Monthly Archives: May 2012

Marine Hotel – The Grand Old Lady

The Marine Hotel

In 1902 Beyers and McFarlane, who were brothers-in-law, bought land from Willem HT Hoffman and built the Marine Hotel.  It was a much grander affair than their first hotel, the Victoria, although they still had no electricity or running water in the rooms.   Many visitors came from Cape Town, overcoming the hardship of a three day ox-wagon ride.  In 1915  the partnership between these  two men ended and Valentine Beyers kept the Marine while McFarlane took the Victoria.

Soon after this new arrangement Pieter John Luyt,  son-in-law of Valentine Beyers came to manage the hotel and when Beyers died, John became owner of the hotel, which he extended, enlarging the kitchen and added more rooms and bathrooms.

During the 1920s the Marine with its ballroom became extremely popular and many wealthy and famous people stayed there for  holidays. Among them was Sir William Hoy who stayed at the hotel annually for many years.    Princess Alice  visited in 1923.

After John Luyt’s untimely death in 1940, the hotel was still run by the Luyt family.  Joey Luyt  and her daughters, with the help of Miss Hodgkin kept the Luyt tradition going and the Marine fame as high as before.  When the hotel was eventually sold in 1947 to Continental Hotels with Mr Colbeck as manager, the Luyt era of more than three decades, ended.

In 1968 the hotel became known as Hinder’s Marine, when Mr Hinder of the Arthur Seat Hotel in Sea Point owned it.  He developed the San Marino  on the adjacent plot.  It had extra bedrooms, a ballroom and  casino.   The manager at the time was Hans Mäjlman.

David Rawdon bought the Marine in the early 1980’s.  He closed the hotel for four years while renovations were carried out.  It was only in 1985 that the hotel was opened once more and over the following thirteen years the old hotel regained its former fame and glory.

Shortly before the end of the nineties, David sold to Liz McGrath of the renowned Cellars-Hohenort and The Plettenberg.  More  restoration followed and it opened with style and elegance as a five-star hotel.

The grand old lady are preparing for her first centenary celebrations with dignity  as a world class hotel.

Information and copyright:  S.J. du Toit                  Photos: Old Harbour Museum and Marine Hotel

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Brave rescue in the old harbour – 1932

DOUGLAS McFARLANE

One of the bravest rescues in Hermanus took place in 1932 near the old harbour in shark-infested waters. A fourteen year old boy, named Roos was washed off the rocks on the outer side of the protecting wall. A rough see was running. The strong current immediately took him out to sea.

On the cliff top above the harbour, the two friends and long-time boxing rivals, Douglas McFarlane (19) and Kaiser de Kock were watching the fishermen battling to negotiate the entrance to the harbour under extremely hazardous conditions. They also noticed two great white sharks cruising towards the entrance to the harbour, no doubt after blood from the fish-cleaning tables running into the sea at the breakwater.

Walking down the steep path of the harbour, a frantic policeman came running towards them explaining about the boy in the sea, and begged Douglas, known as a strong swimmer, to help. The policeman himself could not swim. Douglas ran to the breakwater, kicked off his sneakers and judging the swell, dived into the sea. As he launched himself, he heard Kaiser’s voice:  “Oppas vir die haaie, (mind the sharks) Doug”!

Crowds gathered as Douglas reached the boy out at sea, with powerful strokes.  On reaching him Douglas told Roos to relax as he would hold him up. Fortunately the boy kept his cool and Douglas was able to keep them both afloat. Owing to the heavy swells, it was impossible to swim back. A boat put out and saved them both in the nick of time. Both were fatigued having received severe buffeting from the waves.

The presence of sharks kept niggling Douglas and as his hands closed on the gunnel of the rescue boat, with one last supreme effort he heaved himself into the boat and safety. Those on the cliff top, watching the rescue drama held their breath anxiously as the two boys were brought to safety. Everyone agreed it was the bravest deed they ever witnessed. Douglas had only recently left school. He was awarded the Royal Humane Society bronze medal for having saved a life from drowning.

At 91 Douglas McFarlane currently lives in Fynbos Park Retirement Village with his wife Lettie. They’ve been married 68 years and have three children. Douglas is the only surviving child of Wattie and Aletta McFarlane’s ten children.

Information: S.J. du Toit,  Jeanette du Toit, Cape Odessey     Photo: Old Harbour Museum

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Who built and repaired boats in those early years?

Hermanus Fishing boatsWho built and repaired boats in those early years in Hermanus?  You may also ask this question.  John Louis built the harbour house (today the Burgundy Restaurant) and set up boat-building business in the latter part of 1870’s.  John came from Sweden and jumped ship, from a  “Windjammer” where he was employed as shipswright.  He soon became part of the small fishing community and met up with young widow Martha Wessels.  Unfortunately they could not marry as her husband who deserted her years before could not be confirmed dead.

John became known as Sweed Wessels.  He built a second house where Martha and her three daughters lived.  They were happy and her children accepted him as father and the grandchildren called him Oupa.  Coena Haman of Cafe Royal was one of Louis’s grandchildren.

In 1902 a friend, Mr Overbeek presented Sweed with a small cypress tree and the six year old Coenie helped to plant the tree.  It was the same cypress tree that gave the name to the Cypress Tree Tea Garden and when Ethel Rubery bought the cottage in 1928 and turned it into a restaurant.

John was also a keen fishermen and owned two boats – Morning Star and Mabel.  He served in the town council but died at an early age of fifty three.  According to Coena Haman, his son Hennie Wessels carried on building and  mending boats at harbour house but later moved to Westdene.  Martha  moved in with her daughter, married to Lewies Poppies Swart, in the house where the library stands.

The monument left by Sweed Wessels is now the Burgundy, formerly known as The Cypress Tree Tea Garden, and is also a National Monument.

Story and information:  S.J. du Toit                   Photos:  Jeanette du Toit and the Old Harbour Museum

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HERMANUS STORIES – A FISHERMEN’S VILLAGE

Women clean fish

The pioneers of Hermanuspietersfontein were experienced fishermen who understood and respected the sea.  Six days of the week they laboured from early dawn and when they returned from the sea with boats laden with fish, their wives and children were waiting to do the cleaning and curing.

The fishing culture comprises much of interest.  The Afrikaans word “ses-riem” is a boat with six rowers.  The afrikaans word “riem”  is an oar.

On the side of a boat one finds  little iron triangles for the oars to rest on.  When letting a boat in and out of water, they had a ritual with a rhythmic in afrikaans “eena-tweena nou, eena-tweena nou, hy loop … eena-tweena nou” translated = one – two, one – two there he go.

They dried fish on bokkomstands (scaffolds)  in the fishbay and in their backyards.  In most cases the children also became fishermen.  It was a true fishermen’s village.

Information:  S.J. du Toit           Photo: Old Harbour Museum

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Fisherman from the old days in Hermanus – Henry Minnaar

Fisherman from the old days in Hermanus – Henry Minnaar

Henry Minnaar was born in Hermanus in1906.  Like his grandfather and father, he became a fisherman at a young age and experienced all the joys and hardships of those years.  There were no boat engines or echofinders and when there was no wind, they had to row 20 km to the fishing waters and 20 km back.  Dangers abounded.  Whales chased them at times.  They had to use their own acumen to know where to find fish.  According to Henry there was a Agreen@ smell in the water when sardines ran.  It was fantastic to see a school of sardines around the boat, big fish swimming with sardines in their mouths.  But that was the era of fish in abundance in the bay.

Boats weighed between one and one and a half tons and had to be manhandled.  Sixteen men had to carry a boat up the hard.  Henry was reputed to have said that a fisherman’s life was slavery and that the hard work cost many their lives.  Henry stuck to fishing for fourteen years, but then found work in the local telephone exchange.  He still went to sea in his time free and at times he only slept two hours a night.

In his career Henry was skipper on three boats.  One  belonged to Peter McFarlane, Voorspoed, which he bought from a Malay in the Strand.  The Malay warned him not to take the boat to sea on a Friday, the Malay’s holy day.  The two other boats were Britannia of Oom Lewies (Poppies) Swart and Princess May of Koos Groenewald.

Henry married Helma Nolte from Wellington.  Their three children are Melvyn, a well-known journalist, Andre working in Hermanus and Karen-Ann.  They lived in Marine Drive, near the Ocean View, for many years.  When Henry died in 1980, aged 72, one of the colourful characters was lost to the Hermanus fishing community.   Helma still lives in Fynbos Park Retirement Village.

Blogger: Jeanette du Toit      Information S.J. du Toit      Photo: Old Harbour Museum

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The old Royal Hotel in Hermanus

Royal HotelOld Hotels in Hermanus – The Royal Hotel,

built by Allengenski family in 1900 in Main Road, opposite Market Square. There were several owners over the years: the Silkes, Abrahams and others –  The Royal was a happy meeting place of the fishermen and sportsmen, and hosted parties for various occasions. In the De Wets Huis Photographic Museum is a photo of a Jewish wedding that took place in 1904.  The wedding guests and the bridal group were photographed in front of the Royal Hotel.  This old landmark went up in flames in 1981.

Kentucky Fried Chicken and the adjacent parking lot occupy those premises.

Photo:  Hermanus Old Harbour Museum

Information:  S.J. du Toit

in front of Royal Hotel

Fish Preparations on the old market square with the Royal Hotel in the back.

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Southern Right Whale behaviour patterns: Logging

Logging

Southern Right – Logging

This is when the whale is merely lying in the water, with its tail hanging down. Part of the head and back are exposed.

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Southern Right Whale behaviour patterns – Lob tailing

Lob tailingSouthern Right Whale – Lob tailing

This is an activity in which the animal sticks its tail out of the water, swings it around and then slaps it onto the water’s surface causing a shower of spray. This produces a loud sound which is believed to be a means of communication between whales or a warning of rival whales, sharks, annoyance or mild threat. This may be done repeatedly over long periods.

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Southern Right Whale Behaviour patterns – Sailing

Sailing Whale Tail

Southern Right Whale – Sailing (Tail)

Occasionally whales lift their tails clear of water for long periods. The tail is held aloft for an extended period of time, like a giant black butterfly. They turn their tales to get the advantage of the wind, much like a sail in the wind. This could mean catching wind to ‘sail’ through the water or a way of cooling down. Another view is that this represents a form of temperature control for the body, either through solar radiation or evaporative cooling as the blood vessels in the tail form a counter current system much like a radiator. A third option is that the whale is feeding on organisms close to the sea-floor.

Did you know … Cruising speed 0.5-4km/hr (0.25-22 knots)? Top speed possibly 14km/hr (9 knots). In coastal waters most dives are between 4 and 8 minutes in duration; in Open Ocean dives may last longer.

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Hermanus Old Harbour Open Air Museum

old fishing boats

Hermanus Old Harbour Museum

The Old Harbour Open-Air Museum is a provincial heritage site. It is unique in that apparently it is one of only two fishing harbours in the world that has been conserved in tact. Remnants of the vibrant fishing industry are seen everywhere. It is the axis around which the fishing village of Hermanus developed.

The stone and concrete harbour consist of a sea wall, a breakwater, a few historic fishing boats along concrete slopes, the turn stone, gutting tables, brine tanks, “bokkom” stands and reconstructed fishing shacks.

Information and photo:  Old Harbour Museum

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