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Selden 2020 - LEADERBOARD

GS2: Dodging a Major Gale / Getting through the Agulhas Current

by Joe Harris, GryphonSolo2 15 Aug 15:34 PDT

Today's update revolves around two events- dodging a major gale and getting through the Agulhas current.

First, the gale was forecast to be coming from the West and packing 40k winds and big seas. We had just sailed past the longitude of Cape Agulhas, the official marker of the Cape of Good Hope, while being about 30 miles south and knew that we had to get in close to the mainland to miss the worst of the NW wind. It was a race against time and we were sailing in light winds so we lost the battle when the first squall hit us with 35k gusts, sheeting rain and lightning! The lightning kinda freaked us out, and while we had been on the fence about whether to stop at Mossel Bay (which we had identified as a safe haven), both Roger and I felt we should seek refuge for about 12 hours and let the worst of the storm blow past. So about 0430 Sunday morning we dropped the sails and motored in to Mossel bay harbor. We took a couple of laps to determine the best place to dock and prepare the fenders and dock lines and were approaching the concrete pier to tie up when the engine suddenly quit.

We put it in neutral and it started up fine but when we put it in gear it stopped immediately. That meant that something (stray line or mooring buoy) had fouled our propeller, so we no longer had propulsion and we were adrift in this small basin. We rolled out the staysail with not much wind and gained a little steerage but realized we had to dock quickly. I headed for a big concrete pier in front of a fish processing plant and we crash landed with the bowsprit taking the first blow and then the boat nestling against these big tires that serve as fenders for the fishing boats. The sprit and boat seemed to survive the crash with no damage but not 100% sure. We tied up but realized pretty quickly that the wind was pushing us on to the pier hard and the 7' tide was going down and this was not going to be a safe place to hang out. So we called the Harbormaster on VHF 16 and he responded right away and said he would send a rescue tow boat to pull us off and relocate us in the harbor. They showed up a couple of anxious hours later and very efficiently moved us to a more sheltered spot moored against a tugboat.

Next we called a diver to cut the rope or whatever off our prop and two guys showed up at about 11:00 and cut away a massive amount (about 50') of rope that was wrapped around our prop (see photo). Crazy... and stressful... when we were just looking for a calm safe place to ride out the storm. Oh well... the best-laid plans...

So we arrived at Mossel Bay at 0430 and departed at 1430, so it was only a 10-hour stop, but we were pretty busy! We managed to get some breakfast and some groceries and hit the road, back into the trailing edge of the gale, which was not too bad. About 90 miles to the East sits the Agulhas current, which is a current packing 4-5 knots velocity of current. It's like the Gulf Stream of South Africa and makes rounding the Cape of Good Hope even more treacherous because you can get wind against tide and a horrible sea state. We caught it today with a very confused sea state after the gale and fairly light winds so it took all day to get across the approx. 40 miles of strong current flowing south as we went East. If we had hit that current during the gale it would have been a nightmare so very glad we paused, even though the stop didn't go exactly as planned, we enjoyed sleep, food and a shower after a month at sea!

Onward we sail to Mauritius- another 2,000 miles, so 9-10 days we hope.

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