From Richards Bay, we made a 931-mile trip to Cape Town in a week. We could have covered that distance in 3 to 4 days, but current weather patterns only allows for 2-3 days travel between weather systems. So we made the trip in 3 hops of about 300 miles each, with a 3-day layover in East London and 1 night at Plettenburg Bay.
On this trip we rounded Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point on the African continent. This is our third of the five southernmost capes. It will be a long time before we are ever this far south again. We also rounded the Cape of Good Hope, the third of the Five Great Capes that we have rounded. The others were Southwest Cape in Tasmania and Southwest Cape on Stewart Island. The distinguishing factor between the Southernmost and the Great Capes is that the Great Capes are at the southwestern point of a continent or island, where sailing vessels traveling west could finally turn northward, no longer sailing directly into opposing westerly winds. Either way, we’re three for five now. The remaining two Great Capes are Cape Leeuwin in southwestern Australia and Cape Horn in Chile. It seems unlikely that we’ll tackle either in the near future.
In rounding Cape Agulhas, we left the Indian Ocean and entered the Atlantic Ocean. Dirona has now cruised in all three major oceans of the world. We’ve covered more than 45,000 miles since taking delivery in February, 2010 and have put 6,756 hours on our John Deere main engine, 720 hours on the Lugger wing engine, and 4,240 hours on the Northern Lights generator. All three engines have run without hiccup from day one. In crossing the Indian Ocean, we made our longest passage so far, and our longest stop between fuelings: 3,023 miles and 19 nights between Dampier, Australia and Rodrigues, Mauritius. The good news from running that distance is it’s pretty clear we can go even further.
On this run we also got some firsthand experience with the infamous Agulhas current, both good and bad. On the good side, we often were making over 11 knots in a 9.5-kt boat. On the bad side, as we neared East London the winds picked up from moderate to SW 25-30 kts in seconds and the waves stacked up immediately against the southbound Agulhas current. We’ve never seen seas develop so quickly and relatively moderate winds can yield positively gigantic seas. The wind was right on the nose and we took the hardest green water hit ever to the forward windows. It hit so hard James ducked at the helm, and had so much force it bent the stainless steel latch that holds a forward hatch cover down and tore off the gas strut. It also bent the barrel bolt on the portugues bow door, and actually forced a small amount of water through hatch seals that never leak. It hit us like the proverbial ton of bricks. James was able to close the torn-open forward hatch from the safety of the Portuguese bridge and we reached East London, and later Cape Town, with no further issues.
Trip highlights from November 10th through 19th follow. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps
This morning we took on 1,426 gallons (5,400 L) of diesel from Pro Radio Marine at the Zululand Yacht Club. The fuel-delivery truck had a maximum capacity of 3,000L so had to make two trips. This gives you a feel for our fuel capacity: our tanks can hold 1,747 gallons (6,613 L), more than twice what you can see on the fuel truck.
The World ARC rally boats have been arriving over the past few days. World ARC is an annual 15-month around the world rally. ARC tends to fill up any marina they are at and their participants often get preferential treatment for shore-side services, so most cruisers try to avoid overlapping with the rally. Generally this is not difficult, but the Indian Ocean crossing through to St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean becomes a bit of a choke point as most cruisers aim to be in South Africa before the start of the southern hemisphere cyclone season in late November and typically will spend some portion of December in Cape Town. This is our first overlap with the full fleet. A few ARC boats had arrived early into Darwin when we were there, but the full fleet didn’t arrive until well after we’d left.
Any vessel leaving Richards Bay must file a “Flight Plan” with Port Control before being allowed to leave the harbour. The flight plan is a multi-page document that includes a detailed description and even a drawing of the vessel (for search and rescue purposes) and information about the crew. Once the flight plan is filled out, the marina stamps the plan to indicate all dues are paid, then the document must be stamped by immigration in downtown Richards Bay, and next by customs at a different location in downtown Richards Bay, and then by the Water Police at the Tuzi Gazi Marina. Then the document is given to the marina, who will fax it in to Port Control. If we don’t leave within 36 hours of Port Control receiving the flight plan, we have the start the process all over again. We were planning to do this all ourselves, but to save time we used a local agent who handled it all for a reasonable fee.
We’ve enjoyed our stay at Richards Bay, but are looking forward to getting somewhere a little cleaner. The boat is covered with windborne coal dust and brown dirt and is almost impossible to keep clean even with daily wash-downs. Water shortages make this more difficult, as we can’t hose the boat down with freshwater and have to use saltwater, which itself makes a bit of a mess.
We’re just off Durban on the 900-mile run from Richards Bay to Cape Town. The current weather pattern only allows for two days between weather systems, so we’ll likely be making it in two hops with our first stop being East London. There is no shelter in the 250-miles between Durban and East London, but we should arrive just before dark and just before the wind picks up from the southwest.
The forecast for East London shows the winds picking up to 17-20 knots from the southwest as we approach. We’ll likely stay in East London until at least Monday while that bigger system on Sunday passes through.
The winds picked up as expected, but instead of 17-20 went from moderate to 25 to 30 kts in seconds. The waves stacked up imediately. We’ve never seen seas develop so quickly and relatively moderate winds can yield positively gigantic seas.
The wind is right on the nose and we just took the hardest green water hit ever to the forward windows. It hit so hard James ducked at the helm, and had so much force it bent the stainless steel latch that holds a forward hatch cover down and tore off the gas strut. It also bent the barrel bolt on the portugues bow door, and actually forced water through hatch seals that never leak. It hit us like the proverbial ton of bricks. James was able to safely close it from inside the Portuguese bridge.
We ended up getting into East London well after dark, but fortunately the harbour is relatively easy to enter at night. Buoys take up most of the allowable pleasure craft anchorage, so we anchored overnight in the swing area off the drydock. The next morning the Moyra was coming out of the drydock, so Harbor Control asked us to move. Getting him out of there will require at least the full channel.
We didn’t have many options at this point for re-anchoring, and decided to see if we could squeeze under the bridge west of the pleasure craft moorings. Neither the bridge nor our charts showed the clearance, so we had to play it by eye. We have a 30ft air draft and just snuck under on an 0.8m tide with inches to spare. We’re now anchored in a pretty spot with a nice view down the river. Swing room is a little restricted but the anchor is holding well in thick mud.
In the background of the picture, the Moyra is moving out of the drydock with tug assist. The low bridge that passed under is visible between us and the moored pleasure craft. We had quite the audience as we passed under this morning.
The winds howled last night, but conditions are calm now and should remain so for the next 36-48 hours. As soon as the tide falls enough for us to pass under the bridge, we’ll run to Plettenberg Bay, just east of Knysna.
East London Port Control also required that we file a flight plan with them via email before they gave us permission to exit the harbour. Fortunately we could simply submit the same one we’d created at Richards Bay.
We passed through heavy traffic south of Port Elizabeth around midnight. The traffic was a mix of commercial and fishing vessels. We heard several calls from fishing vessels to commercial traffic asking them to adjust course to avoid cutting the fishing lines that were trailing behind at the surface.
Our original plan was to go to Knysna rather than Plettenberg Bay. Plettenberg Bay is easy to enter at any time but not nearly as sheltered or beautiful as the famous Knysna. But Knysna only has 11 feet of water at the entry and is reported to be unsafe to enter at much more than a 2m swell. Conditions are nice as we pass Knysna, but the weather window is just barely enough for us to reach Cape Town, so that’s where we’re going.
We’re at -34° 57.73′ S, 20°. 0.27’E as we round Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point on the African continent. This is our third of the five southernmost capes, the others were Southeast Cape in Tasmania and Southwest Cape on Stewart Island. It will be a long time before we are ever this far south again. Conditions have been good, with NE winds 15-20 knots and a low southwesterly swell.
An unusual cloud pattern in False Bay, with the Cape of Good Hope visible on the left. (We later learned that this was smoke from a forest fire.) The bay was so named because sailors often mistook Cape Agulhas for the Cape of Good Hope and entered False Bay thinking they were heading into Cape Town. We’re making good time at 8.5 knots with help from the current and expect to reach the real Cape Town around sunset. Conditions are good with NW winds below 15, but the barometer is falling hard and we are expecting big winds later tonight or early tomorrow morning.
The Cape of Good Hope is the third of the Five Great Capes that we have rounded. The others were Southwest Cape in Tasmania and Southwest Cape on Stewart Island. The distinguishing factor between the Southernmost and the Great Capes is that the Great Capes are at the southwestern point of a continent or island, where sailing vessels traveling west could finally turn northward, no longer sailing directly into opposing westerly winds. Either way, we’re three for five today.
Conditions are wonderfully calm as we approach Cape Town, but the BOS 400 wreck off Duiker Point is a reminder of how treacherous this coastline can be. The barge was being towed from the Republic of Congo to Cape Town and went aground in 1994 when the tow rope broke during a storm.
After getting permission from Cape Town Port Control to enter the harbour, we radioed to ask for two bridges to be opened so we could enter the V&A Waterfront Marina. This is looking back to the clock tower just after we’ve passed the Swing Bridge.
Moored at the V&A (Victoria and Albert) Waterfront Marina, our home for the next few weeks.
Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.
On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps.