leg 2: the wild coast
While waiting out the front at home, a really peachy weather window started shaping up on the back of it and I started desperately asking around for crew. Fortunately most my mates on the coast live outside the norms of conventional routine and I soon had two great mates, Sheep and Gav drop everything at a days’ notice and sign up. Checking in with Will who I had met tying Irene up on the walk on in Durban, he was still keen to make a total of four of us for the trip.
We got up to the boat the night before with the South west still blowing and stocked up on beer and provisions. Dinner at the Royal Natal Yacht club and alarms set for 3am.
As we slipped the lines at 4am, the southerly was still blowing but reports had it dropping soon and it certainly felt that way. I must admit however to not being totally comfortable heading out into the dark and very wobbly sea. By sun up though it had started smoothing as the offshore kicked in and certainly by 10am, after a snooze, the music was going and the lines were out! We set a course along the 200m bathymetric contour line as that is where the charts say the current is strongest and we soon started covering ground in a 3 knot current.
Skipjack aren’t anyone’s favorite fish but certainly make a good curry if cooked fresh. Learning the hand lining technique was good as it saves having to hove too. The skipjack were skipping!
The real fun though started when Will spotted a FAD drifting out in the blue. This Fish Aggregating Devise had no Satellite transponder so we can only surmise it must have been moored to the bottom somewhere way up north and come loose from its mooring. The fish life around it certainly confirmed it had been in the ocean a while.
Absolute panic ensued as everyone scrambled for rods, poppers, guns, fins, mask or any fish retrieval device we could grab. Straight off the bat Dorado were hooked on poppers and jigs but soon lost to the numerous tax men in the water. Reverting to option two, sheep and myself jumped in the water with one gun, one pair of fins and a camera between us. We dropped into the inky blue to find a spearo’s dream. Sheep soon landed the tastiest fish in the sea, a rainbow runner and thereafter we both got a Dorado each, on camera Nogal! In this melee of fish, there certainly were plenty sharks. Fortunately, besides one or two larger characters keeping their distance, most were small jack russels. After loading the third fish on board though, we decided even a jack russel could give a nasty bite and they certainly were getting a bit “nippy”. Afternoon was coming on and we had beers to drink and over 200Nm to go. Only those who have experienced it can know the supreme bliss experienced after a day out on the water like that and the 2 beer buzz kicking in!
After a fried Dorado sandwich for dinner, we got the sails up in a very light offshore and settled into night watch routines.
This trip would turn out to be Nothing or All! For the next two days coming up to East London we had very little wind and had at least one engine running all the way. Fortunately we had found the current and still kept a good speed over ground, if not through water. The relative slow water speed made for some great footage though and we kept cool in the clear water on the current line by jumping in numerous times. The best footage by far was the sail past just off hole in the wall when I jumped off on the paddle board and paddled around the boat with the Go Pro.
On the flip side though, the slow water speed wasn’t shaking the rapala’s enough and very few fish came onboard! Thanks to the FAD though, we didn’t starve!
By nightfall on the third night we were coming up to East London. After coming closer in to get cell reception we checked the weather report and made a call to rather keep going to Port Elizabeth. Report said similar current and winds. As we went past East London, the current started doing its own thing and was soon against us. At day break the wind picked up enough though to get some sail up and we were looking good!
Getting the Hand of the Asymmetrical, we had that and the main up at first. As the day progressed though more and more sail came down as the wind picked up to 40knots by the time we got in. Wind against current is not the greatest and most of the afternoon was spent hand steering with only a scrap of sail up on the fore stay.
The Port Elizabeth and Coega traffic separation scheme is busier than I remember and at one stage we seemed to be a fiberglass magnet to various Gas and Car carriers coming in and out the harbor. A mile off the breakwater we were all cleared by port control to come in and we started our engines. Half a mile later one engine had stalled! Gav got us safely around the breakwater and as we came in I managed to clear the fuel air lock and the other engine started for coming alongside the T end of a very wobbly walk on.
It wasn’t long before we had our cleanest dirty jeans on and up the walk on to the Yacht club. 10 Minutes later we were back onboard as some political agenda between South African municipalities and yacht clubs had closed the Algoa Bay Yacht Club Down!
Being low on beer, myself and the others thanked my Brother in law for his going away present of a bottle of Captain black spiced. Toasts, more toasts and Dorado Zarmies and everyone was soon sound asleep without the worry of the 3 hourly wake up alarm for night watch.