Some excellent perspectives and tips here from our good friends:
Date: Sun, 6 Mar 2011 22:24:11 +0100
From: deborah & rolf
Subject: Re: South Africa
Happy to provide info to people about to sail across the Indian Ocean
and continue around South Africa
. Sorry it has taken so much time to respond, but we had a final book editing deadline on Friday. (We made it!)
An Indian Ocean crossing
The Indian Ocean trade wind
tends to be strong, and the water
lumpy. It's quite a contrast to the tropical sailing most people have gotten used to, especially if coming from Indonesia
. Although crossing the Indian Ocean can be uncomfortable, I wouldn't call it dangerous, assuming that is that the boat is well-prepared and kept secured for gale-conditions, the crew has offshore
experience, and is in good physical shape.
The stats from 2009 tell the story: one third of the boats entering Richards Bay while we were there, had to be towed in by Search and Rescue
failure was the most common reason -- more than a few regretted not having cleaned their diesel tanks
. But disabling personal injuries also occurred: Ligament torn off a shoulder, severed finger. And there were damaged boats: one fiberglass
boat had a huge hole in its bow, made by a poorly-secured anchor
breaking free, and an inexperienced sailor who was not able to re-secure it. (Sailing with a "clean deck" is to be recommended over the Indian Ocean.) Another boat was leaking seriously because its skeg's welds were giving up. The mountainous underwater topography of the Indian Ocean coupled with plethora of surface currents is responsible for the lumpiness of the sea. Be aware that those conditions can create what you could call "minor freak waves" at any time. So hang on as you move around your boat. Use your safety
harness if you are unused to the motion. And even though it's hot, it can be wise to keep hatches closed during the crossing. People were replacing mattresses and laptops in Richards Bay.
December 2009, We cleared in to South Africa
in Richards Bay. The authorities were disorganized, the process took a week, and we had to hunt down the health
authorities to complete our paperwork, but we were allowed to be onshore in the meantime. (That can have changed. Check: noonsite.com). We were cautioned to not walk anywhere in South Africa
after dark, and we didn't. We were cautioned not to walk daytime too; we were told that yachties are good/easy targets for drive-by gang attacks. But we did walk daytime, although never solo (and as often as possible in big groups) and always on major streets. We were lucky and never had any problems. We took the precaution to take a taxi back from the store whenever we had purchased lots of groceries, or whenever we took cash out from the ATM. We were told to never ride the bus; the risk is that someone leaves the bus with you in order to mug you. Rental cars are easily available. Our credit card got skimmed at an ATM inside the Richards Bay shopping
center, and right under the nose of a guard... and that account was emptied. Our bank suggested we only take money
out from ATMs that are inside banks, and that possibility exists in South Africa.
Other boats leaving Richards Bay went to Durban, but we avoided it -- it's one of the most criminal cities in South Africa. Friends were robbed at knife-point 5 minutes after stepping ashore there, on their way to clear in. Another friend who works on a commercial
ship told us that ship's crew are not allowed to go ashore in Durban. We waited instead for a long-enough window to make it from Richards Bay to East London. From there, the favorable wind
allowed us to skip Port Elisabeth. We stopped in Mosel Bay while a front passed, and were glad to be able to skip going in to Simonstown in False Bay. (It can take awhile for a window good enough to get out of there.) We also skipped Cape Town
. We went further north to Saldanha Bay which is a great laid-back place, but although it's a commercial
port and therefore a port of entry, they no longer cleared yachts there. So we left the boat anchored at the yacht club and drove back to Cape Town
to clear out.