All stories need to end sometime and the story of this particular journey has finally come to its end –
in the rather remote, northernmost port of Tanzania, Tanga. After some 11 000 nm (about
20 000km) and seven and a half months later we finally dropped the anchor for the last time in 10
meters of water in front of the curiously out of place but utterly delightful Tanga Yacht club.
But I am getting ahead of myself here; we need to go back to the 14 th of December last year for that
is where this last chapter actually starts. After a remarkably quiet and pleasant crossing of the South
Atlantic which took us 34 days from the port of Joao Pessoa and during which we only once
experienced winds that were north of 35 knots despite the fact that we went down to 10 miles shy
of latitude 40 south, we arrived in Cape Town on the 14 th of December.
We did have a couple of minor issues along the way over – a sheared mounting bolt on the port
engine left us reliant on one motor, the regulator controlling the input to the house batteries went
tits up and had us scratching our heads and firing off numerous emails to various experts for a
solution – and about midway across the ocean we blew out the big gennaker which put a serious
dent into the daily miles we had been achieving up to that moment.
All these were not too serious in and of themselves but when you take into account that Cape Town
essentially shuts down over the silly season – sure all the usual retail scams are in top gear – it is the
service industries that all close and this left us staring at a four to five week delay. Warren Fraser of
Associated Rigging in Cape Town had somehow managed to arrange a berth for us at the Royal Cape
Yacht Club ( which is generally over full over December) and we docked there at 16h30 on the 14 th .
All the attendant paperwork that goes with bringing a foreign registered vessel into the country was
attended to the following day as was the interim paperwork for the club – and that was where I got
the first rude awakening. The mooring fees charged by Royal Cape are nothing short of iniquitous,
they are considerably higher than those that the owner had paid for mooring his boat in a very well
run and tip top marina in Spain. Royal Cape’s walk on facilities are quite possibly the worst in the
country, it is really hard to see how they can justify their charges – apart from sheer greed.
Arrangements were duly made and we moved the boat around the peninsula to the windy but very
pleasant False Bay yacht club in Simonstown (where the mooring fees are less than half that of
RCYC). As all the required service people had shut down for the Christmas season we took a break
ourselves. Avi went off to find gainful employment, young Hugh spent a few days with me and then
went back to Pretoria for a couple of weeks and I just chilled. Went to go and visit old friends,
watched a bit of sport, drank too much beer and just generally did whatever I could that did not
Inevitably though the sands of time do trickle on and the various businesses re opened and we were
finally able to get the aforementioned problems attended to. During the lay off period I sourced
another youngster to fill in the gap Avi had left and in late January we were joined by Jan Coetzee
from Pretoria who had coincidently been in the same intake as young Hugh when he did his skippers
course the year before. They knew each other well and provided me with endless amusement
listening to their conversations. Damn, but the youngsters of today sure have some strange concepts
and notions of what life is all about…
Eventually the day arrived when we were able to leave on the final leg of the journey. After a bit of a
false start where for once Windy got the prediction wrong we were able to head off ahead of a small
front. That lasted as far as Mossel Bay where we stopped over for about three days waiting for the
next window. That duly arrived and we were fortunate enough to get as far as East London where it
closed up on us.
We spent the weekend tied up alongside the walk on jetty of the Buffalo River Cruising Club who
were most accommodating. The hiatus also gave me a chance to meet up with some old school
chums that I had last seen over 40 years previously. I was very kindly invited to spend the weekend
off the boat with another old school friend Greig Land (who had joined us for the day when we
moved the boat from Cape Town around to Simonstown). He was staying out on a small holding
some 40km north of East London and which bordered on a rather large game farm. I had a weird
sense of complete disorientation that night listening to the plaintive calls of jackals and of all things,
a lion grumbling away in the distance. Only in Africa!!
Time and tide wait for no man and the next weather window arrived quicker than expected and we
knew we had to take advantage otherwise we would be stuck in East London for at least another
week to ten days. The run from East London up to Durban is only around 270nm, but the Transkei
coast can be a treacherous one – it is not known as the wild coast without reason. As it turned out
we were in a big high pressure bubble with virtually no wind so we motored the whole way up
without any problems or unforeseen incidents – which is just the way I like it thank you very much.
We tied up alongside the international jetty in Durban and once again were made to feel like long
lost family by the staff of the Royal Natal yacht club. Before I go on to wax lyrical about our stay
there I must extend a huge amount of thanks to the indefatigable Gail Dickerson who went out of
her way to run me around to do the clearing in and out of the port.
Whilst I am on the subject let me also say here that the bureaucracy involved in the supposedly
simple task of clearing a yacht in and out of both Durban and Richards Bay harbours is the most
diabolically insane of any port in South Africa, in fact just about any port up the east coast of Africa.
In East London, Port Elizabeth, Mossel Bay and Simonstown all that is required is to fill in a flight plan
with the yacht club who in turn notify Port control and then to contact port control on your way out
to let them know you are leaving whereupon they generally wish you Bon Voyage.
Not so in Durban or Richards Bay. You have to go through exactly the same procedures as you would
if you were clearing out a 200 000 ton tanker with 25 odd crew members – it is insane. And it does
not help anyone that the department of immigration will have at least six people in the office of
which one will be listlessly and laboriously checking and stamping passports whilst the rest are either
eating, talking on cell phone or landlines or that most popular of activities, just sitting or standing
around doing nothing… However in Richards Bay they only have one immigration officer who
actually knows what he is doing so it is not quite as painful. But still, why do they not simplify the
procedure? I can understand the immigration requirement if the vessel is either entering from or
departing to a foreign destination – but to have to do it for a domestic voyage is just plain stupid.
Somebody needs to have a serious look at the SOP’s pertaining to small craft and bring them into
line with the rest of the country because as far as I am aware of the Natal Province is not an
independent country and should be subject to the same requirements and procedures that are in
place at other ports in the country.
I think we spent a weekend in Durban and then did an overnight run up to Richards Bay where it was
great to meet up with old friends, ex crew and the ever present Fiona who is to my mind at least,
both the heart and backbone of that club. The time we spent in Richards Bay was mostly a waiting
period – the run from there up to Pemba in Northern Mozambique is over 1 200nm and all of it
against the Mozambique current. I wanted as good a shove up the bum by any wind that had any
sort of southerly vector to it before I jumped.
As it was we left on a light north easterly which gradually veered to the east and then south east and
ten days later we rounded the point and dropped anchor in front of the Nautilus hotel on Wimbi
Beach in Pemba. It was great to meet up again with folk who had become good friends whilst I was
based up there during 2016 and early 2017. Copious amounts of 2M, steak and mushroom pie are
some of the hazier recollections of that brief sojourn.
All along from the get go in Spain I had insisted that the owner Jean Yves needed to join the boat for
at least one leg of the journey. During the time from when we left Spain up until we arrived in
Pemba he had subsequently been transferred from Italy back to Arusha in Tanzania where he had
been stationed for about fifteen years prior to being sent to Italy. He had some leave due to him and
I had hoped that he could join the vessel in Pemba so that we might have been able to divert out to
the St Lazarus Banks for a day’s fishing but unfortunately his time was limited so we arranged to
meet him in Mtwara – the southernmost port of entry into Tanzania (which incidentally is possibly
the easiest and least bureaucratic port in Africa to enter).
He had elected to come down by bus (brave man that) and was supposed to have arrived at
lunchtime. As matters transpired the bus finally got into town at just before sunset – but at least it
was still on the same day. A quick dinner and we were off for the 200 odd miles up to Dar es Salaam
which we reached two days later. Again it was great to hook up with old friends and acquaintances –
there is something infinitely heart-warming when you walk through some areas in a foreign country
and have random locals come up and greet you with huge smiles and that most special of Swahili
greetings – Karibu babu, welcome back it is good to see you again. It is then that you realize the true
value of being a decent human being and respecting other people’s cultures.
After a couple of days in Dar where we had the tender repaired by the ever helpful Hannes of Sea
Breeze Marine (who did an amazing rescue job on a 13 year old inflatable) we ran the final 100 miles
up to Tanga. That is where jean Yves has decided to moor the vessel, a good choice really as it is one
of the nicest yacht clubs I have ever been to.
We closed the boat up and accepted Jean Yves’ invitation to spend a few days with him and the
family up in Arusha which required a rather nerve wracking 8 hour drive up through the foothills of
the Usumbara mountains and then across the vast plains to Arusha. We missed seeing Mount
Kilimanjaro when we passed through Moshe as it was way after sunset but we have been assured
that we will see that fabled mountain before we depart back to South Africa.
So it all comes to an end… young Hugh who joined as a bright eyed kid leaves the boat a much
changed young man. He has sailed more miles in the past seven months than a lot of boat owners
get to do in a lifetime. While it is certainly not a unique accomplishment he has also in that time
racked up two Atlantic crossings – again more than some sailors ever get to do – and certainly not
something many of his peers can lay claim to. As I said to him the other day, he now has bragging rights – and he earned them the hard way. He has the right stuff I think, and I will take a keen
interest in his future endeavours for I think that in the years to come this lad is going to leave a
As for yours truly it is definitely a time for some introspection. After IKRA ll I said that was it, no
more trans-ocean crossings, well that resolution did not last very long. This voyage has added
another two to that count and now stands at 21. For many reasons 21 is a significant number and I
think that I can honestly say I gave it a good go and leave it at that.
Maybe a return to teaching is on the cards, I really can’t say at this point. For now it would be nice to
just get back home to swop new lies with old friends, to throw stick for the mutt to go and fetch and
to maybe sit next to the dam for awhile and watch the sun go down. Que sera sera.
Thank you to all those who have laboured through reading the posts I have published, I hope that in
some way you will have gotten some sort of idea of the arcane world we yacht delivery skippers
inhabit and along the way that these scribbles might have elicited a chuckle or two.
Y’all stay safe and take care.