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September 26, 2004

Silent Voyager puts into East London

From: Dispatch Online, South Africa - Sep 26, 2004

EAST LONDON - The windless start to the day yesterday gave the impression that deaf round-the-world sailor Charl de Villiers had plain sailing here after leaving Durban on Wednesday. A gale in the Indian Ocean which damaged the steering gear and other parts of his 37-foot Tiger yacht Island Time forced De Villiers to change course for Durban, instead of sailing directly to Cape Town, to get out of the bad weather and repair his yacht.

De Villiers left Palacios in Texas in March in an attempt to be the first deaf person to sail solo around the world.

He initially did not want to go to Durban or East London, where his parents Johan and Marie de Villiers live, because of the fear of what bad weather can do to yachts along the Wild Coast between those two ports.

His fears were justified as he had to battle big winds gusting at more than 30 knots and big swells, which forced him to head closer to shore.

"The whole boat was awash, and the wind and the waves forced me to heave to in shelter near Port St Johns till the bad passed," Charl said shortly after arriving at the harbour here.

The sailor had not slept at all on Thursday night and was tired when he arrived here, immediately asking for a cigarette and a beer before climbing onto the quayside.

It was a warm and touching family reunion as Charl hugged his parents on arrival. He had not seen his mother since leaving Texas but his father and brother had met him in Durban to help him with repairs to his boat.

Charl had been eagerly awaited in the city for more than a week with a lot of people coming down to the harbour to look for him, said Allan Faulkes who runs a bistro and bed-and-breakfast establishment at Latimer's Landing.

This followed an article in the Daily Dispatch a fortnight ago saying Charl was due to leave Durban when he had an opportunity to take advantage of good weather and was expected last week.

De Villiers said Charl was ahead of schedule and would have to wait in Cape Town for the end of the hurricane season before crossing the Atlantic to complete his circumnavigation.

His cousins Monique de Villiers and Gillian Morris were with his parents to welcome Charl ... as was the family dog Jonah Lomu named after the All Black rugby forward.

Despite living in the United States Charl is still a keen rugby supporter and is a Texas rugby referee in his hometown of Port Lavaca. Read more about Charl's voyage online at

Copyright Dispatch Media (Pty) Ltd, 1998