L O G B O O K - by John Philp


TUE 30 NOV - Our newest crew member Kristy Philp arrives today from Fiji. We are six in total on board now.

While driving through Durban with my friend Byron I was waxing on about the crime rate and guns and such - my usual fascination. Byron suggested we go to an indoor shooting range for some target practice. The only other person in the range was a fresh looking African chap wearing a brand new leather holster and handgun. We discovered just how ‘fresh’ he was when instead of using the electric motor to wind his target out he walked out onto the range and attempted to hang it! Byron freaked! He called the young man over and explained that if he walked out onto the range again he was likely to get himself shot. Right about then I was ready to leave and go back to the car. This was all too crazy! When the African guy shot first Byron and I jumped about three feet into the air - quiet a shock this early in the morning after the drinking session we had last night! The most amazing thing about this shooting range were the dozens of holes peppered in the ceiling almost directly above the shooting positions. I inferred from this that there are some really poor shots in this city. It’s all a little too bizarre for this Pacific Islander...

Tony walked into a seedy part of the city today looking for some spare parts and on his way back was followed very closely by a huge sinister looking African guy in a ‘bakkie’ (South African for pickup truck). Before things could get nasty someone in a red bakkie pulled up suddenly behind him and hailed him to jump into the car. It was a gentleman from the yacht club who recognised Tony and the situation he was getting into. It was just as well as he was carrying the ships papers and all our passports.

WED 1 DEC - We motored Tau a short distance across the harbour to take on fuel and fresh water from a commercial dock. The gentleman who served us wanted to know how come Fijians were such good rugby players coming from such a tiny country.

THUR 2 DEC - The rest of the crew go to a tourist attraction called ‘The Valley of a Thousand Hills’ while Sefo and I remain on board and complete chores. Meanwhile Kristy learnt about the mystical attachment Africans have for their cattle when Tony was offered, in jest, eight cows in exchange for her by the tourist guide!

FRI 3 DEC - The Point Yacht Club is so close to the city you only have to step out of the front door and you are in the CBD. Durban is a multi racial, cosmopolitan city containing some wonderful old buildings. Local legend has it that the old train station roof was built to withstand 5 meters of snow on it’s roof because the architects were building a train station in England at the same time and sent the wrong plans to Durban!

I thought the city had a terrific vibe considering it’s high rate of violent crime. The African ladies looked marvelous in their colourful dresses and jewelry, many of them carting their bags around balanced on top of their heads. It’s not often you can walk down a modern city street with skyscrapers and other contemporary manifestations of ‘civilisation’, and stop to purchase fruit from a street vendor who is wearing traditional Zulu headgear from another era.

SUN 5 DEC - In the evening yet another gale hits Durban. Storms are a regular feature of this coast but we understand from the locals that this month has been far worse than usual. The circumspect sailor is advised to consult with great caution the weather maps before he sails out of this harbour!

MON 6 DEC - This is our last day in Durban. The crew go off with their respective chore lists, and complete last minute shopping and sightseeing. I stroll over to the Durban Art Gallery to investigate the art exhibition that the exiled Buddhist leader - The Dalai Lama is opening this evening. There are security personnel at the main entrance already and walk-through metal detectors.

In the late afternoon the crew wanders over to the art gallery to see if we can get into the Dalai Lama’s function. Fortunately the check-in is a little mixed up and in the confusion we are waved in and score a great vantage point. The Dalai Lama turns out to be a real clown. He would explain Buddhist philosophy and crack jokes at the same time, many of them at himself. He wore the countenance of an ancient, accomplished soul having a wonderful time teaching us something about our lives. Afterwards we stroll through the city back to the yacht club in high spirits. It’s not hard to be profoundly effected by seeing in person someone so revered around the world.

Durban was once home to Mahatma Gandhi. After being in the company of another exalted individual tonight, it felt as though we had lived for a brief time in a city of extreme contrasts - people getting murdered on a daily basis for trivial things; great natural beauty and wildlife; extreme poverty; friendly locals; fabulous wealth; and the AIDS epidemic. Africa is a ‘brave new world’, and not one we will soon forget.

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