It was supposed to be a wonderful end to a wonderful day. Three other guys and I had moved tonnes of wood, we had enjoyed a chicken curry for lunch, we had caught loads of crabs and were looking forward to them for supper and then we got that feeling, the one that says something isn’t quite right.
We stopped work, we were only really tidying up anyway, and drifted down to the shop where Joaquim had been in charge all day, Marcia being on a supply run. It was packed and there were more arriving every second.
‘What the hell is going on Kimmie?’
‘Bota’s boat is overdue’
‘Shit, Kimmie, he’s just shacked up with one of is girlfriends up river, he’ll be back and he better bring me the bottle of Maruva he keeps promising me’
‘No, Sr Tomas, he went out to sea’
Shit. I mean real shit. I served him breakfast at about ten. He left soon after. High tide would have been about three in the afternoon so he would have thrown his nets before that and been due back about four pm. It was now eight at night. Who but a maniac would risk these seas? Yes, the fishing is great with these high tides but with the storms, the rain and an onshore wind driving you into the cliffs? It just isn’t worth it. Well, perhaps not to me but clearly Bota thought it was. I spent the day stacking wood while Bota got himself into all sorts of shit.
Everything happened pretty fast after that. Bota’s mother pitched up, my place has turned into a bit of a community centre, and she was followed by all the other female members of the family who, clearly convinced that Bota was now fish food, rolled themselves in the dirt shrieking and wailing while his brothers argued about who had title to his Landcruiser still parked, ever so lonely, on my beach.
‘Kimmie, I guarantee his engine has stuffed and he is drifting up to Luanda, let’s get the boats out’
I turned over the petrol store I kept for the generator and all the torches and batteries I had in the shop before diving next door to beg the only boat in the neighbourhood that had a powerful searchlight and twin engines off the South Africans only to be fucked off. I told them that I would pay full sticker for a day’s charter but I needed the boat. They said no. I said there were three blokes out there and if we moved quickly we just might find them. They said no. I pointed out the maritime code, the sort of marine Hippocratic oath to save any seaman in distress. They said no. I told them they were Boer bastard racist shits. They told me to fuck off.
I doubled back and helped launch the local boats feeling like a right cunt. They all thought that white on white I would get the big boat. What could I say?
So we went out in our 7 metre chatas with our forty horsepowers on the back, waving our torches and criss-crossing the area we knew Bota was likely to lay his nets with me pushing further north which is where he would drift if his engine went tits up suddenly. Then we saw the big boat come out but it came no further than the break, sauntering up and down the river mouth uselessly and blinding us with the searchlight we really needed out at sea. Everyone in the village who had a mobile phone had handed them out. I had mine but Marcia’s was on the boat behind me. In the rush no-one had explained what numbers to ring so it was a while before the message got through to me that Bota had been picked up. One by one, we all headed in and joined a real beach party. One of the South Africans joined us.
‘Why didn’t you cross the break?’ I asked.
‘It’s Rico’s boat’ he said.
I wanted to ask him what on earth was the point of launching the big boat and burning all that gas just to run up and down the river mouth but then I would have made the fundamental error of assuming that just because a man is white, he is somehow superior in intelligence.
Don’t get me wrong, they generally are, blessed with better education and opportunity but clearly Boers are an inbred exception to the rule.
‘Fuck you, you bastard’ was all I said.
I had a great day and then a real scare. It is midnight and I am soaking wet having spent the evening bouncing about the Atlantic so you might excuse me for being a little crusty. I’ve got eyes like salt encrusted saucers, an adrenalin fuelled nervousness which has already taken me way beyond bedtime. You try standing up in the bow of a boat swallowing all the ocean can throw at you while frantically searching for a mate.
And do you know what the little shit did when we got him ashore? I told him I was only worried about him because he had an unpaid account at my shop. So he helped himself to a bottle of Champagne from my cooler and pissed off home.