Seagoing Dugout Canoes


ON ONE OF  the dying days of June 2009 ...

A seagoing dugout canoe, outriggers, mast and sail, moored at the Mombasa Beach, Kenya, June 2009.

... happily resting after a number of safaris, I found myself walking on the beach of Mombasa, Kenya. Among many luxurious boats moored there, I saw several dugout canoes and quickly snapped a photo with my handy Panasonic Lumix G1.

A guy approached me, introducing himself as the owner of the boat and proposed a fishing trip. Normally I am always game for fishing, but this time I was more interested in the vessel. “Where would you take me fishing?” - I asked.

“Well” - he answered - “we are in a marine protection area. FIshing is not allowed here, but do you see the breaking waves on the horizon? There is a coral reef there. We could pass beyond that reef, and there is plenty of fish there: mahi mahi, marlin, etc.”

“How much will it cost me?” - I asked. “€250 Euro for a day of fishing, or €150 for half a day” - was the answer. Obviously, the guy knew his business.

“This is pretty stiff price” - I responded, thinking that HE would have to pay ME more than 250 Euro to hop on his flimsy boat and go past the breakers. “I am more interested in your boat, than in fishing” - I said.

He offered to show me the boat next day in the morning at 10 AM, should he luck out to have a paying fishing customer. I agreed, thinking that my chances are pretty good: No European nor North American will have the guts to ride his boat...

I was right. The next day was a bit cloudy. I grabbed my better camera, a Nikon F6, and appeared on the agreed spot on the beach. He was waiting for me, with his crewmate in tow.

“It takes two persons to operate this boat” - he explained. “I am the captain and the owner. I operate the stern. My crew guy operates the sails, and uses his body as a weight, sitting on the outriggers, stabilizing the boat ... Do you want to sail with us?” - he asked. I wasn’t sure ... “Show me your boat” - I asked.