Vagabund Log

Walvis Bay to St Helena

Walvis Bay to Saint Helena

15 November Thursday

Early morning at 8h00 we did the last few things in town like pizza, petrol, emigration and handing back the car. We only had to clear out with emigrations. No flight plan, customs etc. was required.

We even managed to secure our allusive scramble egg and salmon breakfast at a cute restaurant on the waterfront. Breakfast is only served till 11h00 in the morning. This was the first time we managed to make it on time. One of their features is a vegetable garden in an old wooden boat.

Arrie saw us off at our dingy and we managed to pull up all 86 m of chain in no time to be on our way to refuel in the small craft harbour.  The price was R11-04 per liter. We filled up with 176 liters and paid R1954-08.

It was 13h00 as we say our own good bye to Walvis Bay by hoisting the screecher and setting the course to Pelican Point between al the anchored cargo ships waiting to enter the harbour. We sail past Pelican point with the light tower and the oil rig.

We selected our route to cross over Shackelton seamount on our way to St Helena.  We had to sail 1200 nm to our next stop. Our longest non-stop crossing till date. We managed to maintain a speed of 6,5 knots. We could have sailed much quicker but our speed was limited by the sea state. The sea state was about 3 meter swells with a fairly short period. The wave direction was on the bow port side (more uncomfortable than a following sea). At times it felt like we were in a washing machine. We only sailed with our headsail at nighttime to make sure that a sudden wind gust will not overpower us in the middle of the night.

Later that night the wave direction changed to our stern port side and with a SSE Force 6 wind we set the screecher that improved our SOG to over 8 knots.  It was a bumpy ride.

16th November Friday

After midnight Spray Eagle  (a Singapore cargo ship) was 10 nm away but on a direct collision course. As the stand on vessel we maintained our speed and course and was relieved to see them changing their course to steam pass our stern less than 2 nm. Thanks again to AIS that made us visible to them. 

We also managed to pick up a vessel less than 3,5 nm on our port side with a weak blip on the radar. The vessel position was confirmed by spotting its lights. No AIS identification with an occasional blip on the radar. The lights confirmed that it was a fishing vessel but it was not clear whether they had extended nets in the water.

The sea state improved during the night. We where maintaining a 7,8 knots in a force 5 SE.  Zack could not wait to start fishing again and although the conditions were far from perfect he set out a couple of lures in a very uneven sea. It was a skiing experiences for the fish once they where on the line. Despite the high boat speed Zack managed to catch a good size yellow tail just after breakfast. He released the fish.

The sea temperature has increased from 10ºC to 14ºC and the temperature outside has increased from 17ºC to 21ºC. A much more comfortable temperature. Wind was back to force 6.

About 14h00 the wind increased to force 7 and the sea state deteriorated further. We change course with +10ºT to have the wave direction more to our stern and reducing the apparent wind speed to be less than 25 knots. We also lock the propellers from free turning. The barometer was falling from 1015 to 1012 in less than 3 hours. We got worried and phoned our beloved weatherman. Michael came back shortly afterwards confirming that the weather will not further deteriorate.

We watched a movie and ate popcorn while sitting in the saloon and keep one eye on the plotter to make sure the apparent wind speed did not exceed 25 knots.

After sunset the wind gusts up to 33knots and the apparent wind was on the limits for the screecher. We were on force 7 but due to the sea state that could get further deteriorate we decided to take the screecher down. It was more difficult because it was already dark. We put the front deck light on and clip on with our harnesses. At 20h00 the headsail was up and we managed to slow Vagabund down to just over 7 knots in the wind of 26-32 knots. I was too tired to prepare dinner and both of us were not hungry. We ate bread and cup of soup.  

17th November Saturday

When we deployed the screecher we discovered a tear about 1 .5 m from the clew. We had to bring her down again and repair the sail. We drag the screecher in her bag into the saloon. When she was out of the bag it was a task to get the tear. Much easier to do a sail repair with the sewing machine than doing it by hand. 

18th November Sunday

Having time to focus on your current environment around you is a new experience to us. For the first time I do have time to experiment with new recipes as well as the perfect subject to try all the new stuff on. Eat now and only disproof when the scoring is done after the meal.

Every afternoon at 16:00 UT (18:00 local SA time) we SMS our position to Michael but Zack will use the slightest of glitches excuses to then call him and have a short chat as well. Our weatherman will then use our position and sms our weather forecast 150 nm and 300 nm ahead. What a blessing: weather with love.

The sea life activity increased with the water temperature increase, we started to see flying fish and two squid were washed on to the deck and later on even a flying fish fly into the anchor locker.

The weather pattern repeated itself every day: The pressure drops late afternoon and the wind increase to 25-30 knots and gusting to 33 knots. Close to midnight the wind starts dropping down. During the first part of the day the barometric pressure increased to 1015 mBar with force 4 winds.

Even the fishing patterns started to repeat itself with little or no fishing activity till late afternoon when the wind started to pick up again.

All pandemonium broke loose when one of the rods started screaming with a newly found intensity. Zack has a saying “ek ken moeilikheid as ek dit sien en hierdie is moeilikheid”

The wind has already picked up to 28 knots and the screecher were running close to its limits. Vagabund was sailing more than 9 knots and surfing every once in while over 12 knots.  The fish just kept on spooling line of the real, the drag was way past its strike drag and it seemed like the fish did like the idea of us using it to slow down Vagabund. Our captain of the boat was so taken up with the action that he forgot that he did not had a crew of twenty men ready to execute his commands. The tasks just kept on coming, I filtered most and tried to prioritized them but he did not found it funny when I interrupted him by asking which one he wants me to do first. Some may call it command to multi task the impossible I call it fish fever.

We managed to turn Vagabund back into the wind and reduced the boat speed to 5 knots it was still to fast. Zack managed to get some line back on the reel.  With the change in direction we where almost sailing back to the fish. He brought the fish close to the boat but did not believe me when I told him it was a billfish. He so strongly desired a yellow fin tuna that he tried to convinced me that it was the fin of a big yellow fin. The moment of controlling the fight was short lived as we quickly overshoot the perfect fighting angle. But it almost seemed like the fish just came to size us up and decided it does not want to stay and took of with a vengeance. The rod was back in the holder and we decided to bring the screecher down to get more control over the fight.

At this time I was still only half way through all my initial commands but it felt like the fever was under control. After another 15 minutes the fish was close to the boat. I was standing ready with the gaff. Zack took the leader and saw it was a short bill. Our supper immediately turned into an environmental protection program. We did not gaff her but let her go. Our first billfish on Vagabund for 2012.

We caught 5 billfishes on Vagabund in 2011 that was of 4 different species.  Zack has caught a Blue marlin and now a short bill. I am very proud of him. 

19th November Monday

With everyday only blue water around you, you lost track of time. By writing in the logbook the dates and time we track what day and date it was. On the water the days looks exactly the same. Thursday and Saturday is only spelled differently. It is now three weeks since we have left home. 

What do I miss the most? 

Talking to my dearest daughter Zandia. We are so close and I miss hearing your voice. You are a living testimony of what you teaches and  do. Teaches woman of Jesus being there First Love. I love being part of your dreams. Being a princess God created you to be. A husband Andre that adores you.  To follow you and Andre where you are as a couple, touches so many peoples hearts by your ministry in Eksderde. We are excited to see what path God is leading you as a couple on.

I miss the voice of my son Michael and his dearest wife Cathri that is like a daughter to me. The times we spend together. A special bond between mother and son. I miss your hugs. We are so proud of you being part of the Tecroveer team (third generation) that sustains the legacy. I am looking  forward to have you both with us over Christmas ( the first time) Wanting to see what you have done with your home. Now only be able to see in March. Please bring photos!!!! Every time the G2 is up with Tecroveer logo and our legacy then we missed all the faces of the team at Tecroveer: Piet, Izak, Michael, Cobus…etc. Everybody is special to us.

I miss only to be able to drop in and talk to my mother. Always with a hug and smile. Never complaining. Such an inspiration. Miss you Moeks. My mother in law that is also like a mother. Always have my favorite ginger cookies in a jar specially for me. Missing our tea, cookies and small talk in the sitting room with the white leather chairs.

I miss you Suzette. Not only to be able to share the small things but you are so part of my live by being my personal assistant.  I miss to be able to walk to the other part of the house and to find you always there. Planning, working, laughing together, even baking together. You are more than a friend to me.

I miss our families. Else’s, McCarthy's, Cronje's etc. All the support and always only a telephone call away. The  special times  talking to you Louise. Scyping with Hendrik and Cornelia. Sharing our lives and times together. Playing golf with Izak and Heleen.  I miss our friends. Rudy, Hester, Louis and Kobie, the time spend Friday evenings, laughing and eating together. Francois and Carol our sailing buddies, that understood our hearts and dream. Nanna my prayer companion. Missing sharing with you. Love you lots.

I miss my corner bath and warm water. I miss my garden and the hearing of the birds every morning. I miss my dresses. I miss having my hair done every week.  Candice only you can do it so perfect. Here on the sea my hair follows their own style. I miss my monthly pampering with you Annemarie. A session refreshing for my body and soul. Being in your company where we minister to each other. 

What is the purpose of this time on the water for so many days and days:

I believe my purpose in life is serving God. To love My Fist Love Jesus Christ. My purpose second is to support and love my husband and then our kids. For so many years I was working part time and was always there. Part of the growing years of our children. Watching every netball, hockey and foot ball game. After they left home I started full time with the laboratory and after hard work of five year it was the first accredited laboratory in North West. Long hours every day with so little time for Bible study, special time with Zack.  My dream and purpose was fading away. From April 2010 I was walking a path of faith with so many choices. I was taught so many things. I was released in August as director of both companies and could again follow my dream....

If this many hours on the sea purpose is to give me time to write down what I have learned, it was worth while. On the web under inspirational you will find where I am going to share my journey of faith. During my night shift it gives me time alone time with my Creator. Time to listen to His voice... Time to worship... 

Once we passed the 20 deg South latitude we were spoilt with calmer water and wind. We were at the halfway mark to St Helena. Today for the first time it is what we expected the crossing would be. Wave heights of 2.2 m and wind 17-23 knots. We could for the first time from Walvis put up the G2. Water a deep blue color and temperature about 23ºC. Zack was preparing new lures with a knot made with a special tool that was given as a gift by Francois.

Just before sunset the elusive yellow fins made their appearance.  Three of the five reels where running simultaneously. This made our previous billfish ordeal looked like a kinder garden exercise. Our captain thought he has expanded his crew to 40. I just did what I managed to have learned out of previous ordeal. Zack and myself each took a real to try and control the situation. The course changes only worsened the situation as our apparent wind speed jumped through the roof causing us to accelerate to 12,5 knots. We lost both the tuna.

In our postmortem we now know that the only way to slow down the G2 is to drop the apparent wind speed to as low as possible by turning straight down wind and if you want to further reduce your speed you then to simply have to lower the sail. We have decided not to target bigger fish with the G2 flying.

We settled in for the night by sailing only with the headsail. For the first time from Walvis we could enjoy a sundowner on the bow and watch the sun go under. Zack caught a smaller tuna. Just big enough to use for sushi.

20th November Tuesday

After a peaceful night with only force 4 following wind we change sail back to the G2 again. Immediately our boat speed increased to almost half the wind speed.

By setting the tack of the G2 between the bow sprit and port side bow we managed to sail straight downwind with still enough play on a convertible fast downwind run.  What a joy to be rid of the mainsail jibe protectors.

The Greenwich line came up much quicker and by 23h05 we crossed from East to West into the new time zone. “I could not help myself thinking we were round about in 2080 and were somewhere in deep space in our spaceship exploring the universe……”

21st November Wednesday

Sea state calm with 2,2 m wave height and wind 12- 17 knots on a run for the whole day. This was sailing as I have imagined it. It was a lazy day with doing different chores at a lame pace. The rest of the day I spend on doing my nails for the first time. If I may say so I was quite pleased with the results. 

I tried a new recipe and received a 4 star from Zack to be used as a dish that is not the main meal.

22nd November Thursday

We could see the rain on the radar system. Our first rain from Cape Town. We were blessed with a perfect morning with the sun shining and the water a deep blue color. With the rain still wet on the yacht Vagabund could be washed.  We convertibly cruised with the G2 and made good time.

We had to manage our time of arrival at Saint Helena. Zack did not want to approach the island during night time. Our Navionics and Garmin maps had vary little detail on the Island and we had to use our map charts.

Late afternoon we have taken the G2 down and were going with the headsail at half the speed. The water temperature were up to 18ºC. Time for fishing again. Zack took out all the stops and introduced the full fishing Monty with color, size and teaser variations. The stage where set.

After a beautiful sunset we were busy settling in for the last night before landfall.

Three reels went off simultaneously, lines crossed and by the tone in the reels we knew this was it. Despite our postmortem discussions our captain made his appearance again. There was a slight improvement as he was now only commanding ten of his best crew simultaneously. Turning the yacht into the wind, start the motors, haul out the teasers, get the gaff, sort out the crossed lines and by the way catch a tuna on the other rod while you where at it was only part of my job description. I forgot to ad “and it was pitch dark outside” Fortunately the second and third tuna relieved me of some of my chores by getting unhooked.

Zack managed to tame the fish by turn the tuna’s head and reeled her in. A beautiful 20 kg yellow fin tuna. A tick off on Zack’s bucket list and a freezer filled up with delicious tuna steaks.

23rd November Friday

St Helena will be our first foreign island on our voyage. Feels like a kid waiting for his birthday party.

At 6h00 Saint Helena were showing strongly on our radar.  We were still about 18 nm out and still struggled to see the island through the cloud cover.

We decided to put up the screecher to improve our boat speed. A friendly female voice with a strong British accent appeared over the VHF radio it was St Helena Radio enquiring whether we will be visiting James Bay in order to prepare for our arrival.

As we approached landfall the vertical cliffs became apparent. The island rose up from thousands of meters from the seabed to over 800m above sea level. There where only one place where landfall was possible and that is in James Bay. By coming closer into James Bay massive rocks is covering the steep hills. James Town was lying between two majestic mountains.

On arriving contact was made with Port control on VHF 14. We where instructed to anchor on the Eastern side as the existing yacht moorings was removed. The water was 25m deep and we are glad for the change to 100m chain and 33kg rocna anchor. Shortly after our settling in we where boarded by the port control and customs.

A party of 3 officials that consists of the Port control manager as well as 2 officials from customs boarded Vagabund. Our customs inspection turned more into an information session and we had an enjoyable session with the friendly saints of Saint Helena. We paid our anchorage fees of £35 and further landing fees for visiting St Helena of £14 per person. This was valid for up to 10 days.

All visitors must be covered by medical insurance, proof of which, must be produced on arrival at immigration, regardless of your length of stay. On arrival we have to flown a yellow flag (the signal flag “Q” in the International Code of Signals) at all times between the entry by your yacht into the limits of the port and the making of the report to customs. After the visit the yellow flag could be lowered and we were welcome to set foot on land.

An island with Atlantic facing cliffs, inland pastures, rolling hills, ancient historical fortifications and a quite little town with their “saints” to be explored!!!!