Crossing the Danger Zone
While in Reunion, Matt’s son Josh had joined us to sail onward to Cape Town. It was great having him on board - not least for his provision of occasional entertainment in the form of ukulele playing and singing - he’s got a great voice and is good on the ‘oldies’ music!
Pods of dolphins on this leg were magnificent; even though we are used to them now, we never tire of them. Once again flying fish were leaping away from us intermittently, although not so many as we had seen on other legs. But the other animalia highlight for us on the journey, was the little bird that spent a whole night with us. We were used to terns and gulls taking a rest on the bimini when hundreds of miles from land, but this little guy seemed lost and exhausted. We tried to make him comfortable and left him in peace to rest up overnight, before he took back to the air - hopefully to make land again.
This next leg, from Reunion to Richards Bay South Africa, and then around South Africa to Cape Town is definitely the most hazardous on the circumnavigation. With 1450 nm To Richards Bay it was all about the planning, as far as we could, around the weather. The east coast of Africa and the Mozambique channel are notorious for cut off lows that can produce winds of up to 50 knots with little warning. We worked out weather bolt holes in Madagascar and Mozambique – and watched the weather carefully before departing and, or course, en route.
There are two main weather models one can follow round the world, the GFS – low resolution and free service, or the Euro model, which is a paid service. We relied on the Euro model most of the time using an app and downloading via satellite. However for this leg, we also employed a professional weather router, Sebastien in Germany, who provided regular updates and waypoints. Luckily we nailed the weather, with strong northeasterlies giving us a clear and fast run into Richards Bay.
Others were caught and holed up on the south east coast of Madagascar, but got some lemur spotting in while there, and one friend of ours that had had to head up the west coast of Madagascar to avoid the incoming weather had an unwanted adventure with a speedboat complete with four men and four AK47s. Fortunately they were unsuccessful in boarding the yacht with some quick thinking from his crew, Christian, who initially took them by surprise by turning straight at them to ram them, and then turned the yacht along the waves, which the speedboat could not cope with at all and had to retire.
But for us the only real sailing excitement was the crazy gusting winds one day where we transitioned from 5-10 knots to 35 knots in a matter of seconds, and, then an intense day of thunderstorms and sheet lightning. Being hit by lightning on a yacht at sea is not a good thing - and we all had our rubber shoes on just in case! - all had to wear rubber shoes.
This leg also meant we crossed paths with a whole lot of ships which often provided entertainment watching them breaking waves and the like. We often contacted the ships on channel 16 to check their intentions and in all cases, where we were on a possible collision course, they altered course to avoid us. The captains were without fail friendly and courteous and great to deal with. The shipping traffic got more and more intense as we got closer and closer to South Africa as you can see from the AIS pic - definitely the busiest we had ever seen.
As for me and how I fared, I got back on the boat, despite what I’d promised myself through the gales heading to Mauritius, and I had only one request - either we landed in Madagascar for a few days so I too could go lemur spotting, or I step foot on land in South Africa on my birthday - the 11th of November. As it turned out it was the second option - but I was happy with that. It meant the worst was behind us and I was able to really enjoy my birthday. However, before that great moment, I had good days and bad depending on the sea state. Many hours off shift were spent with my favourite salad bowl - one that Josh swore he would never eat salad from again!
Once moored in the Zululand Yacht Club in Richards Bay, I was able to really enjoy myself. Instead of the normal cleaning routine inside and out - the boys arranged for cleaners to come and I had the day entirely off - woohooo!!