There is a mistaken belief by landlubbers that sailing on the ocean is scary. This may be true. But what really puts the wind up me is coastal sailing near rocks (hull + rocks = sinking). To raise my anxiety all it takes is a 2.5m swell, 25knot winds, an incoming tide and rocks within a stones throw on one side and breakers on the other. Those were the conditions as we left Knysna earlier this month.
Not only did we need the rising tide during daylight, we also needed ideal wind speed and direction, a swell less than 2.5m and the conditions for a two-day sail to Simon’s Town the best they possibly could. Only then could we escape the confinement of the Knysna lagoon.
While I monitored the chart plotter and tracking from our previous entry into Knysna, Wayne eyeballed the outgoing route motoring along the narrow channel. We’d watched the Knysna webcam most of the morning, but photographic stills of an outgoing low tide really don’t convey what’s really going on at a rising high tide, which is when we would leave later that afternoon. It’s only at the leads when you actually see the course ahead.
Once at the leads, Wayne motored on a course of 186deg while I gritted my teeth and hung onto a winch, in between shifting from port to starboard to take some video footage. With 25knot winds from the south-east and a 2.3m swell, the exit was rough, with big waves thumping against our hull threatening to push Blue Heeler of its course. With a little main and genoa unfurled, we motor sailed through the heads then changed course to 255degrees, before turning off the engine and unfurling more sail. KasteHelme were minutes behind us and would join us for the sail to Simon’s Town. The forecast for the next few days was perfect for sailing – 15/25 knots from the ESE – almost a dead run. Phew!
At the bottom of the African continent out at sea the climate is mild during the day, and cool in the evenings. Back in Thailand in 2013 during our refit we had special canvas and plastic screens made to enclose our cockpit from the weather. With the sails set we can drop the curtains and keep out the rain and wind to make night watch snug and cosy. It’s also great while at anchor, transforming our cockpit into a warm sunroom. Our Dubarry sea boots have earned their worth each night too, keeping our feet toasty and dry. Our initiation to sailing some years ago was around Bass Strait and Tasmania so we are quite prepared for cooler conditions.
Good sailing conditions have sailors heading out to sea from the various ports. Sailing nearby after leaving Port Elizabeth were La Luna, Inish, Elbe and Freyja. It was nice to know we had friends out there with us!
By the second evening as we approached Cape Agulhas, 3m seas swirled and splashed against the hull and we rounded the cape within 4nm from the lighthouse.
To celebrate our exit from the Indian Ocean and crossing the southernmost point of Africa into the Atlantic Ocean, we sloshed a drop of rum overboard to appease Neptune and Wayne had a swill himself to seal the deal. By 8pm it was dark and we were in the Atlantic Ocean with around 15 hours left to reach Simon’s Town.
The sea conditions improved once around Cape Agulhas and the sail towards Simon’s Town was splendid. (Some sailors we later spoke to saw a visible change in the water colour, plus the water temperature reportedly dropped 10degC). We passed Birkenhead Rock and Cape Hangklip on the east and the Cape of Good Hope was visible to the west. Most people believe that the Cape of Good Hope is the southernmost point, but that is actually the most south-westerly point of Africa.
We were warned of 50+knot winds regularly blow in False Bay particularly on approach to the coast. Luckily for us the wind didn’t exceed 22knots and we arrived safely to our berth at the False Bay Yacht Club by 11am.
It was so nice to see so many people here that we’d met crossing the Indian Ocean! Crews from France, Canada, Germany, England, Scotland, USA – people we hadn’t seen since Chagos, or even since Thailand and some we’d met as recently as Madagascar.
So that’s it – We’ve eaten the elephant! Back in Thailand the thought of crossing the Indian Ocean seemed daunting, but breaking it down and doing it bit by bit, it is a very doable ocean and I’m so glad to have visited all the places we’ve been.
There is a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of relief radiating from the crews that has crossed the Indian Ocean. Remember that feeling you had as a child when you returned to school after the summer break?Everybody is excited, refreshed, discussing what they did, how they did it, what broke; what didn’t; all laughing and feeling good about a new year ahead.
Simon’s Town is delightfully pretty and we have a lot to see around Cape Town. With a hire car we’ve managed to get out and see the sights; even drove down to Cape Algulhas for the obligatory Indian/Atlantic Ocean photo!
We have a few weeks until our visa expires then we continue our journey across the Atlantic so a lot of things to do and see in the meantime.
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