Onward to South Africa

16 October 2017   Ponta Dundo to Benguerra Sandspit, Mozambique
It was a turbulent night as the tide pushed us back and forth.  When the tide was ebbing we pitched into the wind; we rolled when we were sideways; and we were slapped up the sugar scoop when the tide was coming in.  However, the wind was only 20 knots, so it was just very uncomfortable and not dangerous.

After breakfast, we went for a walk with “Red Herring” up the huge sand dunes.  It was fabulous walking along the wind-swept ridges of pristine sand.   It was very reminiscent of walking along snowy arêtes in the Alps, but we were blasted by sand instead of snow by the strong NE winds.  From the top, there was a good view of our proposed route out to sea, which goes over a sand bar, but it was hard to see the best route through the many sand banks, some of which were breaking.

Sand Dunes

After a short stop overlooking a small lake packed with Herons and Ibis, we walked down to sea level and strolled back along the shoreline.  When we arrived at the anchorage we could see mayhem as the boats were all pirouetting around in the strong current against the wind.  Alba looked very close to “Luna Blu” and we couldn’t see whether or not we’d dragged, so we rushed back to the dinghy.

We hadn’t dragged, but it was very unpleasant on board.  We were bouncing about, lying side onto the wind and “Luna Blu” were sailing around on their anchor - sometimes they were 100 metres away and within five minutes they’d be 20 metres away.  I didn’t fancy the prospect of another boisterous night being only 80 metres from the shore, so we upped anchor and headed back to the sand spit anchorage.

We had a bouncy trip across, but it was only a mile or so.  Once in the anchorage, the waves settled down and it seemed okay.  We reported back to the rest of the fleet and they all decided to come over to join us.  

Unfortunately, by 15:00, the tide was going out and once again, we had strong tidal currents pushing us against the wind.  The afternoon was gnarly with the boat pointing sometimes downwind and sometimes sideways with NNE 20-25 knot winds hitting our stern.  At least this anchorage has more space and we’re not close to a rocky shore.  

The wind is forecast to continue from the NNE until tomorrow afternoon, when it will slowly veer to SE - I can’t wait because this anchorage will be nice and flat again.  The SE wind will continue at 20-25 knots for 36 hours and, by the morning of Thursday 19th, the wind will have reduced to E 10-15.  Fingers crossed, that’s when we will start heading south towards South Africa. 

Benguerra Sandspit Anchorage

On passage we’re expecting E to NE winds for 24 hours and then the wind will come around to S20 - straight in the nose and not really what we want, but it’s fairly light and will only last 12-24 hours before backing East and then we’ll have NE winds to carry us to Richards Bay, hopefully arriving Sunday 22nd. 

17 October 2017   Benguerra Sandspit, Mozambique
The weather forecast looks even better today.  The south wind expected on the second day of the passage to Richards Bay is looking to be very weak and quickly passed, so we’re all planning to leave Thursday 19th at 14:00 which is just before high tide, which will give us the best conditions for exiting the bar. 

The wind blew at NNE 20 all night which was OK until the tide started to go out at 03:00.  Our bow turned south into the strong current and the waves remorselessly slapped our stern.  The boat would turn slightly and then sail across the wind, heeling over 5 degrees.  A few minutes later we would gybe, with some resounding slaps up the sugar scoop and then slowly sail the other way, heeling over degrees to the other side.  It was irritating.

We dragged ourselves out of bed at 07:00 and all the boats were still pointing downwind with waves hitting our sterns.   After breakfast, we went for a long walk with “Red Herring” - the other boats in the anchorage politely declined when we started talking about making sandwiches and taking lots of water for the hike. 

Our aim was to walk 3½ miles along the windward beach to the huge sand dune at 21°52.17S 035°27.20E and hopefully find a lake that has Flamingos.  We had a pleasant walk along the beach and after a couple of miles after a small pine tree wood, we headed up into the small sand dunes, where we could see a path leading inland.  A local guy shouted to us and said that he would show us the Crocodiles, so we went with the flow.

Looking down from Huge Sand Dune

Our guide led us along narrow paths which eventually came out to the south end of the larger of the three lakes.  On the way I enquired about palm trees that had been chopped down to a few feet, the tops of which were covered by Small Baskets.  He showed us that they were extracting sap from the palms, which was then fermented, turning it into palm wine - an alcoholic drink.  He gave us a taste of the finished product which was quite pleasantly bitter, reminiscent of lemon.

We were then led around the west side of the larger lake, but alas the crocodiles weren’t to be seen.  Our guide led us to the smallest lake, which is directly below the huge sand dune, where there was a solitary Flamingo, so I took some photos and we said goodbye to our guide.  We hadn’t expected to meet any one, so we hadn’t taken any “gifts” with us, but Karen gave the guy an old pair of sunglasses, which he seemed pleased with.

Our next objective was the huge sand dune, which I guess is a few hundred feet high.  The first section up the face was very steep, but once on the ridge it was easy going. The sand dune is a bizarre geological formation, isolated and high above the rest of the land - I have no idea how it would have been formed.   We had our sandwiches on the summit, staring at the fabulous view.

After a long walk back along the beach, we arrived back at the boat at 13:15 - a 4½ hour trek, so we were shattered.  However, no peace for the wicked - it was high tide at 14:30, so we had slack tide at 14:00 and had to jump in the water to scrub the hull and replace the anode on the propeller.  As well as the usual green slime, we’d picked up an impressive collection of goose-neck barnacles, which had to be scraped and scrubbed off.

Waiting for a weather window

By 14:40, the tide had changed and there was a significant out-going current, which brought the job to an end.  We’d managed to remove most of the barnacles, but we need to have another go tomorrow.  We chilled out for a few hours and went ashore for a sunset beer or two. Back on board, Glenys rustled up Chicken Mole, which we had with our last bottle of wine - it’s definitely time to go…

18 October 2017   Benguerra Sandspit, Mozambique
Overnight the wind veered to the south-east and picked up quickly.  Just after midnight, I was woken by the uncomfortable motion and found that the wind was blowing 25-30 knots with the tide against the wind, raising 2-3 foot waves.  Yesterday afternoon, “Fortuna” arrived and anchored near to us.  When the wind picked up and swung us around, they’ve ended up only two boat lengths from us and at times they were less than that directly behind us.

We couldn’t raise them on the radio, so I resorted to shining our powerful search light at their hatches and blowing our little fog horn.  They’d just arrived after a long passage, so it took a while to wake them up.  Being the last boat to anchor, it’s their responsibility to keep their distance, but it was bad conditions to be trying to re-anchor in the dark without a moon, so they agreed that they would keep an anchor watch until the tide changed at 03:00 and hopefully conditions settled down. 

Glenys and I didn’t sleep well and I got up half a dozen times to check that “Fortuna” were still clear of us.  I’m annoyed with myself for not telling them to move yesterday afternoon, but if this was a normal anchorage, then they would have been fine, so it was difficult to tell them that they were too close.

By dawn, the wind was blowing hard from the SSE at 30 knots gusting to 35 knots, so it was gnarly and “Fortuna” were only 20 metres to our starboard side.   Thankfully, after a bit of persuasion, they re-anchored at 10:00 at low tide, slack current, 100 metres away from us.   I’ll sleep better tonight.

Sundowners

The weather forecast looks good.  These strong SSE winds should start to abate this afternoon and then will back to ENE 10 by morning.  We’re still planning on leaving at 14:00 tomorrow and during the first night we should have ENE 10.  The second day looks like NE/ENE 10 and the south winds just don’t reach north enough to affect us.  After that it should be NE to E winds at 5 -15 knots, which will be good for our south-west course to Richards Bay.  With the lighter winds, we expect to arrive at dawn on Monday 23rd.  The next southerly hits Richards Bay on the 25th, which gives us two days safety margin. 

This weather never ceases to amaze me.  The switch from NE to S happens within a few hours and it’s interesting to watch the barometer.  It reached a low point of 1005mb yesterday afternoon and then started to rise, which heralds the switch from NE to S.  By dawn this morning, the barometer read 1015mb and at lunch time it was 1016mb.  When it starts to drop again, then the wind will slowly back to the east and we start all over again. 

I find it very strange that we get no rain with these radical changes in wind direction and strength.  We haven’t had any rain for six weeks and that was only a short-lived squall.

I drank my last beer on the beach last night, but Karen from “Red Herring” said that she could give me a six-pack.  At midday, the wind was still blowing a hooley, so I couldn’t get into the dinghy to go to collect it without getting soaked through.  At 14:00, I cracked up, donned my swimming shorts and a cagoule; and set off into the 30 knot winds.  I spent a couple of hours on “Red Herring” sorting out some computer stuff and chatting about the plan for the passage.

The wind remained strong, but at sunset it had dropped to 20 knots and the sea state was much calmer.