0318. We’re making 7-8 knots towards Mossel Bay at the bottom of South
Africa in very rolly confused seas.
Arriving in Richards Bay already seems a life time ago. The dramas of the
leg from Reunion have been overlain with experience after experience since
arriving in South Africa.
Winding back the clock 18 days to our arrival ..the last 6 hours of crossing
the fearsome Aghulas current were the final test that the Indian Ocean had
for us before it would let us make landfall in Africa – headwinds and heavy
seas meant we were making only 3 knots as Aretha slammed off the waves
whilst we did our best to protect our rig and keep things safe. When we
finally made safe harbour inside Richards Bay (South Africa’s largest
commercial port with many ships in and out every day), it was great to be
met by my Mum on the World ARC welcome boat with Victor to guide us in the
final mile through the very shallow waters. Safely tied up on the pontoon,
it was lovely to see my Mum and Paul (the first time we’d seen them for a
year) and the Richards Bay Yacht Club Commodore with a bottle of bubbles to
congratulate us on crossing the Indian Ocean.
For the best part of 2 weeks, we spent time around Richards Bay and
exploring the bush lands of KwaZulu Natal – a truly amazing part of Africa.
Many safari’s to see the finest wildlife Africa has to offer – Elephants,
Giraffes, Rhino’s, Hippo’s, Lions, Croc’s, Antelopes of many varieties –
just about everything you can imagine for a safari. We clocked up 5
different Safaris – the highlight of which was staying at Thula Thula
camping wild in the bush and waking up in the morning to Vervet monkeys,
Nyala’s and Vultures literally just outside your tent. We went on game walks
through the bush seeing the animals at close quarters and night time game
drives. Superlatives could easily get heavily used here. For the children, a
wealth of new experiences and just magical to see them totally fascinated by
the whole thing and spending hours talking to our expert rangers, devouring
all the animal books and writing journals with an energy we’ve not seen for
a while. For me, coming here was one of the highlights I was most looking
forward to when we envisaged our whole adventure some 7 years ago – being
under African skies and walking through the bush seeing the animals. It
didn’t disappoint. Have to recommend a book about the lodge we stayed at –
The Elephant Whisperer by Laurence Anthony – the guy who created the Thula
Thula reserve – its a beautifully written insight into his part of Africa
and his relationship with his herd of elephants.
In the background, work pressed on with Aretha – we flew up Warren from Cape
Town, an extremely experienced rigger recommended by Oyster. Warren brought
the new D1’s (to replace the broken rigging) and gave our rig our a full
survey and declared us safe to press on to Cape Town where we will replace
more of the rigging and strengthen certain parts of the rig. We joke that
Aretha will be a new boat by the time we’ve circumnavigated! The leaking
engine was replaced, broken nav lights replaced and broken main sail cars
South Africa has been looking after us very well – the Zulu welcome dance at
the Yacht Club and the feast they provided was one of the World ARC
highlights as has been the hospitality. The Yacht Club itself has superb
safe grounds and and for our time here the children played with a host of
other boat kids also stopping here to recharge and seeing them play on the
wide open spaces, the pool and the play area was perfect for them after a
long passage and to make lots of new friends. It is remarkable to see just
how quickly the kids bond and are running around playing games and carving
wooden sticks in next to no time. For us, the local yacht club bar and
restaurant was very welcome and the perfect place to share tales of the past
passages and plans for the next ones.
The super strong pound with a weak rand has meant 21 Rand to the pound –
everything is super cheap here and its’ cheaper to eat out than cook in.
It’s also been a interesting insight to learn more of South African politics
and the challenging situation they face here with a Government positively
discriminating by colour and the effect this has on the country. It’s sad in
many ways to see the different struggles this magnificent country faces
which are very evident and bubble up in most conversations with people we
Planning for the passage South to Cape Town was a continuous topic of
conversation amongst the skippers – the feared Aghulas current demands you
pick your weather window carefully. With a current flowing South at up to 6
knots and very rapidly changing weather conditions means we had to become
local weather experts with the assistance of the local briefing and speaking
to delivery skippers. Against a strong South Westerly wind, the sea is
rapidly whipped up into huge waves making progress painfully slow and very
dangerous. With a strong NE’ly, its a super fast magic carpet zooming South
at up to 14 knots.We waited a week longer than planned in Richards Bay to
get the weather window right. The plus side was more time with my Mum to
catch up and to visit another safari lodge and escape from the child duties
for a couple of days (after 15 months together highly necessary).
The rest of the World ARC fleet have had their challenges to – Hugur have
been out of the water with structural hull leaks being fixed, Chat Eau Bleu
having a cracked bulkhead replaced and Garlix who need to replace much of
their electronics after a lightening strike – we all have our boat
challenges to fix – its a demanding adventure we are on and no safety
element can afford to be overlooked – the consequences of neglect don’t bear
After riding out a 50 knot storm in Richards Bay (our pontoon was scarily
breaking up), we refuelled and headed South in company with 5 other boats
bound for East London. We had planned to put into Durban (forever etched in
my mind as where my super talented business partner, Ed started his career
working on the ships in Durban harbour), but the window for heading South
lengthened and we used the current to make the 340 mile hop South to East
London in one go. East London is South Africa’s only natural river harbour
and is a welcome bolt hole for protection. We put in here and anchored up
near the 15 or so other yachts taking shelter here.
Of the boats here, we’d already discovered on VHF there were other boat kids
here and within hours Bluebell and Columbus were charging around the grounds
of the Buffalo River Yacht Club with new friends making dens, carving sticks
for fighting with and using the wheelbarrow and beer trolley to push each
other around at high speed. All totally non PC back at home – out here its
all fair game. The first night saw us have a Braai (bbq) at the Yacht Club
with plentiful steaks and beer – we’re getting used to this South African
way of living!
Many years ago I read a book on the Coelecanth – a fish caught off East
London in 1938 which was previously thought to be extinct and dated back
some 65 million years – a time before the dinosaurs.I sought out the East
London museum where the taxidermied specimen was on display with the full
history of it and discovered a treasure trove of information on local
animals (Taxidermy central), the local culture and shipping around here. So
much so, I returned with Nichola and the children the following day – we
have school projects here to last a month. Truly fascinating and great to
join the dots from previous learning.
So we left East London (also the place in SA where they make Mercedes and
BMW) yesterday afternoon after waiting for a huge car transporter vessel
docked some 100 m ahead of us to load up with freshly baked C Class Merc’s.
Leaving the safe harbour we were met by huge waves which you tip off the
back of in only 15 metres of water and a pod of dolphins jumping all around.
Safely back at sea, we now en route to Mossel Bay and thereafter to Cape
It’s now 0431 and the light is coming back up already – time to adjust sails
and make good speed,
Team Aretha (30 miles from Port Elizabeth), Out.