L O G B O O K - by John Philp


TUE 7 DEC - We depart Durban at 10am. This is the first ‘weather window’ in four days, so a collection of yachts are leaving at the same time and heading south down the Wild Coast for Cape Town. We are the last of a group of four yachts motoring out the Durban Breakwater in single file. A large southerly swell and light breeze greet us at the breakwater entrance. We point our bows into it and motor south. A couple of hours later the wind picks up and shifts to the east. We hoist all sails and kill the motor.

Having three other yachts in close proximity is fun. Two of them are Millennium Rally yachts, the other is a local ocean racer making it’s way to Cape Town to enter the Cape to Rio Race. While the wind was light they keep up with us but once the wind rises our extra length gives us the advantage and we pull ahead. By late afternoon we are alone on the ocean. A large SW swell remains from the previous gale and it feels strange to be sailing up and over these huge masses of water.

Into the night we sail - the wind freshens, the sky grows cloudy and it rains in light spurts. We keep a sharp eye out for traffic. In these unsettled weather conditions it doesn’t feel entirely comfortable.

WED 8 DEC - This morning we have an assisting current of two knots, occasionally peaking at four and a half knots. We are eating up the miles! In the past twenty four hours we have covered 257 miles - a record for this trip.

At 3.45pm we wait expectantly for the weather forecast to determine our next move. The forecast is for more of the same with more wind so we forge on towards Cape St Francis. As night falls, the wind whistles in the rigging and whitecaps flash in the muted starlight as Tau carries us swiftly along the bottom of the dark continent. We pass numerous ships in the night - mostly large freighters. Our time in the Indian Ocean is nearing an end.

THUR 9 DEC - Morning dawns with grey skies and a light wind from astern causing us to pitch about in the confused swells. We are still close enough to the coast to get commercial radio reception so we rock along listening to FM music. Just then we hear Waisale Serevi on the radio. The Fiji sevens rugby team is in Cape Town for a tournament and the local station has called him for an interview.

We reach Cape St Francis, the home of a world famous surf break, at midday and anchor off a small craft marina. It is not a calm anchorage though and the sea and grey clouds make things very inhospitable. As the anchorage is so uncomfortable we stay just long enough to have a hot meal, haul up the anchor before dark and head south west - this time for Mossel Bay, a passage of 140 miles.

It is a cold and grey evening and the swells pitch us to and fro. It is one of those nights most sailors would be happier warm and dry ashore. Amidst this sorry landscape we recognise spouts against the grey backdrop announcing the presence of whales. A radio report reports a cluster of floating logs in the area 30 feet long and 7 feet in diameter so we post extra watches to keep a sharp eye out for them.

FRI 10 DEC - In our three and a half day trip from Durban we have seen every possible combination of wind, sea and sky. Even on the windy nights there is a period of calm when the stars would appear and we’d be treated to awesome displays of phosphorescence in our wake. Most mornings, there is a short period at sunrise when the wind would back off and the sun would come out. This only lasts an hour, then the wind and grey skies would be back with a vengeance.
This morning it feels as if we are in the Antarctic. A thick fog is restricting visibility to 200 yards, it is cold, and we are passing a couple of seals! As the sun appears and warms things up, we pass a small seal bobbing about in the gentle swell with it’s feet in the air, probably sleeping. Try as we might - whistling and calling out, we cannot rouse it.

The Mossel Bay peninsula looms large out of the fog as we approach. We anchor off Madima Beach - the central beach in town. Tau has now covered ten thousand nautical miles on this circumnavigation.

SAT 11 DEC - The morning is foggy. So thick it feels like rain when you walk into it.

We take down the mainsail, cart it ashore and spread it out on the Mossel Bay Yacht Club lawn to scrub the remaining black Richards Bay coal dust off it.

SUN 12 DEC - Rest day and casual sightseeing.

MON 13 DEC - Sefo wakes me at 6am when he discovers the dinghy missing. We look about and discover it hauled up on the beach directly astern of us. The line used to tie it up with is still fastened to the stern of Tau. Evidently someone had untied it during the night and tried to start it. The start cord must have broken and they ditched the dinghy. Later someone probably saw it abandoned on the beach and pulled it up out of the surf. The motor has been drenched in salt water but Sefo manages to clean it up and get it started.

In the afternoon a local character - Peter Redelinghuys kindly invites us on a drive up the coast to show us the sights. The route we take encompasses an extensive freeway system, not bad for country classified as ‘developing’ by the United Nations.

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