I love the sea. Pure and simple. I am always so much happier when I am near it. I financially crippled myself for years to be able to afford to live near it. I nearly died once when I was in it. (Nitrogen bubble in my spinal cord). And the first thing I said when I was properly conscious again, was to ask when I would be allowed to dive in it again. It’s part of me. As much as the blood in my veins. I believe in reincarnation and in truth, I believe a fair bit in magic too.
Perhaps I was a mermaid in another life.
When I lived in Uganda, it was bitter-sweet for me most days. I could see the Lake Victoria from the rooftop, where I would spend time practicing yoga, making skype calls, or simply drinking my coffee and watching the birds fly overhead. But that lake is filled to the brim with Bilharzia and so it was; I could see the water, but I would never be in the water.
Making the move to Lagos, to be told I would be living on one island, working on another…well, the water baby in me was thrilled. I would see the water every single day and there would surely be a beach within a stone’s throw from my house, wouldn’t there? Or perhaps not.
Lagos, to me, is concrete city. It is loud. It is busy. And it is often easy to forget we are anywhere near water, aside from the many hours spent in non-moving traffic on the Lekki bridge. This water is part of the lagoon, rather than the open sea. And it is not exactly idyllic, filled as it is with diesel, oil, and rubbish. A plethora of plastic, that never seems to dissipate.
There are beaches, it is true. But you have to drive a fair way to reach them, or you must travel by boat. Using the public boat entails a wait, until it has filled sufficient capacity to offset the costs of the journey. And chartering a boat is not so easy on a budget, unless you are one of Lagos’s more elite (and let’s face it, there are a sizeable of these around).
Anyhow, back to the moment at hand….
A friend of mine had invited me for a lunch and then onto a private beach that he had access to. I was keen for both parts, but the idea of finding a beach nearer was exactly what I had been seeking. And I was not disappointed. When there, we were able to relax in peace, walk along a sandy shore, rest on comfy loungers, drink a beer, and cook our food on the brai. It was a brilliant Sunday. And turned out to only be the beginning…
The beach was part of the Lagos Yacht club and my friend wanted to try out sailing for the afternoon. His friends were due to meet us there and take us out for a spin, so to speak. After some time however, it seemed they had other ideas and we were left a little adrift. Until one of the other sailors appeared and with great kindness and generosity, confirmed that he was happy to step into their shoes, and show us the ropes; terrible pun intended 😉
Without further ado (or the chance for me to recognise that I didn’t even know what sort of boat a Hobie 16 was), I was kitted up in a harness and testing out something called the trapeze. One minute I had been collecting shells along the shore, and now I was preparing to be hanging off a catamaran, my hair to the breeze, and me utterly clueless as to what on earth I was doing. I found myself awake. Like I had been sleeping this whole time in Lagos, and now I had taken my finger away from the snooze button.
Suddenly my ears were filled with words like tack and gybe, words that to me represented horse-riding leathers, and perhaps a style of dance. I had no idea what was being spoken about. But I was back on the water, sea-spray on my lips, and I was me again.
Three more sails later, including one where a huge storm had arrived and we were out on the water, with black skies, lightning all around and a race very quickly becoming aborted, and I found myself preparing for something quite special. I had jokingly mentioned that an upcoming race was something that I thought sounded like an absolute adventure and that I would love to give it a go….. What I hadn’t banked on was that in my total novice state, anyone would even slightly consider offering for me to be part of it.
How wrong can you be.
They say loose lips sink ships. Well, I found myself praying to my inner guidance, that this would not be my outcome.
The one-of-a-kind, annual event of the Lagos to Badagry return race was approaching. There is more than 24 hours available to complete this race, at over 200km distance. And the majority of people I had now come to know, were telling me I would be an utter fool to even entertain the idea in my mind. That it is arduous, uncomfortable, mosquito-ridden, dangerous, and above all else, only for experienced crew.
Sometimes it is better the devil you know, that is true. But in other cases, ignorance is bliss. As is a helm who has full faith in his own abilities and your own willingness to learn, be patient, accept criticism (even in heightened states of adrenaline), and generally be fully prepared to give it your all. So there I was, about to embark on a 24 hour race, with the helm who had taken me on my first ever Hobie 16 sail. Was I the madman, or was he? (Tale to be continued…)