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November 2014

By the end of November, Musafir was ready for its maiden journey bound to Kilifi. Kaskasi, the seasonal monsoon wind blowing southward had started and it was time to say goodbye to Kipini. Three years and three months after arriving with a rucksack on the back, we were to leave sailing a traditional dhow. Musafir could not have been built anywhere else than Kipini. This remote village lost in time, at the end of the road, where the mighty Tana River meets the Indian Ocean will always keep a special place in the heart of those who stayed there for the construction. Thanks Kipini, we will be back!

On 24th of November, a crew of sailors from Kipini was hired, led by captain Mohamed Mbwana. At dusk the next morning, Musafir got in motion, towed by a smaller fishing boat that would take it to the rocky islands of Siwayu, a few miles from the Tana estuary. What a high feeling to watch the landscape unfold at sunrise, what a great joy to leave the land for the deep sea, captain at the till, Musafir gently rolling on the calm sea. It didn’t take long to reach Siwayu, where we anchored in the shallow, clear water. We spent the day fishing, snorkeling and preparing the boat for the big journey. At four in the afternoon, excitement rose up as the wind picked up. In no time the anchor was lifted up and then the heavy furumani (the boom to which the sail is attached). A swift cup and the fibers keeping the sail closed were cut, the canvas filled up with wind and - for the first time - Musafir was sailing on its own. The dream had come true! We were sailing on a majestic, yet unfinished dhow!

The journey went really smooth, the dhow was strong and holding the sea nicely, the weather great, the wind gentle and the sea calm. Musafir sailed superbly, and after a moment of torpor when the local sailors realized we had packed only rice as staple instead of the traditional ugali (the maize flour, preferred by sailors because it fills you up for a long time!) spirit among the crew was very high! We cruised for four days and three nights, dropping the anchor when wind was low. When the gates of Kilifi creek were reached on the last morning, we realized that if ten strong, coordinate sailors were enough to maneuver the boat, the help of another ten people was most welcome when it came to lift up 200 m of anchor rope. Thankfully our friends Charles, Mwanasee and Omari had joined us with fresh chai and delicious mandazi! Then Rossano towed us safely through the tricky entrance of the creek. Except for the captain, focused on the till, everyone on board was cheering and dancing, beating the drum and blowing the conch shell, what a sight it must have been from the land!

At seahorse beach, a welcome committee assembled by our friends from Distant Relatives was waiting for us. Except for that rocker of a goat, slaughtered as the tradition demands as we were leaving the Tana, all 22 people and Uko-uku the smart chicken arrived safe, sound and happy, with only one wish, to continue the journey as soon as possible…

Leaving KipiniLeaving KipiniEveryone onboard!Pull!It's a thing of beauty!Some entertainmentAll the cargo (and one Mzee)Arriving to KilifiThe crew