The recent Johannesburg Boat Show held from the 8th to 11th of August at NASREC Expo Centre, can be described as nothing other than a roaring success! The organisers can pat themselves on the back for hosting yet another spectacular event and one of the brightest instalments on this year’s boating calendar.
It was Wednesday the 24th of July; excitement was in the air as the Tala team met at King Shaka airport to catch a plane to Port Elizabeth. For a trip like this, all plans have to be made and set up before you can give the go-ahead for a trip like this, but as we discussed the voyage over a cup of coffee, the main topic was the weather and the notorious Wild Coast stretch – this is the ‘point of no return’ for many. As the weather is always a major factor, bets were made as to which source would produce the most accurate forecast on the weather – WindGURU, Windfinder or Buoyweather.
We boarded and set off to PE to be greeted by typical Eastern Cape winter weather. The first cold front had already arrived and another was on its way. On arrival, we were met by Stu Davidson, the previous owner of Tala, who took us to the Port Elizabeth harbour and introduced us to the boat.
At first sight
I must say, the Riviera 43 is a real beaut! Her LOA of 47 foot offers heaps of space inside and her 4.5 metre beam allows for a generous saloon and galley, and head room sufficient to accommodate even my 1.93-metre height! Stowage lockers are found everywhere, it seemed and one could almost get lost in her. There’s certainly enough room to fit a freshwater maker and supplies for a lifetime at sea, if necessary.
Built in 2001, she has been well maintained and her interior cherrywood finishes epitomise the Riviera quality and luxury. Tala has two cabins – a double berth in the bow with en-suite and two singles midship and starboard side, which are also en-suite. Brian and I took the midship cabins. The bunks were big enough for my height to lie down comfortably, as well as the few extra kg’s it comes with! Mike pulled owner rights and ended up in the master cabin alone and Gareth laid claim to the lavish leather couch in the saloon – maybe for sneaky night-time snacks, who knows? For those interested, the PE harbour is very active in terms of water movement. Water surges really rock the boats at their moorings and it’s not a particularly kind environment. We spent the remainder of the day familiarising ourselves with Tala, checking safety equipment and taking on provisions for the voyage ahead. Our plan was to leave the following day at 16h00 after fuelling. Brian had organised our ‘flight plan’ and we checked and rechecked the weather on all websites and our plan for a lateafternoon departure was finalised.
Being KZN boys, we were ‘rudely’ awoken by extremely cold temperatures – although the conditions were great for sailing – typical after a cold front. The day ensued as we took on last minute supplies and prepared – after all, this is a 400 nautical mile trip and you have to make sure you’re ready for anything and everything! We were all keen to get going, and after filling the massive 2 200-litre tank, which, lucky for us (or Mike, anyway!), was already half full. It was now 14h00 and we had put in our call to Port Control for permission to exit the harbour.
Our first leg of the voyage would see us arriving at East London. Our heading was set at 120 degrees and the speed set at 9.5 knots (17.6 km/h) with the twin 450 Cummins engines running at 1 400 RPM. The sea conditions were perfect and we organised shifts of four hours each – two hours at the helm and two hours as an observer – meaning that there would be two people on the bridge at any given time. After the first two hours of seeing very little else, a navy frigate showed up astern on the radar and quickly passed.
We passed Bird Island at around 17h45 to see two small fishing vessels – which were probably going to sneak in after darkness. The trip was going very well, notwithstanding that we were battling with the cold. Luckily, Mike had thought to bring some beanies which were much welcomed, and used constantly by the crew. A four-hour shift might seem rather lengthy, especially when you’re in the type of extreme cold we were experiencing; but the crew got along like a ‘boat on fire’ – and with good conversation, time flew by. We reached Port Alfred by 22h30 and at around 00h20 we were passing Kidds Beach – meaning we weren’t far from East London.