Getting Ready to Leave

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.

7 December 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
It was a dull morning with light rain, so we pottered about tidying up.  In the afternoon, it brightened up and we had a pleasant 10 knot wind from the ESE, so we took the boat out for a sea trial.

A Goliath Heron stalks past our boat

We’ve done a lot of work on the stern gear and the rudder - I’ve filed anti-singing edges on the propeller; we have a new bearing at the bottom of the rudder; we have a new cutlass bearing; I’ve had the steering cables on and off several times; I’ve had the steering wheel bearing assembly in pieces; and I’ve realigned the engine. Not to mention that we’ve had both forestays off and have the sails repaired.

After calling Port Control to inform them we were doing sea trials, we went out to the main ship channel through the port and motored up and down.  Glenys ran the engine at a whole range of revs, from tick-over up to the maximum of 3,500, while I watched the engine and stern gland for any sign of vibrations.  

The engine ran very smooth at all revs and there was no sound of cavitation or singing from the propeller, so the propeller appears to be in balance and the engine looks to be well aligned.  We pulled all of the sails out to check them and then returned to the marina, happy that everything works - we’ll have more confidence in the boat when we finally venture out of port.  

In the evening, “Red Herring” came around and helped us to eat the huge pork stew that Glenys had cooked up for our meals for the first two days at sea. 

8 December 2017  St Lucia, South Africa
It was a lovely sunny day and we regret not being at sea, but the southerly is going to hit East London at 06:00 tomorrow, so we’d have only just made it and if something had gone wrong…

White Rhino and Warthogs

The next opening seems to be on Monday 11th, but there are lots of little lows popping off the coast at Port Elizabeth, so we’re not sure how far we could get.  We think that we’ll at least head down to Durban.

To allay the boredom, we hired a little car again and drove to St Lucia, where we checked into a lovely Bed & Breakfast place called “Lodge Afrique”.   We then went for a drive around the western coast of the St Lucia Game Park.  There weren’t many animals in the southern part, despite going down a couple of gravel road loops, but things improved when we got to the most northern loop road, where we saw WhiteRhino, Giraffe, Cape Buffalo, BlueWildebeest, Impala, Nyala, Warthogs, etc.

In the evening, we walked to one of restaurants on the main road and had two enormous meals.  Glenys had Bobotie, so she now knows what it tastes like and has modified her recipe - the minced meat needs to be courser and she's reducing the much sweetness. 

9 December 2017  St Lucia, South Africa
We were up fairly early to go horse riding at 08:00.  Again we had a fabulous time, riding in the Game Park amongst Zebra, Wildebeest, Warthogs and Impala.  It’s amazing how close you can get to these wild animals when sat on a horse.

It was only a two hour ride, so we went into the eastern side of the St Lucia Game Park and drove around for a couple of hours, spotting the usual plains animals. By midday, it was getting very hot and the animals were getting scarce, so we retired to a restaurant in town and had some salmon sushi for lunch - very decadent.

Game Ride at St Lucia

By three o’clock, we were back on Alba, where it was blisteringly hot under a cloudless sky with strong north-east winds.  At 17:00, the wind suddenly switched to SW20 as the next front came through and by dark, it was raining and blustery.

10 December 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
It was a grey day with strong south-west winds, so we pottered about after breakfast and went to the cinema later in the morning to watch Justice League in 3D.  It only cost 89 Rands (£4.50) each including a new pair of 3D glasses, which is a bargain compared to paying £12 each in the UK.

The weather forecast for the next week is terrible with small lows coming through causing the wind to switch to the south and back to the north every 24 hours.  There’s no chance of getting to East London, so Glenys spent the afternoon looking to see if we can arranged to go horse riding for a few days next week.

In the late afternoon, I went to “Frieda” and played guitar with Frank, Karen from “Red Herring” and Swien from “LovindaToo”.