DAY 9: THURSDAY 6th November 2014
Sailing into 20/25 knots making headway of around 4-5 knots with storm jib and trysail firmly in place, Blue Heeler lurched and bashed its way west through the pounding seas. We can’t sail directly into the southerly wind so the going was slow. Still, the wind is not too strong but the seas are remarkably rough by comparison. Everything we’ve read about this coast suggested that is the case. We had stronger winds around the top of Madagascar, but calm seas makes all the difference between a great sailing experience and a bad sailing experience! Now and again a whopper wave will slam into the hull, crash over the bimini and fill the cockpit. I feel like we’re in a small toy boat being splashed around in a nasty boy’s bathtub!
No luck with Peri Peri radio this morning, but we did tune in to SA Maritime Net (SAMNET) 14.316MHz and heard Kantala give their position report. At the time they were 82nm to the northwest of us and experiencing similar conditions. They also hove to last night for a bit of reprieve from the boisterous seas. Also managed to speak with Brian. Coruisk are 165nm behind us still battling that nasty north flowing current.
By mid afternoon, it was clear the seas were abating; not as big, but still big enough to knock us around. Another day of this and things should brighten up!
DAY 10: FRIDAY 7th November 2014
On watch last night the moon lit up our way as we sailed westerly in 15knots to find the Mozambique Current. By the crack of dawn, assuming the improved conditions were to remain as per the forecast, we stowed the storm sails and unfurled the Genoa and main, leaving a reef in the main. As we sailed the seas got bigger, bigger, and bigger again as the wind blew stronger and stronger, but never much more than 25knots. By mid morning we were being battered by large waves, deep troughs caused by the southerly current flowing head first into the southerly wind. But everything was coming from the direction we wanted to go. This passage certainly deserves its reputation as being most challenging!
Our trusty vessel was pushed, pounded, smacked and drenched but with reefed sails, Blue Heeler held steady and plodded along the rhumb line. In the hope of finding less nasty conditions away from the current, we headed towards the coast within the 200m contour. Our course was 235deg for 75nm.
Earlier that afternoon, Kantala were within 20nm of us and I called them up on VHF to say hello and to see how they were fairing. Their engine stopped working a few days ago so they needed the wind to make it to Richards Bay. Probably didn’t want this much wind though. The crew were fine and we agreed that even though it’s not too comfortable out here, it will eventually get better. Coruisk contacted us to let us know their jib furler broke, which will be a pain for them.
There’s not much to do when it’s this rough, except hanging on to prevent getting bruises, re-enacting favourite quotes of ‘Seinfeld’ (the sea was angry my friend!), eat plenty of fibre, and avoid dumping a hot dinner on your crew mate at tea-time. Our Blue Heeler handled the conditions wonderfully and kept us as safe and comfortable as possible. As we bounced up and down in the cockpit, we listened to an audiobook about the ill fated Arctic Polaris expedition of 1871. Interesting but probably not the most ideal story in these conditions. With some remaining bananas I decided to bake a cake instead.
By late afternoon we had two options to consider – keep zig-zagging south through huge seas and 25knot winds on the nose, or hove-to and take a break for the night – the decision was easy. I’m writing this at midnight at the end of day 10 and we’re drifting slowly about 5nm from the Mozambique coastline in around 75m. The sea state did improve closer in. Unfortunately our delay down this coast may have thwarted any chance of getting to Richards Bay before the next low. We’ll have to see what lies around the corner. Perseverance.
Beginning of day 11 – after catching a few winks, by 1am a Wayne had us motoring back out into the current. Wind has eased to 15 knots but is still from the south/sou’east so we’ll have to keep tacking through. Back out in the 500m depth, boat speed shows 4knots, but our actual speed over ground is around 7knots. We have current and we’re heading south! Time for banana cake, cranberry yoghurt, mango, and an iced coffee.
Current position: 23*34.811S 35*48.466E
Day 10 distance: I’m not telling.
Crew condition: keen to get this over with (boy it’s been a LONG trip!) Miles to Richards Bay: 370nm
ETA: 10/11 November