Before leaving Kenya, we were so busy preparing Mai Tai for this trip north, plus visiting more of the fascinating areas around Kilifi, that we did not manage to get a final post out of our adventures in this wonderful country. As soon as we arrived in Port Salalah, in Oman, we first wanted to get the blog posted of our eventful trip from Kilifi, to reassure friends that all was well on board. We just had a change of plans on-route. Isn’t that what this cruising lifestyle is all about?
Here is a little story of our busy last weeks in Kenya.
After returning from our Safari trip, and still marvelling at all we saw and experienced, we needed to haul out Mai Tai to clean and repaint her bottom. It has been nearly 2 years since we did this, so there is virtually no antifouling left. We needed to wait for a period of big tides as we have nearly a 2m draft, about limit for what the facilities here can manage.
We started by pulling up alongside a wharf in front of the boat yard, and stayed there for 2 days to thoroughly clean the masses of growth off the bottom, and for Lane to polish up the propeller. The yard boys also wanted to get a look at our keel and take some measurements in order to set up the trolley for our haul out.
Everything went incredibly smoothly. The boat yard team had everything well under control. We had utmost confidence as we were hauled up to the trolley by hand using ropes and a diver to guide the underwater operations. Once secured on the trolley we were hauled slowly but gently up the concrete ramp by a tried and tested old pulley system, then chocked in place for the next few days. The hard work would now begin.
The hard stand was right next door to the White Cap Café at the boatyard. Very convenient.
It took 3 full days just to sand off all the old paint right down to the epoxy undercoat, which actually looked pretty good. Because of this, we will only needed to put on one more undercoat before the antifouling. A couple of the yard boys gave Lane a hand to finish this long and arduous job of sanding. They then cleaned the water line and taped it ready for painting, while Lane replaced the old through hull fitting that had seized a year ago. We had to get a new one sent up from NZ. This was a huge job in itself.
The yard boys did a beautiful slick job of applying all the paint, so that we were soon ready to relaunch while we still had a full moon high tide.
Life at the Kilifi Boat yard was so much fun, especially sharing time with other cruisers there. Yummy cheese fondue with our Swiss friends on board Javerne, then birthday parties at the club bar.
But, before leaving Kenya, I still wanted to visit the old city of Mombasa. We asked our friend Gigi, who had been our driver and guide on our safari, to take us on a day’s tour of this city, a 90 min drive south from Kilifi. On the road there we passed acres and acres of fields of Sisal, grown for the use of bags, hats and exported to make Sisal matting.
Ever since our visit to Zanzibar, I have been keen to learn about the fascinating history of this area, and its importance in the whole East African trading routes over many centuries.
The old town of Mombasa was a labyrinth of small winding alleys and beautifully carved doors, similar to what we saw in Stonetown, Zanzibar.
Guarding the entrance to the Mombasa Harbour is Fort Jesus, built by the Portuguese as a military base in 1593.
The displays in the museum showed how many treasures were being traded over the centuries. Fine Chinese porcelain, spices and silks were brought back in exchange for ivory, cloves and other African treasures. There was also the slave trading that dates back to the Roman times.
By the time the Europeans entered the Indian Ocean in the 15th century, a huge international trade network had already been flourishing for 6000 years.
But it all began with the highly sought-after Frankincense and Myrrh, which grows naturally only in Oman. The precious oil was transported by camel along the old Silk Road to China, and to Europe, as well as being brought to the coast for trading further afield around the Indian Ocean and beyond, in the old trading dhows. Oman was the wealthiest country in the world for centuries due solely to the Frankincense trade.
Omani Sultans had a presence right down the East African coast and ruled Zanzibar right up until 1964.
Malindi, 100 kms north of Kilifi, was another important trading post along this coast, and the extensive ruins of the ancient 12th century Swahili Village of Gedi were very interesting to visit.
I can’t believe I was so ignorant about this huge part of our history. To think all those tales of Sinbad the Sailor were all true (or at least based on true stories).
We are now based in the port of Salalah, Oman, waiting for parts to repair our engine. The region around Salalah is where the Frankincense tree grows, so I cant wait to explore this area while we are here.