There are few experiences in life as thrilling as moving across a liquid expanse powered by nothing but the wind. To breathe the salt air and feel your hair dancing with the wind, to feel the rise and fall of the crest of each wave underneath you and to hear the water lapping against the boat's hull - for many, this equates to the ultimate sense of freedom.
Knysna is the ideal place from which to cast off the bowlines and raise sails to the wind. Listed below are some local companies which offer sailing charters that promise to delight all the senses, making you feel connected with our watery world. The aesthetic appeal of the Knysna Estuary and adjacent rugged coastline provides these operators with the perfect backdrop for their sailing charters.
Springtide Sailing Charters
Springride Charters is one of the longest standing sailing charters in the Garden Route. Their sleek, beautifully built, 50ft mono-hull yacht the 'Outeniqua' carves the waters of the Knysna Estuary with ease and is perfectly suited to handle the dynamic waters of the Indian Ocean. They offer several charters, but their most popular is most certainly their romantic sunset cruise - a perfect way to end your day in Knysna.
The sentinel Knysna Heads is among the most remarkable features on South Africa’s coastline and a perfect backdrop for an ocean sunset. This sailing activity takes you from the lagoon, through the heads and out into the open sea. Guests often get to see a diverse range of marine life, from whales and dolphins to a host of pelagic birds endemic to our pristine coastline.
After a sublime sail, the yacht returns to the calmer waters of the Knysna Estuary where a delicious feast of Mediterranean style cuisine is served along with a glass of fine South African Cap Classique.
For more information: www.springtide.ca.za
Featherbed Co.- Heads Explorer
Another legendary charter yacht often seen cruising the Knysna Estuary at the fading light of day is the 'Heads Explorer' catamaran. They offer both day cruises and a very popular sunset cruise. Their experienced skippers expertly navigate the mouth of the Knysna Estuary if conditions are favourable and head out to sea. This charter serves as the ideal way to soak up the splendour of this spectacular coastline. A stop off at the pristine Featherbed Nature Reserve can be arranged prior to departure. After this leisurely 2 ½ hr sail, a anti-pasta platter is served with a choice of wine.
For more information: www.featherbed.co.za
Southern Yachting Academy
When I first entered the offices of the Southern Yachting Academy, the very first thing that caught my eye was their elaborately detailed logo. From past to present, it portrays elements which are distinctive to Knysna. It has the family crests of some of Knysna's most historically significant families, including the Thesen's, who left behind a rich boat building legacy; several iconic species for which Knysna has become synonymous, including the Knysna seahorse; an anchor, which represents our storied maritime history; and a champagne bottle, which serves to celebrate all these aspects which we love about Knysna.
Of all these characteristics, it was the boating legacy of yesteryear that Mark Orpen felt compelled to revive when he started the Southern Yachting Academy. Inspired by his love for both Knysna and for yachting, he had a vision to recreate the dynamic maritime flavour of the Knysna's past and he started by seeking out two of the legendary yachts which helped propel South Africa into the sailing spotlight some four decades ago.
In 1971, two Van der Stadt 222 design, 42-foot sailing yachts were built to compete in the first Cape to Rio transatlantic ocean race. The first was the 'Albatross II', which was built in Knysna at the Thesen's Boatbuilding Yard, the second was the 'Mercury', which was built in Bremen, West Germany. These two South African yachting teams sailed neck and neck for much of the race, but it was 'Albatross ll' that eventually took the lead and won the race, putting the Thesen Boatbuilding Yard, and Knysna, on the map. Also participating in the race was 'Voortrekker 1', the original South African flagship in the event, also built in Knysna by the Thesens.
While his dream to find and restore 'Albatross ll' was never realised, he did find and procure 'Mercury', whereafter he spent the next two years restoring it with the help of several skilled boat building artisans. Once this beautiful wooden sloop cutter was fully restored, Mark could properly commence with his second mission, which was to to create a platform for sailing training and adventures and thus promote the culture of sailing in Knysna.
They offer Day Skipper and Coastal Skipper courses, accredited radio telephony and coastal mileage building passages along the Garden Route coastline. Many of the students that have qualified here have gone on to enjoy hugely successful careers in the yachting industry around the world.
And for all those who have always dreamt of taking to the helm - I would highly recommend you begin with their Start Sailing Experience. This is a 5hr hands-on, interactive crewing experience where participants are given the opportunity to sail offshore on the famous Mercury yacht. The activity starts off at the Academy on Thesen Island where you will learn the basic principles of sailing, such as tacking a gybing, tying knots, steering the boat and plotting a course.
After this brief introduction to sailing and under the guidance of one of their very competent skippers, you will then get the chance to implement what you have learnt by being an active crew member. You will sail across the vast expanse of the Knysna Estuary, through the sentinel headlands and out into the big blue. This is a hugely popular activity for both local and international tourists and if all their Tripadvisor comments are anything to go by, then this experience is certainly one to include in your the bucket list!
For more information visit: www.southernyachting.co.za