I can remember very few times when we have been more eager to get to port. The last 24-48 hours of the passage were horrendous, as if to minimize the days before. The winds and waves were right up there with the most we have seen at sea. Steady 40 knots of wind with gusts to 52+ knots and waves that crashed and thrashed us. There was no safe or comfortable place on the boat. We had to wait it out.
The weather forecasts were only minimally helpful and definitely underestimated the strength and wrath of Neptune. We had a triple-reefed main, but needed to lower the main entirely. A sail slide broke mid-way down the mast and we could get it neither up nor down. The poor main was thrashing itself to death. David, attached to the mast by his tether, worked the sail until his knuckles were raw and bleeding. Wave after wave broke over the deck. The wind was relentless. Finally, we managed to get the main down into the lazy jacks and lashed. We continued on with a handkerchief of a staysail.
We made reasonable progress until the wind backed to the northwest and then west. We were less than 60 miles from Durban now, but they would be hard fought miles. The torrential rain and lightning began soon after the wind changed. The night sky, bright with lightning flashes, looked like a colossal battle was being fought nearby. There was no rest and no respite for the crew. The wind and waves just kept on coming, knocking us down time after time. Things were airborne below that had been securely lashed. We thought of heaving-to, but without the mainsail, we weren’t sure we could. Luckily, the staysail alone worked for us and we huddled below as Cups drifted northeast with the wind and current … surrendering the miles we had already made to the good.
On Marcie’s watch, a fast change occurred. 40 knots from the southwest became 6 knots from the southeast and then the east . We cranked on the engine, and though the seas were rough, we made good progress. We could see the loom of Durban in the far distance. The AIS lit up with ships at anchor and in transit into and out of the port.
Around dawn, we hailed Durban Radio Control and received permission to enter the harbor and proceed to the International Jetty. The light winds increased to 35+ knots as we neared the port entrance. We could see the Durban skyline. We were so close. As we finally moved inside the relative calm and protection of the breakwater, we sighed in relief. We maneuvered our way past the large container and cargo ships. We spotted masts in distance.
By 0630, we were rigged for a starboard tie-up and making our approach to the jetty. To our surprise, two dockhands appeared out of nowhere to grab our lines.
Durban … at last. Time for a cuppa. Whew!