Hello out there, my people! Life has been very quiet in the West Kirby boat park since all of you went home. I’m really hoping that it won’t be too long before they let us out to play again and I’m betting that you’re as fed up as I am, so here is a passing-the-time Zippy blog for you to enjoy over a cup of coffee!
I’ve belonged to my Owner for over a year now. In that time, I’ve often challenged her about the crazy decisions she makes when we’re racing, or I ask why she sails me so hard on edge when she knows a capsize might be forthcoming. We chat about all sorts of stuff and I’ve built up a good picture of her sailing life and experiences.
Once I asked her how many sailing clubs she’d been a member of and she told me that West Kirby was the 12th. On her list, Numbers 9 and 11 were truly fascinating, so here we are with the first of a 2-part Zippy Corona Special and the tale of Owner’s adventures at the Entebbe Sailing Club in Uganda.
To set the scene, back in 1996, Owner and her family were sent to Africa by her husband’s company, who were trading in coffee and cotton. They left UK with 2 dogs, an 18 month old baby and a 30ft container, which was the smallest size that would fit a dinghy catamaran mast.
Before leaving, they got in touch with local Catamaran agent Don Findlay and gave him the specification to find a boat that would be challenging enough for two experienced trapeze artists, and quick enough to escape the hippos that are known to frequent Lake Victoria.
Don came up with a Pringle 18.2, which he adapted to carry an asymmetric spinnaker to provide the turbo boost for hippo evasion purposes.
The Prindle was named “Kiboko Kibab” (Kiboko is Swahili for Hippo) just to make sure that the joke was lost on everyone, as the local Africans didn’t know what a kebab was!
Whilst waiting for the container to set sail and travel by road to mid-Africa, Owner and Husband set off for Uganda and were taken for an introductory Lake sail by an elderly long-time resident expat who kept a 30ft cruiser at Entebbe Sailing Club; the main sailing venue on Lake Victoria. For those of you with shaky geography, the Lake is the second largest freshwater lake in the world, with a shoreline of 4438 miles and a sailing area of around three times the size of Wales. It is indeed the source of the White Nile, as confirmed by Henry Stanley after he circumnavigated it in 1875.
The expat’s Cruiser was (a) not in great shape and (b) green, in a way which did not involve any paint. It was in fact a veritable Noah’s Ark, with a diversity of wildlife that was largely inedible. Luckily, Old expat Noah had thought to pack a picnic for lunch, so the menagerie set off in a gentle breeze to a scenic lakeside setting some 3 hours away, stopping to lay anchor a respectable distance away from some ruminating hippos.
It was then that Old Noah discovered that he had left the jerrycan of drinking water on the jetty. “Never mind” he said, “we can drink the Lake water.” He proceeded to fill a plastic cup with dilute hippopiss from overboard, handing this to Owner’s Husband first so that he could check the vintage. My people declined and resigned themselves to a day of dehydration.
Shortly after raising anchor, the skies darkened as a tropical storm started to brew up. It arrived rapidly, with 30 knot winds and hailstones the size of Ostrich eyeballs. Owner made a dive for inside the cockpit where Old Noah had already been sheltering from the increased wind and dislodged boatparts. That left Husband on the helm to keep an eye out for strikable underwater wildlife, further exploding boatparts, cyclones and low flying Pelicans (Pelicans were to become a hazard with the asymmetric kite on the Cat). Owner had her own challenges below deck managing the wildlife.
This including a boat colour themed green frog which had taken up residence in the sink, which was supposed to be doubling as a toilet due to an earlier equipment failure.
Incredibly, all arrived safely at Entebbe unharmed and my people politely declined an offer to purchase the Ark, although they did end up buying Noah’s 1950’s Kenyan safari tent, which provided many happy hours of wild camping adventures on the shores of Lake Victoria.
As a further part of their exploration of Lake Victoria, Owner and husband spent a damp and thrilling day sampling the delights of Grade 5 Nile rapids, whilst undertaking one of the early rafting descents with fledgling company “Adrift”.
The raft did of course flip over, but my expert sailors were quick to recover out of the washing machine of brown Nile water and clung on to the rubber craft until it could be righted in the next calm pool.
Once the container arrived, Kiboko Kebab was rigged and raced at Entebbe most weekends in a small cat fleet and an enthusiastic and competitive laser fleet.
The boat park was guarded by an aggressive Turkey of Terror, which frequently attacked small children, but was kept in check by the Boat Boys. These local lads were paid by the club to rig, launch and recover the members dinghies and then folded sails and put on boat covers whilst the sailors enjoyed a cold bottle of Nile brand beer at the thatched beach bar after racing.
On occasion, the relaxing apres-sail was interrupted by a darkening sky and a few small midge-like flies appearing in the beer glasses. This was the sign to run for the clubhouse at top speed, as it signalled the arrival of millions of Lake flies which had hatched out simultaneously and were driven on a cloud thick enough to choke on. It rarely lasted long and the sailors would be out enjoying the sunshine half an hour later.
Entebbe sailing club started as a shipping container in 1964 and was protected from land seizure by the Ugandan military during the Idi Amin years by the intervention of the Egyptian ambassador. The clubhouse was rebuilt in the late 1980s using volunteer labour and materials provided by the club members.
The club members came mostly from Kampala, some 30 miles away and provided a social hub, where families could camp, sail and enjoy each other’s company. The Sunday lunches were made by pairs of members on a rota and were very well attended, with up to 50 people coming out from the city.
The club also organised the popular Entebbe Goat Races (think Ascot), sponsored by banks and businesses.
At the end of the sailing season, another aspect of regular immersion into Lake Victoria was less popular; the taking of Praziquantel pills for treatment of Bilharzia. They made the sailors feel feverish and very unwell for upto a week afterwards and were known to the locals as the Crazy Englishmen Pills.
Perhaps we could all use some of those right now.
Next week, my story takes us further down the Nile to Egypt.
Until then, stay sane.