Coastal Skipper: Nic delivers Fairline Squadron 42 to Durban

09 Jul 2016

Early June 2016, skipper Nic Strydom and three crew members set off from Cape Town for Durban with a Fairline Squadron 42, for an appearance at the Durban Boat Show. Nic shares his experiences during a trip that coincided with some of the worse winter weather this year.

A 4-LEG JOURNEY:

  • Gordonsbay to Mosselbay 213 nm. Refuelled underway
  • Mosselbay to East Port Elizabeth 194 nm. Refuelled underway
  • Port Elizabth to East London 132 nm.
  • East London to Durban 253 nm. Refuelled underway

The Fairline Squadron 42 has a fuel capacity of 996L and running at 2000 RPM or about 10 knots would give us a range of around 171 nm. As one can deduct from the above distances between refuelling points, we had to make provisions for extra fuel. We carried an additional 875L of Diesel fuel (35 x 25L Jerry cans). There were four crew on board for the trip, which meant that our shifts would be divided into 3-hour watches per person.

The original plan was to stay on the boat Tuesday night and leave Gordon’s Bay early on Wednesday morning with the high tide, but with an approaching cold front we decided to move the schedule up to Tuesday evening. We left Gordon’s Bay around 6pm and with the sun setting at our stern, we steamed on to Mosselbay.

The first night, we ran at about 9-10 knots, but with slightly rough seas we needed to run at higher RPM’s to maintain speed. The Squadron handled conditions very well through the night, guided by the excellent Lowrance HDS10 navigation system. At around 3am we rounded Cape Agulhas, Africa’s southernmost point.

The next morning, at around 11am, we refuelled for the first time while underway. This was done by slowing the boat to about 3-5 knots to keep her steady, allowing us to walk forward to the fuel filler caps on both Port and Starboard decks. We carried the 25L jerry cans forward, one by one, and then siphoned the diesel into the tanks using the old garden hose, gravity feed technique. We refuelled 100L into each tank and managed to call into Mosselbay Port Control just as our fuel gauges hit the 20% mark.

In Mosselbay harbour we topped up the tanks and jerry cans while some of the crew went ashore to buy delicious local cuisine from a shop in the harbour. With the sun setting in our wake, we all gathered on the Squadron’s flybridge to enjoy our fish ‘n chips with a lovely glass of Graeme Beck Sauvignon Blanc.

Fairline’s design team undertook a very challenging project when designing the Squadron 42. It is the smallest yacht in the Squadron range. The challenge had been to design a smaller yacht with the same luxurious and spacious feel as the larger yachts in the range. As we left Mosselbay, we had the swell running behind us and we could truly appreciate the efforts of the Fairline design team. The galley is spacious and well equipped with a two-plate electric stove, extractor fan, convection oven, deep stainless steel sink and plenty of storage, including a cool storage in the galley floor. On this model, the owner selected an additional refrigerator which meant we had plenty of cold storage, perfect for the long trip that we were undertaking.  My watch started at 11pm and with the calm seas there was not much to do but adjust our heading for the occasional fishing boat or trawler as we steamed further east for Port Elizabeth. That night everyone caught up on some much-needed sleep.

At this point we were making good headway as we travelled along at a constant 9-11 knots and decided to throttle back to conserve fuel until the next morning when we could refuel again. According to the Squadron’s fuel consumption and performance charts, our best fuel economy while travelling at a reasonable speed would be at 8 knots and around 1600 RPM with a predicted range of 287nm. This is a dramatic increase and certainly proved to be accurate. Even with our fuel consumption experiment, we still made Port Elizabeth ahead of schedule arriving just after 1pm on the 9th of June.

Refuelling in P.E. proved to be a bit more tricky than expected. So far we were able to top up without any hassles, but even with prior arrangements we were now being told that the depot could not sell us any fuel as we were not a commercial fishing vessel. Luckily we saw our friend and Riviera owner, Stu Davidson, on his boat and headed over to confide in him. At this point, the infamous PE winds also started picking up, but the Squadron’s handling was so light and precise that this did not really disrupt docking procedures. Stu quickly explained procedures to us and with his help we were able to arrange a fuel truck to meet us on the jetty close to the yacht club. With full tanks and time to spare we headed out for East London. This would be the shortest leg of our journey with 132nm between Port Elizabeth and East London.

We headed out across the bay, navigating between all the container ships and car transporters coming in to collect their consignments. As night fell, we steamed on past Bird island, making sure to keep well north on the outside of the island to avoid the foul ground. From here our objective was to stick as close to shore as was reasonably possible to avoid the Agulhas current heading in the opposite direction. At times we were less than a mile offshore and we could clearly notice the effects of the current, gaining 1 knot of speed by moving as little as 150m closer to shore. If we had travelled in the middle of the Agulhas current we could have been slowed down by as much as 5 knots. This is where a good chart plotter and auto pilot system come in very handy.

The coast line between PE and East London has few bays, which meant it was pretty much a straight shot, heading between 075° and 100° compass. On this leg of the trip there was no need to refuel and we made it to the entrance of East London just before daybreak on the 10th of June. We floated outside the harbour until we had enough light to clearly see the harbour wall. A quick call to port control for permission to enter as we lined up the harbour lights and in we went.

East London harbour has a very unique allure to it. Not having been to the harbour myself, I was in awe of the beautiful old buildings on the river beds. It seemed as though the town was living in a forgotten era. On the northern bank we saw the three Chinese fishing vessels that had reportedly been apprehended a few weeks earlier for illegal fishing activities. On the southern bank of the river we saw a large empty building which seemed to be a parking garage. We soon learned that this was the loading bay for the Mercedes Benz factory that had been shut down due to protests. We carried on up the river and found the Buffalo River Yacht Club. We considered mooring on the pier of the northern riverbank as we did not have a tender on board, yet the pier was in a very poor state. We managed to find a mooring about 200m further which belonged to the harbour police. They graciously agreed to let us use their mooring as we waited for the approaching cold front to move past. The next three days we set about exploring East London and getting to know the Squadron a bit better as a live-aboard vessel.

The Squadron truly provides for luxurious living standards. Each cabin has its own climate control unit which extends to the en suite bathrooms. Both bathrooms receive ample lighting from the skylights installed above the showers. The starboard guest cabin has two single beds that can be moved together to form a double bed and also has double doors opening into the en suit bathroom, creating more space to move about. In the saloon there is another double bed which folds out of the sofa, allowing up to six people to comfortably sleep on board.

Electricity for the lights and other 12v systems is provided from the domestic battery and for more demanding 220v appliances there is the very reliably and surprisingly quiet Cummins Onan generator. Water aboard the Squadron is heated while the engines are running, or through the immersion heater, that can be powered by the generator when moored or at anchor. The flybridge is equipped to be the ultimate entertainment area with an electric grill, refrigerator and icemaker, all complemented by stunning 360° views of your surroundings. For those particularly sunny days, a full size bimini can cover the entire area. At night, beautiful midnight blue deck lights adorn the entire yacht, along with underwater transom lights to create your own personal aquarium.

The whole weekend we monitored weather conditions and by Sunday we received word that weather conditions would be calm enough for us to continue on our final and longest leg of the journey to Durban. We set off early at 5am Monday morning, and while the town was still sleeping we waved goodbye to East London. Again we were greeted by the most beautiful sunrise and remembered the real reason why people buy yachts and undertake journeys such as ours. Shortly before we passed the Hole In The Wall holiday resort, we met up with a large school of dolphins that were feeding on the sardine run. It was quite a spectacle to behold. As we were keeping close to shore we had stunning views of the settlements along the coastline and were finally greeted by the sun setting over the east coast. At around 10pm that night we had used about 60% of our fuel, that proved that the Agulhas current was taking its toll. We decided to refuel with another 100L to each tank, which would keep us going through the night.

The swell left behind by the passing cold front meant that none of us were getting much sleep that night. As morning broke, we refuelled with another 13 jerry cans. We were now just 40 nm away from Durban and decided to pick up the pace from our constant eight knots to around ten knots. We made it to Durban shortly after noon and even had our own welcoming party as we entered the harbour. The Durban Boating World team were just returning from their media tour on the Riviera 37 and met up with us at the entrance to the Natal Yacht Club.

The journey from Gordon’s Bay to Durban had been an astonishing and memorable experience and most proudly, the Sqaudron 42 had earned the respect and appreciation of her crew.