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_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Marcy home Walvis Bay Angling Club club AFASyn Ushuaia Marcy and crew

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Southbound in South Africa

weaver nests Richards Bay SA
Weaver bird nests at Zululand Yacht Club.

Arriving in South Africa, we were plunged into a whirl of activity. We experienced sensory overload – so many sights, so many friends, restaurants, traffic, noise! We quickly learned that personal safety was an important issue. During our first week in the country a couple from a Dutch yacht was assaulted at knife point (no injuries, luckily) while walking in town and the skipper from a German yacht was clobbered over the head and robbed in the parking lot behind the yachts, while sharing a beer with locals. The restaurant at the International dock in Richards Bay had been recently held up by a pickup truck full of AK-47 toting thieves. We noticed that razor wire and electric fences were everywhere. So we bought a can of pepper spray and adopted our best urban defensive techniques.

Richards Bay workyard fence

wired gate Durban

Some fences incorporated elegant and very sharp details to discourage climbing.

pretty fence Richards Bay

Security issues aside, South Africa is a great country to visit. For example, our money goes further in South Africa than anywhere else we've been. A restaurant dinner for two, with beer, costs about $15 US. To a carnivore like Peter, the food is wonderful. We bought a Cobb cooker on the advice of Nick, a fellow yachtie with South African connections. This charcoal cooker is hot on the inside, cool on the outside, cooks beautifully, and is made of corrosion resistant materials, too!

Cobb cooker dinner

As we make our way south, we are in the south setting Alghulas current, which is a good thing for quick progress, but we must avoid the infamous combination of strong wind against current. This coast has produced the largest measured waves in the world, big enough to break big ships. Fast moving low pressure systems create intense gales, even in the summer, that quickly build awesome seas. The day after we arrived in Richards bay, beating one of these gales only by hours, a catamaran arrived with ripped sail covers, lines trailing overboard, and a crew with exhausted eyes. They had tried to reach Durban (the next port south) and had been within just a few miles of the harbor, when the front arrived. Despite two motors and a lot of motivation, they were forced to turn around and run 85 miles, risking broaching in the huge waves, back to Richard's Bay. So each hop south is undertaken only after carefully studying the weather forecast. Here Ginger, Nick (of Freebase), and Ian (of Ariel) look at the weather charts.

weather planning with Ian and Nick

After careful weather analysis, Marcy was taken out to sea for the jump to Durban. On the docks, we met two young singlehanders, Zac and Marta. Hailing from Southern California, Zac wants to be the youngest singlehanded circumnavigator. He is well on his way, check out his blog.

Zac and Ginge

Marta is Polish, with a light fast looking boat, and wants to be – you guessed it - the youngest Polish singlehanded circumnavigator.

Marta and Ginge

Pronounce that homeport!

Martas boat pronounce that home port

Many international yachts are tied up in Durban, and we enjoyed visiting old friends and making new ones. You can see Marcy in the middle of the forest of masts.

Marcy in Durban

A French yacht with a beautifully painted transom is tied a couple of slips to the east.

Bubu at Durban

Another French yacht gets her stainless polished a few slips to the west.

polishing stainless Durban

The locals were amazingly hospitable. At the Royal Natal Yacht Club, we met an aircraft designer, Mel, who had lived in Bellevue, Washington at one time.

Mel and Ginge

We met Roy, the voice of the Peri Peri Net, who had guided us through the gauntlet of low pressure systems on our approach to Africa.

Roy in Durban

We met Chris, the vice commodore at the Point Yacht Club. He spared no effort to make us feel at home – including a Christmas card and cake, printing out weather charts, and – we're not making this up – sending us off with a bag of biltong (jerky) for Peter and fruit snacks for Ginger to sustain us for the next jump south!

Chris S and Peter Durban

Durban sees an influx of holiday crowds from inland during the season. When we were on deck, sometimes people would lean over the railing and politely ask to come down to get photos with Marcy as a backdrop. Here Ginger poses with a happy family from Johannesburg.

Joburgers visiting Marcy Durban

Nick of Freebase was also our neighbor at Durban, and drove us in his Land Rover up to a farmer's market and then to his sister's house for a much appreciated bath and braai. On the drive inland, we learned that busy shopping malls and suburbs dot the landscape. All the talk about crime and gloomy politics aside, it's clear that the country is booming. Like the American south, there are lingering deep rooted racial tensions, but there is evidence of positive change and of a large prosperous black middle class. We chatted with white South Africans who quickly told us that the country is going to hell, but after further discussion admitted that they thought the country has a lot of potential. Certainly all the new construction shows a vote of confidence. Nick is readying his boat for the trip back to the Carribean, where he completes his circumnavigation. He is working on replacing bearings on the windvane. We took careful notes, the bearings on our unit are also worn out.

Nick in Durban

Our longtime friends on Ariel brought her alongside the pilings to freshen the bottom paint.

Kathy and Ian Durban * Ariel Durban

Ian and Cathy make it look so easy and fun that Ginger asks, why don't we do this too?

Why not Durban

Marcy's draft and keel configuration make that impossible for us. As our ideas evolve, we think that for world cruising, at least, it makes a lot of sense to have a boat that is stable as the tide recedes. Ariel's paint job reminds us that we need to head on south as soon as possible to haul our boat in Cape Town.

Blue Crane East London SA

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