THE JAHO JOURNAL
This is an account of the voyage of the 'JAHO' which started from Mahé, Seychelles on Monday 18th October 1982. It was written in part at the time, with later extracts from The Logbook, and then from Memory - Before it Fades.
To Mary - guru, wife and boon companion - She alone understood my need to do it and bore with that, bravely to the end; and to my readers, with apologies, knowing that those who read of it now may never quite know just how it was then, due to my own deficiencies of portrayal.
- ‘JAHO’ 1982-3 -
- Mahé to St Kitts - 18th Oct 1982 - 17th May 1983
DESMOND FOSBERY - (British) Skipper, Navigator and Cook -
CALIX BRADBURN - (Seychellois) Mate, Bosun, and Carpenter.
(A Handy Man in a tight spot - May God Bless him)-
- Mahé to Richards Bay RSA - 18th Oct - 21st Nov 1982
RICK HASLER - (Zimbabwean) Travellin’ Man doin’ his own thing.
('Had Guitar, Would Travel' - As far as "Africa" - that is)
Some joined ‘for the duration’ - but left at the next port -
- East London to Port Elizabeth - 5th Feb - 7th Feb 1983
STEPHEN MEYER - (South African) Beggars can’t be choosers.
(When the Helm Broke it Broke him). -
- Capetown to St Helena - 10th Mar - 28th Mar 1983
PAUL BROKENSHA - (South African) Sea-sick, Love-sick 'n Home-Sick.
(Came but wanted to go back - to where they’d said 'it would be good for him') -
‘In Karma Waters’
This is the story of a voyage, one episode of which started from Port Victoria capital of the Republic of Seychelles on the island of Mahé, largest of the Seychelles Group lying in the Indian Ocean, on Monday 18th October 1982 and ended at Basseterre capital and port of the island of St Kitts in the West Indies on Tuesday 17th May 1983.
The pattern of events great and small leading up to it and their subsequent inter-weavings are all part of what was once referred to me as ‘life’s richly woven pattern!’, for the people, the events, the places and their relationships all are part of that Karmic Journey being undertaken by each of us, and whether or not you, the reader, allows of a ‘life’ Before life and a ‘life’ After death as being all parts of the same ‘string of beads’, the total of each man’s incarnation does touch the Universe in it’s inter- connections; just as any impingement upon the spider’s web effects every fibre thereof.
Whatever a man’s Faith, Religion or Philosophy the beginnings and the ends are but one and the same and he or she does not have to ‘believe’ in order still to be a part of it All, any more than the grain of sand needs to realise it’s part in the totality of the Strand, or the drop of water it’s significance within the Ocean. He either Knows, or he Knows not, but it makes no difference to 'It All' either way. The Hindu understands the concept of SAT and ASAT. The Buddhist strives for release from the bonds of Earth and the peace of Nirvana - 'Cease to do evil, learn to do good , purify your own heart'. Work out your karma whilst striving to avoid acquiring further bad Karma. Such are the precepts, simple in form, vast and complex in practice.
The episode that follows concerns ‘JAHO’ a 30 foot ‘Tahiti Ketch’ and those who sailed in her from the Island of Mahé largest of the Seychelles Group in the Indian Ocean, in October 1982 and headed by way of South Africa and St Helena to the Island of St Kitts in the Lesser Antilles, or more specifically the West Indies’ Leeward Islands Group in the Eastern Caribbean 9000 miles away.
‘JAHO’, my 30ft ‘Tahiti Ketch’, had been built in Durban on the Coast of Natal Province South Africa in 1936. In Mahé October 1982, she was 2000 miles from her ‘home port’ and in the middle of the Indian Ocean. By my calculations, the voyage to St Kitts would take us at least 90 days (and nights) at sea. We eventually sailed from Seychelles in the second half of October 1982 and the first leg, those 2000 miles to Southern Africa, lasted 35 days, much of it battling adverse winds.
Monday 18th October 1982
Eventually the appointed day dawns, two days later than were meant to leave according to Friday’s ‘immigration clearance papers’ which had stipulated Saturday. Now it is early Monday morning, dull, thundery and almost windless as the sixth and final month of the South East Monsoon slowly expires in the latitudes of Mahé and the Granitic Group of the Seychelles Archipelago some four and a half degrees South of the Equator in the Indian Ocean, the heaviness of the humid air does nothing to lift the spirits on this day of intended departure into the untried and unknown, - "You’ll still meet the South Easterly further South" the local ‘pundits’ say. Referring to the S.E or as the sailing fraternity put it , the 'Sail Easy' Monsoon which started to die on us the week before.
After years, months, weeks and finally days of ever-intensifying preparations, last minute stowing is underway on board ‘JAHO’. There is a lot of clearing of ‘Junk’ and packing of ‘Junk’ still to be done. Decisions are becoming mandatory now as to ‘take it’ or ‘leave it’. For, after my three years’ living in Seychelles, this is indeed Adieu. No returns intended at the end of this ‘cruise’ - unless or until coming from the East to ‘Tie the sailor’s Knot’ and make full circle - in time to come? - maybe. Anything left behind now, is left for ever and only the memory of it shall remain - in what and wheresoever microspace that may require.
The one man joining me as crew, Kenyan by birth, Seychellois by parentage and Calix by name, was born and grew to young manhood on the waterfront of Mombasa in Kenya the largest and at one time busiest port on the East African Coast. His parents from Seychelles, had lived and worked a thousand miles away in the Kenyan Port for many years but then, after some years facing increasing social and economic difficulties following that country’s Independence, they, as had many other immigrant workers in the same situation, had returned to the islands they had left as single young adults many years earlier, they and those like them, all bringing ‘back’ to these isolated communities their now displaced and bewildered adolescent offspring who had thitherto known only the type of life to be found in and around a major port on a continental mainland. So it was that Calix had become Seychellois by nationality too. At 32, he still has in him some of that resentment, anger and frustration that he had felt at 18 when he had been brought ‘home’ by his parents, away from all that which was familiar there in Mombasa, and with which he had grown up, to this strange ‘little place’ where they would tease him for his strange accent, his ‘big country ways’ and his lack of that common fund of knowledge about the place and it’s people that binds such insular communities into fortified strongholds against ‘outsiders’, even, or perhaps especially, against those whom fate has ordained should become ‘insiders’.
So the ‘survival battle’ was on for this young buck. Victory’s prize was acceptability. In later retrospect it became clear that this battle had perhaps never been won in Calix’s heart and mind. Compelled at eighteen years of age, by circumstances way beyond his control, to settle in Mahé at the family’s new home, Calix had fought, no doubt using those skills he had acquired in and around a busy waterfront as a youngster. He fought hard and long for his place in the Seychellois Public’s acceptance - among his ‘countrymen’- becoming national boxing champion in the Middleweight Class in the process. He had punched his way through Mahé’s granite mountain too, working on a water reservoir tunnelling project at which his fighting spirit and determined abilities soon earned him a position as Foreman and a good wage by then current Seychellois’ standards, but it was alas, only for as long as the construction project had lasted and that had finished a few years before I set foot in Seychelles in 1979. He’d also had to quit boxing after suffering a couple of bad knockouts and with no ongoing work of the same type to be had, he had wandered back to find such employment, similar to that of his early days back in Kenya, as the Port Victoria waterfront had to offer. A few men are drawn to and by the sea and for some of these, that ’calling’ emanates from far away across many horizons. Perhaps ’land-locked pioneers’ were similarly called by those far more solid reaches stretching across the continents they traversed. I, for one, am of that fraternity called by the sea.
When, early in 1982, Margaret Thatcher had ‘gone to war’ against the Argentinian invaders of Britain’s Falkland Islands, I was just at the end of my contract with Seychelles’ Government. As a former Royal Naval Reserve Officer (Medical Branch) having, in addition to several years’ wide surgical experience, had recent involvement in the management of combat injuries, I cabled the Admiralty volunteering available professional service in the South Atlantic. London’s reply was most courteous and couched in Service terms. They thanked me but pointed out that ‘unless the affair escalated’ (in which case they would contact me again) I was ’too old (at 41) to be readmitted for the ‘Present Engagement’. So much for Surgical experience ! ‘ Too old at 41’ that settled it ! I’d sail the South Atlantic anyway - although we did not call at Ascension Island the following year after we left the little island of St Helena. Controls were still in effect limiting anchoring-time allowed, this was consequent upon the Falklands’ War - but more of the Atlantic anon.
Sitting one evening, again in 1982, on board ‘JAHO’ quietly at anchor in Port Victoria, there came over the radio a selection of ‘Steel-Band Music’ from somewhere far, far away and I was immediately surprised at how nostalgic those sounds were. The call, or perhaps in this instance it was the re-call, of the Caribbean was indeed strong. Soon, all reparations and preparations having been made, it would be time to face upto the reality of a decision made a longtime before - to sail this old Ketch ’home’ to my adopted domicile of St Kitts in the Eastern Caribbean, by way of South Africa and the Cape of Good Hope.
When first I met Calix he was working on ‘NOA NOA’ a sleek-hulled French charter Yacht moored near to ‘JAHO’ in Port Victoria’s inner basin. He too had ‘sea-water coursing through his veins’ and was about ready to leave the small Granite Rock, the fifty or so square miles, that is Mahé, albeit the largest of the ninety two islands and atolls that make up 'The Seychelles' - often described as the most beautiful archipelago in the world.
He has always intended to come on this voyage in ‘JAHO’ ever since first I spoke of the possibility of making it back then, early in 1980. Shortly after that he had left as a crewman on ‘NOA NOA’ bound for the French West Indies, whence he later returned by air via Paris, to Mahé, whilst the French Yacht went on to the Pacific. He came to ‘JAHO’ then, becoming not only her able-bodied boat-boy but very able ship’s carpenter.
Now signed on as ‘ship’s crew’ ostensibly for a voyage to the Comores Group of islands the nearest ‘foreign territory’ on our route. To complete his ‘departure papers’ the Immigration Department required his possession of a valid return air ticket to Seychelles, as verified by them before granting his leaving certificate, this presumably to absolve that Government from the responsibility of bringing him back if stranded away from ‘home’. So he has amongst his documents a return ticket from Mauritius, lying 900 miles due South of Mahé which Island Country is the nearest one having an international airport serving Seychelles, it is of course well off our intended route to Southern Africa. ‘Mais, ca ne fait rien’ - such bureaucracy must ever fail to understand the onwards call that orders the life of the sea-faring man, who can usually find himself a dry berth on a well-found ship somewhere on God’s ocean, and thank Him for it, be he ‘Outward Bound’ or ‘coming home’.
Calix arrives early that morning, with his sea-bag and other gear, having been denied his bunk-space until departure day by reason of strewn effects and various final engineering procedures which hampered cabin access up to the last.
Much of the renovation and repair work done on ‘JAHO’ over the previous two and a half years could not have been accomplished in Seychelles without the interest, support and expertise of Joe Marzocchi and son Charlie , with other members of that remarkable Italian-Seychellois family, and the facilities provided by them at their Slipway and Marine Engineering complex at the Newport area. They really were splendid with their continuous help towards the final mechanical preparations. An unscheduled delay during the last two weeks, due to my having sustained a minor eye injury from a flake of rust, had even enabled, under Charlie’s expert guidance, the construction of a Two-Compartment Fridge and Deep-Freeze to be run on a compressor linked to the main engine. This was the final embellishment to the ‘new’ JAHO. She had by then been completely rewired with a master-control switch board. All lighting systems worked, including Running-lights and there was a good masthead deck-light for night work in an emergency. To run all these, two new Heavy- Duty Batteries had been installed - one was found to have a cracked case when it came aboard and had had to be changed, the other had had to be repaired after the top was found to be broken round one of the filler caps after installation - both batteries were fully charged and fuel tanks were filled on the 16th - 230 litres Diesel, Kerosene tank full, all four water tanks also filled. Head-Sails were bent on - the then almost total lack of wind notwithstanding. A young Guitar-playing-and-teaching Zimbabwean teacher, named Rick Hasler, had accosted me in the Yacht Club on Friday 15th at midday and begged ‘a ride home to Africa’. He had come to Seychelles after being invited to help ‘crewing’ aboard a yacht belonging to ‘the friend of a friend’ due to sail back to South Africa, but it seems however that the Skipper had been over enthusiastic in his recruiting and they’d departed fully-manned leaving young Rick behind, stranded, two thousand miles from his nearest bus-ride home. Formalities with the department of Immigration had been completed the same afternoon and he was then added to the ‘Crew List’ - completely novice but hopefully able.
Few last minute phone-calls to old and dear friends in Mahé before handing over the phone-line to ’Brownie’, the Australian charter skipper of Port Victoria - " an’ remember Desmond", in his Aussie drawl, "the sea won’t ‘urt yer boat! The land will! If in doubt ’ead ou’ ter sea! Good luck Mate!" - Phone-line gone, signed away at the Cable & Wireless Office to ‘Brownie Marine Services’ - our old ‘next-door’ neighbour on the renovated motor yacht ‘MY WAY’.
Final shopping trip into Victoria for fresh(est) fruit and vegetables available, post final mail, ’Au revoirs or Adieux’ to various friends around the yard. Hans and Karen the German couple from ‘LIBERTAS’ had been aboard yesterday for tea and said their ‘farewells’ their handsome bronze plaque ’Wilcommen an Bord’ now adorns the port cabin-side by the companionway. Today they waved cheerfully from their car window as they sped past on their way into town about their daily business. A few ‘chilli-cakes’ given as a parting token by Mr. Ma Low were meant to come in handy in place of lunch which today would probably be taken ‘on the run’ - but biting into one of these spicy delicacies contaminated unwittingly whilst filling lamps and stove with kerosene showed they sure hadn’t had their flavour enhanced!
18/10/82 12.05 hrs - Engine on / compressor on -
The compressor should need to be run for half to one hour, twice a day probably to keep refrigeration and freezer functioning. Batteries charged, and charging. An airlock in the fuel line resulting from yesterday’s fuel-filter checks caused a nasty moment when the engine didn’t start ‘first go’ on the button - but soon diagnosed and fixed as quickly. Thence on to normal working.
‘Arriverderci’s’ to Joe and the other Marzocchi’s. Charlie last one ashore. Then finally a first and last visit from Bob Duncan, dental surgeon from the hospital - he’s made us up an emergency dental-kit which I hope not to have to use afloat - on any of us! He has recognised and admired the ‘ Tahiti’ for a couple of years now - I’m sorry he was not able to get to know her better at closer range.
13.40 hrs - Leave Newport quayside under engine, seen off by yard people. Not much ‘fanfare’ in fact none but 'kantitay' (sic. Créole = ‘plenty of’ ) smiles and waves all round - To Long-Pier on the outer side of the harbour for final clearance - Defence Force Type.
The Soldier who boarded us - army boots all over the varnished coamings until requested kindly to refrain - nearly had a fit when he saw the words ‘Cape Town’ in Rick’s Passport - referring to the place of it’s issue. ‘Officially’ we are bound for ‘The Comores’ whose government is ’en rapport’ with Seychelles’ administration - this to avoid any hitches in Calix’s (Seychellois) departure formalities - "Politics!" The private is eventually persuaded that WE need to keep the SHIP’S PAPERS not they. Anyway Sey-Government have a copy at the Port Offices so the Military can ’beg borrow or steal’ a duplicate from that quarter if needs must - and the ‘best of luck!’ The outer Port is pretty full anyway. There’s a Ruskie freighter alongside, unloading mostly after dark, and a Soviet Warship anchored in the Roads just beyond the lighthouse. The poor chap must have thought ‘JAHO’ was an RSA Torpedo-boat or something - dour fellow!
Andy Smallwood takes our line at Long-Pier, so is the last one to bid us ‘farewell’ as he passes it back aboard - ‘it’s Au Revoir until the West Indies’ jolly nice of him to come over to that side to give us the last smile and wave. We trust their project with ‘CHRISTIAN BUGGE’ will procede well and that they too will start their voyage after the years of work on that old Norwegian Rescue Boat.