A short recap of our last day at sea on this final, short, 400nm passage. We started motoring in order to make it around Cape Aguhlas in the daylight hours, enjoying relatively calm and mild conditions for 7 hours until the wind filled in from behind and we opted for a sail plan of the dbl reefed main alone, no poled out jib, as the wind was meant to build. Once we started sailing we realized that the clutch to lock our wheel, and thereby engage our autopilot, was no longer working. Either there is a hydraulic leak or an electrical fault, neither of which was ascertainable as a diagnosis when Harley inspected the steering cables. Not a big deal, as we accepted that we would need to hand steer the final 60nm or so into port.
Sailing into False Bay (so named because it does not really provide shelter from the prevailing SEly winds that blow here at the "Cape of Storms"), the wind kept us sailing along with a boat speed of 10kts. With a night time arrival we were going to have to anchor outside of the marina in the lee of the large naval base. Because of the military base, the anchorage is limited in size and its boundaries are marked by small buoys lit with white flashing lights. A night time arrival in a busy town with lights all around on land as a background to maritime markings in the foreground in the water is challenging anywhere. We knew there would be a whole host of local yachts crowding this anchorage, and of course, they would be unlit since it is a known anchorage. Finding a big enough spot for Kailani, with enough scope for the 45 foot depth, was going to be a challenge any way we approached it. The wind started to build, and now we were in 40-45kts.
We figured out our spot to drop on the edge of the anchoring field and dropped the anchor. So began problem #1. Because the previous day we had spent 2 hours pounding violently directly into 3-4m seas while effecting the main halyard repair, the anchor chain had castled, making it jammed and unable to run free. This delayed the spot where the hook did get down and set, so during our set we almost came down on top of two boats. Engaging full throttle against the 45kts and now set anchor, we maneuvered Kailani up wind to up-anchor and try again. So began problem #2. Putting out the anchor the second time, with the chain coming out at record speed now as we were blown down, Harley just got the chain stopper thrown down when there were only 3 chain links left - and the line attaching our anchor chain to Kailani had busted. So here we were, a chain stopper holding only 3 chain links against all our chain out and Kailani's 27 tons in 45kts of wind. Yikes.
Next we had to motor up enough to hand pull in at least 10 feet of chain, re-reave it through our windlass, and not drive over the chain in the process and foul our prop. This would have been difficult enough but with the howling of the wind communicating by voice or hand signals was impossible. Jen could not even hear when the shouting was coming from the dodger, catching only portions of communication when her ears were directly down wind of any words coming from only 6 feet upwind... The sound of the wind was then augmented by a tearing and flapping. One of our flexible solar panels violently ripped off of the bimini, held only by its wiring as it flailed around. Miraculously, we nabbed it and stuck it into the cockpit, dangling by its electrical connections and completely trashed, but at least no longer a flying object which could cause injury. Motoring up, we got enough slack to get some chain in the windlass, but by the time Jen could here the "stop" call from the bow, we had almost driven up over the chain. A huge hard turn to the left, and we just cleared it. Finally, Kailani was anchored. We tied down the main sail with some line, and got down below for a long night of anchor watch.
It blew hard until 0500 when it abated to only 25kts, so the captain called off anchor watches (of course keeping the anchor alarm on) and everyone snatched a few hours of sleep. We woke at sunrise thinking it had all been a dream - it was calm and beautiful, with less than 5kts of wind and full sunshine. It was forecast to blow through early afternoon, so we happily accepted the light winds, pulled up the anchor and moved Kailani to the marina. Phew. Needless to say, we spent yesterday trying to recover ....
So here we are, on Halloween, and about to get Sophia out as a pirate around town. Who knows what fun awaits us as we enjoy the many splendors of LAND and all of its safety!
We got back under sail on course moving away from the oil platform and shipping traffic, as evening approached and the red sky to the west greeted us. At this point Harley pondered out loud, "does 'red sky at night' actually mean the opposite in the southern hemisphere?" ... We re-grouped, had some hot beverages and showers, nursed various mild contusions, and resumed our night watches. Just when all was calm and going well, we were in for another adrenaline rush when, at 0115 this morning, we hit a whale. Seriously, we can't make this stuff up! Rushing topsides, we inspected everything and cautiously concluded that Kailani did not suffer any damage (no word from the whale...). The wind went very light early this morning, so after daylight, breakfast and coffee, and after much cautious contemplation, we decided it was best to motor for a few hours to get around Cape Aghulas before nightfall, when the wind should fill in enough that we can make way DDW with only a dbl reefed main. We are reluctant at this point to rig a poled out headsail, suspicious a bit of what may come our way. We hope to make it in tonight by midnight local.
While we were a bit disappointed that we have had to delay landfall and could not indeed lay Durban as planned, we just received news that Durban is no longer an option for landfall. The storm we just sailed through hit Durban hard 2 days ago, completely wiping out the marina there, and destroying over 100 boats. Whatever we just experienced on the open ocean was probably nothing compared to being in that harbor with boats ripped from docks, docks ripped from land. Once again, we feel lucky and looked out for by the man upstairs.
On the chart just offshore of the SA coast the chart notes "ABNORMAL WAVES of up to 20m in height, preceded by a deep trough, may be encountered to the seaward edge of the Continental Shelf" ... these waves are caused when the L pressure SWly winds go up against the up to 6kt S-Swly Agulhas Current. This is why we have to be so careful about timing our crossing of the current and make it safely to the 100 fathom line along the coast before the heart of the SWly hits. Right now it is forecast to hit early Friday morning. We are aiming to arrive in the wee hours of Friday morning too. Oh yeah, did we mention that Friday is the 13th? Good thing we aren't superstitious aboard Kailani!
At the moment we are motoring over a very impressive sea mount - the Soudan Bank - where the sea floor rises to a depth of only 100 feet from 9,000 feet, sure to be rich with fish. So to keep our smallest sailor (who is also quite the fisher-girl) happy, as well as to not disappoint our kiwi friends, we have thrown out a lure. Meanwhile, just before approaching the sea mount, we had to divert our course for a container ship. We came upon him on our rhumbline, and the AIS info said "Cargo Ship. Not Under Command" moving at 1.4kts, clearly just drifting northward ... Hmmm, what does that mean exactly? Pirates? Disabled engine? Out of fuel? We considered calling them up and offering to see if they needed assistance, or perhaps some provisions - after all, we have 1 cabbage leaf, 3 carrots, 2 onions, 6 garlic cloves and 4 eggs left, and could even spare about 5 liters of diesel ... hah!! Our considered opinion, however, is that the ship, out of France and bound for Reunion, has a specified ETA and needs to wait it out to time his arrival. So many times we have done the same thing!! But alas, we are not a 334m long hunk of metal in everyone's way!
Anyway, it is either fresh fish or spaghetti carbonara for our last dinner at sea (note, we did not even consider offering up our last 1/4 kilo of bacon to the cargo ship...).
Two days ago we had the most glorious weather when the sun came out full strength, the seas calmed down, and we supplemented our typical daily snorkel and kayak with a full afternoon of tropical beach "r&r" - eating coconuts, riding the incoming rip between Ile Fouquet and Ile Takamaka, relaxing in the shade of palm trees, and taking a ride on a very dynamic tree swing. The wind went light two nights ago, making our anchorage extremely rolly with exposure to an uncomfortable SW swell, so we have taken advantage of this light wind situation to move south to the Ile Boddam anchorage, where we are on a mooring. Anchoring is prohibited in this section of the lagoon as it is all coral bommies, so cruisers have developed moorings over time - a mixture of chain, line, shackles, mooring balls - all attached to pieces of coral. Compared to where we were at Ile Fouquet, there is relatively little current (and no roll). This makes for the perfect weather to further explore, but more importantly, finish our various sail repairs and boat prep prior to passage. Off we go to clean the bottom, a welcome relief from the heat and humidity ... We are looking at departing in 4 days (Thursday) for our passage to Mauritius.
A couple days ago we took our big dinghy down to Ile Boddam, to the old settlement of Chagosians who were evicted ... there is now a "yacht club" of sorts, each passing cruiser leaving its mark by readying a shelter and organizing the various plastic trash so prevalent on every windward shore. There was a wheelbarrow made from plastic jugs and flip flops ... mostly it was a bit spooky, not much left of the former islanders except some old structure walls and a memorial placed by some Chagossian descendants who were granted permission by the BIOT to come place a memorial for their loved ones that they had to leave behind at rest. We spent a quick morning there as the weather changed dramatically and a frontal system moved in 6 hours ahead of the weather forecast ... (generally true here, weather has not been as forecast... not even close!) . We sheltered on the beach for one downpour, then in the yacht club shelter for the next, before we thought we had a clear enough window to make it back the 3.5 nm north to Kailani. Home never felt so good than that day arriving back safely to Kailani.
We have been the only boat here now for the last 6 days - glorious! We are extra careful with all things we do, as the nearest people are 100+ miles to the south, our "lee shore" in the SE winds is an open ocean cut, and when the wind shifts we have lee shores all around with the tiny sand spit just enough for us to have comfortable 360 degree swing room. We are humbled by the many many shipwrecks surrounding us (so far we have snorkeled 2 submerged ones, explored 2 beach bound ones). Today at low tide we are venturing to do a hike around the entire island of Ile Fouquet. At high tide most islands in this group have no real beach - just lush dense jungle, mostly coconut palms and mangroves. When we are near land, it sounds like Jurassic Park with all kinds of crazy and exotic bird (and other??) sounds emitting from the dense woods, with occasional movement in the lower fronds seemingly (hopefully?) linked to the wind moving across the island. Basically, hiking ashore here is the kind of place one needs a machete and an epi-pen to traverse. So off we go, machete & epi-pen packed, to explore for the day.