Waiting for Weather

11 December 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
With no hope of departing for the next four days, we decided to renew the hire car.  They refused to do it over the phone, so we drove to the airport.  We had to pay a more expensive “local” rate, but it was still only £15 per day.  On the way back, we ran a few errands at the Boardwalk Shopping Mall. It's a nice time of year to drive around South Africa because the flame-red Flambouyant Trees are blooming alongside the roads.

Back at the boat, Glenys finished off investigating horse-riding centres and managed to book us a couple of days later in the week.  In the evening, we went to the usual Monday night Bring-Your-Own Braai at the yacht club and had a natter with “Red Herring”.

Flambouyant Tree

12 December 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
Not much to do waiting to go horse riding tomorrow, so we pottered about on the boat.  I managed to sort out our satellite phone contract.  We still have 184 minutes left on our phone, but the contract terminates on the 17th December. 

To keep the existing minutes, I had two choices - buy another block of minutes or pay £50 per month to extend the current contract.  A six month contract gives me 200 minutes for £460 whereas a 12 month contract gives me 500 minutes for £640. Confused yet?  I decided to extend for 3 months, which costs £150, but will get us to St Helena.

I had a problem with paying the satellite company, who are based in Malaysia.  Our UK bank takes up to 7 days to transfer international funds and if the funds don’t arrive before the 15th then I will lose my minutes.  Fortunately, our friends Carlos and Sarah on “Sea Monkey” are in Penang and Carlos has paid the money directly into the satellite company’s bank account. 

I then had to transfer funds to Carlos’s Australian bank account.  Carlos told me about a really good money transfer service called “TransferWise.com”.  You go on-line, type in the recipient’s bank details, enter your credit card details and the money is put into the recipient’s bank account within 2-3 days.  It’s so quick and easy.  

Another plus to the TransferWise service is that they guarantee that a fixed amount will go into the Recipient’s Bank account - funds from our UK bank often arrive with some deductions for “local fees and currency exchange rates”, which causes massive problems when a supplier is waiting for a payment for goods or services.   I’ll be using them again.

Riding through Cane Sugar fields

13 December 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
We were up early to drive 70 miles to the Redwoods Riding Centre, just south of Durban. They took us on a 2 hour “out-ride”, which was mostly walking along muddy trails in between sugar cane fields.  We did a few trots and a couple of canters, but the other people in the group were total beginners, so there was a lot of waiting about because they had to walk.  However, it was a pleasant ride and only cost £20 each.

We popped into Ballito, a nearby seaside town, to have a very filling Fish and Chip lunch, sat in a restaurant over looking the beach.  In the afternoon, we had a one hour lesson as part of a small group, which really showed how bad our riding skills are.  My horse was very bloody-minded and refused to do anything unless I gave it the correct signals – I had no chance when trying to canter.

We drove back to the marina and had dinner in the bar.  We shared an Eisbein, which was the special of the day and it was much better than the first one we had a few weeks ago – this time the outside was nice and crispy.  We were knackered after our long day and were in bed just after eight o'clock.

14 December 2017  Richards Bay, South Africa
It was another early start to get to the Horse Riding Centre by 08:30.  They took us on a slightly different route today, which was even more muddy than yesterday.  The guide was a young lady who obviously hadn’t taken out many groups.  Again, we had inexperienced people in the group and I virtually had to plead to get one short trot and a short canter – I was a grumpy bear.

Intense concentration during a lesson

We had another long lunch at Ballito this time in an Italian restaurant overlooking the beach – I could get used to doing this every day.  In the afternoon, we had another hour-long group lesson.  My horse today was a little more tolerant and gave me some nice canters, whereas Glenys’ wouldn’t canter at all for her.  We obviously need more lessons.  

Towards the end of the lesson, we did some jumping.  The instructor put up cross poles which were all of 1 foot high.  The rest of the class (mostly little girls) had no problems in getting their horse to trot over the poles.  My horse loved jumping and was very excited, wanting to break into a canter and “go for it”.  I’ve never done any jumping and never been told what to do...  It was inevitable.  

I carefully controlled the horse in a trot until we were 10 metres from the jump.  The horse broke into a canter, in a blind panic I tried to slow the horse, pulled too hard on the reins and the horse skidded to a halt in front of the jump - I flew over it’s neck onto the ground. It was the first time that I’ve fallen from a horse, but fortunately 15 years of skydiving has taught me how to land on the ground and I didn’t injure myself. I got back on the horse and survived the next two jumps.  We definitely need more tuition.

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.

Finally Leaving Richards Bay

 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.

Durban Marina

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.

Royal Natal Yacht Club

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.