A hat, a kayak & dreams of Dar

Posted on November 13, 2017


My latest book, with culinary contributions from long time partner, wife and former kayak crew, Barbara, is now available in South African bookstores. Do ask to ensure your local store (if in SA) has copies of A hat, a kayak & dreams of Dar.

It is a quite radical digression from my usual fare. And to whet your appetite I have included, below, a brief excerpt:

I hadn’t thought we would need to know much about the coastline. Since our intended course was some way offshore, the ins and outs of the coast would be irrelevant.

They might have been, but for the fog. I trusted the compass, but didn’t want to end up too far out to sea, so we kept on paddling close to the shore, often within sight — and usually sound — of what seemed like thousands of bank holidaying Britons. Unknowingly, we headed through the murk into Pegwell Bay.

We were to find out later, in Dover, that Pegwell Bay is notorious for its extreme tides, its sandbanks and bogs, and that it is home to the estuary of the River Stour. We discovered the sandbanks as we wallowed our way south, unprepared for the imminent practical lesson on tidal surges, those strong flows of tidal water that travel up shallow estuaries against the normal current.

As we paddled, poled and rocked to and fro to get off sandbanks, we suddenly found ourselves in deeper water and moving swiftly. I was ecstatic; as long as we weren’t heading west and out to the open sea, we would be fine. An earlier glance at the compass had revealed that we were heading east and south as we picked up speed.

But then, as the fog lifted slightly, land appeared on the left. Impossible! England was surely to our right. And, to the left, across the Channel, surely France?

Through the mist we could make out sloping mud banks on which several launches were drawn up. There seemed to be a few men lolling on their foredecks, drinking. In what I took to be my best British accent, I shouted across, “Excuse me, where are we?”

The answer came back immediately: “Pardonnez moi?”

This provoked great mirth among the drinkers, who were obviously aware of what had happened. Then one of them shouted, “You’re up the River Stour, mate.”

So we did an about-turn, still against the tidal surge, and headed back down one of England’s great medieval waterways that had once linked Canterbury with the continent. It was very hard going, but we eventually made it out beyond the estuary and again into the maze of sandbanks.

The fog hadn’t lifted and, with the constant rocking of the boat, Barbara started feeling seasick. It seemed we were getting nowhere until, through the mist, loomed the figure of a man, stark naked. In the swirling fog he seemed to be walking on air.

I greeted him with the same pathetic query: “Excuse me. Where are we?”

“Pegwell Bay Nudist Colony,” he replied. “And where are you off to?”

Without thinking, I blurted out: “Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.”

“Jolly good,” he said, before pointing out, unnecessarily, that the immediate vicinity was extremely difficult to navigate. Then, telling us to “hang on”, he seemed to melt into the mist before reappearing with another naked man, the two of them carrying a canoe and accompanied by a very buxom, naked woman who knelt in the front of their craft as they launched it, like the figurehead of some grand schooner. We followed them through the channels they were clearly familiar with, and away from the sand-clogged area.

“Straight on down to Deal and then to Dover,” our guide said cheerily.

We thanked the nudist crew and headed off, exhausted. It was already late.

“We’re not going to make Dover,” Barbara said.

She was right………

So we blundered on and through the canals and rivers of France, into the Mediterranean toward another — and potentially catastrophic — encounter with fog.

Posted in: Books/pamphlets