September 18, 2011-Wild Weather on an Untamed Coast
On a high tide when the swells are up Zululand breathes in nervous rhythm with those seas and the boats pull and tug on their mooring lines with the unseen rise and fall. We look knowingly from our decks towards the jetty and see the white crests sweeping along the rocks.
In this part of the world the weather comes with swift violence either swirling up the coast from the Southern Ocean or blowing down the coast from the Mozambique Channel. Either way it often arrives with a suddenness that can catch you unawares. We sat one day on the yacht club veranda and absently watched a small cat’s paw come across the inlet towards us and when it arrived the wind switched instantly from a warm 15 knot northerly to an icy 20 knot southerly. Today, in the still heat of the day, we had the all the hatches wide open as we worked below deck and 10 minutes later we were slamming them shut as our papers blew around the cabin in a cold tornado caused by the daily switch. This month we are getting these changes in a 24 hour pattern and the arrival of the system is usually followed by 6 hours or more of gales when the trees ashore wave like fields of tall grass and the birds who dare to fly are blown scattered across the sky; the gales then falling off to zero and we enjoy 12 hours of light winds or lulls before the next system arrives. And arrive it will.
When we lie in our bunks at night and feel the boat buffeted by the howling winds, which, unlike the waves, seem to arrive at our berth un-impeded, we think of the seas shouldering roughly against the jetty and we can only shrink at the thought of being at sea on such nights, and there are many of them on this coast.
Yet there are also days of soft winds and mild weather; days when the sky is blue and the sun warm and the ocean outside sparkles an invitation and white sails flash back and forth in the channel. On these days we might take a short sail and maybe even join a friendly yacht club race.
But we watch nervously for the next system.
One day we will have to face the weather on this coast when we venture out for more than just a day sail and make our way to the southern capes and around to Cape Town. When we do we will be counting on the southern summer to moderate the wild weather we are experiencing now.
Otherwise we may just stay here in the shelter of Zululand Yacht Club.
Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Richards Bay, South Africa