Indian Ocean - A week discovering Kenya’s Lamu Archipelago

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Getting ready to go

“Failing to plan is planning to fail”: this cannot be emphasized enough. The planning for this cruise up to Lamu began immediately after our last trip in early March 2022. This would be my 4th sail to Lamu, the second on my own boat, a modified 1996 Richard Woods Elf 26 catamaran. I had been watching the weather patterns for several months and Fritz had already started the weather routing. We were initially planning to leave on January 19, but a cyclone down near Madagascar was causing all the air to move down those sides to the massive low thus causing extraordinary wind and waves in northern Kenya. The cyclone passed and Fritz had determined that 1300hrs on Wednesday February 1 would be the ideal departure time. We were joined as crew by Amir whom I had met a few weeks previously, and by my full-time deckhand Emmanuel “Manu” would join as well: this would be his 3rd sail up to Lamu. The day before departure, Fritz and I went to Malindi so we could clear out with Kenyan Customs and get our transire that would allow travel to Lamu and to also do our provisioning. I also used this day to notify the Kenyan Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (RMRCC) via email ( I would phone them the next day to notify them of our departure, and I regularly kept in touch with them as we proceeded on our cruise across Ungwana Bay: they are a real pleasure to deal with and will call you on the mobile phone if you miss your check-in deadline.

Day 1 - From Watamu to Ras Ngomeni

After a good night’s sleep, we loaded up the boat. We were met at Ocean Sports Resort in Watamu, Kenya, where we moor our catamaran in the Kaskazi season (from December to April) by Amir who had taken a bodaboda (local motorcycle taxi) in from the neighboring town of Malindi. We departed right on time at 12.55 pm. We zigzagged back and forth so as to get on the proper course to Lamu. Fritz even managed to get “Otto” the autopilot to work for the first time in 7 years! We had a great sail but just after dark, Otto started misbehaving and steering us in circles. We later found that he was hungry for power and the ship’s batteries couldn’t satisfy his needs: with at least 5 phones, 2 tablets and 2 additional battery packs on board, you can imagine the draw, especially if several of the gadgets are running Navionics. By this point we were not making any headways as we sailed into Ungwana Bay (also known as Formosa), which gets fierce at night. With no safe harbor for over 50 nm, I made the decision to turn back towards Ras Ngomeni, the home of Italy’s space program and the site of the San Marco Space Platform. We anchored at our favorite spot for the night just before midnight.

Day 2—From Ras Ngomeni to Lamu

We were up at 5.20 am in order to get ready for a sunrise departure. We soon discovered that we were caught in a fishermen’s net which had wrapped itself around us. They were quite accommodating about it and assisted us in the ...

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