We came here to explore, in between jobs and none of us had a time limit. We didn’t take long to say yes to this crazy adventure, we planned nothing and had no idea where to go next. Carelessly optimistic, there was not even the slightest doubt in my mind. I was truly excited, looking forward to this Journey.
That night we heard so many howling monkeys in the trees, it felt as if they were in the boat with us. We really hoped they can’t swim.
We came from a place where we try to be very efficient, minimum effort and maximum gain. Time is money. It is interesting to see the use of manpower over machines where labor is abundant. One day we snorkeled the gaps when a big Dhow packed with people came. As she got closer we saw 40! Or so people on board, PIRATES? We kept our knives close to us when the big Dhow circled an area next to us. Suddenly they jumped in the water one by one, each with a big buoy in his arms. When they pulled back the nets each man climbed onboard with his buoy. It was an odd sight to see, we have no idea what was the plan, and we know it was fishing.
We sailed on a low tide in between some nice coral heads and I was on the lookout. I slacked on my watch and talked to David at the helm. 5 seconds later we found ourselves stuck on top of a big coral head. We dove in to estimate our situation. Our boats’ keel sat perfectly on a slit in the coral head, just like god crafted this slit for Tawfiq. As the tide was still going out we could not get Tawfiq off the reef. She was in a safe position, so we climbed aboard to cook breakfast. The tide tables showed that we had at least two more hours of backgammon until we can get back to sailing.
The local ferries between the small islets and Pemba are 6-8m canoes. They pack 10- 20 passengers like sardines inside. The water around Pemba Island are very shallow. The captains propel their boats with the help of a big branch that pushes the seabed.
Sailing again, we see a squall in the horizon and sail until we cannot avoid him. We float and let the wind decide on which shore we be washed and wait for the sun. We don’t worry for scratching the boat or other yacht worries. This is a boat we can afford to put in many tests.
With the squall passing us already we aim to the port town of Wete. Wete is the big town in the north with a population of 30,000 people. the port has an arm like breakwater.
When we entered everybody stopped whatever they were doing and stared at the dhow with the 5 white strangers. We went ashore and everybody smiled at us, the port police took his time to register our appearance in the port papers. A can of soft drink sped our check in.
Whenever we go ashore we must leave someone on board because upon returning we might not find the boat or find it naked to the wood. We went on to buy food and meet with civilization at last. The town is quiet and the people are very friendly.
Since we used our outboard engine on the morning of our arrival we needed to stock up with more gasoline. At the gas station we bought oil bottles and filled our tank. All that while a person stood patiently next to us. He waited for us to finish with the oil bottles so he can take the empty ones. This is what we call efficiency, in Africa nothing goes to waste.
Coming up: sailing a mangrove treetop labyrinth, blood infection, frightening hospital and nice Cuban doctors dripping sweat on my open wound. Which member of our team will go back home?