Sailing from Luderitz to Walvis Bay

Feb 13th, 2019

We’ve been sailing from Luderitz to Walvis Bay since around noon yesterday.   It’s a distance of around 252 nautical miles and will take approximately 50 hours, if we average 5 knots per hour.  The first 12 hours the wind has been quite brisk.  When we left Luderitz, we had to put 2 reefs in the jib sail  because we were initially doing 8 knots and the boat was careening quite violently.  We have been sailing only on the jib sail the entire trip as the wind has been directly behind us or in our back quarter from the South/SouthWest.  In fact, I would say that the majority of our sailing for the past several months has been jib only.   This is new to my way of sailing, but it has worked out quite well for us regarding speed and control of the boat.

At 12:30 am the plotter just powered off (the plotter is the bottom instrument on the picture above).  We’ve been having intermittent issues with our plotter doing things like this.  Luckily, as I’ve said in past posts, our auto-pilot (top right instrument in pic above), or Otto, as we like to call him, has been quite constant in these times.   Otto is our friend, we like him and wouldn’t want to live without him.  When I was sailing from Virginia to Aruba with my good friend Paul Page, his boat had no working Otto and we hand steered the entire trip.   It was quite the challenge as there was only the 2 of us for the majority of the trip.  The last 7 days and nights, particularly were quite challenging as we ran straight from Haiti to Aruba, which was basically into the wind and waves the entire time.   This was Paul’s decision, and it turned out to be quite a challenge for both of us, but we made it!  And I love Otto because of it.   I  even wrote a little song about him, but can’t seem to find it right now.   But I will share a post I made in 2017 regarding losing our auto-pilot going up the Malakka Straight, right before we got to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

September 18th, 2017: “4 days ago, with 5 days left to sail to our destination, our autopilot went out.  Following is a description for non-sailors:  

An autopilot is like having an extra person on board who’s main purpose is to steer the boat and keep it on course.  It doesn’t take coffee breaks or smoke breaks or any breaks at all. It is as strong as 2 or 3 other people and seems to steer the boat effortlessly.  I know because hand steering in rough weather is a pretty damn good workout.   It’s something that most of us take for granted and don’t realize how much it does for you until it goes out.  It allows you to do things like make a meal, read a chart, take a pee, take a nap, check or change the sails, check out your fishing line, reel in a fish, filet a fish, make a sandwich, get your life jacket, hoist a halyard, and just about everything else you do on a a boat while the auto-pilot keeps steering, steering, steering the boat.  When it dies, all those things I just mentioned can’t be done unless you get someone else to take the helm for you so you can go do them.  A 3 hour watch goes from sitting near the helm and keeping an eye out for other ships and watching the chart plotter for dangers to a full-on 3 hour workout, man-handling the helm, trying to keep the boat on course, while doing the other things just mentioned.   It takes all your concentration. 15-25 knots of wind, waves, and currents all fight against you as none of them want you to a steer a course in a straight line. They all want you to get lost and will fight you tooth and nail to keep you from making your destination.   So after losing an invaluable member of our crew, you’ll understand our disappointment.  I’d like to have a moment of silence for our loss…….”

So, yes, I love Otto like a brother and I’m always grateful for him.

It’s now 2:30am and the sky is lit up with stars as we travel around 10 miles off the coast of Namibia.  The wind is still blowing from the rear quarter, but has lessened some.  That’s okay because we were going a little too fast anyway.   At the rate of speed we were doing all afternoon, we would be arriving in Malvis Bay at 2am.  We prefer arriving when it’s light outside to avoid any unforeseen or unplotted obstacles or dangers in the water.   You can never fully trust the chart plotter for safety.   A storm can move rocks and other debris through the water and create pileups in places where there were none before.  The chart plotter gets its data from charts or maps that were updated in the past year or so (assuming you update your plotter data regularly).   So, assuming an area’s depth, particularly when you get closer to shore, is not a good thing.  It’s always better to use your eyes in addition to chart plotters and depth sounders.  It also helps you to avoid things that may be floating on the water such as an anchored boat or buoy that isn’t documented by the chart plotter.   It’s even more critical when you’ve never been to the port before, as you’re unfamiliar with the layout.   It’s almost always safer to enter an unfamiliar harbor during daylight hours.

Update: It’s now 3pm on February 14th (Happy Valentines Day, everybody!).   We arrived at Malvis Bay, Namibia a few hours ago.  All is well.   Don’t forget to subscribe by email or you can follow on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Google+, or Instagram!


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