It had been a long day. We woke up early to have breakfast and drive the half-hour it took to get to the farm by eight thirty. Yael still wasn’t feeling well so she stayed home while Cam and I worked on the farm. It was three hours of hot and sweaty work, hoeing the ground into trenches to grow watermelon seeds. We were helped out by three women from the village who must have looked at my slightly pathetic hoeing abilities with a kind mixture of sympathy and irritation.
Des had bought us pizzas afterwards (I don’t think anything has ever tasted so good) as a treat and after that we jumped into the water with our writing slates. Cam wanted to record all the species of fish we could find inside the reef so we split up and noted down every one that we saw. We were in the water for about two and a half hours or so and Bavel was supposed to be coming over to give us a Taekwando lesson. I secretly hoped that he wouldn’t (sometimes he did show up and sometimes he didn’t it was tricky to tell) because I was knackered.
I was walking down to the beach trying to find him when I heard Des call out my name.
“We’re going to try out the boat.” He called, “Come along.” Cameron phoned Bavel and asked if he wanted to come with us, we felt bad cancelling on such late notice, but he wasn’t keen so Yael, Cameron, Des, Khamisi, the fisherman who caught the black-tip reef shark, and I set off in the boat. A hundred metres or so along the beach was Des’s brother Guy’s house so we picked him up as well and off we went.
Cameron was in charge of driving the boat with Khamisi’s guidance, because he knew the most about the topography of the sea floor. The second beach along, for example, we had to go way inshore because there was a sandbank that otherwise would have beached us. This sandbank also meant the waves broke much further out so occasionally we’d have to stop the engine and just let the boat roll over them before continuing. I’d never been on a boat in breaking waves before so it was a little bit daunting but I trusted Khamisi and Cameron to get us to the other side in one piece.
Once we made it to the other end of that beach it was much easier to navigate. It was still very choppy so Yael and I bounced along at the front of the boat, spotting houses that we’d like to buy. Yael took a sip of her wine and pointed at a room that jutted out onto the cliff where the walls were all glass panels.
“Isn’t that gorgeous?” She said as we drove past it.
“Oh my God yes,” I agreed “And look at those!” I pointed at the miniature domes that had been built just along from the glass room. From where we were you could just see that the inside was a beautiful mosaic of a deep blue ocean and pink growing coral.
As we drove we saw quite a few incomplete houses and even a hotel that had been discarded after people or companies had gone bankrupt.
“It’s actually a real shame,” Des said, “So many of these places are nearly finished but they probably now never will be,”
We rode on. Cam took the boat at quite some speed and so after a particularly big bump Yael and I would turn around and glare at him.
“I don’t know what the problem is,” he shouted over the noise of the engine, “It’s a smooth ride back here,” he grinned as Yael tried to take a drink and spilt it as the boat juddered over the waves.
“You did that on purpose!” She declared, laughing and wiping the wine from her chin.
“Maybe so,” Cam said and took a swig from his beer.
Yael and I were on the look out for turtles, but sadly didn’t spot one. The long tangled murky forms of tangled seaweed kept tricking our eyes.
“Just look at all the green,” Yael said to me, “Isn’t it amazing? Ugh I just wish I could paint it,” I agreed with her entirely. It was quite a sight to behold. Palm trees poked their waving heads out of the lusciously green foliage, which led down to white sands and water was so blue it almost seemed lit from within.
“I like being around an artist,” I said to her. She looked confused.
“Why?” She asked.
“You make me notice things that I wouldn’t normally see,” I replied. We bounced along the water and Yael and I booed when Cam turned the boat around to go back. We sat cross-legged facing out to sea, my not quite empty water glass dripping onto my lap. Yael took videos of the boat and of the water and we laughed as the waves bumped us so much that she could hardly hold the phone.
“Here I’m gonna film one with you in it,” she said and panned the camera round the view ending at me. I should probably have pretended to be gazing out into the water, the image of tranquility and serenity but the boat was bouncing so much I decided to go limp and bounce along with it. Thus Franken-Flora was born.
Yael and I were laughing so hard that the journey home seemed over in minutes. Maybe it’s something about being on a boat, but you just can’t not be happy while you’re speeding along.
Sadly we reached Guy’s house and he jumped out of the boat when we were shallow enough. Khamisi jumped into the water as well, to disentangle some seaweed that had wrapped around the engine, because it had started making a peculiar noise. Yael and I were having such a good time that we didn’t really notice what was happening until Des got into the water as well… and then Cam. So we were a little surprised to turn around and find that we were the only ones left on the boat.
“What happened?” I asked Des, leaning over the side, “Can we help?”
“We think the battery’s dead,” he replied, “Don’t worry we’ve got it. We just have to push the boat back to the mooring,” we looked up the beach. It didn’t seem too far away.
“Can’t we help push?” Yael asked.
“No don’t. We’re absolutely fine,” Cameron replied. Yael and I exchanged a glance and laughed at ourselves.
“We’re such princesses,” she said and I agreed. Us high and dry in the boat being pushed along the beach by four other people. We kept asking and the response was always the same, ‘No don’t worry we can handle it’. But after about five minutes we both agreed that we couldn’t just sit above them doing nothing any more so we took off our T shirts and jumped in. The water was deliciously warm, but Yael and I were on the sea-ward side of the boat and because the tide was so high we could hardly stand. This resulted in us being buffeted by waves that rebounded off the sides of the boat, filling our eyes with salty water. Sometimes a wave would sweep me entirely off my feet so I wasn’t pulling the boat so much as the boat was pulling me. I looked up to landing site along the beach. What had seemed like such a short distance when we had an engine now seemed huge. We’d hardly moved at all. It was going to take a while.
So we pushed along, trying to stay above the water and keep the boat from getting knocked into the shore by waves. It was quite a task. The boat kept on going wonky, with the back much deeper than the front which can’t have helped our already very slow progress. My left hand was out of the water, holding the side of the boat, and the wind cooled my fingers. I could feel where the boat was knocking the strap of my watch into my wrist. Another wave doused my eyes.
But we were getting closer. Slowly slowly.
“Don’t need a session with Bavel when you’ve got a boat to push,” Des joked.
“No indeed,” I replied, feeling the muscles in my legs working.
When we were almost at the mooring site I was relieved. We were nearly there. It was dark now and we were all looking forward to going up to the beach bar for a drink, because they only stayed open for one evening a week.
“We need to put the engine up,” Cam said, clambering up onto the boat. “If someone comes up and helps me then we can pull from the top and you guys can push from the bottom.” Made sense. I hauled myself up into the boat as well and Cameron and I took a side each of the engine.
“One, two, three,” Cameron said and we pulled on the engine, hard. It didn’t budge.
“Maybe there’s a catch somewhere,” Cameron said, getting Des’s phone out to use it as a torch. I cringed internally watching him holding it over the engine so close to the water. We’d already lost two phones to the sea at this point and I really didn’t want it to happen again.
“I can’t see one,” Des replied, searching the sides of the engine.
“Let’s try again,” Cam said. We heaved it upwards but still no movement.
“Can’t we leave it down?” Guy asked.
“No, when the tide goes out the boat will get stranded and the engine will be ruined.” Des replied, “We have to get it up,”
Yael shouted from the water. In all the distraction of getting the engine up she’d been left as the sole person in charge of keeping the boat from crashing into the shore. I called out to her,
“Yael do you need help?”
“Yes please,” came the tentative reply so I jumped back in. We stood in the waist deep water, pushing the boat. Occasionally a big wave would come and we’d have to steel ourselves against the bottom to stop the boat from barrelling into us. We weren’t sure how long this would take.
“Fun boat trip eh?” Yael joked and I laughed.
“Having the time of my life,” I said with a smile. The plan changed. We were going to try and get a screwdriver and a proper torch to try and get the engine up. Cam called someone in the village to bring some tools.
This was when the sand fleas really came into their own.
“OWCH!” Yael yelped and slapped her hands down onto her back.
“What happened – are you okay?” I asked, concerned.
“Stupid sand fleas! They keep biting me,” she replied, picking them off with her fingernails. “They’re big bastards too,” I hadn’t been struck yet so kept quiet and hoped for the best, as if somehow by not acknowledging them I could prevent them from attacking me too. Yael shouted again,
“Jesus Christ!” She put something onto the edge of the boat. “Cam bring the torch over here so we can see,” Cam came over and we watched what looked like a fat shrimp scoot itself around in frenzied circles on the side of the boat. Then I felt one bite onto my leg and I swore.
“Lovely aren’t they,” Yael said rolling her eyes.
“A treat,” I replied. Yael offered to go up to the house to get the proper water-proof torch, eager to find a reason to get out of the (literally) nippy water.
“Yes and can you get my Swiss Army knife too?” Cam asked. Yael dashed off up the beach.
“Maybe the battery isn’t dead,” Cameron mused, “Maybe the terminal is just so rusted that it can’t get a connection. If I could hammer it into place we might be able to fix it,” It was a long shot but at that point we really weren’t about to be choosy. Only problem was that we didn’t have a hammer so all I could hear for the next five minutes or so was the sloshing of the waves against the boat and the shore and the ‘tink tink tink’ of Cam using a full beer bottle to bash the terminal. Des got out of the water as well to grab the tool box that had been brought to the landing site.
The sand fleas that I had previously managed to escape found me with vengeance and when Yael returned with the torch and the knife I noticed that she’d put on shorts and a rash vest.
“Good shout,” I said, indicating towards her protective gear.
“I know right,” she said, handing the things up to Cameron.
“Wahay!” Cameron shouted and we heard a buzzing noise as the engine raised up from the water. “The terminal was just so rusty the battery couldn’t form a complete circuit, but I managed to hammer it into place,” I was relieved. We had already been in the water for forty five minutes and for a little while it wasn’t at all clear how long it would take to fix, if it could be fixed at all. I ran up onto the beach and found Des to tell him that Cameron had fixed it and the engine was up. We then had to push the boat the remaining distance to the mooring, but the water was soon too deep to stand. Khamisi came to the rescue carrying a hugely long pole. I had no idea what he was going to do with it at first, but then he started using it to push the boat out to sea.
“Khamisi – what a life saver,” I said.
Then came the slightly stressful job of transporting the bag full of clothes and phones and towels from the boat back into shore. Poor Des held the bag above the water, nearly drowning himself trying to keep afloat, but he managed. We thanked him and trudged up the beach to the beach bar.
God knows we all needed a drink.
- Farm work
- Snorkelling and fish recording
- Tumultuous boat trip
- Drinks at the beach bar