“Cruising should be fun. If it isn’t you’re not doing it right” – Cap’n Fatty
I’ve not posted a write-up of the January 2020 cruise Stan and I did up to Saldanha Bay on ‘Blue. Sitting here in my hard-aground, dirt-based shack, on day 58 of a paranoid lock-down, I’m wondering why and start to think of how to put the words down on [virtual] paper.
The only notes I’ve jotted down in my journal are not helpful.
“Why do I do this to myself?” is the obvious question. It is perhaps not a very productive or empowering question since the answer is invariably “I don’t know!” (which implies that I have no self awareness) or “Because my memory is defective” (Which implies I’m defective) or “Because I’m Stupid! (which is quite clearly of no benefit at all)
The only hints from my journal are the reminders that the mal de mer was particularly bad on the outward leg to Saldanha, something it seems is guaranteed me whenever the boat corkscrews along with the prevailing swells on the quarter.
I close the journal and try and fire up my defective sailor’s memory. You know the one! The one that selectively remembers only the good times. The one that buries the actual reality and misery in the grey mists of time.
I slowly start to remember…..
The amazing sunrise off our starboard quarter as we headed out to sea. The dolphins riding the bow wave as we broad-reached up the coast. The massive pod of whales we sighted as we approached the Saldanha heads, the sea teeming and frothing with gargantuan life.
I remember the new Rocna grabbing properly on the second try and, despite a brisk 20kt southerly breeze, holding us well for the night in the shelter of the small craft harbour just behind Hoedjiespunt.
Time was once again not on our side on this cruise. The majority of the December break was spent road-tripping, visiting family up country. By the time we returned to Cape Town, just after New Year, we had almost run short on time. Stan had the pressing need to return to work and so we found ourselves anchored just off Yachtport on Friday, January 3, 2020, the very last weekend available where both our schedules intersected.
My original hope had been to spend a few days in the bay and surrounds, perhaps a night or two at anchor in the lagoon at Oudepos or Kraal Baai with a stop-over at Dassen Island on the retun voyage. Arriving fairly late in the evening though, we’d opted to spend the night anchored in the shelter of the small craft harbour rather than trying to get to Oudepos in the vanishing light.
It’s never a good thing to cruise to a rigid schedule. When Cap’n Fatty was referring to “not doing things right” then letting the calendar rule your cruising schedule must rank right up there! But, Stan was intent on returning to the salt mines first thing Monday morning and so Friday evening was spent discussing the plans for the remainder of the weekend, plans that would ensure we arrived back in Cape Town no later than Sunday night.
They say that gentlemen never sail to windward. There’s a reason for that! It’s because sailing to windward in any kind of sea state quickly turns into a wet, cold and miserable ordeal, resulting in much cursing and ungentleman-like behaviour. So, those wishing to remain gentlemen, they never sail to windward. That’s my hypothesis at any rate.
Ideally then a gentleman doesn’t want a south easter honking up the coast when he’s trying to return back to Cape Town from Saldanha Bay. This is somewhat of a challenge in the summer season when it can blow south easterly for days on end and so, when you get any reasonable wind direction to make the return voyage, you should seize on it.
Having considered all our options and the time available to us, we decided to weigh anchor early on the next morning and head back to Cape Town, stopping over in House Bay, Dassen Island for the Saturday night. Light SW’lies were forecast and if we spent another night on anchor at Oudepos, that would leave a potentially mammoth motor-sail-Sunday return in light winds.
Leaving the bay we’re faced with a light breeze, right on the nose, too light to really sail and make decent progress in the right direction. A few other sails are visible, all headed south and we opt to motor-sail in the wake of a Flamenca heading out to sea. “Let’s try and gain a more favourable wind angle later in the day” is our plan.
A much larger monohull hauls us in, overtaking us in short order and tacking back across our path, taking a more inshore route down the coast. For a moment we debate whether to follow them inshore or stick to the plan behind the Flamenca now vanishing over the horizon about 4 miles to seaward of us. Considering that the Flamenca, at 25-feet, should in theory be slower than our 31-feet, we conclude that they must have picked up a favourable breeze out there and we continue offshore. On reaching the lay-line to House Bay we tack over onto starboard, waving goodbye to the tiny speck of Flamenca now well on her way to Cape Town.
The fluky winds continue to plague us as we close the island, the iron genny now shuddering and shacking us on our way. It’s about 3pm and it’s decision time.
It’s taken forever to reach this point under sail and we are only one third of the way back to Cape Town. We can see 6 or 7 yachts lying peacefully at anchor but, as the wind freshens we consider the next day’s forecast; a repeat of the same frustratingly light headwinds. Dreading a 12-hour motor-sail we decided to forego the pleasures at anchor and press on toward home.
Table Mountain is visible from a very long way off. It hangs there on the horizon, never seeming to come any closer. As Dassen eventually drops off the edge of the earth astern it still seems as if The Table is coming no closer.
Off and on we alternate between the peace and quiet of frustratingly slow sailing and firing up the Yanmar to add a little motor-sailing progress.
Time passes. Slowly.
And then, suddenly, we’re there. The end of the voyage is the usual blur of stowing sails, calling port control to arrange entry, docking and tidying away the boat.
Another mixed feelings Saldanha Cruise under our belts. C’mon Cap’n Fatty. What is it that we’re doing wrong?