Having many South African sailing mates, Matt was well briefed on the notorious South African coast and the Agulhas current. The weather comes through quick and fast here and unless you like going upwind into 40 knots with a 4 knot current against you – you take time to be safe. We got a short weather window to enable us, and three other yachts, to do a quick hop down to Durban – where we had a lot of fun learning to master the Segway. Regarded as one of the most dangerous cities in the world – we found it very friendly with great yacht clubs, beautiful beaches, modern shopping centres, and wonderful food - particularly a sojourn to the Lighthouse Bar and Oyster Box!
From Durban you need a minimum three-day window to get to either East London or Port Elizabeth, and for this leg you need either no wind or a northerly wind. We got lucky and after three days in Durban we got the thumbs up from Sebastian and headed south. 36 hours of motoring followed, although with a 3 knot current with us we made good time, before a sou’easter filled in with 15-25 knots that saw us down to Cape Agulhas.
Shortly after leaving Durban, our friends on the yachts Aurora Polaris, Mad Monkey, and Pinta, as well as the boys spied huge 15m sharks around the yachts - I haven’t quite forgiven them for not waking me up! The next day, Aurora Polaris also radioed us to tell us about the dolphin spectacle they had, with literally hundreds of them surrounding the boat. Unfortunately we missed out. However, the night we reached the Cape was absolutely magical with an incredible moon, brighter than I’d seen before, making the phosphorus in the water sparkle like diamonds - not the usual star-like twinkling! Then, to make up for the missed dolphin spectacle, while I was on watch I was joined by two dolphins leaping beautifully, and with the moonlight and phosphorous as it was, they were an incredible fairytale sparkly green - it was simply magic!
At the Cape the world changed; as we crossed from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, the weather quickly changed from a beautiful benign starlit night, to a veritable maelstrom. The more reliable Euro had forecast up to 25 knots but we got a full on front with 40-45 knots and wild pelting rain. With no visibility and with the main fully reefed, Matt deemed it too dangerous to be on deck (well, they didn’t want to get wet either) so everyone joined me in the saloon where I was navigating brilliantly - well ok, in truth, I was vomiting like there was no tomorrow and for the second time thought my life might soon be over. (Yes , once again to their amusement later on.)
We were in fact just off False Bay when this gale was at its worst, and only 5NM off the coast. In a gale it is often best to turn and sail with the wind for a while, but the wind was on the beam and sailing with the wind would mean we’d end up on the rocks. We limped along, with this uncomfortable closeness to shore, with an ear on the radio and keeping a close eye on the AIS and radar. My feeling of impending doom was not helped by a radio message to all ships providing coordinates and advising all to be alert - a catamaran had capsized just outside the entrance to Cape Town harbour creating a hazard for those heading that way! (We found out later that the crew luckily escaped with their lives, although one of the crew only did so because the skipper managed to go back and dive down to get her out.)
A few hours later, as day broke so did the weather and we found ourselves passing up the magnificent coast getting blue sky and scenic glimpses as the grey skies lifted. Our friends on Aurora Polaris and Mad Monkey were close to us and we managed to enter the harbour together. Sailing into Cape Town is quite an experience and one that all mariners should try and experience once in their lifetime. The scenery is magnificent and you have a great sense of satisfaction knowing you have made it across he Indian!
As soon as we had berthed in the marina and checked in, a very rowdy celebratory party ensued. Apologies to those living nearby, but, the worst was behind us! And even better we now had a six week break to get work done on the boat and fly home for Christmas.