Moving on from Cape Town

We’ve had a great Christmas and new year here – must come back. Finished up with a go at Dragon boating. But it’s now time to go, the fridge is stuffed, fruit and veg nets bulging and on every boat any spare space has been filled with South African wine. Oh and we filled with diesel and water too. Next leg may be slow as forecast is no wind. Looking forward to St Helena though. Not sure how the comms will be from there. The parrot came for Christmas but he’s staying.

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Christmas Day

Timshel had the little tree and some decorations, Santa came and filled the stockings, but no time to open all the parcels as departure on the wine tasting trip organised by Josh and Mark of Mad Monkey was 08.00. The first winery, Grande Provence near Franshchoek also housed a cheetah project – for a small donation you could stroke a cheetah. Then to Richard Bransons Mont Rochelle for a superb lunch, then to Marianne winery near Stellenbosch for more tasting. Lovely day, superb scenery, great company, thank you so much Josh and !ark.

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Christmas Eve

John and Angela from Madrigal organised a pot luck Pontoon party. The marina lent tables and chairs so we could have a sit down meal with Johns wine and the dishes everyone brought. The dining area was set up on the very wide finger between Madrigal and Mad Monkey to keep out of everyone’s way. It was a bit tight – no one fell in but one chair did (hastily fished out before it sank). A great time was had by all, and the carol singing did get a bit loud as the evening went on.

Mossel Bay to Cape Town

Fortunately we didn’t have to wait very long for the weather to be right to continue our trip. Only a couple of days in Mossel Bay, the yacht club was very friendly and we got fuel in cans by taxi. Left early on a very calm Thursday morning on company with Amandla (Lisa and Fabio), after a few hours motoring got wind and had a great sail from then on. Passed Cape Agulhas by moonlight, but we did get to see Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. We were going to take a lot less than the expected 2 days to get there so anchored just round the corner in Granger Bay for the rest of the night, before going into Cape Town harbour in daylight next morning. You have to negotiate two opening bridges, but the crew of Pretaixte were there on the pontoon at the V&A marina to take our lines and welcome us. Nice to catch up with our friends again. N.B V&A is Victoria and Alfred NOT Albert! Alfred was one of her sons. It’s a nice marina, right in the middle of the tourist and shopping area built where old warehouses used to be. A few Christmases ago Aberdeen had dolphins everywhere; here it is rhinos. The harbour is home to cormorants, a few penguins and many noisy squabbling Cape Fur seals. Who occasionally get on your pontoon or even your boat. They can be quite fierce when crossed.

On to Mossel Bay

We may have been the first of the itinerant yachts to exit from Durban at 09.30 Friday despite having to wait for marina guys to find the correct key to unlock our cable from the electricity box. No delays from Port Control despite a lot of shipping. Motoring then motorsailing in not much wind or current, wind gradually increased and came behind, we got into the strong current and overnight making great progress SOG sometimes more than 10 knots sailing wing on wing. By morning wind had dropped so reefs let out, but ended the day motoring again no wind, fortunately the swell died down eventually so we could make good progress. Went past East London, we’re heading for Port Elizabeth middle of the next day but realised it was calm enough to carry on, we had time before the next adverse wind arrived. Not much favourable current by now but motoring in a flat sea we could make good progress, not the most inspiring, but we arrived at Mossel Bay and anchored around 22.00 Monday. Anchoring took longer than expected as the chain was all jammed in the locker, we hadn’t used it since Cocos Keeling some 10 weeks ago. The adverse SW wind started up at 0700 the next morning but we were in shelter. I forgot, while we were going along, in fact while we were talking to one of the other boats on VHF, we were surprised when a little bird flew straight into the cabin. Something like a sparrow, definitely a land bird, I managed to catch it in a towel and took it out to release it on deck whereupon it recovered itself and flew off towards the land – but we were a good few miles offshore at the time.

At Durban

Well we ended up spending 2 weeks in Durban having expected to be a couple of days. Waiting for weather – the pundits say you need a 48 hr window for the next stretch of 240 nm to East London and nowhere else on the coast to stop in between. We never seem to get more than 24 hrs or so of favourable conditions, you might manage with 36 hrs but 30 would be tight, and if the wind turns strong SW against you and against the current the conditions can quickly get nasty. So we waited, very frustrating.

Durban is a big city, and a big port, quite scenic but the harbour was filthy with litter. People were really friendly and helpful, the marina personnel, the yacht clubs, the chandlery that fetched you to and fro in their car, and especially the boat yard. Rob Bowman heroically replaced our sea cock that developed a leak, diving under the boat to fit a bung before changing it (apparently he’s an ex Navy diver). However the place does have security problems. The area immediately by the marina and the yacht clubs is safe, there are lots of police around, but you are discouraged from walking anywhere from there, you have to get a taxi to go even 500m. Durban has a magnificent beach and promenade, also safe and lots of police there, also the big malls and no doubt the posh hotels, so long as you go by taxi. I did get a taxi to the beach on Saturday to do the local 5k Park run, among 1000 other runners it had to be OK, but just weird not being able to walk places. We were strongly advised not to wear any jewellery so we put on the watches that came from Lidl, can’t get the wedding ring off.

So we spent a long time looking at weather maps and commiserating with other yachts that we met and trying to get jobs done on the boat. We did manage a guided historical walk and visited the Maritime museum – interesting that of the 3 big ships to view there (2 tugs and a naval vessel), one was built in Port Glasgow, one in Leith and one at Camper and Nicholson’s in Gosport.

Finally the great day came when weather gurus Chris and Des said we had our window to leave. Everyone rushed around doing the forms and visiting Port Office (twice), Customs and Immigration – and this just for a trip down the coast within the country. And on Friday we left, along with a whole Armada of yachts.

Durban

Managed to make a little progress south last Thursday/Friday, but only the 80 or so miles to Durban. Not the best of trips, firstly we had to wait over 2 hours for permission to leave from RICHARDS Bay Port Control, by which time it was well dark and we still had to negotiate the anchored ships just outside, motoring into a big swell and no wind. Of course, had planned to all this in daylight and get set on our course before dark Then alerted by another yacht Slipaway travelling in the same direction that some of our Nav lights were not working. Eventually the wind came up so we could sail then came up some more, so we entered Durban harbour practically surfing under bare poles. Fortunately we were not held up entering the harbour, must have got just about the last berth in the marina right down in the corner. Spent the afternoon clearing in with customs and Immigration, even local boats have to do it. And we have to clear out again with those agencies and also port control in order to leave – whenever the weather allows us to move on. Still, we are handily placed between the Royal Natal and The Point yacht clubs both of whom have given us free temporary membership. We have been trying to fix the Nav lights, we need a new port light as it has corroded away, I’m sure it worked on the leg to Richards Bay. Steve winched Anita up the mast to fix the steaming light.