April 16, 2011-Arrival in Richard's Bay, South Africa
The three others are sleeping.
I have a cup of coffee.
We have completed our crossing of the entire Indian Ocean.
We are tied up to a marina berth in Tuzu Gazi Marina, Richard's Bay, South Africa.
We made it to Africa.
The last 36 hours were a race against the clock. We were due on Friday but mostly we just wanted to avoid another night at sea. We wanted to get here on Saturday at least. For a while it looked like we wouldn't make it. The wind was light and the waves horribly confused. Sailing was difficult. Our headings seemed to be towards anywhere but Africa. The crew was tired. Around midnight Mother Nature threw more at us: Sudden wind shifts and squalls and waves coming from every direction. The sea was attacked us unrelentingly with sudden changes. The only good thing was that the wind did not become too strong. But coping with everything else meant continuous work for us on deck. We were all tired.
At midnight, beyond exhaustion, Judy and I kept working the boat through more changes; a tack which happened when the wind shifted too quickly for the windvane was sorted out, a sail change down to the #4 when a squall overpowered us with the #2 was completed. The tangled ropes were untangled. The tired bodies were pushed further. We almost gave in and dropped all sail; to begin motoring. But motoring in these waves would be slow and uncomfortable too. We willed ourselves to do more. We sorted it out.
We got the boat sailing towards the destination.
By 2:00 AM the wind was steady and building. It hit twenty from the SW, a close reach, and we trimmed in. The main flogged and I got on the helm and pulled hard on the tiller against the weight of the wind. I reset the windvane with more weather helm. We surged forward. The waves were big but Wings shouldered them aside. With a full main and #4 jib we flew in these condtions. The boat speed went to 9 and we were making good the losses of the previous two days. Finally.
I stayed on deck all night to keep watch; to keep it going. Judy sat below in her foul weather gear ready to help but these precautions were not needed. Wings flew and the windvane steered and we touched nothing.
Through the night and most of the next day we sped towards Africa. Through the darkness and rain, steady, cold, rain.
We did turn on the motor when the wind again dropped (but the rain kept up) about 40 miles out, and we kept the engine on even when the wind came back for a while. We didn't trust the breeze to hold. Motor sailing. But with the main pulling and the combination of wind and engine giving good speed we saw that we could make it to port by 19:00 Saturday. After dark, yes, but we thought we could go in. We kept pushing.
And at 19:00, with all hands on deck, we arrived in Richard's Bay, storming in under main on a broad reach, through the breakwater in the pitch black and pouring rain, guided by the lights blinking in the darkness on either side and our charting system showing the way on the big screen below .
No time for hesitation now, we could smell the barn.
George, from Winddancer came up on the VHF and talked us to a slip, meeting us on the dock. He said the authorities would not bother us tonight.
We tied up the boat, folded sails, had hot showers on board, drank champagne, and went to dinner.
The captain paid.
So, we are in Africa.
Now, there are lions to see.
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