Settling into South Africa

23 October 2017   Richards Bay, South Africa
Neither of us could sleep past seven o’clock because we were too excited and wanted to experience this new country.  The Health inspector turned up at 08:00, quickly followed by the Immigration officer, who dealt with all of the seven boats who have arrived in the last 24 hours.  We had to get a taxi to the Customs office which is a few kilometres away, but we all shared a couple of cabs, which were very cheap at 70 Rand (£4) each way.

Meanwhile Glenys walked to the Zululand Yacht Club and managed to get us a space in the marina for a couple of weeks until we get hauled out on the 7th November.  The damn ARC World Rally has a load of berths booked and is clogging up the system, so we’re lucky to get a spot.   There was a forecast for some bad weather arriving later this afternoon, so we told them that we would go in tomorrow.

International Dock

With our administration done, we had a cold beer with lunch and then chilled out in the afternoon – well actually, we fell into an exhausted sleep.  A strong south-westerly arrived at 17:00, accompanied by lightning and rain – we’re so glad that we are here and not trying to race to Durban. 

The large group of newly arrived crusiers went out for a meal at a restaurant next to the dock - it was a loud evening with lots of tall stories.

24 October 2017   Richards Bay, South Africa
We had a slow start to the day, waiting for high tide, so that we could go around to Zululand Marina. Glenys had her hair cut for the first time in three months and picked up two big bags of laundry.  Meanwhile, I sorted out my photos and brought my blog up to date.  I entertained myself by working out a few statistics.  Since we left Thailand 9 months ago, we’ve visited 9 countries and sailed 6,200 nautical miles with 450 hours of motoring. 

For lunch, Glenys went to local shop and bought some “Vetkoek” with a chicken mayonnaise filling.  This is a traditional Afrikaner fried dough bread, which is like a savoury doughnut.  It was very greasy and probably contained my saturated fat limit for a week.

We finally moved at 16:00.  I was a little worried about getting out of the corner where we’d tied up, but it all went well.  There was no wind and with the help of a few touches on our bow thruster, we glided backwards out of the harbour in complete control.

Vetkoek

There’s a shallow spot at the start of the channel to Zululand Yacht Club.  It’s next to the green buoy where you exit from the main channel.  One of the locals told us to cut the corner and the minimum depth that we saw was 6.5 metres until we entered the “dredged” channel to the marina.  Our waypoints were:  28°48.24S 032°04.93E; 28°48.19S 032°05.08E; 28°47.84S 032°05.01E; 28°47.80S 032°05.01E.  The shallowest spot was at 28°48.064S 032°05.052E, which was 2.2 metres LAT.

We were soon safely tied up in the marina.  Initially we went in bow first, but the French guy next door said that we’d be better off pointing south, so that when there is bad weather from the South-west, we take it on the bow and don’t get slapped up the sugar scoop.  As usual, backing into a marina berth was a trauma, but with a lot of pushing, we got in without a single bump.

As darkness fell, we wandered to the Yacht Club bar where we met some of the club members and had a good time.  A bottle of beer or a big glass of wine is £0.60.  They do meals in the evening that are also very reasonable - a huge curry and rice was £2.00.  We’re going to enjoy it here.

25 October 2017   Richards Bay, South Africa
We caught a taxi to the airport to pick up a hire car that we’d booked online a couple of days ago.  The online price was only £10 per day, but when we came to pay for it, the price had magically risen to £30 per day - they automatically added the “super” cover insurance at 200% of the car hire price!  After a bit of hassle, we got them to give us the most basic insurance with an excess of £1,000, but the insurance was still £10 per day. What the hell, at £20 per day the car hire is a bargain. 

From the airport, we headed for the Boardwalk Mall, which seems to be the centre of Richards Bay.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have a paper map (I left it on the boat) and having no access to Google Maps, we literally went around in circles in a residential district.  The second time that we passed a children’s nursery, I pulled in and asked for directions.

Land of the Braai

There’s no wi-fi at the marina, so our first stop was to get a couple of SIM cards, so that we could get online.  We bought Telcom cards, but we later found out that the coverage is very poor, so you’re better off with MTN SIM cards.  After wandering around the shopping mall for an hour, we’d had enough and ran away. 

It’s a sad fact of life that “first world” civilisation means huge, air conditioned, soul-less shopping malls.  There doesn’t seem to be any town centre in Richards Bay, just a series of shopping malls surrounded by residential estates.  We drove to the “village” nearest to the marina (Merensee), but that was just smaller and just as soul-less.  There are a couple of supermarkets, a few shops and lots of fast food outlets - KFC, Pizza, Burgers, etc. We're definitely in the Land of the Braai, because there are shelves and shelves of BBQ stuff in the smallest supermarket.

In the evening, we went out to the Yacht Club bar again and had the special which is called ”Eisbein.” This is a local delicacy and consisted of a huge slab of smoked ham hock on the bone - it must have weighed a kilogram.  The meat was very fatty and not something that we’ll have again.  To our surprise, one of the yacht club staff presented us with a bottle of champagne for being an international arrival.  I had to give an acceptance speech, which was very monosyllabic because I’d been extensively sampling a bottle of excellent South African red wine.

26 October 2017   Richards Bay, South Africa
We had a very quiet day chilling out and recovering from our excesses last night.  We wandered off to do a bit of shopping in the afternoon and, in the evening, met Paul and Monique from “Full Circle” in the bar - we had a bit of catching up to do since we last saw them in Madagascar.