Night Nav

By PG Jonker

The Friday we sailed from Table Bay to Mykonos, Langebaan, on the Downwind Dash.  On Saturday we had the Pursuit Race which finished at about 17h00.  I’d rather not say how well it went in either of the two races.

Skippers Matthys & Ralph then decided it’s time to head back home while the weather was good.   Should the weather turn resulting in a strong sea and South Easter against us, the prolonged pounding Mafuta would take is simply so bad that the yacht will then rather have to stay docked at Langebaan until the weather improved. 

We put the mainsail up for stability and motored out of the Langebaan lagoon into a windless sunset evening.

We left the Langebaan lagoon and turned in a Southerly direction, heading in the general direction of Cape Town.

[Lighthouse on the Southern head to entrance to Langebaan]

Now this is the epitomise of peace and quiet.  The soft throbbing of the three cylinder Volvo engine underneath us (one feels it, rather than to hear it) has this absolute tranquilizing effect on me.   OK, maybe the sea sick pill was also doing its bit in this regard.  But this is the most serene setting I can imagine.

[Skipper Matthys Lourens deep in thought]

By nightfall it became rather chilly.  Well, it actually became really cold.  We became engulfed in very dense fog.  It was a moonless night, and with the fog around you it had a rather disorienting effect.   Thank goodness for a GPS and experience skippers.

We aimed for House Bay, a snug bay on the Northerly side of Dassen Island, about 11 km’s off Yzerfontein.  The plan was to lay over there until the next morning, and then motor home at first light.

As we approached Dassen Island its lighthouse could be seen coming around every few seconds.  However, entering House Bay turned out not to be as simple as motoring in and dropping the anchor.  The navigational map of Dassen Island bears names like “Foul”, and “Roaring Sisters”, and the remains of ships unsuccessfully navigating around the island bears testimony of it not being plain sailing.

House Bay is in the form of a horse shoe (well, this is probably the typical form of any bay, not so?).  The idea is to try to enter, and stay, as close as to the centre of the bay as possible to steer clear of the dangerous parts.  Apart from the lighthouse’s light coming around regularly, however, we could see absolutely nothing.

Johan van Dyk made himself comfortable at the navigation table where he plotted our position on the map from GPS readings every two minutes.  Mafuta barely moved.  I was posted on the bow as a look-out.  In the pitch dark and fog I would hear the surf breaking, and see the light from the lighthouse.  However, the next time I would hear the surf or see the lighthouse, it would be clear that the yacht in the meantime turned through 50 degrees or more, without me getting any feeling of movement at all.  Very disorientating.

Eventually, upon Johan’s instructions from the nav table, the anchor was dropped.  By that time his map looked like kiddies’ art.

When the sun came up the next morning we could see that we were positioned perfectly more or less in the middle of House Bay.

The good conditions prevailed, only now without the fog, and we motored back to Cape Town in a further uneventful trip.  More or less uneventful, depending on who is telling the story.

After a nice, sea sick pill induced nap, I eventually came up from down below to see what’s happening outside.  Still being half asleep I stood right there where the boom’s slight movement gave me a wack at the side of my head.  This convinced me to go back down below for another snooze.  An hour later I felt somewhat more rested and went back up again.  Peering out over the ocean something caught my eye and I stooped down to see what it was.   Just as I stooped down, from the corner of my eye, I caught sight the boom swinging past my head, this time missing it with only millimetres.  It would have been an exact repeat of the incident of an hour earlier if something did not distract me!

No further incidents detracted from a very enjoyable weekend.  I still sport the bump on my head, though.



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