November 2017 - South Africa

1 November 2017  Pongola Game Reserve, South Africa
It was another early 06:00 start - this time to go on a guided hike.  The guide was armed with a huge rifle and started by telling us to keep quiet because he was trying to find Rhino in the hilly bush.  Unfortunately (or is it fortunately), he couldn’t find any Black Rhino, so we headed off for the grass lands and spotted the usual Impala, Zebra and Warthogs.  

The highlight was finding a Dung Beetle pushing his tightly rolled ball of dung (containing fertilised eggs), which he strives to bury in a safe place.  Sisyphus springs to mind.  It was a nice walk, but you see more wildlife in a Safari Truck.

After another huge breakfast, we jumped in the car and drove 1½ hours to Pongola Game Reserve and then to the Mvubu River Lodge.  Again we were given a lovely chalet, this time overlooking the meandering river.   

Dung Beetle

We went on an afternoon cruise on a nearby lake, which was on a small 5 metre boat with just four people plus the guide.  It was very good and we were shown Crocodiles, Hippopotamus and lots of birds.  Many animals come down to the water’s edge to drink, so we saw White Rhino, Cape Buffalo, Warthogs, Impala, Waterbuck to name a few.

The Hippopotamus are amusingly boring.  They spend all day hiding from the heat submerged in the water.  They huddle together in groups of about a dozen, sinking below the water and only appearing to breathe or when they hear a boat coming close.  All you see are their heads, but we’re told that they are very dangerous if you get too close or get between them and their young.

The dinner was included with our accommodation.  It was disappointing - too much like English pub food - two types of meat, cauliflower cheese, potatoes and cabbage. 

2 November 2017  Manyoni Private Game Reserve, South Africa
We had a bit of a lie-in because the morning game drive didn’t start until 06:30.  It was okay, but not as exciting as Ithala.  After only three days, we’ve become blasé about Giraffe, Zebra, Impala, Kudu, and Warthogs.  The highlight of this morning’s trip was seeing a group of White Rhino down by the river. Yawn, common as muck…

African Game Reserve

We drove to Manyoni Private Game Reserve to stay at the African Spirit Game Lodge.  There were good roads until we arrived at Mkuze town, after which the road turned to gravel.  Two kilometres later, we arrived at the entrance gate to the reserve.  From there it was 10 kilometres along a gravel road to the African Spirit Lodge - it took ages because we could only go at 20 kilometres per hour.

The lodge is an expensive, fully-inclusive resort, but they have a single self-catering chalet which Glenys managed to get for £52 per night.

We’d booked onto an evening game drive.  The guide wanted to go out to look for some Lions because they’d had reports of an injured male lion.  We drove along the main road for ten minutes and then pulled off the side towards a small tree and there was a young male Lion.  He was lying almost motionless and we stopped 20 metres away.  After a few minutes, he sat up and wandered 30 metres away from us - obviously limping on his left front leg.

Our guide moved the truck and the lion just stayed where he was, obviously used to people staring at him.  It was an incredible photo opportunity and we were in awe at being so close to such a predator.  After twenty minutes, we left him in peace. 

After a small diversion trying to locate the rest of the small pride of lions, we headed off to another part of the reserve.  The guides from the different lodges talks to each other on VHF radios and report sightings.  We turned into a small road where another truck was parked and I was thrilled to see a Cheetah lying on the ground about 10 metres away from us. 

Cheetahs Hunting

After watching this magnificent animal for a few minutes, he stood up; walked behind a bush and reappeared with another Cheetah - OMG.   Our guide thought that the Cheetahs were going to go to a nearby water hole, but a minute later, they raced past us hunting some prey.  We intercepted them five minutes later and they were still stalking about looking for dinner - they are magnificent.

We had another hour of driving around viewing animals, but nothing could top the Cheetahs.

3 November 2017  Mkuze Game Reserve, South Africa
We had another early start, checking out as soon as the office opened at 07:00.  As we were driving along the gravel road towards the exit, we were pleased to see a family of Ostriches strolling towards us.  Dad and Mum were looking very anxious (and scary), so we stopped 20 metres away and allowed them to lead their four little chicks into the bush. 

Carrying on back to Mkuze town, we continued through to the Mkuze Game Park.  It was a long 20 kilometre drive on gravel roads - not the easiest place to get to.  The entrance tickets only cost £8 for both of us and were driving inside the park by 08:15.  This was our first self-drive and the roads were a mixture of tarmac and gravel - both in much better condition that the normal roads outside the park.

Although the park has the “Big 5”, we weren’t very successful.  We saw Giraffe, Zebra, Impala, Wildebeest and Nyala, but nothing very exciting.  There’s a lake at the south-east corner, which has some Hippos, but by the time that we got there, it was blisteringly hot, so all the animals were sensibly hiding.  

We had lunch sat in the car with the air-conditioning running full blast and then went into a hide by a water hole, which was the most interesting part of the day, with two troops of Baboons howling at each other as one troop was at the water hole and the other troop wanted to come in.  I think that the next time we do a self-drive; we’ll concentrate on the water-holes.

Foolishly we left by the east gate.  The road quickly became a rutted dirt road and continued for miles and miles.  We managed to survive and made it to the tarmac on the R22, then onto the N2 fast road, so we were back at the boat by 17:00.  After a boozy dinner at the Yacht Club bar, we were in bed early.

Zululand Marina

4 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
We had a leisurely day, getting straight after our little holiday - editing photographs, doing the laundry and a bit of shopping in the afternoon.  We booked some self-catering accommodation for when we are hauled out.  We don’t want to be living on the boat while on the hard and small apartments only cost £30 per day, which is pretty cheap - we’re getting soft in our old age. 

Glenys spent most of the day planning our next land trip, which will be 5 days in the Drakensburg Mountains - she’s planning hiking and horse riding.  Paul and Monique from “Full Circle” came around for sunset drinks.

5 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
It was time to get on with some jobs before we haul out on the 7th.  I changed the oil in the engine and the generator - I don’t like leaving dirty oil in the engines when they won’t be running for a while.  It took me all morning to do the simple job, because I kept thinking of other things to do.

Glenys carried on booking accommodation and activities for our next land-trip.  In the afternoon, I removed the forestay, so that we can fit on the small 30 tonne travel lift.  We’re all ready to go, although I’m a bit worried that there’s going to be howling SW winds when we’re hauling out.

6 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
We pottered about all day, waiting to haul-out.  Glenys finished off booking our land trips and I reviewed to-do lists and played guitar.  It’s great having a car - we popped out to the Boardwalk Shopping Mall to pay some bills and get a new SIM card for our phone.  We originally bought Telcom SIM cards, but the coverage in Richards Bay is poor and it’s non-existent away from the coast.  We bought an MTN card and it’s much, much better.

I went to see a Chiropractor because, after a year, my feet are still feeling numb and tingling, which had become slightly worse after all the driving and bouncing about in Safari Trucks.  It would appear that my symptoms may be a caused by several things - I have a bulging disk in my lower back; my hamstrings are too tight causing pressure on the Sciatic nerve; and I’m getting cramp in my calves and feet, which could be caused by a lack of minerals.

Labour Intensive

Basically, I’m a mess of knotted muscles and have poor posture.   Living on a boat is not helping.  Most of the time, I’m sitting down while being bounced about at sea;  it’s hard to stand tall on a small yacht; I don’t have a regular exercise regime; and I drink desalinated water, which doesn’t have any minerals at all.   

The Chiropractor gave me some massage; a slight adjustment to my lower back and sent me away with some Calcium and Magnesium tablets to adjust my body’s electrolytes.  I need to restart my core muscle exercises; sit up straight; and stretch my hamstrings.  It’s a bummer getting old.

In the evening, we invited Martin & Maggie from “Dream Catcher” over for a beer or two.

7 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
It was haul-out day.  The skies were grey, but the strong wind that had been forecast hadn’t arrived -yet…  We pottered about all day, waiting for high tide, so that there would be enough depth of water on the haul-out ramp.  High tide wasn’t until 16:30 and the plan was to leave the marina berth at 15:30, so it was a long day, anxiously watching the weather.

By the time the yard was ready, there was a persistent light rain and it was cold enough to be wearing a jumper and socks, but at least the wind stayed below 15 knots.

Out of the water

The haul-out is done using a mechanical haul-out rig, which is pulled up and down a ramp using a large tractor and a cable pulley system.  The slings are raised using block and tackle chains, so it’s a very labour intensive process.  The rig constantly goes in and out of the sea water, so the steel is rusted and so are the chains that lift the boat.  It’s rated at 30 tonnes and Alba weighs 15 tonnes, but the whole system still doesn’t inspire confidence.   

I nudged Alba into the haul-out rig and stopped when our depth sounder read 1.9 metres - no doubt just sliding into soft mud.  Three guys then swarmed over the rig and the boat, tying ropes to hold the boat in position.  I had to remove the inner forestay as well as the forestay because the rig is so small - the mast is now held up by the genoa halyard.

It took ages for them to position the slings.  The foreman was diving under the boat to position the slings to make sure that they didn’t foul our propeller or anything else.  The three of them were in and out of the water wearing ill-fitting wetsuits, so they must have been freezing.  After 30 minutes of fussing about, they finally used the block & tackle to lift the boat and we slowly trundled out of the water.

It was late when they’d got us into position, so they lowered the boat to the ground on a couple chunks of wood and left us in the slings for the night.  We were wet through and cold, so we grabbed a few bags of things and drove to Fig Tree, our self-catering apartment.  The room is small, but very nice with a kitchenette, a big TV and an on-suite bathroom, so we’re happy here rather than roughing it on the boat.

Pressure Washing

8 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
There was no point in rushing to the boat because I knew that the boat yard guys would take all morning to pressure wash and then shore up the boat.   We took our time and went to the supermarket first.  Sure enough, when we arrived at the boat at 10:30, they were still pressure washing the hull. 

We climbed onto the boat and chilled out as much as we could, with loud hammering resounding through the hull as they placed the supports.  Most boat yards have specially modified steel “Acrow” props, which have large screws to adjust the support, but here they use wooden poles that are placed into specially dug holes, and then hammer in wedges to adjust the support.  It’s very labour intensive, but I guess that labour is cheap.

Finally at 14:00, they removed the haul-out rig and I could start work.  I first looked at the rudder.  The bearing at the bottom of the skeg has had excessive play for a while and there are signs that the whole bearing assembly is slightly moving.  I decided to bit the bullet and have a bush made.  I removed the large Phosphor Bronze Fitting and cleaned up the fibreglass on the skeg.  I’ll ask someone to make the bush tomorrow.

The next job was to remove the propeller and the Stripper rope cutter, so that I could get at the worn Cutlass Bearing, which is the main reason that we’re hauling out.  It all went fairly well despite the yard guys who had already started to sand our hull ready for anti-fouling.  I’d printed some photos of them hauling us out yesterday and they were delighted when I gave them one each - in fact they were too helpful and getting in my way, but we were all smiling, which is half the battle.

To my amazement, everything came off with no problems, so I’ve done most of the hard work and now just need to get a few bit of engineering done before I can replace everything.  We ran away to our apartment at 17:30, stopping for a take-away pizza on the way - it’s great having a car.

9 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
We arrived at the boat at 09:00 – there’s no rush, so we’re treating it like a nine to five job.  Glenys worked on cleaning up the propeller and other bits and pieces that I’d removed.  Meanwhile, I checked the cutlass bearing fitting and the propeller shaft, which looks very good with hardly any wear or corrosion. The new cutlass bearing fits on the shaft perfectly, so I gave the assembly to the boat yard – they will press out the old bearing and fit the new one.

Steering Bearing Assembly

I had another look at the lower rudder bearing and confirmed that we need to make a bush for it.  I checked the rudder shaft and it also looks very good without any wear or corrosion.  I also confirmed the diameter of the shaft to be 50mm and gave the assembly and a drawing to the yard. They should have a bush made in a week’s time.

Our steering wheel has been squeaking when the wheel clamp is tightened and I was worried that the bearings were corroded, so I pulled the bearing assembly apart. The Lip Seal on the outer side of the assembly was badly corroded and worn, so I need to replace it.  The manufacturer’s manual has a simple exploded parts diagram, but there’s not enough detail to see how to disassemble the unit.   I removed the bearing assembly from the binnacle without any problem, but screwed up when I tried to pull it apart.

One of the engineers in the yard gave me a hand, but he was a little gung-ho.  We tried to press the shaft out one way, but when the pressure built up to 1 tonne with no movement, I told him to stop.  We then removed a circlip and hammered the shaft out the other way with a copper mallet.  It moved enough that the seal popped out, but a bearing inside was also moved and when pressing the shaft the other way, we’d bent a circlip.

After nipping into town to buy a new seal and circlip, I reassembled the bearing assembly and fitted it to the binnacle. Everything looks okay except the wheel lock doesn’t work anymore.  I’m not sure why and I worry that I have broken something else within the bearing assembly. It’s a job for tomorrow.

10 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
I woke worrying about the problem with the steering.  My nightmare scenario is having the steering or rudder failing halfway across an Ocean.  I tried to find some better diagrams for the steering bearing assembly on the Internet, but had no success, so I sent off a number of emails to various companies.

Holding Tank Valve

I had a go at re-fitting the holding tank after the yard had re-welded it.  The bottom pipe fitting seems to be aligned okay now.  I struggled to get old fitting apart to change the valve and had to drive into town to get some gas for my propane torch. Have I said this before? I love having a car.  Anyway, I’ve cleaned up the fittings and everything is ready to refit, but I still have to re-route some pipework.

I ordered a water pump for our water-maker from Echotec in Trinidad. It’s coming in by TNT who is a pain in the neck.  They told me that I’d have to pay import duty, but I don’t think that we need to pay anything because we’re a “Yacht in Transit”.  I sent them a copy of my passport and ship registration papers and they have now set the status of the shipment to “Ready for Delivery”.

Karen and Graham came around in afternoon and gave us some good information about the Royal Natal National Park where we’re going tomorrow.  There was a big thunderstorm in the afternoon, so I replaced our two forestays – I don’t like the mast to be unsupported in strong winds.  Back at apartment, we packed for our holiday.

11 November 2017  Drakensburg Mountains, South Africa
We checked out of the apartment, dropped some things off at the boat and were on the road just after eight o’clock, heading for the Drakensburg Mountains for a few days of hiking and horse riding.  The 400 kilometre drive was mostly along very good toll roads, but was very tedious.  After a short stop to stock up on fresh food and beer at a Spar supermarket in Winterton, we arrived at the “Berghouse & Cottages” at 14:00. 

The self-catering cottage that we’ve rented is on an old cattle farm set on the hillside over-looking the Northern Drakensburg Mountains, which are about 20 kilometres away.  It’s a very peaceful place with nice rooms and, strangely, half a dozen Shetland Ponies wandering about, mowing the lawns.

Drakensburg Mountains

After unpacking the car and settling into our cottage, we went for a two hour bumble around the farm, which stretched our legs ready for a long day tomorrow.  In the evening, we cooked Boerewors on the Braai – very South African.

12 November 2017  Drakensburg Mountains, South Africa
We were up early and set off at 07:00 to the Royal Natal National Park.  It took us almost an hour to drive to the Tendele Car Park, where the Thukela Gorge Walk starts.  It was a very nice 6.5 kilometre walk, following the edge of Tugela River.  Being a Sunday and the most popular walk in the park, we expected the trail to be very busy, but we only saw six other couples all day.

The path is very easy on the legs, working its way gradually uphill, but most of the time, we were walking without any shade and it was hot even at 08:00.  At around the 5 kilometre mark, the trail went into indigenous forest, which was a relief. 

The path stops at the start of the impressive Gorge which is carved out of the rock, which is some kind of sand stone.  For the next kilometre, the route had us hopping from boulder to boulder on the river bed, which was great fun.  

At the end of the gorge, the river comes out of a very narrow channel called the “Tunnel”, which we were able to explore because the water levels are very low at the moment – it’s very atmospheric being 20 metres high and only 10 metres wide.

Glenys climbing a ladder

There are two ladders at the end of the gorge – the small one on the left goes up a steep track for 10 minutes and ends at a large cave, where there is a good view of Thukela Falls and the huge rock wall of the Amphitheatre. Thukela Falls is allegedly the second highest waterfall in the world, but there was so little water that we couldn’t even see where it was…

The longer ladder to the right at the end of the Gorge, leads up to a bit of a scramble up a slanting chimney, which is fun.  Higher up, a path leads to the upper river above the “Tunnel”, but we couldn’t be bothered to go any further.

It took us a couple of hours to get back to the car and half an hour back to our apartment where we collapsed and had an afternoon nap.  In the evening, we had another Braai, this time with two huge Porterhouse Steaks, which were 30mm thick.  They tasted fabulous – the South Africans know how to produce good meat.

13 November 2017  Drakensburg Mountains, South Africa
We had another 07:00 start, heading back to the Royal Natal National Park.  This time we wanted to do a walk up to the Cannibal Cave, via Sunday Falls and Surprise Ridge.  The signs for the walk yesterday were excellent, so I didn’t pay much attention to our small trail map and followed a sign out of the Mahai Car Park that said “All Walking Trails”.

After fifteen minutes, there was a sign that pointed to the Cascades, Tiger Falls and Lookout Rock, but no mention of Sunday Falls.  Out came the map and I found that we were going in the wrong direction – bummer!  We walked back towards the car park and found a park ranger on the road, who directed us through the Mahai Campsite and up a very small trail. Thankfully, after ten more minutes, we joined the main trail, which leads up from the road just before the Mahai Car Park.

Nice view, but blisteringly hot

The trail went around the side of a rounded ridge, very slowly gaining height with great views of the Amphitheatre behind us.  Unfortunately, there was no shade and it was blisteringly hot.  We came across a river, which we crossed and found that the only path led down to Sunday Falls – we’d missed another path!

After a bit of searching, we found the correct path about 500 metres back – there was a big stone sign next to the faint trail, but it was covered by ferns. By this time, we were a little despondent by our two, thirty minute delays and the blistering heat, but we carried on along the trail which climbed up and went around the edge of another ridge to a third valley.

At this point, we could see Secret Ridge another couple of kilometres away.  We knew that the Cannibal Cave was another 1½ kilometres after that, so with the blistering heat, we decided to cut our losses; found a nice rock, ate our sandwiches and headed back down.  Later, we found out that the temperature had topped out at 35 degrees Celsius.

The walk back down was better than coming up because there are great views of the Drakensburgs.  Huge thunder storms were building over the mountains with huge flashes of lightning and rolls of thunder, but we were still in sunshine.  At one point, we had blue skies to the east of us, but black skies to the west – very bizarre. 

Back at the apartment, we had an afternoon nap and Baccalau for dinner – Glenys found some salt cod when we were in Reunion, which we haven’t seen for a couple of years.

14 November 2017  Drakensburg Mountains, South Africa
Glenys discovered that the B&B offered horse rides, so she booked us onto an early morning ride. We’re doing a two hour ride at a proper horse farm tomorrow, but we haven’t ridden for over a year, so Glenys thought that a short one hour ride would ease us back into riding. Glenys is a good, experienced rider and I tag along.

Riding in the Drakensburg

The Basuto Ponies used to work herding cattle, but they aren’t ridden very much nowadays, so they had lots of energy.  Our guide was a local Zulu, who looked like he had ridden all his life, so he was keen to take out a couple of “experienced” riders.  It was okay for the first ten minutes while we walked, but we soon came to a long stretch uphill and the horses were ready for it.  

The guide took off up the hill and it took some effort to stop my horse racing after him.  I only held the horse back for 10 seconds, but I could feel the pent up energy. A slight lessening of the pressure on the reins and we were off – standstill to gallop in 0.1 seconds.  Yikes.  The saddles were very scanty English saddles with nothing much to hold onto, so it was traumatic, but I managed to hang on.

The guide was grinning from ear to ear, Glenys was looking tense and I was scared.  The rest of the ride was the same pattern – walk for five minutes and then a mad canter/gallop for 200 metres. We were absolutely knackered when we finished the short ride and I could feel muscles cramping as I limped back to the room.

After a hot shower, we loaded the car and drove to Spioenkop Nature Reserve.  It’s a small national park situated around a big lake.  We arrived at midday, which is the worst time to see animals, but the park was on our way to our next accommodation, so it was worth a couple of hours to look around - the entrance fee was only 50 rand (£2.50) each.  As expected, most of the wildlife was hiding, but we saw Giraffe, Blue Wildebeest, Kudu, Zebra and a few Blesbok which we haven’t seen before.

By 14:00, we were on our way to Glengarry where we checked into a small self-catering cottage owned by Berg Trails, a horse riding farm.  It’s in a lovely setting on the side of a hill in the Central Drakensburg Mountains. We settled in and had a couple of problems with the water supply, so after the owner Rick had sorted us out, we offered him a cold beer and he told us a few tales about the area.

Totally wet through

He bought the farm 35 years ago and has built it up to a profitable horse breeding and forestry farm. They grow mostly pine trees, which they then cut into planks in their own sawmill.  The farm is very close to the Lesotho border and he tells us that bands of Lesotho men come down the gullies of the Drakensberg Mountains, bringing in Marihuana and then stealing cattle, which they attempt to drive back up the steep gullies. 

15 November 2017  Drakensburg Mountains, South Africa
The weather changed overnight and we woke to overcast skies with light intermittent rain.  We’d arranged to go on a two hour horse ride and were concerned about the grotty weather, but after a bit of prevarication, we decided to go for it and donned our cagoules.  The horses were Appaloosa (colourful spotted coat pattern) and much more placid that the beasts we rode yesterday.  They were trained in American neck reining and had comfortable trail saddles, which suited us.

It was a “quality” ride – within ten minutes of leaving the farm house, we had torrential rain, bolts of lightning and huge rolls of thunder which unsettled the horses.  There was only Glenys, me and the lady guide, who were mad enough to go out in this weather and we were soon soaked through to the skin.  Despite the rain, it was a very nice ride up through pine forest with a few controlled canters, although the rain soon turned the trails into slippery mud, so we spent the second hour walking.

After a long, hot shower, we stayed in the apartment, dressed in very warm clothes until our core temperatures had been raised to acceptable levels.  Glenys rustled up Egg & Bacon for lunch to further help our energy levels.  The rain continued to hammer down all afternoon with the rolls of thunder rattling the windows.  It was also very cold, so we wore long trousers, socks and our down gilets.  

Finally at five o’clock, I decided that it wasn’t going to get any warmer and lit the log fire.  Luxury – we soon had a good fug up and a cold beer in hand.

16 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
We piled the bed with every blanket that we could find, but my ears and nose were cold when I woke at 05:00. It was just light and the fire had obviously gone out, so I quickly dressed and dashed outside in the howling wind and lashing rain to get some more wood.  After getting the fire going, I jumped back in bed and was firmly told off because of my cold hands – some people just don’t appreciate hardship.

Nice Log Fire

We were on our way by 08:30.  It was still raining with sleet settling on the nearby hills, so we took it easy.  The long 5 hour drive was tedious, but at least the weather improved as we came out of the mountains and down to the coast.  By the time that we arrived at Richards Bay, the sun was shining, although there was still a strong, cold wind from the south west.

We checked in at the boat yard and all is well on the boat.  The boat yard have fitted the new cutlass bearing into the housing, but the rudder shoe isn’t finished - it’s out at a machine shop having a larger bore machined, so that a bush can be fitted.

The World ARC Rally has arrived while we’ve been away.  This rally sails around the world (28,000 miles) in 15 months, which IMHO is a ridiculous pace.  They spend most of their time on passage or repairing stuff that breaks because they don’t have time to do maintenance - they have very little time to explore the few countries that they visit. To add to this dismal picture, the rally costs about $35,000 US – they’d be better off spending a year exploring the Caribbean rather than trying to get a “round-the-world” ticket. 

There are only 14 boats, but they’ve caused chaos at the marina by block booking a whole pontoon of berths. Their tight schedule means that they have fixed dates to leave on each passage and some had a rough passage from Reunion to Richards Bay.  Despite most of them only arriving two days ago, they are planning to leave in two days’ time.  It’s madness…

We checked into the Treetops Self-catering Apartments, which is just a couple of kilometres from the marina. It’s a nice place, but chilly in this weather.

17 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
We went to boat yard fairly early.  Glenys wanted to get into her laundry done and was worried that the ARC locusts would be dominating the washing machines.  The weather was much better so we were back to shorts and t-shirts.

Removing the Stern Gland

While we were away on holiday,, based in the UK, had sent me some useful drawings of our steering system.  This shows that there should be a small 8mm long * 8mm diameter plug inside the shaft to operate the locking mechanism. I made one from an 8mm shoulder bolt, but the locking mechanism still doesn’t work.  I’ve obviously damaged it when I was trying to pull it to pieces.  

The steering mechanism still works fine and we only lock the wheel when we’re at anchor (or occasionally hove-to), so I’m going to leave the repair of the brake mechanism until we get to the Caribbean.  I can lash the wheel with a bit of rope or bungee when we’re at anchor.  I’m starting to build up a list of “tricky” jobs to do when we get to the Caribbean.  I don’t want to be stuck in South Africa for a long time because I’ve broken an essential part.

Graham on “Red Herring” pointed out that our propeller shaft is not lying central in the stern tube, but is pressed down and to port - this indicates that the engine is out of alignment, so I spent most of the day re-aligning it.  I removed the stern gland, so that I could see the alignment at the inboard end of the stern tube. 

Of course the job didn’t go as smoothly as it should because the aft port mounting was slightly corroded and the adjustment nut is in a tight space, but I gradually raised the engine a few millimetres and now have the shaft central at the inboard end and much better at the outboard end.  

Unfortunately, when I rotate the shaft, it’s “wobbling” at the outboard end - either the prop shaft is slightly bent or the flanges on the coupling are not quite aligned.  I’m going to have to remove the coupling from the end of the prop shaft and check that there are no burrs on the coupling.  It’s a job for when we get back from our next holiday.

Zulu Dancers

There was a briefing held by the World ARC rally which we attended.  One of the local delivery skippers went through the various ports that are between Richards Bay and Cape Town, which gave me a bit more information on places to stop.  Other than that, there was a lot of talk about the marina berths that they have block-booked in Capetown.  It looks like we’ll find it hard to get a berth until they bugger off on the 6th January.  We’re now thinking of spending Christmas at Simonstown, which is only an hour’s drive from Cape town.

We attended a dinner put on by the Yacht Club for the World Arc.  It cost us £6 each for the tickets, but there was a display of Zulu dancing and a good meal.  The Zulu dancing was done by very energetic young men and involved chanting and drums.  The downside to the event was that the ARC had a prize-giving to congratulate themselves for sailing from Reunion to South Africa.  The speeches were interminable.  We left after the main meal.

18 November 2017  Shakas Rock, South Africa
We packed our bags for another holiday, this time with our son, Craig and his girlfriend, Kristen.  After dropping off our small rental car, we upgraded to a standard SUV – a Renault Duster, which was a four wheel drive vehicle and big enough to take four people comfortably.

Craig didn’t arrive until 17:00, so we first went to the small apartment that we’d rented in Shaka’s Rock, unloaded our stuff and Glenys cooked Chicken Mole for dinner.  The aeroplane arrived on time and we were soon back in the apartment catching up on each other’s news from the past few months.

19 November 2017  Imfolozi Game Park, South Africa
It was a three hour drive to the Imfolozi Nature Reserve, where we’d booked two nights in a Safari Tent at the Mpila Camp.  While we were driving there from the main gate, we spotted lots of animals including Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Impala and Village Weavers - it was a good start for Craig and Kristen.  

Evening Braai

Our accommodation was two huge tents complete with on-suite bathrooms, real beds and a separate kitchen each - very luxurious camping.  Unfortunately, the tents were blisteringly hot in the midday sun, so we went out for a three hour self-drive in the comfort of the car’s air conditioning.  

As it was the middle of the day, most animals were hiding, but we saw the usual Warthogs, Giraffe and White Rhinoceros, which was enough to keep us interested.  We visited a few water holes and the Mphafa Hide, but there was nothing happening in most places. 

In evening, we went on a guided game drive, which was very good.   We had a great viewing of a couple of White Rhino next to the road and then later two Elephants only 10 metres from us.   After dark, the guide shone his search light around as he drove along and found a Large Spotted Genet - it looks like a cross between a cat and a mongoose.

For dinner, we had chicken kebabs cooked on the braai.  We’d been warned about cheeky Monkeys and Hyena, which come into the camp to steal food.  Apparently, the Hyena are very brazen and will try to scare you away from the BBQ, so that they can steal your meat.  We were told to throw rocks at them to drive them away.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately?) we didn’t see any Hyena, but  we did have a pair of Nyala wandering about.

20 November 2017  Imfolozi Game Park, South Africa
The alarm went off at 04:30 and we groaned out of bed to meet our guide at 04:50 for a morning game drive.  It was a good trip and the lady guide pointed out lots of small thing as well as finding us Buffalo and White Rhino.  She was very excited to see a Secretarybird – a raptor that hunts on the ground - very odd, but very colourful.  We found a Dung Beetle rolling its ball of dung along the road - interestingly the female was clinging onto the dung ball getting a ride while the male laboured to find a suitable site to bury the ball and its eggs.  

We were back at the tent by 07:30 and Glenys arranged for us to upgrade to a Chalet because the tents are far too hot in the middle of the day.  It only cost us £20 to upgrade from two tents to a seven person chalet, which was a real bargain.

Warthog grazing in Mpila Camp

We weren’t able to move to the chalet until 12:00, so after breakfast, we crashed out for an hour in the tents and, when it became too hot, we went off for a drive by ourselves.   Being the middle of the day, we thought that we’d visit the Bhejane Hide, but nothing was happening there.  We went to a viewpoint on the river and saw a flock of Vultures, but couldn’t get close enough to get any decent photos. 

Back at the Mpila Camp, we moved into our chalet, which was very nice and chilled out for the afternoon, catching up on lost sleep.  

In the late afternoon, we went out for a drive by ourselves, but we discovered a fault with the fuel gauge on our hire car - it was showing ¾ of a tank at midday and suddenly dropped to ¼ tank, so I have no idea how much fuel there’s left.  We decided to abort our drive because none of us wanted to be running out of fuel and spending the night lost out in the park.  

21 November 2017  Hluhluwe Game Park, South Africa
After checking out of our chalet, we drove out of the park and 10 kilometres along the road to find a petrol station with diesel - they sell petrol in the Imfolozi Park, but not diesel.  We then re-entered the park and slowly drove into Hluhluwe Game Park taking some of the gravel loop roads, but there weren’t many animals about, so went to Hilltops to check in and for lunch.


We weren’t able to get into our room until 14:00, so we went for another drive, this time a bit further away from the main road, looking to go to Thiyeni Hide (the only hide in the Hluhluwe Park), but it was closed.  Despite it being 35°-40°C we found a large herd of Zebra and Wildebeest next to a watering hole and further on came across nine Giraffe.  It was a worthwhile couple of hours.

The evening guided game drive was a little disappointing, mostly because the guide went too fast and we kept missing things.  I think that he was trying to find some Lions, but had no luck.  We saw a very large group of Cape Buffalo, which was interesting, a hippo wandering about on land (a long way from the road) and after dark, we found a Spotted Eagle Owl.

For dinner, we treated ourselves to the buffet dinner at the resort restaurant, which was very good.

22 November 2017  St Lucia, South Africa
We had another early start - up at 04:30 for a morning game drive.  It was the best drive that we’ve had.  We (and the guide) were amazed to see a large pack of African Wild Dogs come bounding up the road towards us.  The guide stopped and to our surprise, the dogs stopped next to us, lying down and walking around the truck.  We were very lucky to see them as they are difficult to find.

Further on towards the Memorial Gate, we were delighted to see a Female Lion walking along the road towards us.  She went past us and was followed by another female and then a male.  The three Lions then stopped about 25 metres behind us and then the male mated with one of the females.  The Lions were unconcerned about us and were wearing collars, so that they can be tracked.  They stayed with us for 15 minutes before wandering off into the bush.

African Wild Dogs

On our way back to Hilltop along gravels roads, we also saw a large heard of Elephants, a herd of Cape Buffalo and I finally managed to get a decent photo of a Greater Blue-eared Starling.  They are fairly common here, but they tend to fly off as soon as we stop the car - I started to call them ABBs (Annoying Blue Birds).

After a large breakfast, we checked out of Hilltop and drove down gravel road loop towards the Memorial Gate.  It’s very easy to become blasé about White Rhino - they are everywhere and appear to be very placid.  While driving down a fairly steep section of the gravel road, we came across a solitary male White Rhino who was stood at the side of the road.   

I backed up to about 20 metres away and we waited for him to amble across the road.  Half way across the road, he stared at us, stamped one of his feet and snorted loudly, before carrying on to the other side of the narrow track.

We noticed that he had one or two puncture wounds in his back leg and some other injuries on his side.  He stopped about 5 metres from the edge of the road and started to graze.  I started slowly driving forward thinking that he would edge away from the road, instead he did a quick hop to turn to face us.  I backed off again and he returned to grazing.

White Rhino

After waiting for another five minutes, he’d moved 20 metres from the road, so I cautiously rolled forwards.  When we were level with the Rhino, he came aggressively forwards about five metres looking like he was going to charge.  Gulp!   There was a great temptation to put my foot down and roar off down the hill, but I figured that he would be able to catch us and then would be really pissed off.

Instead, I turned off the engine and then very slowly rolled down the hill, stopping every five metres.  The rhino kept facing us, but didn’t move any further forwards.  At the bottom of the hill, I started the engine and drove away.  Phew!  I stopped the next guide that we saw and he told us that they knew about the Rhino - he’d been gored by an angry Elephant.

We managed to escaped from the park without any further incidents and drove to St Lucia, where we checked into the Elephant Coast Guest House, which is lovely.  After a quick cheese sandwich, we had a quiet afternoon, mostly sleeping - the frenetic pace is getting to all of us.

In the evening, we went on boat trip on St Lucia Lake.  We saw a few groups of Hippopotamus in the water and one solitary Crocodile.  It was interesting to see Hippos Yawning, which they do as a sign of aggression to show the magnificence of their huge teeth.  However, the boat trip that we did at the Pongola Game Reserve was much, much better.  Half way through the trip, a squall came through and we got soaked. 

We went out for dinner on the high street, where there are lots of restaurants - it’s all very touristy, but I guess that’s what we are…

23 November 2017  St Lucia, South Africa
We had a bit of a lie-in, only having to get up at 06:45 to go horse riding.  Craig and Kristen have only done a couple of horse rides, but they had a great time. There were seven of us in the group all of varying experience levels, so when we went for a canter, the less experienced went on a slightly different route, meeting up a few minutes later.

Glenys watching Wildebeest

The ride went out into the St Lucia Nature Reserve and we rode very close to Zebra, Wildebeest, Warthogs and Impala.  The horses are grazed in the area, so the wild animals are used to the horses - we are just seen as strange lumps on the horses’ backs.  It’s quite amazing to be a few feet from Zebra who are unconcerned.  The horses were very steady and we had some nice loping canters, so Glenys is keen to go again. 

After a shower, we went for lunch at the St Lucia Ski-boat Club, which was nice & relaxed away from the tourist restaurants on the high street - be warned, they do massive meals.

In the afternoon, we went for a drive around the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.  It was surprisingly good.  The main road to Cape Vidal is long and a little boring, but there are some nice gravel road loops, where more wildlife can be seen.  We saw plenty of animals including Hippopotamus, Crocodile, Nyala and Kudu

24 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
After another large breakfast, we drove to Durban airport and said goodbye to Craig and Kristen.  We’ve had a lovely six days with them, but they move onto Cape Town for their second week in South Africa.

We drove back to Richards Bay and checked that all was okay on the boat.  The only job that the boat yard had to do was to make the bush for the rudder shoe, but they’ve not finished it.  It’s like any boat yard - if you’re not around to keep hassling then the job doesn’t get done.

Back to Work

We checked into Tree Tops and had a quiet time for the rest of the afternoon.  I made a start at sorting through the 1,000 photos that I’ve taken over the past week - editing the better ones and deleting the rest.

25 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
I had a very lazy day, pottering about in the apartment doing some admin and editing photos - I can’t motivate myself to do any jobs on the boat - seems too much like going back to work after a holiday. Glenys is starting to investigate Namibia and our route across the South Atlantic Ocean - we should be back in the water in six days’ time and will be starting to head west in the first week of December.

In the afternoon, we popped to the boat to pick up some odds and ends.  Our friends Karen and Graham have moved “Red Herring” into the marina, so we stopped by and had a chat to them.  They’re going off travelling for a couple of weeks, so we might be gone by the time they get back.

26 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
After yesterday’s rest, I was up at six o’clock planning out the work to do on the boat.  My first job was to look at the engine alignment because the propeller shaft was “wobbling” at the outside end.  I removed the coupling between the propeller shaft & the gear box and cleaned the two mating surfaces.  After bolting it all back together the propeller shaft was running much more central, so there must have been a burr or dirt on the flanges.

Glenys started to scrape off the silicone sealant in the front heads - I re-caulked all the corners a couple of years ago and despite using a good quality anti-mildew product, it’s all turned black.  It’s a tedious job and I’ll make sure that I use a marine quality silicone sealant this time.

Anti-singing Edges on Propeller

Jannie, who runs the boat yard, was at work this morning and turned the bush for the rudder shoe, so there’s some progress there.  He now needs to saw the bush in half and fit some screws to hold it in place when the rudder shoe is split in half.  Hopefully, it will be ready to fit onto the boat tomorrow afternoon.

I attempted to fit the cutlass bearing housing, which screws onto the end of the stern tube.  It wouldn’t go on and when I looked at the threads, they were damaged when Arno removed and replaced the cutlass bearing.  I took it to Jannie who gave it to Arno who used a thread file to clean the threads up.  

Arno gave it back to me an hour later, but when I got around to trying it again, the housing would only go on for the first ¼” and then locks up.  Unfortunately everyone had gone home by the time I discovered that it still doesn’t fit, so I’ll have to wait until tomorrow.  I despair...

The propeller has been “singing” (resonating) when we run the engine at 1700 rpm.  The manufacturer told me to file “Anti-singing” edges onto the trailing edge of the propeller.  It was quite scary doing the job and hard work using a hand file for an hour or so.  I think that I’ve done it properly.  I ought to get the prop balanced now, but there’s no-one in Richards Bay who does it. 

27 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
I had an unsettled night worrying about the cutlass bearing.  If they’ve damaged the threads beyond repair then the job will turn into a long nightmare.  I was up at 05:00 because I couldn’t sleep and spent two hours editing my photographs to take my mind off the damn cutlass bearing.

When we arrived at the boat yard, Jannie gave the cutlass bearing housing back to Arno, who spent all morning hand-filing the thread.  He kept walking over to the boat to try it and then, shaking his head, he’d walk back to the workshop to do some more tedious filing. 

Propeller, Stripper and Cutlass Bearing all fitted

I occupied myself by dropping the anchor chain to the floor, inspecting it and flipping it end to end to even out the wear.  One end is still heavily galvanised whereas the working end was starting to get patches of rust.  I reattached the anchor and pulled it back into the chain locker.  Glenys finished off removing the silicone sealant from the front heads and has started to mask it off ready to re-apply new. 

Just after lunch, Arno finally managed to get the cutlass bearing to screw onto the stern tube, so I whacked on some sealant and we screwed it in place - thank God it was sorted out.  I then replaced the propeller and the Rope Stripper, so all my “below water” jobs are done.  We now just need Jannie to complete the bearing for the rudder shoe, but he didn’t have time today.

The yard labourers applied the first coat of anti-foul paint, so if Jannie gets his job done, we should be on target for a launch on Friday 1st December.

28 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
It’s quite nice being in the Treetops apartment, but there’s a lot of wildlife around.  I think that there are some Hadeda Ibis roosting in the trees at night because at dawn, I was woken by their loud raucous calls (like a loud crow).  We also had a troop of Vervet Monkeys bounding about on the corrugated roof making a right old din.

At the boat yard, I asked Jannie about the rudder shoe, but he’s not managed to make any progress - he promised me the job will be done by 14:00 and that we can fit the shoe in place this afternoon.  We had some errands to run, so I dropped Glenys off at the Boardwalk Shopping Mall and then drove around to various suppliers.

Toilet Holding Tank

I bought a new set of bearings and seals for the engine sea water pump - I need to service it, so I’ve bought another spare kit.  The Volvo dealer in Cape Town has quoted me 4,600 Rands (£230) for a “pump repair kit”, whereas I actually paid 180 Rands (£9) for the two bearings and a seal - Volvo is such a rip-off.  

I took my empty cooking gas tank to Builders Warehouse, but was unable to get them to fill-it.  They freaked out that it wasn’t a South African tank and didn’t have a fitting for the valve.  I found a place just across the road behind the BP garage called Sha’s Hardware & Aluminium, who filled it in 30 minutes.

Back at the boat, I started to fit the new valve to the toilet holding tank - nasty sweaty job, working in a confined space, covered in slime from the toilet hoses.  I’ve put thread sealant on the valve assembly and fitted it in place.  When the sealant has hardened tomorrow, I’ll fit the pipework.

I spent the rest of the afternoon changing the low pressure pump on the water maker.  The water maker fuse switch has been tripping out for months and I thought that the pump was at fault, so I bought a New Pump from the manufacturer, Echotec in Trinidad.  As I was removing the wiring, I found a very Dodgy Connector in the 220V wire, which has probably been the cause of all my trouble.  I think that the old pump is okay - bummer!  Ah well, the old pump is very, very rusty and is probably on its last legs - it needed to be changed.

The seemingly simple job of swapping the pump has turned into an epic - I need to change some of the water pipes because the new pump has slightly different size connectors.  Also while I’ve got the pump out, I’m going to clean up the various fittings and filters in the cupboard, which where the two water maker pumps are located. I’ll have to finish the job tomorrow.

Watermaker Pumps

At 14:00 the rudder shoe wasn’t done.  At 16:00, the bush has been split in two, but there’s a couple of hours work still to do - Jannie has promised me that it will be done by 11:00 tomorrow.  I’m hopping mad.  I gave them the job on the 9th November they said that they would have it done in a week - it’s now been 2½ weeks.  It’s typical boat yard crisis management - Jannie is trying to manage the boat yard and do some precision machining - he should have sub- contracted my job.

I quit at 17:00 and went back to the apartment to drink a few cans of beer to calm me down.

29 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
We’re supposed to launch on the 1st December and by 11:00, they still hadn’t finished the rudder shoe.  I hassled them every 30 minutes until finally at 12:30, Dave came to dry fit it on the boat.  I’d already removed the steering cables from the quadrant, so that there was no friction in the steering system and I could move the rudder with my little finger.

After the assembly was fitted, the rudder was significantly harder to turn, so something was binding.  At first, Dave said that it just needed grease, then Jannie appeared and said that he’d be happy with the movement.  I dug my heels in and loosened off the screws, so that the bearing wasn’t binding on the shaft and showed them how easy it should be to move the rudder.  

New bush in rudder shoe

Dave then spent the next four hours, scraping the bore, refitting it and repeating until finally at 16:00, both he and I were happy with the fit.  It was too late to complete the rest job, so we’ll finish it tomorrow - we should still be good to launch at 14:00, the day after tomorrow.

I spent the whole day on the water-maker.  I first cleaned up the inside of the cupboard and wire-brushed rust from various filters, the high pressure pump and mounting screws.  I then re-plumbed the pipework from the seacock to the low pressure pump and changed the electrical wiring.  After fitting the low pressure pump in place, I then changed all of the soundproofing material inside the cupboard walls because the old stuff was crumbling away.  I was just about finished at 16:00.

Whenever, I wasn’t in the front heads doing the water-maker, Glenys masked off the front heads ready to apply new silicone sealant.  She also spent hours polishing the stainless steel on the deck, which was starting to look pretty bad.  The inside of the boat still looks like a bomb has hit it, but it won’t take long to tidy up once we have launched.

30 November 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
At 08:00, I greeted the Zulu yard workers with “Sau-bona”, which they tell me is “Good Day” in Zulu - they always smile broadly and repeat it back when I say it, so I’m mildly suspicious that they’ve taught me a swear word or it means “Big Arse”.  I’m going to confirm the word before I say it to the ladies in the supermarket… 

Finally Fitting the Rudder Shoe

By 08:15, the yard was at work on our rudder shoe.  The major job today is to pour polyester resin into the inside of the rudder shoe, which moulds it to the skeg.  I first asked Khumalo to remove the screws and smear with releasing wax, so that the screws will not bind on the polyester resin - this will make it easier to remove the next time.  The ends of the bolts were ground flush and a centre punch used to bind the end of the bolts.

Pouring the polyester is a messy job and the viscosity of the resin is critical - thin enough to flow, but thick enough to have strength.  Initially, Khumalo had it too thick, but after adding more resin, we used a piece of cardboard to direct the mixture into the narrow ½” gap at the top of the shoe - most of it seemed to go in, so I think that it’s a good job.

Khumalo then put epoxy filler in the 1” gap at the top of the rudder shoe - hopefully, the epoxy filler will be a little more flexible than the Polyester filler that I used last time, which cracked because it was brittle and didn’t flex.  The final job was to put some sealant on the bolt heads and pump grease into the new bearing.  We will wait until tomorrow to paint on a couple of coats of anti-foul paint before we launch at 14:00.

In between supervising the rudder shoe, I re-fitted the new valve and pipework for the front toilet.  After an epic struggle, I discovered that one of the joints on the valve is moving - the two year old thread sealant that I’ve used must have gone off.  I nipped into town to buy some new sealant and then with a heavy heart, pulled the pipework apart, cleaned the threads on the valve and reassembled everything.  By 16:30, I’d got it all back together - hopefully the new sealant will work. 

There are more photos in our Photo Album section.