Tin Tin's Sailing Calendar

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Nearly there!

We have motored steadily under completely clear skies for 24 hours, with a wind too light to be useful, and a long high swell rolling in from the old storms in the south raising us high and then taking us down into deep valleys. Our companion yacht, Cesarina, is about 12 miles north of us and we chat occasionally with Dietmar on the VHF. Then last night the wind picked up from the north as predicted, and we are now roaring along on a broad reach at 7.5 knots expecting to arrive in Richard's Bay at noon tomorrow, on Monday 20th November 2017.

Looking at the weather forecasts for the coming week I can see that I will have to spend a couple of days in Richard's Bay before grabbing a weather window for the 90 miles to Durban. Here we will have to wait 4 days for the next weather window, which I hope will be long enough to get to East London or Port Elizabeth. After that it's going to be the same pattern I suspect, hiding in port until he southerly gale blows through, nipping out behind it to push on to whatever shelter we can find along the coast before the next depression comes through a day or so later. It's the most difficult and stressful section of our voyage, and I will be exceedingly glad to get safely to Cape Town!

Our distressing current leakage has stopped, and the terrifying flicker of red lights on the current detector, checked and logged every hour, have suddenly gone a reassuring green. I have been unable to work out what is causing this yet, but must do so some how once in port. Visions of the hull fizzing and dissolving inhabit my uneasy dreams at night.

Since leaving Madagascar I have been ardently reading books about South Africa before we arrive, starting with James Michener's "The Covenant" which shows how the original Dutch settlers, devout Calvinists, interpreted the Old Testament as a direct message from God that South Africa was the promised land and that they were the chosen ones, the new Israelites. The awful conflicts with England in the Boer War and with the Zulus and others on whose lands they encroached are vividly populated by several well drawn families. What is new to me is how the intense hatred of the English by the Afrikaner has been held close and fostered and grown from generation to generation, founded on the intense belief that they are God's chosen race. That each town has monuments to battles by perhaps thirty brave locals in the Anglo-Boer war and that the great injustices were constantly referred to by the Church kept alive that resentment. Somewhere along the way interpretations of the Old Testa
ment were used to justify the, ever more repressive, separation of races until the full horror of apartheid was instituted. It's at this point that Michener ends, before the great hopeful era of Mandela arose, and so it is to him I have turned next, reading avidly through his "Long Walk to Freedom". I find it very humbling to discover how little I know of these times and struggles, and rather urgently need to revisit my first attempt at a novel set in South Africa, "Black Sugar", for criticism of which I already owe much to a true South African, Robert McAdie, and to Rebecca (not enough sex!) However ten potential publishers didn't want it, so if I want to get the story to work I must obviously do several rewrites..........or did they just miss one of the great novels of our time??! Anyway next on my reading list is "Cry, The Beloved Country", and I need to revisit JM Coetzee, read long ago.

Now the real South Africa awaits us!

Friday, 17 November 2017

Out the other side

It's 3pm on Friday 17th November and the sun is shining as long silver swells roll towards us from the south west. The stronger winds during the night have eased a bit to 30 knots, and in fact were never as much as the 50-60 knots I was concerned about getting hit with. We have reefed sails but are making a pleasing 6+ knots close hauled into the waves at about 60degrees to the wind (not great, but the best we seem to be able to do!). Occasionally one breaks over the bows and thunders back across the sprayhood, drenching the helmsman, if not tucked into the shelter. The current is being kind for once and is going our way at 1.5 knots, so we are making respectable progress in a northwesterly direction.

We seem to have lost contact with the other yachts in the radio net we briefly joined, and miss hearing the ketch Peregrine and solo sailor Jackie in her yacht Shanti. She reported rigging problems that were then jury rigged in Rodriguez with the help of the father and son crew in 28' Beguine, and the she had some further repair in Mauritius, but it doesn't sound as though it is properly fixed. I suggested dropping into Madagascar to wait out contrary winds, but I worry about her trip across to South Africa as it seems impossible to miss the storms that come through every three days.

We have just picked up another yacht on our AIS, some 7 miles astern of us. I gave them a call and determined that they have a rigging problem as well, which means that they have to stay on port tack till the weather moderates. Our own rigging creaks and groans a bit, bit seems to be holding firm. But the dreaded current leak is still with us and has got stronger, giving me nightmares about the hull dissolving away. So far nothing we can do has revealed the source of the problem. Time to get the meters out (especially a new ultrasensitve one sent to me by friend George) and start tracing wiring, but to be honest I still get queasy doing that in a big sea, so it has to wait till things calm down.

Anyway, the worst of this blow seems now to be over, and we just have to get across a big area of no wind, and then blow south in a northerly gale. I anticipate arriving in Durban on the night of 20th November, a where we will wait out the next southerly buster for two days, and then try to get south to Port Elizabeth before the next one three days later!

Thursday, 16 November 2017

in the Eye of the Storm

The wind has been howling in the rigging all morning, and we reduced sail to just the staysail, which is too small to be much use except in a hurricane, which this isn't......yet! So we rather stalled and pottered along at 3-4 knots while it rained heavily.

Then the wind eased and the sun came out, and it feels very pleasant, so we put up a bit more sail. But the regularly updated weather map shows that in the next few hours we will get very strong winds from the south, known locally as a "southerly buster"!, accompanied by 5-6 meter waves. So we await this with a degree of anxiety, trusting that the good ship Tin Tin will see us through OK....

With luck we will emerge the other side on Saturday in one piece, at which point the wind will die and we will have to motor, until the next gale hits us from the north, blowing us down towards Durban, or maybe to closer Richard's Bay. There we will have to wait out the next southerly buster before trying to make our way to Port Elizabeth to meet Richard and get Justin onto his plane home on the 28th. We might just make it if the weather allows!

Fortunately Mark has been busy in the galley and we have enjoyed the smell of fresh bread baking, and then a banana cake to use up all the very black bananas in our fruit hammock. However with our freezer now dead, we have been hurrying to eat up any once frozen supplies, and a sad procession of mouldy food keeps flying out of the galley window as each watch tries to prepare a meal....most frustrating!

On the positive side the loss of the freezer means that our batteries are holding out much better and I don't need to jolt Justin awake each night when I fire up the generator, cunningly hidden under his berth.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Stormy Waters

Wednesday 15th November, two days out from Madagascar, and the gale has abated a bit and we have a clear sunny day. The wind pushed us south a lot and we are now clawing back northward , hoping to get above the big storm that is coming our way. The weather forecasts vary a bit in where and when it will hit us, but whatever we do it is going to be very very rough. Confess to having butterflies in my stomach about this one, and long to be safely in port in South Africa!

Monday, 13 November 2017

When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now!

Will you still be sending me a Valentine?
Birthday greetings Bottle of wine?.......

Etc etc 

I had a lovely birthday breakfast in Port Dauphin Madagascar

Sunday, 12 November 2017


Port Dauphin Saturday 11th November 2017.
After a long night tacking south along the coast we finally dropped anchor in the little bay of Port Dauphin, narrowly missing an unmarked rock just below the water. The yacht Cesarina had motor-sailed and was anchored before us.

The scenery is spectacular, with mountainous Pic Louis rising beyond the white sand beaches, it's cliffs faced with great smoothly rounded slabs of rock. The town appears to include many half built structures along the beach. Lots of boys playing football on the sand.

No one seemed to pay any attention to two yachts anchored off the little harbour. Many large dugout canoes paddle out to sea to fish, but none approached us, although we managed to get someone to wave back from one. No outboard motors in sight, and no modern boats! Madagascar is rated by the World Bank as the poorest nation in the world not in conflict.
I rowed over to Cesarina and mentioned to Dietmar and Michael that I was going ashore, but they were horrified and said that under no circumstances would they do this because of the outbreak of plague! This was news to me, so I consulted Family experts in medicine and foreign affairs and found that the bubonic and pneumonic plague epidemic did not appear to be in the south. Nonetheless we stayed on board that afternoon, tired after our 550 miles from Reunion, and I spent time downloading weather reports and planning our next leg to South Africa. A big storm is on the way, and it is going to be tricky timing our exit to get across safely.

Having determined to stay at least another day, this morning I was determined to head ashore. Justin declined the risk, so Mark and I set off, rand to our astonishment our German neighbours hanged their minds and got a lift ashore with us.

Arriving in the crumbling harbour was impressive, with seventy long dug out canoes drawn up in a semi circle on the beach, and a rusting barge sunk in the inner harbour. We tied up and clambered onto the dock as the centre of attention of a crowd. As we walked up to town a smart pickup truck arrived and a pleasant young man got out to introduce himself as the immigration official. However he kindly waived the formalities on Sunday so that we could wander round, but asked that we didn't get into trouble as he hadn't issued visas!

Up at the town we strolled round, and collected a few hangers on, including a young student, Alexandre, who stuck with us all day as we explored. Our route took us round the headland to look into the next bay, and we spotted a humpback whale breaching out at sea.

It became obvious that things were in disrepair. There were restaurants and little hotels that had once been splendid but which were now ruins. We came across a few little roadside stalls selling fruit, and then surprisingly a patisserie which stocked pain au raisin and icecreams! However without money we couldn't buy anything. Back in town we found a hotel that had two or three guests having coffee and nearby aa ATM enabled me to draw out some local currency, the ariaray. The smallest amount was 20,000 ariaray but I was unclear how much that was worth in pound. However it turned out to be worth 4 beers at the hotel, and a euro seems to be 3,000. Here we got chatting to some South African contractors working to refurbish furnaces at the local mining operation, that produces illuminite, whatever that is? Mark kindly went back out to TinTin and brought Justin ashore for a beer, and then we returned for supper as the weather turned to mist and rain. Now, later on Sunday,
it has cleared and the sea is dotted with little lights as the fleet of dug out canoes bob around fishing for squid.

Tomorrow is my sixty fourth birthday.....a number that seems so unreal that I cannot relate to it. I am so lucky to be able be adventuring like this,, and to feel vigorous and moderately youthful. Thankyou to all my family and friends for making this possible!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

We are not alone!

It's 7pm on 9th November and as I sit on watch with the sky darkening, replete with a hot meal of aubergine, chickpeas and tomatoes with rice prepared by Justin I look across 100 yards of quiet sea at an amazing sight. It's another yacht! The 55' Swan, Cesarina, which has closed track with us, has been in contact by radio over the last few days. A few miles away another German boat, Joshua, is in contact by radio as well, and we chat twice a day and exchange information. It seems that the PredictWind service that I use is giving a far more comprehensive look ahead than they can get, so it helps their passage planning.

One hundred and twenty miles ahead lies Madagascar, and a change in the wind is due very soon as a front passes us and the wind goes from NE to SW. We should get thunder and lightning and rain.

Most of the day I seem to have been wrestling with weather forecasts and different passage plans. The tricky problem of southerly gales on the South African coast is still there, with all four forecasts showing different scenarii, making planning very difficult. If we carry straight on it looks as though we encounter 40-60 knot winds with waves in excess of 6 metres as we arrive off Durban. The Agulhas current will turn these into breaking monsters, and so that is not advisable. However if we stay a few days in Madagascar, then the next storm will be upon us a few days later repeating the difficulty!

At present my plan is to wait a day or so in Port Dauphin before I make a decision. Meanwhile Cesarina informs me that one ARC boat has turned back with rigging problems me and another has an injured crewman on board, is running late and s unlikely to get to Richards Bay before the storm hits. Apparently he broke ribs and shoulder mountain biking in Reunion!