A Scary Arrival into Port St. Francis
30 November 2012 | St. Francis Bay, St. Francis, South Africa
The passage from Durban was the fastest At Last has ever made, thanks to the help of the Agulhas Current which we entered after sailing for 14 hours. For nine hours straight we averaged 10.5 knots and for 24 hours we did 220 nm averaging 9.3 knots. This was the fastest day of our entire circumnavigation.
We were planning on making it as far as Mossel Bay (much farther than we would have thought) but suddenly the weather changed while we were at sea. Mark decided we should tuck in to St. Francis to get out of the bad weather after sailing 416 miles in a little over 2 days. Two other boats decided to do the same - s/v J'Sea and s/v Sophie - while three boats continued on to Mossel Bay.
We arrived at St. Francis Bay at 1:00 am. It was getting windy and the entrance to the port was very narrow - a little over two boat widths. There were rocks on either side of the channel. Suffice to say it was the scariest nighttime arrival that we have ever had. Luckily, J'Sea and Sophie arrived before us, entered the harbor and scouted out a spot for us to tie up, with the help of a security guard. At Last ended up on a concrete dock with huge tires on it reserved for large fishing ships. It would have been impossible for us to have tied up to the dock without the help of the crew from J'Sea and Sophie. It would have been even more impossible if they hadn't been waving flashlights indicating where to go and where not to go. Everyone stayed awake the extra hour to help us get on the dock safely. We were extremely grateful to everyone for their help. By the time we got the boat settled it was 3:00 am and we all went to bed wondering what the morning would bring.
Just four hours later, we were awoken by Britt telling us that fishermen on the dock were saying we had to move At Last. The huge dock where we tied up was now full of fishing boats and we were in the middle of them. They asked us to move our boat back about ten feet to make room for another boat. We did this and then Sato (s/v Umineko) came by saying that another World Arc boat had just vacated a slip in the marina and we should move over to it. We asked if the marina office was open yet - it wasn't - but we decided we would move and risk having to move another time if the slip wasn't available. We got secured into our slip by 8:00 am and everyone went back to bed except for me. I was wide awake - probably because my normal shift time was in the morning. I ended up baking a coffee cake for everyone for breakfast and cleaned up the boat from the passage. The rest of the crew was grateful to wake up later in the morning to coffee and cake. We were further grateful that the marina office was happy to have us in our current slip and said that we could stay there as long as we needed.
Thus began an incredibly friendly welcome in St. Francis Bay. The port is a marina surrounded by condos and has a small shopping center with two marine stores, a minimart and a half dozen restaurants. The town is about four kilometers away. This area of the eastern cost of South Africa is very affluent. The population of the area will double during the summer season, which will begin in a few weeks. It was still quite quiet around the marina and around town. Everywhere we went we received a warm welcome. We ate at two very delicious restaurants while we were here - Chez Patrick and Five Elements. Five Elements even typed up a note on the first page of their menu on the day we returned for a second time which welcomed us back the restaurant. We also received fine treatment from Darryl who manages the grocery store Spars in town. He chauffeured us to and from the store at no cost. The grocery store was very good, one of the best we have seen in a long time.
Again, much of Mark's time in St. Francis was spent researching the weather. Shadow's parents are coming into Cape Town and we are trying to get her there to meet them. If we are not able to make it on time, she will travel on land to Cape Town. We did leave on December 4, 2012 but three hours into the trip we turned around because the weather was much worse than expected. We have now left again on December 5, 2012 and should be able to sail the rest of the way to Cape Town. It will be about a three day trip; maybe less if we catch some of the great current.