Pangani to Nungwi - Leg 9
Leg 9 - Pangani to Nungwi
The team woke up aboard Hideaway anchored off the quaint old Pangani town at the mouth of the Pangani River. The catamaran had to head out of the river mouth early into deeper water, as with the full moon, the fast dropping spring tide would leave us high and dry. A hearty breakfast prepared by Jess was enjoyed anchored off a small beach south of the river mouth.
The wind forecast was not looking great, with light winds predicted. The angle of travel for the board riders was going to be a very tight angle to the wind, and was only going to be possible in a decent north east Kaskazi wind of at least 18 plus knots.
The team decided that 5 kiters would attempt to kite from the beach on the river mouth to a small low tide sandbar and coral atoll. The cat would head on ahead in the light winds with the idea that the remaining kiters and two windsurfers would join the team from there if the wind picked up enough, so Boris, Justin, Jason, Mark, Al and Nic geared up and jumped on the skiff to the beach, as the cat sailed off.
The kiters pumped up on the beach alongside a few fishermen netting in the shallows, and the odd dhow sailing up the river. The wind picked up fairly quickly and before long the all 5 kiters were up and riding and making good progress towards the sandbar rendezvous, which appeared on the horizon 20 minutes or so after leaving Pangani.
45 minutes or so later, everyone was approaching the north side of a beautiful white sandbar, surrounded by turquoise water protected to the north by a shallow lagoon. from the skiff it looked like the plan was coming together, the windsurfers were rigging up on the beach, and a the kiters anticipated a quick break on the sandbar before the long ocean leg out to Nungwi.
Within minutes however, it all changed, 4 of the 5 kiters found themselves south of the sandbar within a matter of a few minutes, and were struggling to tack upwind to reach the island. After a brief discussion over the radios, Nic took the skiff into the the sandbar where Jason had just landed, to get him on board to assist with the deep water recoveries of the three kiters unable to reach the island, whilst the windsurfers helped Boris who was in the shallows just south of the sandbar. It turned out a very strong current was running on the inside of the sandbar, something the team had not known about, and with the slight wind, swept the kiters off course.
Jase co-ordinated the water recoveries well, and we soon realised how strong the current was as the skiff made slow progress against the current back to the sandbar. With the wind dropping, and coming in almost northerly, the team had to re-assess the crossing attempt to Nungwi. It was clear that the windsurfers had no option but to de-rig and get their gear back on the catamaran.
With a relatively small skiff, limited space was available should a water recovery be required, without having an overloaded skiff in open ocean out of sight of land. Only 4 riders would be able to make the attempt, with Nic on the skiff, and getting one of the skiff crew to move on to the catamaran to save space.
The kiters waited for as long as possible on the sand island, sharing a makeshift shelter with some marine rangers on the sandbar to keep out of the blazing sun. Flocks of terns and crab plovers were also resting on the fast diminishing sandbar, treating us to some very close fly-bys.
The team calculated that the latest they could leave the sandbar was 3pm to allow for 3 hours crossing in favourable conditions, and a small margin of light given sunset was around 7pm. Being out in the channel with only a basic skiff in the dark was a very scary scenario we had to avoid at all costs.
As 3pm approached, Boris tried the wind with a quick kite in the lagoon, it was still too light, but the team could either give it a go, and hope the the wind picked up, changed direction, and found a favourable ocean current, or abandoned the attempt, and board the skiff.
Of course we all agreed to give it a go, even though the wind was still light. The kiters launched and left, in the knowledge they could not hold the tack they needed, but in the hope that the current would assist and the wind would pick up. They had to hold an angle of 135 degrees east, but they were only able to hold an angle of south 180 degrees, basically heading south parallel with the mainland, which meant the team were heading for the channel between Dar and Zanzibar. They persevered on as tight a bearing to the wind as possible, with the hope that the wind would pick up, and the current on the north side of the sandbar would run in their favour.
Nic set the line to Nungwi on the skiff, but within minutes it was clear they could not kite the angle they needed, even after a few tacks, they were just being pushed further south. Nic had to make the call to the team to tell them we’d need to start deep water recoveries for each kiter.
With only 1.5 hours to reach Nungwi in the skiff, they only had half an hour to complete 4 deep water recoveries.
Nic asked Boris to down his kite first, and once he’d quick released his kite, the skiff approached from upwind, picked Boris up on the bow, where he wound his lines on the bar, pulled the kite in, deflated it, before recovering the board. We followed the same procedure for each of the remaining 3 kiters, with Boris expertly managin each of the recoveries, not an easy feat on a small rolling skiff in the middle of the ocean.
Once we were all on board, it was a bouncy and despondent ride on the skiff for nearly 2 hours to Nungwi. The guys were gutted not to have been able to make the ocean crossing to Zanzibar, but a message from the catamaran Hideaway, that the donations had just gone beyond our target reminded everyone of the main cause for the expedition, and spirits lifted. The encouragement, support and generosity of so many people has just been amazing.
An emotional team stepped out of the skiff on the beautiful sandy beach at Kendwa, at the same time as he cat tied up to a mooring, and we were treated to beautiful sun set over the African continent. A reflective mood amongst the team, with a mixture of disappointment that we had not been able to complete the channel crossing, mixed with a sense of relief that we’d all made it safely to Zanzibar.
Chris Goodwin of Zanzibar Watersports gave the team a warm reception, and helped out in so many ways, from organising accommodation at the fantastic Kendwa Rocks beach hotel to his warm and generous hospitality, making the whole team feel very welcome.
So it was not the arrival by kites the team had hoped for, but the the disappointment soon lifted as the team reflected on the adventures of the last 9 days travelling along the East African coast, the riding they’d done, the breathtaking coastline, the amazing characters, and such generous hospitality and support along the way, the team are all very grateful to our wonderful hosts on Hideaway - Piers, Hilary, Martin and Jess for putting up with all 9 of us, and doing it all with a smile, asante sana.
We feel truly privileged to have been able to make this journey, forging stronger friendships, making new friends, and buoyed by support from near and far, and to top it all off, the best feeling of all was to have reached our fundraising target thanks to so many wonderful people who believed in us and the causes we support.
A special mention to the teams wives, girlfriends, and children who have made this possible, you’ve been in our thoughts everyday, and as this last blog is written, it is evident as the sun sets on this safari and the team go their separate ways, the excitement of going home to loved ones is immense.
Thanks again to everyone for all of the support, donations, hospitality, and belief in us, it’s been an unforgettable adventure.