At five o’clock in the morning, we arrived at the entry to Dakar, after six and a half days at sea. Laurent kept watch due to numerous pirogues, nets and crab pots. It was another inky night, with no moon. The heat continued: 34°C! Fragrances began to arrive from land: it smelled of heat, humidity, and fish.
We hoped to enter the Bay of Dakar soon. In the black night, we could finally make out other boats at anchor: we had arrived! Impossible to go back to sleep, in spite of the fatigue, we were too excited to discover this new country.
Laurent attempted using the VHF to reach the “Cercle de la Voile de Dakar,” the primary anchor mooring yacht club, since there was a craft ensuring the safe transfer of boats to the beach. At nine o’clock, there was still no response… We would have to inflate the tender, which had been placed on the forward deck for the crossing, and put it in the water. The sun was rising, so we could now appreciate the landscape around us. We were some twenty sailboats at anchor.
On large fishing pirogues painted in bright colours, white egrets and other sea birds were perched. We discovered a large beach, surrounded by palm trees that hid numerous dwellings. To the right, fishermen in pirogues sold their fish. It was the morning fish auction.
With our tender inflated, we could finally come ashore. An artisanal wooden dock was there for tying up dinghies. Wrecked boats were lying on the beach, others in repair. Young Senegalese played football under the scorching. Having just arrived on land, we were welcomed by fishermen, seated in the shade of the palm trees, who indicated the entrance the Cercle de la Voile de Dakar. Everywhere, warm smiles welcomed us.
We arrived at a shady spot, the central point of which is the bar where everyone gathers each evening to share stories of their travels. Here, a certain number of Senegalese try to earn a bit of money. “Mama nougat” sells nougat, “Mama legume” sells vegetables, “Mama tissus” makes clothing to your measure, and “Mama lessive” washes laundry… There are also mechanics and a sail maker.
If we stopped in Dakar, it was not for the tourist attractions of the city, but first and foremost to carry out our administrative steps that must be conducted here to enter Senegalese territory. So then, we must pass by the port police to present our passports, then customs to request a permit allowing us to remain for one month in Senegal with the boat.
Our stop in Dakar was also the occasion to visit the Pasteur Institute for our yellow fever vaccinations, which we did not have before our departure, as we had not initially planned to come to Senegal.
As we found the city of Dakar to be polluted and crowded, we took the ferry to visit the Island of Gorée, just across from Dakar. This small island packed with history is filled with pretty flowers. The water is clear and we were able to go for a swim. The place is so beautiful and peaceful; it is hard to believe that it was from here that thousands of slaves were packed like animals into the bilges of frigates. We visited the House of Slaves, dating from the colonial period, now transformed into a museum.
It has already been five days since we arrived in Senegal, and it is time to continue our journey to the Casamance River...