That is all yachties talk and think about before they set off across the ocean. You plan your trip as best you can (wish-list: gentle long-period rollers, no adverse current, maybe a little current in our favour, please?; winds from a consistent direction, consistent strength… maybe 20knots just forward of the beam, please?) and set off on the day most likely to give you a good start…
We left Reunion in the knowledge that this passage around the southern tip of Madagascar was potentially a tough one. The weather and seas deliver absolutely nothing from the wish-lists, as the weather coming up from the Cape consists of a succession of weather front systems, all moving inexorably north and east and over any vessels en route - and when you approach the African coast, the notorious interaction between the SW storm winds and the Agulhas current adds a further dimension.
But our departure was timed for the end of the southern winter and thus the promise of fewer bad weather fronts, so off we set, Rolf and Brian (our nephew) securing the dinghy while underway and Reunion island still in the background…
|From the shelter of the saloon… they end up slamming down on top of the decks|
|Setting up spare reef line|
|Foul weather yachtsman’s gear… and fluffy slippers!|
The following day (day 3) was calm and beautiful, gentle sailing under the screecher sail … and a rest period while we awaited an approaching front. Nonetheless, not all on the wish list was supplied: the current was horrible! 2 knots against us meant that while our speed through water felt great at 6+ knots, we were doing little more than 4 knots over ground in our effort to whittle down those 1500 miles to Richards Bay. This was truly frustrating and in fact we ended up suffering adverse current for almost the whole journey.
|What to do on a calm day… getting away from everything in the world!|
|What to do on a calm day… transfer fuel from jerry cans. Are we having fun yet!?|
|Engine oil contaminated with?? discarded into empty jerry cans|
|24h Barometer pic tells a tale: |
a massive pressure drop shows the low system we went through (12-6h prior); pressure rose as the high system moved in; stable means GOOD!
We have passed through the squall line and leave bad weather behind us: temporarily!
|‘Pile of Cushions’ tables in bucking boats are a challenge - something is going to go!|
|Sun sets with moon sliver up high|
But we knew we were getting closer to sea expanses that were more troublesome, with strong currents. Typically, if a strong wind blows over a fast-flowing current in the opposite direction, it produces large steep waves – and the Agulhas current, which flows generally towards the S/SW, is notorious for building up huge seas when a SW wind blows against it.
Our course coincided with the shipping route between the Cape (and SA ports) and the East and we encountered dozens of large ships.
The AIS info on the chartplotter was very helpful, as we could see their course and closest point of approach, and adjust our course.
|An intimidating situation: 3 ships approach triangles), closest coming less than a mile away|
|This ship’s name (Iolcos Confidence) reflects the reason for its confident approach … |
with ‘Armed Guards On Board’!
Nevertheless, we finally made it… (adverse current is merely annoying and 6m breaking waves are just babies, really)… and then there was South Africa!
|Necessarily sailing into Richards Bay harbour (no SB engine)|
|Our home flag is now also the courtesy flag of the visited country: first time in 4+ years!|