The biggest event of our 3 months in South Africa was rounding its Cape in the worst storm of the voyage! But we also enjoyed some nice sailing and, of course, incredible wildlife!
We arrived in Richards Bay on South Africa’s Indian Ocean coast in mid-December 2009 after the 1400nM passage from Reunion Island. It’s a feared passage so we were lucky not to have ferocious weather except at the very end when a strong SW wind blew up – contrary to the fast-moving Agulhas Current – and created steep (sometimes breaking) waves.
It took 3 days to clear Customs, but then we rented a beater of a car and took off to try and find some wildlife at the small provincial parks in the area!
We ended our inland trip with a three-day hiking safari guided by an anti-poaching ranger. Seeing rhinos, buffalo, baboons, an elephant, and a pack of African wild dogs while on foot was a completely different experience than spotting them from the car, especially when one rhino charged us!
The high likelihood of encountering vicious gales in South African waters means it’s not a great idea to sail from Richards Bay to Cape Town in one shot. We tried to time our passages south for good weather, and were moderately successful: we did blow out our mainsail twice and the second time it was irreparable….
We left Mossel Bay under our spare mainsail, with a good forecast for rounding Cape Agulhas and the Cape of Good Hope (together they make one of the five “great” capes). But then we were hit with a massive unpredicted system. With winds consistently hitting 55 knots and gusting over 60, we were in the midst of a Force 11 storm, just a shade under hurricane force. It was probably the most terrifying moment of the voyage and the one we’re proudest to have overcome.
We spent a month in Cape Town, mostly on account of maintenance work: rebuilding our engine which had been burning oil, repairing our staysail which had been badly damaged in the storm, and renewing the varnish.
But we also enjoying climbing Table Mountain, albeit in thick fog, and seeing some wildlife on the Cape Peninsula.
Then we were off for the long Atlantic crossing!
(Read about getting to South Africa on the Indian Ocean Crossing page 🙂 )
All text and photographs © Ellen Massey Leonard and Seton Leonard, 2015, All Rights Reserved.