I made it!  I arrived nearly all in one piece, but unfortunately I didn’t get in without a little more excitement than I wanted.

Since leaving Durban, I’ve sailed nearly 800 nm, spending six nights at sea with just the one stop in East London.  I really got lucky on the second weather window that let me sail the 530 nm from East London to Simon’s Town non-stop.  It seemed to be an especially long window, the forecasting was excellent, and I was able to put together an approach to the passage based on the forecast that left me with a little motorsailing, but never having to deal with contrary winds or any really bad conditions.

Rounding the cape was a little anti-climactic.  It was a cool feeling, but at the time I would gladly have traded it for a warm shower and a nap.  Sailors always joke that anything with the word “Cape” in it means trouble, but although it was windy, and the seas were a bit rougher there, it was nothing like the harrowing stories of rounding the cape in a gale from the old days of tall ships.  It also seemed a little strange sailing past it by myself.  Voyaging around one of the world’s southern capes is still sort of a big deal for sailors, so it seemed a little strange to be doing it by myself when this trip has been such a joint effort.  For me, it was a time to think about Wes and Lauren, the two people who have had the most to do with this trip. Wes and I learned to sail together back in Houston aboard our Catalina 30, he kept the dream alive with a string of great charter trips in Florida and the Bahamas after we sold our boat, and he partnered on this trip as well, sailing with us from the US to New Zealand.  Lauren’s shared the dream (and the reality) of this trip since day one and I’m really looking forward to her return (only 2 more days now!).

DSC_0734 Rounding the southernmost point of the African continent – Cape Agulhas.  This one’s dedicated to the original Pura Vida crew:  Wes, Tiff, & Lauren.

Just before rounding the cape, I crossed inside the main shipping lanes and headed farther inshore for the run up to False Bay.  After that, I was free of shipping traffic, but closing with the coast also meant keeping an eye out for the shoreline, only a few miles away, and for several rocky banks.  I had a chance to get a couple of hours of sleep by putting the boat on an offshore course that was well inside the shipping lanes, and two hours of sleep is like an eternity for me at this point.  I woke up with so much energy that I cooked a meal, picked pictures for the blogs, did some emailing, and started writing this blog. 

Unfortunately the energy from two hours of sleep doesn’t last forever.  Right as I was entering False Bay and struggling to stay awake, the blow started.  It must have gotten up to 30-40 knots and it was freezing cold – pants, two sweatshirts and my weathers still left me cold from the wind.  The waves built as well, but I was able to roll the jib up and make 5-6+ knots on only a third of it.  The cold helped keep me awake, but I was still tired enough that if I rested inside for more than 5 or 10 minutes I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

DSC_0750 False Bay is a large, horseshoe-shaped bay open to the south and lined with rugged, mountainous terrain

Everything went smoothly until it was time to furl the jib, start the engines, and come in.  Right as I started rolling in the jib, it really started blowing – gusting over 40 knots.  The port engine was slow to start in the cold, but eventually did.  The starboard wouldn’t.  With this much wind and a tricky spot to get into in the marina, I really needed both engines for maneuverability, so after several attempts to start the engine failed I headed down to the engine room.  I figured it was just cold (we don’t have glow plugs) and there’s a good trick you can use if just heating up the cylinders by trying to start it doesn’t work.  The problem is that you need one person to turn the ignition key (20 ft. away) and another to hold the decompression levers on all three cylinders until the engine is really spinning and then release the decompression levers, allowing the engine to fire.  Luckily the ignition wire was conveniently set up for hotwiring, so I was able to hold the decompression levers and at the same time disconnect the ignition wire and manually short it to the +12V for the starter, sending sparks flying as the engine turned over, but on the second attempt it worked.  I was pretty happy, because it was blowing a gale onshore, I’m not really set up for singlehanded anchoring, and I really wanted to get in and get some sleep and a shower.

Unfortunately, it was apparently a little early and nobody from the marina was answering the radio.  Oh well, I figured I’d go ahead and go in and either flag someone down to help me with the docklines, do it myself, or turn around and go back out to wait.  I did manage to flag down a confused but very helpful sailor named John, who had stuck his head out to have a smoke as I was coming in.  The spot I had to get into was at the very beginning of the dock, next to a wall with other boats, with a strong tailwind, and for some reason, there was a mooring buoy floating right in the middle of the area between slips at that end, ready to foul the prop.  Not exactly what I was hoping for, but I gave it a shot and came close.  Unfortunately, it was a starboard side tie-up and we usually do port-side so that I can see the dock from the helm.  Being unable to see the dock (and the dock having no corner protectors) I gave the starboard hull a pretty good scratch turning the corner.  Oh well.  Normally I’d be pretty bummed about it, but we should be able to get it sorted here and it’s not bad, all told for a passage from Durban to False Bay.  So much for all the danger and excitement happening offshore.

DSC_0758 Doesn’t look tight from this angle, but sure felt that way with the wind howling, and why is there a buoy right in the way?!

DSC_0759 The quaint, colonial-looking waterfront ought to be fun to explore

I didn’t mention it earlier, but we’re formally in the Atlantic Ocean now.  Two down and one to go…