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Pierre van Rooyen

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Zanzibar, Tanga, Mombassa, Kilifi by sailing boat.

Faith and I decided not to go into Dar Es Salaam as we feared the boat would be looted, so chose the small dhow port of Tanga instead.

From there, we sailed to Mombassa where an immigration official made me wait three hours before checking us in. Apparently he wanted a bribe and I didn’t understand his hints. A health official had already taken us for the equivalent of thirty rand and gave me all sorts of excuses when I queried him.

Finding a pass in the offshore reefs of Kenya proved a headache. Our chart was small-scale and did not show the Kilifi pass. Also, we were
blinded by the late afternoon sun, the markers on the shore were a
mile away and too small to see with the naked eye.

From a pilot book, we knew what the pass latitude was. So Faith crouched on the foredeck with our binoculars trying to keep the markers in line, while I sailed us toward the reef, trying to keep us exactly on the latitude.

But the East African current was sweeping us northwards, so we crabbed in sideways under sail, me screaming my head off at the rapidly shoaling water (from over a hundred metres to only seven) and Faith urging me to keep aiming at a pass I could not see. Ha,ha, we made it.

Kilifi is quite a hideaway. One reaches an outside lagoon from the sea. Not so easy as large offshore reefs ptotect the lagoon and one has to look for the pass. All under sail. But then there is an inner creek
behind the sea-front which is all ‘inland’.

We anchored in the creek for a month and on the way back to South
Africa, spent a couple of weeks exploring the Mafia Islands which lie
south of Zanzibar, offshore of the Rufiji River delta.

Wilbur Smith’s Shout at the Devil took place on the Rufiji.

From there, it was a ten day-and-night sail to South Africa. Just us two kids on board swapping three hour watches day and night. Wow, is that tiring.

This is the link to Faith’s diary.



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