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As normal, when faced with the choice ‘office’ or ‘adventure’, the latter tends to win out! Dickie and Gazza aka ‘The Rip Roarin’ Adventures Team’ took to the high seas on an epic seafaring adventure in early March. The plan was to expedition equip Gary’s Yamaha 19 boat and set forth from the sanctuary and comfort of the Pembe Abwe beach house on the edge of the Indian Ocean for the island of Pemba – some 50 miles of wild open ocean away. Once there we planned to scout the western inlets of the island, survival fish a little and return unwashed, unshaved, unscathed and rejuvenated!
We had been warned of large seas by friends who had just returned from a failed attempt to navigate by kayak some of the mainland coast a little to the north. Despite this, with life jackets close at hand (well reasonable close to hand …. well to be precise we thought we know where we packed them!) , a cooler jammed with ice and not a small amount of red wine, we put our faith in the Yamaha 19/60HP combination and set out in the pre dawn light for Pemba.
Within the inner reef system of the east coast of the mainland we made good time – planning effortlessly across smooth-ish seas, however as soon as we left the sanctuary of the coral reefs 5 miles offshore that all changed! - the sea gradually built into a tumbled maelstrom of confused 15 feet cross swells that crashed repetitively over the bows slowing our progress to a measly 8 knots. To boot, the normally efficient bilge pump was overwhelmed and refused to remove the huge amount of shipped seawater, resulting in a rather urgent search for the cooking pots and some spirited bailing (the old adage ‘there is no better bailer than a frightened man with a bucket” sprang to mind!) It was touch and go for a bit as the transom was a ‘little low in the water’ for while – the rough seas breaking over it and threatening to swamp us (bad design – we have a few choice tips for Mr Yamaha and his designers!) but with spirited application the cooking pots prevailed!
Our slightly dejected (cold, wet, nearly swamped and going soooo slowly!) progress was brought to a close with the sound of a reel losing its line in fast order, there really is nothing quite like the scream of line being ripped from a reel to get the chaps blood boiling. As Gary took hold of the rod and increased tension a little, a magnificent Marlin breached repeatedly as it tried to remove the squid lure it had mistaken for an easy meal. Sat bobbing insignificantly in the middle of the Pemba channel ‘playing’ this beautiful deep sea dweller, both commented on how lucky we were to witness such a breathtaking scene. (well the actual words may have been a little more 'earthy' at the time !!!!” – but little did we know ….that it could - and would 'get better'!) Perhaps the Marlin, bored with our waxing lyrical, or just bored with squid playing decided enough was enough, breached for one last time and shook the lure from its mouth, disappearing to the depths of its watery home.
The Marlin play heralded our arrival into the Pemba Channel fishing grounds as quickly our ice chest filled with Tuna, Dorado and Baracuda – forcing us to quaff some of our ample beer stock simply to make space for the fish. Not short of style, despite a 7 hour drenching, the boys moored in the lee of a small coral knoll on the west side of Pemba island, to gut the catch (after first playing a little ‘air guitar’ with the dead dorado!) and feast on tuna sashimi for lunch accompanied by a smooth glass (or two) of chilled Chablis!
Lunch finished it was time to head north along the islands inner channel looking for a suitable place to camp for the night, fishing along the way.
Pemba is made up of the main island which is about 40 miles long and a series of literally hundreds of small and large coral masses some of which are inhabited some are not. Like Zanzibar, the history of this Indian Ocean Island encompasses brutal slavery however unlike Zanzibar the Island of Pemba is sparsely populated and has very little tourism development.
Our aim was a place to run ashore with a protected harbor to moor the boat and a deserted sandy beach to prepare dinner, before returning to the boat and anchoring far enough offshore to avoid the ‘mozzies’ and to sleep under the stars.
The idyllic coastline and deep channel offshore gave our eyes a veritable feast and kept the rods and reels zinging, as our trusty boat cruised atop the azure blue waters and its crew repetitively landed fish after fish as the sun dropped towards the horizon.
Unaccustomed to a sunset with the sun dropping into water (here in EA we get dawn over the sea and sunset over the land), and to such an abundant catch - our fishing occupied way too much time. We were caught short as the light faded and we hastily pulled in rods to seriously search for our nights campsite.
The last rays of sunshine shone onto a deserted cove with what looked like a perfect combination of sandy beach and natural protection for the boat from the possibility of nighttime gale force seas that, if they spring up unannounced, can ruin ones Robinson Crusoe type experience!
With boat beached, camp-fire lit, supper in the pots and a suitable cold beverage in hand, we once again thought .... life really doesn’t get any better! Add to that no rain or high seas and our evening was idyllic. The cove we named ‘Paradise’ ….. However even in paradise you have to keep your witts about you! … as the evening progressed and the wine bottles became emptier we finally noticed the tide had gone out and the boat was high and dry! – fine seamen that we are we popped the cork on yet another bottle of wine and spent the rest of the evening wading around waist deep with waterproof flashlights ‘eye-shining’ the abundant marine life of the deserted sanctuary until our trusty boat refloated itself.
By midnight the boat was afloat, we poled out to the middle of the bay and dropped the ‘hook’ – a fair bit of grunting and snorting then ensued as we dragged out our kit and bedded down on deck. A quick night cap and time to marvel at the Milky Way arching overhead ……….. and that’s all we knew until just after dawn. With the boat gently swaying in the tide and the sun inching over the horizon, we started a new day on the island of Pemba.
We paddled our way back to shore and revived the dying embers of last night fire in order to cook up a tremendous ‘full English’ with all the trimmings – with still not a soul in sight we explored the island and coral flats before packing up and picking our way out through the reefs to open seas. One of the amazing things about Pemba is the clarity of the water (we have both scuba dived here years ago on a sailing trip and the diving is some of the best in the world!) and the sheer drop offs …. From shallow vibrant turquoise water to the deep deep blue of the oceans in as little as fifty yards.
Having gained the open seas we headed north to explore further but facing a strong headwind and nasty short chop we cut in between some islands and threaded our way through a myriad of tiny islets – exploring and fishing as we went. Some of the islands are half the size of a tennis court whilst others are miles long – great exploring!
About mid morning we stumbled upon ‘Dorado Alley’ the reels were screaming as these ocean game fish launched themselves at our lures – there simply wasn’t time to have our traditional celebratory beer after each catch – they were coming so thick and fast!. Finally, exhausted, we made our way into a little cove to gut the fish and ‘take lunch’ in the shade of some mangroves …… it had indeed again ‘got better’ …as we relaxed over yet another couple of bottles of vino – some chilled ‘pink’ this time for a change (a little ‘girlie’ we know but it just shows how in touch we are with our feminine side!) – and yet more gargantuan sandwiches.
After lunch we continued north up the ‘inland passage’ before popping out through the incredible Njao Gap near the north of the main Island into the deep blue again. The seas had calmed and we zipped in and out of deserted bays and round islets and generally had a great time whooping at the tops of our voices ……… before suddenly realizing that once again the sun was making a run for the horizon. We had passed a LOT of idyllic bays that all beckoned us for the night but none offered the shelter of ‘Paradise Cove’ so putting the throttles to the wall we tore off south.
The tide was still high and knowing the location of the reefs we came tearing into the bay in a flurry of spray – pulling up neatly on the beach. The well oiled machine sprang into action and in less than three shakes of a gnats todger we had unearthed the glasses and were enjoying a glass of South Africa’s finest red! – with that splendid ceremony behind us we sparked up a fire and had dinner bubbling away in a jiffy ….. Nothing to do then but have another glass of the nectar and watch the sun set across the bay.
Although neither of us would claim to be the sharpest knife in the box – nor are we the dullest! …. Low tide was obviously an hour later … but it was also nearer springs with a lower tide! So retiring earlier to the boat we poled into a deeper section of the channel into the cove and anchored fore and aft to hold ourselves in place. This done there was ample time for another glass or three as we sorted out pretty much all of the world problems – anyone needing clarification or guidance on any of the worlds woe’s, from Presidents to Terror Groups ....please feel free to email for free advice and guidance.
He next day we were up with the lark once again but this time there was none of the ‘full English’ we didn’t even step ashore but with a quick crust and cup of luke warm coffee we were off back towards the mainland – wanting to get some of the crossing under our belt before the seas built. Well it was a great theory but as we moved out of the lee the waves got larger and larger and we were soon surfing down the face of these deep ocean monsters at an alarming speed. The next 7 hours were a wild roller coaster ride needing white knuckle control of the steering and throttle – treading a fine line between being pooped and swamped by a breaking wave catching us up or screaming too fast down the face of the waves and pitch poling or broaching into the rump of the wave ahead. Exhilarating stuff that really concentrates the mind!!!
As we finally closed the Tanzanian mainland coast we spied flocks of birds diving – a sure fire sign of big fish! We just couldn’t help ourselves ….. dropping the lines into the water we had a crazy half hour tearing through the monster swells – getting totally drenched in the process before snagging a whopper of a dorado – what a way to finish!