Sailing In Africa
By the time we had reached Cape Town, Sean and Brody had decided they had enough of sailing. So they got on a plane back home on New Years Eve. It was sad to see them go. Anastasia and I weren’t sure we wanted to go without at least one more crew. I went on the Cape2Rio website and sent an e-mail to all the people that were still looking to be crew for the crossing. I only had a couple of responses but we did find someone (Marion) to join us for the trip to Brazil. She is originally from Reunion Island and has been hitch-hiking (hitch-sailing) around for awhile.
Here we are on New Years Eve.
I think these guys were sea lions basking in the sun beside us.
There was a bit of a celebration at the Royal Cape Yacht Club where we were staying as it was New Years Eve and the Cape To Rio race was departing the next day. We had decided we would depart on the 1st of January as well if we could get everything ready and our paperwork done.
A few photos of the Royal Cape Yacht Club and the view from it.
We left Port Elizabeth, South Africa early (4am) on Christmas Day 2016. It was going to be a 5 day trip.
We have had 2 fishing rods out and a line with a bungee behind us most of the way. On the 28th it was getting dark around 9pm and we decided to pull in the lines before our shift was over and Brody took over the helm while we slept. As I started to pull in the hand line (with bungee) I thought I could see something on the line. Sure enough there was a nice fish on it. Still not sure the exact name. Richard said it was a Tippee but I couldn’t find anything on Google with that name. We are hoping for more fish soon!
We saw dolphins several times but this was the most we saw at one time. It was the 29th of Dec and as we looked out we saw about 30 dolphins coming towards the boat. It was quite the scene. We watched them swim around the boat for about 20 minutes before they departed.
On the 29th we rounded the Cape of Good Hope which is the southern most part of Africa. The mountain views were amazing.
It was getting late on the 29th and it looked like it would be past midnight by the time we arrived in Cape Town. We were trying to decide if we should find a place to anchor for the night and continue in the morning or just continue and try to find a place in the dark at Cape Town. Again Richard came to our rescue and found a contact at the Marina where there was a berth we could stay in. We arrived around 1:30 am on the 30th. Now it is very tight berths at the Royal Cape Yacht Club and we have a big boat. Fortunately it was dead calm as I’m not sure I could have made it in there otherwise. Our boat is longer (15 meters) than the distance between the boats so maneuvering into our spot was challenging. I have learned one thing about steering catamarans. If you are going slow don’t use the rudder, keep it straight and use the engines to rotate (on the spot) and slowly maneuver into place.
We tied up, and I opened a beer. Whew…. was a long trip.
As we made our way into Port Elizabeth the winds were blowing 20-25 knots and steering in the harbour was difficult. We needed to find a place to moor the boat, but everything was full. Someone saw us looking and radioed that we could tie up beside them. It was a fishing boat Pegasus, that was tied up against another boat, which was tied up against the dock.
We didn’t venture far into Port Elizabeth as everything we needed was close to the marina. The beer at the Yacht Club was a bit over priced (for South Africa), we found the Angling Club next store much nicer. We met a Dutch boat that was at the East London with us as well. The boys made some new friends at the angling club. Overall our stay was uneventful, we made the necessary repairs and planned the next leg of the journey.
We checked the winds/weather again and again … the weather looked best to start on Christmas day for the passage to Cape Town. We had Christmas Eve dinner at the fishing club and prepared for an early morning (4am) departure Christmas Day.
We had a 36 hour weather window to make it from East London to Port Elizabeth. It should be a 20 hour sail in good conditions.
We pulled up the anchor in East London around 9:30 am and started motoring towards the harbour entrance. Once outside the wind was very low. We expected this and had planned to motor for the first 1-2 hours until the winds picked up. Well, the winds never did really pick up. We motored throughout the night. In the morning the winds were still very low. I decided it was time to fine tune the auto-pilot as it was not setup properly. It took me about 20 minutes but after that the auto-pilot was running perfectly. The wind picked up a little and we unfurled the Genoa. By the time evening approached the wind had tied and it was back to motors. In the morning I woke up and assessed our timing. We weren’t going to make it to Port Elizabeth in time. So time to throttle up the engines. We motored making 10-12 kph now and were back on schedule.
As we entered the large bay where Port Elizabeth is we saw an island named “Bird Island” on the charts. We decided to stop and check it out. We lowered the anchor in 10 meters of water, but I was not comfortable with leaving the boat anchored in the conditions we were in. So the boys took the dinghy towards Bird Island. It wasn’t long before they turned back as there was no real place to land a small dinghy and the stench of bird poop was overwhelming. So we stowed the dinghy, pulled up the anchor and continued towards Port Elizabeth.
At this point there was no way we could reach the marina before dark. They had already told me that the marina was full, but I might be able to find a fishing boat to pull up beside. The prospect of searching the harbour in the dark for a place to moor the boat did not appeal to me. We decided to look for a place within the bay to anchor for the night. We found a small island (St Croix Island) and anchored on the leeward side of it in 20 meters of water. Then we noticed that there were thousands of small penguins covering the rock island. Very cool.
Today we are off to the marina to find new ropes for the main sail.
Our first trip departed Durban, South Africa on route to Cape Town, South Africa. I was a little slow turning on the tracking so we lost the first bit of the route.
We left pour mooring at Bluff Yacht Club at 5:45pm (16 Dec 2016). There was little to now wind the first night and we ended up turning the motors on low just so we were making progress.
On 17 Dec 2016 around 2pm the Up-haul snapped in 7 knots of wind and the main sail (2 reefs) came crashing down. It appears that there had been some chaffing and the weight of the sail caused it to snap. Will replace with a stronger rope in Port Elizabeth. We took a few minutes to assess our situation and decided to continue on with just the Genoa.
By the morning of 18 Dec 2016 the winds had picked up to 20-25 knots and we had reduced the Genoa. As the day went on the wind rose to 28-33 knots and we had the Genoa down to 2 meters. The boat was very stable and there was no concern. However, we were 40 km offshore and had to start making our way back towards the port which meant going 45 degrees to the waves (3 meters). We put the engines on low and that provided us with more stability and better direction.
As we entered into the port of East London we radioed for permission to enter a couple times of channel 9 and 16. There was no response. We later found out that they use channel 12. At any rate we continued in and found a place to anchor near the closed yacht club.
Today (20 Dec 2016) we will be departing East London for Port Elizabeth. It should be a 20 hour sail and we have a weather window of about 36 hours before the wind changes direction and storms move in. We will be using the engines if we need to hurry up, but it appears we have lots of time.
Well, that was a great day of sailing. Len and his son Jay showed up early to take us on our first sailing excursion. It was blowing 20 knots so we motored out into the main part of the harbour so that we could hoist the sails for the first time while pointing into the wind. We made some adjustments and radioed the harbour master asking for permission to go out for a day sail. Permission granted so off we went. We motored out of the harbour and then … we were sailing 🙂
Now the seas are quite a bit more rough than in the harbour. With the sails up all the way and the genoa up we were making 10 knots easy. We went down wind as far as the stadium then tacked our way back to the harbour entrance. A good pre-test of the boat’s capabilities.
Now you may be wondering why Sean didn’t write this post. Well, that story starts the night before at the bar a couple of marinas over. He had quite a few drinks and was in no shape to crawl up onto deck for the entire experience. Brody & Anastasia did pretty well. Myself I thoroughly loved the waves and movement of the boat. A nice change from the quiet marina.
We were sailing!!!