That dreaded time (for me) has finally arrived. I’ve lived in fear of this next passage for Daisy for the last year. Even though I’m not onboard right now, more importantly, my family are, with the exception of Nicolette who (thankfully) is here in Atlanta.
The passage from Durban to Cape Town, South Africa is THE MOST DANGEROUS passage in the world. Only this morning talking to Bob on Skype he was telling me that two of the larger boats in the fleet, LUSH an 88 footer, and Sotto Vento a 65 foot boat, who recently left Durban on the next leg to Cape Town, had both turned around and come back to Durban because the sea was so bad… That makes me shudder, when an experienced Captain on an 88 foot boat says the water is too rough! I honestly don’t think I will sleep a wink until my crazies arrive in Cape Town. Below is an account copied from “SOUTHERN AFRICAN CRUISING NOTES”.
ABNORMAL WAVES: It is a known fact that giant waves occur on the South African coast in the Agulhas current region, where southwesterly gales prevail against the southward flowing Agulhas current. Professor Mallory of Cape Town University analysed the recorded conditions that prevailed each time a number of ships were damaged by exceptional waves, and found that in all cases the dominant waves were always from the southwest. The weather patterns play a major part in that the most dangerous period occurs when cells of low pressure are moving along the coast in a northeasterly direction. These lows are a regular feature of the eastern seaboard and it often happens that during their passage the wind can change from a near northeasterly gale to a southwesterly gale, sometimes in a matter of minutes. The southwest wind then reinforces the existing waves generated by a short choppy sea, which acts directly against the Agulhas current.
It is the interaction between the strong southwesterly wind and the strong south flowing current which at times can reach 6 knots that creates monstrous freak waves, of which the charts warn: “abnormal waves of up to 20 meters in height, preceeded by deep troughs may be encountered in the area between the edge of the continental shelf and twenty miles to seaward thereof.”
The warning also describes the necessary evasive action to be taken under unfavourable conditions, namely, to stay clear of the areas seaward of the continental shelf. In other words, move inshore inside the 200 meter line. This well established rule has given rise to the belief that the bottom topography plays a part in the generation of giant waves, but in fact this only plays an indirect role.
Please remember that the conditions along the southeast coast of South Africa are unique; the region can only be made safer through an understanding of the forces involved and by treating the seas with the respect they deserve, regardless of loss of time.
“Do not have a deadline to meet at the other end”. (Reference is made to a research paper – “Giant Wave – Anomolous Seas of the Agulhas Current” – by Ecxart H Schuman.)
Daisy has a deadline, but I told Bob please, please forget that, wait for the right time…
Another clip here that ensures my sleepless nights for the next 2 – 3 weeks…
The Bencruachan never reached Cape Town. She was steaming southwards at 21.5 knots in moderate sea and a sw wind of about force 4 -5 when she was struck by a freak wave off the Transkaai in the wee small hours of 2nd. May. In reality, she was not actually struck by a freak wave but fell into a hole in the sea before the following waves washed over her. The ship survived the incident but only just. The first two cargo holds were completely flooded and the keel was twisted 13 degrees out of true by the force of the sea bearing down on the ship. The main deck was a complete mess with deck cargo which had been carried away or seriously dammaged and, due to the floding of the forward holds, the ship was down by the head with her propeller clear of the water.
A MAYDAY message was sent and later the same day the passangers were helicoptered off thanks to the efforts of the South African Air Force. A sea-going tug was despatched to the aid of the vessel and on arrival connected the towline to the stern of the dissabled Bencruachan. She was then towed stern first to Durban where she was pumped out and the dammaged cargo was discharged.
This particular stretch of the South African coast is noted for these “freak waves”. They occur where the Agulhas current is strongest and where southbound ships would like to be to gain the greatest benefit of the favourable current. Northbound ships hug the coast instead hoping at best to benefit from the counter current or at least to avoid the Agulhas curent. Not long before the Bencruachan incident another British ship, the Port Chalmers also suffered the effects of a “freak” wave. She however was more fortunate and was not seriously damaged.
Other vessels have not been so lucky:
In 1909 the British liner SS Waratah on her maiden voyage from Sydney to London dissapeared after having called at Durban for coal. No trace of the ship or her 211 passengers and crew was ever found.
In 1944 the cruiser H.M.S. Birmingham plunged into a deep hole and thereafter was overwhelmed by a huge wave. The C.O. reported wading through knee-high water on a deck more than 60 feet above sea level.
I could paste so many more, but I think you all now see why I am so frightened for my family..
Please pray for not only my family but the entire fleet for a safe passage to Cape Town, Thank you and God Bless.