Tuesday, February 16, 2010

February 14, 2010 - Dassen Island, South Africa

We are cleared out of the country, provisioned, and ready (as we'll ever be) for the (possibly) two month long run up the South Atlantic, across the Equator, and back to the Caribbean. But we had one obstacle to clear first. The Cape of Storms.

Ever since we arrived in Simonstown five weeks ago, I've been worried about getting around Cape Point, aka the Cape of Good Hope, aka the Cape of Storms. When the wind blows here it can be seriously unpleasant. So we wanted a light wind day to make our rounding. The weather forecast was calling for a calm morning on Sunday, so we planned to depart then. However, the wind honked all night Saturday night into Sunday morning. I tossed and turned all night, worried about the rounding. At one point Sten woke up, listened to it, and figured we weren't going anywhere in the morning.

Before dawn I got up, made some coffee, and looked at the forecast, which unfortunately showed that the next good opportunity for leaving Simonstown wouldn't be until Wednesday. So we decided we had better go. And then Vixen left. And we really felt like we'd be wimping out if we stayed. So we popped some Stugeron and Sten unplugged us from shorepower. Bob and Glenda from Nero came down to say goodbye and help us cast off.

15 knots isn't a lot of wind, but when it is right on the nose and you are motoring directly into it, it makes for some unpleasant going. I didn't chunder, but it was a near thing. And actually, it was a glorious day for rounding Cape Point, or so I surmised each time I lifted my head from my prone position in the cockpit. Sten see plenty of tourists up by the lighthouse and could imagine all the photos being taken of our rounding of the Cape of Good Hope. Here is one that Sten took from a slightly different vantage point.

Good Hope

As we left the cozy confines of False Bay and approached the Cape the water temperature plummeted, dragging down the air temperature with it. On the western side of the Cape, we caught up with Vixen. We hope to see them again in St. Helena in a few weeks.

s/v Vixen - very appropriately canvased for Valentines Day

The rest of the afternoon was spent jibing back and forth, sailing dead downwind in a rolling swell as we made our way towards Dassen Island. Along the way, we picked up a hitchhiker. A cormorant insisted upon hitching a ride with us. Knowing what a mess his poo would make of Mata'irea's decks, we chased him off five times, but he kept coming back. The sixth time he approached the boat, he flew right into the side stays. Figuring that he was too dumb or tired to survive the night on his own, we took pity on him and let him tag along with us to Dassen Island.

Table Mountain recedes in the distance

All afternoon we enjoyed at least a half-knot of current assistance from the Benguela Current, which pulls icy cold Antarctic waters up along the West coast of Africa. We were hoping to reach the protected anchorage on the north end of the island shortly after sundown. But the wind died down in the late afternoon, and it took us until almost 11pm to reach Dassen.

One of many playful pods of seals that kept us entertained throughout the day

After dark we were treated to a spectacular display of phosphorescent comets created by seals swimming under and around Mata'irea. With no moon and limited light from the shore to guide us, we relied heavily upon the chartplotter radar overlay function to find a safe place to anchor among the fleet of commercial fishing boats sheltered behind the island. Once the anchor was down, we treated ourselves to some pink bubbles to celebrate Valentines Day.

No comments: