Entertainment En Route

Bird Island to Mosselbaai

We left the Bird Island anchorage well before dawn. We hauled anchor in the pitch black, starless night, and not even the silhouette of the lighthouse shone. Only the endless cycle of the brilliant beacon split the darkness. We could hear the surf pounding on the shore and the reefs beside us, but the birds were still quiet and asleep as we slipped away.

mossel bay

Variable winds had us motor-sailing on tranquil seas. What a change from the washing machine we'd experienced just yesterday. Within an hour, the sun peeked over the horizon and the morning sky was painted in bright hues of pinks and oranges and reds.


There was no lack of entertainment during this day. Sky and sea teemed with hungry gannets, gulls and terns. We watched as pods of dolphins herded fish and took turns feeding. The water roiled and thrashed in the frenzy. Fish jumped. The gannets hovered opportunistically overhead, waiting to benefit from the spoils of the dolphins' work.

dolphins and gannets

Awhile later, David spotted a seal flipper poking out of the water. They always appear to waving hello. Soon two seals were swimming along side us, jumping gracefully out of the water, performing any number of aquatic acrobatics to our amusement. They swam along until they were obviously bored with us or thought of something better to do, and headed abruptly back towards shore.

seal jumping

During an afternoon cockpit chat, I spied a spout to port. Sure enough, a whale, presumably a southern right whale in this area, spouted twice and then breached. To our disappointment, he never came closer and we lost sight of him as he sounded and never re-surfaced in our view.

Then, of course, there are the endless line of ships that ply these waters. The AIS was kept busy with 4-6 ships on the radar screen at all times. Some were far off; some were a bit too close for comfort. It was a clear, bright day and there were no close-calls. Looking at the AIS, however, which does not represent ships to scale, it looked as if we were having a run-in with a the freighter, Densa Cobra, that was more than ½ mile to port.

ais vs ship

Towards late afternoon, we were disappointed when the promised easterlies never materialized. We had  headed out to the 200m contour, now much further offshore, in hopes of catching some of the Agulhas Current as well as sailing a bit off the light west winds, but never saw more than ½ knot and the west winds continued. We tacked towards shore again, frustrated with our slow progress, but overall pleased with the day.

We settled into our watch schedule, taking two hour naps rather than the usual three. Once the sun went down, it was cold and raw with intermittent showers. Two hours was adequate chilling time and it felt good to snuggle into a warm bunk. Conversely, climbing into the cold cockpit was … exhilarating!