Email 22

Subject:  Re: Question about pictures
Attachments:  There are 2 attachments

I took a bandana from my pocket, wrapped the shell, and tucked it carefully into my backpack.  Then I returned to my boat and pushed it into the sea.  While I was trapped in the fog, I had drifted far to the south.  I spent most of the day paddling back to the fishing village where I’d rented the boat.  This time I was careful to stay near the shore.

The boat’s owner saw me from the beach, and he waded out to help pull me ashore.  He was delighted to see me and insisted on inviting me into his house for tea.  I’m not sure whether he thought that I’d stolen his boat or sunk it.  In any case, my return (or, more likely, the boat’s return) brought him much happiness.

Next I took a bus to Dar es Salaam.  My first stop there was the market, where I looked for a small wooden box to protect the shell.  I didn’t want it to get crushed in my backpack.

Market in Dar es Salaam

Then I headed down to the docks to see if I could find passage on a boat headed north.

Within an hour I was negotiating with a Somali named Abubakar.  He was a tall, quiet man with strong arms and a faded New York Yankees baseball cap.  Through a bit of broken Swahili and many hand signals, I convinced Abubakar that I was the deckhand he needed.

Abubakar’s boat was named the Liberty.  It was a 50-meter, wooden-hulled, diesal-powered wreck.  Every bit of exposed metal was rusting and most of the painted wood was peeling.  The engine smoked like it was on fire.  Despite the smoke, however, the engine sounded strong and smooth.  If the hull held together, I was pretty sure the Liberty would get us to the Red Sea.

Abubakar was in a hurry.  He wanted to leave right after sundown and keep the ship running day and night.  Abubakar needed someone to pilot the ship while he slept.  He asked me several times whether I was sure that I could stay awake on my watch.  He also wanted me to spend as much time as possible above deck and in clear view during daylight hours, even while I was napping.  He seemed to think that would discourage any bandits or pirates from attacking us.  In return, I’d get free passage.

Abubakar told me that his destination was a port on the Red Sea.  Beyond that, he was evasive, and he clearly didn’t want me around while the ship was being loaded.  So, later in the afternoon, when a dust-covered truck pulled up on the pier near the Liberty, I took the hint and went into town.

We left at sunrise the next morning, on the outgoing tide.  The trip up the coast was uneventful.  I had 12 days to brush up on my Swahili with Captain Abubakar, 12 nights to watch the stars in the blackest skies you’ve ever seen, and many hours of good fishing.

Abubakar dropped me off at Marsa Alam, a small port on the Egyptian coast.  We shook hands, and that was it.  I didn’t know where Abubakar was headed or what was in the hold, and I knew better than to ask.

Tell me about the time you saw lights on Henry’s Mountain.


From the deck of Liberty, on the trip from Dar es Salaam to Marsa Alam.

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