Durban to Durban
26 January 2002 | 29 52.00S/31 02.00E
Although it wasn't a perfect weather window, we decided to leave, influenced largely by the international yachties' impatience to wait.
The excitement started! There are more than 12 boats with international yachtsmen and women moored in Durban, busy with their circumnavigations and they have been waiting longer than 10 days for the weather to clear in order to continue their voyages. Last minute top-up of water tanks and shopping and "clearing out" kept everybody in a frenzy of anticipation. The decision to leave was contagious and if anybody was in doubt to leave, the excitement that hung over the air made it easier to decide to use the window and leave as well.
The girls went around with their autograph/address books and calling cards were handed out. (Most yachtsmen have calling cards with their ship's name, email address and telephone number printed on them, which also helps to remember friends met during their travels). Riaan folded the dinghy and secured everything on deck. Mommy went shopping - again! When I returned to the boat it was strange to see her all packed up, surfboards lashed down, jerry-cans stored on the dive platform - all ready and in cruising mode....
We have been back since early November and the time had flown with all the arrangements that had to be made after Deon's death, trying to rebuild my life without my partner and preparing for our voyage on Prrrfection - sailing the seas on our circumnavigation. The yacht was as ready as could be and we were eagerly waiting for the latest weather forecast so that we can start.
Some yachts started to leave the marina from two oclock and the big exodus was underway. Tony and Emmy, our crewmembers were saying their last goodbyes to their friends and there was a constant stream of friends to Prrrfection, saying goodbyes and wishing us well.
And then the rain came pouring down. The mooring lines were cast off by our friends while Andre was blowing away on his shofar, all while sheets of rain came down. We were soaked and the visibility was reduced to a couple of meters. I was glad of the rain in a way - nobody could see if it was rain or tears that kept flooding my face.
I remembered our departure out of Durban just over 6 months earlier. It was a clear sunny day. All aboard was mad with excitement. Deon was phoning Mom, saying goodbye and trying to sound not too happy about leaving. Oscar, the crew we had for our crossing to Madagascar, was frantically waving to all the diners at the restaurants lining the Harbour entrance. I was again at the helm, happy and excited, thinking about all the fun and adventure that lay ahead of us, not knowing that I would be sailing back through the same entrance, 5 months later, without our beloved Daddy and husband.
We were asked to wait for two incoming ships but, after a couple of minutes, Port Control gave us clearance to exit Durban Harbour as the big ships could not enter due to bad visibility.
We crossed the bar at 8 o'clock but could not see more than 15 meters ahead of us due to the rain. The rain combined with a southerly wind, gusting up to 28 knots, hit our faces, stinging like needles. Although we left on a southerly wind, we were hoping it would change after a couple of hours, when we would be a couple of miles offshore. But that was not what was happening. The sea was in a confused state and huge swells, up to 4 meters combined with the wind, kept us from making any headway. After one and a half hours we were still just opposite the entrance of the harbour, although blown miles offshore. We could not round the South Breakwater. We could not go south. Riaan asked us to try for another hour, but after 30 more minutes, we realised it was futile and we turned Prrrfection, back to the harbour. We motored into the harbour and into our own mooring which we had left just over two hours previous. Although disappointed we knew that we were fortunate that we could still turn back in time, to try at a later stage after the wind had swung. The plan was to listen to the weather forecast at 4 am and to try early in the morning again.
It was still raining and the wind was still from the wrong direction the next morning. The yachts who left earlier were just a couple of miles down the coast and must have had a terrible time trying to make way down the coast, against the swells and the wind. The coast from Durban to East London is known for it's unpredictable weather. There are no hiding places for yachts on this 250 miles stretch if the weather should change and at least 40 hours of favourable weather are needed to get to East London.
As I am writing this, the weather is still not favourable and another SW will be coming through shortly. I hope the other yachts will have made it in time and will be safe and warm and dry in East London .