The notorious coastline of South Africa offers little opportunity for cruising in small open boats. In the heart of the arid interior, however, lies Lake Gariep, the largest freshwater reservoir in the country. Sweltering summer months offer strong midday North-Westerly winds. A natural harbour near the dam wall provides a well protected anchorage for the Free State Yacht Club. Aside from a Dragonfly and Farrier trimaran, the rest of the boats are exclusively keelboats. Dinghy sailing is non-existent.
Summer squalls can be very violent and could be to blame for the lack of open boat sailing. The shoreline does however provide numerous protected bays as do the many islands.
Our sailing culture seems to be compartmentalised into either racing around the cans and world cruising. At least that is what you would think if you read any number of editions of our singular Sailing Magazine. Day sailing belongs to mostly old keelboats in the 25' - 35' range with the odd speed junkie out on a beach cat.
After years of enviously reading about the Everglades Challenge, Texas 200, Florida 120 and all the various Messabouts and Small Craft Festivals, I decided it is time to explore the lake as a venue for similar events in South Africa.
So I roped in my brother who has only ever sailed once before, loaded a recently acquired rickety Miracle with all sorts of luxuries and set off to conquer a distant island:
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