Sailing Yacht SEA BUNNY

South Africa, St Helena and the South Atlantic

Marinas and anchorages in South Africa, St Helena and Brazil and passage across the South Atlantic

We arrived South Africa at Richards Bay at the beginning of November 2015, moved down to Durban before Christmas and round to Cape Town in early January. In the middle of March 2016 Sea Bunny left South Africa for the voyage to Brazil, via the mid-Atlantic island of St Helena.


Tuzi Gazi Marina, Richards Bay

Berth location: 28° 47'.65 S 32° 04'.76 E

Moved to: 28° 47'.67 S 32° 04'.79 E

Not a pleasant experience!

Sea Bunny arrived at Tuzi Gazi at around 0200 on 2 Nov 2015 just ahead of what Commanders Weather described as a "monster cold front". We had been motoring hard for three days to arrive before this hit.

We were welcomed and seen to a berth by many friends already in the marina despite the late hour and, once secured, retired to bed.

We were woken at around 0500 by the owner of the small motorboat in the berth next to us, who wanted to leave. This was difficult as we had laid lines across his berth to hold us off the finger pontoon when the gale hit. At this point the wind was around 40+ knots. We managed to extract his boat.

Tuzi Gazi

Shortly after this the main pontoon started to buckle and the finger pontoon to which we were berthed started to rotate.

We assessed that there was a significant danger of the whole pontoon breaking up. As there were some 20 boats attached to windward of Sea Bunny we further thought that there was a high probability of Sea Bunny being crushed, holed and sunk. As there was little, if anything, we could do to at this time to avert this possibility we collected some essential items from the boat and crawled along the pontoon to safety ashore.

In the event Sea Bunny was not sunk and we were able to return later to attempt to protect the hull. The finger pontoon on which we were berthed had rotated 90°, such that the unprotected metal edges were scraping and the cleats were gouging Sea Bunny's hull. On the other side the berth that had housed the motor boat that left had closed in such that the cleats on the fonger pontoon were also gouging Sea Bunny's hull.

At the bow, our port bow line was bar taut, supporting the main pontoon where it had buckeld. Releasing this line would have caused further buckling.

Sea Bunny was now totally trapped with finger pontoons pressing onto her hull on both sides causing further damage. The boat to windward of Sea Bunny was holed above the waterline by abrasion from barnacles on the botton of the rotated finger pontoon floats.

This situation persisted for 2 days until the winds had moderated enough for the pontoon to be winched out by a hawser stretched out to a tug on the wharf opposite. At this point Sea Bunny could be released and moved to another berth.

Unfortunately this was not a safer berth.

A large pilot boat lost control and collided, while going astern, with the boat attached to the same finger pontoon as Sea Bunny (this boat also happened to be the same one that was holed in the first incident). This caused the finger pontoon to break loose from the main pontoon, resulting in Sea Bunny being driven up onto the main pontoon and sideways onto the next boat. Further damage to Sea Bunny was abrasion to the bow, bending of the aft guard rail and damage to the outboard motor stowed on it. Reports we received stated that there was no-one on the pilot boat aware of the situation as the entire crew, including the master, were in the engine room wondering why the vessel was stuck in astern propulsion.

During the four weeks we Sea Bunny was in Tuzi Gazi the pntoon that had buckled initially did the same in another gale and at least one other finger pontoon became detached from the main pontoon.

Our assessment is that this is not a safe marina. It suffers from an apparent lack of maintenance. The berths appear undersized for the sizes of yachts that use them (the finger pontoons appear to be suited for 10 m vessels whereas there were several 15 m or larger yachts using them. The marina staff appear to make little attempt to ensure that the larger yachts are berthed at the shoreward end of the pontoons where they would exert less pressure on the main pontoo 

Unfortunately it is adjacent to the International Dock where arriving yachts are required to go to check in to South Africa. As the International Dock is often full boats are obliged to take a berth in Tuzi Gazi until cleared.

Zululand Yacht Club Marina, Richards Bay

Berth location: 28° 47'.473 S 32° 04'.978 E

Lift out

As soon as berths became available with the departure of most of the ARC World Rally boats we moved from Tuzi Gazi to the Zululand Yacht Club Marina. This was a much more comfortable experience, although the pontoons were still fairly mobile in the tide and wind. We had the impression that the mooring chains were more numerous, larger and better maintained.

It was here that we hauled out to check that Sea Bunny had not sustained any as yet unseen damage below the waterline and to finish the temporary repairs we had carried out.

The haul-out facilities are low-tech but effective. The cradle is positioned on the slip and the boat enters the cradle. Slings are then positioned and tensioned manually with chain hoists until the boat is supported, at which stage the cradle is towed up the slipway by tractor, assisted by a winch. In our case we were left on the slip but boats are normally positioned on the hardstand and chocked with timber struts dug well into the gravel surface.

With deep draft boats haul out can only be accomplished at high water springs. Because the boat that was supposed to launch before us was already in the cradle, but was not ready to launch she had to be chocked, which meant it was some two hours after high before the cradle was positioned for us. We ran aground when not quite far enough for slinging in the usual places. Fortunately we could compromise and were safely lifted.

The yacht club has pleasant grounds a very small pool, bar and restaurant. There is a laundrette and a well-stocked chandlery. WiFi is available in the clubhouse. However, it is some distance from the restaurants at the Tuzi Gazi waterfront.

A good shopping mall is a car ride away at the Boardwalk and there are numerous trades located near it.

Passage Richards Bay to Capetown

Track

Total distance: 965 over ground 802 through water

Sea Bunny did this passage in three legs with a long stop in Durban and a shorter one in Mossel Bay.

The passage down the east coast is dominated by the south-setting Agulhus Current and the frequent incidence of strong southerly winds which do not make a good combination.

Leg 1 - Richards Bay to Durban

15 hours, 100 miles over ground (93 through water)

We had hoped to make the first leg from Richards Bay to either East London or Port Elizabeth. However the weather window that did materialise was short and it seemed likely that, if we made it to either of those ports we would not get another window enabling us to get to Cape Town by Christmas (when we had activities planned). Neither of the ports seemed a particularly attractive place to spend the festive season. Hence we stopped in Durban (and hired a car to drive to Cape Town).

It was an easy leg in 10-15 knots of E-SE winds so a fair bit of motoring. Approaching Durban there was significant adverse current.

Leg 2 - Durban to Mossel Bay

3 days 5 hours. 600 miles over ground (453 through water)

This is the leg where the Agulhus current really shows its strength. As can be seen from the distances it moved us 150 miles in the just over 3 days of the passage.

We probably lost some of the benefit by going too close in as we turned the corner off Port Elizabeth..

For the first couple of days the winds were from E-NE, 15 -20 knots making for good sailing but they died off and got a westerly component as we turned westward

Leg 3 - Mossel Bay to Cape Town

2 days 19 hours. 265 miles over ground (256 through water)

As we headed west towards Cape Agulhus at the southernmost tip of Africa winds were 10-15 knots from the SE and we still had some curent with us. They were forecast to strengthen as we entered the Atlantic, so we headed well to the west before gybing and heading north towards Cape Town. The seas were building but seemed to become more comfortable when coming from the starboard quarter.

However, one wave decided to break over the boat. Water entered the cockpit and down the companionway, soaking the chart table and some of the instruments. It also overwhelmed the dorade boxes on the aft cabin vents, soaking Susan in her bunk.

Fortunately most of our instrumentation was still working, so navigation was not an issue. As we approached the coast north of Cape Point the wind was 35-40 knots from the SSE with gusts off the mountains of 50 knots. The strongest conditions we've had at sea in Sea Bunny.

As we approached Cape Town the wind dropped outside the harbour to a near calm although on entering the harbour it was up to 35 knots again.

Durban Marina

Berth location: 29° 51.846 S 31° 01.515 E

Durban Marina is run on behalf of the two yacht clubs - Point YC and the Royal Natal YC. Both clubs offer free membership, entitling visitors to use the facilities and to avail themselves of members' prices for food and drink.

It is easy walking distance into town to small supermarkets. Larger shopping malls require transport. We used Uber very successfully.

The pontoons are old but there is much more active maintenance than at Tuzi Gazi.

There is water on the pontoons but no electricity, so it is necessary to run genset or motor and/or to leave wind generators running. When we were there water was rationed and only switched on for one hour morning and afternoon.

We were given horrendous descriptions of the check-in/check-out procedures. In fact it's fairly simple. When we arrived the marina staff took copies of our passports and said they would inform the authorities. After we had been there a few days a policeman arrived at the boat and took some details. He asked if we had anything to declare. We replied that we had cleared customs in Richards Bay. He replied "but this is Durban"and repeated the question. We then replied that we had bought items in Richard Bay, i.e VAT paid, which seemed to satisfy him.

On departure you pay your dues at the marina office and fill out a "flight plan". You take the receipt and flight plan to Port Control - a 10 minute walk - they give you a form which you take to immigration (same building) , collect a form, go to customs (next building), get form, return to Port Control and you are cleared to leave within 36 hours.

In our case our first application was for departure on 2 January - Saturday. On arrival at port control at 115 on 31 December we were told that the office was closing at 1200. A quick visit to immigration got the necessary form but customs had gone to lunch. Return to Port Control who gave us clearance anyway. Weather was such that we didn't actually leave.

Our second application also fell when there was a public holiday on the Friday. Again Port Control were closing at 1200 on the Thursday. This time all officials were present but we now had a clearance good till Saturday but we did't actually want to leave until early Monday. Again this was OK despite the 36 hour nominal limit.

Mossel Bay

Anchorage location: 34° 10.56 S 22° 08.47 E 7.2 m. Anchor came up clean

Mossel Bay

We stopped in Mossel Bay as thw wind was predicted to go round to the west. In the event it didn't but the harbour wall gives some protection from the SE although it is a bit rolly.

The yacht club is welcoming and provides temporary membership, slipway and dinghy parking. There is a bar, restaurant and braai facilities. Any formalities are handled by the YC.

The town is in walking distance, with supermarket and a small chandler.

Various seafood restaurants and fast food outlets on the quay.

There is a marina in the harbour. We did not check it out but understand it tends to be full.

Cape Town - Royal Cape Yacht Club

Berth location: 33° 55.13 S 18° 28.58 E

Cape Town

The RCYC marina lies within the port security area.

When we arrived in the early morning it was blowing 35 knots. There appeared to be vessels on the ends of the pontoons and with reports of boats getting into difficulties trying to berth in strong winds we opted to pick up the baiting buoy outside. Receiving no response from the YC on VHF or phone when we tried after 0830 we radioed another yacht who went to find someone. Eventually marina staff came out to the boat in a work boat and took Richard to view Sea Bunny's allocated berth. Before we could move to it the boat that was in it had to be moved. We never did figure out why because we were both planning to stay for a similar time but apparently we had to have the berth allocated to us back in about October.

In the event, when the time came to move, thewind had dropped adn we entered the berth with no difficulty and no assistance from the work boat was required. The wind increased again once we were berthed, so we were lucky.

It can be very windy in the marina. Sustained winds, mostly from the SE, of 35-40 knots are not uncommon.

The Yacht Club has bar and restaurant. Visitors do not receive members' discounted prices. Also laundry facilities situated in the boatyard and free car parking.

The bar, restaurant and car park can be very busy on Wednesday evenings (race night) and Saturdays.

A boatyard with crane lift out is adjacent to the club, within to security fence. Action Yachting can organise most repairs and have a reasonably well-stocked chandlery. They also do LPG refills and supply fuel, delivered to th eboat in cans or at the fuel dock (if clear of boats being launched).

Services and suppliers we used included:

Supplier For Location Tel
Action Yachting Chandlery, woodwork, fuel, LPG RCYC  
Associated Rigging Replacement rigging, ropework Duncan Road  
Ullman Sails New mainsail, repairs to stackpack Voortrekker Road  
North Sails New outboard and fuel can covers  
Harken Shop Harken and Spinlock parts Paarden Eiland  
Southern Ropes Factory Shop Rope offcuts including Dyneema, sold by weight at very discounted prices. Other ropes at very reasonable prices. Section Street, Paarden Eiland  
Central Boating Chandlery. Whale and Ronstan dealer Bree Street  
Seaport Supply Chandlery Paarden Eiland  
PC Revalidation New valves for LPG tanks. Tank testing Atlantis  
Trojan Trading LPG regulator and brass adaptors Montague Gardens  
Atlantic Recycling Cash for old stainless rigging Paarden Eiland  
Gemini Marine Repairs to Hypalon RIB  
Dr Brauer & Associates GP and travel clinic Clock Tower Centre, V&A Waterfront  

While it is possible to walk to the city centre or to the bus and rail stations, it is really desirable to hire a car if based here.

Cape Town - V&A Waterfront Marina

We did not stay in the V&A, but include a brief entry for completeness.

The marina is accessed through a swing bridge and a bascule bridge.

Being in the V&A waterfront development it is convenient for shops (non-marine), restaurants etc within easy walking distance.

It is also reputed to be significantly more protected from the wind than RCYC.

Higher costs may be offset by lower transport overheads, particularly if a car is not hired.

Passage Cape Town to St Helena

11 days 21 hours. 1735 nM over ground (1809 through water)

Track 1

After a couple of days of variable wind it  settled down to S-SE 15 - 20 knots for most of the pasage, getting lighter as we approached St Helena.

With water temperature of 13°C at the start it was distinctly cold at night, becoming warmer as the ocean temperature got warmer but still chilly at night.. Weather was fine.

On 24 March Sea Bunny both reentered the tropics by crossing the Tropic of Capricorn and also returned to the western hemisphere for the first time since 2005 (although Tonga is to the west of the Date Line, so that the country can claim to be the first to greet the new day, it is actually geographically in the western hemisphere).

The next day we crossed our starting longitude of 1°W. We will have to wait till we cross our outward track, probably in the Caribbean, before we can claim to have completed our circumnavigation.

St Helena Island, James Bay

Mooring location: 15° 55.45 S 005° 43.51 W. Yellow Buoy No 6.

Moorings

The port authorities have laid substantial mooring buoys in James  Bay for the use of visiting yachts.Yellow buoys are for yachts up to 15 tonnes and red ones up to 20 tonnes. A ferry service operates between the buoys and the dock nominally from 0830 to 1830 but times may vary. We were told that the charge is £1 per person per trip but we understand actually it is £2 per person per day, with no limit on the number of trips. There is a one-off port charge of £40 per boat and a mooring charge of £2 per boat per day for the yellow buoys.

We arrived on Easter Monday, which was a public holiday, so we could not go ashore until port control and customs cane aboard on the Tuesday to clear us. There is no charge for customs but immigration (ashore) charge £17 per person. British pounds and St Helena pounds are accepted, possibly Rand.

There are no ATMs on the island. The Bank of St Helena will give cash advances against debit or credit cards with a charge of 5% (minimum £2.50). US dollars and US dollar travellers cheques are not exchangeable. St Helena banknotes are also apparently not exchangeable off the island, except in Ascension. The bank is up the main street with a branch on the dock open occasionally (when the ship was in).

There are showers and toilet on the dock, accessed by a passcode. There is also a laundry facility - consisting of a washboard but no machines.

The wharf operations people will sell diesel and bring it to the boat - £1.07 per litre when we were there (Mar/Apr 2016).

The supply ship RMS St Helena operates on a schedule, approximately 3-weekly, from Cape Town and also serving Ascension. Fresh fruit and vegetables are in very short supply when the shipo is not in and still limited when it is! Several small supermarkets in town.

The Consulate Hotel serves reasonably priced light lunches, coffees and snacks. It is also the best place to access WiFi - £6.60 per hour logged on time, with unused time being usable for up to a month. While there is a cellphone network neither or UK SIm card (O2) nor our South African one (MTN) gave access.

Annie - right at the top of town on the road out will do laundry - she will also pick up and drop off at the quay.

St Helena towards Cabadelo (Jacaré), Brazil

13 days 17 hours. 1808 nM over ground (1881 through water)

Track 2

 

This was a downwind sail all the way with wind varying from 10 knots to 25 knots, with occasional squalls up to 35 knots from directions varying from SSE to E, but mainly SE. We used our twin headsail downwind rig which, except for a few hours motoring in the lighter periods and slight adjustment of the sheets to counter chafe where they pass through the poles, remained untouched throughout the voyage.

We made landfall at Cabadelo during the night and entered the river using the waypoints provided by the Marina at Jacare. We anchored in the river opposite the marina.

Jacaré Marina Village, Cabadelo, Brazil

Anchorage location: 07° 02.17 S, 034° 51.5 W 7 m

Berth location: 07° 02.154 S, 034° 51.348 5 W

 

Marina

The tide, especially the ebb, runs strongly through the marina so we had to wait for slack ater at high tide to move from the anchorage to our berth.

Berthing is Mediterranean style with no finger pontoons. The boat is secured bow or stern to the pontoon and bow lines are taken to fixed lines that are secured to concrete blocks (we understand). The marina staff take your 15 m lines and secure them. As there was a cross wind and we had opted to go stern-to the pontoon we needed assistance from the marina boat to control the bow.

Water and electricity are on the pontoons. Electricity is nominally 220 V, 6o Hz but the actual voltage at our berth towards the end of the pontoon is ofter down to around 195 V. Socket is 16 A marina type. The water is chlorinated and apparently OK to drink but we filter ours.

Ashore there is a large communal area with bar serving snacks, laundry (not self service), toilets and showers.

There is free WiFi,  which works on the boat using an external antenna - we are near the outer end of the pontoon.

Clearing in is slow. First you go to the Policia Federale where immigration formalities are completed. This took about 2 hours. You then get a form from the marina, based on the stay that immigration have given you. This is then taken to Customs in the port area at Cabadelo (1½ hours). Having cleared customs you go to the port control opposite (½ hour). Because of the opening hors of the offices it seems impossible to complete everything in one day. The immigration official and tthe customs official we saw both spoke English. Our taxi driver, Bernardo, was a great help.

If you are intending to leave Brazil by air, leaving the boat here, it appears to be advisable not to tell immigration of this, or at least not the timing of it.  We did and, as a result, got a 20-day stay stamped in our passport.s Customs would then only clear the boat in for the 20 days and we have to go back to get this extended, even though the clearance form immigration gave us showed that the boat would be here for 4 months.

Clearing out is best done as a 2-day process. First you visit the Policia Federale where the official takes 45 minutes thumbing through your passports, consulting his computer and asking questions before stamping your passports. This after a one-hour wait for him to be available.

Then you visit the Customs in the port area of Cabedelo, which is only open in the mornings. After that you go to the navy in João Pessoa, which is where Port Control are (temporarily - July 2016) situated after a fire in their offices opposite the custome in Cabedelo. You may have a significant wait here too.

Cabadelo (Jacaré), Brazil to Charlotteville, Tobago

11 days 20 hours. 1980 nM over ground (1644 through water)

Track Jacare-Tobago

 

This was a downwind sail most of  the way with wind varying from 10 knots to 25 knots, with occasional squalls - one up up to 45 knots - from directions varying from SSE to E, but mainly SE. Because the forecast showed more variable winds we ran under goosewinged rig most of the way. For the first few days we had significant current with us, up to 3 knots at times, giving 200 nM days over the ground. The current was best around the 200 m contour and we followed the coast around until off Fortaleza to retain the boost.

Originally we had planned to stop at the Iles de Salut offshore French Guiana, but deceded against this.

There was significant fishing boat activity at times, with confusing, or no, lights.

We made landfall at the north of Tobago at first light and anchored off Charlotteville at 0750 local time. As this was 10 minutes before customs starting time of 0800 we were charged USD 50 "overtime". Customs check their cameras at 1600 and 0800 and a boat that anchors between these times will be charged.

 

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Last Updated from Charlotteville anchorage, Tobago 18 August 2016


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