15 December 2017 Richards Bay to Durban (Day 1)
The weather forecast doesn’t show any long patches of NE winds for the next 14 days, just a set of short 48 hour windows. There’s a window today, so we made a snap decision to head off to Durban, which is only 80 miles away. We’ll just have to spend the next few weeks hopping from port to port along the coast. Who knows where we’ll be for Christmas Day.
I jumped in the car at 09:00 and drove around to get a new Flight Plan stamped by Immigration, Customs and the Port Police. It all went smoothly and I was back at the boat an hour later. We zipped to the supermarket to buy some last minute fresh provisions and then dropped the car off at the airport.
A taxi dropped us back at marina just before 12:00; we finished off paying our marina bill, tidied the boat and filled up with water. After saying goodbye to a few friends, we left Richards Bay at 14:00. We’d emailed the marina in Durban and were pleased to get an email back allocating us a berth there.
When we motored out of the harbour, there was a 3 metre swell coming from the south. It was a gentle swell, but steep at the harbour entrance. Once clear of the shipping channel, we bore away and headed south-west on a beam reach. The wind gradually increased and backed, so I poled the genoa out to port and we rolled off down wind.
By nightfall, we had 20-25 knots from the North-east, which confused the swell from the south and made it a horrible corkscrew motion. I tried to read a book on my 7-10 watch, but the horrible motion was making me queasy - the seven weeks away from sailing has affected my sea legs. Unfortunately the wind continued to increase giving us gusts of 35 knots making the roiling sea worse. I could only pop down below for 30 seconds to check the AIS for ships before having to bolt back into the cockpit to nibble a Ginger Biscuit.
Glenys extended her 10-1 watch and gave me an extra hour in bed, which was long enough for me to recover and I felt okay when I got up at 02:00. By this time, the wind had dropped to 20-25 knots from the north and the seas were much calmer. During my 2-5 watch, I threaded us through a large anchoring area with scores of large ships waiting to go into Durban port - one of the largest in South Africa.
We made good time with 1 knot of favourable current for most of the way, so we were only five miles away from the harbour entrance as the first glimmer of dawn lit the horizon at 04:30. The Durban Port Control operates on VHF Ch09 and monitors AIS traffic. They called me up when we were five miles out and, without asking, gave me permission to enter the port.
The entrance was simple and we motored across to Durban Marina into a very tight berth, tucked in a corner. We were in bed at 05:30.
16 December 2017 Richards Bay to Durban (Day 2)
After a few hour’s sleep and breakfast, we went to the marina office to check in and get an access key to get through the security gates. Being a Saturday, the manager was the only person in the office and he (incorrectly) told us not to bother to clear in until Monday.
The marina doesn’t have any toilets or showers, but there are two yacht clubs next to the marina that have facilities and grant two weeks free membership to international visitors - we signed up as temporary members of both yacht clubs. The Royal Natal Yacht Club is oldest club in the southern hemisphere and is a very pleasant place. The Point Yacht Club is more modern.
We had a boozy lunch at the Royal Natal Yacht Club, where we bumped into Paul and Monique - they’d sailed down with “Looking For Dave” to have a break from working on “Full Circle” in Richards Bay. We met up with some of the other boats who had arrived today and most had cleared in, so we walked along the main road for a kilometre to the Customs & Immigration Building.
Immigration were friendly and filled in a load of forms for us. They hold onto our flight plan until we are going to leave. They told us that they will then come down to the marina to clear us out, after which we have 24 hours to leave Durban. We visited Customs who filled in another form, which they stamped and gave us a copy.
In the evening, we went to the Royal Natal Yacht Club and had dinner with “Full Circle” and Mark & Tina from “Thinking of Dave”. The food isn’t too bad and the drinks are cheap. As temporary members, we get discount on the menu prices.
17 December 2017 Durban, South Africa
A few of the members at both yacht clubs have told us that it’s not advisable to walk around Durban town. Apparently, a French cruiser was mugged a few weeks ago and his rucksack seized. When we walked down to the customs building yesterday, we felt a bit apprehensive and didn’t see a single white person walking around even though there’s a pleasant little park along the road side.
Glenys did some research on places to visit in Durban - there’s an aquarium, a botanical garden, a couple of small museums and it’s relatively safe to walk along the beach front. The number 1 tourist attraction is a 3 hour bus tour that takes you around the city, but you never get off the bus. Hmmm, none of that seemed to be particularly inspiring, so we had a quiet day aboard.
There looks to be a weather window on Wednesday 20th, which should get us to East London, so we have another few days stuck in Durban. The marina is filthy with loads of rubbish in the water and with the security concerns, we’re not that keen to step out, so we’re feeling a bit trapped. It threw it down in the evening, so we stayed in and watched some TV.
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