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Mon/Tues 18/19 Feb08 The "Skeleton Coast" tries t o live up to its name!!

Mon/Tues 18/19th Feb 08

What a nightmare...! I woke up at one point, at 'oh-do-dark something',... to see 7m depth on the display across the cabin. Imagine my feelings as I rushed up on deck, expecting us to be in shallows close to shore, despite what the chart-plotter was showing - no such thing... the charted depth was well over 85m and we were still 15 miles off as we headed towards Lambert's Bay, hoping to see some inshore wildlife over the day.... I hurriedly turned us around to head back out to sea - and saw the
depth display fall even further... to 4m... ugh! It kept varying between 4m to 10m, occasionally plunging to over 100m before coming way up again for quite some time.
Having read & been told so much about dangerous shoaling off this coast (as well as frequent fog), with notes on the charts in this area stating "Uncharted Dangers: Due to possible existence of uncharted rocks & shoals, vessels should exercise extreme caution when navigating inside territorial (sic!!) waters", I concluded that this was what they were talking about... I turned tail & fled! And began to wonder about the point of coming up the coast if I wasn't going to be able to see much of it or
the wildlife around... Writing this, I wonder if I had some large fish sheltering under the boat...??!!! Or was it a thermal effect? Who knows? "Better to be safe than sorry"..."Discretion is the better part of valour" ...etc, etc. This is not a coast to get into trouble on when sailing alone, with 3-4m swell quite common & few inhabited parts ....although I have been impressed by the help the S.African Coastguard give people ... when they're close enough to do so.

All that excitement apart, it's been lovely sailing - in bright sun, wind abaft the beam, occasional poling out of the genoa (chance to try out my new pole - I had a few hiccups, now sorted, but it's so lovely & light, even I can move it about easily!). The swell has been mainly 3m but well spaced out so not a bad motion. BUT IT'S COLD!! In air temperature of 16C overnight & 21C over the day, feeling colder in the breeze, I'm in thick fleecy trousers, long ski socks & 2 fleece tops .. and that's
when down below! This, I gather, is the result of the cold Benguela current which runs along the coast.... Complete opposite to the Agulhas current off the East coast which made the sea far warmer (rather like the Gulf current in the N. atlantic) - I noticed an increase in temperature there of 4.5C.

After I left Cape Town yesterday morning, with dramatic Table Mt in the background, a solitary dolphin came up to bid me farewell..!

It's so nice to be sailing again, especially in such easy conditions. My only company today has been hearing CG or shipping/fishboats radio talk, flocks of terns and occasional other birds. (This evening I shall check in, if propagation permits, with some other boats which are heading to St Helena.) Being onshore and meeting people is fine & enjoyable in its way but this is something else... gives time to think/reflect ...and do a few more jobs! How lucky can you be??

Written by : Mike

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