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Old 02-03-2016, 03:17 AM   #1
City: Durban
Country: South Africa
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 18
Agulhas Current

Hi there all!

I do apologize if this thread is in the wrong section, but I could not find anything on Agulhas Current when I used the search function and I do think that ocean currents are Safety and Concern areas.

Here is a Wikipedia link to the current that I am referring to:

Now....the thing is.....

Although this current is notorious for making ships, trawlers and yachts "disappear", I cannot seem to find lots of information on the subject concerning Trawler Yachts (cruising trawlers) and people with advice and "war stories".

I spoke to a couple of captains in Mossel Bay about this and they seem to give solid advice and when not to go out and and and.....but then I see those same captains going out in the same weather conditions that they told me NEVER to go out in. question is....
Do any of you have first hand experience of traveling either North or South or both directions in a trawler type yacht, cruiser, fishing vessel....?

What are the real things to watch out for?
Does the speed of the boat really get effected that much by this current when heading North?
Is it safer to rather go through the Agulhas Current into deeper seas and rather head North or South that way?
I also heard a tremendous amount of "Rouge Waves" stories in Agulhas Current.....?

Thank you!

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Old 02-03-2016, 09:41 AM   #2
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City: Coupeville Wa.
Country: United States
Vessel Name: Pelorus
Vessel Model: Californian 42 LRC
Join Date: Oct 2015
Posts: 732
Your post got my curiosity. I've never been to your part of the world so I cannot offer any experienced base advise on the Agulhas Current.

I can make some observations based on running dangerous river bars on the US west coast.

According to the Wikipedia article and doing the simple math the current can run from just under 2 kts to 4.8 kts with a mean peak speed of about 2.6 kts.

So, first the easy question. Yes the current will affect boat speed. It is simple vectors. Subtract the current speed from your boat speed when opposing the current. Add when running with the current. At max current velocity in an 8 kt boat the speed made good becomes 3.2 kts opposing the current and 12.8 when running with the current.

As to safety if you have experience running river bars you can expect similar conditions to develop in this current. When wind and current oppose each other the seas will build, the period will shorten and they will break.

In moderate weather a 2 kt current can be annoying and uncomfortable. A 4.8 kt current is not to be taken lightly and if the opposing wind kicks up will become quite dangerous.

I would expect the deeper waters to provide a better transit. But..... you have to cross the current to get into the deep and back to port. You may be running beam to the lumpy stuff the current and wind are generating.

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Old 02-03-2016, 11:31 AM   #3
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City: JAX, FL
Country: USA
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The problem with going out on a marginal forecast, if it is wrong you can be very screwed.

Lena and I sailed from Richards Bay, South Africa to Simonstown in 2004 in 4 jumps; Richards Bay to Durban to East London to Port Elizabeth to Simonstown. We waited 30 days combined at the various ports to make the trip. The weather windows were short. You never left port with northerly winds. You looked for a forecast with south and east. We had great local knowledge from a SSB operator in Durban and a Ham operator further south. We checked in daily from the time we left Madagascar till we arrived in Simonstown.

We left Durban twice, the first time on a forecast that should have been good to East London. After 8 hours we had only made it 26 miles. We turned around and were back in Durban.

We had to file float plans when we left each port and get permission from the Port Captain to leave. It was not uncommon for ports to be closed for days, even for the big guys. In Durban, at the time, the float plan was good for 4 hours. If you didn't leave, it was canceled and you had to start all over again.

The current is pretty amazing when we realized we were adding 4 knots at times to our boat speed but also a bit of a pucker factor thinking if the winds went north. Transiting the East Coast of South Africa, local knowledge is king.
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