April With Her Showers Sweet

WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote…

With these memorable words, Geoffrey Chaucer kicked off the prologue to ‘The Canterbury Tales’ in 1387. A couple of things are instantly noticeable in that mysterious couplet; firstly that a Canterbury summer had much in common with a Cape Town winter, and secondly that Chaucer’s quill laptop predated Spellcheck by around 6 centuries, give or take a decade. For those not steeped in Chaucerian English, what these lines say (sort of), are that the sweet showers of April have regenerated life and fertility to the earth after the droughts of March. Chaucer didn’t stop there-there are 24 Tales – over 17 000 lines – that took him thirteen years to complete. Latter-day students of Middle English tasked with reading Chaucer take about thirteen minutes to go mad and start beating their heads on the desk as they attempt to unravel the mysteries of the script. My forehead remains compromised to this day.

But that’s just to let you know that we are talking about the weather. In 21st Century English to maintain sanity. (Unless you’d prefer some more ‘Of fustian he weard a gipoun coarse cloth, All besmotered with his habergeon… No? Thought not.)

The Western Cape is a winter rainfall region, which is in stark contrast to the Highveld and Northern Regions of South Africa. Our wind in winter is predominantly from the northwest, and this is the ‘rain wind’ as far as Capetonians are concerned. As I write these words the sound of rain falling over the V&A Waterfront is music to my ears, and hopefully a portent of good rains throughout the winter months. Locals are still reeling from the 2018 ‘Day Zero’ demon dreamed up by politicians who should have known better, so any and all rain is always welcome.

When, like us, you are running a fleet of seagoing vessels, the weather plays a major factor in everything you do. Safety is at the top of Waterfront Charters priority list, so knowing what conditions are likely to present themselves to our skippers and crew is all important. The boats themselves are all exceptionally seaworthy – it’s the wellbeing of guests we have in mind. All our vessels, from the trawler-based monohulled Southern Cross to the three luxurious catamarans and graceful schooner, revel in rough conditions, but it’s no fun trying to have a party off Clifton when the boat is rising and dipping in the swells of a Force 8 gale. Fortunately, there are very few days when the weather is that inclement, so we very seldom have to cancel cruises. When necessary we may change the sailing direction or the destination of a cruise to ensure optimum conditions for our guests; when this happens we always inform passengers before casting off.

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing.”

Billy Connolly

Our website has a weather forecast for this very reason: we know that weather plays a large part in the enjoyment of a cruise, so we invite guests to check out the week ahead when booking online. If you have booked a long time in advance, check closer to the day and if you are in any doubt, give us a call for advice. We are always accommodating when a change of day or time is needed, but obviously, we need some notice: hence the weather forecast!

Weather forecasting has been around as long as humans have sought shelter from sun, rain and wind. Weather lore has emanated from all societies around the globe, and make for a fascinating study. Farmers and fishermen, in particular, have been at the forefront of weather prediction – for obvious reasons – and the archetypal picture of the pipe-puffing, roll-neck jerseyed, bearded sailor sitting on a bollard, gazing at the horizon and muttering “Arrrr, it’ll be blowing on the morrow’ has graced many a biscuit tin. These days, of course, the experts have satellites and weather stations galore, with high-powered computers to model weather patterns. The expertise comes in reading the computer’s output and knowing when exceptions can occur. At Waterfront Charters we have faith in those experts, and are more than happy to work on – and pass on – that knowledge to ensure perfect cruises for all our guests, come hell or high water.

As a final note, the early Native Americans used a ‘weather stick’ to predict the weather. This was a twig of birch or balsam fir, which they mounted outdoors, one end stuck in a totem pole. The twig bent upwards in high humidity, and downwards in low, and gave reasonably accurate forecasts of coming rain. These days we use a barometer to the same effect, knowing that the conditions are caused by atmospheric pressure. But we reckon sticks are a lot cheaper, and also when they are wet you know it is raining.