We had a great time on Reunion which turned out to be a perfect stop for us to rest and recover after a tough crossing. While Puffin got a huge share of love after the latest crossing we also made sure to recover, rest and explore Reunion (which turned out to be a hiking paradise none of us had expected). Meanwhile we were constantly monitoring the weather though, keeping the lookout for a weather window for the upcoming stretch which is known to be tough due to the several weather systems meeting. This coming stretch would have the weather from the Indian Ocean, meet with the weather rolling down from the Mozambique Channel and the systems coming up from the southern tip of South Africa.
Choosing a weather window is a nervous struggle, you can only see predictable weather for a few days ahead of you and you never know what is to come thereafter. This means that you’re constantly debating with yourself whether the window you’re looking at is the best you’ll get or if there is even better weather coming your way if you have the nerves to wait. On top of this you also have an incoming hurricane season and you really want to stay on the safe side as mush as you possible can. Gosh do we sometimes wish that we had a person on the outside tell us “go with that, it looks like a really good window”.
After passing on the first weather window, as we weren’t quite ready to leave and maybe, if we pushed it, we could have made it out towards the end of the window but this has rarely worked to our favor. We kept looking at the weather very closely, talked with a lot of other cruisers planning to do the same trip and finally found a new window that looked like it suited Puffin. When setting out for a passage you take the decision to leap and do the best of whatever circumstances you meet along the way, and therefore we also always look up alternative destinations if things would fail and you would need to alter the plan.
So after having been on Reunion for almost two weeks, it was time to check off the pre-departure checklist say goodbyes, check out of the country and slip the lines. We were setting off for our final crossing of the Indian Ocean. To be honest we were not very excited to do the crossing but on the other hand we were both very happy to soon be able to put this ocean behind us.
The crossing started off with glorious sailing and from there we had 10 days of absolutely everything. We had days of motoring on silky smooth seas, we had sweet cruising with our Code-0, cruising with full white sails and setting every single reef possible to drop the main and only sail with a tiny tiny triangle of our genoa in crazy thunder. Finally, after 10 days we arrived in Richard’s Bay, South Africa, and we had finished our final crossing of the Indian Ocean.
The checking in procedure to South Africa had seemed a bit daunting from our research before departure but with the help of the local volunteers from OSASA everything was very straight forward despite having to go to multiple offices across town. Local volunteers even arranged a taxi driver to take us to all the stops needed.
We were also lucky to have friends of old family friends in town and they invited us into their home with the greatest hospitality imaginable. Being shown around by locals always gives you a unique perspective on a place and we were so grateful for getting shown around town and out to the nature reserves to see some amazing African wildlife.
After a few days in Richard’s Bay we decided it was time to take the next weather window along with a few other boats we had met. The weather windows along the coast were shorter than usual for the season and every few days big winds would come up along the coast, normally this wouldn’t have been so bad but with the strong Agulhas current along the coast the charts even warned for 20m seas. So to say that we picked a weather window with great care is an understatement.
The first passage along the coast to East London was smooth and fast, with following winds and a strong current Puffin broke her previous speed record by far! We managed to get in with only a few miles of headwinds at the end, a few boats coming in after us had a pretty rough time with the current against wind.
The small river yacht club in Buffalo River, East London, was so welcoming. As the marina was completely full a local boat offered to let us moor along side them, we were so grateful as our windlass had been acting up lately (too much salt?). Not only did we get to moor up along their boat, they also offered to take us around town. Again getting shown around town by locals was such a treat, South African’s have been so incredibly inviting and generous all along the coast.
After a short stop we headed onwards with the next weather window, our goal was to make it to Knysna but the weather had a different plan for us. The forecast changed quickly and we decided to duck into Port Elizabeth as the entrance into Knysna is a narrow river entrance that is not navigable in rough conditions.
Again the locals at the yacht club were so helpful and showed us around town and helped us fill our jerry cans and get groceries. After the weather system had passed we headed to Knysna and passed the narrow river entrance in perfectly smooth conditions. Once we passed the entrance we navigated up the river and were directed to anchor outside the yacht club. Knysna was our favourite stop in South Africa so far and we were really glad that we waited for weather to allow for a stop here. We almost wished that we could have stayed for longer, but given the uncertainty of the weather along this coast we didn’t dare to pass on the next weather window.
This window was probably the longest we had seen since we arrived in South Africa, we had four days of light winds and that would be more than enough for us to make it to Cape Town. Exiting through the river mouth was a bit nervous but with the light winds and high tide the exit was very smooth. The first milestone on this stretch was Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa, and would also be the furthest south on our journey – only north from here. Despite its reputation the light winds gave us smooth sailing and we passed the cape with dolphins following Puffin. Rounding the Cape of Good Hope was almost as smooth in the light winds but here we could feel the wind increase from 10 to 20 knots in a matter of minutes, this did give us a chance to get some great photos of our friends sailing just behind us around the cape. This light wind passage did mean that we used a bit more diesel than we would have liked but we are very happy that we rounded the two capes and made it into Cape Town in great weather.
After the short passage we arrived at the Royal Cape Yacht Club where we had made a reservation for a month, both Puffin and crew will appreciate a longer break and spending Christmas and New Years with some friends and family.