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Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 30, 2011-Trip to Durban

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I told Judy she needed to have her head examined.

It was because of the fall she took on the passage here; the bruising was going down but she had hearing problems.

Richards Bay has a hospital and we went there but they seemed too busy and seeing a neurologist was going to take weeks they said. Even ER couldn’t attend to her.

So we drove to Durban. George and Ellen came with us.

The hospital there was first class and it turned out that her hearing loss had nothing to do with the blow to the head; it was an infection treatable with drops and pills. Good.

We had some time so we went downtown, saw a park and some nice buildings, shopped for boat parts and charts, checked out the marina, had lunch at the beach. And we stayed overnight at a nice Bed & Breakfast in an old colonial mansion on the hill.

The weather was great.

We had a nice time.

Now we are ready to go on Safari.

Click here to see photos of the Bed & Breakfast (named Bali Ridge)

Click here a few shots of Durban

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, South Africa

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

April 17, 2011-Update From Africa

We have landed in Richard's Bay Africa, as the previous post describes. We've got some cleaning up to do and some repairs to make (not many) and we've got to get an Internet connection (right now I'm writing this from the hotel lobby).

So, not totally organized yet.

Meanwhile, here are some links to some photos. More to come.

Click here for photos of Reunion Island and here

Click here for for photos from the passage

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Richard's Bay, South Africa

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April 16, 2011-Arrival in Richard's Bay, South Africa

It's pouring down rain here and cold. I hook up power and turn on a heater.

The three others are sleeping.

I have a cup of coffee.

I contemplate:

We have completed our crossing of the entire Indian Ocean.

We are tied up to a marina berth in Tuzu Gazi Marina, Richard's Bay, South Africa.

We made it to Africa.

The last 36 hours were a race against the clock. We were due on Friday but mostly we just wanted to avoid another night at sea. We wanted to get here on Saturday at least. For a while it looked like we wouldn't make it. The wind was light and the waves horribly confused. Sailing was difficult. Our headings seemed to be towards anywhere but Africa. The crew was tired. Around midnight Mother Nature threw more at us: Sudden wind shifts and squalls and waves coming from every direction. The sea was attacked us unrelentingly with sudden changes. The only good thing was that the wind did not become too strong. But coping with everything else meant continuous work for us on deck. We were all tired.

At midnight, beyond exhaustion, Judy and I kept working the boat through more changes; a tack which happened when the wind shifted too quickly for the windvane was sorted out, a sail change down to the #4 when a squall overpowered us with the #2 was completed. The tangled ropes were untangled. The tired bodies were pushed further. We almost gave in and dropped all sail; to begin motoring. But motoring in these waves would be slow and uncomfortable too. We willed ourselves to do more. We sorted it out.

We prevailed.

We got the boat sailing towards the destination.

By 2:00 AM the wind was steady and building. It hit twenty from the SW, a close reach, and we trimmed in. The main flogged and I got on the helm and pulled hard on the tiller against the weight of the wind. I reset the windvane with more weather helm. We surged forward. The waves were big but Wings shouldered them aside. With a full main and #4 jib we flew in these condtions. The boat speed went to 9 and we were making good the losses of the previous two days. Finally.

I stayed on deck all night to keep watch; to keep it going. Judy sat below in her foul weather gear ready to help but these precautions were not needed. Wings flew and the windvane steered and we touched nothing.

Through the night and most of the next day we sped towards Africa. Through the darkness and rain, steady, cold, rain.

We did turn on the motor when the wind again dropped (but the rain kept up) about 40 miles out, and we kept the engine on even when the wind came back for a while. We didn't trust the breeze to hold. Motor sailing. But with the main pulling and the combination of wind and engine giving good speed we saw that we could make it to port by 19:00 Saturday. After dark, yes, but we thought we could go in. We kept pushing.

And at 19:00, with all hands on deck, we arrived in Richard's Bay, storming in under main on a broad reach, through the breakwater in the pitch black and pouring rain, guided by the lights blinking in the darkness on either side and our charting system showing the way on the big screen below .

No time for hesitation now, we could smell the barn.

George, from Winddancer came up on the VHF and talked us to a slip, meeting us on the dock. He said the authorities would not bother us tonight.

We tied up the boat, folded sails, had hot showers on board, drank champagne, and went to dinner.

The captain paid.

So, we are in Africa.

Now, there are lions to see.

Fred & Judy, with crew Jean-Mee and Jennifer, SV Wings, Richard's Bay

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April 15, 2011-Passage to Africa, Dispatch #5

I'm standing by the mast looking to the west. Africa is there somewhere just over the horizon. I can smell it. Africa!

The sky to the west is clear; a pale blue with a few light clouds. There is a hint of dirt and livestock in the air. The dirt and livestock of Africa. I swear it! I've been waiting for years for this landfall. I know we'll make it in a day or so.

Standing here with the wind blowing in my face feels good. It is a cool and dry wind. The tropics are long behind us now, possibly for good. I'm enjoying the fresh air, and the feeling of being so close to our goal.

But it is slow going. There is not much wind and the seas are choppy and there is a foul current that is sapping two knots from our speed. Maybe it is payback for the previous two days when we had a two knot boost from a west bound current. Anyhow, we were slogging along yesterday in a dying breeze and at midnight when the sailing finally became impossible and I switched on the Yanmar. Now with the motor we can go six knots but we are only making four knots towards Africa.

This will delay the arrival but won't stop it.

Meanwhile life goes on aboard Wings. We eat, we sleep, we stand our watches. The SSB radio died completely on the 13th, (Oh, Happy Birthday, Jan) so we have had no long range radio communication, no weather reports, no email, no blog postings until now. (When this goes out we will be in port in Africa). I took the radio apart but I can't find anything visibly wrong. Losing the radio saddens me, but we'll get by. We hope people who have been expecting us don't get worried. Meanwhile I have talked to a couple or commercial ships on the VHF and they have given me weather reports which didn't say much but didn't sound threatening at least.

I've made further progress on the broken boom vang and now realize that only the topping lift function is broken, the boom vang still operates as a vang. So that too is good.

If the motor hangs in there, or some breeze comes up, we'll be in Africa in about 30 hours: Midnight Saturday, April 16.

Later than we planned, but we'll get there.

Fred & Judy, with Jean-Mee and Jennifer as crew, SV Wings, On Passage

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April 13, 2011-Passage to Africa, Dispatch #4

Each day is a new one. Two days ago we had weather from hell.

Yesterday it moderated but we still had huge waves and lots of rain.

Today it is gorgeous: fine weather, good wind, and, after a few frustratingly slow days, we are finally making great speeds. Judy and Jennifer each covered sixteen miles on their two hour watches today. Right now (Wednesday afternoon) we are speeding along on a broad reach at 7 knots with a blue sky across a beautiful blue Indian Ocean. The wind vane is driving, as it has the whole passage, Judy is cooking, life is good. I even fixed the hydraulic system (but not the boom vang) and marked off eight other items off the fixit list.

Judy's black eye, from where she was thrown across the cabin and hit her face on the bulkhead, looks like it is going down.

And it was shower day. We all had showers.

About the only glitch at this point is the African Sailmail radio station is down and we have not been able to receive weather files, or send or receive emails.

But we are in radio communication with Africa on the Peri Peri net and we are getting some weather information that way. It looks like one or two more days like this then a bit of a southerly on the final approach to Richard's Bay.

That one we need to watch carefully. The Alguhas current flows south along the African East Coast and right past Richard's Bay and in strong southerly winds it gets treacherously rough there. The waves can be ship killers when that situation happens and that one bit is the main reason that South African sailing has such a terrible reputation. So we'll exercise all caution, and if the Peri Peri Net, the radio weather forecasts, or the barometer, indicate bad weather along the African coast we'll turn around and wait till it blows by.

Otherwise our arrival will be Friday night or Saturday Morning.

Fred & Judy, and crew Jean-Mee and Jennifer, SV Wings, On Passage to Africa.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

April 12, 2011-Passage to Africa, Disapatch #3

This trip has gone from frustrating to difficult.

The change came on Jean-Mee's watch, 17:00. I was on the foredeck bagging a genoa. Suddenly the boat heeled and rounded up. I thought we were going to tack. Then, almost head to wind, the bow bucked sharply and I was hit by a wave and I grabbed a lifeline to stay on board. I nearly lost the sail over the side. What the hell? I looked at Jean-Mee and I saw him struggling with the windvane control line. He was clearly in trouble. I was trapped on the bow with that loose sail.

I yelled, "Get on the Helm!"

Judy appeared on deck. They both struggled. Finally the boat came onto course, but still heeled over sharply and screaming through the spray.

The wind had gone from 12 to 28 in seconds; no clouds, no warning, and it continued to build, hitting 30. We were caught with full sail and needed to reef, but reefing in that breeze was going to be hard. I steered and all hands got into position. We got it done without tearing a sail or hurting any one but the technique wasn't in the book; anybody's book. I'll tell you about it some time.

We were not out of trouble. We took down the jib. The wind speed passed 40. The waves got really huge. Did I mention driving rain? Not fun. Jean-Mee and Jennifer went below. Judy and I worked together getting things cleaned up. She's good. I love her.

At 03:30 the four of us put in the third reef. It helped but we still had plenty of power, the motion on board was still extreme and we had loads of water on deck as waves washed over us. A lot of it got below. Things were wet. No one slept.

But we coped.

Something like 24 hours later, after a peak of 45.9 knots, the wind settled back into a pattern of low thirties and occasional higher gusts. We passed the southern tip of Madagascar Island a hundred miles away and bore off. Sailing got tolerable again, barely.

The hydraulic system is down and the boom vang has failed but the backstay and baby stay still have pressure. Hope they hold until we make port. The repair list has gotten longer but at this time nothing else is serious.

So Africa isn't going to come easy. But it will come.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, On Passage to Africa

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Saturday, April 09, 2011

April 10, 2011-Passage to Africa, Dispatch #2

For two days it was good. Then the wind left us.

For the next two days we have toiled, struggling to keep the boat moving; putting sails up and taking them down, reefing, shaking it out. The blue skies were gone; grey damped the mood and spitting rain, if not pouring rain, finished it off and left us in a funk.

Or me any how; the crew seemed to keep their spirits up and Judy was positively buoyant. I don't know why but that helped my mood too. That and the food, which has been good.

Squalls rolled through; just enough to look ominous but they held nothing.

Then a vicious combination of cross swells came and had us rolling our guts out, still do, slamming the sails until we worried about the rig.

I went forward to douse the jib and the bow plunged and I got soaked

I yelled at Neptune at the top of my voice. I was beyond frustration.

On Jean-Mee's watch, while we motored, a 20 knot breeze came up from astern. Not in the forecast, but hell, what was? He let out the main and turned off the motor. I said I'd come up later if it held and put on the wind vane.

In an hour the main jibed over and broke a check stay. We never drive down wind on the autopilot with or without a preventer but we did and it caught us. Lucky it wasn't worse.

I fixed the check stay.

On Jennifer's watch we decided to jibe and the main scythed back and forth across the cockpit with evil intent while I tried to rig the preventer. Once I heard then boom whistle over my head and felt the wind of it on my neck but it never touched me. Lucky again.

When you're in a low pressure region and the trade winds beckon you dive south to catch them, so we have turned away from our rumb line, deviating towards the northern side of a high, the circulation around which promises more breeze.

This reminds me of the deep dive south we took going looking for the trade winds out of Sumatra.

That time it took us eight days to find the wind.

This time we hope to find the wind more quickly. We'd better.

Fred & Judy, with Jean-Mee and Jennifer as crew, SV Wings, On Passage

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

April 8, 2011-Passage to Africa, Dispatch #1

It is the third morning at sea on this passage and I stand the dawn watch as is my habit and with my first cup of coffee in my hand I look over my shoulder and see sun rise behind me where it has been these last 14 years as we've sailed ever westward.

We're bound from Reunion Island for Africa and while it is still early, so far it's been a good trip. Oh, we got out of Reunion a bit late on Wednesday morning, waiting over two hours for the customs to appear and give us our clearance, and then after setting sail in the harbor and standing out with flags flying in a bit of nice SE breeze, we had forty miles of fitful winds in Reunion's wind shadow, but we got clear of that at 22:30 and since then it has been fair sailing with clear skies, deep blue sea, and nice wind.

We passed a few east bound ships, some going to Asia, others taking a great circle around the pirate areas north of us going to India of the mid east, but I don't think any other west bound yachts are out here. We should be the first boat of the season to arrive in Richard's Bay. The crew is happy and doing well; with four aboard we get plenty of sleep. The food is plentiful and good, the boat is working well, and at this stage, the weather forecast is fine.

So, not much to report, we've got a bit over 1000 miles to go, and if there's nothing eventful, we'll be in Africa on the 15th of April.

Fred & Judy, with Jean-Mee and Jennifer as crew, SV Wings, On Passage

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

April 6, 2011-Bound for Richard's Bay

On Wednesday, April 6, we left Reunion Island, after a short stay, bound for Richard's Bay, South Africa.

We enjoyed the brief time we had here and might have stayed longer than the five days but there is weather coming. If you believe the long-range forecasts there will be a depression, or more, that would keep us in this port for a couple of more weeks, something we don't want to do. By leaving now, when the depression is over 1000 miles away, we think we can get clear of it and make it safely to Africa.

That is the plan anyhow.

So we are fully watered and provisioned, had a good night's sleep last night, and right now we are just waiting for Doanne (Customs) to come and clear us out.

Reunion was interesting and the terrain, geographically and geologically, is awe inspiring. The mood and feeling of this place is dominated by the 6,000 foot high mountains which rise up in long, steep, cloud shrouded slopes from the sea. The scale of man Vs Mountain is tilted strongly towards nature. Houses on the slopes of the hill look like so many white dots scattered in layers on the green hillside. The people here have also created a very civilized, nice little, piece of France in Reunion and that is also interesting, with the freeways, shopping centers, and small villages filled with great restaurants.

We'll file a full report as soon as we can. The photos will have to wait until we get to Africa; one of the odd things is that it was impossible to get a connection for the boat. This is the first place since Tahiti, 13 years ago, that we have been unable to get online, so posting photos will have to wait.

Meanwhile, we have sailing to do.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, On passage from Reunion Island

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Saturday, April 02, 2011

April 2. 2011-Arrival In Reunion

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Approaching Reunion

We're here. In Reunion. Another island in the Indian Ocean and already we can see that Reunion is a really beautiful and interesting place. A part of France really.

The only problem we've found so far is that we cannot readily get Internet and definately not on the boat so our updates may be limited to occasional chances we have to get into an Internet cafe or when we can make radio updates (like the previous posting) which will not have photos.

However, you can click here to see a few shots from our passage.

We'll stay in touch, and update you when we can.

Click here to see the Log Book Page

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Reunion Island

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Friday, April 01, 2011

April 2, 2011-Blasting Into Reunion

How we came to be blasting into Reunion Island under spinnaker is a bit of a story.

Judy and I talked about it on the way out of Port Louis and we had a plan for the trip; the winds were supposed to be fresh so our idea was to make this first leg an easy one, to set the tone for rest of voyage. We put up the #4 jib even when we both knew the boat would nicely carry a #2.

The reduced sail area worked OK for the first 18 hours. Watches were spent laying about the cockpit and the off watch slept below. No stress. No sweat. Yeah, we were a bit slower than we could have been but we were still looking at a noon arrival in Reunion and things were relaxed.

The weather forced us to change the plan. During the night the wind got light and by dawn we had no speed. Four knots or a bit more but what was worse was that even just to fill the jib we had to sail high of our course. We were looking at a jibe sometime in the morning and that would result in a very unfavorable heading and add miles to the distance.

At dawn I did some calculations and saw that our arrival in Reunion would be after dark Friday instead of noon. Time for a new plan.

I called for all hands and the 3-A kite and a sleepy crew came on deck and set the big red sail and then they all went back to bed.

I worked the boat by myself for a couple of hours, coaxing every knot I could out of that breeze and watching for some increase in the pressure of the wind. At first the spinnaker was barely an improvement; the wind had dropped further and 4-5 knots was still the best speed I could make, but at least we were headed the right direction and I just felt that the wind was going to build. I saw the island of Reunion appear in a cloud bank 40 miles ahead: my goal.

The wind came. By 7:00 I had a few 9 knot puffs and in them I could make 6 knots of boat speed. The wind continued to build. By eight I had 10 knots and 7 knots of boat speed. Jean-Mee came on deck for his watch. When the wind hit 14 knots we set the pole and bore off directly for Pointe des Galets. A higher puff came and the boat surged to over eight.

We had even more wind in the next few hours, up to 20 knots, and we flew towards Reunion Island. I gave the helm to Jean-Mee and he was hitting nines when we passed the town of St Denis. Jean-Mee was having a blast steering and I liked the miles we were making. At noon we took down the kite and turned for the port which we made by 13:30.

It was a fun sail and we were flushed with excitement and satisfied as we motored into the harbor. It was a great ending to a fine passage.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Reunion Island


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