Thursday, 22 January 2009

Crocs and we don't mean the shoes!

We saw our first crocodile today, basking on a mudflat in the the sun up Mandori Creek, where we are anchored for the night - no swimming planned! Although the river is still over a mile wide here, the creek is narrow. Once we were over the sand bar at the entrance it is surprisingly deep quite far up, fortunate as it is uncharted. We set out quite early this morning to take advantage of the tides and are now about halfway up to Georgetown, our final destination. It was only 14 degrees at 0730 this morning but 30 degrees this afternoon with less than 20% humidity, necessitating quite a wardrobe change during the day. There have been hardly any other boats in evidence and virtually no sign of human development of any kind; lots more dolphins though. The quiet tonight is incredible, only punctuated by bird and insect sounds and the odd fish breaking the surface of the water, it's magical. We are going a short distance tomorrow over to Tendeba where there is a camp where they serve bush pig!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

On our way up the river

We left this morning and started our journey up the river, accompanied by dolphins around James Island (a fortress used as a slave collection area and fought over by the British, French and Dutch from 1650 until it was abandoned in 1829). We are anchored at Bintang Bolon, a creek about 25 miles from Banjul - just us and the local wildlife - SO quiet, it's wonderful.

We had an interesting time at Lamin Lodge. On Saturday the President was visiting the local village and we went to see the celebrations. It was an incredible scene - everyone dressed up, music, lots of people in green batik costumes and millions of kids. The kids latched onto us, fascinated by the camera. They weren't a nuisance, just very open, friendly and chatty. Provisioning is a challenge, there's hardly anything available to buy. We had to get the local lads, Landa and Lennox, to drive us to a nearby farmer's market to stock up on fruit and vegetables for our trip. We heard from other boats that there's little to buy up the river.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Arrived in Banjul

We left Dakar around 2pm on Thursday afternoon and had a pleasant overnight sail to Banjul with light winds and calm seas. It was the unlit fishing boats which kept us on our toes for the passage - a flashing light would suddenly appear in the inky night, followed by more and within minutes we would be sailing through a whole group of them! We were so close we even exchanged greetings and could smell their dinner cooking on their burning braziers. We navigated our way to "Stop in Time" bank and through "Schooners Gap" in the dark and made our way into the Gambia River to Banjul, anchoring about 9am at Half Die(so-named because half the people died in a 1869 cholera epidemic). Banjul itself is little more than an overgrown dusty village, everything has apparently relocated to the tourist resorts further along the coast.

After 4 hours of infuriating hassle, paperwork and walking around in the heat to do our check in, we motored up to Lamin Creek. We are anchored in front of Lamin Lodge, a picturesque log cabin nestled in the mangroves. It is incredibly tranquil here, no electricity so everything shuts down at dark and there is just the sound of the river and the birds. There are a couple of Dutch boats here and Bob & Liz, whom we know, on Yanina. Today has been spent cleaning the dust off Irony (worst ever in 6 years) and Nic has had to repair our anchor winch which decided to break as we anchored in Banjul!

A Taste of Senegalese Music

We wanted to check out the music scene for which Senegal, and particularly Dakar is famous for ad had visited the premier live music venue, Just 4 U, on Wednesday evening. Unfortunately our timing was off and we arrived to find Ussou N'Dour (world-renowned) setting up for that night. We listened to the rehearsal over a couple of beers and met various people including his brother-in-law, but nothing was going to start before 10pm and we had to get back for the last water taxi to our boat. Not wanting to miss out we decided, on Thursday, to launch our dinghy and try again. Dressed-up and arriving at 9pm we hoped to have dinner and watch the concert only to find the entrance mobbed with people. We were told it was his last night and it sold out at 8am that morning! A doorman finally promised he'd get us in if we returned at midnight so we walked around the corner for a delicious Thai meal. Returning, we found it even busier and our doorman apologised but could do nothing. Nic saved the day by managing to buy a couple of tickets off a tout at a good price. We were in and it was well worth the effort. The club was packed with glamorously dressed Senegalese and the atmosphere was fantastic. Ussou N'Dour was joined for cameo performances by a variety of singers and musicians, all well-known to the audience. We returned to Irony at 3am, relieved to find our dinghy still tied to the wooden jetty! A great night out.

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Monday, 12 January 2009


We arrived in Dakar just after midnight on Friday. We had a great passage - 894 miles in 6.5 days - a good shakedown cruise for our Atlantic crossing. The only negative part of the experience was the cold - it was a surprise to us that this far south we were dressed innumerable layers and snuggling under blankets on our night watches.

We are anchored off a long stretch of fine, white sand and the Cercle de Voile "yacht club", a friendly place with a bar, showers etc. They provide a "water taxi" from the anchored boats to a rickety wooden jetty which one hails by blowing a fog horn and gesticulating wildly. This morning we hopped onboard and, before we reached shore, ended up being involved in the dramatic rescue of a sailboat which had broken its mooring in the high winds we have had for the last few days. The water taxi is a wet experience at the best of times but was made all the more exhilarating by towing the sailboat to a new mooring aided by a rib towing us! Our boat boy eventually had to leap onboard the renegade yacht leaving Nic to pilot his boat. All was saved and we finally managed to make our way into town to do our check-in with police and customs in the company of a lovely French couple from another boat. Our school French is being tested, no one speaks English here!

Dakar is definitely a culture shock after the Canaries - firmly 3rd world, it is quite shocking to see such an extensive degree of poverty in one of the world's capital cities. It's hard even to describe it as a city, more an overgrown, dilapidated town. It is really the people who make the place - very tall and slim, at first sight one can feel intimidated but as soon as they speak their faces light up and they are helpful, friendly and welcoming with a great sense of humour; a joy to meet. The women in particular are gorgeous and swathed in exotic colours. Nic had to visit at dentist here and is trying to find a reason to go back!

We took the ferry over to Goree Island, famous for being where the slaves were held and then loaded onto ships. It's a tranquil and picturesque place with 18th/19th century buildings. It is also where local artists show their wares.

Possibly departure for Banjul and the Gambia River on Wednesday or Thursday.

More pics at

Monday, 5 January 2009

On the way to Dakar

We left Santa Cruz late on 2nd. We had to refuel in the fishing port to the north and by the time we were finished it was 7pm and dark. The wind had dropped and we thought it best to anchor for the night and set off the next morning. So, on the 3rd, we put the snow-capped peak of El Teide behind us and sailed south. We are now 260 miles south at the start of our 3rd day of the passage. We are off the coast of the Western Sahara but it has been a very cold passage and we are wrapped up in lots of layers. The winds have been fairly steady and we are finally acclimatising to our routine of watches and the Atlantic roll. Our fridge door decided to break yesterday but Nic has managed a short-term fix which we hope will get us to Dakar. We also managed to lose all our breakfast to the lurch of a couple of large waves - it launched off the table dousing us and the saloon in tea! I am posting our GPS position each morning on (password: onboard).

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