02/04/2013, St. Francis
We pulled into St Francis for a couple of days to avoid pounding into strong Southwesterlies that were forecasted. Once again, the weather got there before we did and we ended up spending 10 hours slowing motor sailing into building chop and 25 kt winds.
As it turned out we were told to wait until between 3 and 4 PM to enter the harbor because of depth concerns.
So we actually ended up slowing down so that we would not arrive at the harbor entrance too soon.
This harbor is not on any of our charts. We knew about it because our Danish friends (AKA The Vikings) had told us that it was a good place to stop and also provided coordinates for the harbor entrance. I supplemented that information with google earth images once we got close enough to use the internet.
The entrance is not visible from sea so it would be somewhat nerve wracking to come close enough to shore to enter without knowing for sure where the entrance was. The harbor master said they were going to add a buoy near the entrance to help visiting boats find the entrance.
As it turned out there was plenty of depth as we came in and we had been assigned a nice big (catamaran sized) slip that we had all to ourselves. That, coupled with experienced boatmen on the dock made it one of the least stressful docking experiences in years.
St Francis is a privately owned harbor and is used for both commercial squid fishing and for pleasure boats. The squid fishing fleet was beautifully maintained and reminded me of the similar fleet in Monterey California. According to Marti Hartwig (more on who she is later), most of the squid catch is exported to Spain.
The docks in this marina are the most stable floating docks we have experienced yet. The floats are concrete and as wide as the surface of the dock. Its unusual to step off the boat onto the edge of a finger and not have the finger tip at all.
Johan Hartwig was on the dock to photograph our approach (sure glad we did not screw that up) and welcome us to St Francis. Johan and his family were introduced to us by The Vikings who spent 11 days here last year. Johan and his wife, Martie were very gracious hosts for our time here.
The Hartwigs took us sightseeing, fed us a couple of great meals and welcomed us into their extended family in a very generous way.
Last August St Francis suffered a terrible fire that destroyed 74 luxury homes. We got to see the devastation first hand. Many of the houses had been leveled in preparation for rebuilding but many were still standing. All of the house in that particular area have thatched roofs which made it very easy for the fire to spread on a windy day.
Johan is a corporate recruiter who is able to work from home. He specializes in technical positions. Marti is an accountant for the local squid fishing company. They have a lovely home that is arranged in the "upside down"way that many California homes are built. The daily living space is upstairs and the bedrooms are downstairs. This provides spectacular views over the ocean. Johan was able to see us approach using a telescope on a tripod in the corner of his living room.
The house is configured to accommodate two complete families and their son Bernard and his wife Isle and their kids occupy the other half. A large covered ocean view patio joins the two halves of the house on the second floor and seems to serve as the social hub of this extended family.
We really enjoyed this stop and would have liked to stay longer but are falling too far behind schedule to linger too long at any one place. We want to save some time for Cape Town and Walvis Bay in Namibia before we head off across the Atlantic.
So we were on our way with this morning's tide when the weather forecast suggested that we would have a weather window that would let us get all the way to cape town. I know I have said that before and time will tell if we actually get all the way to Cape Town on this hop but the weather patterns seem to be more consistent once we are around Cape Agulhas and turn NW for Cape Town.
For the sake of our friends who are not familiar with South African geography I think I should mention that Cape Agulhas is actually the southernmost tip of the African continent. In school we were always told about the Cape of Good Hope as the Cape that early explorers had to get around to reach India and the Spice Islands. But the Cape of Good Hope is actually 25-30 miles north of Cape Agulhas. I know that is splitting hairs but that's the way it is.
We are expecting to do a lot of motoring on this trip so we have settled in to our 2000 rpm sweet spot on the engine to get the maximum miles per liter of fuel. I think my kindle is going to get a good workout on this passage. Fortunately I was able to download this weeks "New Yorker" just before we left. Between that and my new ebook on Scientology I should be able to keep myself amused for the next couple of days.
02/01/2013, Between East London and Port Elizabeth
We are about 20 miles off shore and very obviously have found the Agulhas current. We are averaging over 10 kts dead down wind in just under 20 kts of apparent wind. We have the double reefed main and the poled out yankee up and that is plenty to keep us moving fast.
Our tightening of the yankee halyard seems to have done the job so I guess the line I used for the lanyard must be ASO (all stretched out).
Today we discovered that our new furler whistles. The empty slot on the foil is shaped in such a way that it whistles when the wind blows across it. Its not very loud. We have to be on the foredeck to hear it and I dont plan to do anything about it. The only time the noise might be problem would be at anchor or in a marina and at those times the sail is rolled up around the foil so the wind cant blow on the empty slot.
The ride is rolly in the current but the speed advantage is well worth it.
According to the weather forecast this wind wont last that long so we are going to enjoy it while it lasts. By this time tomorrow we will have wind on the nose although it does not stay strong for very long and then switches around to the south which will serve us all the way to Cape Town. The head winds are forecasted to only last about 12 hours and for part of that time it will be so light we will probably just motor into it.
As the day goes on the wind will shift more to our starboard quarter and we will have to jibe the main and also the whisker pole but the wind will continue to blow hard until around 2 AM.
We have the option to put into Port Elizabeth or St Francis. The decision point for Port Elizabeth is 78 miles ahead and, at these speeds we will be there around 10:30 tonight. The decision point on St. Francis is 119 miles ahead and we will pass it at three in the morning. At these speeds we are covering our usual 24 hour distance in 12 hours.
I was surprised to notice that the magnetic variation in this part of the world is almost 30 degrees West. That is the highest I can ever remember seeing. It must have been an interesting thing for the early navigators to deal with.
There are a couple of ships out here with us this afternoon and they are obviously hopping a ride on the current, too.
East London was nothing the write home about. The downtown area looked nice from the distance but the port area was dead and smelly. It took about half an hour to clean the anchor chain and anchor. The anchor brought up several potato chip packages along with some really smelly mud. We both washed our hands very thoroughly after handling the snubber line that had been in the river water all night.
We managed to get out of going ashore to file a flight plan with the police. I called the police station and talked to the man in charge of flight plans and he was willing to accept a faxed copy of our flight plan from Richards Bay. So I called the Zululand Yacht Club and asked Fiona, the office administrator, to fax a copy to the police in East London. When we called port control this morning they had a copy and gave us the go ahead to leave the harbor.
We motored for the first 7 hours before the wind came up but now are sailing fast and the solar panels and wind generator are meeting all our power requirements.
I might also add that my efforts at tuning the mast seem to have worked quite well. Even under press of plenty of sail the boat is balanced and the autopilot is not having a difficult time except when an occasional large swell rolls under us. I have the gain on the autopilot turned up so it responds quickly when swells knock the boat around.
The shape of mast looks good under load and there is no slop in any of the shrouds.
01/31/2013, East London, South Africa
Last night we received a GRIB forecast that told us that the long weather window we had hoped for was not going to happen and that there was going to be a 24 hour period of strong southwesterlies to deal with.
If we had not been having problems with the halyard on our new furler stretching we probably would have hove to or sailed into it under reduced sail and just waited things out at sea. But, I did not want to try to sail up wind with inadequate tension in the yankee jib halyard. There was just too much chance we would break something.
So we headed into East London which a small commercial port with an all weather entrance.
The wind shifted long before we got here and we spent the last 10 hours covering the last 20 miles under power. It was not that rough but the chop that built up reduced our speed significantly so Shawn got some sleep and I finished "Tommo and Hawk", the most recent Bryce Courtenay novel I have been working on.
It will be nice to get a peaceful night's sleep here at anchor and jump to Port Elizabeth tomorrow. That will be about a 24 hour passage based on the forecast. We plan to get an early start.
The weather pattern for the next few days looks like we will be doing several short hops to get around to Cape Town. That is what most cruisers end up doing so we should not be disappointed. Maybe we will get to visit a few South African ports that we had planned to bypass.
This afternoon it rained hard here in East London and we had to wait until close to sundown to take a crack at tightening the yankee halyard.
We did tighten the halyard in a way that I think will be adequate for now but its amazing how much stretch there was in the line I had used to make a lanyard at the bottom of the spectra halyard. As soon as we get somewhere that I can buy spectra line for the lanyard the better. I also need to work out a better way of connecting everything at the bottom of the halyard but have several ideas on how to do that. One of them will work.
Since we are at anchor Shawn is making pizza for supper which is always good. Unfortunately he was unable to download the Daily Show on the one unsecured wifi link he found on shore. The wifi node he found has some blocking software on it that blocked access to any page that had the word "twitter" or "facebook" on it. Its amazing how many pages have those words on them.
Censorship is an ugly thing, IMHO, and I was pleased to see that Shawn found a program on line that will prevent such blockages from working. It is the most popular blockage defeating program in China. If anyone knows about censorship, and how to get around it, its Chinese internet users.
We are now about 350 miles south of Richards Bay and the temperature here is significantly cooler. In the middle of the afternoon it was 74F in the cabin. In Richards Bay we had been seeing 90+F in the middle of the afternoon.
We are going to pull some sweat shirts out of our duffel bags for the next leg.
With the minor exception of the halyard issue everything seems to be working fine.
This passage is the first time we have been able to test the performance of the $3,000 in new batteries that we installed in Richards Bay and I was pleased to see that they are working fine. At lunch today Shawn microwaved some hotdogs and although the microwave was drawing 90 amps through our inverter the system voltage remained well over 13 volts while the microwave was on. With the batteries we retired we would have seen a big voltage drop when the micowave was in use.
I think the reason we got away with using our old batteries as long as we did was because the bank was very large for a boat this size. We have over 1000 amp hours in our house bank and even when the batteries were close to death they still had enough capacity to keep everything running for at least 24 hours at sea. The fact that we could use the old batteries to cross the Indian Ocean probably paid for the incremental cost of the larger battery bank because we were able to wait until we could take delivery of new Lifeline batteries here in South Africa rather than buying them in Australia where they were about 1/3 more expensive.
Today we put our anchor it the water for the first time since we left Mauritius so I had to dig out the anchor chain snubber (nylon ropes that act as shock absorbers for the load of the pull on the anchor chai) and also the hose and connections to let us use the washdown pump in the morning when we haul a lot of dirty anchor chain up and need to wash it off before we stow it in the chain locker.