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3rd Report for 2007:
South Africa Part I
(October 23rd - December 23rd)
At last, we now were in South Africa, our final destination for this year (2007). Both of us had never been here, yet from friends and family we had heard much about this interesting country. Now we would spend some time here and should be able to make up our own mind about the place.
Richards Bay isn't really representative for South Africa as we were told many
times, but in the end, what is? We found it as different as any other place in
this country of contrasts.
Richards Bay is often described as a boring industrial outpost, with the world's second largest coal terminal and a number of aluminum smelters. A whole lagoon had been turned into a vast harbor area with the big loading terminals much further in than the little harbor basin of Tuzi Gazi or the Zululand Yacht Club.
So, from a sailboat like ours you just notice the large number of freighters anchored several miles out to sea and every once and so often, one of them moving in or out the canal.
So much for the industrial feeling, which we found later to be much more evident in the Royal Cape Yacht Club, in Cape Town.
an outpost it is: The living areas are widespread and shopping concentrated to a
few centers, which are not close enough to reach without a car.
A car, it seems, is a necessity for any sailor visiting South Africa. There are very few harbors where you can live on board for some time without car and Richards Bay isn't one of them. On the other hand, rental cars are comparably cheap and while in Richards Bay, offer the additional bonus of easily reaching the nearby game parks.
our arrival in Richards Bay we had tried to book a berth for Taniwani in either
the Tuzi Gazi Marina or the Zululand Yacht Club.
After many attempts we managed to get a confirmation from Tuzi Gazi, but never heard back from the Yacht Club.
Tuzi Gazi is right in the small craft harbor, the place that harbor control
sends all foreign yachts to upon arrival, and it is on the wall there that one awaits the
various officials. We heard that it could take over a day to get cleared, but
while we were around, the officials seemed to show up within a few hours.
A yellow marked area is kept free for arriving yachts, but when we came in, it was quite full and we rafted up three deep with Aquila and Nordlys. Later we learned that one can stay for at least a month for free on the wall in the small craft basin and some of these places even have water and power! Soon after our arrival a rumor came up, that a reservation in the marina meant nothing and that the marina was full. It wasn't so bad: The marina started moving boats around, moved some cats to shallower water and soon had space for anybody that wanted one. And so we moved on into the marina.
There is a new business and recreation center right at the small craft basin and the marina is part of it. The central complex features at least 5 restaurants of which the Portuguese one is highly recommendable. The marina is safe and well guarded and it is fine to leave a boat there for a longer period. We were not sure about our immediate plans for sailing South Africa and thought we might even keep the boat in Tuzi Gazi while going home over Christmas. But we yet had to figure out where to haul out and do the bottom work and we soon started to realize that South Africa doesn't offer the wealth of boating services that we had come to expect in the civilized world. But more about this later.
First we had to take in our first impressions and eagerly await our cruising friends from Mahi-Mahi, who now were boat-less and home-less, living with relatives in Johannesburg.
At least Ligia and the kids would soon come to visit us for a few
days and celebrate Beate's birthday with us. We were also waiting for Northern
Star, who was sailing a few weeks behind, now in Bazaruto and loaded with tons
of stuff from Mahi-Mahi, that they were bringing down from the Seychelles.
and the kids arrived in her new BMW with a trailer for all the stuff. It was a
great joy to meet them again and it was as fascinating as always how these
sailing kids naturally slipped into the boat life on Taniwani. We had some great
days. First there was Beate's Birthday party for which Ligia prepared about half
of the big load of blue crabs that we had brought from Mozambique. It was more
than enough for 11 people as Belle Brise, Aquila and Nordlys joined in.
Ligia drove us around the area and one day down to Durban. Ligia and Joao had
lived there, when they prepared their first boat for their first
circumnavigation. We got the grand tour of two Yacht Clubs, the yard with the
only travel-lift on the coast, chandleries and off course the other parts of
Durban, like the beautiful but very unsafe beachfront. We were told not to
stroll around there, but risked a ten minute dash along the beach front, meeting
about 5 police cars in the short time. A strange place.
were still thinking then on bringing the boat down to Durban in a few weeks and
do the haul out at the yard. A place in the middle of cargo terminals, an inner
yard surrounded by high walls and with strong security at the gate. Not a nice
place to stay on the boat while out of the water, but for a few days quite ok.
But then we would have to bring the boat to the Yacht Club and keep it there
while going home for a few weeks. That was quickly ruled out when we were told
that they were full and had no space. Add to this that the place didn't look
like one we wanted to stay at for longer: Derelict pontoons with no power in
most places and while in the midst of town, you don't
get the usual bonus of a town, with its shops and restaurants as it is
considered highly unsafe to walk around, whether day or night.
After just a short week, Ligia, Lara and Marco left us again to join Joao in Cape Town, where he was looking for houses and a new life. Northern Star still hadn't arrived and the new plan was for Joao to fly up to Durban as soon as Northern Star comes in. Generous as the Mahi-Mahi family always is, they left us their car in the mean time.
We used it for one more trip to Durban to bring our sails to the Quantum Sails outpost there. They would measure them and then have the factory in Cape Town do a whole new set for Taniwani.
After 40,000 miles Taniwani's original set was still ok, but one
could see that the material was getting weak slowly. The sails would have lasted
back to Europe, but that would sure have been it and considering the huge price
difference between Europe and South Africa it was the right time to renew them.
Also "Dolly" our Dinghy needed a more serious repair job, as the glue that ties the rubber to the wooden transom was giving in. We found a place that claimed to repair dinghies, just outside of Durban. An Indian guy, (there are many Indians in the Durban area), took on the job. It was very expensive and as we only found out later a very poor job.
Northern Star arrived and we had one more dash down to Durban airport to pick up
Joao. An endless amount of Mahi-Mahi collected souvenirs and utensils came from the
caverns of Northern Star, filled the trailer and the car to the limits. Unfortunately
Joao could only stay for one night with us, but the whole family seemed keen to
join us on the way to Cape Town. Given that the kids would have to start in
school in January, just shortly after we would be back from Germany, it seemed
better now to sail to Cape Town in early December.
So we changed our plans from staying in Richards Bay until after Christmas, to a tight plan, that would have us slip the boat at the Zululand Yacht club immediately and also see that we would have the new sails in time. Then we would still have to wait for a proper weather window and there still were only short windows, so that it could take quite some time to make Cape Town. This in mind, we booked our flight home from Cape Town for the 23rd of December, arriving home just in time for Christmas.
South Africa can offer a wealth of interesting things, it isn't a good cruising
ground for sailing yachts. There are hardly any nice and safe anchorages along the
shore, just a few not so comfortable harbors to find shelter. The fast changing
weather, strong winds and the fast running Agulhas Current make up for the rest.
Given that, the South African sailing community isn't large and consequently
there are not many facilities for hauling and maintaining boats. There are very
few marinas and those are of a low make shift standard.
But we had to haul out Taniwani, as the last anti-fouling paint, (Jotun SeaForce 90), wasn't a good one and we had gathered a lot of growth while in the Seychelles and Madagascar. Luckily, after some cleaning jobs with the scuba tanks it didn't grow again so fast, once we were in cooler waters.
We looked at the facilities in Zululand Yacht Club: They have a car that is winched out on a long and wide concrete ramp. There is only one car and the boat remains on it all the time it is out of the water. It looks a bit scary, but we saw another boat of similar size on the car and thought it would also work for us. There is also a small chandlery right on the Yacht Club premises and the man in charge there, his name Org, promised to do a good job, cleaning and repainting our bottom, as well as polishing the white topsides. So we booked for the next high tide. That is needed for boats with our draft (2m) to get on or off the car when it is lowered all the way to the end of the concrete ramp.
To cut the long story short: We missed the first tide due to bad weather, then everything took much longer since we had to scrape off the new paint because of a bad choice of primer that didn't bond properly.
Must however say that Org, the contractor, did keep to his promises and shouldered the loss of time and material.
Yet it got later and later.
before taking Taniwani out of the water we found a slot in our busy calendar to take off on the weekend and drive to the game parks only an hour
and a half from Richards Bay. It was fantastic:
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi National Park is by far not as big as the well known Krüger
Park further north. It was however the first African national park and for our
convenience it isn't far from Richards Bay and a nice tour through it can be
done in one day. It is also known as the best place to see free living rhinos.
were told to start very early, as the best time for watching the various animals
is believed to be in the morning and so we were at the entrance gate already at
5:30 am, half an hour after the park opens. It didn't seem very busy as only one
car had signed in before us. The deal here is that you use your own car to drive
through the park, partially on smooth paved roads, partially on reasonable dirt
Apparently the animals ignore the cars and as long as you stay in the car
there should not be any danger. One can only get out of the car in assigned,
usually fenced off pick-nick areas or lodges.
we can see a giraffe in the far, but then we just drive slowly through a
beautiful landscape without sighting anything but a few Impalas. They are rather
pretty animals and there seems to be an endless supply of them - we keep calling
them lion-fodder. For almost three hours not much else happens and we start to
wonder what friends who visited here a week ago found so great. It may have been
the drizzle that may have motivated all these animals to stay in bed longer,
because all a sudden everything changed and we drove from one fascinating
sighting to the next.
we spot a rhino in the bushes. We stop and watch with awe, as a second one
emerges and the two of them slowly sweep through the grass like big lawn mowers,
getting closer and closer to our car. They are big, they could throw over our
little Polo with no effort if they got mad. But they seem to ignore us, and come
so close that they block our view with their massive bodies. Then slowly they
move back into the bushes - wow!
We see animals after animals now: Zebras, Gnus, Pavians, Buffalos and get very close to several Giraffes. Eventually we even meet two Elephants. The only thing we didn't spot on that day was lions or leopards.
We enjoyed the whole day tremendously, the drizzle changed to sunshine and the views across the green hills were as rewarding as spotting the animals themselves.
cousin had invited his grown up kids to a long planned tour of South Africa and
part of that plan was to meet with us in Richards Bay or Durban. With all our
delays this coincided with our last few days on the dry. So, unfortunately they
couldn't come on board of a boat in its element, but rather had to make the difficult
climb up on the side of the cradle. Yet all managed to come and see us on board,
before having a good lunch at the Portuguese restaurant and then driving on to
It was November 26th, when Taniwani went back into the water and it looked like in three days there would be the long awaited somewhat longer lasting weather window to sail south.
Several of our friends had left Richards Bay and sailed
the 80 miles south to Durban to start the dash to the south from there. That way
you get an 80 miles head start and also the preceding SW ends about 12 hours
earlier than in Richards Bay, so that one may gain up to a day with that
down side is all the red tape involved in getting in and out of Durban and the
place is known for attracting real lousy local weather. While we were on the
dry, some of our friends in Durban got hit by 80 knot gusts while at anchor. Several boats
dragged and/or got entangled, in the narrow space allowed for anchoring. In addition
the place is known for poor holding. At the Yacht club one of the floating
pontoons broke loose and crashed with boats attached into the other.
So if at all possible, we wanted to skip Durban and get quickly as far south as we could go with the next wave. We had been watching the weather carefully, all the time since our arrival in Richards Bay. For most of the past four weeks, the fronts had passed very densely spaced, giving you at the best two full days between two Southwesterlies. Going towards the weather shortens that interval further. It is supposed to get better as the southern summer progresses and the spacing between the fronts should get longer and longer as you wait. But this November was unusual, worse than the average October we were told. One simply had to be patient.
Now it looked like there would be a window of at least four days, that could allow us to run as far as Mossel Bay, with potential 'emergency stops' at East London and Port Elizabeth. Joao was ready to leave Cape Town and fly up to Durban to join us for the trip. We preferred to pick up Joào by car from Richards Bay rather then trying to sneak into Durban without registering.
We were ready to go, but the sails didn't come. A typical Quantum (the sail makers) syndrome that had upset many other customers: The sails may be fine and at a good price, but timing wise they are entirely unpredictable and unreliable. When you call, you hear the usual wage excuses, never a precise date: "sails are almost done and we'll ship them out tomorrow".
The sails trickled in a piece at a time about a week late.
the time we had all sails, half of the good weather window was over and the next
depressions were on their way. We could just jealously watch our friends having a
fast and pleasant ride all the way from Durban to Mossel Bay. Now it
seemed that it would be about ten days later that we might have another
good opportunity. For us this meant tine-out, change plans and relax. We would
now have vacation in South Africa and sail to Cape Town when we return from Germany
in mid January.
Zululand Yacht Club as well as Tuzi Gazi marina are both good and safe places to leave the boat for some time and Tuzi Gazi is slightly less expensive due to the fairly high temporary membership fees at the yacht club. While there are several good restaurants right at Tuzi Gazi, it lacks any other attractions and has scarce facilities.
at restaurants is very cheap in South Africa and the wine barely shows on the bill. Consequently we very rarely cooked on board.
us it was now time for vacation in South Africa, we would become tourists now.
For her birthday, Beate has got a 'voucher' for a stay at a first class resort,
together with a partner of her choice. Incidentally her partner choice happened to be
Harald again. Searching on the internet we found and booked a place not far from
Kruger Park, called Timamoon Lodge. From there we should be able to drive to
Kruger Park and some other interesting places like the
Blyde River Nature Reserve.
The 800 kilometer drive from Richards Bay was a bit tiring, but once we arrived at the lovely Timamoon lodge, it was quickly forgotten.
In the middle of nowhere,
this lodge has just 6 widely spread out cottages, the finest and remotest being
the so called Moon River.
The text read: "Moon River Lodge is a very romantic and secluded lodge with a private rim flowing pool and fabulous outside daybed which you can lie on and enjoy the wonderful views of the Sabie valley and river far below. The lodge also has a lovely big Moroccan style sunken bath with incense sticks and surrounded by candles, as well as an inside and outside shower. There is a 4 poster king-size bed from India; a separate lounge with a large log fireplace and a cd player, so bring your favorite romantic music with you."
found it was all that and more, and a worthy land alternative to Taniwani. The
food at the little dining place was also fantastic and we were always looking
forward to it after a long day out.
We had booked four nights, so that we could have three full days to explore the area.
of those days we hoped to spend in the Kruger National Park and one day
exploring all the spectacular places around the Blyde River Canyon Nature
Kruger Park is vast and in our two days of visiting it, we only covered part of its southern end.
We didn't have that many sightings there. Kruger has a lot more visitors than the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park near Richards Bay, but in terms of seeing animals, the smaller and less well known park is probably the better choice.
we had huge elephants twice and very close.
On our last day, just as we were leaving the park over the crocodile river bridge, we got a special reward:
Looking down from the bridge there was a dead Hippo, stuck in the river and numerous crocodiles enjoying the meal.
worked away on it, amazingly slowly and relaxed as if they knew there was plenty
of food for all of them.
Our day out in the Blyde River Nature Reserve turned out a big success:
We had a
clear day, with just the type of clouds you want on the photos.
The views from up on the ridge are incredible and for us this day was more impressive than driving through the Kruger Park.
it is easy to see that on a rainy day one would feel it a waste of time.
Aside of the many views, there is a very special river junction, called "Bourke's Luck Potholes", with lots of little waterfalls, tunnels and canyons, carved out of the soft stone.
nice and most likely so, even on a rainy day.
At the northern end of the park is the actual canyon and the reservoir created by the Blydepoort Dam.
At the end of our 'short vacation' we had another night and a great breakfast at Timamoon and then the 800 km drive back to Richards Bay.
It was only three
days before we left Taniwani again, to fly to
Cape Town where we would stay near our friends for the 12 days, before our flight home to Germany.
had heard many great things about the Cape area, but were still not prepared
for the sheer beauty of the place. Luckily we would have plenty of time to
explore this region. Now for these 12 days before Christmas and next year again
when we hope to arrive in Table Bay on our own keel.
Without boat, we needed a place to stay, and while our friends had found and bought a house and would have loved to have us as their guests, they couldn't move in before mid January and were living with João's parents, Vasco and Karin in their nice house in a most wonderful development called Zeventwacht.
is out in the wine area, not far from Stellenbosch, and once inside you feel like
in the most peaceful paradise.
We were lucky: Our friends found a little place in the same paradise. Neighbors had build out one of their garages as a nice little room with bathroom, for when their kids visit, and we were able to rent that little place for the duration of our stay.
we were rather close to our friends who were eager to tour the area with us and
show us all those great places around Cape Town.
We were staying in the middle of the wine country, that spreads from the Cape peninsular northeast into slowly sloping hills.
The different locations and altitudes allow for various types of wine and there is certainly something for every taste.
not just that, from up on the hills the view all the way to the cape and to
table mountain is always worth the trip.
Wineries are plentiful and differing, many complementing the wine tasting with other attractions like art exhibitions, picnic areas or fun parks.
Aside of wine tasting, we were quite impressed with African art which we found as agreeable as some of the fine wines.
so often, we found the best wine in the least marketed places.
Another famous wine area is in the valley of Franschhoek were French Huguenots settled many years ago.
The French influence in wine making and architecture is still imminent and there are some very nice wineries to visit.
spectacular is the estate of Cabriere, where fine Pinots are grown and the
larger part of the production is worked into excellent Champaign.
Like us, our friends from Kyena II had left their boat in Richards Bay and were now touring the country before they would fly home to Australia to earn some money again.
They had just arrived in Cape Town in time to celebrate Angelina's birthday with us and the Mahi Mahi familie.
had met in the Maldives and spend some great time together in Chagos and the
There are not many places in the world, where land formation and climate make up such an impressive and varying surrounding, as does the Cape Peninsular.
We have seen a lot, but to us this is the most spectacular area. The embossed map shows nicely how this mountainous and narrow tip protrudes far out into the sea to end at Cape Point - The Cape of Good Hope.
One can easily imagine what happens when east or west winds hit this sudden barrier: They will climb an fall down as ferocious gusts, or they are deflected to the sides until they find a valley to roar through.
One of these places is at the end of the mountain chain where the table mountain drops off into flatland. It is there that during south-easterly winds the famous Cape Doctor hits part of the town and the yacht club where soon we would have Taniwani.
Another favorite channel for the wind is up the beach in Fish Hoek, up the slope and down with all force into Haut Bay.
our tour around the peninsula we got all these impressions. It is a most
beautiful area and after having seen the world, one develops a certain desire to
settle there. Yet, there are very few wind sheltered corners and those of them
close to town are obviously fetching the highest prices.
The eastern shore of the peninsular forms one side of the large False Bay.
At the inner end is Fish Hoek, a little tourist town with a beautiful beach.
Despite strong winds, the surf is normally moderate as it lays deep in False Bay and the fetch across the bay isn't long enough for serious waves.
Just a little further on along the shore is Simonstown. A big navy base, but also a nice little town with a friendly yacht club.
Several of our cruising friends had chosen this place over Cape Town. All facilities, shops and restaurants are in walking distance and the wind comes from the sea and doesn't bring as much dirt as in Cape Town.
We were also quite tempted to bring Taniwani here rather than to Cape Town in January, but space is limited to maybe five visiting boats and we didn't find a crane for our pending swap of the generator.
Right next to Simonstown is also a colony of these nice small Cape Penguins.
Soon after Simonstown, the whole other part of the peninsular is a nature preserve.
A road goes all the way out to Cape Point and it is only a short walk up to the old lighthouse with a 360 degree view.
The little white speckle on the hillside in the picture to the left is the new lighthouse (1914) of the Cape of Good Hope.
The original one was found to be too high up the cliff, so that it often was hidden in low clouds. As a consequence many ships hit some of the off laying rocks.
Now, in the days of GPS it would of course not matter much and one wonders how much longer these lighthouses will be maintained.
On the way back, not far from the Cape point we met a few wild living Strauss.
The long stretch is all nature preserve and the western shore is rough and fringed by dangerous reefs. Over the last centuries, many ships had been lost on these rocks.
A long way back from the Cape Point towards Cape Town, there is Noordhoek up on a saddle with a view to both sides: East towards Fish Hoek, Simonstown and False Bay and west, to the golden beaches of Chapmans Bay.
That is where our now boat less friends from Mahi-Mahi finally found a place to their liking.
In December, the previous owner hadn't moved out yet so we could just have a look from the outside.
But, we were able to appreciate the fantastic view to both oceans. Here in the picture towards Fish Hoek and False Bay.
The 'normal' way from here into town would be east around the Constantia ridge and Table mountain, but there is a scenic way on a toll road rounding Chapman's Peak and with spectacular views, turning into Haut Bay.
During the very common Southeaster, Haut Bay and its Harbor are straight in the pass of the most ferocious gusts coming down the mountain range behind Chaman's Peak.
One sailing guide wrote that at times people had to crawl to their yachts on the floating pontoons, as otherwise the wind would have blown them right into the water.
The picture doesn't really bring out the many white crests across the bay.
This is the beach next to the harbor and the waves are from a fetch of a mere 3/4 of a mile and this is a 'normal' day.
There is actually one of the very few travel-lifts in the harbor, but people told us that it is very difficult to work on the boat in the strong wind and by then we had solved our problem anyway.
The crazy thing with this peninsular is that only a short distance further there is absolutely no wind.
It is for this reason, that this part of the shore has become a very popular and for South African standards expensive living area.
We have not seen it in the strong Northwesterly winds that are common during the southern winter, but we were assured it would be almost equally calm due to the high mountains right behind.
When rounding the peninsula one has to motor through the calm zone and the wind typically is back with full force right before the harbor entrance.
Nevertheless, we are looking forward to bring Taniwani here and enjoy the spectacular approach under the Table Mountain.
But before that, we enjoy life as 'normal' tourists and one of the things to do is, to pick up some food and some bottles of wine and enjoy the sunset on Signal Hill with some friends.
It is a popular thing and we enjoyed such an evening together with the Mahi-Mahi family and Anne and Mogens from Northern Star.
The views either back at the Table Mountain or out to the sea over Robben Island are definitely as good as advertised and with some luck one may see the green flash when the sun drops into the sea.
Just before the green flash...
And this is Cape Town after the sun has set.
In such distinguished way, our first visit to the cape ended when we boarded our flight home to Germany on December 23rd.
We would be back to South Africa by mid January and then take Taniwani around the capes, from the Indian to the Atlantic Ocean.
Read on about our journey from Richards Bay to Cape town and on to St. Helena and Brazil at:
NAjad 490 round the world