12th November 2011; Dawn brings monkeys gambolling about on the dock and boat.   Customs and Immigration officials come and go in a painless fashion; we are then overwhelmed by welcomes from local people and fellow sailors already in. The dockside has bars and restaurants and we treat ourselves to an excellent meal ashore.  The town of Richards Bay is a 15 minute taxi ride away we restock in a gigantic shopping mall, the biggest apparently in the southern hemisphere, one could perhaps add also the most boring and architecturally challenged.  However the supermarkets were amazing for the range of goods, the excellent quality and value.  The skipper’s daughter Sarah arrives to visit with boyfriend Rupes and informs of marriage plans on our return.  Celebratory dinners on Pylades and ashore are accompanied with much bubbly and toasting.


15th November; We head to the game reserve of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi where with guide and jeep we encounter an amazing range of animals from the huge bull elephant to the busy dung beetle all displaying the astonishing complexity of evolution and wonderful  to meet in the African wilderness. We are informed that the unfortunate belief that eating ground rhinoceros horn improves sexual performance and cures all sorts of things has led the death of 420 rhinos in 2011.  After a week in the small boat harbour of Richards Bay, Pylades moves to the Zululand Marina, again a social hub of boats awaiting passage south and carrying out repairs.   Diving on the prop is unpleasant in the murky water so we run Pylades onto a drying grid which only drops the water to a meter deep, but enough to polish the propeller and change anodes, Kay is a touch apprehensive at this 07.00 task as the murky water we are informed is home to both crocodile and shark, at least it ensures the work is carried out smartly. Wonderful hot showers and breakfast follow.


24th November; Kay returning to Pylades over burdened with bags of food seeks temporary respite under a tree and is quickly surrounded by a troop of monkeys who spotted possible lunch… dragging all the bags to a nearby workshop and calling out she is helped by workmen who keep nicks on the food as she shuttles bag after bag back to the boat under the watchful eye of the monkeys waiting for a  lapse moment. Harassments of the cruising yachtswomen come in many forms.


Weather windows open and close with rapidity. Due to the perceived ferocity of this coast, the authorities require notice of arrivals and leaving of all harbours and flight plans in between. Best one can do is put down first thoughts and tough it out. On the 26th we exit Richards Bay with a forecast of fair winds 15 to 20knots from the northeast and this was the case until well past Durban. The wind increased over the first night to 25 to 35 knots , just ahead of us a big French Catamaran  reported gusts of 65knots.  Constant solid rain, lightening and thunder accompany the rising wind making a horrible sea and a challenging if fast passage. To compound misery the main navigating plotter throws a wobbly, refuses to give our position, wipes most of the detail off the charts and no longer shows AIS targets. As visibility is almost non existent we try radar but the peaking pyramidal waves bury the screen in clutter. The skipper’s heart stops when a freighter looms off the bow silhouetted by lightening and disappears seconds later in the driving rain. 30 miles out from East London the wind dies, leaving us motoring slowly in a confused sea. We tie at East London at 15.00 on the 28th. Only two days at sea but seldom has a passage taken so much out of us.


East London springs some surprises; we are the only boat on passage in the harbour.  A couple, we meet on the dock take us on the tour of the town and surroundings and provide insights into the workings of South Africa, the good and the bad.  The following evening we inflate the dinghy and cross the river to the yacht club for a sun downer. As we do Kay notices smoke pouring from a large motor boat moored just behind, we dial for fire brigades, men rush from all directions with extinguishers and hoses, the brigade arrives. The fire is extinguished but the 13M launch is gutted. A poor shore power connection apparently was the cause. We now definitely need a drink. 


The members of the club are welcoming; conversations provide further insights into the workings of SA, some blatant racism mixed with measured observations.  Everywhere we hear tales and not just from the white side of  President Zuma who has little interest in book learning and “that sort of thing”. Corruption, we are told is rampant.  We inform that in this they are most certainly not alone, as we regale with tales of blatant robbery in our own Fair Isle.  On the positive side the news papers and radio appear to be vigorous in reporting the ills of the state, so hope remains. We take a tour of the local Mercedes Benz factory, while it is fairly obvious that labour costs might have something to do with its location, it is an amazing experience witnessing the rows of robots whizzing panels around the place and spot welding at speed, a few of those lads would have been very handy for us in the building of Pylades.


4th December; we sail for Port Elizabeth the forecast 15 to 20 knot north easterlies are again optimistic. We reef and reef the main before dropping it and run off before wind which rises to 40 and as we approach our destination goes over 50 knots the sea is very confused and white matching the countenance of the skipper, as we move out of the currant the seas ease a bit but bid us fare well with a fine pooping. Entering the marina at 00.15 we lose our way but manage to tie alongside a large racing yacht for the night. At dawn we get a slip and are directed to observe how all the permanent boats are tied. Festooned they are with myriads of hefty dock lines, steel springs, tyres. etc.  When a swell arrives we understand why, the motion is worse than at sea.  Snatching, creaking docks, despite doubling all lines and making them as long as possible to increase spring we still snap many. The most dangerous action ever carried out by the skipper was replacing dock lines at night crawling on all fours on a bucking pontoon with heavy boats around crashing into it. Springer’s lying slack and crossing the dock to get length would lift and snap tight in a split second. Falling between the boats was curtains. The scream of steel pontoons grinding was like the wail of the banshee.  Our dock lines after a few days were a sight to behold, knots everywhere spouting dread locks. Close by was a freighter loading manganese ore, which coated our ship in a fine black dust.  Sometime we ask our selves, why?


Every morning the repair team would arrive to start reassembling and rewelding the docks. Apparently the port authorities will not allow the club build an inner wall which would solve all the problems. Apart from the negatives, the people were very welcoming and the bar in the yacht club was great for socialising. The town of Port Elizabeth had many fine churches and we noted in particular the stained glass windows festooned with saints and biblical scenes, had not a single black figure or indeed anyone that resembled a Palestinian Jew in any of them. All figures were strikingly white European,  gods indeed, we make in our own image.


The days pass and constant contrary winds predominate blowing hard around the cape of storms. We tend our warps and hold on. Finally on the 16th December we motor 180 miles to Mossell Bay. It is a feast or a famine as far as wind is concerned. No spaces in the marina so we pick up a mooring outside the harbour.  After a day we launch the dinghy and explore the town.  This is where the Portuguese explorer, Bartholomew Dias landed in 1487 on an expedition to find a sea route to India, a replica of his ship is in the fine local museum.  The negative side of the mooring was the fanatic Jet Ski and motor boat activity, which at least ceased in the late evening; we wined and dined in the local YC and other hostelries for very low prices.

23rd December; the weather looks fair for the Cape and as usual in these parts we leave on a falling barometer.  The wind is light and we motor on and off until at 0.5.00 on the 24th we pass the much feared Cape Agulus and arrive back on the Atlantic Ocean, last left in January 2010.  The south east wind springs and Pylades fly’s past the Cape of Good Hope.  The wind went from light to strong in pulses as we past the Hottentot Mountains, so after a few reefing and unreefing sessions we start the engine and motor. The myriads of lights at the entrance to Cape Town harbour confuse greatly added to by the fact that our plotter was not plotting and the wind was 30 knots on the nose, but at 03.00 on the 25th while singing “we saw a ship come sailing in, come sailing in, on Christmas day etc.”  We pick up a mooring just outside the small boat basin of the Royal Cape Yacht Club.

Joshua Slocum the world’s first single handed circumnavigator passed this way at the same time, Christmas of 1897 but without the benefits of forecasts, GPS and engine.  He wrote as follows.  Gales of wind sweeping round the cape were frequent enough, one occurring, on an average, every thirty-six hours; but one gale was much the same as another, with no more serious result than to blow the Spray along on her course when it was fair, or to blow her back somewhat when it was ahead. On Christmas, 1897, I came to the pitch of the cape.  She began very early in the morning to pitch and toss about in a most unusual manner, and I have to record that, while I was at the end of the bowsprit reefing the jib, she ducked me under water three times for a Christmas box. I got wet and did not like it a bit: never in any other sea was I put under more than once in the same short space of time, say three minutes. A large English steamer passing ran up the signal, "Wishing you a Merry Christmas." I think the captain was a humorist; his own ship was throwing her propeller out of water”.

While in South Africa, Slocum met Mr. Kruger the Transvaal president and mentioned he was on a voyage around the world; this unwittingly gave great offense to the venerable statesman.  Kruger corrected rather sharply, reminding that the world is flat. "You don't mean round the world," said the president; "it is impossible! You mean in the world. Impossible!  he exclaimed firmly.  The incident greatly amused Slocum. Perhaps it’s just as well Mr. Kruger never met with Mr. Darwin.

Cape Town is magnificent,  we found much to explore and enjoy besides the multifarious repairs to our ship, new VHF and autopilot, much work to the mainsail batten cars and a fellow sailor reconfigured our plotter and AIS, after 13 years and 58,000 miles we could not complain too much.  New Years Eve we dined at the Royal Cape Yacht Club, and celebrated with a bottle of bubbly at midnight swamped by the deafening blast of the harbour ships sounding, and echoing between the bastions of Table Mountain. We speculate on the coming year and our voyage home with a degree of nervous excitement.

6th January 2012; Brenda Linnane arrives from Ireland for a visit.  We catch up on the local gossip from home and go on tourist expeditions. The cable car to table mountain is wonderful with a two hour walk to MacLear’s beacon on the top. The tour of Robben Island was interesting if a somewhat somber reflection on what man can do to maintain power and privilege. The guides are ex prisoners and when it was discovered that we were from Ireland, asked did we know of Dunnes Stores and the actions of the girls there who refused to handle the South African goods, of course we exclaimed!  What an impact that had made in the prison at the time, we had indeed a proud moment, and made all those years supporting the anti apartheid struggle worthwhile.

27th January; we clear with the port, customs, and immigration authorities, take on the last of our provisions and secure Pylades for the next leg of our voyage. Early on the morning of the 28th we plan to set sail for St. Helena 1700 miles to the northwest.

Miles sailed since Bellharbour:  29,590





View position
Posted: 4:39:48 AM - 1/28/2012

<< back to news items