Skeleton crew
Sailing Today|December 2020
Cruising the west coast of Africa would be an adventure into the unknown for most. Nick and Jenny Coghlan share an insight on a voyage along Namibia’s Skeleton Coast
Nick and Jenny Coghlan

Bosun Bird’s skipper often likes to rail against professionally organised cruising rallies, overlooking the fact that participating in such events is how a number of our friends began bluewater sailing in the first place. “Surely,” he will say in a superior manner, “the point of cruising is to do it all yourself, not pay somebody else to smooth your way... Even the paperwork is part of the fun...”

This, while the otherwise-loyal crew tries to catch his eye. “It wasn’t fun when we left South Africa, was it?” she will ask, after our guests have left.

We’d spent nearly two years fitting out and sailing Bosun Bird at a small marina-cum-fishing harbour north of Cape Town, after buying her at Richard’s Bay, on South Africa’s Indian Ocean coast, and trucking her cross-country on a flatbed. When, in early spring, it came time to check out of the country – bound for Namibia, St Helena and Brazil – we indulged in all the usual procrastination and hesitation to which we are prone before long passages, exacerbated now by lack of recent practise, unstable weather and the distance of the immigration office from our berth. It was 30km to Saldanha Bay, and we’d have to rent a car just to go there and back.

The elderly, dour uniformed officer in the customs shed eyed our papers in silence for several minutes. I tried to lighten the atmosphere by remarking that we’d checked out of this very office, on an earlier cruise, 20 years previously. He found the relevant entry in his log book, responding only with a curt, South African accented “Yiss.”

Eventually he got to the point: “Where are your entry papers?”

“Ah, well. We bought the boat at Richard’s Bay, took her out of the water and trucked her here...”.

“She left South African waters, then. So where are your exit papers?”

Repeat the elements of this conversation multiple times for two hours, take into account that office closing time is fast approaching, and add incipient desperation on the captain’s part.

Finally, with visible reluctance, our man took out his rubber stamp, looked at his watch and marked the clearance paper with the exact time, to the minute. He handed it back.

“Two hours. Got it?”

We raced back, dumped the car, threw off our lines and motored at full revs out of the Port Owen breakwater. The sun was setting over the South Atlantic as with relief we cleared the shallows of St Helena Bay. The swells were still five metres, but down from the eight that Cape Point had been reporting yesterday. We had a favourable southeasterly.

“Well I really enjoyed that bout of paperwork, didn’t you?” the crew said casually, as she prepared for bed, leaving me the first watch.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine


Spirited performer

Choosing a traditional-looking boat doesn’t mean going low-tech, as Sam Fortescue discovered when he sailed the Spirit Yachts’ new 44E

7 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

Foul language

It won’t be long before boatyards around the coast are humming with the noise of sanders and the chip-chip-chip of owners removing old flakes of antifouling. Sam Fortescue looks at the latest products

9 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

It ain't over til it's over

An edge-of-your-seat Vendée Globe thriller came down to the final hours, with a last minute drama that shocked millions

10 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

Fitness from home

There has never been a better time to train from home than now. Even in normal times, just think how much time you would save. Jon Emmett provides some pointers on best technique

6 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

Can they be beaten?

Emirates Team New Zealand is lying in wait in the America’s Cup, due to take place from 6-15 March. We take a closer look at the team to beat

6 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

Jess Lloyd-Mostyn

Rats and sailors share an uneasy relationship going back almost to the beginning of time. When Jess and crew received an unwelcome visitor, drastic action was required

3 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

Tea on the Nile

When you’re living in the middle of the Sahara desert and the government is a military dictatorship it can be a challenge to find fun things to do

7 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

Fjord Focus

Nick Huxford narrates a voyage that took him from Southampton to Norway’s Lofoten Islands

6 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

Tom Cunliffe

Night watch on a long offshore passage is a real test of will and concentration but a memorable night encounter underlined the need for vigilance to Tom

6 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

Andi Robertson

As the Vendée Globe wraps up, skippers are alreadly looking to the future and the next race. So what are the prospects for the class of 2021

4 mins read
Sailing Today
April 2021

GEOLOGY 101 Columnar Basalt

A distinctive volcanic structure found throughout the world has been given fanciful names: “Organ Pipes” in Namibia and Victoria, Australia; “Kilt Rock” and “Samson’s Ribs” in Scotland; “Giant’s Causeway” in Northern Ireland; “Thunderstruck Rocks” in Romania; “Devils Tower” in Wyoming and “Paul Bunyan’s Woodpile” in Utah, USA; the “Baigong Pipes” in China; and the “Cliff of Stone Plates” in Vietnam. High-resolution satellite images have even shown similar as-yet-unnamed structures on Mars.

1 min read
Rock&Gem Magazine
December 2020


This is not the story I thought I’d be writing when I began my motorcycling adventure on Namibia’s gravel roads.

8 mins read
Adventure Motorcycle (ADVMoto)
November - December 2020


With cruises that visit South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, CroisiEurope shows off the best that land and water have to offer.

5 mins read
Porthole Cruise Magazine
September/October 2020



9 mins read
Motor Trend
June 2020

Truth Or Fiction? It's Perfectly Safe To Airlift A Rhinoceros

Flying rhinos upside down looks ungainly but is it harmful, too? New research set out to find the answer.

1 min read
BBC Wildlife
Spring 2021

Time For Wild Hyacinths!

We told you in January that planting bulbs would be a great trend in 2021, so March is a good time to kick off your annual bulb planting quest with the indigenous wild hyacinths, also called Cape hyacinth, Cape cowslip and, more botanically correct, Lachenalia. Between South Africa and Namibia there are more than 120 natural species (some of which are sold in flower by specialist nurseries), but there are also many desirable hybrids bred by commercial bulb growers that are readily available in bulb form from the end of February.

2 mins read
The Gardener
March 2021

Reversing the impact of soil degradation on livestock production

Livestock producers, particularly in arid climates, are struggling to remain profitable. Soil degradation and declining stocking rates have been identified as some of the main reasons for this decline. Colin Nott, a regenerative agricultural consultant from Namibia, spoke to Annelie Coleman.

7 mins read
Farmer's Weekly
February 26, 2021

Namibia Sand, Stars & Safari

One of the most sparsely populated countries on Earth, Namibia is a byword for vast landscapes shaped by fierce elemental forces. From the blustery, shipwreck-strewn Skeleton Coast and wildlife utopia of Etosha in the north, through the central region — home to extreme sports hub Swakopmund and the capital, Windhoek — to the ochre dunes of Sossusvlei and the mighty Fish River Canyon in the south, this is Africa at its most wild and raw. The country’s offering to travellers is developing apace: be it safari, sandboarding or camping under the stars, adventure beckons, with new lodges and camps blossoming in remote regions. And the nation’s fascinating indigenous history and bush lore are being preserved and protected in captivating new Living Museums

10+ mins read
National Geographic Traveller (UK)
March 2021

Rebel with a cause

Hollywood star Rebel Wilson joins former SAS hardman Ant Middleton for a gruelling challenge in Mexico

4 mins read
TV & Satellite Week
January 09, 2021

Long and short of it

BEING a giraffe this tiny must be a pain in the neck...

1 min read
Daily Star
January 08, 2021