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.
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.
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.
So pleased to have found this lovely place. The package was 2 nights accommodation, 2 game drives and 4 meals a day, exactly what we wanted and at a reasonable price. We just kept getting tied up trying to book everything separately. And it was 3 hours drive from Richards Bay (actually a bit more as we’d chosen a less than ideal route going through a town jammed up withe Friday market) as opposed to 7 or so to Kruger. So we arrived and were shown to our luxury tent – slightly bigger than the boat, with facilities including an outdoor shower, all set off by itself in the bush so you could here all the sounds of Africa by night (and by day). Then lunch at 2 pm then our first game drive in a land rover with expert guide Amen. He showed us everything from ants to elephants, and there were lots of elephants really close sometimes. Also zebra, giraffe, buffalo, lots of different antelope and a lioness. We saw tracks of leopard, heard roars of lions, but the rhino here are very shy. Amen seemed to have superpower vision spotting animals from an impossible distance; he also showed us a great variety of African birds. Back for dinner, called by a drum for 7.30 pm, the food was excellent and the attentive staff made us feel so welcome. The lodge is run by and for the local Tembe tribe. A log camp fire was lit in the middle of the open sitting area each night and you could watch nocturnal bush babies coming down for pineapple. Monkeys however were discouraged with a catapult. Up at 5.15 next morning for “light breakfast” before the next 3 hour game drive at 6. The 4 th meal is a substantial 2nd breakfast when you get back, then sleeping/lounging/ reading/ taking a cooling dip in the tiny pool until lunch. We loved it all so much we stayed an extra day.
No not that St Lucia (our eventual destination and start point), the one with the lake just north of here. Went on a boat trip to see hippos and crocs, also lots of bird life. Yellow billed stork, African fish eagle, Acocets, Yellow Weaver bird with nest. I think hippos must have been the model for Shrek, they do this amazing ear twirling thing.
Just an hour or so from Richards Bay is the Hluhluwe -Imfolozi Park and the St Lucia lake and wetlands.
The last part of the Indian Ocean started with 3 days of flat calm, followed by 3 days of variable winds, then we finally got a proper breeze, then rather too much wind for the last part. Unfortunately we got a rip in the mainsail so we could only set it heavily reefed for the last days of the trip – OK when the wind got up though. Dolphins came to play, and we survived an attack by mutant kamikaze squid – how on earth do you get the ink off? Some of them must have been flying as it’s all over the boom and sail, at least 20 on deck from bow to stern. And a bit dry to cook by the time we found them. The cruise liner Europa 2 came past and the watch officer chatted over the VHF. Think he’d met quite a few of the rally fleet by the time he got to us at the back.
Arrived safely in Richards Bay, second to last in fleet, catamaran AirPower was just behind, welcomed with a bottle of champagne by the Zululand Yacht Club where we are berthed.