Picturesque harbours of Cape Town (2)

After taking an Easter break here I am back again…this time I revisit the Picturesque Harbours of Cape Town. We take a look at Hout Bay.

Between Cape Town and Hout Bay lies Table Mountain. If one uses the cableway to travel to the top of Table Mountain one can walk to the edge of the tabletop away from Table Bay and one can see Hout Bay.

In 1652 the Dutch arrived in Cape Town and needing provisions Jan van Riebeeck founded the Company Gardens for the Dutch East India company. However they also needed a source of wood. Apparently no forests existed of any worth on the Table Bay side, but crossing over the mountain they found large forests of fir trees. So the bay became known as Houtbaai (Wood Bay) or as it is known today Hout Bay. The trees were cut down and used for ship building.

After 1681 a sawmill was built and some woodcutters made it their settlement. Eventually the industry spread into fishing and so the Cape Settlement expanded into Hout Bay.

Once there used to be elephants in Hout Bay. The last two elephants there were shot in 1689 presumably for the ivory.

French Troops garrisoned the Cape during the American War of Independance. in 1799 a Gun Battery was built on the western side of the bay and later a 2nd battery was added to the east. These ruins can still be viewed today.

Hout Bay was never invaded but, during the Napoleonic wars,  a big storm drove the ship of a French Corsair, by the name of Malo le Nouvel, into the bay. The ship and entire crew  were captured and imprisoned by the British Garrison in 1806.  Eventually freed by the British, he returned to France.

In 1867 Hout Bay’s fishing industry really got well underway when a German immigrant, Jacob Trautman, settled there. He starting catching & salting snoek (a kind of pike) for export purposes.

A canning factory was opened in 1903. It was converted into a factory from its original form as the hulk of a barge, which was wrecked near Mouille Point and towed to Hout Bay. In 1914 the factory met its end as an explosion in the refrigeration unit left 7 dead. Today the fishing industry is well established with two large factories on the shore. The harbour is host to tourism activities, such as restaurants, boat trips. There is also a Maritime Academy in the harbour.

My wife and I spent a lovely morning walking through the harbour after enjoying a beach breakfast of ham & cheese on homemade bread, and coffee from a flask. The early morning sunrise provides perfect diffusion of light for photography.

Walking down one of the piers we found that a fishing vessel had sunk in its berth. This didn’t look too recent as the hulk was rusted and covered with seaweed growth. It seems this boat had sprung a leak from loosened planks. A lot of these vessels are apparently 50 years old or more.

A fishing trawler returned while we were there and I strolled over to satisfy my curiosity. I got to chatting with the skipper while the fisheries inspector was tallying the catch. I asked whether this was a good catch. I was interested to learn that the vessel could hold 15 tons of fish. The catch was hake.

The skipper said that no, he did not think it was a good catch as it took them 4 days to haul in 15 tons. I must have looked puzzled because he added that the boat uses 1 ton of fuel per day @ approximately R11000, viz., 4 tons of fuel and R44000 later plus the cost of salaries, berthing fees, mechanics to service, insurance ans so on. He said there is still a profit to be made but a good catch would have been made in two days – with less overheads.

Hout Bay is a lovely place to visit – a beautiful beach with stunning views. If you like fish & chips – this is the place to get it.

In a later blog I will cover Hout Bay as seen from Chapman’s Peak.

Bye for now!

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