We’re sailing down the Mozambique Strait on our last stretch before we get to Richards Bay, South Africa. Twenty four hours ago we left Inhaca Island, Mozambique, where we had been anchored for 3 days, waiting out a storm before grabbing a 40 hour weather window that opened for us, just enough time for us to get south to Richards Bay. If we didn’t get there in time, the winds would change from a northerly wind behind us, pushing us towards our destination to a southerly gale force wind, causing our approach to be quite challenging.
The first several hours we motored, with the wind coming from the south, right on the nose. Slowly the wind started to “back” so we could start beating a little (Blog Post about Beating, 4th Paragraph) and take the revs of the engine down a notch. Eventually it backed to a “beam” and by evening it had swung round behind us as promised by the downloaded grib files (weather files used for our CPN application) and we were in a full on “run.”
Just a moment to explain what I wrote above about backing to a beam and a run. Basically there are two ways a wind can go or change. It can either back (change in a counterclockwise direction) or veer (change in a clockwise position). So we know from my past blog that beating is when the wind is pointed at you about 30-60 degrees from the front of your boat, allowing your to be in a close hauled position. A beam or beam reach position is when the wind is perpendicular to your boat or the wind is coming in directly from the side of your boat. So when I say the wind backed to a beam, it means it changed direction, counterclockwise, from 30-60 degrees to 90 degrees. A run is when the wind direction is directly behind you, blowing you along from behind. If you want more information about points of sail, please review this article. Oh and while we’re defining things, a few times during the day, with the waves and wind coming behind us, the cockpit and the captain got pooped!
So in the run position, the wind blew us along all night, giving us a gentle 5-6 knots of boat speed until mid morning when it started to blow for real, reaching up to 35-40 knots of wind speed before the day was done. At one point, as we were surfing down the side of one of the 4 meter swells, our 13 meter boat reached a maximum speed of 16.3 knots, a new record for Prince Diamond. Note the difference between wind speed and boat speed. Wind speed is how fast the wind is blowing and boat speed is how fast the boat is going. A 35-40 knot wind speed caused our boat to average 9-10 knots of boat speed and get up to 16.3 knots of maximum boat speed.
Averaging 9-10 knots per hour all day on our last day sailing, our concerns about reaching Richards Bay in time from the previous day were now just a memory. We thought we would arrive by midnight, but the day’s northerly winds got us there by dusk, about 5 hours early.
We arrived in Richards Bay and signaled our friends on the VHF radio who were already there. An hour later we were rafted up to their boat on the international dock, which was crowded with about 30 other boats tied up to it. It’s a free dock in Richards Bay, and everybody is taking advantage of it. There was even free water and electricity hookups. Life is good. Another successful passage south through the Mozambique Strait, possibly the most dangerous part of my circumnavigation thus far.
Here are some pictures of the wave conditions. Notice the waves mounting behind us as well as the waves surrounding that poor fishing boat. It was pretty intense. It’s really hard to capture wave heights and conditions on a boat. If any of my photographer followers has any clues on how to better do that, please let me know. I believe using the foreground stuff for comparison helped in these examples.