The gorgeous blue skies of the morning begin to cloud over as big fat cumulus puffs gather, the sea is a bit more grey and wind (still directly on the nose of the boat) freshens. Now, instead of motoring ahead confidently, Catarina is digging into big waves and shuddering over what feels like corrugations and potholes. The dreaded seasickness creeps up on me and the snappy chirps and photos shared with family and friends along the way get fewer, despite a dose of stugeron taken as we leave Durban harbour, (just in case) and, with each building wave, I finally succumb to a full-on, savage bout of mal de mer. Around the Tugela River mouth, Hubby settles me and my green face onto my bed in our cabin and advises me to sleep, which I gratefully do. Hours later I awake to my world lifting, slamming with a violence of such magnitude I fear for the structural integrity of the boat!
The wind has strengthened, now gusting at around 35 to 40 kts, still directly onto our nose, huge waves push from the stern of the boat into smaller waves to build against the boat’s forward motion and together with the Agullhas current also against us, Catarina hoists up against wave after wave and crashes down into the trough between them. I lift my leaden head to peek out of the cabin porthole but see nothing but grey seas, dark grey skies and the relentless white caps of breaking waves thrown up all round from a confused sea! Although it feels like we are careening along at the speed of light, we are, at times, only doing 3 kts or so with everything pushing against us.
Eventually, in the pitch darkness I make my way up to the gently lit saloon area and hear the crackle of the marine radio. Hubby, tired and not doing so well himself is still locked in at the helm station and calling Richards Bay Port Control requesting entrance into the harbour. At last! We have made it! Feelings of great relief rush over me though the seas have not yet calmed and the boat still feels like we are locked in battle with the elements.
At 10:30 or so at night, I hear the crackle of the radio as it comes to life with the port authorities informing us to “stand by” as there had been a dredger working near the harbour mouth, preventing us from entering. What seems like ages later, my intrepid Captain Hubby calls in again after “making donuts” outside the harbour entrance in huge seas, for what seemed like forever, but this time there is no answer. Calling again, the dredger captain answers and informs us that they are nowhere near the harbour mouth and have no intention of entering the harbour tonight. Hubby calls up port authorities again and finally gets the go-ahead to proceed.
We motor in slowly, making our way through unfamiliar territory in the black of night. It’s never a good idea to enter an unknown harbour after dark. Harbour lights veer off to port as we turn to starboard and make our way down a narrow, unlit and unmarked gulley toward Zululand Yacht Club, hubby relying solely on his GPS and chart plotter. Suddenly, the lights of the yacht club mirror across the water as we enter and find our pre-arranged berth. Now, at nearly midnight, with no line-handlers to assist with tying her down to her moorings, hubby and our dear friend successfully get Catarina tied down securely on the teetering floating dock, then we make our way, through the driving rain to our car waiting parked in the car park.
The car is quiet on the drive back to Salt Rock, exhausted we are and looking forward to a good sleep even though it’s after midnight. Tomorrow we will come back to Catarina and in the light and calm of day, assess and marvel at the strength of her build and capacity to take the might of the elements seemingly effortlessly in her stride.
She is a great boat, our Catarina and we look forward to safe adventures, not necessarily stormy dark ones, but having gone through our “baptism of fire” early on, we feel we have tucked away a wealth of experience from that one night. A steep learning curve behind us, hopefully no “curved balls” ahead.
God’s Promise that He holds all our tomorrows.