South Africa, so far

Mike and Liz Downing
Tue 26 Nov 2013 21:25
We did get our uninterrupted sleep when we arrived; one of the advantages of coming into a marina compared with being at anchor (where one of the anchor alarms inevitably goes off at least once in the night as the boat swings with the wind and tide). Being tied to a finger pontoon in a marina usually means you're not going to go anywhere and you can switch off everything, and switch off yourself too! However, that was nearly not the case one night here. It was a night when we were away too, when visiting the game parks. The pontoons here are not the greatest and some of the finger pontoons are a bit wobbly. Aurora B was tied with double lines throughout - double bow ropes, double stern and double springs, so when we left there was no danger that she would leave the finger pontoon. What we hadn't bargained for was the possibility that the finger pontoon might leave the main pontoon, which it almost did! The wind switched to the south and apparently within half an hour it was blowing over 40kts in the marina. The highest strength recorded was 52kts! Friends still here thought the finger pontoon was about to break away with Aurora B tied to it, so they took ropes from Aurora B across to the next finger pontoon (luckily that bay was empty) to take the pressure off, and put more ropes on the finger pontoon to secure it to the next finger pontoon. Luckily it held, but the pressure on the finger pontoon bent the fixture to the main pontoon and the finger pontoon was left at an angle of 45 degrees -  not easy to walk on, especially when wet. When we returned, we moved to another berth. We were only away for 3 nights - just shows how strong the weather can be down here and how quickly it changes. It's good to have friends keeping an eye on the boat when you're away.
Apart from that, it's been good here so far and we like it. The current exchange rate is good which makes the cost of living relatively cheap. It's one of the few places we've found that are cheaper than the UK. The marina is in another modern waterside development, so we have a few shops and quite a few restaurants and bars around (and all at reasonable prices). The marina facilities are good and the cost is great at only £6 a night!  (We still remember Brixham marina, our last stop in the UK in 2008, being £53 a night.) The town of Richards Bay (a 15 minute drive away) is spread out over a large area (they have plenty of land here) and has a huge shopping Mall which we've visited a few times and still only seen a small part of it. To get there by taxi is only £4. Another good thing is that they drive on the left here (good if hiring a car) and the official language is English. There's quite a lot of Afrikaans spoken, but everybody appears to be able to speak English as well. Although we've had strong winds, it's been sunny and hot most of the time. Although we've come nearly 500 miles south from Mauritius, so away from the Equator, it's actually quite a lot hotter. It must be due to the big land mass. The strong winds can blow from the north as well as the south, in fact, like New Zealand, you can have a gale from the north east in the morning and another gale from the opposite direction (south west) in the afternoon. Although we like it here, we're already starting to get ready to head south, but the weather windows at the moment are very short and it looks like we may have to wait to get away.
Incidentally, one boat left Mauritius the day after us, but only arrived this Saturday. It took them 23 days compared to our 12, and included 6 consecutive days hove to (stopped) 200 to 300 miles offshore waiting for a big enough break in the depressions to get across the Agulhas current and get to shore. They are a smaller boat, but nonetheless, it shows how unpredictable the weather (and as a result, passage times) can be down here.  
Monkey business! early in the morning a small band of monkeys comes down to the cafes/
restaurants along the waterfront to see what left-overs they can find. This was taken from
on board Aurora B, so they are not that far away!
Safely tied up in the Tuzi Gazi marina at Richards Bay after the trip from Mauritius.
The finger pontoon after the blow. The additional bow and stern ropes go to the next
pontoon. The rope in the centre is there to help keep the finger pontoon in place. The
angle of the finger is worse than it looks.
We are the furthest boat in and you would think we would be well sheltered, but 50kt
winds had her well heeled over to port and that pulled the finger pontoon up and
twisted it and it's attachment points. The buildings behind house shops inside and cafes
and restaurants along the water front.