Posted by: adventuressetravels | May 14, 2013

the Cape of Doom

I love catamarans.  They are comfortable, spacious, as many cat owners say; you don’t have to “live on the walls (referring to monohulls nearly constant listing to one side or the other)

Unfortunately catamarans are not built for the Cape of Good Hope.  They are made for the champagne sailing of the Atlantic Ocean.  Big waves and choppy seas

The hop from Richards Bay to Durban wasn’t even a 24 hour slow sail.  But after that was the Wild Coast.  Long stretches without any marinas for boats to duck in and take cover.  The stretch from Durban to East London is the longest and most treacherous.

The Cape of Good Hope is one of the two most dangerous passages in the world.  It isn’t always nasty like Cape Horn, what makes it more dangerous is its capricious nature.  With the right wind and the Agulhas current buoying them along boats can speed down around the cape without incident.  The problem is that (depending on the season) the weather rarely holds for more than a few days at a time and if the wind is against the strong current then watch out.  Even the largest tanker can be flipped into the air by enormous waves and a private yacht fighting the clash of the wind and current titans.

Southern Cross moored in the Bluff Yacht club, a little outside of Durban and we quickly made friends with many of the members.  The ebullient Zelda, with as much energy and drive as 20 regular people, Graham, a sailor’s sailor, and many more, almost every one of them told us tales of sails they had made it within 20 nautical miles of East London when the wind changed and they had needed to turn their boat around and head back hundreds of miles to the safety of Durban.   You couldn’t fight the weather.  If the wind wasn’t perfect you shouldn’t bother setting sail.

The bottom line was you needed at least a 5-day window.

The weather reports kept promising fair winds and tantalizing us with large windows, but as they each one came up the windows would slam shut.  WARC boat after boat left throwing caution to the wind, but Steve was adamant.  A conservative sailor, he was not going to leave until there was  a real window long enough for us to get down to East London, or maybe even as far as Port Elizabeth. After all, the WARC boats had all told us that East London was even sketchier than its disreputable namesake.

One night 40 knots of wind howled around the boat.  Even moored safe in a marina the weather was intimidating.  The day had been a little grey but calm and just as suddenly the deceitful South African weather had changed.  This weather was not normal for December.

Week after week passed and as every new group of WARC boats left I grew more stir crazy.  Peter, a retired physicist and involved member who always had a kind word, gave my crewmate Tom and I rides into town and let us use his apartment for internet.  The legendary Zelda showed us some amazing coffee shops, the bustling Victoria Market, and some delicious Indian restaurants.  The warm welcoming people were lovely but staying at the isolated Bluff Yacht Club for weeks on end without a car was frustrating at best.

Once again, stuck waiting for the right winds.  Still, waiting was better than getting caught out on the ocean in a catamaran with 50 knots of wind against the current

Zelda, Tom, and I at a fantastic Indian restaurant by Victoria Market

Zelda, Tom, and I at a fantastic Indian restaurant near Victoria Market


Patience is a virtue from what I understand.






  1. brave…..BRAVE Ms. Sally

  2. Excellent reportage, blending information and experience.

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