*New Africa Expat Stereotype. In homage to the fortunate few who’ve made the stunning East African coastline their permanent home.
The Indian Ocean sparkles. Squinting, Carl holds a hand up to shield his eyes from the sun as he docks his fishing boat at the jetty. Amid a plume of diesel fumes, Carl throws a rope to a boat helper who ties off expertly then hops aboard. The title ‘boat boy’ belies his age.
“Howsit Rajabu?” Asks Carl, rhetorically as he unhooks his fuel canister then grabs rods and cool box ready to disembark.
“Good Sah. Very good.” Rajabu smiles widely, revealing spaces for missing teeth. He wears a uniform of navy shorts and matching tunic top topped off by a muslim cap. Rajabu is a long time employee at the creekside boatyard. His face and skin are weathered by too much sun and salt. He’s responsible for Carl’s boat ‘The Jetstream’ and quite a few others in the yard. He busies himself professionally coiling ropes and stowing cushions. Carl tosses Rajabu the boat keys.
“You’ll tie her up at the buoy for me?” Carl says, gesturing out toward boats further out in the creek where a dhow passes, bringing in its catch.
Rajabu stiffens into a mock salute. “Yes Sah. Hakuna matata.”
“Got to get over to the bar.” Carl says, patting Rajabu on the back.
Carl steps off the boat wearing flipflops, a kikoy and a well loved white t-shirt that has seen better days. He has lived at the coast all of his life and is in his late forties. His tanned skin and blonde hair bleached by the sun has attracted many a holiday maker in the past, but demand for tourist fishing trips has dropped off lately due to terror threats and local political upheavals – which is just the way Carl likes it. Carl ambles along the uneven wooden jetty greeting Sven the Dane who’s tinkering on his shiny, smart racing catamaran. Sven used to be a hedge fund manager apparently.
“Coming up for a cold one?” Carl asks.
“Just need to finish up here,” Sven calls back.
“Bloody perfectionist.” Carl mutters under his breath. He’s fond of Sven but he’s never known such a damn stickler for keeping things ship shape.
Carl eyes the almost deserted boat yard bar and breathes out heavily. Mike is there to greet him, but it’s still early.
“Catch anything?” asks Mike, a former motorcar salesman who owns an enviable house set out on the promontory overlooking the creek.
“Nah, not much out there today.” Carl replies. “Wind got up a bit too.”
Carl pulls a stool up at the beach bar and an ice cold beer appears at his elbow as if by magic. Condensation pours off the chilled glass bottle leaving a puddle on the dark wood counter. Carl winks at bar tender Reuben in thanks, who nods back while busying himself polishing glasses.
“Where’s the memsahib?” Carl asks Mike politely.
“Bridge today.” Mike replies, “amazing how they make that game into an all day event. That and tennis.”
The men chuckle then fall into a companionable silence for a full minute. Both recognise that the first beer is one to be relished and best enjoyed undisturbed.
“About to be overrun by those bloody townies next week. Isn’t it the school kids half term? Might have to head out on a short safari.” Says Carl, finally ready to make conversation. “Number of teenagers being sick off the dock every night beggars belief. Do you remember last New Year’s eve?”
“Good enough business though eh?” Says Mike, ever the salesman. Reuben, overhearing, shakes his head in dismay.
“Yeah. You’re not wrong. Last Christmas I took a bunch of punters out for a fish just a mile out to sea. One was seasick, didn’t catch and thing and all came back horribly sunburned but they couldn’t thank me enough. Took over $800 off them just for the cost of the boat fuel and a couple of beers. Good day.”
“And how’s your old Ma?” asks Mike, aware that Carl’s relationship status is generally a mystery, so his mum makes for a safer line of enquiry.
“Oh she’s alright,” replies Carl, fiddling with copper and leather bracelets that adorn his wrist. “Bit spooked by those riots round her way last week. Had to go out in the boat to rescue her off the creek.”
“Bastards.” Mutters Mike. “Elections coming up again. Happens every time.”
“Travels light though. I’ll say that for her. Hopped on board with her houseman, passport and a bottle of gin.”
Both men laugh. At that moment Sven strolls over, 6ft 5 and hearty.
“Hey Reuben, where’s my beer?” He exclaims in a strident, Scandinavian accent.
“Off to Dar next week?” asks Carl. “For the Tanzacat race?”
“Yah, then on to the Seychelles. Need to make the most of those trade winds while they blow.”
“Well don’t run into any pirates because we’re not paying any bloody ransom for you.” Says Mike.
Sven laughs. “You think they’d dare take me?” Sven says, blowing out his chest impressively before taking his first sip of cold beer.
A few more join the bar. One beer turns into a few and the sun sets spectacularly while Reuben busies himself in the back kitchen, frying up crab and coriander samosas.