Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Durban Days

Cool Runnings is currently anchored in Knysna, waiting for a weather window to get to Cape Town. In the meantime, we’ve been doing some exploring, so my apologies for neglecting the blog! We have a lot to catch you up on, so let me start where we left off last time…heading to Durban.

We had struggled with whether or not to go to Durban, as we had so many conflicting reports about the condition of the harbor after the storm, and whether or not there would be space for us, but in the end, even though it was a short stay, we are all glad we did! Before leaving Richard’s Bay, we called Durban Marina and they confirmed that there were no walk on moorings available, and all they could offer us was water to anchor in. We decided that we could not come all this way, and not sail into our home port!

Arriving in Durban - the Bluff is in the background

Entering the harbor - it always seems to be a miserable day when we enter a new port!

Arriving in Durban reminded us that it is the busiest shipping port in the southern hemisphere. Coming into port we had to dodge a ship turning in front of us, and another coming down the channel towards us. But luckily Dave knows the harbor like the back of his hands and was not at all bothered by all the activity! We sailed past the naval base, and low and behold, the exact Strike Craft (a SA Navy guided missile ship, P1567 - SAS Hendrik Menz) that Dave was stationed on in his navy days was in port! We also passed the huge MSC Ines, the ship that had been blown sideways during the huge storm a few weeks ago, and had been blocking the channel. They were doing repairs on it, since its rudders and propellers were damaged during the incident.

Dave's Strike Craft (minus missiles)!

The huge MSC Ines being repaired after her damage in the storm

Another view of the Ines, along with a crane that was blown over in the storm, still on its side (middle of pic)

Dodging the shipping traffic!

By late afternoon on Saturday, November 4th, we were anchored in Durban harbor, along with a few other international boats that were in the same predicament as us! We launched the dinghy and headed to the Point Yacht Club (PYC) to see who was there, and what was going on. Unfortunately no-one was there, and the restaurant was closed! Everyone was at a big function at the PYC Beach Site, as that clubhouse was due to be demolished in a few weeks, so the club was having a big last bash. Dejectedly we walked over to RNYC (Royal Natal Yacht Club), staunch rivals of the PYC. They welcomed us with open arms and immediately gave us 2 weeks temporary membership! We had also stumbled upon their annual Halloween and Guy Fawkes party, so we enjoyed the evening at our new club, feeling like traitors to PYC!

Yacht Club membership cards!

On Sunday morning Dave’s cousins, the Smith/Stacey clan, came over for a few hours as the kids all desperately wanted to see the boat. Ben and Gaby showed them around the boat and showed them their cabins (it all didn’t take very long!), but it was fun, especially for the younger cousins to all see each other again. 

Dave takes Mandy, Rowen, Lauren, Eric and Colleen back to dry land

A second dingy ride takes the kids (and Brad) back to land

2 of the international boats anchored out with us.  Durban on a sunny day for a change!

The next task was not a nice one. We had toilet troubles again, and just as in Indonesia, another pipe, the one that leads to the holding tank, had calcified inside, and we had to unblock it. Having learnt from our previous experience, it didn’t take as long as the first time, but it still is an unpleasant task, and just a pain taking pipes on and off in awkward positions!! 

Poor Dave...

We finished just in time to get to PYC to meet up with friends for a planned braai (BBQ) that afternoon. Dave saw some friends he had not seen for a very long time, and a very special thanks to Rob and Brenda Tarbotton who drove all the way from Pietermaritzburg, over an hour away, to come and see Dave, and to Chris Sutton who organized the gathering!

Dave enjoying some conversation and a beer

A big thank you to all of you who came to say hi:  from left:  Campbell Alexander, Miles White, Joy Sutton, Wayne, Gudrun, Dave, Andrew de Vlieg, Roy Dunster, Greg Hurter, Rob and Brenda Tarbotton; At the back:  Martin Payne and Chris Sutton
On Monday morning, I went to stay with my parents, while Dave and the kids stayed on the boat. Dave managed to squeeze in a few more visits, having breakfast with an old University friend, Dave Lewis, and also meeting up with Rob Bentley, who, together with his wife Belinda and 2 kids, did a similar thing a couple of years ago, sailing from Durban to Australia. Rob and Belinda had given us some good advice on navigating the Mozambique Channel, so it was great to be able to thank them, and for Rob to see the boat. Later that same day, Dave, Ben and Gaby were also treated to lunch and a nice tour of Durban by old friend Alec Lanham-Love, who picked them up and chauffeured them around! They got to see the Beverly Hills hotel where Dave and I were married, 23 years ago!

Alec, Ben and Gaby with the Beverly Hills hotel behind them, and the lighthouse in Umhlanga that features in our wedding photos!

Alec with Dave with Cool Runnings in the background on the left, anchored in Durban harbor
I enjoyed a lazy day with my folks as the weather was cold, grey and rainy! Never mind…my mom makes a great cup of coffee and had some of my favorite biscuits (cookies) on hand!! I spent the night there on Monday, and on Tuesday drove down to the yacht basin to pick up my family. It was my mom’s 81st birthday, and she said it was the best birthday present she could have had, having us with her on that day! We all spent the day with my folks, enjoying lunch with them at the retirement village and celebrating later over coffee and traditional Wedekind birthday cake (I do mention food a lot in this blog, don’t I !!!). My mom took us back to the boat in the late afternoon, just as the heavens opened up, and it bucketed down with rain! Happy Birthday, Mutti! You look amazing, and not a day over 29! It was such a treat to spend time with you, even if it was a bit short!

Dave and my dad chatting on the patio

With my mom and dad, Sigrid and Juergen, on my mom's 81st birthday

Coffee and cake!!
On Wednesday morning, before braving the bureaucracy of checking out of Durban, we met up with an old Cool Runnings crew member, Adrian Raw! Adrian spent 3 months with us at the start of the trip, meeting us in Panama and helping us with the Pacific crossing. Fransie, it was really good to see you and reminisce! Thanks for the lovely breakfast and for chauffeuring us to the authorities to “check out” of Durban. We are so sorry we didn’t have more time to spend together. And…we forgot to take a photo, so for old time’s sake…

Here is Adrian in the beautiful Tuamotos islands in July last year

We know there are people we didn’t get to see at all, and our apologies to all of those people. But cruising is a difficult beast when it comes to making plans…you really can’t! We are so dependent on the weather, and we often can’t leave the boat for any length of time, and that’s what happened in Durban. A weather window to get to Port Elizabeth opened up, and we had to take it. We spent the rest of the day checking out of Durban.

Adrian dropped us at the Harbor Master/Port office. There we all had to sign in and go to the 4th floor. A gentleman there looked at the reams of paperwork Dave had completed that morning, and stamped two pieces of paper. Then he said to go to Customs and Immigration, another office (I forget which), and then come back to him. Down the elevator, across the road and to the Customs and Excise building we walked. There someone looked at all our paperwork, checked our passports, and stamped something. Then they told us to go to another office. Out the building we went, around the corner, and in another entrance. We signed in again, and entered an inner sanctum. Someone looked at the reams of paperwork and stamped something. Then it was back to the Harbor Master. Sign in again, up to the 4th floor, and then there was a different person there, so he didn’t know that we’d already been to get our initial stamp! When Dave finally sorted that out, he wanted to keep all our paperwork. But the marina office had told Dave that he had to bring the completed paperwork back to them, so THEY could see we had properly checked out. Dave was rudely told that it was not their business and they wouldn’t give him a copy! Knowing that he had to have something to show the marina, he eventually convinced the man to let him take a photo of his paperwork, so he could at least prove to the marina that we’d completed it all! And this, folks, is not to check in or out of a country, it is merely to leave a PORT to sail to another PORT within the same country!!! We have never, in all our travels, come across such unnecessary ridiculousness, and I’m embarrassed that it is in our home country of South Africa!!! The foreign yachts we’ve spoken to are all as befuddled as we are with the whole system! Equally embarrassing, while I’m at it, are the operators on the radios at the Ports. We’ve come to the conclusion that sounding as bored, uninterested and rude as possible is a pre-requisite for getting the job! The conversations we’ve overheard with the radio operators and the ships have been unbelievable, and we, being a lowly sailing vessel, have been treated simply with irritation. Never a please, thank you, good morning or good bye…just common courtesy in my book! OK, I’ll stop my rant now! (PS: Just for the record, and to be fair, I do have to mention that in Port Elizabeth, I did hear some courteous operators on PE Radio, which seemed to be different to the PE Port…)

We enjoyed watching some Wednesday night racing in the harbor.  Even on a chilly evening, there were quite a few boats out there, racing amongst the anchored boats!

At 5:00am on Thursday morning, November 9th, we pulled up anchor and headed out of Port in the direction of Port Elizabeth. We glanced back at Durban with melancholy, not knowing when we’ll see our hometown again, knowing it will almost definitely not be by boat, but glad we made the short stop.

The early morning sun shines onto Durban, with Howard College, part of the University of Kwa Zulu Natal (the University both Dave and I attended) standing tall on the hill, and the sugar terminals, that have been there for as long as I can remember, prominently displayed in the sun
Looking back onto Durban as we leave.  The Moses Mabhida Staduim with its now iconic arch was built for the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup

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