Yachting along the West African coats is very restrictive at the moment and we would recommend against it as the risks are just too high. We are aware of a no more than three or four yachts that have been brought to Ghana and they have all either left quickly or been abandoned.
The biggest problem is the lack of safe and suitable mooring along the coast and the only place would be Takoradi harbour but this is a commercial port and not at all attractive. Another place would possibly be White Sands bay but you would have to ask permission and almost certainly arrange for constant security if you want anything left of you boat after a week.
The Volta Estuary is also out as the sand bar is very dangerous and constantly shifting. In addition to this, once you are in the estuary you will pretty well be stuck there between Hi-tides.
Piracy is a growing problem in West Africa and whilst it currently has not targeted domestic vessels it is most likely that any yacht will still be the target of harassment and intimidation from fishermen and petty thieves. No doubt some will be very pleasant and more than willing to help you but others will also be looking for opportunities to rob from the boat as well.
Finally the weather is a major factor and unless you have a totally sheltered mooring then for many months of the year the boat could be subjected to very strong and violent line squalls which come out of nowhere and together with the associated long Atlantic swell that pounds most of this coast makes it unsuitable to put a mooring in an exposed location.
You must also take into consideration the Guinea current which is quite fast along the Gold Coast and will make moorings difficult to anchor unless professionally done.
Whilst you may well see dozens of ocean going fishing canoes plying the coast or anchored off Elmina, looking idyllic, please do not be tempted to believe you can join these as they are very experienced sailors with a tradition that has been adapted to this coast over many years.
Having said all this, the only location we know where there are yachts moored and regular sailing is in Abidjan where you may wish to consider as a safer alternative for now.
Local tides and winds
Essential Sailing Rules
The highly simplified rules summaries below are adapted from U.S. Sailing.
Complete and precise rules, including definitions of terms, are maintained by the International Sailing Federation (pdf), and include detailed case studies, complete with diagrams, where authoritative interpretations are provided.
SAFETY. Help those in danger. (Rule 1)
FAIRNESS. Exercise sportsmanship and fair play. (Rule 2)
PORT AND STARBOARD. Port-tack boats must keep clear of starboard-tack boats. (Rule 10) Note: You are "keeping clear" of another boat when she doesn't have to avoid you.
WINDWARD AND LEEWARD. When boats are overlapped on the same tack, the windward boat must keep clear. (Rule 11)
ON SAME TACK, ASTERN AND AHEAD. When boats are on the same tack and not overlapped, the boat clear astern must keep clear. (Rule 12) Note: One boat is "clear astern" if she's entirely behind a line through the other boat's aft-most point, perpendicular to the other boat. The other boat is "clear ahead." Two boats are "overlapped" if neither is clear ahead of the other.
TACKING AND INTERFERENCE. Before you tack, make sure your tack will keep you clear of all other boats. (Rule 13)
LIMITATIONS ON RIGHT OF WAY
Rights of way are limited for reasons of safety and fairness.
AVOID CONTACT. You must avoid contact with other boats. If a boat has the right of way, can avoid contact, chooses to have a collision anyway, and causes damange or injury, the right-of-way boat will be penalized. (Rule 14)
ACQUIRING RIGHT OF WAY. When you manoeuvre to become the right-of-way boat, you must give the other boat a chance to get away from you. (Rule 15)
CHANGING COURSE. When you change course, you must give the other boat a chance to keep clear. (Rule 16)
ON THE SAME TACK; PROPER COURSE. If you are overlapped to leeward of a boat on the same tack, and if just before the overlap began you were clear astern of her, you cannot sail above your proper course (i.e., the course that will take you to the next mark the fastest) while you remain overlapped. (Rule 17.1)
PASSING MARKS AND OBSTRUCTIONS
There is a set of special rules for boats that are about to pass a mark or obstruction. However, these special rules don't apply between boats on opposite tacks on a beat to windward. (Rule 18.1)
Except at a starting mark, you must give boats overlapped inside you room to pass a mark or obstruction, and boats clear astern must keep clear of you.
There's a two-length zone around marks and obstructions. Once the first boat enters that zone, if you are clear astern, you must keep clear of the other boat until both that boat and yours are past the mark or obstruction, even if you later become overlapped inside her. (Rule 18.2)
TACKING NEAR A MARK. Don't tack within the two-length zone at a windward mark if you will cause a boat that is fetching the mark to sail above close-hauled to avoid you, or if you will prevent her from passing the mark. (Rule 18.3) This seems to imply that you could in some instances force another boat to fall off, provided you had the right of way under some other rule.
ROOM TO TACK AT AN OBSTRUCTION. When boats are on the same tack on a beat and come to an obstruction, the leeward boat gets to decide which way they are going to pass it. If the leeward boat hails for room to tack, the other boat must give it to her; but the leeward boat must give the other boat time to respond before she tacks. (Rule 19)
Before your Preparatory Signal, and after you finish, don't interfere with boats that are about to start or are racing. (Rule 22.1)
If you break a rule while racing, get away from other boats and do two 360-degree turns; if you hit a mark, do one turn. (Rules 20 and 44) Note: Sometimes the Sailing Instructions require you to fly a flag acknowledging that you broke a rule, instead of doing turns.
If you start too soon, keep clear of others until you get behind the line again.
(Rules 20 and 29)
See the complete list maintained by the ISAF. These are some of the lesser known or often confused definitions.
FETCHING THE MARK. A boat is “fetching the mark”, when she can continue to sail on the tack she is on, make the mark and round it on the required side.
FINISH. A boat finishes when any part of her hull, or crew or equipment in normal position, crosses the finishing line in the direction of the course from the last mark, either for the first time or after taking a penalty under rule 31.2 or 44.2 or, under rule 28.1, after correcting an error made at the finishing line.
KEEPING CLEAR. One boat keeps clear of another if the other can sail her course with no need to take avoiding action and, when the boats are overlapped on the same tack, if the leeward boat can change course in both directions without immediately making contact with the windward boat.
OVERLAPPED. One boat is clear astern of another when her hull and equipment in normal position are behind a line abeam from the aftermost point of the other boat’s hull and equipment in normal position. The other boat is clear ahead. They overlap when neither is clear astern. However, they also overlap when a boat between them overlaps both. These terms do not apply to boats on opposite tacks unless rule 18 applies. [Editor's note: For more on Rule 18, see below on passing marks and obstructions.]
PROPER COURSE. A course a boat would sail to finish as soon as possible in the absence of the other boats referred to in the rule using the term. A boat has no proper course before her starting signal. [Editor's note: Sometimes boats are required to sail their proper course, but sometimes for tactical reasons they are allowed to deviate from their proper course.]
ROOM. The space a boat needs in the existing conditions while manoeuvring promptly in a seamanlike way. [Editor's note: Sometimes boats are required to give room, but sometimes not.]