I Must Go Down to the Sea again…

“A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for.”

William Greenough Thayer Shedd (June 21, 1820 – November 17, 1894); American Presbyterian theologian.

We miss our boats. Having been part of the V&A Waterfront virtually since its inception, Waterfront Charters have built an enviable reputation as one of Cape Town’s – indeed one of South Africa’s – top cruise operators. We have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating that the Girdlestone family, the founders and operators of Waterfront Charters, are direct descendants of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, he of Battle of Trafalgar fame. Not that this was Nelson’s only battle, although he is best remembered for it (standing on a column in the centre of Trafalgar Square in London may have something to do with that): he also fought in sea-battles in the American War on Independence, and the Wars of the First, Second and Third Coalition – thirteen major engagements in all. Having someone of that calibre in your ancestral line is certain to ensure that saltwater will run in the veins. It was no coincidence that the founding Girdlestone – father and husband to the current family team of owners – was called Nelson. He, too, set up a proud tradition that is being maintained and expanded with each passing year.

The boats in the Waterfront Charters fleet have become an integral part of the V&A Waterfront. There can’t be many people who have visited Cape Town’s premier tourist attraction that haven’t seen one or more of our boats. In particular the Southern Cross must stand out in this regard; moored almost in front of our office on Quay 5, she has been offering Harbour Tours and Coastal Cruises for almost three decades, and like a great Cape wine, she improves with age. Based on a trawler-hull design, she is an extremely stable vessel, and her twin decks give guests multiple viewing options. Moored slightly further north on Quay 5 is Sea Princess, equally well known to tourists and locals alike, she is an elegant motor catamaran that can host groups of up to 140 guests. Ideal for charters, Sea Princess has served the Cape community exceptionally well over the years, her powerful twin diesels pushing her effortlessly through Atlantic swells, her catering facilities perfect for sunset cruises and private functions alike.

Catamarans feature strongly in our fleet. Complementing Sea Princess are our two luxury yachts: catamarans both, but with distinctly different sources of propulsion. First, with her graceful lines, is our sailing catamaran, Serenity One. Serene she may be, but under full sail she carves the Atlantic like a clipper ship of old. With wind power pushing her along effortlessly, the only sounds are the hiss of water on the bows of her hulls, and the crackle of sails overhead. Oh, and the happy sound of guests partying or just taking in the amazing views. Her sister catamaran, Enigma, is equally luxurious and easy on the eye, but instead of the tall mast and twin sails she has twin inboard diesel engines. Not the rumbly growling sound of heavy lorries; the purring of horsepower used to drive her twin screws. Both cats are absolutely perfect for Table Bay excursions, and are very, very comfortable to be moored off Clifton Beach on a sunny summer’s day. Like Sea Princess, they are superb for private charters too.

Then there is our pride and joy rough diamond; a true sailing yacht. Esperance is a schooner – a single iron hulled boat with twin masts and a protruding bowsprit. She offers up adventures that will stir the souls of mariners, would be mariners, landlubbers and tourists alike. Heeling under a breeze, guests sitting in her two wells experience sailing in its most pure essence; it may not be as luxurious as our cats, but what she loses in plushness she gains in adventure. Our Sailing in the Bay experiences aboard Esperance are ever-popular daytime excursions, and many is the business-person who has waltzed back to work with lights in their eyes and spray in their hair. And talking of spray, we have two superb RIBS to round off our fleet: Spectre and Jet Boat 1. It’s worth reminding readers that RIB stands for Rigid-hulled Inflatable Boat, and what they are in layman’s terms is essentially speedboats. Both have two 200HP outboard motors that can propel them across the top of the waves at ridiculous speeds – but, frankly, that is not their best asset. What we love about them is the fact that they are ideal platforms for Ocean Safaris, and if there is one other aspect of ocean life that is dear to us it is the preservation and observation of the amazing wildlife in our oceans.

Did we say that we missed our boats? Yes we did; and now you know why. This lockdown may be necessary, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t champing at the seahorse bit to get out on the water again, and the sooner the better.

Check out all our boats online, and be positive: we will all be free again soon, and booking ahead for a celebration makes really good sense. We will accommodate any changes should they occur; we just want to see you all again, smiling, happy, and in the healthy open sea air.