Monday, January 7, 2013

Down the South African Coast #2

Sometimes things go really well, and sometimes they go OK, and then there are other times, and this is one of those. We left Port Elizabeth with what was described as, 'not a great window, but a window nonetheless'. The forecast suggested that we would have to motor for about 10 hours into a 10 to 15 knot westerly (we were going almost directly into it) and that the swells would be two to three metres which is fairly large for bashing into, although the period was something like 12 seconds growing to 17 seconds which meant that the waves would be very far apart. The wind was then to shift towards south at about the same speed which would be ideal. Our goal was to go to Knysna, a lovely resort town with a long lagoon that can only be entered just before high tide. We had about 26 hours to get there which seemed ample.

As they say about the best laid plans .. The wind did not switch and we ended up bashing for more than 27 hours and could not make the tide at Knynsna. Also we had to run the engine faster than normal, about 2300 rpm to make any decent progress. It was not nice. We decided to go into Plettenberg Bay which is a protected (from the west and southwest) spot behind a small but tall island. We got into the bay and dropped the anchor, but when we went to set it by reversing strongly, we got a nasty squeal from the engine. A quick inspection revealed that the raw water pump had croaked and was leaking into the bilge. We closed the engine water intake and decided to sail to the next real town, Mossel Bay since Plettenberg would be uncomfortable at best when the wind eventually swung east of south. Plus there was no way to do a repair there. We sailed off the anchor and were on our way just as it was getting dark. Winds were still from the west and only about 8 to 10 knots. Our first challenge was to get out of the bay. On starboard tack we were almost heading back towards PE, but when we tacked onto port, ie in the general direction we wanted to go, a nasty current kept wanting to take us back into the bay or even worse, onto the reef that extended out from the island. It took us about two hours to get a little distance away from the island and headed generally west north west which meant that every few hours we had to tack offshore again to get some searoom and still the switch to the south did not happen. By this point it was more than a day behind schedule and we wondered if it would ever happen - even though the forecast we got at Plettenberg said it was still coming.

While we were at Plettenberg and in cell phone range we called the port control and rescue unit at Mossel ceptBay and thought we had arranged a tow into the fairly small harbour there. We thought we would be there in the afternoon sometime since it was only 60 miles or so. Finally on New Year's Day we got our southerly wind, not strong but at least in a good direction. We decided to put up the asymmetric to help us get to Mossel Bay before dark. We have two spinnaker halyards and when I went to unsnap the starboard one the snap shackle, a big old one from symmetric spinnaker days came apart in my hand except for the part that fell in the water. OK, I thought, it was old and perhaps just in need of replacement, so I used the port halyard instead. We had a nice sail for a time but then the wind started getting stronger so we thought it a good idea to drop the chute. Drop it we did, the halyard had chafed on something (have to go up the mast to see on what, we have not had this problem before) and broke as were trying to get it down. It quickly became a great long purse seine beside us. Even the snuffer sock that goes over the sail reversed itself so the whole thing was well over 100 feet long and had to be pulled back on deck.

 Next problem was that we had tried the engine to make sure we could use it briefly when we got to Mossel Bay and it would not start, think it is fuel blockage but can't really work on that until we get a new water pump. Next problem, we call port control and they say that tows cannot be done at night so we will have to anchor next to the harbour entrance and wait for the morning. Also the tow will not be by the rescue squad, which is sort of like the coast guard auxiliary, but by one of the official port vessels at considerable cost. Anyway, this meant coming into an unfamiliar harbour area after dark under sail with the wind behind and lots of lights in front of us to anchor. There were also a number of moorings and other floats off the beach to worry about. Fortunately, the anchoring went fine (yay for the Manson for grabbing so hard on the fist go since we might not have had a second one) and we spent a miserable night anchored off a leeshore in 25 knots and considerable swells all night. In the morning a tow launch came out to get us and at cost of not much more than $400 for half an hour's work we were tied up at a dock in the harbour.

Now comes the challenge of getting everything sorted out. The Westerbeke distributor in Cape Town does not have the pump and Westerbeke in the US was closed until January 7th so the part has not even been ordered yet. At least it is a nice place to be stuck if you have to be stuck. It is a very pretty resort town for Afrikaaners that seems entirely safe and pleasant. We will get lots of time to get little projects done and to rest up before we head towards Cape Town and the Atlantic.

We were towed into the dock at Mossel Bay by the Snipe, the harbour/s launch. The tow rope was about 3 inches in diameter. The crew were very professional.

Here we are with Mare Liberum rafted next to us. She is a Vega27, built in Sweden. Its displacement is about 5000 pounds or about 1/8th of ours. Most have a one cylinder diesel although this one has an outboard. More than 3000 Vegas were built and they have proven to be very successful bluewater cruisers for those on limited budgets or for those wanting to keep it simple. Martin and Maria, who own Mare Liberum are young, which helps.

If you want to go cruising on a budget, here is the boat for you, the Vega 27. I almost  bought one of these in about 1973 but the head in a closet did not win favour with all of the crew. You basically just shoved your bum into the cupboard. Mark and Maria had two small surfboards and two wakeboards on deck and a small dinghy tucked away somewhere.
We had a braai (bbq) at the Mossel Bay YC one night with the crews of the four boats that were in Mossel Bay - Swedish, American, Spanish, and Canadian. What made this grouping interesting was that I was old enough to be the father of everyone there (except for June of course). One of the 'youngsters' made a very cogent point. Once we started crossing the Indian Ocean the percentage of younger cruisers on quite modest boats increased substantially. Many of the bigger boats, typically with older crews, are staying in SE Asia to see what happens with the pirate threat or are even having their boats shipped on freighters to the Med. For a boat similar to ours the cost is something like $24,000. BTW, that is Maria and Mark in the middle. with Spanish and American singlehanders on the outside, although one of them had found crew from Reunion to Cape Town.


Richard and Kay said...

The adventure continues. Also had water pump issues last year in the Cape Cod Canal. Not fun. Hope the Westerbeke is working again. If you ever need me to send parts, let me know. - Richard

Rhys said...

That's interesting and somewhat refreshing to see younger people (I guess I would say "below 40") just doing sailing on smaller, Good Old Boats.

You've convinced me to buy a second water pump for a bolt-on fix. I'd probably look for a rebuilt one and vacuum-pack it with similar items.