Getting Stuck in the Wrong Place
A Black Advent

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Touching a rope or halyard did this
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The people at the very friendly Algoa Bay Yacht Club (ABYC) are great and the food is delicious and very affordable and the harbour is well protected from the wind and swell. You might think that you could find a worse place to get stuck. Well think again.

View of the harbour from the yacht club's restaurant. Ship loading in the background.

We didn't plan on stopping at Port Elisabeth, or simply PE, as the locals call it, as we had heard that it is a dirty harbour. However, we have been in dirty places before, and thinking that "dirty" referred only to the quality of the water in the harbour, we decided to take shelter in PE, when the weather forecasts predicted difficult conditions ahead of us (at Knysna and Mossel Bay).

Some people prefer bungy-jumping, but when I need an adrenaline boost I decide to enter an unknown harbour in the dark, with strong winds and rain further decreasing visibility. It was impossible in the dark to enter the yacht club area in the far corner of the harbour, and we requested permission from Port Control to anchor in the harbour basin, which was granted.

Next morning, on First Advent, we experienced our first really Black Christmas. Everything on deck was covered by something looking like black soot, or charcoal. We had been anchored next to, and downwind from, a ship loading manganese ore by conveyor belts. And the wind was blowing at 30 knots!

We quickly weighed the anchor and moved to a berth at the ABCY, having first reached the manager by mobile phone for permission. However, the conditions at the dock were not much better when the wind blew that way from the loading dock, which it did for two days. We washed the boat twice a day for the next three days, but could naturally not reach the higher areas on the masts.

The fenders and topsides were covered by ore dust,
and the stuff was rubbed into Scorpoio's recently painted topsides.
Cargo ship loading in the background,
with a dirty solar panel in the foreground.

Leaving the harbour was not an escape option either as the weather outside was very rough.

It was a disaster, especially as we recently had invested a lot of money in new sails, canvas covers (bimini, spray hood etc), halyards and sheets, new paint on boat hull top sides and a new teak deck. They will probably never gain their former splendour again.

The genoa and the sheet (pronounced shit) The genoa rolled out. All parts of the standing and the rolling riggings are black and with every rain there will be black stuff dripping on the deck and canvases.

When we finally left Port Elisabeth we had been able to clean most surfaces reasonably well, but the rigg including, stays, shrouds, halyards were still covered by grime, which will stay with us for a long time.

Port Elisabeth is a place we will never forget.

PE harbour from the hill on the western side. ABYC's docks and a cargo ship loading manganese ore by an open conveyor belt

Update: More than a month later, in January 2013 I was still cleaning the mast and the rigging, see a report from Cape Town HERE.