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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December 15, 2011-The Southern Tip of Africa

A low pressure system is keeping us hunkered down in the lee of Cape Agulhas at the most southern point of the African continent. For a few days the cold wind from the low cell, one of many that spawn in the roaring 40's and spin past Africa, has been howling over the cape and there is enough fetch where we have taken what little shelter the peninsula affords so that even here Wings pitches and rolls.

Outside it is worse; we can see the waves boiling by and crashing on the reef and they refract around and roll into the shore near our anchorage, the wind blowing their tops off like long grey beards. We've set the storm anchor and we seem to be holding but the snubber line shows signs of wear and we've put on chafing gear. We go on deck to check and adjust the gear and the thirty five knots of wind threatens to blow us off the boat. Walking forward is an adventure. We had a peak of 45 knots yesterday. That's more than enough.

Down below we are out of the wind but listening to the howling sound is tiring.

Our main occupation here is watching the weather. We need a break in the westerlies to get around Cape Agulhas and Cape of Good Hope, 80 miles to the west. The low out there should to move east and there could be a day or two before the next one sweeps in. We'll make a run for it when that break occurs, if it does. The weather is fickle. What looks like a window one day often evaporates by the next and on the weather maps we see the lows out there circling eastward one after the other; they look like monsters waiting to pounce. Sailing in the gap between them is like dashing across a freeway between trucks.

Other boats, also waiting in dubious shelters along this coast, are in similar circumstances including our friends on Nepenthe stuck in Port Elizabeth where the conditions are as bad as here, or worse. One boat, Sonia Azul, left Mossel Bay a few hours behind us in the last break but failed to make it here before the westerlies came back. Tuesday night they were battling to get around Struis Point a few miles east of here, and not making it sailing, when their engine failed and they called for help. A helicopter flew over and checked us out to see if it was us and on the VHF we told them. "No, we're fine, it's another boat farther east." They flew on. Later that night a rescue boat towed Sonjia Azul into the bay where we are and anchored them near us. At least there was a rescue boat. Sonjia Azul is still here and again waiting, like us, for the next window.

And a cormorant, blown down wind and unable to make it back to shore, landed on our deck and sheltered for a while. We hoped he'd stay until the wind quit but he didn't and we watched him try and fail again, then fall into the sea.

We've heard that Simon's Town is a great little town and an excellent place to stop before rounding Cape of Good Hope, but right now all we want to do is get this whole coast behind us.

We want to get to Cape Town and forget the southern tip of Africa.

Added: Photos

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Cape Algulhas


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Anonymous Green World said...

Wow, what an adventure - stay safe out there! Josh

15 December, 2011 22:00  

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