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Odyssey from Africa 11d

Odyssey from Africa, Chapter 11 (d) cont...

Thus the boarding of the parties 
Was a speedy operation 
Very soon the whole flotilla
Sailed toward the open ocean

This wide bay from which the ships set
Sail is called the Bay of Pemba
In the present land of Mozambique 
Along its golden seashore 

Their departure coincided
With the early morning sea-breeze
Which at dawn still blowing offshore
Helped the ships to clear the wave line 
Han was seized by fascination
In this wondrous feat of sailing 
How the changing winds were harnessed
Into speed and foaming bow-wave

Two great masts held high the sail-sheets
From the first the jibs and foresails
From the next the top and mainsail
At the stern the guiding rudder
Ropes were woven from the bark of
Baobab trees and held secure the 
Fabric sails and swinging sail booms;
They were shortened or were lengthened

By drum winches that were mounted 
On the gunwales and the transom
Han had never seen such craftwork 
Seen such high sophistication 
In shipbuilding. For some moments 
He admired it without speaking 
Turning aft he started talking 
With the sailor at the tiller
Both were well experienced seamen
So they spoke a common language 
Traded secrets of their boat-lore
Of the sea, its joys and dangers
As the sun approached its zenith 
All around lay endless ocean
Scarcely on the west horizon 
Could they see the land’s thin profile 

Passing out of view behind them
As they headed south and eastward 
To their port side far away the
Misty plumes of whales were sighted 

Now the chieftain of their party
Sat down near to Han and Kwona
To discuss with them arrangements 
For their visit to the kingdom 
They would live as guests together 
In the household of the family 
Of a leading individual 
An official of the kingdom 
There were seven grades of service 
That the kingdom held in honour
There were warriors and craftsmen
Also scholars and the healers

There were gatherers, there were merchants 
And the king’s own royal servants
Han expressed his greatest interest 
In the craftsmen and shipbuilders 

Those that built these ocean schooners
Which evoked his admiration 
Word accordingly was given.
All the while they sailed on eastward 

To their journey’s destination 
To the land of Madagascar
Which would be six hundred miles of
Sailing from the Bay of Pemba

For the children the excitement 
Of the ocean journey faded
As the hours passed by unnumbered 
In relentless sun and sea-wind

Copyright © | Year Posted 2017

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