Leaving Durban with the promise of a medium strength north easterly wind, we set off early on the morning of 29 November, loosely in the company of 7th Heaven of Hamble, Anniara and Rythmn representing the UK, Sweden and Canada respectively. And those were just the ones we could identify! When the south westerly lets up and the wind becomes favourable for the next leg down the coast towards Cape Town, every boat that needs to get west, jumps at the opportunity.
The rule for sailing west is pretty simple; aim offshore from Durban until the water warms up to around 25C (indicating that you are in the Agulhas Current) and then run parallel to the coast until the barometer starts to fall at which stage you hope that you are within a few hours of either Port Elizabeth or East London or a sheltering bay further west because there is no stopping anywhere between Durban and East London, at all.
This stretch of coast is not known as the Wild Coast for nothing! All nautical charts of the area carry extensive warnings about the incidence of ‘abnormal Waves’ and advise that due to the steep shelving of the Continental Shelf along this coast and the powerful Agulhas Current, the area is known for abnormal waves that have made large ships disappear in conditions of strong south westerly winds agains the SW flowing current.
Two of the most famous instances of disappearing vessels were of the 150m ship, the Waratah, in 1909 and more recently, the loss of the yacht Rubicon in 1984 during a race from Durban to East London. No evidence was ever found of either vessel or any of their crew.
Having said all that, when one has the right weather conditions, the trip down the coast is impressively fast! We found around 3.5 knots of favourable current and were rewarded with speeds of nearly 10 knots over the ground with minimal effort, all the way to…..
Anita and I lived in East London for 5 years after we got married and we have many happy memories of the time spent there. The opportunity to stop in, see how the place had changed and catch up with old friends was too good to miss.
We docked in East London at 20h00 on 30 November against the harbour wall, guided in by flashing torch light from a friend. Having made fast to the tall wall, we did what cruisers do best……chatted away for hours over a cold beer or two!
Looking back towards the mouth of the Buffalo River from above the now disused Latimer’s Landing.
After a quiet night aboard we made ready to leave for Port Elizabeth early on the morning of 3 December.