Kathryn Costello, wife of Port St John’s Station Commander John, recently visited Kilwa Bay in Tanzania. And became part of a rescue. This is her story.
If the place that you’re boating in doesn’t have any rescue facilities, and you develop a problem, what do you do?
Here, in SA, the NSRI is so synonymous with the sea – with pleasure cruises going wrong, shipping disasters and any other water orientated ill that may be befall a hapless person, that we don’t even think twice about it – calling the NSRI is a given.
But, what happens in countries where is no such thing as the NSRI? And where considerate seamanship doesn’t seem to exist? Where, if you get into trouble, you’re on your own?
In Tanzania, in Kilwa Bay, I unexpectedly became part of a rescue. There was nothing dramatic about it, there was no danger to any person, but if our boat hadn’t come along when we did, and passed close enough to be within shouting distance, the thirty odd people on the stranded boat would probably have spent the night on a remote sandbank.
Kilwa Bay, in southern Tanzania, is a vast expanse of water. Several islands lie in this bay, islands on which some of Africa’s most fascinating ruins lie. The two largest, Kilwa Kisiwani and Songo Mnara, have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And the deep sea fishing is renowned, with couple of lodges having opened, specialising in this sport. But if history or fishing isn’t your cup of tea, there isn’t much reason to visit this remote area of Africa.
So here we were returning to Kilwa Masoko, the town on the mainland, from Songo Mnara on an old tub of a dhow-ish boat, under sail, with all the time in the world, reflecting on the fascinating ruins which in the 11th century, and for another two hundred years had been a thriving city port.
We passed another old sail boat, which was stationery. I liked the colours of the people’s clothing, and started taking photographs. A shout went up, and our skipper answered, but didn’t seem interested. I actually thought that the shout had been directed at my photo taking – that once again, I was in trouble for photographing people without their permission. The exchange carried on, and eventually, the other boat skipper started shouting ‘mafuta mafuta’, which is petrol in Swahili.
It turned that the spark plugs weren’t functioning, and being stuck on the sand bar, they couldn’t use the sail either. When they asked for help, our skipper was totally unhelpful, until the offer of their petrol was made. We came up alongside them, a line was thrown, and they were pulled off the bank, and up to us. Before our skipper would move off, all the petrol had to be transferred to our boat. No Sir – there was no trust there!
So with the petrol transferred (by crew members with lit cigarettes), we towed them, and another little boat, that claimed a free ride, all the way to Kilwa Masoko town, only slipping the tow rope as we neared the jetty.
Thank goodness for the NSRI here in SA – imagine if the NSRI behaved like that and demanded upfront payment before helping? And thank you to all the donors who make the NSRI possible.