L O G B O O K - by John Philp


TUE 23 NOV - Tau is still moored at the Richards Bay Marina on the East coast of South Africa. It’s life as usual in the marina. Two or three international yachts arrive daily, many of them familiar to us from a prior port - it’s enjoyable catching up with them, sharing stories, finding out what adventures they’ve had (there are many). The camaraderie and fellowship is strong : dealing with the ocean’s moods and the corresponding challenges binds us together, more so here because this stretch of coastline is so vicious. Making it into port safely is therefore all the more rewarding, and the evenings in the yacht club bar are particularly festive.

John, the land based support person for the Millennium Rally comes over each day to use our HF radio for his daily radio appointment with his fleet under way from Reunion Island. The Millennium Rally is a fleet of twenty yachts that were at Musket Cove and the Royal Suva Yacht Club in July this year, following roughly the same path as us. We’ve bumped into them in Darwin, Mauritius and now South Africa. No doubt we’ll be seeing more of them down the track.

WED 24 NOV - Tony discovered today that the insulator’s for the backstay we had anxiously been awaiting arrived three days ago and sat in the Zululand Yacht Club office with no addressee label. Only one insulator has arrived, instead of two. Worse still is that customs have drilled two holes through it and tried to pry it open with a screwdriver. I wonder if they had any idea what they were doing - damaging forever an expensive piece of vital hardware. We are stuck here until the replacements can be sent from NZ, unless we can devise a temporary solution to get us south to Durban. There are no dull circumnavigations!

We met Bob the tough salty old Canadian today. Bob is 73 years old, almost deaf and sailing a little yacht that looks as if it will sink in the first rough sea. He started out in Mexico after a friend gave him the boat. Yes, gave him the boat! The friend was trying (unsuccessfully) to sell it and ended up giving it to Bob on the condition that he pay the marina fees where it had been sitting unused in a state of disrepair for six years. On his first short trip he ran into strong winds and his mast fell down. He was being dragged onto a reef, and was forced to anchor in 300 feet of water using every bit of available rope on the boat. When the wind died he cut away the now useless mast and rigging and attempted to pull the anchor up. This took him two days because of his heart condition. He made it back to shore safely and decided that since he survived he would now make a longer trip. With a replacement mast he set off across the Pacific and crossed to Sydney in 83 days - nonstop! Now he’s thinking he may as well try going all the way around the world - single handed! I wonder what his wife in Canada thinks about all this...

This afternoon local storms visit again, bringing with them the ubiquitous Richards Bay coal dust that settles over every part of the boat. The local twilight sailing fleet is very small tonight because it is so windy.

THUR 25 NOV - It’s hot and sunny today. Captain is getting Tau organised for the sail down to Durban - researching the route, consulting weather maps, and so on.

FRI 26 NOV - The crew had their last drinks ashore as Friday nite went grinding away at the marina, restaurants packed, bar music blaring. We said our last good byes to some wonderful people. When we went to bed the wind was still howling in the rigging, the black coal dust swirling in the air.

SAT 27 NOV - We awake the next day to find the wind still blowing hard from the SW. We hang out waiting for the storm to pass. Finally at 3pm we cast off our lines and make for the breakwater entrance.

The wind is moderating from the South. A rolling, confused swell remained. We put up the genoa and mainsail, hard on the wind, with the motor helping to drive us to windward through the lumpy, dish-water coloured sea.

SUN 28 NOV - After a calm trip we arrive into Durban Harbour at daybreak on an overcast day. We anchor just off the Point Yacht Club within football kicking distance of the Durban CBD.

We are picked up by our friend Maureen later, for some sightseeing. She is the sister of Marita Brodie of Suva. When Maureen dropped us back at the marina we noticed how windy it was. Tony races us back to the boat in a rush. Sure enough Tau has dragged, and Sefo has let some extra chain out as a precaution. That night we share anchor watch as the wind is still strong and there are yachts close by. The wind finally dies by about 1.30am and we are all able to get some sleep.

MON 29 NOV - Maureen pickes us up at 9am and takes us to a modern shopping centre called The Pavilion - as we walk in the main entrance we see black and yellow police tape along a rectangular section to our left. A long trail of blood is splattered over the tiles. Four men had attempted to rob a restaurant owner on his way to bank the weekends takings - an armed shopper opened fire on them as they ran out the main entrance wounding and dropping one of them. They returned fire as they exited, causing panic - shoppers went diving for cover. A sidewalk cafe a metre from the trail of blood is full of people carrying on as usual. We have coffee at the same cafe and I was thinking the old ladies taking morning tea were probably wishing they had something stronger in their cups to calm them down!

Later I buy a carving off an old Scottish lady selling curios in the entrance. Her cart was in the line of fire when the thieves shot from the entrance and the poor lady had to dive for cover behind her stall. I ask if she was ok and she says someone had given her sedatives - she looked ok considering...

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