Winter, 1866. The old jetty at Hondeklip Bay at high tide. Roped to its railing is the lifeless body of a ship’s captain who flung himself into the sea to drown.
Captain Johan Daniel Stephan’s boat the Jonquille had run aground on one of the reefs near the mouth of Hondeklip Bay. Although no lives were lost, the young skipper was mortified.
It seemed a small matter, something that happens practically every day along this unpredictable West Coast. Letters between Captain Daniel Stephan and his father, head of the shipping company, were found:
I had sooner expected my death than that I should lose the schooner, and as I was so certain I have been sadly disappointed. I am the lost son, and you will see me no more…believe me, I am sorry, but my time has come, and I shall go where the schooner has gone.”
Captain Stephan’s father receives this letter and replies:
Come on by the first opportunity direct to Cape Town. Be not much concerned about the loss sustained, as long as your brother and yourself have retained your health. What gladdens me most is that you and the crew have been saved. You will continue as ever, like all the others, one of my beloved children.”
By the time the father writes this letter, the son has been dead for two days. Later, it emerges that one of the flukes on the Jonquille’s main anchor had mysteriously snapped, leaving the vessel free to run onto the reef. It wasn’t Daniel’s fault at all…
Modern-day Hondeklip Bay (Afrikaans for Dog Stone Bay) is equally moody, especially when the sea mists lie thick on the shore. Travellers love this atmospheric place, which comes complete with good accommodation and a popular restaurant.
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