Wednesday, October 17

The Story of The Mvule Boat

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Google Earth is a wonderful thing. It shows you areas that you would never have known existed and allows world exploration from the comfort of your sofa at home. Little did I know at the time that Google Earth would be the first step towards creating my own company.

Sitting at home in my little house in Jinja (Uganda) I was bored and craved a new adventure. I had explored the beautiful Nile River by land and by kayak and decided to scan over Lake Victoria to see if there was a new place to go to on a day mission. As I scrolled my mouse across the screen, an area of bright green forest showed up, my interest was piqued and I knew that this spot was worth a visit.

As all good explorations go, the forest was not easy to reach and barriers stood in the way. It was hard to access by road and there were no boats that went in that direction. I gathered some friends, loaded some kayaks on the roof of the car and drove to the nearest accessible point to the forest. As we paddled around the peninsular, the forest came into sight and we all knew that the hard work was worth the reward. The forest was stunning. Huge trees over hanged the lake, hundreds of birds of all different species and no other humans in sight. The only noise was waves lapping the shoreline and birds tweeting in the trees. It was paradise.

As I lay in bed that night I thought of Lake Victoria. It’s the second largest lake in the world (68,800 square kilometers) that is full of beautiful sights and areas. Yet there is hardly any way to access these sights on the Lake. It seemed a real shame considering the importance of Lake Victoria to Uganda and Africa as a whole.

After a lot of research (and basically bothering anybody who would listen) I decided that I was going to build a custom made boat that would offer trips out onto Lake Victoria. I quit my job (very scary) and started the incredible boat building journey. Did I know much about boats? Nope. But I found a lot of people who did!

We decided to stay true to the Ugandan culture and designed our boat off the wooden transport canoes that have been used on Lake Victoria for hundreds of years. The Ugandans have been using these large wooden canoes to transport goods across the vast open spaces of Lake Victoria, delivering items to Kenya, Tanzania and to the remote islands in the middle of the Lake.

Within the first month of the build, disaster struck. I had a lot of timber stolen from my store (that was worth a lot of money). After days in the police station, the police ‘flying squad’ came to rescue my timber, as things had gotten nasty. Unfortunately the ‘flying squad’ did not consist of helicopters or airplanes as the name suggests however they were heavily armed undercover cops who did not take no as an answer. I learnt my lesson very early on in the build and I really hoped this was not a sign of things to come.

The construction of the boat took 6 months to complete. My boat engineers headed by my project manager – Hakim, were absolutely amazing; incredibly skilled, knowledgeable and very firm – to say no to me when I had a crazy idea that would impact on the stability or integrity of the boat.

I was very lucky that my friend Maddy (who is a designer by trade) agreed to help with the construction and build. The task of designing the interior of the boat was not easy to do due to its unusual shapes, restrictions and quirks. Maddy was my guardian angel sent from above, we spent hours upon hours in the hot sun during this project. It also helped that she is a feisty Scottish women with an inability to allow imperfection. This allowed me to be the good cop whilst she made sure everything was up to standard!

At last the day came. The boat was ready to go onto the water. Our boat – Kaya, stood at 50 ft long, 12 ft wide and weighed approximately 4 tones. My wish was to hire a crane to carry the boat the one kilometer from the building site to the Lake. My boat engineers point blank refused. They said the risk of the crane damaging the boat in the transportation was too high. They would do it the traditional way using traditional means. Man power.

80 strong men arrived to push my beautiful Kaya to the water. Using round logs, water and a man on a mega-phone (standing on the prow of the boat yelling instructions) they started the arduous task of pushing Kaya to the water. It was terrifying and I couldn’t stop crying. Would they damage her in this transportation, throwing all the time, love and money down the drain? Would Kaya even float once she was on the water?

It took three hours for Kaya to land safely in the water and she floated like a dream. So stable, so strong, and so beautiful. My ecstasy was indescribable and my dream was at last reality.

The Mvule boat is the name of my company after the timber used to construct her. The name of this boat is Kaya in tribute to a beautiful friend who is sailing the winds of the sky. We offer unique full day trips exploring Lake Victoria in Uganda where you will be served lunch and drinks whilst floating in comfort and luxury. We have Canadian canoes and stand up paddle boards that are free for you to use to explore the rain forest shoreline.

If you would like to find out more, please check out my website – www.themvuleboat.com or shoot me an email – bookings@themvuleboat.com

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