The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Wed 18 Oct 2017 05:17



21:49S  035:27.48E


We’re anchored in Benguerra, Mozambique, waiting for a weather window to head south towards Richards Bay, which is still 500 miles away.  Here's what we did yesterday.


17 October 2017   Benguerra Sandspit, Mozambique

The weather forecast looks even better today.  The south wind expected on the second day of the passage to Richards Bay is looking to be very weak and quickly passes, so we’re all planning to leave Thursday 19th at 14:00 which is just before high tide, which will give us the best conditions for exiting the bar.

The wind blew at NNE 20 all night which was OK until the tide started to go out at 03:00.  Our bow turned south into the strong current and the waves remorselessly slapped our stern.  The boat would turn slightly and then sail across the wind, heeling over 5 degrees.  A few minutes later, we would gybe, with some resounding slaps up the sugar scoop and then slowly sail the other way, heeling over degrees to the other side.  It was irritating.


We dragged ourselves out of bed at 07:00 and all the boats were still pointing downwind with waves hitting our sterns.   After breakfast, we went for a long walk with “Red Herring”.  The other boats in the anchorage politely declined when we started talking about making sandwiches and taking lots of water for the hike.

Our aim was to walk 3½ miles along the windward beach to the huge sand dune at 21°52.17S 035°27.20E and hopefully find a lake that has Flamingos.  We had a pleasant walk along the beach and after a couple of miles, just past a small pine tree wood, we headed up into the low sand dunes, where we could see a path leading inland.  A local guy shouted to us and said that he would show us the Crocodiles, so we went with the flow.


Our guide led us along narrow paths which eventually came out to the south end of the larger of the three lakes.  On the way I enquired about palm trees that had been chopped down to a few feet, the tops of which were covered by small baskets.  He showed us that they were extracting some kind of sap from the palms, which they then turned into some sort of mildly alcoholic drink.  He gave us a taste of the finished product, which was quite pleasantly bitter reminiscent of lemon.


We were led around the west side of the larger lake, but alas the crocodiles weren’t to be seen.  Our guide led us to the smallest lake, which is directly below the huge sand dune, where there was a solitary Flamingo, so I took some photos and we said goodbye to our guide.  We hadn’t expected to meet anyone, so we hadn’t taken any “gifts” with us, but Karen gave the guy an old pair of sunglasses, which he seemed pleased with.


Our next objective was the huge sand dune, which I guess is a few hundred feet high.  The first section up the face was very steep, but once on the ridge it was easy going. The sand dune is a bizarre geological formation, isolated and high above the rest of the land - I have no idea how it would have been formed.   We had our sandwiches on the summit, staring at the fabulous view.


After a long walk back along the beach, we arrived back at the boat at 13:15 - a 4½ hour trek, so we were shattered.  However, no peace for the wicked - it was high tide at 14:30, so we had slack tide at 14:00 and had to jump in the water to scrub the hull and replace the anode on the propeller.  As well as the usual green slime, we’d picked up an impressive collection of goose-neck barnacles, which had to be scraped and scrubbed off.


By 14:40, the tide had changed and there was a significant out-going current, which brought the job to an end.  We’d managed to remove most of the barnacles, but we need to have another go tomorrow.  We chilled out for a few hours and went ashore for a sunset beer or two.