The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Thu 8 Feb 2018 06:39



25:56S  13:45E


So far we've done 85 miles with 1,246  miles to go to St Helena. We did 85 miles in the last 20 hours.  We have 100% cloud cover, a light sea mist and a 3-5 knot SSE winds.  We’re drifting at 1 knot with a 1 metre swell.  Here's what we did yesterday and overnight.


7 February 2018   Namibia to St Helena (Day 1)

I woke to the disturbing sound of no wind.  Thinking that we’d probably be motoring away from Namibia, I worked out that we had used 35-40 litres since we left Cape Town. I poured one of our 21 litre jerry jugs into the main tank and refilled in town. We now have 420 litres of fuel  - enough for 140 hours of motoring or 700 miles.


Another thought that occurred to me in the early hours of the morning was that I ought to check the propeller after a mooring line had been caught around the keel a few days earlier.  The thought of jumping into the cold, dirty water was not appealing, but it had to be done.  I didn’t intend to be in the water very long, so I just put on my 1mm skin suit for protection against the nasty looking jellyfish pulsating around our boat.  The 9.5°C water literally took my breath away, but the propeller and stern gear all look OK.


We zipped ashore to buy the diesel and fill up another three jerry cans of water. Glenys spent our last Namibia dollars on some carvings and a painted fabric from a local guy in the waterfront square. By the time that we’d lifted the dinghy on deck, most of the morning had gone and we dropped the mooring at 11:10.


There was some wind outside the harbour, but unfortunately it was from the NNW – not good when our required course was NW.  The forecast showed a small high pressure system next to the coast, so we motored for an hour to get away from the land.  The NNW wind persisted and picked up to 15 knots, so we pulled out the sails and sailed west, pointing as high as we could. 


Three hours later, after passing through a nil wind area, the wind backed to the SSW at 5-12 knots – we’d escaped the land effect and were into the prevailing winds.  We poled the genoa out to port and sailed wing-on-wing, slowly heading towards our destination 1,330 miles and 10 days away.


About 20 miles out to sea, we came across several large groups of Cape Fur Seals (20 or more) hunting together, which is something that we haven’t seen before.


Unfortunately, the wind remained fickle all afternoon and into the evening, occasionally veering about by up to 90° and dropping down to 5 knots  - at times our boat speed dropped below 2 knots.  Normally, we would crack up and start the engine, but we have to preserve fuel on this long passage.


Thankfully, a few hours after dark, the wind picked up to 8-10 knots and backed to the south-west putting us on a beam reach, allowing us to roar along at 4 – 5 knots.


At our 01:00 watch change, there were four fishing boats within sight - all without AIS.  One was particularly close and appeared to be coming directly at us.  We were only doing 4 knots, so I turned on the engine and increased our speed to 7 knots, but the fishing boat changed course, still coming directly at us.  Glenys turned on our deck light to illuminate our sails, but he kept remorselessly heading for us – I could clearly see his bow despite it being a dark night.


I powered us around 180°, which backed the sails, but this was no great problem in the light 8 knot winds with the main preventer in place.  I gunned the engine and motored at 7 knots in the opposite direction.  This seemed to confuse him, but he then started to turn towards us again.  Glenys was screaming into the VHF radio,  “Fishing boat on our port bow, this is sailing vessel Alba.”  After a couple of calls, he stopped turning towards us and we slowly drew away from him.


I continued motoring away from him for ten minutes, slowly circling back on course and he disappeared off into the night.  We turned the engine off and sailed away at 3-4 knots, keeping a beady eye on the other fishing boats.  Goodness knows what the hell he was doing – was it malicious or was he just coming to have a look at the “interesting” sailing boat?


An hour later, I was motor-sailing again because the wind dropped to 5 knots again and our boat speed was less than 2 knots. To make matters worse, we had a ½ knot current against us, so we weren’t going anywhere and there were still fishing boats around. We continued motoring until dawn.