Cape Town  - Table Bay Harbour

Table Bay Harbour
Cape Town - South Africa

harbour wall

The sea wall at the Table Bay harbour in Cape Town

The outer wall at the harbour extends approximately 1.5 kilometres out into the bay. Its job is to provide safe waters within the Table Bay harbour to allow tugs and ships a safe passage into the docks..

Visiting it can be very interesting especially if you have a fishingrod with you. One Sunday afternoon having nothing better to do I took my two rods and went down to the jetty to try my luck. There were a number of people sitting along the inside of the wall facing Table Mountain with their lines in the water. Every now and again one of them would pull out a baby hake and drop it onto the jetty next to him. I thought “Great, the fish are biting” so I baited up and cast into the sea on the outside of the jetty.

There is a metal railing at the far end of the wall to keep people from falling in and it was this railing on which I leaned my rod. A Sunday afternoon is great especially if the weather is really nice and the sea flat. There are plenty of small boats about making there way in and out of the harbour.

Every hour or so one of the ferries that transport people to and from Robben Island coming roaring past with a full load of passengers. Everybody on board is friendly and wave to us on the jetty. Of course some of the old salts don't bother as they have seen it all before.

It was when I was not concentrating on my rod that I had the biggest bite I have ever had while fishing. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my rod start to move and fall over. I grabbed it and luckily for me I had left the drag open on my reel. The fish which had taken my bait made a bee line for Robben Island with me hanging on for dear life. I did not have too much line on my reel so had to move down the jetty. It was then that I encountered my first problem.

There were fishermen on both sides of me with their lines in the water and my fish was going their way at pace. I just shouted “let me through” and miraculously they stepped back and dropped or pulled in their lines. There was suddenly a lot of excitement on the jetty. What had taken my line and when would it stop its flight out to sea.

The kids were all over the place, in front of me looking over the end of the jetty and wanting to know what I had caught. It's great fun when you are hanging onto your rod for dear life. Eventually the fish stopped its flight and settled on the bottom.

Some of the more experienced anglers sidled up and started to give me advice. Do this, don't do that, one even told me what I had hooked although it was at the bottom of about 20 metres of water. Having never played a large fish before I listened to his advice and managed to get the fish turned and eventually got it to the base of the jetty wall. I could not even get close to the edge as there were so many kids in front of me. They were so excited that I was scared that they might fall in and have to be rescued.

It took an effort to get a bit closer to see what I had hooked. It was a skate (or ray) and it was big. Its wings were about six or seven feet across and there it was looking at me about 4 metres below me in the water. How to get it out of the water became a problem. I needed to remove the hook from its mouth as I had decided that it was not a fish I wanted to keep and eat. Some anglers had pole gaffs which were to short and one guy had a rope gaff that he dropped into the water in an attempt to gaff the fish.

It was then that fate played its role. The skate came up close to the jetty wall and managed to snare the line on a barnacle which caused it to snap. Was I relieved? You bet!

I'd had my moment of glory and the fish was free, albeit with a hook in its mouth. Angling is not the only pastime on this jetty.

Every now and again the pilot boat steam past to a ship out in the bay. About 15 minutes after it has gone past the two ugly sisters will appear. These are the two large tugs that guide the ships into the harbour. Watching them is really interesting. As the ship gets closer to the harbour one tug will steam up to the front of the ship and a line will be passed down to the tug. Once the line has been attached to the tug it will steam ahead of the ship into the waiting harbour. The other tug in the meantime has also attached a line to the stern of the ship and is steaming backwards into the harbour at the same speed as the other two ships. Once inside the harbour the lines are dropped and the ship maneuvered into its berth.

The jetty is used by many people for different purposes. One afternoon while I was waiting for the fish to bite I noticed a wedding party a couple of metres from me. Bride, groom and bridesmaids all having their photos taken. On my other side was another party of people. They were also smartly dressed and had a small casket with them. It turned out to be the scattering of someone's ashes, some of which blew over me as they spread them on the sea. Its not often that you can witness a wedding and a funeral at the same time in such close quarters.

This jetty has many moods, none better than in the evening when it is full moon. You can watch the moon rise over the Tygerberg, looking like a large cheese and slowly changing from yellow to white as it rises into the night sky. While you are watching the moon rise you can listen to the eerie wail of a siren out in the bay. Its funny, it can only be heard at night although it is always there. For the unsuspecting person one could even imagine it as a voice calling from the sea.

The jetty shows its true colours when the sea gets rough. The waves breaks over it and if you happen to be on it when that happens you will find yourself in the middle of the harbour as you will get washed off. Over the years a number of people have been washed off with only a few living to tell the tale. Once you fall off that wall there is no way to get back onto it. Its between four and five metres to the sea below with no handholds or ladders to allow you to climb back.

After the last mishap when a father and son were washed off and nearly drowned, the harbour authorities have become stricter. Warning signs have been erected and a permit has to be obtained by anglers wishing to fish off the jetty. Take a stroll out to the end of the jetty, you will be amazed at the action you will find going on around you as you stand in the middle of Table Bay.

© 2023 Turtle SA - All Rights Reserved
Cape Town - Table Bay Harbour Wall