The Wild Coast Passage

Changing Oceans – Durban to Simon’s Town

Towards the end of November, Bob returned to Pipistrelle in Durban while Elaine stayed on for another three weeks in England.  By the time Bob arrived, Ullman Sails in Durban had made our new staysail.  The original North Sail had lasted for 9 years, but bearing in mind it was superior quality and how little it is actually used, it does not say a lot about North.  Further repairs and replacements were needed to the electronics, together with some rigging work; the hydraulic backstay and vang had also been serviced.  We had also had to replace the old 3.5HP Mercury outboard, this time with a 5HP Tohatsu.  As always it is a continual process of checking the entire boat to ensure that kit is replaced or repaired before it breaks!

Durban is a big city, and Bob valued the friendship of Andre and Sherryn of The Napier House on the hills overlooking the harbour.  They are members of the Point Yacht Club, and looked after Pipistrelle whilst Bob was away, and also provided fantastic and fun hospitality in their home.  If anyone is looking for an upmarket B&B in Durban, do contact them at Napier House  It is also for sale, to enable them to up sticks and enjoy some sailing!

The waterfront beach was also a lively place, though now very much run down.  Sand sculptures were cleverly made, and Dani who Bob sailed with on a race night was having fun with friends.

South Africa is a beautiful country with so much to offer but seems intent to head for disaster under the leadership of President Zuma.  Apart from the security situation, where it is essential to keep your wits about you during the day, and at night walking anywhere in the city of Durban is out of the question, crime and corruption are major problems.  Nationally crazy decisions were made in the last few weeks and months at the highest level, taking South African Airways to the brink of bankruptcy.  The recent dismissal of the Finance Minister sent the Rand crashing to the lowest level since 2000.  Four days later his successor was replaced!

Our good friend and sailor, Tim Goodwin kindly flew to Johannesburg and then on to Durban for the sail south, and a local girl Karen also joined in Durban.  Pipistrelle had a brilliant send off by Andre and Sherryn, and then a very interesting sail south which involved searching out the Agulhas current.  Once found, they were doing 11kn over the ground, and on the second day achieved a run of 220nm in 24 hours – a record for us.  Being uncertain of exactly when the next front would arrive, the crew put in to Port Elizabeth, unaware that a manganese ore carrier was loading its cargo.  Overnight, once the wind went to the east, a layer of black dust covered the whole marina and of course Pipistrelle.

Karen took the hose to the top of the mast to clean it and all the rigging.  It took 6 hours to wash down and make everything as clean as possible.  The marina officials are helpless to make changes, and with the government owning the loading facility, corruption and a ‘don’t care’ attitude take over, even though all the houses to the west of the marina are affected as well.  The promise of change in 2019 is understandably not taken seriously by the locals.   We have filed a report on Noonsite and on the Ocean Cruising Club website (see below).

Some of the yacht club members there were so kind and helpful.  Chris Cocks is involved with the management of the Algoa Bay YC, and couldn’t have been more helpful or pleasant as far as dealing with the dust problem was concerned.   Special thanks to Tony and Sigi Bailes who extended an invitation to a braai (BBQ) at their lovely home on the outskirts of PE, provided loads of information, and finally Tony flew an acrobatic aircraft he had just finished constructing, over us on a low level test flight just after Pipistrelle left harbour!   How special and unique is that?  (Unfortunately, it was such a surprise the moment wasn’t captured on camera).  We very much hope we will meet again at some point.

Tim ran out of time before the next weather window to sail west, but before he left, he and Bob spent half a day at the Schotia Safaris Private Game Reserve.  Aimed at a niche of those wanting to spend just a day seeing South African wildlife, but offering some accommodation too, it was an interesting visit.  A very good ranger looked after them well and the day finished with a delicious complimentary dinner with wine at a lodge in the reserve.

Then it was all change for crew, with Tim and Karen leaving, and Johannes from Hamburg joining.  He travelled from Cape Town where he was studying for his RYA Coastal Skipper ticket, and arrived just in time for the next brief weather window towards Simon’s Town.  They left PE as the wind moved from SW to south, and decreased from 50kn to a more acceptable 20kn!  It then eased as they headed west until they were motoring, and as it backed further to the east they were able to sail under genoa alone.  This got them as far as Mossel Bay, some 200nm, and within an hour or so after arrival the wind veered to the west and was blowing 30kn + by the afternoon.

They set off the next morning in company with Mike and Nicky on Zen Again, and Thomas and Annette on Anke Sophie.  Whilst Pipistrelle had some sailing, in the main she was motoring to try to round Cape Agulhas, and arrive at Simon’s Town in time to take part in the Ocean Cruising Club wine tasting event – she did!  This took us to the Constantia Glen vineyard and to lunch at the Jonkershuis at historic Groot Constantia, ably organised by Robert Ravensberg, Port Officer for Cape Town, and attended by John Franklin and Jenny Crickmore-Thompson, the Commodore and his wife.

A couple of days earlier, Elaine had arrived in Simon’s Town from the UK, and had checked in to A Boat House, and with its Nantucket style interior this B&B is truly remarkable.  Beautifully appointed rooms, communal areas full of boat memorabilia and family photos, magnificent views across the bay and an extremely friendly welcome was exactly right while Elaine waited for her ship to come in! See their website at  She had the pleasant surprise of waking on the morning of the wine tasting to find Pipistrelle anchored in full view of A Boat House, some 250ft below her, having arrived at 02.30.

For those interested, the Ocean Cruising Club is truly international and has a huge amount to offer the cruising yachtsman.  We have been members since 2011, and information can be found at   See also the link in the side panel and our ‘About Us’ page.

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