Friday, 1 January 2016

Low Flying - Durban To Cape Town In A Hurry

Like this low flying gull, we literally walked on water as we traveled south and west to Cape Town.  Setting out from Durban on December 26 we sailed south east to find the strongest section of the Agulhas Current. 

Then the low flying began in earnest, with up to 5 knots of current assisting us and 30 knots of wind from the north, we covered  512 nautical miles in the first two days.

18 international boats departed Durban over two days, all wanting to reach The Cape. This was a great weather window, which allowed us to continue non-stop to Cape Town in just under 4 days. 
The total distance covered was 802 nautical miles, giving us an average of over 200 nautical miles per day for the 4 days.  Top speed was over 15 knots, which we saw quite frequently.

Thrilling sailing indeed, though tough on the boat and on the crew, specially the 50 knot easterly blast that hit us as we entered False Bay at 2:00am, just a few hours from our destination.  The damage bill for the voyage was minimal - a couple of broken battens in the mainsail and a shredded end on a genoa sheet where it ran through the spinnaker pole.

Not all the boats fared so well, with several retiring into harbours and ports along the way, the most common issues being autopilot problems - the big winds and cross seas really made those systems work hard.

We saw seals, whales, sharks and literally millions of sea birds, who were feasting on the ocean bounty where the warm Aghulas Current meets the cold water from the Atlantic.

We had good forecast data on the Aghulas Current location and strength (click on the image at right for details), however local sailors advised us to watch for the long band of cloud that runs down the coast, some way off shore - this cloud band hovers over the warm current.

As you can see in the image here, it was blindingly obvious once we understood what to look for.

Here in Simon's Town Marina, the sea life and bird life is prolific - the cry of gulls is a constant background music, punctuated by bosun's whistle calls as officers are piped aboard the South African Navy ships adjacent to us.  From a peak of 26.7 degrees off Durban, the water temperature has plummeted to just 19.7 degrees here in False Bay.  Sailing here feels awfully like sailing at home - the frequent weather changes, low water temperature, plus the sea and bird life give me just a small touch of home sickness.

We celebrated the New Year with cruising friends here at the very beautiful False Bay Yacht Club, in Simon's Town, a short commute from the city of Cape Town.  We'll stay here until late January, hoping to explore South Africa a little more.  For now, we'll launch into the necessary maintenance and repairs ......  Happy New Year to all !
Sunrise At The Cape - Ley Took This Photo On Watch.  Look Carefully For The Lights Of SV Totem At Right

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