December 04, 2010
Puddles of light define the bays, looking more like fire and smoke than the weekend houses and favourite beaches of memory. The night sky is a heavy blanket of stars reaching from horizon to land, the stars that have been upside down for so long now ordered and correct in their places. I can see the blinking lighthouses off Pringle Bay and Cape Point which remind me of all the others that have sailed this route throughout our history. Somehow I feel that I am joined with them in spirit as we complete this circle round the globe. Tonight is our last night of this epic voyage of adventure and discovery, this watch the last of this trip. I feel like shouting to the stars that I am almost home, that I did it, that I am now a sailor.
Okay, so all very well to be waxing lyrical about the beautiful scenery etc… there I am bundled up watching the clouds cover the stars and the night get darker when I think it’s time to go down below to check that we are on course. Looking at the GPS I am a little concerned to see that we are heading straight for a way point called ROCK. Next to the way point is a warning that promises “regularly breaking seas” and “breaking waves in big swell”. Great. Then it starts raining, which is OK, ‘cos I just move down below to watch the radar. The wind starts whistling, which is, as far as I am concerned, never a good sign. Let me just interject that right now we are sailing without any sails as a) there has been no wind and we don’t want flogging sails, and b) as Rijk was dropping the main he pulled the leech and the whole sail ripped in his hands. Time to get home or what?? So, under bare poles we are now in quickening wind. I watch the wind climb steadily from 10kn to 18kn, and then from 25 to 30. Sheesh, I think. Thank goodness it’s coming from the stern (SE)! Then it climbs to 35kn, then to 40kn! At 45kn I can’t contain my anxiety and rush downstairs to wake Jay 15 minutes early for his watch. “Jay, Jay” I squeak, “The wind is up to 45 knots! Should we wake Rijk?” Which of course turns out to be completely unnecessary as he has also been woken by uMoya’s pitching and the wind’s wailing. We are now going 9 knots under bare poles in 45knots wind. . Off the Cape of Storms, one of the most dangerous capes in the world. I am sent to bed, to lie, wakefully, listening to every groan and squeak and think how similar this scary night and the first night of the trip are. Except this time I am not crying! No one gets any sleep and eventually the wind backs down to a howling 30/35knots as we cruise outside Hout Bay trying to decide whether we should risk trying to enter the marina.
Hout Bay can be a very windy place. The wind funnels down Chapman’s Peak and there have been recorded winds of 80+ knots, which is 160 kph! Not for the faint hearted. After frootling around outside the bay trying to decide whether or not to head in, we got cold enough for our decision to be made. As we nosed into the harbour the sun was rising, illuminating the Sentinel and it was blowing 30 knots easy. Not exactly what you need when docking. To make a very gory story short, we didn’t get our stern ropes on in time (possibly to do with my Michelin rope throw, although I maintain it was the rope catcher’s lack of the necessary speed) and we were suddenly across the mooring, bow trying to ramp one pontoon and the stern actually on top of the other one and its cleats. GULP. Cue lots of shouting and pretty much some of the worst language we have had on this trip, and then miraculously, without a hole in our side, we were off the pontoon, off the cleat, and parked. And we were home! Nothing like being humbled at the very last moment.