Hi everyone, Jo Holloway here. Born and raised all over Central and Southern Africa by a father who could not stop himself from boating one way or another, and a mother who was terrified he would drown us all, one way or another.
Some of my earliest memories were of a small yacht named Black Swan, on a lake in what is now Zambia – probably Mufulira and surrounds. Shortly after that, he and his best friend were building a hull in our back yard in Abercorn (still in Zambia), which I don’t think ever made it to the water. He and same friend took my older brother out fishing on Lake Tanganyika at one point, when my brother was about 4, and were caught in a downpour; my mother was frantic with worry and everyone thought they’d drowned, but no, bad penny, my Dad! But it stopped his boating enterprises for about 3 or 4 years.
By then we had moved to Gwelo, in Rhodesia (then Southern Rhodesia), and he couldn’t help himself; he bought a second hand small day cabin cruiser. He packed us all in – my mother, brother, self and younger sister – plus a cooler bag picnic, and hauled off across a large dam. Still in sight of the boating clubhouse, the engine cut out and we drifted and drifted; the dam was absolutely full and the current/wind carried us to the top of the dam wall, where my father got out and stood on that edifice, holding the boat off, while my mother shrieked and a boat headed toward us to help.
Again, there was a lull, but only brief. I was about 8 when I was allowed to join the Optimist crowd, one of many small children being taught to sail. I thought I had finally made it; my father was so proud! My brother, two years older, was terrified and refused to go back after the first lesson, and no way would my mother allow my younger sister to set foot in a boat on her own, so I got all the glory and praise for myself
We moved again soon after, to Marandellas, where the most water sports I saw was a tractor inner tube racing down river rapids. After that life got more serious, but we moved to Malawi when I was 11, and soon after made friends and began regularly visiting Lake Malawi, where we took advantage of all available boats, but fishermen’s dugouts to kayaks and small catamarans. I was a thorough waterbaby! But boarding school in between meant not a lot of time for boating.
Then I left school, and as one does, I pursued more boring things in life, and for many years boats did not play a part in my life. But when I was 22 I met my future husband, who told me tales of his sailing from Hong Kong to Singapore, and his determination to retire to a yacht and sail around the world. I suspect that may have played a part in why I fell for the man, lol!
So we married, and got on with raising children, but somewhere around 1989 we took a second honeymoon to the Indian Ocean Islands, starting with Reunion and Mauritius, where he was determined to hire a small sailing dinghy and sail us out to sea. Well, long story short, bung must have popped out, and when we were about ant-size-people distance from shore, we sank, rather inelegantly, and were helped first by an elderly local fisherman in a pirogue, then by a speedboat carrying the boat man from shore, who apparently had been watching us through binoculars. All I am saying is: that was the very first time I had got up the courage to do some topless sunbathing, and it was the last. Still, the old man of the sea was very polite about the whole thing. 😀
Next stop was the Seychelles, where we took an ancient tri-master across between islands, and I saw my husband light up like a candle, positively glowing with happiness. Well, that settled it, right? We needed to kickstart his dream.
Before we knew it (and long before we had planned it!) we were the owners of a beautiful Gitana 43, in Durban harbour. We spent years pretending to be doing her up while we waited for the money to do her up, but two kids in private schools didn’t leave a lot extra. Long story short, the kids grew up before we could take the family off sailing, and it was several years after they left home (and Africa) before we finally threw our caps into the ring and took off from Richards Bay, across the Mocambique Channel, heading for Mayotte up the north-west coast of Madagascar. Many many long stories later, we spent an idyllic time sailing around Mayotte, then past the Comoros and Zanzibar, up to Kilifi Creek, where we put in for repairs, ran out of money, went back to the UK, received an offer on the boat that we could not refuse, and sadly sold her.
By then we were living in the Broads of Norfolk. Unable to do without boats I had bought a kayak, and then a small dayboat, and then we were hankering to sleep on the water again so we swapped that for a weekend cruiser, but the first weekend we cruised we woke up, looked at each other and said, “We have to live on the water again!”
Not easy; Andrew was working outside London, no chance of a sailing boat on the canals there! But he had an idea… a narrowboat! … Several long stories later, we had moved onto a 65′ Harborough and were living on the canals a short distance from where he worked, in Ivor. Bliss!
But he and I were never good at living together, and now he still lives on the boat while I am in Spain, wishing I were still able enough to get a boat of my own. Perhaps one day… meanwhile, I thought up this web site, where I can share all things boating with other women who understand cockroaches in the showers, hanking on sails in miserable weather, and other lovely stuff. 🙂 I hope to get to know you all soon!
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