East African sailing trip – Log 71

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November 19, 2004

Long before the sun peers over the Ras Nungwi horizon, we head towards Pemba Island, a crossing of approximately 20nm. The swells are about 1.5mt high, rolling in from the North East. The air is still, forcing us to motor all the way to Mesali Island. We arrive at 2:00pm. It is another scorching hot day spent moving around the boat following whatever shade we are able to find, but still managing to get sunburnt.

There is no lady-like way to describe the way the rivers of perspiration pour off my body. Without the wind we are constantly wet and sticky. We drink cold water from our fridge every 30 minutes which effectively cools us down for a few minutes. There is not a cloud in the sky, not a breath of wind, no reprieve from the merciless ball of fire above. We are irritable and ratty snapping at each other out of frustration.

We are surrounded by beautiful clear blue water but it as tepid as bath-water and ultra-salty leaving us sticky and uncomfortable. We have given up jumping in to cool off. Even at anchor we have no inclination to swim or snorkel – it is just too hot!

Instead we stay inside sitting with the fans blowing straight onto us. Mesali is the jewel of Pemba Island, its rich coral reef has been declared a marine reserve.  

At 4:30pm Wolf decides to move away from the beach where some locals and a handful of tourists from a few small boats are frolicking in the surf. We move about 20mts into slightly deeper water and instantly we are approached by 2 locals motoring towards us in one of the small skiffs. The leader announces that they are there to collect $20 dollars from us for the yacht and $5 for each of us per day for anchoring in the Marine Reserve.
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Wolf refuses to pay and says we will move out of the reserve. We hurriedly look around for another anchorage. Across the Chake Chake Bay we spot another yacht and decide to cross over to join her. As we get closer they disappear behind an Island. We find ourselves in 3 mts of water, and by this time the sun is plummeting towards the horizon. We are committed and have to go forward. The depth is rising quickly. I am at the helm and Wolf is standing on the bow…

“1.5 meters,” I shout to him. He indicates to turn slightly to port, I obey.

“1.2 meters,” I call back… a little more to port – ok  – now hard to starboard…

We need 1 meter to float… we suck in – trying subconsciously to lighten the load and Karibu is guided through coral heads and over the reef. The sun is setting – soon it will be dark we must reach the channel soon, or else… we daren’t think about the alternative – the tide is waning. We focus and keep edging forward towards the island in the distance.

“1.5 meters… 1.7meters… 2 meters… 5 meters…. Shhheew we’ve made it – we are off the reef!” I yell.

We open the throttles and motor like crazy… We drop the anchor a few minutes later, in a gorgeous bay; a watery display of brilliant reds, oranges and everything in between; reflections from the spectacular sunset. A single palm tree stands tall on the white beach; nothing spoils the pristine solitude of this untouched oasis.

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