[Editor’s Note: After spending most of the winter of 1997 in Senegal and Gambia onCrazy Horse--see earlier posts on this here--I sailed out to explore the Cape Verdes before sailing to the West Indies. An earlier version of this account was published inCruising World.]
AS WE LEFT the city of Banjul behind us, we could see that the swollen mouth of the Gambia River, a vast grey fairway, was studded with fishing pirogues. Most of the fishermen were tending charcoal fires in their bilges and thus were easily distinguished from a distance, lurking under dark smudges in the sky. They waved their arms as we approached, shouting in Wolof, to warn us away from their unmarked nets.
Either we’d strayed on to the flats, where one might reasonably expect to find men fishing in small canoes, or a buoy was missing. And yes, I remembered. The previous week while walking the beach at Fajara, Carie and I had found a huge red nun lying like a bloated whale upon the sand. And I thought then: pity the sailor who needs this buoy to find his way. And I was thinking now after studying the chart: it must have gone right there, off our port bow, and these men must be insane, fishing like this with their nets splayed out all across the shipping channel.
Later that afternoon, after we finally we broke break free of the onshore sea breeze, free from the drift nets and from the continent of Africa, we found the tradewinds had far too much north in them--a discouraging development.