Ativa was the finest sailboat captain in all of Lamu. Up the mast, flawless straight, cleat the boom, nine meters long and with Shakwe alert at her shoulder she was unbeatable. Maulidi was Ativa’s favourite time of year and this year a warm offshore breeze blessed the annual celebration and the famous race as it graced the surface of the Indian Ocean. Proud, bold and feared, she had come from behind again, stealing that breeze with an artful tack and with a crisp snap of the hand-stitched mainsail gained the lead and the final buoy. A lead she would not relinquish under any circumstance.
Ativa’s father was a skilled craftsman and boat builder and had presented the mahogany dhow to Ativa as a birthday gift and with the help of her father had hand carved the ekki stem in the image of a broad-bladed sword. This was back home in Matondoni when Ativa was just eight years old, where she learned to sail off the main pier and before her father disappeared. Ativa had hand stitched the cotton sail herself.
Back turned to her competitors, hand resting on the scimitar shaped stem Ativa sliced open a lane towards the finish line. Spectators and tourists, men and women, arrived from all corners of the globe to catch a glimpse of the young mariner, to hear the stories, or perhaps catch a bit of the magic. At twelve years of age this was Ativa’s one and only dream.