Cape Town to the Azores: The end of an 8-year voyage

Sailing the Atlantic from Cape Town to the Azores marked the end of an eight-year circumnavigation for Dutch couple Wietze van der Laan and Janneke Kuysters

“That’s it,” Wietze says, “Not an ounce more of anything is added to the boat. No food, no fuel and no water.” I pause, because I had just grabbed my bag for another quick visit to the supermarket. We have a 6,000-mile trip to go and my fear of running out of food is even bigger than normal. But when I check my little book of supplies, I concede and put the bag away.

The next morning we give each other the customary pre-departure look in the eye and ask: “Ready?”. Then we’re on our way for this monster voyage: Cape Town to the Azores. This will be our final big passage in over 50,000 miles of sailing around the world.

Cape Town’s Table Mountain slips by to stern.

By the time Table Mountain sinks below the horizon, I’m rummaging in lockers for warm clothes. It feels as if the cold Benguela current swoops past the south-west of the African continent, straight from Antarctica.

We sail under bright blue skies, with lots of seals, gannets and albatross around us. A dream comes true when we see a Southern right whale surface close by.

On the desert’s edge

During the pleasant downwind sail to Lüderitz in Namibia, we see many ships with the sign ‘limited manoeuvrability’ on our AIS screen. Initially we are quite puzzled, because they seem to be close to the shore. Wietze then realises they are diamond-ships: alluvial diamonds are spread across the seafloor and across parts of the south-west of Namibia. Dredging boats literally suck the diamonds up.

Exploring the stunning sand dunes of Namibia

When we enter the bay near Lüderitz, an eccentric Brit rows out to us. “You’re just in time to tie up before the afternoon breeze starts,” Andy tells us. We’re directed to use one of the moorings normally used by dredging boats. “It’s best to use this mooring instead of anchoring. The holding is not good,” our new friend says.

An hour later it feels as if a switch has been flicked and we find ourselves in 40-plus knots of wind. Where the hot desert meets the cold current, the ‘afternoon breeze’ as Andy called it, feels like half a hurricane.

We manage to get ashore in our dinghy and, after a quick clearance, go for a wander around this very German-looking town.

A few days later we slip our mooring and head to Walvis Bay. This time we sail closer inshore and enjoy the ‘stop and go’ sailing: nights and early mornings are lovely with light southerly breezes and a gentle push by the current.

At 1300 the afternoon breeze starts and we fly north, close reefed and poled out. Then, 12 hours later, all is calm again.

Walvis Bay has a small craft basin in the south where the Walvis Bay Yacht Club is very welcoming and offers us a sturdy mooring. We’ve learned our lesson and tie up before the afternoon breeze hits again – the same breezes that powered SailRocket to its record breaking 65-knot run.

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