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We just wanted to follow up with some comments from friends who have recently been through South African waters.
Scott and Mary Flanders have just completed a circumnavigation by way of South Africa aboard their Nordhavn 46 Egret. They arrived in Richard's Bay in late October and left Cape Town on December 17th. They made the passage across the Southern Indian Ocean, leaving from the west coast of Australia: "We turned NW toward Mauritius just south of the Abrolos and had adverse currents and little wind. It would have been difficult under sail." Scott pointed out that the ARC World Rally boats sailed from Cocos Keeling to Mauritius and on to South Africa with "no safety issues other than headwinds. None enjoyed the trip but it was safe."
He advised strongly against the Mozambique Channel saying, "This wasn't part of your question but under NO circumstances should anyone elect to cruise down the Mozambique Channel. Three boats (all South Africans) were robbed ashore either in Mozambique or Tanzania. One SA's boat was taken by Samoli'a in a well publicised event where he escaped but 2 of his crew ware marched ashore by the pirates. He lost his boat. We met him at Zululand."
They had no issues with crime in South Africa, though they were careful not to be out at night. Here are the details he provided on routing and ports:
"Egret passed 65nm south of Madagascar (leaving from Reunion) and enjoyed a major current push then landed in Richards Bay. We went to the small boat harbor with no issues, Port Control (VHF 12) notifies customs and immigration and they show up in due time. C&I were very laid back and no big deal. The small boat harbor is free. Zululand Yacht Club around the corner is great, floating docks and charge are reasonable. We found no crime but did watch ourselves and only were out and about during the day. We rented a car for a week and did the nearby game parks as did a number of other cruisers with no issues. Our only other S Africa experience was overnighting on anchor outside Mossel Bay waiting on weather then went on to Cape Town.
The Royal Yacht Club was full and V&A said they were full as well so we had to anchor outside Cape Town for 4 days waiting on weather before fueling and clearing for Namibia. The fuel dock owner drove us to Customs and Immigration and that made things super easy. It would have [been] difficult without the help. Foreign vessels are allowed duty free fuel. One thing we found out later about V&A is they did have room but have a lazy dockmaster. If you just show up you should be able to find room. We also
found neither Royal Cape nor V&A answered e-mails."
You can read their blog for more details: http://www.nordhavn.com/egret/index.php. Funny - V&A (the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront) was just being built when we were there in 1995 and the same thing was going on - they had slips available but didn't seem interested in filling them. You can find more information at: http://www.waterfront.co.za/stay/pages/stay_berth.aspx. It would be a lovely place to tie up if you could get them to give you a berth.
We also emailed Webb Chiles who passed through South Africa two years ago. Here's his response:
"On my last visit to South Africa just over two years ago, I only stopped at Durban and Port Elizabeth. There was certainly much more talk and fear of crime in Durban, among all races, than when I was there in 1987, or when I was in Cape Town in 2002. However I have never personally been a victim. There was less talk and fear in Port Elizabeth.
Both cities have welcoming yacht clubs and marinas, and one is safe inside those areas. I walked around Durban city center without problems, and took taxis to more distant shopping centers.
Bureaucracy varies from port to port, but does not impose any particular problems, and is less a pain than in say Bali or Brazil or for that matter, Australia.
As you know, South Africa is a beautiful country, still relatively inexpensive even with the weak US dollar, and in Durban and Cape Town has a pretty good yachting infrastructure.
I wrote an article probably twenty years ago, 'The Better Way Around Africa.' Even more true today."
We hope this information is helpful.
Beth and Evans