Namibia - Cold waters and hot sand, what a contrast!

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We leave the bay of Saldanha under sail, heading north. We were leaving South Africa, accompanied by the seals and cormorants that love the cold waters along the western coast of the south of the continent. In this region, one actor plays the starring role: the cold Benguela Current. Its waters have their origins in the icy Antarctic Ocean and they meet the warm waters of the Agulhas Current (coming from the tropical Indian Ocean) on the South African continental shelf. This zone where different currents meet, and which often witnesses dramatic weather, is rich in nutrients and favors the development of marine flora and fauna. These upwellings (where cold water makes its way to the surface) provide more than 40 % of the catch of the world’s fisheries, although they represent less than 3 % of the surface of the oceans! The upwellings which develop along the Namibian coast are due to the permanent action of the trade winds on the surface of the South Atlantic Ocean. This vertical oceanic gyratory movement on the continental shelves located to the east of the oceans promotes the upwelling of cold deep waters loaded with highly nutritious mineral salts. The intense planktonic life that develops thanks to these favorable conditions is responsible for the existence of a very active food chain in these regions.

The port of Lüderitz manages to keep a nostalgic and fading city alive.

Fog and Foghorns…

The crew of our modest cruising catamaran, en route to Lüderitz, quickly checked some of the practical consequences of the conditions detailed above. The temperature of the sea water had dropped to 55°F (13°C). When the hot desert air meets the cold surface water, the effect is immediate: the drop in the dew point causes a thick fog that covers the sea and envelops everything that sails on it! Visibility was reduced to a few feet, with relative humidity exceeding 100%. You have to move forward cautiously, with your eyes riveted on the radar screen. Large banks of seaweed (kelp), sometimes more than 30 feet long, bobbed on the surface of the water, threatening our propellers. We sailed among seals, and it was not uncommon to see several dozens of them at the same time. Dolphins were also numerous, and we would occasionally cross the erratic paths of small penguins coming up for air between dives. Black cormorants were legion, as well as gannets, pelicans and seagulls. Another consequence of these particular conditions is that as soon as the night wraps you in a second cocoon, the boat’s passage through the sea is accompanied by a breathtaking display of phosphorescent particles due to the abundance of plankton. It was like something from a fairy tale. In the wake of the two hulls of our catamaran, these natural fireworks form a permanent display. One night, while we were progressing downwind under sail at 9 or 10 knots, I woke Marin up from his sleep in the saloon so that he could witness this incredible natural spectacle: the effect of the ...

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