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Sunday, November 27, 2011

November 27, 2011-Mossel Bay

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Fishing boat in Mossel Bay

Mossel Bay is a fishing port, as are most of the ports on this coast, filled with rugged seagoing vessels and working boats which come and go on a daily basis. There is little provision for cruising yachts and we were lucky to find a place to tie up. In fact the port’s first response was to turn us away.

“You must anchor outside the port,” we were told by the voice on the radio. It was ungodly rough outside, exposed to the fury of the Southern Ocean, and we knew that anchoring outside would not be pleasant, probably not even safe, in the open anchorage on a lee shore and with poor holding.

There would certainly be no respite from the rough ocean or rest for us there.

I looked at the port control building and the row of blank windows and I was angry at the faceless men inside who would send us back out into the ocean. It was clear they just wanted us to go away, and any trials we might face after leaving was our concern, not theirs. At that moment I did not have a warm place in my heart for Mossel Bay.

But then they relented and we were allowed to stay within the port and come alongside the fishing jetty. Not a great berth with its high concrete wall and relentless surge but we were thankful for it.

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Mossel Bay

We remained on that wall for a week and then we were able to move to the marina, where we are now, and today the wind still howls and the rain pours down but we are snug and safe.

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Sea Lion

Despite the days of bad weather and the tight conditions in the port we have come to like Mossel Bay with its clean air and clear water with the sea gulls wheeling overhead and the sea lions cavorting in the port. The salt air smells good. This is an honest, working man’s, port and the town on the hillside behind the harbor is charming with its old buildings and quiet streets and on a sunny day, and we have had several, Mossel Bay is beautiful. Even the harbormaster, who spoke sternly to us on the radio that first day, has turned out to be an OK guy.

When I talked with him about the rigors of sailing this coast and the need here for more yachts to be able to find shelter he said he would always find a place to accommodate yachts in bad weather but it was tough with the numbers of fishing boats and other commercial ships here. OK, fair enough; at least he is trying. We shook hands.

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On a sunny day the deck gets a good scrub

Now that we have a marina berth and wheels, (we brought the car down from Port Elizabeth yesterday) we can stay here for a couple more weeks and enjoy the nearby area before sailing on to Cape Town.

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On the the Garden Route

Click here for more shots of Mossel Bay

Click here to see our Sea Lion friends

Click here to see photos of the Garden Route from Port Elizabeth to Mossel Bay

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Mossel Bay, South Africa

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

November 18, 2011-Knysna Aborted

Knysna looked as beautiful as its reputation led us to expect: a blue lagoon surrounded by rolling green pastoral hills and mountains behind. The entrance looked a bit different though: white water all the way across.

Bar was rough

That was the view from Outside.

We never got in. Mission aborted.

Knysna is a river entrance with a narrow gap in the rocks called "The Heads" which is, apparently, impassable at times. This was one of those times.

There is a web cam ( with still shots every 30 minutes. We had internet coverage and we looked at the web cam shot. It showed a big wave just outside, coming in, looking like it was about to break.

I called the Sea Rescue Group and talked to Graham. He said it was flat at the moment but some big sets were coming periodically. We chatted a bit as we both watched the water, he from inside, us from outside. He asked me what our best speed was.

"Seven knots." I said.

"These waves come in at 20." replied Grraham.

Then there was a momentary gap in the conversation. I knew we were both watching the same big comber come in, 3 meters high or more, breaking all the way across the entrance and the wind was blowing the top off the wave. It looked like Sumatra surf to me.

"If you get hit by one like that we'll be picking up the pieces." Graham said.

"Thanks Graham, see you next time."

We diverted to Mossel Bay.

Click here for another shot and see a whale jumping.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Sailing under Africa

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November 17, 2011-Sailing from Port Elizabeth to Knysna.

Left Port Elizabeth at dawn, set the main and #4 and sailed offshore twenty miles looking for a little breeze. Found some: 13 knots from the ESE. Sailing at 6 knots but not towards the mark; VMG 5.0.

Saw a sailboat abeam of us outside, couldn't raise him on the radio. We crossed ahead and left him astern within an hour. Wonder who it was?

Gybed at noon; 103 miles to go. Poled out the jib and now sailing down the rhumb line at 6.6 knots. Hope to make the tide at Knysna by 09:00 tomorrow.

Had a little left over lamb curry in the freezer. Wasn't much for lunch so I dumped in a carton of yogurt. Heated it and a Portugese Bun, and had a glass of red wine.

Remember the meals we had crossing the Indian Ocean, Pierre, and the glasses of wine sometimes more than we needed?

More Later.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, South African Coast

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November 16, 2011-Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth Library

Today we are securing the boat to go to sea; we're leaving Port Elizabeth with the tide in the morning bound for Knysna.

We've been here a week, give or take, since we were gone for a few days, but the boat was here. Anyhow, we've enjoed our stay and we like Port Elizabeth. It is, as the locals say, "The Friendly City", to which we concur. They also say it is "The Windy City", with which we also concur.

ABYC on a Dramatic Afternoon

The central district is historic, filled with old buildings, some in disrepair, others undergoing refurbishment, and some already restored. We walked around quite a bit, and although I didn't feel like carting the big Nikon all over, I did get some photos with my Samsung phone.

Click here for more photos of Port Elizibeth

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Port Elizabeth

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

November 13, 2011-Drive Across the High Veld

Drive Across the High Veld

Our red Merc thundered down the mountain at 145km with the silver VW right on our tail. Out of the Great Karoo we came, headed for the coast, and we could smell the barn, Port Elizabeth, where Wings was moored just four hundred klicks to the South, and we pressed on to make it by dinner time.

We’d flown back to Durban to pick up the car and after a wonderful curry dinner with the warm friends from Nepenthe and Windancer Thursday night we headed out Friday morning, climbing NW out of Durban up onto the Central Plateau of South Africa.

Up here on the High Veld the road flies straight and true and we watched out the car’s windows as mile after mile of low hills and waving grass reminding us of Eastern Washington or Nebraska, or Iowa, rolled by and we easily maintained a high speed and cut the huge arc around Lesotho and through the Free State towards Bloemfontein, arriving by late afternoon.

Religion in the Morning

A hotel, called the City Lodge, and a steak dinner at the Mexican Restaurant which has no Mexican food but does have excellent beef, and we slept well after our drive. Saturday morning found us up at dawn and atop the local viewpoint, Naval Hill, at sunrise, surrounded by religious Afrikaners standing on the rock wall holding bibles or replicas of Gabriel’s horn shouting at God over Bloemfontein’s rooftops in a language which sounded a lot like Hebrew to me but I guess it wasn’t.

Back on the turnpike, headed towards Cape Town, we upped the speed. Straight roads and few cars made us feel we could cruise at any speed the Merc was happy at and it seemed to like 140.

The road to Port Elizabeth branched off at Colesberg and we turned left and started our descent. From the five thousand feet of the Central Pleateau, where it was cool dry and we were glad for the heater, we dropped to 1500ft and rolled out of the hills which looked like Arizona or New Mexico, onto the flat and dry Karoo desert where we needed bit more cool air and we switched on the air conditioning.

Church in Cradock

We had lunch in Cradock, which is where we picked up the VW, and he stayed with us as the road took its final drop out of the Karoo and down to the green coastal hills where the sweeping curves encouraged the Merc to stretch its legs before slowing for the traffic on the coast highway into Port Elizabeth.

The VW turned off at Alicedale and we came on into town on our own by 17:30.

A good run for a couple of days.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Port Elizabeth, SA

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

November 8, 2011-Sailing The African Coast

Boisterous Sailing

This was the trip we’ve been thinking about, dreading maybe, for a couple of years. It’s the BIG African coastal hop and it has a reputation for wild weather and dangerous storms. But Saturday was a nice day, the forecast was good and we set out with optimism and excitement to be going to sea again.

The optimism evaporated with the new forecast we received a few hours after we left. Isn’t this the way it always happens? Now there was a cold front predicted and strong southwesterly winds, maybe even big winds, not light like we thought, and there was a blood chilling mention of “abnormal waves”. But by then we were too far down the track to go back, we felt we were committed.

The strategy we discussed was to sail fast, out in the Agulhas current to help speed us along, and when the wind came, we’d move inshore and out of the big waves.

And hope for the best.

Log entries.

Saturday: The wind died this evening and we are motoring however the wind is coming back a little now and we probably could set the genoa and sail but with more wind coming tonight we hold off. We just don’t know how much wind or when and neither of us wants to be caught out here tonight in a blow with that big genny up. So we’ll motor until the wind fills enough to sail with the small jib then we’ll set that. At least then when the shit hits the fan we will not have to worry about too much sail area.

Sunday: The wind arrived at midnight. Sixteen knots at first but more was coming and we reefed the main. By 09:00 it is blowing 22-26 knots and the waves are big. We have been slamming into the waves a lot and quite a few big ones have come on-board and swept down the deck. We came in-shore to get out of them but that didn’t work; we’re only a couple of miles off the beach and it is still too rough. We can see the huge waves crashing on the rocks, looking close, so now we’ve tacked back over and stopped; we are hove-to on starboard tack, slowly working back to seaward.

We had a drama with the genoa earlier. It was bagged and tied down on the foredeck, and with all the waves crashing over the deck it started to go over the side. I had to go forward and get it back on board. That was fun. I also had to go up the mast and replace a check stay which dropped out and that was some kind of fun too. But we did it and now everything is fine.

Monday: The front passed and the northerly wind that we based this whole trip on came in at midnight. In the morning we were approaching East London, our first potential stop, sailing fast under sunny skies and since the breeze was projected to last until midnight we make the tough decision to bypass East London and go on to Port Elizabeth, taking advantage of the good sailing conditions to make some distance down the coast. But after midnight another front is due so now we want to go as fast as possible to try to get into the next port before it arrives.

At five PM we are flying down the coast, as we have been all day, since midnight in fact. We are pushing the boat hard and we have covered the last 147 miles at an average speed of 8.6 knots, rushing towards Port Elizabeth but also towards the low which is supposed to be forming right between us and port. At the rate the barometer is falling we expect the cold front to hit us between midnight and 02:00 AM. We might make it to port by then and we might not, and we’re trying, but it makes us anxious knowing we are rushing headlong towards some unknown fate at over eight knots. I guess in about seven hours we’ll get to face it, whatever it is.

Tuesday: The new front arrived biting cold and at full strength just as we motored into Port Elizabeth Marina. We were glad to get alongside a moored fishing boat, the only place we could tie up at 03:30 in the tight quarters of the marina in that wind. Now we are safe for the time being and we are exhausted. We’re going to bed.

Next we have the hop to Knysna and then Cape Agulhas.

Click here to see more photos

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Port Elizabeth

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Saturday, November 05, 2011

November 5, 2011-Setting Sail for Cape Town

Today we set sail from Durban, South Africa, for points south, including around Cape of Good Hope, to Cape Town, a distance of about 825 miles. We will break this passage into shorter legs with possible stops at East London, Port Elizabeth, Knysna, Mossel Bay, Simontown, and Cape Town. Other stops are possible.

The weather on this coast is daunting but the forecasting is excellent so we will only go on from one stop to the next when the weather is forecast to be good. We are leaving on Saturday, Nov. 5, with a good five day forecast.

We have just completed major upgrade to the autopilot and sailing instruments. We’ve checked everything on the list. We have plenty of spare parts and tools plus fuel, food and water. We are healthy and rested and feeling confident. We have no crew onboard for this trip.

The boat seems to be in acceptable condition; no problems on the list at this time, however we know that things will break on this passage, as they always do, and we will need to cope with them. We are used to that.

So don't worry.

We will be in radio contact with the local authorities and we have filed a voyage plan (which they insist is a "flight" plan, and though our boat is called Wings, and is plenty fast, it does not fly. Nevermind, they have our plan on file.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Durban
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