We sailed from Durban, South Africa to Maputo in April 1992 on my Dean Oceancomber catamaran yacht, with our friends Dennis & Heather Jennings.
It was just before Easter weekend and the weather forecast was promising - "a gentle south westerly wind, lasting 30 hours", the weather forecaster at the metrological office assured me when I phoned.
With this good news we left Durban early
in the morning. At first the wind was very light but at least in the correct direction, so we raised the cruising spinnaker almost
as we left Durban harbour.
As always with sailing, the wind changed direction later that afternoon to a north easterly - dead on the nose. Nevertheless we continued on our way and as the wind was light we motored sailed.
That night however, the wind gained strength and it was a most uncomfortable sail, so when we reached Richards Bay we decided to go in and wait for the next south westerly wind.
Two days later we left Richard's Bay, again in a light south westerly, which a day later changed again to a north easterly so another uncomfortable night was experienced.
The next day the sea was relatively flat with light winds so although we had to motor sail again, but it was still a very pleasant trip.
Dennis caught good-sized Lemon fish which Yvonne & Heather cooked and we ate & enjoyed for lunch 30 minutes later, nothing like ocean fresh fish.
Later the next afternoon we rounded the point of Inhaca Island, at the entrance to Maputo Bay. We decided to anchor just off Inhaca for that night and go through to Maputo the next morning in daylight, to complete the necessary documentation the next day. We had heard that very few of the navigation lights worked, judging by what we saw this information was spot on. Maputo Bay is a large natural bay of about 25 miles across from Inhaca to Maputo, and takes about 5 hours to sail across. Standing guard at the entrance to Maputo Bay is the Inhaca lighthouse, which no longer works.
Maputo port is situated on a river, once we found our way to the small craft basin we moored alongside 2 other South African yachts. We then walked to the Maritime office to ask the local officials to come to our boat to "clear" us in. As soon as all the paperwork was completed, and the local custom of handing over a bribe (in this case a bottle of cheap whisky) we walked to the main street in Maputo called Independence Avenue and found the one and only sidewalk cafe, where we enjoyed an ice cold glass of the local beer and some well cooked and tasty food..
Later that day we went to the
main market, a dirty bustling market where one could exchange money at 3 times the normal rate, obviously very clandestine and black
market. The market was fascinating, prices were incredible cheap and we bought cashew nuts for around $2 per kilogram and fresh prawns
for just over R6 per kilogram ($ 0.60). We have heard that since then prices have escalated sharply. TIP - given to us by a local
Portuguese woman. When buying fresh prawns from a market, where there is no refrigeration, check the legs of the prawns, if they are
red/pinkish, the prawns are fresh!
We stayed a couple of days in Maputo. We visited the famous Polana Hotel, a luxurious hotel built during Portuguese colonial rule. It had just been recently renovated and was in very good condition, unlike most other buildings in Maputo. Mozambique had just emerged from a 16-year civil war so the city and country were in a very run down state. Most nights the electricity supply was interrupted and often no water was to be had.
On one of our day trips we visited the hotel at the end of Costa de Sol beach area. There we enjoyed a really good meal, including some really tasty clams. We hired a taxi for the day and the driver was excellent, he would drop us off, and as promised he would collect us punctually at the pre-arranged time. He even took us to the Dollar Supermarket, where most goods were available, but one had to pay in US $ and change was given in Meticais, the local currency.
We then decided to head back to Inhaca Island, on the easterly side of Maputo Bay, a large natural harbour about 25 miles wide - so it was about a 5 hour sail. One had to be careful sailing for 2 reasons - one was the number of Dhows being sailed by the local fishermen and the second was the shallow waters between the many deep water canals, none of which were buoyed. Only the main shipping channel was buoyed, but at night many of the buoy lights did not work.
Inhaca Island has a hotel on it, an old bungalow type hotel which needed much TLC. We anchored about 200 metres offshore - the shore had a very gentle slope, so at low tide one had to walk about 60 metres to the high water mark - often we had to carry our rubber duck (inflatable boat) that distance. Once our duck was at the high water mark we paid some local kids to look after it for us and move it up or down with the tide.
When we heard a severe southerly storm was heading our way, a couple we met at Inhaca, who were skippering a charter catamaran, Neil & Caroline Schweggman, told us about the lagoon inside Portuguese Island. Portuguese Island is a short way off Inhaca so we did not have far to go to get to it. However, the entrance to the lagoon was narrow and not at all deep. Dennis and I marked the channel at low tide and checked the depth just before high tide - our draft was only 80cms so we figured we would just make it. We did. So for the next few days we spent an idyllic calm time in this lagoon and the 2 storms that passed by did not affect us in any way.
Another friend of our ended up on the rocks near Maputo in one of these storms.
The restaurant on Inhaca, owned by Lucas, who also owned the bakery and market stall and the 'bottle store' was a great place to eat. By western standards no one in their right mind would eat at a place like this, but the food was well prepared and excellent. The Peri-peri chicken and the Lulas (calamari) was absolutely fantastic. One night, when we ordered Lulas, Lucas informed us he did not have any, when we expressed our dismay, he told us to wait and promptly went and caught one. Now, that's service.
By the way, the restaurant had no kitchen as such, the food was cooked over an open fire, no stove or oven. Some chairs were upturned beer crates or draft beer barrels, but the food.
The diving was very good - I have never seen so many fish in their natural environment - all types and all sizes. We never saw a Manatee (Dugong) but we did see plenty stonefish, so whenever we walked in the water we were extremely careful. One time when we were snorkelling in the lagoon on Portuguese Island we had hundreds of Yellowtail game fish swimming alongside us, what a sight!
We also sailed down to the southern tip of Inhaca Island, called Ponte Torres. Here, one can, if very brave (or stupid) leave the protection of Maputo Bay and sail though a cutting into the Indian Ocean. At any other time than when the tide is neutral there is a fierce current that runs either in from the sea or out to sea. Dennis & I went through on a rubber duck, it was like surf white water rafting.
After 6 weeks we sailed back to Durban, this time the wind was perfect, the right direction and strength, so we made it back in 29 hours, as opposed to the nearly 80 hours it had taken to get there on our trip to Maputo. Most of the way we sailed with the Cruising Gennaker up, only at night did we reluctantly take it down.
When we arrived back at Point Yacht Club in Durban early in the morning our son, Scott was waiting to say hi. After a really long hot shower, we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast or bacon, eggs and toast - funny thing, no matter how well one eats on a trip, or how many showers one have (ours were always hot showers), the first one of both back at home is always so good.
We went back to Mozambique in 1994 for a bit of R&R, this time we drove through Natal and Swaziland. We also roughed it a bit, sleeping in a tent on the beach, with Dennis Jennings, crazy!, but it was fun.