Caught at sea in a cut off low storm
Our current weather scenario prompted a rewrite of an old favourite yarn. It was first published in 1992.
“It had been a long day, way back in 1992, and we had not caught too much. Stubbornly we anchored off Boboyi, in the 26 metre area, to see if we could find a daga salmon or a geelbek. And we had to wait a bit longer for some water to come into the bay.
On board were the three of us Langes, Dad, Marc and myself. And guest that day, and many other days those days, was Brian Davey – the inventor of the MYDO.
Having been fishing hard all day, I was over it. But I also sensed something else going on around us. The atmosphere was electric. The sky around us was brown. The sea unruly. Looking to the south I could see no problem. Weather from the south is what normally catches us out.
I went up and over to the bow, ready to pull the anchor, when it was time. I was calling it, suggesting more than once we go. Marc is a bottomfishing loon like my Dad, and Brian Davey has also been known to raid the odd reef. Not I. So the three of them upped and downed until finally the tide gave reprieve and my Dad called “lines up”.
Weighing our anchor on the big old Niteshift wasn’t always smooth sailing, but this day we managed to drag it free with only one circle. I was pulling and Marc was packing the rope fast as we could go. I looked up.
And I saw it.
A plume of spray and water was being blasted right out of the Umzimkulu River mouth and a kilometre out to sea in front of us. Windsurfers, umbrellas and deck chairs cartwheeled through the sky. Towels and things were flying past. It was as if a giant fire hose was sticking out into the ocean.
Instantly the skies went black. A raging wind blew from every direction. Lightning struck the water all around us. The thunder and the wind combined in a crescendo above which we could not talk – only scream. Rain drops stung at every part of us.
My Dad put my diving goggles on. We flattened all out graphite composite rods on the deck. And Brian Davey. And everything else. Anything else was thrown into the cabin or it blew away. We could only move along at about 4 or 5 knots, and we could not see anything at all. It was like being caught in a dark forest, we never knew which way was land – even the compass was spinning wildly. We hammered on hoping for northwards, the sea was not big but it was violent. Hard to hold on. We radioed Pan Pan warnings over and over – to warn the other guys who operate south, from out of Shelley Beach.
And then it was gone. In an instant, this monster just upped and left. But headed straight to Shelley Beach where boats were still on Protea and many waiting on the backline to get in. It hit them full force with winds at Force 7. Mowed them down. And then kept going.
Building momentum and now officially a “cut off low”, the storm raged through the Transkei, seriously damaging and/or sinking 6 ships, some on anchor, on it’s way to into Cape Town, where it turned the corner and traveled north, terrorising as far up as Lamberts Bay, until it petred out.”
And yes, the storm lambasting Cape Town now and the rest of the coast since it’s inception on Sunday/Monday, is a type 1A Cut Off Low storm. Rare in that they are somehow tied to the el Nino phenomenon, and appear every 5 to 7 years. On the south coast I have endured three of these absolutely crazy storms. Fortunately I missed a few. Including this one – I am in Tofinho, Mozambique today. Where the weather is a bit untoward, the wind swinging slowly from north east to southerly onshore. We shall keep you posted as to what the effects have been up this side, of our awesome July 2016 cut off low.
Gallery and video by Jay Steenkamp
And another great video by Jay…