It’s Monday 23rd February 2009 the dhow comes out of the water

This week I’m going to hand over to Mark and Jenna for some updates from Pumulani – even though it’s closed, there is still much to do!


Traditional dhow at sunsetdhow

Dhow – the very word conjures up images of adventure, of sea-faring merchants, slave traders, fishermen and smugglers. Elegant sailing boats from an era long past that still persist today throughout the Arabian Gulf and along the Arab influenced East Coast of Africa. In Africa dhows have been synonymous with traders and on Lake Malawi it was the slave trade during the 19th Century that brought dhows to the lake. Prior to the 19th Century the slave trade was not as lucrative as the trade in gold and ivory but with the decline in gold output from Zimbabwe and the rise of Omani Arab rule in Zanzibar the slave trade took on new dimensions. By the 1840’s several coastal slave traders had established themselves in what is now Malawi and thousands of slaves from the interior were shipped in dhows, across the lake, bound for Kilwa on the Tanzanian coast.

Dhow detailCarvings down the side

As those of you who have visited Pumulani and sailed on the dhow will know, the creaking mast, billowing cotton sail and the gentle sound of water slapping against the wooden hull seem to bring some of the more romantic history of these vessels to life. The dhow is an integral part of the Pumulani experience and it is difficult not to fall in love with it after your first sail.

Local boat builders on Likoma Island on Lake Malawi, 200km north of Pumulani, constructed the dhow using traditional methods unchanged since the early 19th Century. Indigenous hardwoods sourced from Mozambique were used for timber, with individual trees carefully selected by the craftsmen for their length, girth and grain. With simple hand tools such as chisels, saws and hammers these builders create a boat that is not only functionally sound and seaworthy but has an elegance and beauty that could never be replicated by machines. Traditional dhows require a bit of maintenance from time to time as the combined weathering effects of sun and water are harsh on the wood.

Coming into harbourLining up the dhow carefully

Pumulani’s closed season allows an opportunity to perform some much needed maintenance on our much loved dhow. Hauling a 40 ft wooden boat out of the water is no simple task and the dhow had to be sailed around the peninsula, past Cape Maclear to the port of Monkey Bay. Malawi Lake Services have a dock and facilities for removing boats from the water. After several false starts due to power failures the dhow was winched out and sitting high and dry on a specially constructed cradle. Alongside the container ships and the lake ferry ‘Ilala’ she looked pretty insignificant, although what she lacks in size is made up in beauty and several boat enthusiasts have drifted by to inspect her craftsmanship.

It’s now all hands on deck to get the dhow repaired, cleaned, oiled, sealed and back in the water. Apparently wooden boats shouldn’t spend too long out of the water as the timber of the hull can warp and crack.

Finally the dhow is safely out of the water for repairsRefurbishment of the dhow begins

Aside from dhow maintenance several other projects are underway at Pumulani. A new fire area in front of the lodge bar will offer guests a pre or post dinner drink around a log fire and some new mountain bike routes will be incorporated into a bike and kayak combination activity.

We are fresh back from a Namibian honeymoon after a beautiful wedding in South Africa and looking forward to a busy 2009. We’ll end off with a few pics of the big day for those who are interested …

Mark and Jenna's weddingMark and Jenna's wedding

Till next time from a very green Pumulani,

Mark & Jenna

A very green Pumulani

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