After we arrived in Richards Bay, we were told to tie up at the International wharf which is next to the Tuzi Gazi marina. A local sailboat charter captain gave us directions and helped tie us up. He also gave us a few tips. A little while after we arrived, the customs officials arrived. Clearing in was a simple process and they even filled out the one page of paperwork themselves by simply asking us questions. Unfortunately, immigration took another two days to show up, but the process was also quite simple. We were still able to visit the local shops and restaurants while waiting for immigration, so it wasn’t a major hassle. We only got 3 months on our visas initially, so we will have to extend our visas somehow before Christmas.
A friendly South African couple named Lawrence and Anne, who are members of the Zululand Yacht Club nearby, greeted us shortly after our arrival to welcome us and give us some orientation. Their boat is in the local marina. They offered to drive us around and gave us a brief tour of the Yacht Club. They also helped direct us to a place to buy SIM cards for our phones so we could get Internet. Very nice people, and they try to greet every foreign yacht arriving to the port. They apparently also are organizers for visiting yacht rallies like the World ARC which arrives here in a few weeks.
The day after we arrived, we had a nice gentleman drop by to meet us. He has been following our blog for quite some time, and is also a cruiser himself. He is a co-owner to an Internet service provider in the area and offered to allow us to come to his office if we need more bandwidth. He also does radio work and later came to our boat and helped diagnose and fix a problem we had with our SSB – at no charge. His name is Johan and his business is Planet Communications and reminds me of my old Internet business back in the 90s. Very nice man, and we hope to invite him to our boat sometime after we get back in the water.
We got our Internet on our cell phones, and started evaluating whether we would get our boat work done here or with our boat manufacturer who is at St Francis Bay near Port Elizabeth. It turns out the logistics at our manufacturer were too expensive and would not allow us to stay on board during the work. After talking to other boats who had work done in Richards Bay, we elected to stay here. We also were convinced that there are several excellent game parks within a short drive of Richards Bay, so we would be able to take breaks and do some sightseeing.
So, a week later, we made arrangements to have Tahina hauled out at the Zululand Yacht Club. We got temporary membership at the club, and moved our boat to their marina. We had to wait two nights so the yard could make room for us. Which was good because a gale blew through the area with strong winds for the two days. Fortunately, it blew past the night before we did the haul-out. The haul-out process was similar to others we have done where they arranged a hydraulic lift under our bridge deck and planks and tires in the right places. The process was a little more lengthy to execute, but worked well. It also took longer for them to clean the bottoms and that put us into Friday before it was done. So, the real work didn’t begin until the next week.
We hired a team of guys who would not only sand and paint our bottoms with new anti-fouling, but also handle a number of other projects we had one our list for this haul-out. Tahina is now 7 years old and has some wear and tear needing some TLC. The US dollar is much stronger relative to the Rand, so we can afford the labor here better than in some places. This means Karen and I won’t have to do a lot of the grunt work we usually do during a haul-out.
We hired a car for a month, because we were sure the work would take at least that long. We are using the car so we could go and get parts, get groceries, and maybe do a little sightseeing in the area. There are good shopping centers in the area and the supermarkets have lots of more familiar foods we found hard to get in southeast Asia. And, the prices are really good for us with the strong US dollar. The restaurants are also very good and we have been eating out a lot more as a result. Living on the hard is never fun, we can’t use the toilets on board, so we have to walk to nearby toilet facilities for relief and for taking showers. Laundry is convenient and there is a chandlery on site, and the yacht club has a restaurant with decent food at reasonable prices.
After three weeks, a lot of progress has been made. The sanding took longer than expected, but the work was thorough. A lot of wear and tear issues, electrical issues, looking for the best deep cycle battery all over the place, a radio problem, etc. have been fixed. We also have had stainless steel fittings re-seated as they were starting to show signs of rust and would have soon leaked if not addressed. This includes cleats, the bow and stern seats, and life-line stanchions. We have had our watermaker serviced, hydraulic steering checked, minor fiberglass repairs, our deck wash pump fixed, our boom derick serviced, and much more. We also are finally having our raw-water intake for our generator moved, and the old thru-hull was glassed over. We have also ended up completely replacing the stainless bits on all our thru-hulls because although we had last year replaced the ball-valves, the old stainless tails and skin fittings were still corroding.
One of the first things done after arrival was the removal of our port sail drive. After the scheduled overhaul we had done in Malaysia last year, that sail drive developed a problem when in reverse where it was only giving minimal thrust. We suspected the mechanic in Malaysia had either made a mistake, or we had a very strange coincidence of a problem developing after we had a routine maintenance on a perfectly working engine. We have been suffering from lack of proper maneuverability since last November. The drive was sent to the one authorized Yanmar facility in South Africa in Cape town. After two weeks, they said the only problem found was a bit of wear and tear on the cone clutch. I got on the phone with them and made sure they understood the problem I was having and they assured they thoroughly checked the innards. They indicated they did everything they could do except for putting it back in the water. I’m a bit concerned that the problem isn’t fixed and we will have a further delay if we have to re-haul and send it back again. Oh, and they would have to pay for that.
We had to order some parts that have yet to arrive. I made the mistake of using FedEx to have a package with the parts sent from the US. The FedEx people here locally first insisted I would have to pay VAT on the goods. They didn’t seem to understand we are a yacht in transit, and that we are not importing the goods into their country. This is a standard arrangement for visiting vessels and provisions are made for this situation in every country we have visited. Eventually they asked someone and found we were right, but still insisted we have to have a clearing agent. This would be true for a large package (say a mast, or big sails), but is not true for small parcels. I will not be using FedEx any more unless I hear they have got their act together again.
While we have been on the hard, a number of foreign yachts have arrived with crews we know. Our friends Paul and Gina of s/v Solace we were particularly glad to see. We have been taking breaks from the boatyard by joining them and other crews at various social functions at the yacht club or at restaurants in the area. We have found most South Africans we have met to be very friendly and welcoming. In a later post, we’ll talk about the culture and other aspects of South Africa we have noticed since we arrived.
The light is at the end of the tunnel on the boatyard work. The picture here shows the primer coat on the bottoms. Since then two out of three coats of antifoul have been added. Despite the cheaper labor, the bill tally has been mounting rapidly. And, we have at least a week of yard work left, and possibly more as we try complete the final tasks. The saildrive repair uncertainty is a big concern. A number of tasks that can be done after we get back in the water will be postponed, so more work will be done afterwards before we can leave to start making our way to Cape Town.
I really hate living through the boatyard experience, but it will be good to have so many things back in working order when we are done.