7. DOWN THE WILD COAST TO THE CAPES.
We left Durban on Sunday Morning 30th January 1983, about twelve hours behind ‘MYONIE’ and planned to make the usual stops, at East London and Port Elizabeth en route to Capetown. The weather at sea off this coast of Africa, a long stretch of which is known as ‘The Wild Coast’, is predictably unfavourable even in those summer months of the Southern Hemisphere. The main problem confronting most small-boat skippers is to make these landfalls, which are up to 200 miles apart, during short periods of favourable conditions. Al however had pronounced the intention that he was "going fifty miles offshore to round the Cape and make Capetown in one haul" and to enjoy sitting out whatever happened along weatherwise in the strong and comfortable old ‘Carol Ketch’ in the process.
"For one more good blow round the Cape!" as he put it.
As for ‘the rest’, armed with Satellite Picture weather-forecasts from the yacht club and upon the tail of a Sou’Westerly blow, our small flotilla of cruisers set off from Durban within the next few hours and subsequently met up again at the stopover ports along the way to Capetown which lay a thousand miles away round the Coast of Southern Africa, with some of the most Famous or Infamous Capes in the world along the way.
I believe ‘JAHO’s finest night of sailing, in nearly 50 years, to have been 18-19th February 1983, crossing the mouth of False Bay between the lights of Cape Hangklip and Cape of Good Hope. Over this measurable distance we made about 7 knots with a SE gale abaft the beam; this is almost maximum hull-speed for ‘Tahiti’. But we paid later ‘through the nose’ as the same ‘gale’ sweeping offshore from the Cape Flats was in our faces -‘on the nose’ - when we rounded up Green Point to head for Capetown Harbour the next afternoon. This was to the delight of the Saturday volunteer rescue-boat squad who were close at hand to offer us a tow the last couple of hundred yards to port. Ignominy aside, accepting this at that time seemed the better choice to another night-out anchored off under the lee of the breakwaters. Always provided that we had succeeded in making that position by nightfall. But was that a wet ride? Whilst all the local week-enders’ yachts, with their ‘Big’ engines, motored home for tea after a pleasurable sail out on Table-Bay in their ‘home conditions’. Thankfully we made only a very small entry in the Capetown press the following week. Reference being made to "the Under-Powered Visiting Yacht -‘JAHO’" - 16.5 hp is definitely not enough to push ‘Tahiti’ into a strong head-wind of the ‘Cape Doctor’ variety. Mention has already been made of the much more prominent press (which was to have later serious consequences) that had been given us earlier when we were leaving Durban. Still, that’s another part of the story.
We made Capetown - our 15 minutes' ‘on-tow’ notwithstanding - the afternoon of Saturday 19th February 1983 which was twenty days after leaving Durban. We had been at sea for a total of twelve of those, covering the 1000 mile leg, had spent a couple of days in East London, then a few more in Port Elizabeth (getting some further sail repairs done). In the meantime, a farming-sailor friend from the Transvaal had driven 1000 miles inland to check his harvesting then driven back to rejoin his yacht and we had all pushed on for the Cape and Capetown with all but three boats arriving one way or the other and safely. Three had to stay back for repairs after sustaining significant damage in knock-downs or gybes on the various passages. Two had left at the wrong times for one reason or another, the third boat was just caught unluckily. The Skipper of one husband and wife team sustained an additional injury when a flare he was setting off had appeared to malfunction, only to go off when he was then inspecting it too closely. Mention must be made of the excellent services of the South African National Sea Rescue Institute and it’s volunteers all around their coastal waters, which are known to be some of the most dangerous of any ocean by virtue of many inter-related factors, Oceanic, Climatic and Topographical.
On arrival in Capetown, we in ‘JAHO’ were still about twelve hours behind ‘MYONIE’, the Gehrmans having arrived that morning. Al imparted that they had been "hove-to a couple of times" in their long haul round the Cape. I have no doubts he and Helene regarded this as time well spent while re-reading good books in true Slocum fashion. So there you have it ‘in a nutshell’ so to speak, or at least ‘in a John Hanna boat’ - " Ye pays y’r money and ye takes y’r choice!".
We’ll leave the story thus far, with the Capes of Southern Africa behind us and the Atlantic ahead. Suffice for now to say that we reached St Kitts in the Eastern Caribbean - and the original (1623) British Settlement in the West Indies - May 16th 1983, having sailed 9000 miles, in 107 days at sea, from Seychelles in a 47 year old ‘Tahiti Ketch’ that had served her early years as an open Harbour Work-boat through circumstances that were not part of the design - or were they? - Although that time is probably well over par even for a ‘Tahiti’, the last 4000 miles, from St Helena, was sailed in 40 days - I should have had Jack Hanna aboard for that leg - I know he would have enjoyed it.
the story continues.................
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