December 2017 - South Africa

1 December 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
It was launch day and we were a little late arriving at the boat yard because we had to clear out of the apartment.  We arrived to find that the travel lift was already being trundled into position to lift Alba.  I rushed on deck and removed both forestays, which is very scary because the mast is not supported very well.

Going back into the water

An hour later, we were lifted in the slings and they were able to knock away the props supporting the boat.  One of the yard guys then finished off the antifouling, so we were ready to go into the water. 

Yannie, who runs the boat yard is a little chaotic and I had to ask for the bill.  When he produced his figures, it was roughly what I expected, but he’d not charged us for 4 tins of antifoul paint and the work on the new cutlass bearing.  I was an honest Indian and pointed out his error, which added an extra £450 onto my bill, but he gave me a £50 discount for being honest. 

Yannie has a policy of “No Cash, No Splash” and wanted the bill paid before he would launch us.  To make matters worse, he doesn’t take credit cards and wants cash.  It was a bit unreasonable, especially because he only gave me the bill one hour before we went into the water and, with a bill of £1,000, there was no way that we could get our hands on that much cash without getting our credit cards blocked.   We came to a compromise that I’d pay him 50% now and 50% tomorrow.

The launch went very smoothly and we motored into our marina berth, happy to be afloat.  It was boiling hot in the afternoon, so we only managed to replace the forestays and do a bit of tidying up, before we collapsed in the heat.  We went to the Friday Braai evening with “Full Circle” and treated ourselves to a huge T-bone steak and a bottle of wine.

2 December 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
After breakfast, before the wind picked up too much, we fitted the genoa and staysail.  I then poured three jerry cans of diesel into the tanks while Glenys continued to tidy up the boat and put the carpets back down - it feels like home again.

Happy again

We’re hoping to get a weather window to leave Richards Bay in the middle of the week, so Glenys wanted to re-provision with enough food to last us for a month until we get to Cape Town.  While she was wandering around the supermarket, I did a couple of runs to the garage to get more diesel and we now have a full fuel tank and full cupboards.

In the evening, we went to the bar for dinner and met Svein and Irene from “LovindaToo”.  Svein plays guitar, so we ended up on their boat playing guitar until midnight.

3 December 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
We had a slow start to the day being slightly worse for wear after drinking too much red wine last night.  I worked on my blog while Glenys quietly browsed the internet.  The weather here is amazing.  At 09:00, it was blue skies with a gentle north-east wind. At 10:00, the wind suddenly switched to 25 knots from the south-west causing us to jump up and sort out our mooring lines.  

Des Cason came for a visit, so a lot of cruisers turned up at lunch time to say hello and thank him for his weather forecasting.  We had a Sunday lunch and couple of beers and then chilled out for the rest of the day.  In the evening, the strong south-west winds were accompanied by a terrific thunderstorm with huge bolts of lightning - I'm glad we're not out at sea. 

4 December 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
The weather looks good for us to leave Richards Bay on Thursday 7th.  The south-west winds should weaken overnight, but Tues/Wed will be raining and unsettled with thunderstorms (yuk), whereas Thursday looks like pleasant weather.  It’s 340 miles to East London, but with the 2-3 knots of current from Durban onward, we should be there on Saturday midday, at least 24 hours before the next southerly rolls through.

Some boats are keen to try to get to Cape Town in one passage, but it’s 1,000 miles and we're not in any hurry.  We’re planning to do smaller, two day sails and stop in various ports to have a look around.    

Lightning scares me

We went to do a booze run in the morning and stocked up with enough wine to sink a small ship.  The rest of the day was spent doing admin - I had to do our Tax Returns and Glenys read up on future destinations.  It threw it down in the late afternoon and in the evening, we had a terrific thunderstorm, so we didn’t bother to go for a barbecue and stayed in to watch a movie.

5 December 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
It was a miserable rainy morning, but the weather still looks good for departure on the 7th.  The next southerly is due to arrive a bit earlier on Saturday night, but it will be light winds until Sunday morning, so fingers crossed.

Before we leave Richards Bay, we have to get a domestic clearance, which is called a “Flight Plan”.  There’s quite a bit of paperwork and we have to get stamps from the Yacht Club, Immigration, Customs and Port Police before the documents are sent to Port Control to give us permission to leave.

The coast from here to Cape Town is notorious for violent storms and one of the main purposes of the Flight Plan is to monitor the progress of yachts to ensure that they are safe.  We put Cape Town as our destination with East London, Port Elizabeth, Mossel Bay and Simons Town as intermediate destinations.  

They want expected dates as well, so I invented some rough dates just to get the paperwork finished.  Whenever we depart a port, I believe that the port control officer will issue a modified expected time of arrival to the next port.  

We started at the Yacht Club, where we paid our bill up to date.  They stamped the paperwork stating that we have no outstanding debts and sent us off to Immigration, which is in town.  Thankfully we still had a car and found Immigration at the end of a small alley to the left of the Home Affairs office near the Boardwalk Shopping Mall.  


Immigration quickly gave us the necessary clearance, but wanted to know why we were clearing out today when we weren’t going to leave until the 7th.  I told them that we might go tomorrow and they seemed happy with that.  I’m told that the clearance only lasts for 36 hours after the first stamp, so I started to tell the other officials that we were leaving tomorrow.

The Customs office is also in town, so we were soon finsihed with them and on our way to the Port Police, who are based in the main building of Tuzi Gazi on the second floor.  They took copies of our paperwork and stamped various pages, so we’re good to go.  The whole process only took a couple of hours.

While we were in Tuzi Gazi, we stopped by and chatted to a few friends on other boats - there are about a dozen international yachts moored alongside the concrete docks.

In the afternoon, we pottered about doing a few jobs - I fixed the remote handset for our VHF radio and finished off the holding tank job.  I also checked the steering cables because I’ve had them undone a few times over the past three weeks.  

After going to the bar for a few beers, Glenys made Bobotie for dinner - this is a traditional South African meal made from minced meat with an egg custard topping.  It was nice, but it was a little bit too sweet - apparently it has apricot jam, fruit chutney and raisins in the recipe, which is a little odd to our European palate. 

6 December 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
It threw it down during the night and only stopped raining in the afternoon.  The early morning forecast showed that the weather window to East London has closed up even more and the wind is now forecast to be W10 on Saturday at 06:00 and SW20 by Saturday 12:00. The south-west winds are caused by a small low that is forming off the coast.  If we leave at 05:00 tomorrow, then we will have 54 hours to get to East London, which is 330 miles at an average of 6.1 knots.  

I love JB Weld

We’re hoping to catch a strong 2-3 knot current after Durban, so on the last 250 miles, we should be able to average 8 knots, but the first 80 miles will be at 6 knots.  So if all goes well, it should take us 13.3 hours to Durban and 31.2 hours from Durban to East London, arriving at 02:30 early on Saturday morning.  However, if something goes wrong or the weather window closes, we’ll get a battering.

We took the hire car back in the morning and finished off our clearance documentation, which the Yacht Club emailed to the Port Captain.  I pottered around doing a few last minute jobs, replacing the preventer ropes, and checking the deck equipment.  I also checked the engine and found that some coolant is leaking from around the radiator cap spigot.  It’s only a very slight leak, so I cleaned it all up and applied a fillet of JB Weld Epoxy to seal it.

When we were hauled out of the water, I realigned the engine.  I was a little concerned that the hull might have flexed when going back into the water, so I undid the coupling bolts and checked the engine alignment - thankfully it all looks good.  The only thing to worry about now is that I have a slight leak on the sea water pump, which I want to get fixed in Cape Town - I’ll have to keep an eye on it.

Everything was going to plan until I downloaded a new weather forecast in the afternoon.  This showed that the low pressure area is forecast to be stronger and the southerlies will hit East London five hours earlier at 07:00.  This reduces our weather window to 50 hours, which is very tight.  We’re also concerned that the trend that the low pressure area is intensifying, so we decided to stay in Richards Bay until next week. 

We went out to the Yacht Club bar in the evening, with a great load off our minds.