Arriving at the dock and seeing the boat I was to take along the Atlantic coast to Nigeria, I wasn’t exactly filled with confidence. Welders were working along it’s length, two guys were manning a hand-pump to empty the bilge, and despite being empty it was riding right on the painted waterline… The good news was that there was a decent sized cargo area that had plenty of room for the bike and would allow me to ride it on and off the boat with only a short plank.
As the day wore on and they slowly started to load the boat, my concern grew. Not because of the pumping- they had come in empty and has used water as ballast. Not because of the welding- it was only to the superstructure and was being done to allow them to carry cargo on deck. No, it was the bananas. The endless crates of bananas that had been diverted from the land border and were being loaded into the once roomy cargo area. My concerns were calmly dismissed by the dock manager, since he knew something I didn’t. My bike wasn’t going in the cargo area. It was going in the bow, between the two anchors. Where there was no ramp and a fairly high railing; in short, the bike would have to be lifted up and over the ralling and gap between the ship and shore. Lifted. By hand.
I’d love to go into a cool description of the loading- the tension, the slip that almost sent the bike into the water, etc… I’d love to, but I can’t since I don’t really remember that much. Like a father-in-waiting pacing up and down a hospital hallway, I was completely consumed with the idea that something that was so important to me was also so completely beyond my control. All I know is that everything went well and Bad Penny ended up with a fantastic view of the blustery crossing to Calabar.