Re: All Alone in the Sine-Saloum

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Thu 12 Nov 2009 17:36
Position: 13:59.766N 016:41.798W

Date: 12 November 2009


At first light yesterday morning, the rally fleet weighed their anchors and one by one drifted down the river to return to Dakar. Colin and I had the luxury of staying on a few more days in the delta. As the last boat left, we found ourselves alone – the only yacht in this vast delta. Complete peace in this magical paradise. After the hyper-activity of the previous days we enjoyed a lazy morning, me writing my belated blogs. When the heat of the day was diminishing we went ashore for a long walk in the partially wooded salt flats behind the camp adding yet more previously unseen birds to our tally. There was some tension as Colin recorded his 49th species. Then, a flash of light off the underside of a wing, a soaring bird suddenly plummeting to the ground – a Grey Kestrel – number 50. Colin solemnly went down on one knee as I presented him with a Mina2 Gold Star – one of the highest accolades in the cruising world. Colin wept at the sheer emotion of the moment, whilst I maintained my sang-froid (you see, even when the French fleet has departed it keeps on rushing out).


We returned to the boat shortly before sunset and headed across the river to a bolong – a narrow creek lined with mangroves and mud flats. Even though it was near high water we had some difficulty in gaining entry to the bolong as there was a mud bar at the entrance but eventually we found a route through with about 1.5 metres depth below the keel. We went up the bolong for perhaps half a mile and anchored. (If you go into Google Earth and put in the exact latitude and longitude as above, you should be able to see precisely where we were). The creek was very narrow so we put out our stern anchor out as well to stop us from swinging into the bank at half water and ending up on our side. Sitting in the cockpit, all alone in the middle of a mangrove swamp with the stars shining down on us from an inky black sky was wonderful.


Before first light we were up, packing our rucksacks for our next adventure. Into the dinghy and we motored slowly up the full length of the bolong, birds of every variety scattering as we approached. When at the top of the bolong we switched the engine off and drifted, identifying a further two species for our list.


We had calculated that high water would be about 8am and I wanted to get out of the bolong before 8.30am – if we found that we were unable to cross the bar at the entrance on a falling tide, we would be stuck there for 24 hours. There are worse places in the world to be stuck, but we wanted to cram in a few more explorations and adventures before we had to leave. About 20 minutes sooner than we had expected, we noticed that some mudflats were appearing and that the surface water had started flowing out of the bolong. We hurried back to the boat to find a strongish current was now pushing the boat sideways, pinned by the stern anchor. We raised the stern anchor into the dinghy, and piled all the webbing anchor line on top of it, rushed back to the boat as she swung round, mercifully missing the steeply shelving bank by inches, weighed the main anchor and careered down the ebbing bolong towards the entrance, towing the dinghy behind us. The gap in the bar was exceedingly narrow and we missed it by a foot or two. We were aground in a strong current and on a falling tide. I put the engine hard astern. What I hadn’t seen was that a small bight of the webbing anchor line in the dinghy had flopped over the side and rapidly started pulling all the webbing into the water. As we started easing backwards off the sand bank, there was a graunching sound and then a crack. We had caught the webbing line round the propeller and it had snapped. I re-engaged gear, praying that the webbing wound round the prop shaft would not prevent the propeller from working. Thank God, all seemed OK. We backed off the bar, found the gap and were soon in the deeper water of the river. We anchored and Colin went over the side with flippers, goggles and snorkel to investigate the damage. The rope cutter on the prop shaft had clearly done its job – there was no trace of webbing anywhere. No need for Colin to go down with a knife between his teeth and cut away the webbing.


There was a past Commodore of the Royal Cruising Club who once said “Members of the Club seem to have a great ability to get themselves out of difficult situations which they should never have found themselves in in the first place”. He has a point.


As I type, we have just anchored a further four miles up the river in between two islands. On one of them, we have been told, is a colony of red monkeys. We will be going ashore soon to investigate.