Leaving PE on the SA Agulhas II

Nelize Ernst and I joined the SA Agulhas II at the end of her “shakedown cruise” to experience first-hand how the new vessel is handling and accommodating her research crew.

Leaving Port Elizabeth by moonlight.

Leaving Port Elizabeth harbour last night under the guidance of the (almost) full moon was nothing less than spectacular as the vessel was guided through the harbour mouth by the harbour tugs. The pilot was soon hopping across from the SA Agulhas and we were left to head out to sea on a perfect winter’s night.

You can refer to our May/June issue of the magazine for all the real technical aspects of the ship and her specifications, so I am going to concentrate on our experience here.

Having already explored most areas of the vessel when she docked in Cape Town in May, we left many of the other new guests to clamber around the ship while we settled in and aimed to find a few areas that we had not yet discovered.

Did you know that the vessel has a sauna on board – a gift from the Finnish builders? It’s obviously quite small, but perfectly designed to work aboard a ship. As a neighbour to the small gym, these facilities do give crew and researchers the opportunity to get some exercise. And after already eyeing the menus on offer for each meal – they may very well need to use them on a long cruise.

The monkey island provided a welcome surprise too. Fully enclosed, the area is far from the usually windy, cold vantage spot on most other vessels. Comfortable chairs, a work top area and vistas of views behind floor to ceiling windows make the SA Agulhas II’s monkey island a pleasant place to spot birds and sea life.

But with the bar about to open in the Miriam Makeba lounge and a short opportunity to get to socialise with some of the other people on board, we hurried down to enjoy the stylish comfort of the lounge area. Although all commercial vessels are required to be dry ships, the SA Agulhas II does carry a complement of passengers and therefore does offer a short period when the bar is open and serving (very reasonably priced drinks).

The actual crew (in this case from Smit Amandla Marine), of course, do not drink!

The accommodation itself is comfortable and practical.  We did manage sneak a peak at the rather spacious Captain’s quarters before retiring to our four-berth cabin. But our cabin packs a punch in terms of what it delivers for its small size. With two bunk beds, a three-seater couch, small flat screen television, cupboard space, desk and en-suite facilities, this cabin makes some crew accommodation I have seen look positively shabby.

Tired and lulled towards sleep by the gentle rocking motion of the vessel, it was lights out, blinds down and eyes closed for us way before the bewitching hour!

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