Useful Information when sailing down the SA Coast

Published 12 years ago, updated 5 years ago

I recently sent this mail to a friend in Richards Bay, SA, who asked for our experiences going down the coast from Durban. Maybe they are of interest for Noonsite.

Always look for the current. It is around the 200-meter line, or further out. Mostly it is well worth going out to sea for it, for it gives you speeds of 10 knots and more. If you want to make use of a window the current is your friend. If the wind changes you have to get out quick, the sea is a little more choppy there and will be a killer once you have heavy headwinds.

Durban-East London:

We lost the current there for a while but mostly it is around the 200-meter line. The current still runs quite good once you head in to approach East London. We left the current at Cape Morgan. The entrance to EL is good even in strong NE. We entered without problems in 30 knots from NNE.

You have to anchor there and there is plenty of room. If it is rainy don’t anchor in the middle of the river. Because of a rainstorm upstream we saw 5 boats drag anchor simultaneously when we were there. All were anchored in the middle of the stream. We were a bit on the side and were good for 3 days even with big winds. Watch out though, because some boats turn on the tide, some others turn more with the wind.

The (very friendly) guys from the Yacht Club love to keep you there and were sceptic even about the best possible weather windows. But, for your boat at least it is a place where you can almost always go in and are sure of a spot to be safe in strong weather.

East London-PE:

Go out to sea, it is worth the detour. The current is very strong and will rocket sling you to PE. It is about 20 miles out and that seems far, but it is worth it! If in doubt you’re not far enough out yet. If the wind angle is good I would stay in the current as far as possible, we left the current at 34’12S-26’40E and we beat the guys with big boats that left the current earlier. We made a crazy amount of miles extra, but it was worth it. We did 13,5 knots for a couple of hours in moderate winds. You can spot the main core of the current by looking at the clouds. My experience was that the strong current starts a bit before the cloud line.


Make sure you have a favourable wind here because with headwinds it is not as much fun! We tacked against a moderate westerly and it was hard. The angles you can tack are bad because of some current (which seemed fuzzy to us in either direction and force) and the waves will slow you down. We had following winds from PE to Knysna, but when we couldn’t enter there (swell just picked up from 2,5 (=OK) to 3.0 (=not OK) from SW and we witnessed the first big breaker over the entire entrance. Not a pretty sight if you want in. We called the Knysna NSRI guys and they were extremely helpful ( we called them 7:00h at 1st January but with advance warning) tel 0443840211. They even called me back when they saw the breaking wave on their monitor. We came to the same conclusion.

Hence our beat upwind to Mosselbay. It was a hard tack and we got quite a lot of wind and very big waves on the nose. Steep and short ones on top of the swell. Nice guys there in Mosselbay and although the marina (one pontoon) seems always full the port control let us and others more to the wall or next to a fisherman, so you need not to worry too much that you cannot go there. Very recently the Port Captain decided that the yachts will have to pay harbour dues as well. We were among the first to have to pay this. Boats that were there a week before reported that they didn’t have to pay anything. The Anchorage, in front of the yacht club is also good in all but N/E.

Best regards from Simonstown South Africa

Ben en Annemiek Rutte

SY Blauwe Pinquin



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