Gladlee of Guernsey
January 1997 - September 1997
Thursday 2nd January, 60 miles off the Somali coast at 4ºN
Early morning, and conditions have improved a bit over the past 24 hours or so. 1996 finished with a particularly nasty sea running in wind up to F6, which meant that Nigel got next to no sleep before he came back on watch at midnight - fortunately things calmed down considerably after we’d put in a gybe. In the course of the day Julie had successfully serviced the autopilot drive unit, which had started slipping (very tedious if that packed up), and we’d made an unsuccessful attempt to set the main goose-winged (the main was OK, but without the pole we couldn’t have the genoa as well). To mark the year’s end we decided to open Liz of “Northern Shadow”‘s farewell present, a mysterious gift-wrapped scroll which was to be resorted to when things were looking really black and we needed cheering up - it turned out to be an issue of “Hello!” starring Princess Diana! It was also good, after unsuccessful attempts on Sunday, to get straight through to Jo on the radio and also to have a few words with Robin. The last four hours of the old year reduced us to under 4 knots for the first time since leaving Raysut, but 1997 started more promisingly: we made 20 miles during the four hours after midnight and worked up to better than 6 knots by midday. This wasn’t due to any dramatic improvement in “Gladlee” ‘s sailing qualities, rather to an easing of the sea conditions coupled with the appearance at last of a favourable Somali Current - it’s a considerable relief to confirm that the Admiralty Pilot’s right and Tony Britchford wrong! We’re still rolling around a bit, but there seem to be fewer of the rogue waves which kept knocking us off our heading and producing the worst of the lurches: we can’t quite make our course, but at this speed it doesn’t matter if we wander a few miles off track on one tack or the other.
Julie’s system has still not adapted to the conditions - she is only really comfortable when horizontal - but at least watch-keeping is a good deal easier than it was. She celebrated New Year’s Day by putting a fishing line out this morning and immediately hooking a fair-sized mahi-mahi, so apart from a corned beef salad at lunchtime we have yet to resort to our stock of canned food. A large school of dolphins has just turned up (only just visible with the moon behind clouds, but their squeaking is clearly audible from the cabin), and a couple of small whales cruised sedately past this afternoon.
Monday 6th January, 90 miles ENE of Lamu
Not far to go - indeed, we’re getting there a bit too quickly (our ETA is currently sometime tonight!). Apart from a few patches of heavy swell and a few hours of F5/6 last night our progress has been a good deal more comfortable, and a couple of afternoons have been really quite pleasant on deck. Nigel’s taken the opportunity to splice a bridle and painter on to the new dinghy, and Julie, though still not very comfortable, has started on repairs to the sail cover. Otherwise the only event of any note (apart from five gybes in four days) was our crossing of the Equator on Saturday evening, though we decided to save the Turkish champagne we’d brought to celebrate the event! We put through a brief phone call to Molly and Bernard yesterday evening: after ticking off Monaco Radio’s operator for hogging the frequency (and drowning out Portishead) Nigel made the best of a bad job by routing the call through her - apologies all round afterwards!
Our watch-keeping routine has evolved into the reverse of our usual one, and it seems to have worked quite well: Julie takes the first night watch; Nigel comes on between midnight and 0100, stays up for our morning radio contact with Tony Britchford, then gets 2-3 hours’ rest before lunch; Julie rests again during the afternoon, and we try to get supper out of the way by about 19.00 so that Nigel can get another 4-5 hours’ sleep before his night watch. It’s surprising how well the system adapts to sleep in smaller doses once the body’s routine is established.
Wednesday 8th January, off Shela, Lamu Island
We made a rather leisurely approach to Shela in the end, shortening sail overnight on Monday and drifting along on the current at 2-3 knots through the night until we raised Manda Island shortly before dawn yesterday. Julie had a good night’s sleep and felt better than for some time as we closed the shore, clearing the entrance channel around low water and catching the first of the making tide up the channel to Lamu (we certainly picked the wrong channel east of Peponi’s Hotel, but got away with it!). The scenery was lovely, with mangroves on the banks either side, the trim white buildings of Lamu in the distance and agile small dhows whizzing up and down between the shallows. We made it up to anchor off Lamu without incident, later accepting a lift ashore from a local boat to check in with immigration, Customs and the port authority, the first two tucked away in improbable corners of old stone buildings in town - it was sad to hear a nice young Customs official confess that he had nothing at all to do all day. The proceedings could hardly have been less formal (we didn’t put pen to paper once), and we were soon in the long multinational queue at the bank, where Nigel’s bent Connect card surprisingly proved acceptable for £100-worth of Kenyan shillings. After a short stroll along the narrow streets behind the waterfront we shopped at the market (meat rather stomach-churning, on the whole, but we found some excellent spinach and mangoes, as well as a chicken - the latter almost inedible, as it turned out!) and then made our way back to “Gladlee”. It was nice to get an excellent connection with Jo through Portishead to reassure families at home that we were safely in harbour.
Quiet day today - we got the dinghy pumped up and Julie ran Nigel ashore to post letters and pick up some shopping. Being in a relatively confined space the afternoon breeze seemed quite fresh as we upped anchor and moved down the channel to anchor off Shela, but it wasn’t really anything more than we’d had for the previous fortnight. At 24 hours’ more distance the passage down feels like less of an ordeal than it did at the time being, but the first ten days, in particular, were certainly no fun at all for either of us.
Monday 13th January, off Shela
Perspectives have changed rather drastically over the last few days, since Nigel suffered an epileptic seizure on Thursday morning. This has been building up (had we known the symptoms) for some time, and the chest “cramps” which should have signalled an impending crisis had occurred once or twice a day since our arrival in Lamu. On Thursday morning he went back to bed after a couple of mild attacks and his condition deteriorated rapidly, to the point where he became incoherent and eventually unconscious. Julie tried unsuccessfully to raise a doctor at Peponi’s on VHF but was heard by Viviana, the Colombian girl on “Prima Santa Lucia” anchored just up the way. She came over with her French fellow-crew Frederick and managed to help manoeuvre Nigel on to Peponi’s launch, thence via a rough ride to Lamu quay where a Dr. Rogers met us. The doctor diagnosed a mild epileptic fit and had Nigel moved to a small clinic up the way, where N improved after taking some drugs. Later we managed to get out for a light supper, but we both stayed the night in the clinic.
Since then Nigel has steadily improved and got his brain back together, to the point where we’ve walked into town and back today along the coastal path, done some shopping, checked out and settled our account with the good “Dr Rogers” (whose real name appears to be Benjamin Juma!). We had planned to set off for Kilifi this afternoon, but by the time we’d sorted things out in town it was getting a bit late to catch the tide. After an abortive search for a suitable Kenyan courtesy ensign Julie has surpassed her previous efforts by making one, and she’s also marked the dinghy to the extent that it’s perhaps slightly less likely to get pinched!
Wednesday 15th January, Kilifi Creek
We made our way into Kilifi this morning and are moored on one of Tony Britchford’s buoys, with a view right across the wide expanse of water which forms the inner part of this lovely anchorage. A new road bridge spans the relatively narrow channel which leads in from the sea between pleasantly wooded slopes, but the shoreline hasn’t yet been spoiled by over-development and the whole is remarkably reminiscent of the Devon or Cornish coast. There is lots of bird life and Julie is enthralled. We have called on the Britchfords at their house over-looking the anchorage: they enjoy providing facilities for visiting yachts, entertained us to beers and a scratch lunch, and briefed us on local arrangements. Daphne has set about looking into flights back to UK for us, and Julie was able to put through a brief call to her Dad. We think we might persuade ourselves to stay around here for some time!
The passage down from Lamu was relatively straightforward, though we had to motor for quite a while at either end with no significant wind about: this morning we actually had a light WNW breeze and drizzle as we approached the coast, after rounding the Malindi Bank and dodging a few trawlers in the course of the night. It was noticeable how quickly the sea kicked up as soon as the breeze got over 20 knots or so (the conditions we’d had for much of the time coming down from Salalah), but for most of the run we had a comfortable enough reach with a couple of reefs in the main.
Sunday 19th January, Kilifi Creek
We will set out on a long journey tomorrow (bus from Mombasa to Nairobi, flight to Dubai and on from there to London), though we shall at least be spared the matatu to Mombasa, thanks to a lift in Daphne’s pick-up. It’s taken us the best part of a couple of days to get the boat shut down, as clean and tidy as possible and with all movable electronic kit and other valuables removed to the Britchfords’ “dry room”. Francis and Ginette from “Decibel” came over for farewell coffee and mince pies this morning: they’re anchored off Dick Mason’s boatyard further down the creek. The “Decibel”s were obviously disappointed to discover how they’d been misled about the Britchfords’ facilities and were enchanted by the anchorage and house (Tony and Daphne couldn’t have been more welcoming in spite of the lack of a common language!). We’ve been up to the house this evening to crack the bottle of Turkish “champagne” we brought for our crossing of the Line and to present the Britchfords with the last two mince pies - any ice there might have been at the beginning with them has been well and truly broken.
Daphne took us into Kilifi village on Thursday (it’s virtually impossible to get there under our own steam, so she expects to provide the service!), we went down the creek in the afternoon for tea with the “Decibel”s and were eventually invited to a scratch supper at the house with Keith, skipper of a large chartered motor yacht moored nearby off the Sea Horse Hotel. We went into Mombasa on Friday to buy air and bus tickets and visit the market (some excellent fruit and veg, including delicious fresh peas), failed to find any lunch and ended up getting a snack in Kilifi before calling Daphne out to pick us up. We were getting supper ready when Keith turned up with a package for the Britchfords (he was off with a party of Germans early next morning) and stayed for a glass of wine: later we were just about to turn in when Keith’s boatman appeared with an invitation to join his party at the Sea Horse. Never known to turn down a drink, we subjected ourselves to a fairly dreary couple of hours with Keith’s party and didn’t get to bed until well after midnight. Nigel at last got all our Red Sea notes printed out on Saturday (copy for Tony much appreciated), and we managed to sort out various other bits of necessary admin before going away. Meanwhile Kilifi continues to enchant: there’s enough cloud about to make the daytime not too oppressive, the nights are quiet, and the surrounding scenery is lovely. The Britchfords’ hospitality is the icing on the cake: the house is always open, we are expected for beers in the evening, and we have a key to the shower and loo below their guest house on the beach.
Tuesday 4th March, Kilifi Creek
We arrived back at Kilifi a couple of days ago after a 30-odd hour journey back from London to Nairobi, where we stayed a couple of nights before getting a bus straight through to Kilifi. Apart from a tedious 12-hour stopover at Dubai the journey to Nairobi was painless enough, thanks to the excellent service (as on the outward journey) from Emirates airline. We spent most of our time in Nairobi looking for a hotel where we could watch the England-France Rugby international on our second evening - the place we eventually found was considerably more expensive and less welcoming than the place we’d stayed on our first night, and England lost into the bargain......... Otherwise Nairobi was pretty forgettable, and the bus journeys to and from the coast only notable for the odd sighting of game as we passed through Tsavo National Park.
After various expensive medical consultations in London Nigel has been told to report back for further scrutiny in six months’ time. This puts paid to our original plan to set off for Madagascar in June or thereabouts, but with luck we may still be able to get to South Africa by the end of this year, and we hope to have a short cruise down to Tanzania before we return to UK in July. Meanwhile we expect to meet up with James and friends at Mtwapa Creek in a fortnight’s time. There’s a lot of cleaning and tidying to be done before the boat’s in a fit state for that reunion: although she’s in quite good shape inside (and surprisingly dry), the deck and rigging are pretty filthy again. It’s certainly good to be back on board, and we have quite a lot of company now. “Alouette” is here, last seen at Hurghada, as well as another British boat, two Australians, a New Zealander and one each from the USA, Holland, Italy and Germany. Unfortunately we missed a barbecue at Tony and Daphne’s the night before we got back, but we are gradually meeting the newcomers as we encounter each other on the beach. It’s quite hot, but for the last couple of days there’s been a steady easterly breeze and we’ve been quite comfortable getting acclimatised again. Daphne and Tony have made it clear that we’re welcome to stay as long as we like, so at least we know that we have a safe base whatever we choose to do.
Saturday 15th March, Kilifi to Mtwapa
Tomorrow we set of the short distance south to Mtwapa Creek, where we expect to meet James, Iris and the rest of the ex-King’s Canterbury crowd, who we assume are somewhere in Kenya!
Saturday 22nd March, Kilifi
We’ve had a fairly uneventful ten days at Kilifi, mainly taken up with getting the boat back into presentable condition, but we’ve also got to know some of our new neighbours a little better.
Two days ago we invited Mike off “Tenacious” (ex-British Army, subsequently settled in NZ, now n his way back to UK) to an evening beer to talk about the Red Sea. On the spur of the moment we also included John off “Unicorn” (American writer, jack-of-all trades and drop-out), and the result was a session which continued until after midnight and accounted for about 18 of our beers - we’d have offered them something to eat, but all we had was some part-prepared goat stew which didn’t seem very suitable for guests! We also had a less boozy but very pleasant afternoon with Nick and Sue of “Alouette”, the smallest boat in the anchorage, which must present quite a challenge to live on, let alone sail down the Red Sea and across the Indian Ocean. We’ve got to know Tony and Daphne better and are always made most welcome if we pop up to the house for an evening beer. The rest of the community at anchor seems pleasant enough without promising to become particular friends - the Italians (“Gabbiano Felice”) are a cheerful lot with a cute little dog, the German family on “Carlot” are slightly unusual in that Cordelia (good news) skippers the boat while Gerhard supervises the boys’ education, Dennis (Derek?) on “Catnapper” sounds a bit of a bore, the Dutch on “Aiolus” seem to be a non-event and the Aussies aren’t here. Still, it’s quite nice to have a few people around to pass the time of day with as we go ashore to get water, have a shower, do some laundry or share the back of Daphne’s truck for a shopping trip into town.
We had a longer stroll off the beach a week ago to see if we could get a good photo-angle off the bluff which overlooks our anchorage to the east. This brought us into contact with Robin and Gail Outram, who own the house on the bluff and were very welcoming and friendly once they’d discovered we weren’t German tourists! Robin was in the tea business and knew the Monkhouses years ago, which also provided a connection which helped break the ice. They have satellite TV and Robin is a Rugby fanatic, so there may be several reasons to get to know them better....... Otherwise the only break from our cleaning up routine was a trip into Mombasa last Monday, mainly to find a reasonable rate for a hired jeep to take us to Tsavo game park in three weeks’ time (we’ve booked one of the “bandas” there that James and Iris enjoyed so much last year). Mombasa certainly isn’t a place we’d want to linger in longer than necessary, but we did at least find a well-stocked supermarket on the far side of town (helpful advice from “Unicorn”).