Dinghy sailing in Mombasa
9 months ago, 12 Jan 08:49
Dinghy sailing along the Kilindini harbour in Mombasa is exhilarating. I have never set foot on a boat before, but at Mombasa Yacht Club, I sailed on a dinghy— a small boat that tourists use for racing. On the deck, the boat lifts quickly to romp over the short waves. Philip Jones, who runs the Mombasa Yacht Club, has been sailing for years and he is the skipper. He tells me to hold the jib as he helms to catch enough wind for us to roll. “This is a busy water channel. You will also help me look out for any vessel coming our way,’’ he says. Ferries operate across the channel connecting the mainland and the Mombasa Island. Fishermen eking out a living from the waters with their vessels also cross the choppy waters. On a dinghy ride, a skipper calls the shots and the crew must do as directed. A ferry approaches us from afar and we quickly make a turn. ‘‘Coming about,’’ Philip shouts above the whipping breeze. One has to acknowledge orders, he tells me. That way he knows that he has been heard and understood. “Lee Ho,” Philip says as he pushes the tiller away to execute the tack. I quickly release the jib sheet, picking up the new one and move it across the boat sheeting in the jib on the new side. It is a muscle brainy power work. Then a swell rolls under the boat’s keel, it comes upright again, the wave passing under. Sailing on this small boat that is earning a dedicated fan base is terrifying, yet fun. Philip and his wife who live in Mombasa want to turn the coastal town into an ultimate sailing destination. Ahead, the open sea is waiting for us. The wind gains up, the currents grow stronger. The boat leans to one side, we have to move to the other side to distribute our weight, he says. “It is heeling over. We have to balance the weight to prevent the boat from capsizing,” he says. Philip says a correctly balanced boat allows you to sail more quickly and smoothly. One hour into the waters, we come back to the Mombasa Yacht Club bay. The wind is now steady, slow and uneventful. Philip is a passionate sailor who has won many races in Kenya, Antigua and the UK. Together with his wife, Seema Shah, it has been an adventure battling huge waves and sometimes enjoying the serenity. The recollection of their bold sailing trips is entertaining and a bit uncomfortable to listen to. Although they do not keep track, the couple estimates that they have so far won over 100 sailing competitions in and outside Kenya. The two met while Seema was learning to sail at the Mombasa Yacht Club. Philip’s helmsman had just left Kenya. “I dislike single-handedly sailing the boat. I was looking for anyone who would step foot on a boat with me. Seema agreed to try,” he says. They immediately clicked. ...
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