As mentioned in the previous post, we were having a wild ride down the south coast of South Africa. We left Richards Bay on Wednesday morning. The South African coast is notorious for being a challenge. After we “parked” the boat during some contrary winds for a night, we got up at dawn and continued moving. Karen was still not feeling well, but we needed to continue moving. The motion wasn’t as bad in daylight, and the winds had eased a tiny bit. But, it took a few hours before the forecasted wind change which finally settled the seas. Then we were riding in the strong Aghulas current and were making 11-12 knots average for several hours in much more comfortable conditions.
Our route to Knysna
Unfortunately, at about sunset, the winds died as forecasted. We ended up motoring through the night and into the early morning light hours as we passed Port Elizabeth. At least the seas were pretty flat. We were headed next to St. Francis. As we were going along, Karen was expressing frustration at feeling bad still. And was wondering about the new medications we had picked up in Richards Bay before we left. They were generics and maybe they weren’t working right. I said we should get online and check if there were problems with it. So, she went to get the box out and realized suddenly she had been taking the wrong medicine! It turns out the result was that she was having bad effects from wrong chemical makeup and it was probably the cause of her motion sickness and other things. Thank God we figured that out and she was soon feeling much better.
Our boat Tahina is a St. Francis 50 catamaran built in South Africa in 2007. We were hoping to meet and go ashore at St. Francis to see the place of her birth. Unfortunately, we arrived on an early Saturday morning and the yard I knew was likely to be closed. We were unable to reach anyone. Also, as we were enroute, the forecasted easterly winds had grown and we sailed there quickly. There is no protection at their bay, and we couldn’t anchor to wait. Since we have plans to drive by later this month, we decided we’ll visit on land then.
Not being able to wait at St. Francis presented another problem. We had been planning to stop at Knysna – a beautiful safe harbor up a river with an infamous challenging entrance between two large rocky cliffs. But, you have to enter at slack tide or, better yet, at a rising tide (where the water is going inwards and not conflicting with the seas causing breaking waves). Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to happen during daylight hours until 10 AM the next morning.
So, we ended up going part way to Knysna, and having to hove to (park) the boat yet again at sea shortly after sunset. But, the winds were even stronger. We ended up with 30-35 knot winds much of the night. The wind itself wasn’t an issue as we only put up a tiny amount of sails. But, while slowly drifting we had to endure 3-4 meter (9-12 foot) swells contantly tossing our boat back and forth. It wasn’t a very pleasant night of sleeping. We did have clear skies and a full moon though, so checking for other boats was not an issue.
The next morning, we made our way to the entrance. The winds dropped as we were on our way. There is a web cam that shows the entrance at theheads.co.za which shows you what the conditions are like. We were able to use our phones to check the web cam and make sure things were acceptable. Fortunately, the swell had a chance to drop by the time we arrived, and the tides were right. There were still a few breaking waves, but we just timed ourselves after one breaker and went full throttle through. We were literally only a few feet from ugly rock cliffs on one side when we made the pass, but that’s where the best depths of water were located and is the recommended route. I had contacted the local rescue office who watched our approach to provide advice if needed. He congratulated us on doing a good job and welcomed us to Knysna.
A few minutes later, we were up the river and found the anchorage near the yacht club. Our friends on s/v Kilkea soon came over in their dinghy and took us to shore for lunch. They said the yacht club was very social, but the restaurant closes on Sunday. So, we went to the charming waterfront restaurant area and had an excellent lunch.
While we were exploring the shopping area nearby eating ice cream, I saw someone and realized it was another yachtie we know named Sven from s/v Solar Planet. Turns out he and Katrin had driven down from Port Elizabeth to check out Knysna since they plan to move down here. We were lucky to run into them! So, we sat with them as they had some lunch and had more drinks and food. it was a delightful afternoon!
Here is a map of our final location at Knysna. You can zoom in for a look at “The Heads” – the entrance to Knysna we had to negotiate. We ended up going 628 nautical miles to get here in 4.2 days from Richards Bay. Not at all our best speed, but not bad when you considered we “stopped” two nights because of weather along the way.