Blow, Wind, and Crack Your Cheeks

‘Ah, but you might as well try and catch the wind.’

‘Catch the Wind’; Donovan 1965

It’s summer time in Cape Town 2020, and would you believe it, the south-easterly winds are dominating the weather patterns. In line with just about everything else in 2020, this summer the wind has been particularly persistent, and while meteorologists and fisherfolk will nod wisely and say things like: ‘It’s to be expected; it’s Cape Town in early summer,’ the wind pattern is not always as annoyingly pervasive at this time of year. At Waterfront Charters we have learnt to be philosophical about weather good and bad; after all, we are sailors, and the dominant part of that word is ‘sail’, a function requiring wind. But we must admit that weeklong non-stop south-easterly gales can be somewhat trying. It’s not a safety issue – we are confident in our seaworthy vessels and our highly trained skippers and crews – it’s a matter of comfort. While the Cape scenery is always spectacular, we know that viewing it from a boat that is heeling over under a relentless wind while guests hold onto hats, phones, glasses, children etc. is not ideal.

Of course, it does lend itself to more adventurous cruises, and here our sleek twin-masted schooner, Esperance, comes into her own. With full sails billowing from both masts on a Sailing in the Bay adventure, all aboard Esperance get a good idea of what it is like to truly sail; a little imagination and you could be aboard a transatlantic yacht, heading for Rio in front of a driving trade wind. Except, of course, aboard Esperance you don’t have do any work: just climb onto the bowsprit and feel the spindrift splashing onto your face as she ploughs gracefully through the swells. And the refreshment area amidships is not likely to be found on a racing yacht: with Waterfront Charters you can sip (or gulp – your choice) a full range of cooling beverages. With adventure travel becoming a 21st century catchphrase, you can experience your own Atlantic adventure on any day with us.

Getting back to wind, that eternal source of power that doesn’t pollute or use up resources, it can be defined as the flow of gases on a large scale. It’s not only here on Mother Earth that wind is prevalent; in outer space the billions of suns that sparkle and twinkle in our heavens drive great flows of gases and charged particles through the vast empty realms. This has given rise to the possibility of seriously long sailing adventures: in theory a space ship with a large enough sail could harness these solar winds and meander from one galaxy to another without requiring a top up of fuel. Who knows? In a few centuries or so people may be reading blogs from Spacefront Charters – ‘Join us on a round trip sailing to Saturn; the ideal way to spend New Year’s Eve’. Talking of Saturn, you’d not want to overnight there. The winds there make our hurricanes look like tropical breezes. The vortex of the billion year old storm at the south pole of Saturn is the size of our planet, and the winds blow continually upward of 550kph. Try holding onto your hat as you cruise across the eye of that storm.

Experience cruising in its pure form, and perfect for sailing across Table Bay whilst taking in the spectacular views.

Cape Town’s winds have many factors that contribute to the prevailing conditions. Two major aspects of geophysics that affect wind are sea and mountains, and any Capetonian looking through their nearest window will see one – or both – of these characteristics looming large. The sea is warmed more slowly by the sun than the land, and without going into too much detail, the air above will warm too. Convection occurs, the air rises and is replaced by cooler air from the sea. At night, the reverse occurs. Mountains exacerbate this effect through rough topography affecting the air flows, as well as enhancing thermal low pressures. Cape Town has many unique features that add to the mix: on a global scale we lie almost on the cusp of the ‘westerlies’ that lie off to the south, and the ‘southeasterly trades’ that lie to the north in the Atlantic. As seasons and temperatures change, so do the dominant winds – south east in summer and north west in winter, the latter bringing in the much needed rain. On top of this, we have a convergence of ocean currents off our shores: the warm Agulhas and the cold Benguela. No wonder our weather gets confused. Just trying to put all the factors into one paragraph is difficult enough.

But like most Capetonians, we wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, wind or no wind. Waterfront Charters have been part of the V&A Waterfront virtually since its inception 30 years ago, and we know and understand the patterns of wind, weather and ocean currents. Hosting guests safely aboard our range of vessels will always be an honour and a pleasure, and we have expanded our selection of cruises extensively over the years to cater for every contingency; from adventures to gentle cruises, harbour tours to Clifton parties, eco-tourism to private charters. Or all of the above! You, our guests, can put together the perfect cruise.

We quoted Donovan, the celebrated folk singer above. Well, at Waterfront Charters we have caught the wind, and it’s absolutely fantastic.