“You’re so lucky” Monica said to me and I beamed with unbridled anticipation as we poured over pictures of the beautiful Zane yacht depicted on the web, her glorious wooden deck bedecked with a lavishly laid table, crystal wine glasses twinkling in the sunset. I dreamed of catching up with my beauty regime over the 10-12 day trip across the Mozambique Channel in my private bathroom adjacent to my berth with my African Grey Parrot Rei.
“You can bring anything, I’ll limit you to a Jeep,” said Juan in his sultry Latino voice, the skipper of Zane. Not needing a second invitation it was with four cars packed to the hilt, with everything we thought would be pertinent to our daily lives in Madagascar that family, friends and I set out for the much-anticipated Zane. My canvasses strapped to the roof, “Beast” our new 171kg generator, Rei’s cage a palace as pet accommodation goes, oil paints, mediums, boating paraphernalia etc.
As our convoy swung into Richard’s Bay yacht club we were stopped dead in our tracks, neglect had ravaged Zane; half her guts were sprawled across the quay where a motley assortment of crew hovered.
Naively thinking how much worse can this get and possessing precious little knowledge of the sea I boarded Zane having paid 500£ 50% upfront. All my callow daydreaming slapped me in the face with an inexperienced crew partial to living in filth and smoking copious amounts of marijuana.
Five days on Rei is as chipper as a canary pooping all over me and I am blighted with seasickness from day one, confined to my cabin the size of a coffin, my private bathroom a fallacy.
The only loo was on deck built into a bench fixed to the railing, a mere meter from the wheel exposed to the elements, often a surge of seawater flushing my private parts. Pulling my pants up and down whilst holding onto the bench flap and keeping my balance with a shred of dignity rivaled Mr Bean at his best. The food was so bad I hardly ate having a double benefit of limiting my trips to the loo and what my body could regurgitate over my sullied bed. The cascade of KY gel sachets left nothing to my imagination the origins of my stained bedding.
Fighting off nausea one evening, the crew and skipper high on cannabis inhaled through a bong next to my cabin had all passed out leaving Zane to her own devices without radar, auto pilot or EPIRB. After my fourth attempt trying to illicit their attention, there was a chilling almighty crash, the wind ripping the stays off a sail, demolishing part of the railing, snapping two shrouds and cracking the mast at the base with the sail flailing in the churning sea. For a terrifying two hours the drugged skipper and 4 inexperienced crew (some having never set foot on a boat) struggled to secure Zane under control, careening at terrifying speeds in a 30 knot wind and 10m swell lurching precariously violently in the impenetrable darkness from side to side. Computers leapt up into the air crashing and cascading across the floor. The crew frozen with fear scrambled on deck without life jackets or harnesses completely deluded and sometimes laughing! Juan only possessing a head torch asked me for a torch. Asking Juan if we were going to make it he couldn’t answer or look me in the eye! Trembling I looked at a picture of my husband praying we would survive. Sean the only non-druggie crew came to me terrified and I implored him to throw the stash of drugs over board, which he secretly did and we miraculously survived. The next day forcing Juan to charge the sat phone I spoke to my husband begging him to fetch me letting him know we had chucked the drug stash overboard sending him into a frenzy asking if anyone overheard as they might lynch us.
Our troubles weren’t over, arriving in Tulear port Ryan phoned saying there was an intercept on the boat, Juan had absconded from Richards Bay South Africa without port clearance owing the yacht club 1600£. Hearing the news Juan hightailed it to open sea with Ryan scrambling to organize a rescue. Spring lows delayed his departure, eventually at 9pm Ryan enlisted the services of 2 passing zebus (cows) dragging the boat into the sea, arriving at 10pm in a howling 30knott wind, rescuing Rei, Sean and myself.
Copyright C.A. Burmester