Tuesday, February 16, 2010

February 16, 2010 - Saldanha Bay, South Africa

Sharing an anchorage with a De Beers diamond mining ship

When I wrote that "there was no such thing as gunkholing" in South Africa, apparently I was wrong. That's exactly what we've been doing these past few days. From Simonstown we sailed around Cape Point to Dassen Island. We departed Dassen the following afternoon, setting off on the 1665 mile, two week long trip to St. Helena. Instead, we find ourselves in Saldanha Bay, anchored off the yacht club, waiting for wind.

We always find it useful to do a short hop before setting out on a long voyage, particularly after we've been sitting in one place for a long time, or if we've made substantial repairs or alterations to Mata'irea. When we left Simonstown, we weren't quite ready to go to sea for two weeks. So after spending Sunday sailing from Simonstown to Dassen, we both had a slew of things to do to keep us busy on Monday morning. While I made some more passage food, Sten worked up on deck, where the smell of frying fish coming from the commercial fishing boats anchored nearby was almost enough to get him to inflate the dinghy to paddle over and beg for a bite.

Fishing boats anchored in House Bay, Dassen Island

By early afternoon, we were ready to raise the anchor and head Northwest towards St. Helena. On departure, we had seals keeping us company and several Southern Right whales spouting close by. We put everything up and were soon making a decent 6 knots. But the wind had other plans for us. First it clocked around to the west, earlier than forecast, and before we could clear the headlands of Cape Columbine. And then it died. With a sizeable swell running and not enough wind to keep our sails full in that kind of sea state, we were looking at a long and unpleasant night of trying to beat our way around the Cape. The protected harbor of Saldanha Bay was just too attractive an alternative to pass up. So we turned east and sailed past the breakwall and into the harbor just as the sun was setting.

The day wasn't much of a success. We only managed to cover a whole whopping 21 miles of the 1665 to St. Helena. But at least we found a calm, protected anchorage in which to spend the night.

Overnight the wind continued to blow lightly out of the north. And then it started raining. As we lay in our warm, dry bed this morning, looking up at the rain drops splashing off the hatch overhead, we knew we'd made the right call. The forecast this morning confirms our decision to wait for more consistent wind. By hanging out here until tomorrow, we should be set up for a good start on the run north.

Who's ready to get back to the tropics?

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