Heading South from Durban - Day one - 32 09.945S 029 21.700E

Mike and Liz Downing
Sun 8 Dec 2013 15:34
We have a weather window and it looks a reasonably good one. So along with a dozen or more yachts we left Durban yesterday (Saturday) and we're on our way south. We know 5 of the boats and will be keeping in touch via the SSB on a daily basis (the boats very soon spread out and disappear). The others we know of, but have not met. We almost met one this morning when we ended up getting quite close! Had to do some work on the engine and after having a good look around, went below for half an hour or so. When we came up we were abeam of, and no more than 100 yards from another yacht. Talking on the VHF afterwards he had slowed down to change sails and by that time we were making 11kts(!) so covering the ground quite rapidly. Apparently he had been waiting in Durban for 4 weeks for a weather window to come along. (It's very difficult to sail to a schedule around this coast!)
11kts - is that a typo?, you might ask. No, the first objective after leaving Durban is to find the Agulhas current, and it does take a little finding, but with a dozen boats all trying to find it, the VHF was buzzing with reports. The books all say find the 200 metre depth contour, but it was further out and although we left at 13.00 yesterday, we didn't get into the current until late evening. It runs at anything from 1.5 to 5kts depending on where you are and the time of year. Having a very light and fickle wind we were motor-sailing making around 5 to 6 kts. Once we found the current that jumped to 8kts. The wind then came up in the early hours this morning and the motor went off and the 2 headsails were poled out, giving 6kts through the water and now 9kts over the ground, so 3kts of current. The wind came up further and the speed through the water went up to 7kts and the current increased up to 4kts, so giving a speed over the ground of 11kts. It's stayed like that for most of the day apart from a few times over 12kts. The position above is our noon position today and in the 23 hours since leaving Durban we've covered 173.2 miles! Not a record as in 2010 we made 191 miles in 24 hours and had quite a few in the 180s, but it's the best run for the last 3 years. Where are we heading? South and west, as far as this weather window will allow.
Had 2 visits from an albatross today, on the first visit it came really close and circled the boat, having a good look at us. They are magnificent birds when in flight.

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