Most of the experienced sailors we met told us : ” with South Africa you start with the worst”.
Let’s put it that way: we felt relieved each time we stopped during these 1 000 miles between Richards Bay and Langebaan (Mykonos).
First, what is told here is relevant if you’re a couple sailing on a small boat ( less than 40 Ft ) and only one of you understands the boat 100%.
Back on the 1 000 miles course ….
The South African weather systems are well explained on Noonsite and local sailors will top up your knowledge with their pieces of advice. To shorten it, you obviously can’t sail during the southwesterly’s blowing against the Agulhas current. Except that in between the storms 4 weather windows out of 5 will end by a strong north east to Port Elisabeth, east to cape Aghulas and South East to cape Town. : ” This is what you want! it’s behind you! ” That’s true, but it’s going to be 35 to 40 knots with south-east swells helping to put the auto pilot under stress, and you don’t really want to take over.
A natural stop coming from Mozambique channel, Zululand’s marina is comfortable and safe and you can have some very nice trips into the game reserves (see the article). We left Richards Bay for East London on december 20 without cleaning the hull and the folding propeller which produced unusual vibrations. We decided to fix the problem at Durban.
Is it worth it? yes! It’s reducing the most dangerous part by 90miles and can also save you waiting in Richards Bay longer that you would like. Durban has a lot to give if you have to spend some time after the game reserves. (See the article)
After a first attempt avorted when we received a mail at sea telling us “the weather windows has been dramatically shortened”…We finally left Durban on January 10 ( 22hrs ) to reach East London early evening the next day with… 40 knots but with the pleasant surprise of finding the only available seat of the marina still vacant. Soon there where 15 sailboats anchored in the Buffalo River .
Leaving East London for Mossel Bay we just spent a night at Port Elisabeth waiting for the north-east wind to calm down and having Gaïa covered with a layer of black dust!
Arriving the 18th January after a nice crossing, we found no place available in the marina and started to experience jetty’s with their huge black tires, but enjoying this very cute city for 6 days.
Early departure from mossel bay on the 24th, we had calm conditions at Cape Agulhas during the night and entered the Atlantic Ocean and the south-east kingdom. What we knew about the place is that it can blow 50 to 60 knots around Cap Point and that two boats we met at East London where rescued after they had to mayday. Following the NSRI instructions is safer in this region than a grip file and we stopped at Gansbaii, 40 miles from Cape Point for a few days.
It’s not the warmest yacht club we’ve seen but definitely well organized with cool prices compared to Cape Town marinas.If you need to take the boat on the yard it’s the place. You’ll find qualified people just around or from Cape Town.
It took us more than 3 weeks for antifouling, radar installation , engine out for a full service and refit and SAMSA ( South African Maritime Safety Authority ) survey to have the Mauritian flag. ( It’s a long story… )
Gaïa was back in the water on the 22nd of February and the first engine test showed the coolant flowing down under the engine and salt water running out of the pump! As it was not the pipes we felt unlucky, maybe because we were rushed.
Simon’s Town is a lovely well situated place to discover the Cape region (see the article).
Special thanks to Robert Galley ( Galley Electronics ) and our friends Barbara and Jeremy.
Cape Town (52 miles from Simon’s Town)
Formalities to leave South Africa must be done in Cape Town with the boat. It’s a day sailing from Simon’s Town. This monday 26 Feb was absolutely beautiful with Wayne our friend met in Durban.
Going round Cape of Good Hope and discovering Table Mountain with the sunset light was a one time life experience in these conditions. We spent two days in Royal Cape Yacht Club and for a few days it’s better to be in V&A marina. It’s cool around with all you need at walking distances. As we had a family appointment in Luderitz (Namibia) we tried to catch the early wednesday morning window but passed Robben Island only at 3pm, too late, and entered Saldana Bay around midnight for an easy landing at Mykonos marina.
We could finalize all pending details, use desalinated water (there’s a serious draught in this region), visit the small city of Darling famous for its beers, wines and toffees and get ready for the 650 miles to Walvis bay (Namibia), our new destination.
Just a line on South Africa : we were really hooked by this country, its extraordinary recent and passed history. We’ve seen hope in all people we met and the future seems better now.