Day 362, Year 5 South Africa At Last!

Day 362, Year 5 South Africa At Last!
Date: Sunday, October 24, 2010
Weather: Totally Overcast and Drizzly; Winds ENE to NNE 15-25
Latitude: 28 45.868 S
Longitude: 032 04.708 E
Location: International Wall, Richards Bay, South Africa

Passage Statistics:
970 miles in 7 days, 22 hours, 5 minutes (190 hours, 5 minutes)
Sailing Hours-139 hours + 30 minutes
Motor Sailing Hours-50 hours + 35 minutes
Average Speed-5.10 Knots

We are safe and sound in Richards Bay, South Africa. And I don’t think I’ve ever been this glad to reach a destination. All the hype about what a dangerous passage this can be if the weather turns on you certainly kept us a little on edge. And we still have to get from here south and around the Cape of Good Hope in a month or so. But for now, we are going to put that out of our minds and count our blessings that we made it with no major problems and no threatening weather-just aggravating weather at times. Another cruiser walked by just after we arrived and said, “Looks like you are all in one piece. Most of the boats that come in here are in pieces.” We owe a big thank you to Graham at the South Africa Maritime Mobile Net, to Roy on the Peri Peri Net, and to BUOY Weather for keeping us well informed about the weather. That information allowed us to make decisions that got us here safely, even if it was a bit slow. Our passage from Chagos to Madagascar was our fastest ever, traveling 1466 miles in 219.5 hours, or 9 days and 3.5 hours. This passage was one-third fewer miles but it took almost the same amount of time. We are just thankful that Windbird and Constance both made in one piece. And after almost a thousand miles, Constance pulled in a mere 30 minutes after us. Our boats are amazingly well matched.

When you arrive in Richards Bay you are directed to go to the International Wall next to Tuzi Gazi Marina. Usually you can tie to the wall, but when we arrived this morning there was ‘no room at the inn.’ So a fellow cruiser who was tied to the wall invited us to raft up with him. Constance then rafted up with the boat in front of us. You have to stay on the wall until Immigration and Customs give you clearance. We had heard that Customs can be very slow about coming, but Immigration came right away and Customs came later this afternoon. It was the easiest check-in we’ve encountered anywhere in the world and didn’t cost a penny. We are all checked in and can leave here and go to the Zululand Yacht Club, but we need to talk to them first and we can’t get a phone card in this area. We are in an industrial area with a few small restaurants next to the wall. From here, it is too far to walk into town, so that is tomorrow’s job. We will take a taxi to a shopping center where we can buy a Sim Card for our phone and another one for our wireless modem for getting on the internet. In order to send this log, we will go to the little restaurant right in front of us. If you buy their cheap beer, they offer free wireless internet. Sounds like a good deal to me!

101024 Day 362 Arrival in Richards Bay, South Africa

Day 361, Year 5 Passage to Richards Bay, Day 8

Day 361, Year 5 Passage to Richards Bay, Day 8
Date: Saturday, October 23, 2010
Weather: Totally Overcast; Winds ENE 15-25+ Overnight; NE 4-8 All Day
Latitude: 27 32.812 S
Longitude: 033 22.652 E
Miles Traveled: 863
Miles to Go: 105 to Richards Bay, South Africa

Wild nights, calm days-that seems to be the way of things for us the past 48 hours. And we have one more night to go. Last night on Mark’s 7 to 10 pm watch, the winds were gusting to 30 knots from directly behind us. He had to divert course to avoid a cargo ship and somehow managed to jibe. Jibing in 30 knots of wind is no fun and for the second time this season, the pulley that holds the Jibe-EZ to the fittings on the deck broke with enough force to put a 12-inch ugly gash in our front windshield. It already had a small gash from this same scenario a few months back, but now there is no doubt that we will have to replace the plastic. We are just fortunate that no one was hurt. I then came on watch and had another three hours where I just had to sit right by the auto pilot to keep adjusting the course. The winds would swing from 10 knots to 30 knots and then back again. No fun. When things did settle down, they really settled and we have had to motor all day. I suspect tonight might be a repeat of last night, but if all goes as planned it will be our last night out. We should be in Richards Bay by mid-day. The southwest winds there subsided early today and won’t start again until Monday, so we are blessed with this 36 to 48 hour window allowing us to arrive with north winds. While all of the craziness was happening last night we had about two knots of favorable current, but then when the winds died, the current turned against us. Today we are asking, “What Agulhas current?” Other sailing friends have warned us that we could get as much as a four to five knot current in this area but as I write this log we are back to one knot of positive current, but nothing like we thought it would be. But we’re not there yet. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens tonight. One thing I do know, however, is that I will be mighty glad to get in the harbor, get checked in, and get my feet on solid ground. Although we were incredibly lucky to get the window to slip into Richards Bay without southwest winds and we have not had to live through a southerly storm, it just hasn’t been our favorite passage.

This morning when it was time for us to check in on the net to talk with Pieter and Carla on Odulphus, we were right in the middle of slowly receiving the BUOY weather reports via email. So I called Ed and asked him to talk to Odulphus. They have had some sort of engine problem and are expecting to have to sail all the way. They are projecting arrival in November, so they asked that we email their children in the Netherlands to let them know about the delay. They don’t have email aboard. Unfortunately, once we reach Richards Bay we are told that we will not have radio contact due to all the ships and buildings causing interference. So we might not be able to keep checking in with Odulphus. Today is Carla’s birthday and it is also Ed’s birthday. So happy birthday to Ed and to Carla and good luck to Odulphus in their trek to Richards Bay.

Day 360, Year 5 Passage to RICHARDS BAY, Day 7

Day 360, Year 5 Passage to RICHARDS BAY, Day 7
Date: Friday, October 22, 2010
Weather: Beautiful Sunny Weather; Winds ENE and NNE 15 to 20
Latitude: 25 48.969 S
Longitude: 035 00.125 E
Miles Traveled: 724
Miles to Go: 241 to Richards Bay, South Africa

Yeah! Yeah! We’re on our way to Richards Bay. Today is Lynne’s birthday (H and I think she must have made a secret birthday wish that caused that cold front to move more quickly than anticipated, taking the feared southwest winds with it. Actually, that will happen during the night and early morning and by the time we get near Richards Bay tomorrow night, all should be well. I have called Lynne the “wind whisperer” since our trip from Thailand to India. When other boats just in front of us and right behind us were having high winds and seas, we were scooting through on calm seas with moderate winds. Her magic didn’t work quite as well on the way from Chagos to Madagascar, but maybe she was saving her wishes for a time when we really need help. And this was the time. We are so relieved that we won’t have to stop in Mozambique. Not because we wouldn’t like to see it, but we are tired and ready to get on with exploring South Africa. You never want to count your chickens before they hatch, but it really does look like we have a small window before very strong northerly winds arrive in Richards Bay late on Sunday and then strong southwest winds on Monday. The window is narrow, but we think we can climb through it.

In the meantime, we are rockin’ and rollin’ across the Mozambique Channel and down the Agulhas Current. During the night we had a knot of current against us. We were sailing wing ‘n wing all night long and at 1 am we had to put a double reef in both the main andyankee because the winds and seas were building and it became very uncomfortable. I seem to be able to sleep through anything, but when Mark went down at 10:30 pm he got almost no sleep. He finally got up at 1 am and sent me down to sleep until 4 am. Sailing wing n’ wing requires constant vigilance when the winds are varying from 8 knots up to 24 knots constantly. Today has been steadier with 15 to 20 knot winds all day with a two knot current pushing us along. The seas still cause us to rock ‘n roll but we are so anxious to get to Richards Bay that it doesn’t seem all that bad. Both of us got naps today and we are ready for another wild ride tonight.

Day 359, Year 5 Passage to Inhaca (maybe), Day 6

Day 359, Year 5 Passage to Inhaca (maybe), Day 6
Date: Thursday, October 21, 2010
Weather: Clear, Winds ESE 15 Turning E, NE, & Now ENE 5
Latitude: 24 26.206 S
Longitude: 036 59.892 E
Miles Traveled: 581
Miles to Go: 237 to Inhaca, Mozambique / 374 to Richards Bay, South Africa

Guess what? We are still muddling along not knowing whether we are going to Richards Bay in South Africa or Inhaca in Mozambique. Of course, our final destination will be Richards Bay but we might have to stop in Inhaca to wait out the southerly winds. The Peri Peri Net, the GRIBS, and the BUOY Weather reports are all still saying that strong SW winds will be blowing in Richards Bay area starting tomorrow night. Graham on the Maritime Mobile Net is now also seeing that possibility. There is a cold front that he thought would be sent south that is now slowly moving north. He is going to watch the situation closely and will be able to tell us at 2:30 pm tomorrow afternoon for sure, but even he suggested we just go to Inhaca and wait until Tuesday the 27th when it looks like we would have a clear shot at Richards Bay. Ed and Lynne on Constance are not ready to give up and would rather heave to out here and wait rather than go into Inhaca, but they wouldn’t do this until tomorrow afternoon after talking to Graham. And by that time the BUOY Weather reports are telling us that we will have strong NE winds and we will be picking up the south flowing current and sitting still might not be so easy or so desirable. I’m sticking with Inhaca as the current destination, but what a difference a day can make. We’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings.

Starting at sundown last night until about 2 am we had ESE winds 15 to 20 and had a great sail. But just when my watch ended at 1:45 am the winds were calming down and we had to do a combination of sailing and motor sailing through the night. By the time I came back on watch at 4:45 am the winds were only 3 to 5 knots coming from right behind us-and I mean directly behind us. Windbird just doesn’t move forward with only 5 knots of wind from behind, so we have been motoring all day. We finally caught up to Constance and have now passed them. We have slowed down some so as not to lose them during the night. Communicating on the VHF radio is so much easier than having to set a schedule to talk on the HF radio. We need to be within 15 to 20 miles of each other to have VHF contact, so we will try to maintain that through the night. The VHF radio stays on all the time and we can just push a button and call Constance. With the HF, we have to pick a frequency and a time in advance and it is just much more difficult. We have been trying to stay in contact with Odulphus on the HF at 7:45 am and again at 5:45 pm, but we have had trouble connecting. We hear them and they hear us but not clearly enough to get real information. We do know, however, that they have left the Barren Islands for the second time and are on their way.

I spent my day baking brownies, banana bread, and regular bread. I go down for a nap at 9:30 am each morning, then get up and fix lunch, and on days like today I spend my time in the galley, so it is already 4:30 pm and almost time to fix dinner and start the first watch. Last night I spent both of my watches reading about South Africa in the Lonely Planet. I have read the chapters on the provinces we will be visiting, but last night I went back to the front of the book and read the history of the country from 2500 years ago to the present. How many people do you know that would sit and cry in the middle of the night while reading the Lonely Planet? Well, now you know one-me. I made it fine until I got to the 1900’s but then it just got to be too much. The fact that 20 per cent of people of the country, the white population, could push 80 per cent of the people, the black population, into the “homelands” which constituted only 14 per cent of the land of the entire country was mind boggling. The stories of the people who fought for racial equality-Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu-made for hard reading. Thinking about Nelson Mandela, son of an Xhosa chief, college educated, a lawyer, spending 27 years in prison just for standing up for the rights of his people, was sad. But the story of Steve Biko is the one that made me cry. He as admittedly one of the most prominent and influential anti-apartheid activists, but the way he died was inhumane. In 1977 he was detained under the Terrorism Act which meant he didn’t get a trial and was literally bashed into a coma by members of the South African security forces. At first the government claimed he died of a hunger strike, but later there was admission that he had been killed. This is a man had worked hard to establish literary programs and health clinics for his people. What a shameful way for him to die. I know these stories are no different from ones in our own American history and that makes it all the harder to read about. South Africa today is still trying to deal with its problems. It is still a country of the haves and have-nots. There are more South Africans affected with HIV/AIDS than any other country in the world. The crime rate is out of sight. But the Lonely Planet states that it is a “more optimistic and relaxed place than it was in 1990.” I sure hope so.

Day 358, Year 5 Passage to Somewhere, Day 5

Day 358, Year 5 Passage to Somewhere, Day 5
Date: Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Weather: Sunny Day with Few Clouds, Winds ESE, SE, SSE 10-15
Latitude: 23 05.411 S
Longitude: 038.40.040 E
Miles Traveled: 454
Miles to Go: 355 to Inhaca, Mozambique / 495 to Richards Bay, South Africa

We are making progress. We just don’t know where we are going! We now have two very different weather outlooks for this weekend when we should arrive in Richards Bay. The GRIBS, BUOY Weather, and Peri Peri Net all tell us that a cold front will send strong south winds to the Richards Bay area by Friday night and there’s no way we can get there by then. Graham on the South African Maritime Mobile Net tells us he sees no chance of southerly winds until late next Tuesday the 27th. We like that report, but we are leery since the BUOY reports have been so accurate to date. So we are muddling along for another 24 hours before we make a decision. By this time tomorrow we should know where we are headed. If it looks like the southerly winds are coming we will head to Inhaca on the Mozambique coast. We had thought we would go further north to Inhambane on the Mozambique coast, but after taking a careful look it just didn’t look like a tenable anchorage. If the southerlies have been diverted, then Richards Bay here we come!

We are no longer sailing upwind. Since yesterday morning we have had winds from the south and east, so no more beating. Right now the winds are behind us and starting tomorrow sometime the winds should start coming from the north and the east. We are getting a little bit of everything on this passage but so far the seas have been fairly calm, so that is good. They didn’t seem so calm when we were beating into the wind, but it could have been much worse. So on we go.

Day 358, Year 5 Passage to Richards Bay, Day 4

Day 358, Year 5 Passage to Richards Bay, Day 4
Date: Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Weather: Sunny Day with White Puffy Clouds, Winds SSE 10-15
Latitude: 21 37.500 S
Longitude: 040 36.576 E
Miles Traveled: 318 (miles made good-261)
Miles to Go: ~ 42 to Europa / ~635 to Richards Bay

Our passage destination has changed. We have decided to turn on the motor to boost our speed and head directly for Richards Bay. We have conflicting weather information, but we are just going to keep going as fast as we can and try to beat a dreaded cold front coming into Richards Bay from the south sometime on Sunday or Monday or Tuesday, depending on the source of the projection. If we can keep up 6 knots we should make the 635 miles by Saturday evening the 23rd. We can keep up that speed today and probably tomorrow, but then the winds are supposed to drop considerably and we might have to increase the engine RPM’s. But at some point we’ll get into the fast moving south current and that should boost our speed considerably. So we have a shot at making it. If the southerlies come on the morning of the 24th as projected by BUOY WEATHER and we can’t keep up the 6 knots of speed, then we will head into the Inhaca (‘h’ is pronounced as a ‘y’) on the Mozambique Coast. If Graham on the Maritime Mobile Net is correct, we have until the 26th before the southerlies arrive. But the BUOY reports have been spot on for us since leaving the Barren Islands so we have no reason to think they are wrong and the Peri Peri Net, another weather net we listen to morning and evening is agreeing with the BUOYS. The weather, however, has its own idea about things, and will reveal its intentions as we draw closer. I am going to name this passage POWW–Passage of Weather Worries. We were told by seasoned sailors that there is no way to go from Madagascar to South Africa without hitting a cold front packing southerly winds. They told us if we wanted to avoid that we should fly. Now we know they were not being pessimistic, just honest and right on.

With all the weather worries, we completely forgot to celebrate the official end of our fifth year of the Voyage of Windbird (VOW). We got an email from our good friends Alan and Helaine Kanegsberg this morning reminding us of the oversight. At 5 am on October 18, 2005 we left Shipyard Quarters and sailed out of the Boston Harbor. We sailed from there to Quissett Harbor on Cape Cod and then took off for points south. We expect to get back to Quisset Harbor in time to celebrate the 4th of July next year and celebrate we will!! We will stop there instead of heading on to Boston as our daughter lives just a few miles from Quissett. In the meantime, we will continue Year 5 of VOW until we reach Richards Bay. Our arrival there will be the end of our 5th cruising season and there we will begin the final year of the VOW, Year 6. Now we just have to concentrate on getting there.