Saturday, February 18th, 2006
Location: 31° 58.5’S / 29° 19.7’E
Ordered Course: Hove-to
Day’s Run: 117 nautical miles
Distance to Cape Town, South Africa: 677 nm
Okay, so the charts indicate that it is South Africa, but I am not convinced. The shoreline matches the chart’s outline and we’ve definitely been riding into and out of the Agulhas Current. My brain tells me that we are hove-to very few miles off the coast of South Africa, but if I just woke up today from a very long winter’s nap, my heart would be in my throat because I would be pretty certain that the panoramic coastline stretching beyond our bow is actually the coast of Nova Scotia! I think it looks like Cheticamp in northern Cape Breton. Alan Creaser (a Lunenburg resident sailing with us until Cape Town) says it looks like Rose Bay, near Lunenburg. I overheard Mike (trainee from Prince Edward Island) speaking to Kjetil on the Aloha Deck, “…Overcast grey sky, grey choppy water, cold wind—kind of makes me homesick!” Another look at the chart is a glaring reminder of Eastern Canada, there’s a port town called St. John’s and another called Hole in the Wall (puts me in mind of Blow Me Down and other funny-named places in Newfoundland).
It is late summer in South Africa and we are all wearing sweaters and toques (some are even wearing shoes and socks!). Perhaps it has a great deal to do with the wind in recent days because the water is still 73° Fahrenheit, but then again, we are South of the Tropics, so its bound to feel cooler now than in recent weeks. I still did not imagine that I would be wearing a sweater (over a tee-shirt and under my foulie jacket) to keep warm on night watch as we prepare to sail around the Cape of Good Hope. I’m guilty of allowing myself to have grown up with the image of sparse flatlands and thousands of giraffes, gazelles, elephants and hippopotami stomping around in the dust in search of a watering hole. These drizzling, green, rolling hills before me look like they are better suited to farming sheep and highland cattle!
Moments ago we fired up the main engine. We had a long night due to the weather and at 0535 this morning I was on helm and was ordered to put the wheel hard left. The Picton Castle was hove-to until further notice because of near- gale conditions. The logbook records the winds shifting to N x W and getting stronger after 0100. The 12–4 Watch braced sharp on a Starboard Tack, but when the wind shifted strength and direction again, all square sails were taken in and stowed. Around 0200 the wind was only a gentle breeze at Force 2. Between 0300 and 0400 the ship altered course from W x N and NW x W and we dumped the Inner Jib. When the 4-8 Watch took the deck at 0400, there was salt water in the air and the wind force was a steady Force 5. The gusts were strong—so strong that I learned that certain conditions trump what I think I know about my seafaring skills. The breeze climbed to a low Force 7 by 0700, with streaks of foam beginning to trail the whitecaps. This afternoon the breeze settled quite a bit and topsails were even set at one point. When I hear the Main Engine fire up I think of our Chief Engineer, Danie (from South Africa), and wonder how he feels about our balance between awesome progress and frustrating delays on our passage to Cape Town. Last night, for instance, before 8 PM we were making between 9.7–10.9 knots. Twenty five minutes ago when we were hove-to, we were traveling at a rate of 0.5 knots.
The crew is not getting shack-wacky or squirrelly just yet. We actually do really well at sea because we enjoy it so much, but pretty much everyone is anxious to get to Cape Town. We have plenty of reasons to be antsy to get there; we are still in the Indian Ocean in cyclone season, our friends and shipmates have family and friends coming to meet us, Danie is going to see his family on his farm and we will all visit them there, there will be plenty of opportunity to explore South Africa, and we are looking forward to seeing our friends at Christel House. One-third of all the educational materials that came aboard in Lunenburg are being donated in South Africa!
We are almost there! Just looking out the port hole at that coastline reminds me that once we have rounded the Cape of Good Hope, we will be in the Atlantic Ocean again and officially on our way home! It’s not time to give that too much thought just yet…