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RETURN TO CAPE TOWN

Wen I was the young mate on he Danish oak-built briganine Romance, we put into Cape Town,

South Africa, on our voyage around the world.

The skipper, Captain Arthur Kimberly, with a lifetime of sailing as an officer in merchant rankers and freighters as well as sailing ships,

had started his deepwarer ca reer in the Swedish four-masted barkAbraham Rydberg as an ordinary seaman.

He is one of a handful of seamen around today who have worked in cargo-carrying deepwarer sailing ships. In Cape Town were a bit more of this handful.

So in rheyear ofourvisir ro Cape Town, 1977, Captain Kimberly and his wife Gloria, partners for years under sail, decided ro find the veteran sailing-ship sailors,

drag them aboard and into the salon of the Romance, and celebrate old rimes.

Many hadn ‘t sailed together, bur they all knew each other’s ships.

All the ships were 2,000- and 3,000- to n steel square riggers-powerful, graceful, seaworthy, the last great fl owering of sailing-ship naval architecture-cathedrals of the sea.

Usually manned with boys (and some girls), they sailed aro und Cape Horn.

Repeatedly. Now these boys and girls were well grown and known as “Cape Horners.”

They came ro the Romance-some sprightly, some a bit wobbly.

As they stepped over the turned taffrail of the Romance’s poop onto her oiled pine decks, rhe years fell away.

Grasping a coarse manila main brace and drawing in a heady draught of Stockholm-tar-laden salt air for the first rime in years was an elixir.

You could see backs straighten, eyes sparkle a bit more, and a smile spread a little wider.

Thar late afternoon on Tabl e Bay they sat around rhe main skylight on deck underneath the thick foremast with its nearly squared yards and harbor-furled fl ax sails.

 Introductions all around: “This is Nankin, Mare of the Lawhill.”

“You know Pamela from the Cecilie Meer Gunter Shultz from the Padua.”

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