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Old 14-02-2018, 05:57   #1
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West to East Cape of Good Hope

So I'm browsing my older copy of Cornell's "World Cruising Routes," trying to learn more and commit more to memory, and of course dreaming of my own possible voyages. Starting out in my backyard of Florida and the Caribbean and looking further down the road.

I have no real interest in the Panama Canal. I've been through during my time in the Navy back in the day and I know its changed a lot and not always for the better. But that's neither here nor there.

My question is - do sailors swing down into the Southern Ocean to use the currents there to go west to east around the Cape of Good Hope and on into the Indian Ocean ? And from there on around and eventually into the South Pacific ?

I know it's a backwards way to get there but I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has sailed such a route or anyone who truly knows the pros and cons of such a course.
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Old 14-02-2018, 06:18   #2
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Re: West to East Cape of Good Hope

Not done it, yet, but very interested in all that goes on down there. I found Moitessier's book, The Long Way, a thoroughly good read. It covers that area - rounding Cape of Good Hope, west to east - twice, in fact!
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Old 14-02-2018, 07:16   #3
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Re: West to East Cape of Good Hope

We have been both ways.

We did the west to east coming from Chile (59 days non-stop to Australia) and we were already in the southern ocean. We in fact come up (north) a bit to find the offshore counter current. It was lovely, warm water for the first time in a couple years and like a 2kt push at times. Had 40kts over the stern for much of it.

But if you are coming from down the Atlantic most people will probably prefer doing it coastal to break up the passage making. The locals (mostly) do it coastal, inshore of the current, go as far as you can in each weather window. There are decent harbors pretty well spaced. And I might add, S Africa is a pretty interesting place to visit - truely magnificent scenery and game parks.
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Old 14-02-2018, 12:16   #4
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Re: West to East Cape of Good Hope

I appreciate the replies so far. Thanks !

I was under the impression that close to the coast there is a counter-current that flows east to west. Is this correct ?

If so, how far south do you need to be in order to pick up the Southern Ocean Current that flows west to east ?

estarzinger - what was the weather like ? Especially temperature wise ? I really don't care for cold weather, but I'll suffer through it.

I'd consider Cape Horn but I'm no superman and I think it would be beyond me. Maybe not my boat, but I don't think I'd try it. My understanding is Cape of Good Hope is not near the beast that Cape Horn is. Big difference in latitude.
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Old 14-02-2018, 13:45   #5
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Re: West to East Cape of Good Hope

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Originally Posted by OldManMirage View Post
I appreciate the replies so far. Thanks !

I was under the impression that close to the coast there is a counter-current that flows east to west. Is this correct ?

If so, how far south do you need to be in order to pick up the Southern Ocean Current that flows west to east ?

estarzinger - what was the weather like ? Especially temperature wise ? I really don't care for cold weather, but I'll suffer through it.

I'd consider Cape Horn but I'm no superman and I think it would be beyond me. Maybe not my boat, but I don't think I'd try it. My understanding is Cape of Good Hope is not near the beast that Cape Horn is. Big difference in latitude.
The 'counter current' you are thinking of is the Aghulus.... one of the world's biggest... if not the biggest... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agulhas_Current

With a strong SW'ly wind it can produce a rather nasty sea ... vvvvvv .....

If I was wanting to get to the 'South Seas' from the east coast of the US and didn't want to go via Panama I would go via the Beagle Channel ( but then I would say that wouldn't I )

No need to go around the Horn..... only hard bit is getting down the Argentine coast...

Going that way you get to enjoy some of the finest cruising in the world and after clearing the channels at Canal Chacao just poke on up the coast to Ecuador.
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Old 14-02-2018, 14:20   #6
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Re: West to East Cape of Good Hope

Many of the old sailing ships from England to Australia came by the route you are suggesting.

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Old 14-02-2018, 14:55   #7
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Re: West to East Cape of Good Hope

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Originally Posted by El Pinguino View Post
The 'counter current' you are thinking of is the Aghulus.... one of the world's biggest... if not the biggest... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agulhas_Current

With a strong SW'ly wind it can produce a rather nasty sea ... vvvvvv .....

If I was wanting to get to the 'South Seas' from the east coast of the US and didn't want to go via Panama I would go via the Beagle Channel ( but then I would say that wouldn't I )

No need to go around the Horn..... only hard bit is getting down the Argentine coast...

Going that way you get to enjoy some of the finest cruising in the world and after clearing the channels at Canal Chacao just poke on up the coast to Ecuador.
Interesting thought, but I thought the currents through those channels could be overwhelming for small sailboats ?

Why hard to get down Argentine coast ? Wind ? Current ? Other ?
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Old 14-02-2018, 14:56   #8
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Re: West to East Cape of Good Hope

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Originally Posted by OldManMirage View Post
I was under the impression that close to the coast there is a counter-current that flows east to west. Is this correct ?

There are three 'layers' off the coast - (1) Very close to the coast, say inside the 150m contour, there is little current. This is where you sail if going coastal east, or if going west and a swly storm kicks up. (2) Starting at about the 200m contour you pick up the agulhas current - couple kts going west - warm water - nice if you are going west in decent weather but ship breaking waves in a SWly blow, (3) and then some degrees south of land (I seem to remember we found it at about 39S? but this one moves around more than the other two layers6) there is an 'agulhas counter current', east bound, also warm water, a bit less than the main agulhas but still a decent flow.

If so, how far south do you need to be in order to pick up the Southern Ocean Current that flows west to east ?

As I said above I seem to remember 38 or 39S

estarzinger - what was the weather like ? Especially temperature wise ? I really don't care for cold weather, but I'll suffer through it.

These are 'warm weather' routes. Very pleasant. Short sleeves. If you get down below say 40S it can get quite cold - you can get ice bergs. There is usually a quite sharp line in the water. But going east the only reason people would go low is to cut the mileage down (which it does quite a bit). For a racer that is worthwhile and they have had to put 'ice gates' in the vendee to stop people from diving down way low. But for a cruiser there is really no reason to go below 40.

I'd consider Cape Horn but I'm no superman and I think it would be beyond me. Maybe not my boat, but I don't think I'd try it. My understanding is Cape of Good Hope is not near the beast that Cape Horn is. Big difference in latitude.

Yes, Chile and Horn are a whole different ball game.
I personally consider Hope much more like Hatteras.
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If I was wanting to get to the 'South Seas' from the east coast of the US and didn't want to go via Panama I would go via the Beagle Channel ( but then I would say that wouldn't I )

No need to go around the Horn..... only hard bit is getting down the Argentine coast...

Going that way you get to enjoy some of the finest cruising in the world and after clearing the channels at Canal Chacao just poke on up the coast to Ecuador.
I certainly agree that is very fine cruising. But (a) the Indian ocean is also pretty damn interesting, and (b) chile (including the Beagle) is really a whole different ballgame in terms of weather and difficulty. Your game is high enough to take it in stride. I remember the first season we were down there it was a bit much for me - pretty stressful. I think the first time I stern tied in a small cove it took me like an hour to get settled because I did not know all the little details. The next season I had 'acclimated' and learned the ropes and could enjoy it rather more. And the third season it was 'the finest cruising in the world'.

But I, at least, don't casually recommend it to people. Only if they already have a burning desire to see it ( I run across a lot of French who are not that experienced but for whom the horn is the one and only 'must do', much more so than a circumnavigation) or already quite a bit of Newfoundland/Alaska type experience.


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Many of the old sailing ships from England to Australia came by the route you are suggesting.

These ships would take the horn offshore east to west,
which is about the most difficult thing you can do (against the wind and the current in cold terrible weather). Ping is suggesting an easier route -
the beagle - 'inside passage' or 'chilean icw' behind horn which you can essentially take all the way up to Puerto Montt. The weather is still terrible, and it is still against the wind most of the time, but the water is flat and there are excellent coves about every 5miles. The authorities can be a bit overbearing. But as he said, it is arguably the finest cruising in the world once you learn the ropes.

.............
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Old 14-02-2018, 15:29   #9
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Re: West to East Cape of Good Hope

Every year there is the Cape to Rio Race (early Jan). This starts in Cape Town and the boats head for Rio. Once the race is completed the boats return to South Africa so itís a reasonable route that has been sailed for years. I sail in the Indian Ocean and go against the current every year sailing up the coast of .
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Old 14-02-2018, 16:42   #10
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Re: West to East Cape of Good Hope

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Interesting thought, but I thought the currents through those channels could be overwhelming for small sailboats ?

Why hard to get down Argentine coast ? Wind ? Current ? Other ?
South of Deseado you are getting into 'injun country'.... strong winds from the southwest can make your life difficult on the way down to Le Maire. That said plenty of boats of all shapes and sizes arrive from the Atlantic every year and carry on up into the Pacific via the channels.

I'm not making a casual recommendation to take this track, simply offering an alternative. However if your boat is prepared, if you are prepared, and if you have sorted the insulation of your boat it is quite a do-able passage. Patience is the key.... and the rewards are immense...


'currents through those channels could be overwhelming for small sailboats'


Well that's news to me....

The first and second narrows at the eastern end of Magallanes are 'interesting' but I would not suggest that route for small yachts.

Le Maire can be a tricky one that should be undertaken at slack water in settled conditions.

Nothing of note apart from those two...


vvvvv Northbound... mid May... vvvvv
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Old 14-02-2018, 17:40   #11
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Re: West to East Cape of Good Hope

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the Indian ocean is also pretty damn interesting
This is the big gap in my knowledge of the seven seas. I don’t want to highjack the thread but can you point me to resources or tell me more about it? We are not considering circumnavigating simply because the Indian Ocean doesn’t appeal to us. Maybe you can show us the love it deserves. Thanks!
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Old 14-02-2018, 19:17   #12
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Re: West to East Cape of Good Hope

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Indian Ocean . . . . . Maybe you can show us the love it deserves.
There are a couple people here who have more knowledge and experience than I do there, but my perspective is that it has an enormous amount of varied experiences to offer:

around the edges you have some 1st rate shore exploring opportunities - S. Africa, India, Bali (& Zanzibar - we never got there but I wanted to)

in the middle you have a variety of tropical islands, none of which have the dense 'trailer home parks anchorages' of the eastern Caribbean or the more common Pacific anchorages.

some well developed near pristine locations - Maldives and Seychelles, with super clear water. (unfortunately some internal political problems, probably not a big issue for cruisers, but would need a little care).

and some more 'remote' locations - Cargados Carajos (where Vestas wrecked among a few others remote island/reefs)

Cocos keeling island for some history with an Australian flavor

Reunion for some history with a french flavor (and some really really nice hikes)

And Indian ocean circle would be a rewarding thing to do - but pretty much only the fremantle & S African sailors seem to realize this.
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Old 14-02-2018, 19:37   #13
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Re: West to East Cape of Good Hope

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I'm not making a casual recommendation

yes, I was not saying that (sorry if it sounded like it), just saying that despite how much I like the area I do not recommend it casually.

if you are prepared,

That is the big IF, and (from this conversation) I guess I probably think the normal 'gap' is bigger than you do. You may not realize how much higher being down there has raised your game than (even the 'good') mid-latitude sailors.

We managed it, so probably 'anyone can', but I'm not sure how likely most will enjoy their first trip north up the channels (south, as you know is both easier sailing and a more gradual introduction to the area - North is upwind and being thrown in the deep end right at the beginning).


The first and second narrows at the eastern end of Magallanes are 'interesting' . . . . . Le Maire can be a tricky one

Nothing of note apart from those two...

yea, two areas with currents where you can lose your boat lol. If I remember there is also some 'difficult' current you need to plan for in the entrance just north of Chiloe; and some current around Puerto Natales ("among the strongest in all of Chile"). And a bit different, but we had some unpleasant wind against current off Cape Froward. However, I certainly agree the current is not as widely killer like the Faroes. But the weather is rather harder, and the anchorages can be tricky until you get the knack for them.

vvvvv Northbound... mid May... vvvvv

Early winter with a high settled in is nice. yea, we all remember a couple sunny day . But you can then wake up with ice skim around the boat.

Again, we loved it, and I agree with you in general, but I think painting an honest picture and most cruisers would say 'not for me'. We had an Irish sailor tell us, it was a bit like Irish joke 'fortunate the weather is so bad because it keeps the Germans away'
...................
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Old 14-02-2018, 20:55   #14
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Re: West to East Cape of Good Hope

Given that the OP is considering a 'southern ocean' passage under both S Africa and Australia I thought I was giving him quite a 'soft' option.....

'My question is - do sailors swing down into the Southern Ocean to use the currents there to go west to east around the Cape of Good Hope and on into the Indian Ocean ? And from there on around and eventually into the South Pacific ?'

I certaintly hope that no one would head off on what is quite an undertaking based simply on what I have said on CF.... without doing a lot more research.

Talking about challenges.... last austral autumn met a couple up around Chiloe... on an Ovni - what else - ... on their way to Tahiti and points west ...

They turned up back in Williams in December.... had decided the Pacific was far too big and they were heading back into the Atlantic..... rather them than me..... nasty place that Atlantic...
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Old 14-02-2018, 23:29   #15
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Re: West to East Cape of Good Hope

Just finished this trip - was starting in spain, then went to Cape Town, then was exploring Namibia and heading back to cape town, then up to Richards Bay from there directly to Suez. It's a tough sail but it was working. We're just arrived in Turkey now. You can check out my blog and the route under Lifgun.
The worst was heading back to Cape Town from Namibia (Walvis Bay) and from Cape Town to Richards Bay, Beside the Red Sea.....and the Indian Ocean and the thousands of miles upwind sailing....))))
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