Day 46, Year 6 The Wild Coast
Date: Thursday, December 9, 2010
Weather: Mostly Overcast, Winds ENE 15-20 am, ESE 20-30 pm
Latitude: 31 28.246 S
Longitude: 029 58.314 E
Miles Traveled: 208.5
Miles to Go: 143
Location: Passage from Richards Bay to East London, Day 2

Windbird is having a wild ride down the wild coast right now. That is the name of this section of the South African coast and we think it is aptly named. At about 1:10 this afternoon, after a frustrating night and morning of motor sailing into a two knot current against us, the sky started to clear a little and the winds instantly went from ENE to ESE with absolutely no warning. At first the winds were still in the 15-20 knot range, but around 3 pm the power switched on and the winds are now varying from 20 to 30+ knots True (more like 20-25 Apparent) coming at us anywhere from the rear quarter to the beam as we are bounced around with varying wind speeds-20 knots one minute, 30+ the next. We double reefed the headsail and that helped to stabilize us.. We were sailing along at 7 to 8 knots with a half knot of current against us. But then we finally found the Agulhas Current and we are now ticking along at 9 to 10 knots even with the double reefed headsail. But finding the current mid-afternoon today was twenty-four hours later than we anticipated. During the night when we had not found the current, we made a tactical error and headed further out to sea to find it but all that did was cause us precious time heading offshore where the current increased from a negative half knot to two knots. When we got to the 2000 meter line we gave up and turned back, but we lost a few hours and used a lot of fuel as we had to motor at 2500 RPMs the entire time just to go an average of 4.5 knots and sometimes we couldn’t make that. So we were definitely behind schedule.. But if we can now keep the current with us, we will still make East London tomorrow and maybe even go further south. The weather projections for wind direction keep changing, but it does look like we will at least make East London.

We just made our first weather net contact a few minutes ago. We couldn’t get on last night or this morning or early this afternoon, so that was very frustrating. We did hear from Irene on a boat called Moose this morning telling us that they had not found the Agulhas Current until 31 S inbound from the 200 meter line, so that at least gave us hope. But we were frustrated with not being able to get the weather and not being able to get through on email via HAM radio. After quickly sending the log last night on the Indonesian HAM radio frequency we have not been able to send or receive emails via HAM radio since. There was a time today when we had a cell telephone signal and we quickly sent for updated BUOY reports and a Grib file and neither is showing that we should be getting this kind of wind from the ESE today. So much for weather reports. But all of non-contacts left us feeling a little out of loop. More accurately, maybe we were just feeling loopy!

We definitely agree with the name for this part of South Africa’s coast. It is wild, but it is not unsafe in these conditions. Even though we had a bit of a rough start, it looks like we should be fine. We’ll make a decision tomorrow as to whether to duck into East London or head on to Port Elizabeth. Right now we are just enjoying a nice sail going 10 knots-not a common occurrence on Windbird.