Aboard Phoenix XI

Aboard Phoenix XI From Durban to PE by Lisette Abell

With a stroke of exceptional luck, I was presented with an opportunity to crew on a custom Perry 62 foot Catamaran named Phoenix XI. The luxury Australian vessel is owned by Aussie Wayne Saunders, better known as Hoss, after the well-known character on the classic television series, Bonanza.

Hoss, who incidentally bears an uncanny resemblance to Doc of the iconic 80s film, Back to the Future, has been sailing since the tender age of 11, and, having acquired the luxury 62 foot Cat in 2013, decided to take a trip around the the world, with stop-overs at the port of Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, before departing for St.Helena, Brazil and the Bahamas.

The opportunity for me to hop aboard as crew for the two and a half day trip to PE was quite sudden, but too good to pass up, and there I was, making last-minute arrangements for foul weather gear and Stugeron – just in case!

Monday morning arrived, and as luck would have it, I awoke with a pounding migraine, but that would not deter me. A short trip to the nearest pharmacy and I was all set – until I got back into the car. And it would not start….

A tow truck drive to the nearest Battery Centre and a new battery later, I was on track for the big trip.

The south westerly wind was of slight concern as we set off on our voyage, however the stable Cat took it in her stride and, despite the somewhat rocky trip, which saw us staggering around the cabin like unseasoned drunks, we were in awe of the yacht’s capabilities.

My fellow crew included the very capable RNYC member, Peter Channing, and Antonie, a GP from Gauteng. The four of us were more than ample for the magnificent Cat, which had all the automated bells and whistles that one could imagine.

My novice skills were no match for the captain, who had everything under control from the outset. Being in the process of completing my Day Skipper’s, I absorbed all of the information that I could possibly squeeze into my memory bank.

The night stars were a wonder to behold as we sailed a few kilometers off the east coast of South Africa. I was able to sit in silence for quite some time on my watch and appreciate the glorious and majestic all-powerful sea. However, having taken a migraine pack earlier that day, I crashed shortly after into the best berth on board – my good fortune for being female, I guess!

Day 2 began with a beautiful sunrise and breakfast, with the current noticeably less boisterous, and a more calm sailing experience as a result. We were very lucky to see whales along the way.  There are no words to describe the beauty of nature and being out at sea, with no buildings, noise and pollution to contend with. Due to time constraints, we needed to get to PE by midday on the Wednesday in order for Antonie to catch his flight back to Johannesburg. Thus, we motor-sailed most of the way. Apart from a rebellious Volvo engine obstinately refusing to start for the most part of Tuesday, it was all plain sailing, with no hiccups or issues to attend to.

Our vegetarian captain did his level best to get us eating anything but meat, and we actually enjoyed our meals wholeheartedly. Hoss wasn’t only a capable skipper, but a gracious host as well.

As Day 3 made its appearance, I was awoken from my comfy slumber to be advised that we were approaching the port of PE at 3am. It wasn’t ideal to arrive at an unfamiliar port in the dark, but all went well and we anchored just outside the marina. Taking turns to ensure that we didn’t drift, we were soon presented with the most glorious of sunrises. The trip had come to an end and we bid farewell to the mighty Phoenix and her captain, Hoss.

I am thankful to Peter Channing for getting me aboard Phoenix XI and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to gain miles and experience that I need for my future sailing endeavours.

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