The closest I got to the wilds of Africa was in August, 1975 when a yacht I helped crew from Sri Lanka sailed into the port city of Victoria on Mahé —the largest island of the tropical paradise archipelago of the Seychelles.
After eight treacherous days of heavy weather and a turbulent crossing, from Diego Garcia (the top secret British-American military base in the Indian Ocean), we sighted the Port Victoria beacon. “Yea!” the crew cheered. We tried numerous times to reach the port authorities by radio, but no one answered. According to our calendar it was a holiday—Ascension Day. Having lost our anchor and not wanting to get beached on a corral reef, as we had in Diego Garcia, we let down our sails and drifted for the night. Luckily, it was a calm night.
The next morning, we tried again and again to make radio contact. No luck. Surely they had received word from the British Rep in Diego Garcia that we had no charts to guide us into port and no anchor to sit it out. We waited a few more hours, then tried again. In full view of this idyllic island, bobbing in a gorgeous bay caressed by the turquoise waters of Mahé, I didn’t even entertain the idea of ascending into heaven. I longed to simply step foot on this paradise on earth.
After many unanswered calls to the port authority, our captain decided we must make our way into the safety of the inner harbor before dark and find some way to tie onto something. Seeing no one in sight, we drifted in. Surely someone would meet us as we entered.. A man came running out along the dock, waving his arms and yelling, “Go, go back out to sea and wait until tomorrow.” Megaphone in hand, our captain explained our dire situation of not having an anchor on board. The man listened, then agreed we could tie onto a buoy near the dock and wait out the night.
So wait we did. And after many weeks at sea, that night I dreamed of eating fresh fruit and walking barefoot along the white sandy shore.
And the following day … I did just that.