Wed/Thurs 27/28th Feb08 Life gets a bit frantic onboard occasionally!!

I took my time, making sure all on board was ready for passage to St Helena. Roger & Dawn ('Katrilli') came by to say goodbye & helped with lifting the outboard & dinghy. I decided to take time to cook a large 'ratatouille stew' ready for the expected rough start to the passage - which was very welcome later that night when it was blowing F6-7 with correspondingly big seas!
Heiko & Stefan came by, worried that I was taking so long to get ready (amazing how many things I found to sort out!). They'd also heard from Bjorn, whose buoy 'Nereida' was attached to, that his diamond ship was due in that night - no problem, since when they arrived I was just about to slip the line.

Of course, as usual over the afternoon & evening, the wind had got up strongly but I was surprised just how strong it was as I went to raise the mains'l outside the harbour entrance channel near Pt Diaz - a good F6-7, around 27-28 knots, from the SW, which became over 30kn apparent when I used the motor, as I had to, to keep us heading into wind to raise the sail (triple-reefed main & correspondingly tiny genoa!).

As I headed out further, making 5-6 knots in 3m seas, the fog I was expecting a short distance out was more murky mistiness in the failing light. I knew a diamond dredger was stationed to the NW of Luderitz Hbr & reckoned I could see it in the distance but my course (300T) seemed fine to avoid it. I heard 'Discoverer' calling a boat on VHF getting close to its anchor lines & wondered where 'Discoverer' was exactly.... someone came on the VHF to say the boat in question "had no engine" - which struck
me as odd. I assumed this was all taking place further down the coast somewhere... & went down below, with the boat going well in the strong conditions, to make a log entry.

Suddenly I heard the radio blare into life: "Sailing ship - you are about to foul in my anchor lines - turn south IMMEDIATELY!"....It could only be addressed to me since I was the only sailing boat around.... I rushed up on deck & dead ahead, too close for comfort, I could see four long lines splayed out from the ship - THIS must be 'Discoverer' (NOT displaying a signal on my AIS unit, for whatever reason, which would have warned me - unlike another ship which I had just been calling, thinking it
was them, to confirm they were anchored & that I would be clearing their lines OK... ). Clearly, in the strong wind, our leeway was sufficient to have caused the drift towards them. Also, the problem was that the lines are VERY long and angled very shallowly - so a really good distance needs to be kept from these anchored diamond dredger ships.

I swung the boat around to the south, but the wind was so strong, & almost from that direction, that now we lost way & actually couldn't make the tack.... as we drifted closer, I started the engine (that's when you're relieved you kept up the regular maintenance - when it works in an emergency...!). It helped us escape, but heading "two km south & then 2 km west" as I was instructed just wasn't happening..... I had to tack like mad, with motor well-revved up, to make any headway away from those
lines..... Going north wasn't an option because of the orientation of the lines. After each tack, either we ended up headed ESE or due W. After what seemed like an age, I nipped down to see where they were on the AIS display (he'd clearly turned on his unit after a comment of mine) ... he was 0.9 ml due east of me. I called him up to ask if that was far enough.... "no, you might foul the other lines - keep heading south & then west & then you're free to head wherever you like!" came the reply.
I was drenched from the spray as waves hit us - thank goodness I'd put on my jacket & hat for raising the mains'l earlier....! More quick tacking for what seemed like an eternity.... but finally we were OK & the ship's lights faded in the gloom astern, as he wished me well on my journey, saying "All's well that ends well!" That's when I really appreciated my earlier cooking...!!

By midnight, about 40 miles off, conditions had calmed down a bit, but we were still making good speed. Around 1 a.m., I contacted another ship, 'Tzini', looking as though they would pass uncomfortably close.... we stayed in touch for some time, until it was clear they would pass well ahead.

In the pre-dawn light, at 6 a.m. (0400 GMT), the wind had died sufficiently for me to let out 2 reefs & unfurl the genoa & by midday I had let out the last reef to try to keep us at the 6 knots or more we'd been making so far. The seas were more regular, the sun had got out, we were sailing smoothly & had the company of several birds for most of the day - dark shearwaters with a pale beak, petrels and, I think, albatrosses - big, graceful birds with long wings, body mainly white with dark upper
wings & shoulders, long, dark beak with an orange leading edge & a dark end to their tail. If anyone can identify them, please tell me!

It's been a really lovely, relaxing day - but now I'd like a touch more wind... we're only making 4.9 kn!!

Written by : Mike

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