Tuesday 21 June 2011 0506UTC 0906 Local
I guess we need to change the clocks to South
African Time which looks like two hours behind our current time. I'll check it
out and perhaps change tomorrow.
Our plans to round south Madagascar were
complicated by the weather patterns which would have favoured staying as far
north as possible and the various bit of advice we had been given to stay
as far south as possible. Eventually due to the favourable winds, the sea state
and gut instinct ( and the desire to shorten the dog leg any southing put into
the passage) we rounded at seventy miles south.
This position while well to the north of a big low
which was passing through would put us in a hole in the wind caused by the wind
shadow of Madagascar. Looking further down the line to Friday, some serious
winds are forecast to set from the south near to Durban. The first time they
appeared on my GRIB files they were wall to wall 40 knots. Yesterday the Grib
showed an initiall 40 knots easing to 30 - 35. However they are blowing from the
South West right over the Agulhas current and here is what the chart says about
Between 29deg South and 33deg 30min South abnormal
waves, up to 66 feet (20metres) high, preceeded by a deep trough, may be
encountered; these occur mainly seaward of the continental shelf, where the Agulhas Current flows most
The reason for telling you this is that with normal
sailing we cannot be expected to get near to Durban until late Friday early
Saturday. Right slap bang in the middle of this forecast full Gale.
So ...... we sailed way above our intial waypoint
of 100 miles south of Madagascar but still well into the very deep water, right
into the slack wind.
My hope was that, looking at the sea state
we were in and the winds on the Gribs, that the sea state in this
location would not be as we were advised.
The cheeky plan was to motor sail through the
slack winds pointing straight for Durban and try to gain a few valuable
hours. The intention was to keep motorsailing until the forecast 20
knots on our port bow arrived. I think that may be it calling me to the deck now
Picking up strong favourable currents we
motorsailed along from 2300 until now at 10 knots. Cheeky but as we had
hardly used a drop of fuel since our windless passage from Sri Lanka I knew
you wouldn't mind.....
More importantly we do not have an option to sail
stright into a southwesterly gale (which I am hoping may be forecast slightly
more favourable when I check the weather today) over the Agulhas current.
So when up against it one has to use all the tools in the box.
We have gained a lot of time and though I will have
to turn off the engine now because we are starting to slam it is just
possible to slide into Durban before the forecast gale comes through. Only just,
and we need 600 - 700 miles of good sailing speeds to hit the coast
near Richards Bay and then slide down towards Durban inside the current which
resides just seaward of the 200m contour of the Continental Shelf.
The reasons for this approach are threefold. We
will be hard on the wind towards South Africa and without tacking and
adding time to the passage we may be able to lay Richards bay some 85 miles to
the North. Richards Bay will do fine as a land fall, and is a port of
entry, if we can't make Durban. Thirdly and as already mentioned
above, by getting to Richards Bay we can follow the coast
down inside the strongest currents on the continental shelf
contour, and by hugging the shore can avoid the worst of the forecast
The forecast however may change as forecasts of 4 -
7 days out are prone to, so all this may change. But hey - it's a plan. A cheeky
wee plan - but a