#Article (Archive)

Life at Sea

Nov 5, 2009, 2:02 PM

On the far side of the wharf sea gulls gathered like they were having a meeting. Amidst them stood two men. One a dark young man in an immaculate sailor uniform and the other in the same attire, but lighter in skin and older in age. He was a short man with a rounded belly and unruly beard. His face had seen better days. He reminded children of Santa Claus. Only that this time, this one Santa worked at sea and doesn?t share gifts.

Occasionally, he laughed and sobbed uncontrollably at the same time, and dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief.  All those while, the young man looked down obediently as they talked.

Captain Rosteau was the captain of the ship which docked half an hour ago at the quay. He was a very affable man and as a result was very dear to the 'boys.' They fondly called him 'monsieur le capitaine.' He felt every inch their protector and father, and now this - Kebba wanted to up and go. That definitely was wrenching his heart bit by bit and he was reluctant to let it show.

Looking back on all those years, Captain Rosteau saw a willing-to-learn boy instead of a young man. Many years ago, Kebba who was a willing-to-learn boy always frequented the harbor, and it was there he saw the Angel. She was big and beautiful which showed the viewer that it was a foreign ship. Some minutes later he saw captain Rosteau as he and his crew checked everything on deck and set to sail. He approached him and asked to join the crew.

It took him minutes to decide to take him on. Not that he didn't like him in fact he fell in love with the boy the moment he laid eyes on him.

'Der ship's a sailing in a minute, we won?t be waiting fer yer me lad,' he warned in his strong French accent.

Being the adventure lover he was, he rushed home and informed his parents who were happy with the news. He bundled his belongings and set for sea. He was thrilled.

As the years went past, Captain Rosteau came to love him like his very own and he saw to it that the boy became the best of sailors.

Kebba knew exactly what was going in the captain's mind. He could remember his first initiation at sea. Of course a sailor should know how to row and swim. Two of his fellow sailors took him and he was none-too excited about it. The water was cold and had an electric like feel, and the waves violent in its own way. But the waves came playfully kissing his feet like a child seeking for a playmate. He closed his eyes and allowed the two men to immerse him in it. As the days went by, he became a master at swimming.

Country to country they sailed. He was blessed with handsome features and a dark skin and at one time he was mistaken to be a Sudanese. He met a lady in Senegal and they fell in love. Sailing stopped him from tying the knot with her and it nearly broke their hearts.

He used his index finger and wiped a tear from his cheek.

'Are yer saying that you don't want to stay? You know you can come back anytime yer want, me boy,' he pleaded.

'No captain, it is time for me to go back to my people,' Kebba said in perfect English.

During his days as a sailor, he learnt a lot in the English language.

On this particular day, the breeze was gentle and it would have been a fine day for sailing and fishing. A little farther up, he saw fisher men fishing and market women with babies clinging to their backs waiting for them to return. Some minutes later after saying their goodbyes, Kebba marched along confidently as he braved tears threatening to stream down his cheeks. The boys couldn't believe that he was serious about going home. They all dissuaded him from going home the night before, but to no avail.

Thoughts of home came flooding and he couldn't wait to hold his little sister and mother in his strong arms. He had bought every member of his family gifts and he could imagine how their faces would be filled with joy once they received it.

The corners of his mouth lifted in a smile and his heart threatened to explode with joy as he walked along familiar grounds-his very own country.