Many a small town in South Africa has stories about locals that became famous (or infamous in some cases) for their uniqueness, quirks or unbelievable feats. They become legends; their stories being carried on and told from generation to generation.
In the case of Langebaan, the beautiful seaside village on the West Coast famed for its gorgeous lagoon, that legend came in the form of Frank Wightman.
Frank Wightman had an incredible life; a lone sailor that tackled the open seas on a boat he built himself. While Frank’s incredible feats of sailing around the world on his beloved boat is fantastic to hear, it is his undeniable love for the Langebaan lagoon and Kraalbaai that precedes his legend – and will continue to do so for years to come.
Frank Armstrong Wightman was born in 1896 in Johannesburg to British immigrant parents. During his childhood years, Frank and his parents would make the journey by boat between England and South Africa often, which no doubt was the first spark that let to the ignition of his passion for sailing.
The trips between England and South Africa inspired Frank’s love for boats and open sea sailing – and it would stick with him until the day he died.
As an adult, Frank eventually returned to South Africa to stay, and started building his very own sailboat called ‘Wylo’. ‘Wylo’ would soon become the love of Frank’s life.
Just before the start of WWII, Frank sailed ‘Wylo’ to Saldanha Bay on the West Coast from where she was docked in Table Bay harbour for safekeeping. The war was imminent at this point, and he didn’t want his precious boat to be destroyed should it come to that.
Upon reaching the West Coast, Frank fell in love once again: this time with Langebaan and its gorgeous lagoon.
Frank loved Langebaan and the lagoon (especially the Kraalbaai area) so much, that he lived on ‘Wylo’ on the lagoon for several years. The war was still ongoing, and Frank desperately wanted to join the navy, although he would be considered too old.
His dream finally became a reality when he eventually joined the navy – by lying about his age! He was 46 at the time, but said on his official papers that he was 37 years old.
After serving in the navy for the remainder of the war, Frank returned to Langebaan and was reunited with his beloved ‘Wylo’. He could now finally realise another dream of his: sailing around the world and tackling the open seas with ‘Wylo’.
Frank set out to conquer the seas with only one other person on board; artist, photographer and his only shipmate, Graham Young.
The pair made it to Brazil, and then thereafter sailed to Trinidad. It was here that Young got an opportunity in New York, and had to leave Frank and ‘Wylo’ alone in Trinidad. Frank became sad and lonely, and then, decided to do the unthinkable: he sold ‘Wylo’ to a man in Trinidad and then returned to Cape Town.
It was during this period, back in Cape Town, that Frank penned his first book – that is still considered a wonderful tale to this day. Ask any lone sailor, and they will more likely than not know about Frank’s book, ‘The Wind is Free’.
After publishing his book, Frank managed to save enough money to asks the man from Trinidad to whom he sold his boat, to buy her back. The man was kind hearted and gave ‘Wylo’ back to Frank as a gift.
Needless to say, Frank was over the moon to be reunited with his beloved ‘Wylo’.
For the next two years, Franks sailed man alone around the Bahamas, and eventually made it to Baltimore in the US.
From Baltimore, Frank planned on sailing back to Cape Town, but instead he and ‘Wylo’ boarded a freight ship back to Cape Town.
By 1950, Frank was back in Langebaan, back in Kraalbaai, with ‘Wylo’. It was during this time that he wrote his second book, ‘Wylo Sails Again’.
Over the next 15 years, Frank became somewhat of a hermit, retreating almost completely from society and only going to Langebaan from his home on the ‘Wylo’ docked in Kraalbaai and the Oesterval Farm to collect supplies. He started to gain a reputation, as the remarkable sailor that sailed the world and lived on his custom built boat in Kraalbaai.
He lived a quiet life on the lagoon, and the locals just grew to be more intrigued by him, his legend growing through the years.
Finally, in 1965, Frank sailed away from ‘Wylo’ for the last time. He had decided to move to land, and because of his age, wanted to sleep in a bed, and be sheltered properly in a house. Frank had planned to give ‘Wylo’ a proper viking send off, but in the end decided against it and sold her for 300 pounds.
Frank then left for Cape Town.
However, it wasn’t long before his heart yearned for his beloved Kraalbaai and beautiful lagoon once more, and in 1966, he returned to Langebaan, and as he said he missed his ‘Golden Harbour’ too much.
Frank became ill in the years that followed, but lived out the rest of his life overlooking his beautiful lagoon and Kraalbaai.
Frank passed away in 1970, and his death was much talked about in the town. He was mourned, and celebrated for his extraordinary life and love for Langebaan and its lagoon.
He was cremated and is buried on the Oesterval Farm in Langebaan which he frequented. His grave is still there, and features a beautiful bronze plaque engraved with an impression of ‘Wylo’ sailing the open seas – as they loved to do so much in this life.
Being a historical building itself, The Farmhouse Hotel loves pays homage to a Langebaan legend like Frank. That’s why they have named the stunning dula-level cottage on the property the Frank Wightman Cottage
The beautifully quaint cottage features a gorgeous spiral staircase and a wooden floored lounge with a large window overlooking the lagoon – just as Frank would’ve loved looking over his precious lagoon.
We believe there is a little bit of Frank Wightman magic in this beautiful cottage.