Sailing the Knysna Heads

Posted on 20 May 2014

Powered by nature, sailing offers the chance to see South Africa’s coastline from a new perspective. Theresa Lozier spent a day at sea around the Knysna Heads, in the scenic Garden Route.

Photo by Theresa Lozier

Smooth and reflective, the surface of the navy blue sea around us is rising and falling like the lines of an oil painting. The sun, starting her descent across the autumn sky, showers us in golden light that refracts in glory over the water in sparkling starbursts. Breathing with its rhythm we take in the view over sandstone cliffs crowned by a lonely fisherman’s shack and bordered by inviting sandy beaches with limited access.

Most of the land is covered in thick fynbos and milkwood trees, and from my vantage point on the Outeniqua – a 50-foot charter yacht owned by Springtide Sailing Charters – the hills look as soft and inviting as a cozy blanket. In other places the land stands in stark contrast, looking more like a bald knuckle rising from the sea.

Our skipper for the journey is infinitely qualified. He is Theo Beens, a yachtmaster who spent five years sailing a whopping 42 000 nautical miles en route to 55 countries. Sitting on the sea-side of Knysna, we’ve just sailed through the Heads (one of South Africa’s top 10 sailing spots), the the only place in the world where Lloyds of London refuses to insure due to the incredible risk. It’s also, fittingly, the site of many marriage proposals. How’s that for looking danger in the eye, hey boys?

Between handing out the mandatory life jackets and pouring glasses of bubbly, deckhand Tyren Caldwell observes the depths around us with the look of a not-too-distant memory in his eyes. ‘Swimming at night here is incredible,’ he says as if it’s a commonplace activity, ‘especially knowing that there are all sorts of amazing things below you that you don’t even know about!’

I look off in the distance, too – scanning the horizon for any signs of Neptune’s in-laws, and am glad for the teak deck I am sitting on. The truth is I’m a wannabe sailor without any sense of wind direction and not an ounce of nautical know-how. I’m thankful for the opportunity to relish in the idea of a sea-bound adventure, but for only a few blissful hours.

Back in the lagoon, the sky is alight in the colours of sunset. Platters of finger food are handed up from the galley and all around the mood aboard the Outeniqua is celebratory, and rightfully so. It seems those at the stern have been entertained by yet another marriage proposal, yet we’ve managed to return without a single man overboard.  She said yes.

Need to Know

  • No shoes on deck – all guests must place their shoes in a basket before boarding
  • Bring a light jacket along – windy conditions can get chilly especially on a sunset cruise
  • If you’re prone to sea sickness, take precautions – light wind means less speed and more bobbing
  • Bring a peak and sunglasses – west-facing sunset cruises are pretty bright until the sun dips



Great Garden Route markets

Thrifty Garden Route hotels

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