Boating for beginners

Mary-Ann Mathews

Moving to Cerf Island from the mainland of Mahe was a dream come true for me, but it came with challenging learning curves

Until Bella Boat aka Bella Biaaaatch (when she misbehaved) entered my life, I considered getting my driving licence as my most nerve-wracking moment. What did I know?

Trying to park Bella was nervewracking

Learning to steer Bella through the razor coral reefs; mooring her between luxury catamarans and millionaire yachts at Eden island; getting to my teaching job at the Internation School of Seychelles every day without getting sand all over my face was challenging. Eventually, thanks to the help of a friend called Charles, steering through the reefs became easier and even the Skull couldn’t scare me for long.

Seen from underwater the Skull is a beautiful giant coral growth fringing Cerf Island, home to shoals of iridescent fish. It’s also a treacherous monster that has wrecked many a boat hull.

In the mornings, I’d walk down to beach at the bottom of my garden. A daily fight with gritty seaweed wrapped around the mooring rope would spray sand in my face. I’d pull Bella in on her rope. She’d resist like a mule.

The Seychelles beach at the bottom of my garden

If the tide was high, I’d wade out to her, dress hiked to my waist and inelegantly haul myself, schoolbooks, and spare clothes onto her.

Sometimes I’d forget to unhook the mooring rope before starting the engine and Bella would buck and strain like a mad horse until I figured why she wasn’t moving.

The yellow arrow shows where I lived

I’d motor through the gap in the reef, edging past the Skull, pick up speed and then head for Mahe amid flying fish and spectacular sunrises.

As Eden Island appeared ahead, my bravery would vanish and my legs would shake as I’d contemplate the ordeal ahead.  Trying to come in at just the right angle and speed to avoid crashing against the wooden deck, I’d phut-phut into the luxury marina.

Coming in too fast, I’d ram Bella into reverse and she’d shoot backwards towards the gleaming hull of a luxury catamaran.  Horrified, I’d shove her into top gear and she’d surge full throttle towards the pier. It was quite miraculous that I managed to get to school in one piece. Occasionally my elation would be tempered by the discovery of two right-foot sandals in my bag. Arrrrrrrrrrgh!