02/05/2013, Edge of Agulhas Bank
We have been running the engine for about 36 hours but are just starting to see some wind coming up. Of course the wind is starting to build from the SSW which is not the direction it was forecasted to come from.
My day has been very exciting. I took a nap.
I was up at 8 AM to relieve Shawn but when he woke up again, shortly after noon, I climbed into the bunk with my kindle and promptly fell asleep for 3 hours. That is not exactly the sort of adventure on the high seas that we expect but it a pleasant relief from bouncing around and getting wet.
As we approach the Agulhas bank we can see that there are a lot of gas production rigs out here that are not on our chart. For some reason they do not put AIS transponders on these rigs which does not make sense. I would think one of their biggest worries would be getting hit by one of the ships that steam right past them. The shipping lanes are within a couple of miles of these rigs. They probably have someone keeping a constant watch on shipping traffic to make sure none if the big guys gets too close.
We have seen a lot of shipping traffic. By the time we see them on our AIS receiver they are on a course well clear of us so I am assuming they see us on their gigahertz radar long before we see them either visually or on the AIS receiver.
It is interesting to get the details on each of them from their AIS data. Quite a few of the northbound ships are headed to Singapore but their route is not aimed at Singapore. I guess they run up the coast of Africa a ways before heading across the Indian Ocean.
Another ship I saw today was head straight to Argentina from wherever it started. The AIS signal tells you the destination but not the port of departure.
Last night for supper Shawn opened one of our jars of home canned Transylvanian Goulash which is a really good boat meal since you just have to heat up the goulash and make some noodles. Its made with pork, sauerkraut, and sweet paprika. I got the recipe using google.
We will make up quite a few jars of that prior to starting out on our Atlantic crossing.
I just started building a provisioning list for our upcoming passages and it's a big one. We are planning on doing minimal provisioning at our stops between Cape Town and Cartegena, Columbia. Of course, eating some meals ashore, at our stops, will reduce the provisioning a little. The total trip, including stops in Namibia, St Helena, Ascension Island, and Barbados will take at least 3 months. Provisioning for this leg is a bigger challenge than any we have faced since leaving the states.
It's going to take a lot of home canned and commercial canned food, beers, sodas, staples. The numbers get staggering, especially when we are trying to think of where we will store all the provisions. We have to find space for 16 boxes of breakfast cereal, 24 liters of HT milk,, 90 liters of soda and probably 14 cases of beer. In addition to buying and stowing all the stuff we have several days of pressure canning curries, goulash, stews and chicken. We even have 8 kg of biltong on our list. We also need places for all the TP and paper towels we will go through in three months at sea.
For our friends who have not been to South Africa I plan to do a blog entry on biltong but want to do that when I can include some pictures. Biltong is the African version of American jerkey, or dried meat. Its way better than anything I have ever had in the states. In addition on the dried sliced beef, lamb and ostrich they make dried wors (sausage) in several flavors including chili (great with cold beer) garlic, and once called cabinosi that is sort of like a long skinny salami. They are all really good.
We have been told that we will not be allowed to bring biltong back into the states but neither of us sees that as a problem since the only way any would survive that long is if we forgot where we stored it.
In addition to the provisions we take on board we are hopeful that we will catch a few fish on our way so Ill probably invest in a new rod and reel in Cape Town. Over 4 years in the tropical sun has taken its toll on the fishing gear.
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.