Nov 12 - East London

Pos: S33deg01.425min/ E027deg53.854min. The weather window was a very narrow one. We had two days to get into East London before gale force winds from the SW were forecast to arrive at 1800 UTC Nov 12 enroute and covering much of the coast around here. Note to self: next time, dive the propeller to ensure there's no growth; motoring out of Durban at 1630 hours was painfully slow; 3-4 knots. We had 260 miles to East London and several times discussed turning back to the harbor basin in Durban. I had spent hours, along with Dave from Leu Cat, filing a "flight plan," and visiting the marina office, Immigration and Customs. The thought of doing it all for naught, and having to go thru the same rigamarole again wasn't very enticing. Of course, a slow passage south along with weather warnings from Cape Town Radio just accentuated our discomfort. We called Leu Cat at 2200 on VHF. We were doing our 3.5 knots; they were doing 6.7 knots. Talk about getting more depressed by the minute... We were further offshore than they were; maybe they had found the Agulhas current ?; we certainly hadn't. Also, the expected shift in the wind to the NE at 2200 hours never materialized; it was 0230 before it filled in. Up to that time it was SE at about 15 knots, and we beat into it with the motor on. But, when it did turn NE, it came on strong. Wind in the 20's-30's was the norm all night; occasionally higher gusts got our attention also. We were running dead downwind, had a double reef in the main and the pole to windward, and had to do multiple gybes thru out the night. Our speed was consistently around 8-9+ knots, with the highest speed we noted 10.4 knots. The Agulhas current helped a bunch! It was becoming apparent that if we could maintain those speeds, making port before the SW'er hit wouldn't be a problem. And so it went. We entered East London and dropped anchor at 1030 hours, very happy to be here before the weather turned. We're all tired, but Infini and crew are doing well.
Pic: M & M putting up the storm staysail on the inner forestay. This was our weather most of the trip. Thank goodness the wind was from behind. We maintained 8 knots speed under bare poles for awhile, when we had a batten come loose trying to put a third reef in the main. We kept the main down for the remainder of the trip. We can see why they've given the name 'wild coast' to this stretch.

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