Have wanted to be a Pirate while we were growing up? Or perhaps sailing uncharted waters to discover foreign lands?
Well the house boat charter can give the opportunity to do both…well maybe not, but their charters are an adventure! My fiancee and I set of to find out more…
Based at the Vaal River, the charter is easily accessible form Johannesburg and the directions that we were supplied brought us right to the mooring point.
The charter has 4 houseboats, and ours was equipped to the gunwales with everything that a sailor requires…lots of food and drink!
On our arrival we were met by Patrick [manager] and Lauren, who together with her husband, David, own the charter.
With all our gear safely stowed aboard, Patrick sat us down for a comprehensive safety briefing. Although this is an information overload, the rules and regulations are covered in a manual on board.He then handed us the keys and waved us a cheery goodbye! Imagine being given the key to a R350000 vehicle and let loose on an extended test drive.
Neither of us had expected to be let loose on the Vaal River by ourselves, but this was not the time to back down from a challenge.
The boat weighs in at about 2 tonnes,and only has a 40hp motor, so we were not going to be breaking any water speed records.But a leisurely cruise is what we were after,and that is what we got.We were going so slowly that we were passed by people sailing rubber tires[well not quite]
We chose to overnight at Cloudy Creek, which is about 75mins from the charter HQ.
Cloudy Creek forms part of the Rand Water Board Nature reserve and is a haven for birdlife.It is off the main river, and once in this channel we were basically on our own.
We anchored [or so we thought, but more about this later] and set up the on board braai for dinner.Watching the sunset while eating boerewors off the braai was wonderful.And no paper plates or plastic knives and forks.Oh no, the boat is equipped with proper cutlery and crockery! You can moor at one of the local restaurants to eat if you wish, but that we could have done at home.So it was dinner and drinks on the water for us.
As in the bush, the sun does not so much set as crash into darkness…lights bring out the bugs, so it was early to bed for both of us.
In the middle of the night I was woken by my fiancee saying she thought we were adrift.A thunder storm had come up during the night and as we had not anchored as securely as we thought, we were adrift.It was a lot of fun trying to figure out where we were, as we really has not reference points.
A phone call to the charter emergency number put our minds at ease. “You cannot go very far, either you will get caught in the buoy line or run aground in the reed bed.Just make sure that you have the propeller clear before you start the engine”said the calm voice.How can we remain calm…I was about to send off distress flares and get us into the life raft…but this was not the Titanic, and we really were going nowhere.
We went back to sleep knowing that all was well.
Sunrise and we found that we had only drifted about 20 metres from where we had moored the night before. We powered up the stove and boiled the kettle while watching, or being watched by a variety of birdlife.I sometimes wonder what the wildlife thinks about us! After a leisurely breakfast, it was time to turn on the engine and continue on our voyage of discovery.
After our drift during the evening, I was concerned about lifting the anchor.But I did not have to worry as it came up almost too easily.Having made sure that we were heading off in the right direction, we started our cruise back to the charter HQ jetty.
Bream jumping out of the water are not as spectacular as a Great White breaching, but who needs Great Whites anyway!
During the return cruise, we played “guess the price” with homes along Millionaire’s Row. Some of the houses look like conference centres, and seem to be populated by ghosts, as we saw no signs of life on either bank.Execpt for one man and his dogs.
We docked back at the jetty, again much easier than the manual suggests, to get the water tank refilled and to have some lunch. After a leisurely lunch, we set off to cruise the upper part of the river.By this time the wind had picked up, but the boat is so stable that it went almost not noticed.
The upper part of the river is populated by more of the on-shore activities and the houses are older and less grand, with the exception of a few that we added to the game we had played earlier.
We were now joined on the river by several jet skis; these are worse than mini-bus taxis and driven with the same sort of panache.
We reluctantly turned for home as we really did not want to leave.Most people spend at least 2 nights on board, we only had 1.
But it had been a really memorable experience.
So, it was two very happy and intrepid adventurers that returned to hand the keys back at the jetty.
David and Lauren Gardner
Old Willow No.7 Houseboat Charters
Cell number: 0833915656