Jill's African Adventure
* Rafting the Nile
* Murchison Falls
* A Day in The Life
* Hell's Gate
* Nairobi and Around (Part 2)
* Nairobi and Around (Part 1)
* A Dhow Trip From Lamu
* Watamu: Ruins, Monkeys, Shrews, and Jellyfish
* Hiking in Lushoto
* Changing E-mail Address
* The Problems of Itete
* Village Life
* Hanging Out in Dar
* Zanzibar - Music Festival & Prison Island
* Zanzibar (Jozani Forest & Jambiani)
* Zanzibar (Stone Town & Spice Tour)
* Future Plans
* Safari!!! (Part 7 - Mikumi Park)
* Safari!!! (Parts 5 & 6 -- Rodent and Itete)
April 12, 2005
A Dhow Trip From Lamu
I recently spent a few days on Lamu, an island off the coast of Kenya. It is very similar to Zanzibar, but not as touristy and instead of cars on the island, people travel via donkey. It was a mostly good visit, but the beach boys were rather bothersome, so it wasn't as good as it could have been.
There were two highlighs to my stay stay on Lamu: I met up there with another traveller, Pam, who I had met earlier in Watamu. I got to have dinner with the same person three nights in a row!!!! Pam is 60 something year old Australian who has been all over the world, has lots of great stories, and has been travelling around East Africa for the last three and a half months. The other highlight of Lamu was the dhow trip I took with Pam. Here is the story:
Pam and I met up early in the morning to head out on our dhow trip. The plan was to do sail through some channels, do some snorkelling, have lunch, and be back on Lamu around 2:30 or so. We met up with our captain (Mun) and crew (Kazim) and were soon out on the water.
The boat was much bigger than the dhow I went out on in Zanzibar. I would guess (for what little my guesses in such matters are worth) that the boat was about 15 - 20 feet long and about 5 or so feet wide).
The sailing at first was rather smooth. We headed northeast toward Manda Island and the mainland. The crossing toward Manda was fairly quick, at least in my memory. Sometimes the dhow was at an angle that I was less than completely comportable with, but Mun just said "hakuna matata" and all was well.
We soon sailed into a channel. The cannel was partially man made. Used to be taht the area couldn't be trasversed at low tide, but they (whoever "they" are) dug, piling up the soil and planting mangrove trees on it and deepening the channel. The wind was against us in the channel, so Mun and Kazim has us sticking to the side of the channel and used long poles pushed into the ground to propel us forward. It therefore took us quite some tmie to get out of the channel and back into the more or less open sea. When we did we could see the small island of Manda Toto off to our right and there was a patch of calm water in front of us where a coral reef was and where it was quite shallow.
We dropped anchor and it was time to go snorkelling. My mask was leaking, alas, and I ended up going back to the boat. After a little while Pam came back for me and taught me a wonderful little trick: when first putting your mask into the water, press it into your face and breathe in with your nose. This helped immensely. Pam then cut me no slack, made me follow her into the water and out to the reef -- exactly what I needed. Unfortunatley visibility was terrible. I saw zebra fish, some blue and yellow fish, and some bright bule ones, but, unfortunately, it was hard to see much of anything and the colors did not come through nearly as brilliantly as I know they actually were. Mainly due to the horrendous visibility netiher of us stayed out in the water very long. While we had been snorkelling the boys had caught our lunch: mostly yellow snapper.
We then sailed on until we reached the area where we would be eating -- Manda Island I think. We jumped out of the boat into water with more than ankle-deep mud and waded into shore, walked through a little mud, and then hastily put our sandals on as we walked off the mud onto the burning hot sand. We were pleased to find that there was a thatched-roof shade that had been built so that we wouldn't be directly under the oh-so-hot sun.
The boys put a woven mat down for us to sit on and then got busy preparing our lunch. Which took, oh, a good hour or so -- quite possibly a lot longer. By the time it was done we were really hungry. Happily, the food was good enough to be worth the wait. The fish was - well, fish, nothing really special, but the rest of the food -- yum yum!! We had coconut rice with a sauce with tomato paste, coconut juice and spices. In it were cabbage, potatoes, and carrots. One of the best meals I had eaten in a long time.
After eating lunch we went back to the dhom. We had to wade out a lot further than we waded in because the tide had risen quite significantly.
I was expecting the ride back to be smoth sailing and, infact, a little quicker than the ride out because the wind was supposed to be with us in the channel maning that the boys would not have to propel us by poling. And, in fact, the wind was with us and the boys did not have to pole. We weren't exactly going fast, but that was okay.
And then the seas got a bit rough. Instead of just saying "hakuna matata" and looking bemused whenever I seemed concerned about the angle of the dhow the boys started moving quickly to cahnge things with concentrated looks on their faces.
For a while - probably 5 or 10 minutes we were cutting back and forth, changing direction, the dhow at an angle conducive to letting water in over the side, as the wind pushed us backwards. Pam was on the rudder and the boys were adjusting the sail and ropes and other such things. Now, the dhow can be sailed by just two people but in rough seas it must be quite difficult. At one point the boys were off doing whatever it is they do, Pam was on the rudder and I was holding a rope. All necessary -- I'm not sure how the boys would have managed on their own.
In any case, we eventually ended up edging along the mangrove lined shores of Manda Island, which is to the east of Lamu. Pam was on the rudder and the boys, having brought down the siail, were back to moving us with good old-fashioned muscled by poling for what seemed quite a while. My contribution was some bailing out of the water at the bottom of the dhow.
We eventually made it to the shore opposite Lamu and the sail came back up and we headed out into open water. The seas were, for the most part not as rough, but not exactly smooth either. Lucky Kazim go to help keep the dhow from capsizing by acting as a counter weight, perched out on an angled, narrow, wooden plank.
I will try to describe the whole plank scenario with words, which, I am afraid will be inadequate. Rest assured, though, that they will paint a better picture than the sketch I attempted to draw in my journal... The inside of the dhow is not smooth. There are "ribs" for lack of a better term which come further in than the main hull walls. A long plank, about the length of the boat can be wedged under one of these ribs in the lower part of the dhow and rested on top of the side of the boat, wedged into place. In this way, the plank which is, I think, a little wider tahn a standard balance beam, is at an angle of, oh, lets say about 30 degrees, with a good 4 or 5 feet hanging out over the water.
Now, when the wind is blowing hard into the sail the dhow tilts. If it tilts too much the edge dips down into the water and water comes into the boat. If it tilts more, logic dictates that the boat will capsize.
In addition to the four of us in the dhow we had sandbags which could be moved around to act as counter-weights against the wind. Alas, this was not sufficient for the blustery wind that was blowing that afternoon. This is where Kazim and the plank come in. One of Kazim's jobs was to perch out on the plank as a counter balance. The harder the wind blew the closer to the end of the plank he went, one hand on a thin rope, the other on the plank, the wind pitching the dhow from side to side. For most of the next hour or two Kazim scurried back and forth up and down - mostly up - the plank, providing the essential weight that kept the opposite side of our vessel just above the water. Mostly. Happily, Kazim never lost his balance and we all stayed mostly dry. Although, I do not think Kazim particularly liked the whole arrangement.
But this was not the end of our problems - oh no. We needed to go southwest. The wind felt that we should go only northwest or southeast. So, we went northwest, sourtheast, northwest, southeast, northwest. And I may well be missing a cycle. For a long time we were zig-zagging back and forth, never quite headed to our destination, seeing Lamu town directly to the west as we headed southeast, the boys joking that they were taking us to Madagascar.
All this zig-zagging back and forth took a lot of work. The boat had to be tacked everytime we changed direction, and quickly. Kazim would scurry down from his perch on the plank to start working on the sail. As soon as he was down, Mun would move the plank to overhang the other side of the dhow and would then loosen the rope that kept the sail on one side and move it to the other side. While this was going on Pam and I also had to switch sides of the dhow. It wounds easy at first, but the boat was moving from side to side and we had to manage to stay out of the way of each other, the rudder, the ropes, the sail, the sailors, and not fall into the sea.
Once all that was done, the sail was catching wind, tilting the boat, but the boys still had work to do. Kazim would pull the sail taught into place and while he was holding it Mun would secure it with the rope. Mun would then take over the rudder and Kazim would scurry back up the plank. This all had to happen very quickly so that Kazim could be out on his perch keeping us upright before a strong gust of wind blew us over.
There was still one more treat in store for Pam and I on our final sail back into Lamu: the boys managed to put us directly in the path of another dhow. An inevitable collision could clearly be concluded by all present, but only Pam and I seemed concerned. We connected with a nice thud. The boys and the man in the other dhow had a good laugh and we were soon on our way and back in Lamu.
Posted by Jillian on April 12, 2005 08:40 AM
Category: East Africa
Email this page