Cape Town to St Helena.

Donald Begg
Tue 29 Jan 2019 17:48
The pilot states that this is a straightforward route, but advises sailors to keep a close watch on the weather before leaving the Cape. We weren’t inclined to hang around, but in any case the weather looked reasonable on PredictWind and Windy, so we sailed at teatime on Thursday 17th January. There was little wind to begin with. A few fishing boats were offshore, one called us on VHF and helpfully guided us around his fishing floats on a dark night. On the Friday we had 20-30 knots of wind from the WSW, as forecast, and were sailing well despite a rough sea, two reefed sails. Saturday morning was easier, but then the wind started building, and by evening we had 35-40 knots from the SE and a rough sea.
These were probably the worst conditions that I have known on this boat. We ran before the gale with a patch of mainsail only (we have in-boom reefing), at night but with a clear sky and full moon. Boat speed was too high, matching that of the waves. If I had had a drogue prepared I would have streamed it. I do have a drogue, but we weren’t expecting this, and I didn’t fancy preparing it in these conditions. In the event, the boat was the star of the show. She ran on the autopilot and steered straight as a die, rolling with the waves, but never losing it or threatening a broach.
By morning the wind was down to 25 knots, and by the afternoon it was 20. The sea was still rough, but we were under control. Phew! These few weeks around the South African capes have been a meteorological roustabout, how about some gentle trade wind sailing from now on? In fact the wind steadied at 20 knots from the SE, we put the twin headsails up, and we had 3 days of good, if rolly, sailing, daily mileages 175, 171, 160. On the 24th we crossed the tropic of Capricorn, on the 25th the Greenwich Meridian, so we’ve been round the world (not an official circumnav, for that we need to recross the equator). On the 26th the wind dropped to 10 knots and backed to the East. By this stage we were 300 miles from St H, so were prepared to switch on the engine and motor-sail. We did so without the mainsail, because we discovered that the cuff which secures the mandril on the boom to the rotating spigot on the mast had sheered, probably during the gale. We ought to be able to jury-rig it, but will need to be in flat harbour water in order to try it.
And the generator? We had it running for 45 minutes on the first day out, and the same again on the third. I changed the fuel filter (this had been done in Richards Bay) and bled the fuel line. On the fourth day I ran the engine for 5 hours to charge the batteries, got fed up with the noise, switched the engine off, the generator on... and it ran! My only theory is that those 5 hours of engine burned off some of the dodgy diesel, leaving us with the better quality Cape Town stuff thereafter.
We motor-sailed for two days and picked up a mooring off Jamestown at 12.30 on Monday 28th January, 1718 miles and just under 11 days from Cape Town, average speed 6.5 knots of which most was under sail.