Early in June, Dale and Natalie Smyth, together with their two small children, Jack and Jamie, set sail from Cape Town, South Africa aboard the 39 foot yacht – Shining Star – built from the hull up, by Dale. They were on a dangerous journey from Cape Town to Athens, Greece around the west coast of Africa. Their aim was to join the work of Hellenic Ministries in its impressive work reaching out to the many islands surrounding Greece and the Mediterranean area.
They got off to a slow start due to delayed customs clearance and dirty diesel – resulting in clogged filters and the need to clean the engine and replace a full tank of diesel a mere 100 miles North of Cape Town. The crew made landfall at St Helena two weeks later. This was the island where Napoleon spent his last days in exile. They had fellowship with Pastor Graeme Beckett and his church family for nearly a week before setting off for the Ascension Island.
On Ascension they were again met by wonderful, hospitable new Christian friends, Don and Mary Wittich. However their stay was cut short due to high swells and they headed north for Cape Verde.
En-route to Cape Verde it became necessary to sail a somewhat erratic course in order to find wind – then avoid wind – then find wind again! One particular two-day period Skipper Dale battled to keep his vessel on the fringes of a tropical storm to avoid being swamped by the storm. Even so, 40 knot winds and high swells kept them awake. A cryptic satellite signal received from Dale one morning read, “wild night running no sails dragging anchor 40 knot wind all fine Dale”
After the storm moved away, Shining Star entered a totally windless zone, but as they were within engine range of Cape Verde, Skipper Dale powered up for about 8 hours before a drive-gear stripped, rendering them “power-less” in a wind-free zone – this time within sight of the islands on the horizon!
It was time to rely solely on the Lord and Dale & Natalie “filled the empty sails” with Praise & Worship music. Before long, the Lord sent a decent wind – this time a head-wind, which meant that the crew had to work extra hard to sail into the wind. Dale commented that the Shining Star handled “amazing well” at a very tight angle into the wind.
As sun was setting, they approached the harbour entrance to Praia (Cape Verde) and – still with a head-wind – Skipper Dale maneuvered his craft into the port, under sail, without an engine and no working winches either
To minimise expenses, Shining Star is at anchor in the “Bay of Praia” (Northwest corner) instead of berthed at the quayside in Praia harbour itself. This location – while not the open sea – is still rather exposed, so they are keeping a close “weather-eye” on the wind & swell & storm patterns that move throughout this region at this time of year. A storm wind from the South could drive them onto the beach. From the Northwest, a storm could drive them onto the harbour breakwater. Either way would be disastrous for the keel and hull.
Dale has managed to have the drive gear rebuilt in a small engineering shop in Praia. He is currently refitting the gear (which is housed in a “gearbox” below the engine which consequently requires lifting up, out of the engine compartment). Refitting, then testing, the engine will take a few more days.
Once the engine has been repaired and tests show that the Shining Star is again sea-worthy, the Smyths have some important decisions to make.
Autumn tropical storms ravage the area between Cape Verde and the Canary isles and the straights of Gibraltar. The cumulative delays have now placed Skipper Dale into this “autumn storm” time-frame.
If they decide to carry on sailing north there is a real danger and risk facing the family as they sail into the storm zones once the engine is repaired. Alternatively they could spend the next few months at Praia and find some local ministry with which to be involved. Another option would be for Dale to sail on alone or with a volunteer crew, and send wife, Natalie and the two young boys home to Cape Town. This doesn’t seem an option as it would be difficult to find suitable crew and it would be an unnecessary expense to send Natalie and the boys back to Cape Town.
Johnathan Macris, and the leadership of Hellenic Ministries, have suggested that we give serious consideration to flying Natalie, Jack and Jamie from Praia to Athens – where accommodation is available for them and Natalie can start familiarising herself with the culture and language in Greece and get to know her colleagues in Hellenic Ministries. Simultaneously, an experienced sailor can be flown from Athens to Praia to sail northwards with Dale through the tricky weather patterns they will encounter between Cape Verde and Gibraltar at this time of year.
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The missions committee at Fullies (Dale and Natalie’s home church concur with this suggestion and give their full support to raising the necessary funds to help achieve this objective.
Fullies makes use of GivenGain – a secure donations system that can accept donations in any currency from credit cards or bank accounts. All donations to the “Fullies Missions Project” via GivenGain will be directed towards helping Dale, Natalie, their family and boat to Greece as quickly and safely as possible. They have set a target of R100 000 and are praying for the ability to make a quick decision to fly Natalie and sons to Athens. Donations can be made via this link.