Rejoining the rally in Dakar

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Mon 16 Nov 2009 13:30

Position: 14:39.93N 017:25.68W

Date: 15 November 2009


On Friday afternoon we motored 8 miles back down the river and anchored off the fishing village of Djifer and went for yet another bird-watching walk in the woods. A few days earlier I had received an email from my daughter, Selina, who told me in no uncertain terms that if I was buying mementos of the trip for myself, then she jolly well expected me to buy some nick-nacks for her as well. Her mother, the Absent Downstairs Skipper, is not particularly grasping so I simply cannot understand where Selina gets this rather unattractive materialistic streak from. Anyway, to avoid future tantrums (she’s full of unattractive traits) I went into the village and found someone who made bits of jewellery from whatever was lying around, and negotiated a rock bottom price for a necklace. It’s horribly cheap and tacky, but it will do for Selina.


After an early night, at first light we weighed anchor and made our way to the shallow pass which would lead us from behind the peninsula into the open sea and to the 60-mile passage northeast back to Dakar. The pass having been created only a few years ago after a violent storm washed a chunk of the peninsula away, it is uncharted, unlit, unmarked and has shifting sandbanks. At places it is very shallow and a strong tide rip sluices across it. Our entry on our arrival was made possible only by being escorted through in convoy by a local fishing boat. This time we were alone so it was with some trepidation that we edged towards the pass. On our way in I had recorded on our electronic chart our position at 10 second intervals, giving us a track which we were now following in reverse. With one eye on the chart plotter and the other eye on the depth sounder we edged our way through, constantly compensating for the tide rip which was doing its best to force us on to the sandbanks either side. So it was with some relief when we saw the depth begin to rise again. We were through.


We had a brisk wind on the beam and nearly a knot of tide to help push us along, and we enjoyed the warm fast sailing whilst we could as the wind was forecast to die at midday. And die it did, but we needed to give the batteries a boost so did not mind having to turn the engine on for the remaining four hours.


This was not a passage on which one could relax for a second. 40% of the exports of Senegal are fish and there are 50,000 fishermen in the country in 12,000 pirogues. Most of them seemed to be out in the 60 miles between Sine-Saloum and Dakar. We weaved our way through literally hundreds of them, some large with more than 20 men on board hauling large nets of fish over the side, to tiny and almost invisible pirogues with one sole fishermen jigging a line. To complicate matters further the sea was strewn with lobster pots all of which we had to spot and avoid. Relaxing it was not.


Without new birds of marsh and woodland to identify, Colin was going into a rapid decline until, more than 10 miles offshore we were visited by a wide variety of other winged friends: butterflies, moths, locusts, enormous wasps with bright red bodies, and other bugs. Colin was happy again.


At 1430 we saw the masts of the rally fleet anchored in front of the Presidential Palace in Dakar and half an hour later we dropped anchor to rejoin the fleet. A bonus of having left Sine-Saloum a day earlier than planned was that there was a concert yesterday evening by the world-famous Senegalese jazz band, Orchestra Baobab. Quite a number of rally members went along, running the gauntlet of the ever-present locals wanting to extract money from us. It was worth it. The band was sensational. The rhythms electrifying, the music very different and very complex. A great evening.  Back on the boat whilst we were enjoying a nightcap in the cockpit a large, handsome praying mantis joined us – a good omen I hope.


I woke this morning and found, to my horror, a clutch of cockroaches nestling on the mosquito netting covering the hatch of my cabin. Cockroaches are every boatowners worst nightmare as, once on board, they are all but impossible to get rid of. After a couple of screams from me, the Great Naturalist (Colin) arrived, picked one of them up and said with disdain in his voice “Surely anyone can see that these are not in the family Gryllidae but are from the suborder Caelifera in the order Orthoptera” (once I had surreptitiously got onto Wikipedia I discovered he meant they were not cockroaches but a type of cricket). Phew.


The rest of the fleet leave to day for Cape Verde 450 miles into the Atlantic Ocean which will be our last stopping off point before the Atlantic crossing to Brazil. We, however, remain in Dakar for a few more days until Neil Thackray joins us early on Wednesday morning. We still have a non-functioning water maker which is a considerable inconvenience and I am hoping that our delayed departure will mean we can find a solution.


I have come ashore to send this blog but forgot to bring my memory stick from the camera so, technology willing, I hope to get some photos of the Sine-Saloum delta to you all tomorrow.


P.S. I had intended to post this yesterday 15 November, but was unable to connect to the internet – details in next blog – but in fact sent on 16 November