I got to the fisherman’s beach just after midnight – there she was, the Mustapha Sy – a wooden long boat just two metres wide that the Vikings may have once used. It was out in the water, and before I knew it I was being scooped up on the shoulders of one of the fisherman and waded out to sea.
Plonked on board, I took a seasickness pill and tried to count how many fishermen it takes to drive a 50ft long hunk of wood over the ocean – ten, apparently, but this is Africa and I’ve become accustomed to these things.
The ‘pirogue’ had no steering wheel (just a rudder) no radio and nowhere to sleep that didn’t involve you being squished between several other people in the style of a tent in Tawd Vale Scout Camp circa 1988. There was no chance of keeping myself or any of my things dry, and OH MY WORD, if there was a storm, we would be more stuffed than a skip full of Garfield toys.
At around 3.30am, I couldn’t take the rocking, the stuffiness, the smell of fish and feet anymore, so I left the tent and proceeded to recall in graphic detail what I had for dinner that night off the side of the boat. Let me feel the wind for heaven’s sake. So I re-organised myself on deck (between the wooden bins, within which, go the fish) and spent the rest of the night getting me, my coat and my sleeping bag as wet as nature would allow.
The day passed slowly – the fishermen spoke no words of English and my French is as useless as their soldiers, so I contented myself with reading and getting sunburnt out on deck. The relentless swaying of the boat met with no more resistance from my guts, which was good. I did however have to wee into a bucket, as whizzing off the side would result in almost certain watery death. Luckily for me…my intensive Glastonbury Festival training allows me to go for days on end without having to discharge Corporal Brown.
Lunch consisted of a wet baguette (I was going to ask for some marmalade, but then I thought better of it. In any case, I don’t know if the French have a word for marmalade, maybe I should ask George W. Bush). Dinner was a rice and fish free-for-all in which a huge bowl of food is summoned up somehow and everyone dives in with their right hands (not their left, obviously, that would be unhygienic).
Well, at least I finally got to use the spork that my brother Alex foistered upon me all those months ago.
We would be at sea for at least another day, but at least we met with no inclement weather or freak waves. Which was good, as I saw a good number of shark fins today distributed between the hoards of flying fish (arguably up there with Duck-Billed Platypodes as the coolest creatures in the history of evolution). I’d say it was plain sailing. That’s if we had a sail.
That night, I slept once again between the wooden bins that normally hold the fish. Every hour or so, a large wave would make the effort to wake me up like a bucket of water to the face, but apart from that, grumpy old Poseidon behaved uncharacteristically favourably to his old nemesis Odysseus here.