Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving and A Visit to the Windy City (Port Elizabeth)

Firstly, a very Happy Thanksgiving to all our family and friends in the USA!! We just finished our own small Thanksgiving dinner aboard, and thought back to last year's Thanksgiving meal we enjoyed in New Caledonia, with Lyn & Bruce Savage!  Tomorrow morning at 6:00am we will depart Knysna for the 300 mile trip to Cape Town. We expect to arrive there early Sunday morning.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Hibberds aboard Cool Runnings!
And now back to our next installment of our travels through South Africa!

Our ride to Port Elizabeth from Durban was fast, if not the most comfortable. After leaving Durban, we headed out to sea for a while, and a couple of miles further south, off Aliwal Shoals, we found the Agulhas current. The current is at its strongest between Durban and East London, and then, as the coastline turns towards Port Elizabeth, the current continues straight, and one has to stay further offshore to stay in it.

The first day and night we had speeds of up to 12 knots (at times between 4 – 5 knots of current), and surfed waves at speeds of up to 22 knots!! We had very strong winds and big seas. One wave was so big, it tipped the boat to one side to such an extent that the Engle (our portable fridge/freezer), which is heavy, and a stool with Dave’s tools inside, also extremely heavy, went flying down the starboard hull stairs! It was very scary, and we now have dents both in the stairs and the wall to remind us of it! But we had our fastest passage to date, covering 212 miles in the first 24 hours! Dave and I got very little sleep, as the wind continued to blow the following day and night, and by the time we neared PE, on Saturday morning, November 11th, we were both exhausted! We took down the mainsail, and sailed the last 20 miles across Nelson Mandela Bay (formerly Algoa Bay) on half our jib only. We wanted to arrive in the light, so we had to slow down.

Arriving in PE at dawn
We entered the Port of PE at about 5:00am and headed towards the concrete wall we had been advised to go to. It was indeed just that, a rough concrete wall, and together with wind blowing us onto to it, and the swell coming into the harbor, we were not too thrilled to tie up there. But, having no other alternative, we did, monitoring the movement of the boat closely. We noticed a mooring ball in the middle of the channel, and decided that if we could also tie to the mooring ball, we could pull the boat off the wall a little. So we lowered the dinghy, and Dave ran lines to and from the boat through the mooring ball. We had a web of lines holding Cool Runnings in place, but still, it was a precarious position.

A local couple, working on their boat advised that our best option would be to anchor in the channel, as they predicted the swell would just get worse, and even with all our lines, we would be tossed against the wall! In the meantime, Dave got in touch with his contact, John, at the Algoa BayYacht Club and asked if there were any other options. John advised that there was one walk on mooring (berth) available, and we could use that. Off we went and tried to tie up there. The swell coming into the harbor was so bad, that we actually broke a mooring line, with the violent back and forth motion of the boat tied up to the dock!

Dave inspects the mooring berth.  It doesn't look that bad, but boy, it was terrible!
Our last resort was to go and anchor in the harbor, which turned out to be our best option. There was not a lot of space, but enough for us to anchor and to be able to swing if the wind changed (which it did), and really, we were lucky, as 4 other boats came in after us, and they all really battled to find somewhere to “park”. One ended up tied up to a fishing boat, one ended up on the wall we first tied up to, another tied up to another concrete wall, and the last tied up to the outside of the mooring we had tried (but at that time, the wind had switched and the surge was not as bad as we had experienced!). It was after 9:00am by the time we were finally settled, about 4 hours after we had arrived!
Cool Runnings anchored in PE.  We are the Lagoon on the right of the picture next to the blue ship.  The big Lagoon cat on the left is 62 foot long!  Look how tiny we look in comparison!
"Maria" from Stockholm, a 46ft Hanse ended up tied up against another concrete wall
It turned out that Dave’s good friend from school days, Sean Rushton, had moved to PE a year or two previously, so they were anxious to reconnect! Sean, his wife Lise, and their adorable 10-month old son, Kai, came to the yacht club to meet us for lunch. We had a great meal, and the kids had fun playing with Kai. Eventually, even though he was a very good baby, Kai’s patience ran out, and Lise had to take him home!

At the Algoa Bay Yacht Club with Sean and little Kai

Ben and Gaby with Kai.  They look like they might enjoy a little sibling!!!
We were actually going to joke and send this to everyone saying it's our new family portrait!
Sean was kind enough to drive us around, and take us to “Makro”, (a Walmart type store), as we were in dire need of replacing our big LED flashlights that we need at night to check sails and such, and which had all given up their ghosts on us, all at once! Ben and Gaby enjoyed checking out all the “stuff”…we had not really been in a big store since Australia, and I had a hard time getting them out of the sporting goods section, where they had spied skateboards, boogie boards, scooters and other cool stuff, most of which are too big for the boat (and really, Gaby, where are you going to use a skateboard on a boat? She’ll give you lots of answers, by the way!). Sean came back to the boat to check it out, and then we had an early night that evening, still exhausted from our journey down from Durban.

On Sunday, after assisting two of the international boats that arrived that morning to find a place to tie up, the wind switched and blew ferociously from the south west. We got to see first-hand why Port Elizabeth is called “The Windy City” (it is also known as “The Friendly City”, so that balances it out!!). It was so strong that we were reluctant to leave the boat, and had to change our plans with Sean and Lise. We had originally meant to go to their house for lunch, but undeterred by our predicament, they packed up all the food, and brought it to us, picnic style! Kai did not enjoy the dinghy ride out to the boat, and I don’t blame the little guy! The wind was cold and strong, made a huge noise and no doubt he got wet on the ride over. However, once on board, it didn’t take long for him to relax, and we all enjoyed a delicious lunch of chicken enchiladas, salad and garlic bread, and much to Ben and Gaby’s delight, Milk Tart for desert!! A huge thank you to Lise for preparing such a scrumptious lunch, and bringing it to us!!

Lunch aboard with Sean, Lise and Kai

Sean, Lise and Kai
We think he'd make a fine deckhand!
We watched the weather closely, as we were anxious to get out of PE (no offense, Sean! We loved your city and seeing you, but the harbor was not the best place for Cool Runnings to be!). We were anchored right next to the area where the magnesium iron ore is loaded onto ships, and in just 2 days, our boat was covered in fine, black dust. We had heard about coal dust covering boats in Richard’s Bay, but this was much, much worse!

We were just a couple of boat lengths away from this ship that was being loaded with the magnesium

However, on Monday, even though it had calmed down in strength, the wind was still blowing south west, and we decided to stay another day. Luckily, the sun was out, and Sean took us for a lovely drive along the coast, and in no time we were driving around Cape Recife. It was hard to imagine that the city and this beautiful, unspoilt coastline were in such close proximity to each other! Watching from the shore, we saw a whole pod of whales jumping right out of the water, multiple times! None of us had cameras (other than our phones), so we just decided to enjoy the moment and watch these amazing creatures obviously enjoying themselves!

Fishing boats in PE Harbor

We watched as this tug sprayed its water cannons, escorting a small cruise ship into the harbor

By Tuesday morning, the wind had started to switch, so we pulled up our anchor and headed back out to sea. The forecast looked decent enough, with some stronger wind forecast for part of the way, which didn’t concern us too much, as it was in the right direction, and we knew we could reef down our sails and manage it. Little did we know that this patch of stronger wind would turn into a “black south easter”, a violent, fast-moving cold front, that put Cool Runnings and her crew to the test and would prove to be our toughest passage yet over the past 20 months since leaving Madeira Beach!

A wonderful shot Sean took of us as we headed out of PE...thanks for the great stay and company!!

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