South Africa welcomes cruisers.
Cruising and sailing yachts are welcome in South Africa.
          Your contact on the Cape of Good Hope cruising route
South African flag.

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Information for foreign yachts sailing to South Africa on the Cape of Good Hope route.

Cruising Connections, sailing in South Africa.

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by Tony Herrick

Visit the safari parks in South Africa. Photo by Cruiser Log.

The sailing route from the Indian Ocean via Southern Africa and then into the Atlantic, can be a very pleasant experience. The people of South Africa are, for the most part, extremely friendly and helpful and welcoming to visitors. A few of the yacht clubs even offer a complimentary bottle of champagne to first time visiting yachts !

Durban and Richards Bay are logical ports of entry and at present the clearance procedures are a bit complex, however, proposed changes will make it easier for all concerned. The yacht club offices or Durban Marina will be happy to assist with clearance. 

Richards Bay has two possibilities for berthing, 

  • The Zululand Yacht Club 
  • Tuzi Gazi Waterfront Marina.

In Durban a visitor has three choices :

  • The International Jetty, where visitors raft up. For a possible marina berth (there areDurban marina and yacht mole. normally a number of empty berths) contact the Durban Marina Office. The two yacht clubs in close proximity offer free temporary membership to visiting yacht crews and have all amenities. The Thursday night Braaivleis (Barbeque) next to the swimming pool under a thatch awning, is a social highlight – remembered fondly by previous cruisers over the years.
  • A second alternative is to anchor, after clearance, in the Silburn Channel which is reasonably protected, provided one’s anchors are of a suitable weight and well bedded in. This is free for the first month at present. One can use one’s own dinghy or utilise the ferry service to come ashore.

    Not many places in the world is it possible to be so close to a big city – the skyscrapers start across the road from the Yacht Basin. Within a 5 minute walk there are three yacht equipment stores and two offering used gear. Grocery stores, bottle stores, hairdressers, shoe stores, Doctors, pharmacy, banks & internet access, etc. are in the few adjoining city blocks.

    Adjacent to the yacht area, Durban’s Fenton Lane is home to three sailing schools, where crew can be found, willing to help one, if needed, for the sail to Cape Town. Cruising Connections has a unique chart exchange service, with world-wide coverage, cruising guides, courtesy flags, etc. in the lane. A daily "weather board" is also displayed.
  • The Bluff Yacht Club at the head of Durban Bay is a friendly, family orientated "laid back" yacht club that usually has available moorings.

Larger craft, 60 ft or over may be accommodated elsewhere in the Bay. Durban Port Control (VHF Ch. 9) will advise on arrival.

Any kind of marine work can be undertaken in Durban, from haul-out to yard work, electronic and mechanical service are all available. This is the best port for any yacht related services on arrival in South Africa. Cape Town also offers similar services, as do some of the other ports on a more limited scale.

Durban or Richards Bay is an excellent place to leave a yacht in safety, to explore some of this wonderful country. Either by hiring a car or "bakkie" (pick-up truck) and venturing off one's self or utilising one of the travel firms – two of which are operated by cruisers - toVisit the South African game reserves. Photo by Cruiser Log. structure one’s own safari. World renowned game reserves (safari parks), and the mighty Drakensberg Mountains are all a few hours drive away! Prices are extremely reasonable on every level. It is also possible to arrange a visit to a local Zulu area, or overnight in a traditional "kraal" (bungalow) here in Kwa-Zulu Natal "Kingdom of the Zulu" or in the neighbouring Kingdom of Swaziland. The list is endless. Most cruisers that arrive in either port, usually visit both and the stay is often extended by months or sometimes years !

Don’t be put off sailing South Africa by what you have heard or read - come and see for yourself – you are most welcome. Don’t be put off by stories about the sail south of Durban. Sure it can be a difficult leg, but South Africa has an excellent weather service and with the right "weather window", this is a remarkable coast to sail, with huge mountains in the South seeming to tumble into the sea amongst the seals and birds!

Cape Town is just beautiful! Oops! So is Knysna, False Bay, Hout Bay, Saldanha Bay and Walvis Bay!

Another point in favour of the "Cape Route" to the Atlantic, for any cruisers in Malaysia or Australia is the fact that one can experience the almost untouched, unspoiled areas of a remote world in places such as Rodriguez Island, Cargados Carajos Shoals, and the eastern shores of Madagascar, as well as Mauritius & Reunion Islands, if a route south of Madagascar is chosen. If a route north of Madagascar is preferred the options are the Maldives, Chagos, Seychelles & seldom visited islands north of Madagascar and then south to Durban. Alternatively sail the Mozambique channel, via the Comores and thence South Africa.

There are a number of cruising guides covering the area, recently printed (and some in ebook format for download), which one is advised to obtain:

  • "Welcome to Durban - a Sailor's Guide".   FREE
  • "Southern African Cruising Notes" - East to West.
  • "Cape to Caribbean Cruising Notes"
  • "Gone with the Wind in Madagascar"

         Details of these books HERE 

Another plus, is the unique opportunity, after rounding the Cape & venturing further, is to sail the west coast of Southern Africa and thence into the Atlantic – and to visit the "Skeleton Coast" ports of Lüderitz & Walvis Bay, an almost "day sail" from Cape Town, northwards. (Buy a cruising guide and charts). St. Helena Island, in the Atlantic Ocean, is often a "once in a lifetime" experience – a rugged & exposed island with a lush interior, extremely hospitable and a visit to "Ann’s Place" a must !

Ascension Island – once a closed island of mostly volcanic rock - is now "open" and welcomes visitors. Often a cruising yacht will be sponsored by the local Americans on duty, and shown the Island. The American Base offers hamburgers that out-do McDonalds! A visit to the often cloud covered, lush peak of Green Mountain is mostly easily arranged.

Another plus is Brazil, and the off-lying islands of Fernando de Noronho or popular stops in mainland Brazil. Amongst others would be Salvador, Cabedelo, Recife, Port Natal, Fortaleza and Belem, where the temptation to explore the mighty Amazon for the adventurers would be possible. Also, Iles du Salut, a group of three small islands off the coast of French Guyana, probably better known as the "Papillon" prison island. Now, no longer a prison, and one of the islands having a small harbour – a good stop en route to the Caribbean.

I hope to welcome you to South Africa in the future. In this whole area covered I have never heard of piracy or major loss or damage to cruising yachts.

Please feel free to contact me for any further information you may require.

Fair winds
Tony Herrick
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