27/11/2015 – East London (South Africa not UK!)

We had a fantastic sail for a few hours early on Wednesday morning, averaging over 9 knots. For an hour our speed didn't drop below 10, isn't a favourable current a wonderful thing? Suddenly, soon after 0600, the wind died to next to nothing prior to changing direction from NE to SSW. We had expected the wind shift a few hours later. Though the wind wasn't that strong our speed over the ground added to the apparent wind strength, bringing it up to 20 knots almost on the nose. In wind like that the engine struggles to propel us at 5 knots though the current continued as we headed inshore. The risk with wind over current is that it can kick up steep, nasty seas which tend to stop the boat's forward momentum. Our original anticipated stopover was Port Elizabeth but we decided it was silly to bash into the unfavourable wind. When we left Richards Bay the wind was 5-10 knots from the SW but there was barely any current so we could make good progress on the engine in flat seas. From 0600 onwards it was a different proposition. We entered East London at about 1100 and tied up on the Buffalo River Yacht Club pontoon. East London has proved to be a pleasant surprise. The yacht club is very informal, very welcoming and the members go out of their way to be helpful. Yesterday two of them ferried skippers and fuel cans to a truck stop to pick up diesel, very kind of them. Wednesday evening the club fired up two of the Braais (BBQs) and we had a great evening amid World ARC crews, other cruisers and locals; in fact is was so good we drank the club out of red wine! Thursday was Thanksgiving so the World ARC group of 5 boats went out for dinner, organised by Nichola on Aretha. We went to Grazia Fine Food and Wine, a restaurant just off the seafront towards the NE of East London town centre. The food was very good, beautifully presented and very reasonably priced; for example a 200 gr. fillet steak topped with a whole Camembert was just under £10 and that was about the most expensive main course. As you might expect, the wines were also very good. They had placed some bottles on the table as 'suggested wines', they were from the 'prestige wines' list but both cost less than £20, about the price of an 'average' wine in the UK if you are lucky. It was a very enjoyable evening. We had planned to leave today (Friday) but have decided to stay until tomorrow morning though the other four boats here are still planning to leave today. The wind won't begin turn in our favour until late this afternoon which makes arriving off Mossel Bay in daylight a bit questionable. If we leave tomorrow morning we should have favourable winds all the way and will be able to anchor safely in daylight. Sunrise is at 0513 so even if we manage to ride the current and have a fast trip we'll still arrive with enough light to see by. The weather window isn't long enough to get all the way to Cape Town in one go but we should be able to continue on Thursday or Friday. We are not in a hurry. The four boats that reached Port Elizabeth on Tuesday night or Wednesday have left early this morning for Cape Town. The four boats remaining in Richards Bay expect to leave tomorrow morning and the missing one is probably in Durban having left Richards Bay on Tuesday. It is being taken to Cape Town by a delivery crew. The wind patterns start to change in the west then the change slowly clocks around the coast, reaching Port Elizabeth then East London, followed by Durban and finally Richards Bay. Soon all the boats will be together again in Cape Town. Christmas should be fun this year! (John: last year we were the only boat occupied in a boatyard, with the diesel tank occupying most if the saloon!) Joyce

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