From Boatsheds to Battlefields 53 Taming the Wilderness

On returning from a long holiday in Cape Town;

An ox wagon deposited Mick,  four natives, their worldly goods and an assortment of agricultural implements on the banks of a broad river flowing between high banks. Having brought the new manager and his assistants the waggon departed leaving its former passengers to their work of taming the wilderness.

Mick’s first work was to put one man onto collecting wood, making a fire and getting a kettle of water on. Meanwhile, the other three were sent to chop saplings, strip away pliable tough inner bark for tying purposes, cut grass for thatching and to generally busy themselves in preparing for the erection of the Estate Manager’s residence.

Having got the staff at work the Manager armed with his Martini set off along the river to survey his domain. Some months previously two spans of oxen each with a four furrow disc plough had been sent down to break up as much as they could of the rich alluvial riverbank.

The estate had nine miles of river frontage which gave them almost that length of twenty-foot deep chocolate soil varying in width from three or four yards to a couple of hundred. This was the actual bank – beyond lay swamps of heavy black soil of inexhaustible fertility which years after bore enormous crops of wheat. From the swamps, the ground rose in a gentle slope to a heavily timbered ridge beyond which lay the broad watershed of forest country.

Walking down the river bank Mick was gratified to find large acreages of rich soil broken up and amazed at the plentiful signs of big game. Soon he paused in wonder at some enormous footprints a thrill running through him as he remembered that the river was full of hippopotami. A little further on he came to a sight which made him realise that a farm alive with game was not an unmixed blessing.

Quite a fair acreage had been rushed into maize which had grown splendidly. Its growth had surprised and pleased Godfrey but his pleasure and appreciation was nothing to that of a family of hippo.

Cursing at the destruction before him Mick walked through a large field of what had seemingly been a ten bag to the acre crop. Hippo paths ran everywhere – waterbuck, Kudu, sable, wild pig and small buck appeared to have been as attracted as the hippo and Mick groaned as he wondered how on earth he was going to grow crops for markets instead of feed for a teeming game reserve.

Coming through the further end of the field he reached the ploughs – congratulating the natives on the work they had done, he spoke of the quantity of game he had seen. The natives instantly began to explain that this was indeed a Paradise for big game and proposed accompanying him to begin the work of destruction at once. “It was a long time since they had had meat,” remarked the spokesmen

Taking one of the boys Mick pushed on but though signs were plentiful game itself was not and eventually, he returned empty-handed to his camp

The next few weeks gave him little leisure – cattle and more boys arrived, his hut was built. What the game that left of the maize crop was reaped, shelled and dragged on the rough sledge to a siding nine miles away. Cattle kraals – rough log and bush enclosures were made – a strip of land broken up for tobacco seed beads, lands selected for tobacco and all the time hard ploughing of the rich maize lands went on with four four furrow disc ploughs.

Realising that his hut had been built in a death trap – a great swamp on two sides, the river a few yards in front – Mick pushed on the construction of a Robinson Crusoe building at the edge of the forest. From here he commanded to truly wonderful view hills, river scenery, bush country and the Umvukwe Mountains.

Though with little leisure on his hands quite a lot of game fell to the old Martini. Apparently, no hunting had taken place for years resulting in the game being quite unafraid of man. Elephants passed through on their way from Hartley to Lomagundi reports came of lions – once a herd of magnificent sable antelope black bodied, white-bellied under a forest of curved horns trotted curiously up to the very building he was erecting – hardly a day passed without a seeing game and the camp was seldom without meat sometimes shot from the door or window of Mick’s hut.

The river yielded quite good fish and gave some exciting sport shooting at crocodiles or watching a family of monstrous hippo at play.

So Mick shot sable, kudu, waterbuck, tsessebe and reedbuck, went to look at elephant, watched hippo, found alluvial gold in small quantities and spent Sundays panning the river bars or fishing. He was never lonely, but always full of content.

Now and again a pile of newspapers reached him all full of the Wars between Montenegro, Greece, Serbia, and Turkey.

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 44 Race to Market

End of 43rd Entry: Then a boat hoisting sail set her course for Table Bay. Instantly the fleet ceased its fishing and in a few minutes, every boat was racing for the markets.

The Easterly wind had dropped soon after snoek had been biting and until noon the sea was like glass – as soon as the boats started off home, however, a strong Westerly wind was coming down, and with a good beam wind the ‘Violet’ went crashing Sou’ West through a welter of rushing white horses.

Soon the coast a mass of black jagged rocks rose threatening before her, but the skipper held on till near the breaking surf – then round into the wind swung the boat, hesitating a moment with fluttering canvas – the headsail filled and bore the bows round, and as she paid off the mainsail swung over, filled – and off went the ‘Violet’ roaring out to sea aslant the wind.

When well to the windward of the snow-white beach at whose edge the ‘Alice’ was already lying Violet’s skipper once again brought her head into the wind, round she came and with sea and wind behind went flying down on even keel and a little later a merry crew were casting fish after fish on to a pile. When the catch was altogether the crew shared equally, this done each man threw an eighth of his share to go to the boat’s owners.

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“Three stockfish and thirty snoek apiece” quoth Mick gleefully to Jack as he turned to bargain with the Indian owner of a fish hawker’s cart – “Come on Sammy fifty bob the lot.”

“Twenty shillings,” said the hawker “Berry much snoek to-day.”

“Garn – the ‘Alice’ crew only shared out two stockfish apiece – ‘Violet’ got all the snoek no Cape Town boats – 45/- – Sammy!”

“Me give twenty-five!” but eventually he paid thirty and retailed the lot at £2/5.

District Six fish merchants

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 43 Harvest of the Sea

End of 42nd Entry: There seemed no bottom to the sea – fathom after fathom of line ran out – however the rush of line at last slackened and gently hauling in the fishermen got the true depth and slowly raising and lowering their lines kept the baited hooks a foot or two from the ground.

Suddenly Mick felt an added weight to his line – instantly he struck hard across the gunwale and began hauling in with heart and soul. Now and again he felt the weight stirring feebly but there was no live, fighting demon, hooked only a solid mass it seemed.

An eternity of hauling and a big-headed, slimy bodied fish came to the surface and began to make a weak attempt to struggle – lifting it into the boat Mick swung it between his knees picked up the cudgel at his feet and with a smashing blow stunned it. Unhooking the fish he rebaited the hook and dropped the line overboard.

Dawn was slowly breaking and now and again one of the crew hauled in a fish, but it was deadly slow, monotonous work, and Mick found far more excitement and interest in the distant view of Table Mountain, the surrounding boats and the faraway peaks of the Drakenstein and Hottentot Holland Mountains.

At last the sun broke from the horizon and soon after what little activity had been shown by the fish ceased. Boats now began to pull away back to the distant shore and the ‘Violet’s’  skipper with a grunt started to haul in his lines.

“Three a man and two for the boat – it is good,” he remarked in Cape Dutch. He was satisfied with the catch – stockfish were selling at 1/3 to 1/9 apiece and anything over 3/- per man was a good day’s earnings in the slack season – when the great shoals of snoek came men would earn up to £2 a day – but meanwhile – a few shillings a day from fish, a few shillings from precious mountain flowers gathered at infinite risk and with much labour was plenty.

Living cost little or nothing and one could get drunk for a shilling. Life was simple and presented few worries.

A light easterly breeze sprung up soon after the stockfish banks were left and as the first cats’ paws darkened the water the mast was stepped – at first the sail made little difference, but it was not long before the breeze freshened, and the ‘Violet’ with added impetus started to forge ahead as the light duck bellied out to the wind.

Soon the boat heeled slightly over and her bows diving into the playful wavelets sent a chorus of gurgles and splashes into the soft warm air. The oars were laid in and sprawling on the thwarts the fishermen lit pipes and gave themselves up to slumber, Mick taking the tiller and mainsheet.

More to kill time than out of seriousness Mick, finding little to do in the light breeze, opened his line box and fitted a trolling line – a great barbless hook bent on to two feet of stout picture wire softened by fire had a tiny circlet, from which dangled a dozen narrow strips of sharkskin, slipped above it – a long cone shaped lead covered with a burnished brass skin was passed down the wire to hold the lure and help it – making the wire fast onto a strong fishing line Mick flung it overboard, let it run perhaps twenty feet and fastened the line around his leg.

Now and again he hauled in and flung out the line but with little interest – suddenly as he was hauling, something swirled at the surface Mick felt the line almost torn from his hands and with a wild yell of “Vas – Snoek you blighters” the youth hauled with might and main at something which fought like a thing possessed.

At his shout, the boat’s crew galvanized into mad activity – line boxes were flung open – similar trolling lines to Mick’s hurled overboard and every man began to pull in, throw out, haul back like a set of demons, meanwhile Mick brought a streak of burnished silver with long narrow pikelike jaws to the boat’s counter.

The thing fought desperately – it’s back a ridge of cruel spines standing erect, it’s doglike teeth snapping viciously, seizing the wire close to the devil’s mouth Mick heaved four feet of furious fighting fish under his armpit, slipped a thumb into one of it’s eyes, his fingers closing hard against a ridge under the lower jaw and releasing the hook flung it overboard. Bending he picked up the cudgel cracked Mr. Snoek neatly on the centre of his skull and dropping him, grabbed again at his line.

The others had not been idle and as the boat sailed easily along her sides were filled with silver flashes. For five minutes the work was fast and furious then the shoal either all caught or diverted by something was lost. Though far from other craft their activity had been seen by some keen Malay eye, and a score of boats turning from the homeward course was racing down, the crews bending backward and forwards like automatic figures.

Mick scrambled back to the bows and the skipper resumed his position. Again came the cry “Vas” and once more the crew flung themselves into furious work. Other boats sailed by – some cast anchor and dropped over baited lines and for two hours with brief spells between shoals, the fishermen laboured at gathering the harvest of the sea.

Then a boat hoisting sail set her course for Table Bay. Instantly the fleet ceased its fishing and in a few minutes, every boat was racing for the markets.

 

 

 

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 42 The Romance of Sail

Cape Town slept peacefully beneath the sheltering mass of grey old Table Mountain. Now and again a belated cab or a wagon of farm produce clattered, or rumbled noisily through deserted streets – the tramp of policeman sounded eerily in the stillness. The yellow flashes of his lantern cutting long beams through the air laden with sea and valley mists.

Below Adderley Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, some two hundred heavily built fishing boats lay massed on the tiny beach of Rogge Bay and though midnight had not long passed dark figures singly and in pairs, in little groups were already appearing from the town and gathering in knots around their craft.

Rogge Bay.

Soon a move was made – sixteen wiry powerful fishermen collected round one boat – stout poles were slipped through rope nooses in bow and stern – the men lined out four on either side of the bow and four on either side of the stern, bending they got their shoulders under the poles and on a sharp order from the boat’s skipper lifted the heavy boat and staggered down to the water’s edge.

Once the work started it progressed rapidly three or four crews combining to carry each other’s craft down. The co-workers tally of boats complete mast and sail wrapped in stout tarpaulin, heavy stone anchors, anchor rope, oars, line boxes, cudgels for stunning fish and other gear were swiftly brought down and stowed – oars were slipped and soon boat after boat rowed into the dark covered night.

Two of the fishing craft, ‘Violet’ and ‘Alice’ seemed strangers amongst the rest of the fleet, and no helping hands appeared to be extended to their crew. ‘Alice’ a lighter type than the standard fishing boat presented no difficulty to the two crews easily carrying her down. ‘Violet’ on the other hand was an exceptionally heavy, five-oared craft, and the air around her was sulphurous as seven men and a white youth vainly endeavoured to half carry, half drag her.

“Damn these Malays” ejaculated Mick “they wouldn’t help an outsider if he was starving – I’m not going to strain my back or heart – say, Jack, what about cadging a bit of help from one or other of the boats?”

“You can try Mr. Osmond” answered the other powerful, bearded white man – “mebbe hearing your winning tongue a miracle might happen, but I ain’t bettin’ on it.”

Explaining his intentions to the others, a wild looking lot of Cape Coloured men, Mick dived into the mass of busy fisherfolk and in the dim light sought for one of the old pureblood Malay skippers. A white-bearded turbaned man, short, stout and evidently of importance was soon found.

Gravely the skipper listened to Mick’s tale of woe and answered in a merry full voice “Young Gentleman my people do not like these Clifton people – they are drunken scoundrels and it is not good for young white gentlemen to be with them. However, for your sake, I will give help” and in a few words sent half a dozen Malays to Mick’s help.

“Proper gentlemen the old Malay people are” remarked Mick to Jack as they helped stow away the boat’s gear after thanking the helpers.

“Aye Mr. Osmond” answered the fisherman, “Malays, Blacks, Chinese, and South Sea Islanders, they are all gentlefolk with manners and morals, until white man’s religion and white man’s civilisation spoils ’em.”

The two boats soon pushed off – their own fishing station was some six miles by land from Cape Town but the previous week a howling North West gale had caught them at sea, and the skipper after a stern battle had turned and run for Three Anchor Bay only to find the surf running too heavily to venture in. Cape Town then remained the only resource so squaring away the two boats went tearing down before the strong wind and heavy following sea.

Mick had been in ‘Alice’ the lighter of the two and had found all the thrills he wanted. This time he was pulling the bow in the ‘Violet’ and it wasn’t long before he was cursing freely for the boat was as heavy to pull as to carry. The ‘Alice’ had taken three men beside the skipper, leaving the ‘Violet’ the same number which made her two short for a full crew.

Slowly the fishing boat was pulled across Table Bay passing by many sparred Sailing Ships, rolling slowly at their anchorage, under the towering sides of huge cargo steamers, in amongst dainty racing yachts until a mile from the beach they rounded the gates of Cape Town’s docks and entered into a world of ghostly creakings, manifold smells and weird shapes and shadows.

Here the fishing fleet gathered under the skeleton arms of monstrous cranes, besides great ocean liners, next to sea battered sailing craft, beside slimy green coated wharvers, and began to reap a harvest of small fish to be used as bait for bigger relations.

Holding candles and lanterns close to the surface of the water and liberally sowing breadcrumbs, the fishermen soon had shoal after shoal of a small type of herring swimming up to the lights – a large scoop net on the end of a pole was then brought into play and before long the boat’s flooring boards were covered with beautifully tinted fish. As each boat satisfied its’ wants it began to move off to the far distant fishing grounds.

There was no wind so as the boats gathered way, crews settled into the long Cape Stroke each man rising to his feet and with all his weight pulling slowly and steadily until his body sat once more on the thwart and the oar loom was against his breast – the skipper reversing the process and pushing against his oar.

The sea, black and noiseless, heaved slowly in mountain-like rollers and deep hollows, but as the oars dipped into the dark water and rose back into the air, molten streams of violet fire ran from the blades.

“Terrible lot of phosphorous to-night Jack” called Mick from the bows.

“Aye, it will have been that Nor’ Wester done that” answered Jack spitting overboard – “tis a good sign for fish and a spell o’ quiet at sea – it’s pretty stuff. Wish to blazes we could get a breeze though – it’s about ten miles to the Stockfish banks and from there ’bout fourteen to Clifton – Blast fishing I say ’tis a crool hard life – but there’s wuss.” he ended emphatically.

“What’s worse, Jack?” asked Mick laughingly.

“Afore the mast on a windbag” answered the other. “Foolish folk make pictures and write books and poems about the romance of sail, and weep ‘cos it’s days are passing. Damn good job says I – them that likes sailing ships let them vige with ’em” says I “it’ll learn them not to be foolish minded I reckon. Three pun ten a month and that stolen at the end – a body full o’ sores – a constitution ruined by wet – all crippled and broken with work and livin’ on stuff what writers and poets and suchlike wouldn’t give their dorgs they wouldn’t, and if they did the dorgs wouldn’t eat it not they. Blast sailing ships I say.”

Three hours of hard work brought the ‘Violet’ to her fishing ground an hour before dawn – all around the night was alive with the splash of oars and creak of hole pins whilst muffled voices sounded faintly from the dark. It was too deep to anchor so two men gently held the boat against the drift of current as the other three dropped their thick cotton lines overboard – each line was weighted by a heavy cone-shaped sinker of lead above which there were three immense barbed hooks baited with whole Cape Herring.

There seemed no bottom to the sea – fathom after fathom of line ran out – however the rush of line at last slackened and gently hauling in the fishermen got the true depth and slowly raising and lowering their lines kept the baited hooks a foot or two from the ground.

From Boatsheds to Battlefields 24 Homesick

The end of 23rd Entry: Mrs Van Zijl felt, knew that her daughter and Mick were enjoying a little boy and girl romance but poor Mrs Van Zijl could gather no proof.

One morning a neighbour – a poor man – came rushing over, a child was down with diphtheria – could Mr Van Zijl get a doctor – it was a matter of hours as to whether the child lived or died.

“Inspan the two best horses and drive like hell for the doctor Mick” called Mr Van Zijl as he grasped the situation. Helped by Mr Van Zijl and the distressed father Mick took but a couple of minutes in getting two young mares harnessed and in the cart – jumping in the youth cracked his whip, the two fresh horses sprang forward, raced around the corner of the stables and the flying cart took the bend one wheel high in the air.

Down the rough farm road tore the horses Mick standing in the cart urging them on with the crack of whip and voice though little well-bred animals needed encouragement.

In imagination, Mick was a charioteer of the ancient Celtic tribes dashing through Erin with the news of the Romans landing in Britain. As he peopled his mind with pictures, tribesmen dashing out of villages to watch this mad course, or clearing from the roadway before galloping hoofs of his horses he sang and yelled to the frowning hills and the pitiless blue sky.

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Soon, however, realisation came that he had fifteen miles to go with a child’s life hanging on his journey and that it wasn’t much use knocking up his horses in the first two, so ceasing his noise Mick began to try and quieten the animals, no easy task but at last successful.

Now the first burst of excitement over Mick drove carefully but speedily watching his horses he nursed them on the upgrades, let them out on the down ways, kept a steady swinging trot along the level and then as far in the distance he saw the Dutch Church Spire once more he began to drive madly forward.

At last covered with foam, staggering with exhaustion the horses drew up at the doctor’s door. Fortunately, he was at home and on the situation being explained immediately gave orders for his cart to be inspanned and hastily began to make preparations for his journey.

Driving slowly up the village hotel Mick took the exhausted horses out, unharnessed them and sent the pair for a walk and roll. Once cooled the boy rubbed their legs down with brandy gave them hot bran mash and then thankfully strolled over to Mrs Scott and her daughter.

Warmly Mick spent a pleasant day and evening slept at the hotel and early next morning returned to the farm to find his errand had been unavailing the child having died shortly before the doctor’s arrival.

A week later Mick was ill – for three days he lay in bed with a bad throat and racking head – the attention he received was nil – food was brought in at meal times but the lad’s very being revolted at fat pork, greasy potatoes and sweetened pumpkin. Visions of a loving mother and the best of all his pals, his Dad – thoughts of custards, jellies – a little chicken broth, books to read, friends to listen to – Oh but the lad was homesick.

Accused of malingering Mick staggered back to work – later returned to his room to find a greatly treasure crucifix on the floor was broken, his kit thrown everywhere – in came Mr Van Zijl raging – Mrs Van Zijl had in her motherly fashion come to tidy the room – by accident a portion of an open letter from Mick to his father had photographed itself on her brain – a paragraph vividly describing the food, the manners, the personalities of Mr and Mrs Van Zijl. Van Zijl white with rage discoursed at length and in detail reviewing Mick’s past, present and prophesying his future – he raised a cruel looking sjambok/whip.

Mick with a sailor’s agility leapt out of the window and took the main road to Struan. Five miles on he halted at a friendly farmer who disliked Van Zijl. To an amused Dutchman of the grand old school and to a bevvy of giggling maidens Mick related his experiences.

A week later returning from a fishing expedition, Mick’s father handed him a letter.

Mr Van Zijl “wished to assure Mr Osmond of his unabated friendship and respect, but at the same time felt it his duty to inform Mr Osmond that his son was an unmitigated liar, was absolutely useless on a farm, was impudent, untrustworthy and wicked. On his own confession, he was in the habit of consorting with Roman Catholics, fishermen and other characters certain to lead even a good boy astray.

Mr Van Zijl understood that Mick in his sixteen years of life had tried the tempers of and been given up as hopeless by the masters of no less than seven schools. In the month Mick had been with him he fully sympathised with the masters and mistresses of the seven schools.”

Mick snorted – “He lies! The swine! He lies!”

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From Boatsheds to Battlefields 19 Parenting Advice

End of 18th Entry: “Smartly done me, lad! Smartly done!” said the Skipper laughing as he dropped his line overboard.

For an hour the crew fished catching a few of the reddish white Silverfish and a couple of large-mouthed goggle-eyed red bodied fish called Jacopever whose name was supposed to come from a resemblance to an old sea captain of that name.

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The fish were not biting briskly though and Old Jack’s grumbles became a source of irritation to the Skipper who at last gave the order to weigh anchor and make sail.

“You’d make a darn good success driving a hearse Jack,” said the stroke oar a taciturn worthy “Pity your mother didn’t smother you when you were a kid.”

Growling some indistinguishable reply Jack proceeded to slack away the anchor rope from the bow-post and slip it on the small wheel over which it was hauled. The rest of the crew tailing on the rope soon had the anchor up and hoisting it aboard proceeded to make sail.

“Had a good day, Mick? asked the Skipper as he shipped the rudder and slackened off the sheet.

“The best of my life!” answered the boy enthusiastically.

“Well if your people will let you, I’ll take you out on a real fishing trip – be at the boatsheds at four on Saturday morning.

“Oh! Thank you, Mr. Pienaar, I’ll be down, no fear.”

“I don’t hold with little byes going in boats.” Remarked Jack “I reckons as how boats and sojers spiles byes, makes ’em unsettled and takes them from their learning, if I had a bye I’d learn him better than go mucking about wi boats and ships I would – put wrong idees in byes heads it does.”

“How’d you bring up a youngster, Jack?” asked the stroke oar.

“I dunno exactly – never had one to bring up but the way people brings up byes and gurls nowadays haint my idee of bringing up byes and gurls it haint, take the byes and gurls of this here place, they haint byes and gurls to my thinking they’s wild animals” and Jack expectorated at a passing gull.”

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Mickey gazed at the Old Salt with speechless indignation, then said, “I suppose he likes a blooming milksop in a lace collar and a velvet suit, a girlie girlie with long golden locks!”

“Oh Jack likes everything that’s contrary to other folks’ opinions,” remarked the Skipper grinning.

The boat was running before the wind with the mainsail squared away, and pleasant though the smooth run of the boat was to others, Mick began to yearn for something less tame. The stroke oar had shown him how to tie his fish into a bunch by passing a strip of osies (can’t find a translation) through the gills and mouth – he had asked all the questions he could think of for the moment and at the end of the trip was approaching too rapidly for his liking.

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“Can’t we have just one more run against the wind, Mr. Pienaar,” he asked “Only a small one.”

“Sorry Mick, it’s too late and we are not for pleasure – this is our job and like all jobs, we’re glad to see it over just as you are when school finishes.”

“I said a kid shouldn’t be allowed in boats,” remarked Jack ‘it spiles them and they’re allers in the way askin’ questions and worrying folk – you gives a bye a happle and he wants a cake to eat with it, byes is a worrit to their pa’s and ma’s and to everybody else. I don’t like byes I don’t.”

Mick put out his tongue at the fisherman’s back a feat which drew much silent mirth from the two Malay half-breeds.

By this time Boat Bay had been reached and with a fast dropping wind the fishing craft rounded the reef and the tide being high ran onto the tiny beach.

A tiny crowd of people drawn by curiosity or the desire to buy fresh fish gathered round and proudly Mick sprang ashore noting with glee the envious looks of half a dozen school companions.

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Boatsheds to Battlefields 18 Taking Command

I would like to thank the photographers and the passionate people who have given me access to photographs from the late 1800s and early 1900s for bringing my grandfather’s story to life.

End of 17th Entry:  “Come aft and tell me how I must steer to get on the bank.” Quickly working his way back the eager youngster looked shorewards.

“Look at Bartholomew’s Cross,” said the Skipper “Got it?”

“Yes” answered the boy, his eyes on a long straight cleft in a granite cliff below the Lion’s Head. Across this perpendicular crack was a horizontal cut which tradition asserted had been worked out by the Portuguese sailors of Bartholomew Dias.

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“Now Mick take the top chimney of the Queen’s Hotel and get the line just tell me how to steer Port or Starboard.”

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Wildly excited Mick began to issue his orders “Port a little – Oh! they’re going further from each other, Starboard a little! Starboard! Oh! More yet.”

Can’t be done Sonny, the boat won’t sail against the wind – we’ll have to beat out a bit further until we’re to windward of the imaginary straight line between those bearings and then come about and run down so I’ll keep on as I’m doing until we’re crossed that line – Now look back towards Cape Town and get the Three Anchor Bay Dutch Church spine in line with the signal station.”

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Three Anchor Bay Dutch Church

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CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA ~ SIGNAL STATION ON SIGNAL HILL ~ c. 1904

“They are slowly coming into line as we’re going Skipper.”

That’s alright then – that bearing will give us the distance the bank is from the shore, the other the whereabouts of the bank and the cross bearing the exact spot.”

“We’re almost right with the Three Anchor Bay bearing.”

“Yes, but we’ll carry on until past the other, lower sail and drift or row down on to the bank.”

A little later Mick shouted – “We’re cutting the imaginary line now!”

“All right! Standby to lower” as the crew scrambled to their stations the Skipper put the boat into the wind and at the shout “Lower away!” down came the sail, out went the sprit, the shaking threshing canvas of fore and mainsail was smothered and furled the mast unstepped and the oars out.

“Oh! we’ve drifted past the one bearing”, cried Mick.

“Pull up Jack! Pull quickly! Koos”.

“Steady Youngster! Keep your head and don’t get flurried, come take the tiller and take command.”

Shivering with nervousness the boy obeyed, a roar from Jack as swinging broadside on the boat skipped a nasty bit of sea most of which got Jack terrified the lad, but putting his weight against the tiller, he brought her head on again – aided by a couple of hard strokes from one of the Port oars.

“Pull yourself together Youngster, don’t try and capsize us”, laughed the Skipper and gradually gaining confidence Mick after a mistake or two got the idea of steering and cross-bearing, “Pull her up a bit to allow for the anchor slack Kid – right – drop anchor now. We won’t worry about the bank testing.”

“Standby to drop anchor!” piped the childish treble “Pull her up a bit more. Come on Koos, you’re loafing! Pull! Let go Jack!” and over splashed the stone.

“Smartly done me, lad! Smartly done!” said the Skipper laughing as he dropped his line overboard.