantial, 82 foot and she’s capable of 21 knots. Quite a mean machine.  There are a few around, but this is unusual to have this size, this was operating in the Mediterranean as a charter boat. In general the Med boats are larger.”

Skimming across the ocean at 21 knots means they have high powered engines. “They are John Deere marine diesel engines, 265 horses each, we have two of those. They are extremely large in dimension because they have very large sumps and triple filters, you name it, even the gear box is water cooled so they’re very substantial motors and can be very thirsty (chuckles)!”

I had the chance to witness refuelling. R K Yon & Sons brought quite a few blue 250 litre drums filled with diesel to replenish the large tanks, each drum taking 10 mins to pump into Catleya, whose total capacity is 4600 litres. "To get from Canarys to here was a big problem, and we came in with 300 litres spare, which is a days worth of diesel. From here to South Africa will be easy." I asked Ian about maintenance of the engines. “We do make sure everything is operating well before we leave, we’ve just serviced both motors, gone through all the systems, but if we have failure, we have two motors, although she doesn’t operate well on one motor, she still can. We’ve also got a host of spares so we can do our own maintenance, but if we have total failure that we couldn’t repair, we would have a problem because we’re not a sailing vessel!” (Laughs)

The Catleya is the biggest yacht they have delivered. Ibi told me, “It’s hard to find moorings for it.” Ian added "the challenge in St Helena for us - this is actually quite pertinent because you support the yachting industry - the challenge is the anchorage is very bad. We’ve been here on many yachts and we drift around and because of that we leave as soon as possible because we cannot relax.” Ian specifically asked me to put in a request for some mooring buoys. “People can either pay for it or throw the anchor but we will definitely pay for some peace of mind. We’ve been in Jamestown one time and someone came to us and said your boat is drifting, when I came to look it was in between all the other boats.”

I was then eager to find out all about moorings. I met with Gillian Francis, Ag Chief Secretary, and Barry Williams, Harbour Master, and was surprised to discover that there are no moorings in the harbour for visiting yachts. They were removed in late 2011.  However, SHG are currently seeking expressions of interest for the design of new moorings hoping to have these in place before the Governors Cup Yacht Race at the end of the year.

‘Catleya’ in St Helena - note two people on deck as reference for size of vessel.

Gillian said there are notices on the Tourism website and on notice boards in Cape Town yacht clubs stating there are no moorings on St Helena and they will be told what specific area to drop anchor on arrival. I told Barry of Ian’s concerns of feeling unsafe and he would like some peace of mind when here in St Helena. Barry answered “There were a few yachts who drag, but it’s obvious that a few of the yachties who come to the Island do not know how to drop an anchor. They get a ticket in the marina but are not sure about dropping anchor. If a yachtie came here and dropped anchor, knew the depth of the water and wanted to chain due to the size of the boat it shouldn’t be a problem, because the holding ground out in the bay is quite good.” Non maintenance of moorings was one of the contributory reasons why the yacht Queequeg foundered last year at Needles Eye. I asked Gillian if routine maintenance is now planned. “Yes, I think that will be one of the areas we will be calling for advice, so whoever will be advising us, they must ensure maintenance checks are done, monthly, quarterly or annually.” She told me a contract will be in place to make sure the schedule for maintenance is done precisely to avoid another incident like Queequeg.

I spoke to boatmen at the Landing Steps about the condition of the moorings. Keith Yon, explained what exactly moorings in St Helena are. “In most cases they’re a two tonne block with a chain shackled to it, held up to the surface with a buoy and a rope. At the moment there are no buoys out there for moorings and most of the yachts coming through are using their own anchors.” Keith confirmed Ian’s apprehension. “A lot of them don’t feel very safe about it because sometimes they lose their anchorage, and in some instances the yachts drift out. So the ferry boat operator will either alert them but if there is no radio contact, we will go and tow the boat in ourselves.” Fisherman Max Thomas also expressed his opinion on the moorings. “I believe that all over the world, when yachts go into port they are treated like tourists; I imagine they may not spend a lot of money, but they should be treated as tourists, and things should be made easy for them when they arrive. I also believe there should be permanent and safe moorings down so they don’t have the fear of their yacht drifting whilst they are on shore. When someone puts down these kinds of moorings for visitors to the Island, I believe every six months someone should go down and check the chains and the wear and tear on the shackles; any shackle is going to wear, salt water is abrasive and the movement of the ocean itself on the buoy will cause wear and tear. We experienced that on our own moorings for fishing boats, so I believe every six months it should be checked.”Keith’s opinion concurred with Max’s. “There is a need for secure moorings; those guys have been at sea for ten to twelve days not resting properly. When they come into port they want to tie up and know their boat is safe and get good rest. I think there is a serious need for decent moorings in the bay. With regards to mooring categories and the weights of boats that’s something that needs to be followed up.”

The worry of moorings aside, when on Catleya I asked Ian and Ibi about close calls at sea they laughed out loud. Arh geez we’ve been operating so long we’ve been in so many situations: on the edge of a cyclone, down the southern ocean in the winter a couple of deliveries ago, horrendous seas with 60 knot waves breaking 15-16 meters. We’ve had some heavy seas, but in general we’re careful and choose our routes and windows. The amount of time we’ve been operating we’ve only thought we were going to die five times. We’ve been in bad weather loads of times, we’ve never had an unsuccessful delivery in 15 years!” I said aloud WHAT, five times!They just laughed at me; I told them maybe they’re like cats, having nine lives.

Ian and Ibi call Gordon’s Bay just outside Cape Town their base. I told Ian that leaving out the near death situations it must be cool to do a job like this. “It’s not as romantic as it sounds, it’s a tough job, you have to take care of the vessel, you’re doing tricky routes and normally it’s voyages that others don’t want to do that’s why they will pay someone to do it, it’s a tough industry.”