A Warm Zululand Welcome
16 November 2012 | Richard Bay, South Africa
Heather & Jonathan
It was a white knuckle ride into Richards Bay, but what a welcome.
We needed to get in before the winds turned South (which would mean wind against the infamous Agulhas current which flows strongly off the coast, this would pile up the waves that have been known to sink large tankers - not a happy prospect) and this was forecast to happen at some stage the day we arrived, so were quite happy when the winds started to pipe up above 20 knots from the rear quarter. Unfortunately they didn't level off until around the mid thirties and, just to add to the fun, the wind shifted to the beam as we got closer to the land. Even with 3 reefs Matilda was flying, and with the current it looked on the chart plotter as if we were sailing sideways at 10 knots - go Matilda.
It was a wet and windy ride but the winds and current were sure to ease off when we got into Richards Bay proper wouldn't they? Well they sort of did. The wind got down to 28 knots and the current backed off to a few knots. It was also pitch black with no moon, so we just had to hope on entry that the chart plotter was correct, and it is not the easiest of entries, the narrow dog-leg channel, depth, buoys and fishing nets can be a problem. Under the circumstances it was probably best we did do it blindfolded and we arrived at around 2 am local time unscathed - but what a welcome. We didn't think anyone would be up, but Paul was there, along with the Vice Commodore of the Zululand Yacht Club with a bottle of bubbly together with many fellow ARCers - now that's what I call a welcome beyond the call of duty. It was a great relief that they were there, the strong winds made docking Matilda a challenge (who has no bow thrusters and hates reversing) so lots of hands to catch my, for once, well hurled mooring lines.
Since then we have been really enjoying the friendly and laid-backness of the region. We were also very pleasantly surprised that things are a lot cheaper here than most places we have been and the food has been exceptional. A few nights ago we had the prize giving ceremony, but for once it was completely overshadowed by the spectacular show and presentations put on by the yacht club. In the afternoon, after local members and associates had kindly got together and answered our questions on cruising this coastline, they distributed T shirts from the Yacht Club commemorating the occasion of the ARC visit. If there is one thing our ARCers love it is Yacht Club T-shirts and these were particularly attractive. We wore them with pride that evening and were treated to a wonderful buffet and stunning display of dancing from the young men of the nearby Ross College and a more traditional Zulu dancing group. Much to our amazement Matilda was again in the prizes (despite the engine hours used to try and get in before the weather window closed), coming 3rd in our division and receiving a lovely locally crafted beaded boat. Unfortunately we couldn't stay for the raisin spitting (too long to explain) and talent contest, but understand a great time was had by all.
The next day we were up early to go on the ARC safari to a nearby wildlife park. We didn't see the big 6 (the big cats were a bit shy - not surprising - it was bloody cold), but did spot rhinos, elephants, buffalo, giraffes, zebras, wilderbeast, crocodiles and a bewildered river crab miles away from a river, plus many more.
We are hoping that the weather window will mean we can continue to Durban early next week, but it will have a lot to live up to and we will have very fond memories of Richards Bay.