Port Elizabeth

Sat 1 Dec 2012 15:45
Saturday, !st Dec, 2012 17.00 local time
Position; 33:58S 25:38E The Yacht Marina, Port Elizabeth
Well we made it in here yesterday afternoon, later than we had planned, as our approach to the coast quickly took us out of the favourable current. Indeed, the strongest part of the current is now behind us, so there will be much less help from it from now on. The upside is that we are in much less danger of encountering one of the giant rogue waves for which this region is famous/imfamous (depending on your point of view!).
For a while we were even tempted to carry on further to Mossel Bay: the winds were good but rather strong, but in the end we decided, correctly I am sure, that discretionn was the better part of valour. We were very tired by yesterday, and Port Elizabeth was a welcome sight. The yacht harbour is tucked into a corner of the main port, and offers fair protection from some of the elements. As I write the wind is blowing strongly from the east, throwing spray over the harbour breakwater, and causing all the yachts to surge to and fro on their mooring ropes: down below this causes an awful chaffing sound, and indeed the ropes will wear out in the end, so we have to reposition them from time to time. We are on a finger berth on pontoons: a typical marina arrangement. But the pontoons themselves are concrete and steel: cracked and rusty. In 2009 they all carried away in a storm, taking all the yachts with them, and the there is a 'nice' photo of the disaster hanging in the Yacht Club. We have no insurance, and stories like this remind me of the risks that we take.
The weather is poor: windy, cold, and overcast. This may be responsible for our less than favourable impression of Port Elizabeth so far: Urban sprawl, just a few old colonial style buildings, and a rather typical style of city developement: a decaying city centre given over to poor indigenous people, whilst those who can afford to have escaped to the leafy suburbs, and their Americam style shopping malls. As visiting yachtsmen we get a unique insight into what is like to be marooned in a city where the car is king, and pedestrians have to fight over the ecological detruitus that the automobile is responsible for.
Oh, and there is just one other little thing that has blackened my heart against this fine city: manganese oxide. This stuff is being loaded onto an enormous tanker about 400 yards directly upwind of the marina. It goes up a conveyor belt, and pours from the top into the ships holds. Since we arrived yesterday all the boats have been covered in a sticky layer of black powder. There are two other passage making yachts here, and we (the owners) are all quite distraught about the damage. Crew however, mine included, shrug the situation off. For them the mantra 'what can you do' works well, but for us owners there seems to be an entirely different genome warping our poor brains. One guy had his wife out on deck washing the stuff off at first light, but now their boat looks no cleaner than our own.
Good news: the food here in the bustling YC restaurant is just as delicious as it was in Durban: SA reallly is a gastronomic delight, and the city has excellent supermarkets of Australian quality, and far is excess of the quality you might expect in the UK. That is good, as it looks as though we shall be here for several days, waiting for the next weather window.