Friday, 27 November 2015

High Winds Sink Tuzi Gazi Marina - Again

Crystal Blues Stern & The Sinking Docks
This section of the South African coast is a real weather engine, with a succession of high and low pressure systems dancing along the coast with unusual frequency.  The wind will swap from North East to South West and then back again within 24 hours, and then flip over again within another 24 hours.  It seems never ending.

The docks here at Tuzi Gazi Marina were badly damaged by a 70 knot gale about three weeks ago, when the main pontoon collapsed into a spectacular concertina.  Unfortunately several visiting cruising boats were damaged in that blow.  The dock staff have worked endlessly to repair the dock sections that failed, but each successive storm puts the damaged floats underwater again, so the dock buckles further.   A lack of parts and a complete lack of new floats is hampering their effort.

The initial disaster was caused by the failure of rusty anchor chains.  The heavy chains that hold the marina in position are tethered to concrete blocks on the sea bed.  These moved in the big blow and have not yet been re-positioned, so the entire structure is moving around in the wind, flexing the hinge points and further stressing the structure, specially at low tide.  Its a mess. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Mozambique To South Africa - Racing South With The Agulhas Current

Google Track Image By Thomas Herter
After five days sheltering from strong southerly winds,  we departed Basaruto in Mozambique with a decent weather window, in company with six other vessels.

Basaruto is a very large sand island, with a decent pass to the ocean at the southern end, though the pass has a bar at both the seaward and inshore end.

You can see our track on the Google Earth image at right - it is a very beautiful part of the world.  What that image doesn't show is how residual south easterly swells, even with a rising tide, can setup a steep breaking sea on the ocean side of the bar.  I'm fairly sure the south setting ocean currents played a role in this.

As we approached the bar, we were not quite sure that there was adequate water depth to handle the swell size, however we stuck our neck out and nosed gingerly into the shallow area, having studied the breaks and picked the best line.  Watching the fish finder screen very closely, we tracked the depth at the bottom of each swell and crossed the bar with 1.5 meters under the keel.

We relayed the minimum depths to the other vessels by VHF radio and they then started to commit to the sea in one's and two's.

It was a vigorous bar, much like the river bars we dealt with so often in Australia, and we were glad to have it behind us.

Some other boats in our group had never been through surf of this type, and they learned another aspect of boat handling that morning.

The 46 foot catamaran Papillon looked impressive coming through the sets, a first for the owners and crew.  Of course what goes up must surely come down and the crew had quite a ride over several wave sets.

Papillon Images By Diane Selkirk
From the southern pass at Basaruto Island to the port entrance at Richards Bay in South Africa is a distance of around 490 nautical miles.  We covered that in 2 days and 21 hours, using the favourable currents for almost the entire voyage.

The winds were almost dead astern for most of the passage, a sailing angle that we don't really enjoy.  So we angled off and tacked downwind, keeping the wind at around 150 degrees apparent with consistent pressure on the sails and the vessel - a much more comfortable ride, and easier all round on both the vessel and the people.

Despite this conservative approach we still managed to chalk up some breakages.  On the first night out, under staysail and reefed main,  I shone the torch forward for a quick inspection of the deck and noticed the staysail had started to come down of its own accord.  Not very interesting.

The shackle under the swivel had given way, so we had no choice but to drop the sail to the deck, and stow it away until we could go up the mast (in calmer conditions) to retrieve the halyard.   The next morning, as we were enjoying our breakfast coffee, we watched our fibreglass dome television antenna float rapidly past the cockpit, having broken free from the mast and fallen (thankfully) into the sea, without touching the boat.

What else could go wrong ?

Monday, 16 November 2015

Things That Work For Us # 5 - Rule #104 Inline Blower

Just over 10 years ago we installed a new Cummins diesel engine in Crystal Blues, replacing a beat up Perkins that was a little too small and way too leaky (oil that is).

At the time, we also installed a simple Rule #104 Inline Blower, to circulate air from the bilges up to the air cleaner of the Cummins.

Now, some 3,339 hours later, that Rule blower has been finally shut down, when the blower bearings became louder than the diesel engine.  A replacement unit was purchased off the shelf from a local chandlery here in South Africa, for A$49.00 .

How many electrical items run for over 3000 hours sitting in a (very) hot engine compartment ?

So, credit where credit is due.  Many pleasure craft wouldn't operate for 3000 hours over their entire life, so this blower would have been a lifetime purchase.  Congratulations to Rule for building a product that delivers both value and reliable service.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Madagascar To Mozambique - Things That Go Bang In The Night

Destined for Richards Bay in South Africa, we departed Madagascar in loose company with four other yachts.  The weather in this area needs to be carefully monitored, and voyage plans are often modified to find shelter in safe harbour.  Our "weather window" on departure was reasonable, however a very strong southerly front sent us scurrying into Basaruto, on the Mozambique coast, after 4 days at sea.

Temporary Boom Repairs
For a voyage that was fast and reasonably comfortable, we managed to break a surprising amount of gear along the way !  On the first night out we were caught by a 40 knot squall that jibed the mainsail very quickly, snapping the 19mm diameter stainless steel bail on the boom where the mainsheet and preventer line were attached. Later examination showed crevice corrosion on that part, where it failed just below the weld.

It also sheared the 5/16" bolts that locked the main sheet traveler car to the sheet block.   Fortunately the boom came to rest against the running backstay which (amazingly) held up to the impact and kept the boom under control.

After lashing the boom in place we dropped the mainsail and proceeded under genoa alone until daylight, when we could effect repairs.  Next morning we used a 1000 kg rated lifting sling, wrapped around the boom, as the new mainsheet and preventer attachment.  The main sheet track then had to be removed from the deck to access the sheet block car.  We repaired that easily enough, customising bolts from stock to suit and then re-assembled it, just like new. The broken (and very bent) stainless steel bale was then cut from the boom using an angle grinder.  All was completed by lunchtime, in relatively calm seas, and we were able to hoist the mainsail and gather boat speed again.

24 hours later, in heavier winds, the outhaul on the mainsail failed when a spectra lashing gave way, leading to a couple of broken slides in the boom and two significant tears in the sail.  Fortunately these were low down in the body of the sail, and we were able to continue by lowering the sail to the first reef point.

SV Sage Under Tow
Approaching the Mozambique coast we were contacted on HF radio by another vessel that needed assistance as their engine had failed.

After anchoring close to them overnight, we towed them into the anchorage the next morning and settled down to wait for the southerly blow.

By the time we arrived at Bazaruto we were ready for a break, and were welcomed to the coast of Africa by these friendly spinner dolphins with an excited aerial show that immediately brought our sense of humor back.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Au Revoir Madagascar & Thanks For All The Fish

Our parting gift from the rich waters of Madagascar was this spectacular Wahoo, the first of this species Ley has ever caught. Neil soaked his gills with Barcardi Rum and he was quickly cut into two large boneless fillets, providing eight meals for us.

We were both quite sad to leave Madagascar. It is a unique country, with a rich culture of sailing, enchanting lemurs, baobab trees, smiling faces and stunning landscapes. For the sailor the north west coast offers fantastic cruising with a land breeze in the morning, clocking around to a sea breeze every afternoon. Flat water sailing at its best. There are so many scenic anchorages, each generally with a small village or two. Our last few anchorages along the west coast of Madagascar, from Russian Bay down to Mahajunga, simply emphasised the beauty of this country. We needed more time there ....

As we approached our final anchorage in Boina Bay, we were followed by a fast sailing lateen rigged pirogue, laden with people and cargo. We had great wind and plenty of water, and Crystal Blues was a good 15 feet longer than the pirogue. Still they powered after us up the channel, shouting, laughing and waving as they slowly reeled us in and then sailed right past us to windward, their 8 knots eclipsing our 7.5 knots. The joy of sailing strikes again !

After anchoring we decided to give away the last of our trading items to a young man fishing from a dugout canoe just offshore from us. Not sure if he caught any fish, but with our goodies and those from the yacht Ceilydh, he paddled home with a very different bounty from the sea. Incidentally, Boina Bay was one of the nicest anchorages on the coast - great shelter, clean water, beautiful environment.

We departed Boina Bay in loose company with three sailing catamarans (Yolo, Ceilydh and Papillon), all bound for Richard's Bay in South Africa via the Mozambique Channel, notorious for it's strong currents and even stronger winds. Our Iridium Go! satellite modem allowed frequent updates to weather forecast GRIB files, and OSCAR ocean current files, and we hoped to work our way across this complex piece of ocean relatively quickly. We had a full moon to light our way all night, but a limited weather window eventually forced us to to seek shelter on the Mozambique coast after six days at sea.