Port of Refuge

Dick and Irene Craig
Sun 12 Dec 2010 14:15
We left the marina at Durban around 1pm. Chessie had left about four hours earlier and Brown Eyed Girl a couple of hours before us.
We had to wait to leave the harbour as two ships were entering then, with a catamaran which had a number of trippers aboard and two monohulls, not part of the WARC, we departed.
We motor-sailed five miles past the 200metre contour, where we had expected to find the current but to no avail. The current was slightly in our favour briefly, but for the rest of that day and until the afternoon of the following day, we had an adverse current of up to 2.4knots. While I was on watch and sailingoin a bearing of 218º, in the course of less than 10 minutes, the current moved from 114º to 349º and back to 78º.
At 8.45pm, a shrill, constant alarm sounded. At first I thought it was the gas alarm which is very sensitive and does get set off even if someone is wearing perfume. It was the port engine alarm. We switched on the starboard engine and turned off the engine which had developed a fault.
Next morning, Dick climbed into the port engine room and identified the problem. A threaded end plug had come off and the cooling water had been discharged. This is such an amazing coincidence. A year ago plus 2 days, at 8.45pm, as we entered the marina at St Lucia, the starboard engine alarm went off. The problem, although not caused by a threaded plug was also a lack of water in the engine.
Fortunately, in both cases, Dick managed to fix the problem speedily.
When we raised the parasailor mid afternoon, we had a 3knot tow. By 7pm, the swell was increasing with a following wind, still fluctuating between 7knots and 12knots. We decided against flying the parasailor overnight. The forecast at best was perhaps, an increase of the wind strength by up to 2 knots. We took down the parasailor and unfurled the genoa..
By 5am, there was insufficient wind to even achieve a minimum 5knots of boat speed, so we switched on an engine and motor sailed for a couple of hours . Normally we would continue to sail quite happily at 5knots but we have a deadline before the south westerly starts to blow and we need to cover as much distance as possible.
The sun was shining and there were few clouds in the sky.
At noon, we raised the reefed mainsail, unfurled the genoa and switched off the engine.
By 3pm, the positive current was giving us a tow, maximizing at up to 6.8knots and we were now sailing at 10 to 14 knots, peaking at 14.9knots. For three consecutive hours, with the wind blowing force 6 and 7, we averaged 13knots.
There is no choice regarding a reef in the mainsail. We won’t take delivery of the new sail until we reach Cape Town; while there, we plan to get this damaged sail repaired, as well as the other parasailor.
Half a dozen large dolphins visited us Thursday morning but they didn’t stay.
A cargo ship came up from behind, to starboard. We were aware that the boat was going to overtake us and it looked as if it would give us clearance of at least 0.25 of a nautical mile, close but acceptable. Within a 15minute period, all this changed and the ship was heading straight for us. We called it up on the VHF and were assured that the ship would move further to starboard but eventually, despite being goose winged, we switched on the engines and moved out of the way, being concerned that the proximity and speed of the ship would cause dangerous problems to our boat from the wash, if not from anything else. The ship passed us with less than 50metres between the two boats, less between his stern and our boat.
Mid afternoon, the blue sky and sunshine were replaced by cloud.
Friday morning, with the sun shining again, in a blue sky, we had less than 2knots of current with us and with the wind dropping to under 9knots, had difficulty achieving 5knots, even with the positive current. Once more, we resorted to having to switch on an engine for about three hours; the only way we could be sure that we would arrive at Hout bay, Cape Town, in daylight on Sunday.
The sunset was fantastic and although there was no green flash, the pinks and greys of the sky, with clouds forming nursery characters, more than made up for that. We hadn’t seen such a glorious sunset in quite a long time.
At 11pm.Friday night, with the crescent moon sitting behind an oil platform and the oil rig lit up like a Christmas tree, the picture was surreal.
From midnight and for a couple of hours, we could see the phosphorescence around us, from multiple shoals of fish. As the boat passed through the shoals; the fish jumped to each side of the hulls, forming the shape of an arrow head. Dolphins, also resplendently phosphorescent, were hunting the fish.
From nowhere, the wind came up, blowing force 7 but a couple of hours later, there was no wind and we again resorted to the iron sail. Another hour and the wind was blowing up to 38knots with waves crashing over the decks.
Thereafter, although the wind then settled to force6 and 7, still with big uncomfortable seas, a decision was made to find a port of refuge for the night, rather than to proceed onwards towards the Cape of Good Hope where a gale was blowing.
We spotted a number of seals which came close to the boat and jumped out of the water in a dolphin-like fashion.
Unfortunately, it was dark as we entered the fishing harbour of Gansbaai and from the light of a torch, we could see a number of blue, jerry cans, attached to ropes, being used as buoys. We approached a fishing boat tied up against the harbour wall and asked if we could tie up to him until the morning. He was already expecting two other fishing boats to come alongside and directed us to another wall.
The tyres that adorned the wall were so huge that even our large circular fenders were no match and the topsides could not be protected from the subsequent black rubber marks on the white hull. The swell that was entering the harbour, constantly moved the boat, this was no place to stay.
We spoke to a security guard and he recommended that we pick up a red buoy on the other side of the wall, beyond the fishing boats and he would check it out with the owner of the buoy.
Meanwhile, Chessie and Brown Eyed Girl were having a rather traumatic experience as they battled through the gale ahead. Chessie had lost her rudder and could not reef her mainsail and called for help while brown Eyed Girl remained standing by.
A rescue boat was sent out for Chessie who was taken to Hout Bay marina where the wind was blowing 50knots making it difficult to remain on the pontoon as they made the boat safe.
We understand from the manager of Hout Bay marina that a rescue boat also had to go to the aid of Brown Eyed Girl who was facing 75knot winds and huge seas.
Were we glad that we decided to take refuge and continue the rest of the passage, 70 nautical miles, once the gale had subsided.