Posted by: catamarantwooceans | December 21, 2013

Sailing from Richards Bay to East London

19.12.13 – Thursday –  Picking a good weather window is imperative in this area. You don’t want to be caught sailing against an approaching low when southwesterly winds collide with the Agulhas current head on producing 20 meters high waves. Our “window” was open for a little over 48 hours, then a short period of south-southwesterly winds about 10 hours will spoil it for us. However, we were confident we could get to East London before it arrived.

First light comes very early in Richards Bay; at 0430 we were motoring out of the harbour. First leg was about 30 degrees to the left in order to get out to the 200 meters depth line, where the south west going current should be the strongest. When we got there we turned to a course of 220 degrees, had about 13 knots of wind right from astern and a 2 knots current pushing us ahead nicely.

At midday Dany prepared a big salad, which I compared to a Turkish holiday: “All included” – in addition to the regular veggies he added carrots, broccoli, roccula and Feta cheese. He decided not to add cabbage and hot peppers after seeing my incredulous stare.

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Just as we were sitting for lunch, the going got wild; the combination of 25 knots wind and some irregular wave pattern required first reef. We were surfing at times at speeds well over 10 knots, with the maximum of 14 knots on the GPS. Soon enough the wind became even stronger, as we took the main down to second reef the wind topped at 34.6 knots. Passing Durban we were surprised by a counter current of 1 knot but with the strong wind we were still moving fast. Menachem, our Mediterranean- monohull sailor, was in awe of the way the cat behaved in those conditions. “The fact that I can sit inside reading a book says it all” he said.

As evening fell we had our dinner and started our watch system; night was declared between 2100 and 0430 and each of us was to do a 2.5 hours stint. The wind allowed us to raise the main to first reef and fully open the jib.

20.12.13 – Friday – During Dany’s 2330-0200 watch the current came back giving us a bonus of three knots and making for S.O.G of 10 knots. An early arrival would be nice considering that short period of south-southwesterly wind on Saturday. At 0430 our position was 187 n.m away from our point of departure.

The day started beautifully and then got even better. The current became stronger by the hour and with it our speed over ground. Menachem, always the keen photographer, was standing at the ready near the instruments panel trying to catch the new speed record on the GPS plotter display.

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Each time a call would be heard:”14.5! 15.1!” ; the numbers went up and higher. The current reached 4.5 knots and with it the S.O.G. I took a video of the plotter as the speed reached 16.9. Menachem recorded 17.6 on his Canon EOS D 7.

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Lastly I saw it topping at 18.5. You might say:”Well, it’s just the current” but at the same time the boat sliced through the water at 14 knots! Newly installed folding props and new antifouling also played a role there. The funny thing was that all this happened with no drama; sails wing and wing, autopilot holding the course and each of us doing whatever pleased him at the moment.

In the morning we thought we would arrive at East London early next morning; in the afternoon it was apparent we’ll get there in the evening. As we left the 200 meters line and headed directly to the harbour entrance we still had 2 knots current from behind passing a heavy monohull rolling in the swell.

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At 1900, still with good light, we entered the port and motored towards the bridge on Buffalo river, where the local yacht club has it’s for and aft moorings.

So ended one of the most exciting trips I have ever been to, certainly the fastest. Exhilarating and safe sailing in good company; it was just great.

Some statistics: 24 run on the first day – 187 miles, average speed 7.79 knots. Next day – 155 miles in 14.5 hours – average of 10.7 knots. Overall average speed for the trip – 8.88 knots. Awesome!



  1. Awesome!

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