"African Queen" story 2011

Milan and Ruth Vesely are owners of “African Queen”, which was built at their own boatyard 30 years ago in Kenya.
This is their story as new owners of African Queen.

Thunderstorms have a particular significance for me, the more violent the better.

No surprise then that Paros Island in the Greek Cyclades Islands was hit by “the biggest thunderstorm anyone can remember” on May 26th 2011 when Ruth and I arrived to meet up with the African Queen; our newly purchased Samantha 39 yacht.


The African Queen is our dream come true. I’d already seen her on our scouting trip in February and had been on Grant and Anne-Marie’s “Mjamaji” in Florida but this was Ruth’s first acquaintance with a Samantha after some 31 years, a yacht that had meant so much to us in those turbulent, 1980 African days. And Ruth was thrilled; getting up at 04.30am the next morning to start cleaning and stowing gear while I began fitting new LED lights, the U.S. Coastguard registration numbers and the new set of batteries that Graeme Hole of Afros Yacht Services had so kindly supplied. As for hoisting the ‘Stars and Stripes’ of our proudly adopted country up the halyard—that was a very special and poignant moment for a rather battered pair of ex-African refugees.


In calm weather on the sixth day and with no sailing experience to speak off I powered the African Queen out into Parikia Harbor, its Perkins 4236 diesel engine burbling away contentedly as Ruth enjoyed the breeze up at the African Queen’s substantial bow sprit. As for my palms; they were sweaty from all the excitement, my mind barely able to grasp it all in.


The next 40 minutes were nothing but a giant adrenalin rush. Wow! It was pure fun; absolutely terrific. The boat handled beautifully, its proud bow’s parting of the waves seemingly infusing us with a spirit that we had missed for so long.  Ruth and I were in yachting heaven, the sails all neatly furled courtesy of Graeme and the warm sea on the horizon beckoning. And that’s when I made a beginner’s mistake. “Let’s take a practice run at catching the mooring buoy,” I told Ruth, “and then we can do some more handling to get a better feel for this 12 ton beauty.” 


Big mistake! Not only did Ruth, all five foot two of her, nearly fall overboard reaching down with the boat hook but the yellow float also came off the lead-in mooring rope. As for the yelling French man on his near by Beneteau 42—he we could have done without. “Vite, vite!” and “too shallow, too shallow” followed by his hands being thrown up into the air as he yelled “Alors! Not my problem!” certainly didn’t help a pair of rookies in the throes of their first taste of what a big boat handles like.


“All’s well that ends well” is an apt statement and soon we were tied up with 2 mooring rope cleat knots drying in the sun—how about that, eh? Amazing what you can learn on the internet these days.


The rest of the afternoon was balmy under the shady cover spread out over the main boom. Life was good, the Greek bakery sandwiches excellent and the hours ones to relish. The red wine wasn’t bad either.


But the devil was not done with us yet.

Balancing in the dinghy to go to ashore the Johnson outboard wouldn’t start. One hard pull and the back of my hand hit Ruth on the side of her head, the Kodak camera with some 3 hours of terrific video flying away in an arc to be followed by two pairs of eyes growing ever larger as we watched it fade into the 20 foot deep harbor blue.


We really love the African Queen. It feels like coming home to an old pair of slippers, the yacht so much part of us. Even Ruth (she of the sore head) has not been put off; her desire to get the yacht totally shipshape and to have it moored somewhere where it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to get to still intact, if not strengthened now that the African Queen is an actual part of us.


Milan Vesely,   June 2011