Home' Afloat : AFLOAT December 2016 Contents Take monthly with water December 2016 67
We anchored in Port Sudan on 2 March 1983 after an
appalling beat up the Red Sea that ultimately drove
us into the arms of an Ethiopian gunboat. That nerve-
wracking experience is another story: for now, in Port Sudan
a week or so later, our experience was a mixture of surprise,
concern and amusement.
Surprise was in finding an edge-of-town milk bar that was a
perfect clone of the United States’ model even to it selling pink
ice cream and being decorated with posters of Hollywood stars.
Relative to its dusty desert surroundings this remarkable cafe
was a fascinating oasis of pleasure, our interest sharpened by
the mix of clothing worn according to religious beliefs, country
of origin and personal tastes. It seemed to be a fountainhead of
multi-culturalism with everyone getting along famously.
We sipped our milk shakes trying not to stare at this human
panoply when a swarm of camels drew up outside, their white-
robed riders dismounting to pop in for chatter and milkshakes
amidst the clatter of scabbards and swords being draped over the
back of their chairs. It seemed to be a very special occasion, not
immediately apparent to visitors, so I asked a nearby customer
what was happening. His answer led me to believe he was joking:
“Oh!” he said. “ There’s been a battle between Christians and
Muslims outside of town.”
But he wasn’t joking for we later heard that the battle accounted
for twenty-five men killed and a number injured in a sword fight.
That the survivors rewarded themselves with milkshakes in an
American inspired bar seemed incongruous beyond belief.
However, as the world would learn soon enough, that moment was
an early skirmish that heralded the start of a civil war destined
to end in a very shaky division of Sudan.
To shocked newcomers like us, Sudan’s Port Master was a
refreshing breath of levity, his light-hearted manner ver y uplifting
and his request to see our boat being enthusiastically granted.
Aboard Tientos we yarned for hours, interrupted only by the antics
of his pet monkey and his sudden recollection that a pilotage job
was imminent. During his absence he asked if we would mind
looking after his monkey.
We were delighted to oblige, the idea of baby-sitting a monkey
sounding like fun.
But learning how monkeys behave and respond to strangers
was a serious learning curve, especially for our ship’s cat. Every
time the two animals got too close to each other our cat snarled
and the monkey jumped up like a skyrocket, urinating copiously
on take off.
This unfortunate reaction was no problem on decks easily
bucketed off, but not in our wildest dreams could we guess how
chemically powerful is monkey pee. It bubbled our deck paint
within minutes as if the most powerful commercial stripper had
been applied. When I get back to Australia, I promised myself,
I’ll bottle it and make myself a fortune.
Needless to say that didn’t happen, but I still think it
worthwhile researching, especially as its potency was confirmed
later by an Australian cruising sailor who had a monkey aboard in
Indonesia. He told two funny stories about his pet, one being very
much related to monkeys’ propensity for urinating after a shock.
His yacht was powered by an outboard motor that needed a
bit of mid-ocean attention after mysteriously carking it. He sat
on the aft deck, a leg on each side of the outboard, carefully
removing the various parts and placing them on deck behind
him. The problem solved, he then turned around to collect the
parts for reassembly only to find them all gone: his monkey had
been busy tossing them overboard.
Relating a monkey’s urinary problem, he told the story of
installing an on-board television set that, of course, needed
paraphernalia well beyond expectations. When at last it was ready
to switch on, his monkey sat on top of the TV set with his head
bent down watching the blank screen. When it suddenly burst
into life, his monkey was so shocked that he instantly relieved
himself down the back of the TV causing it to self-destruct from
a massive short circuit.
Our Sudanese monkey cost us nothing more than patch-
painting the deck: our friend’s Indonesian monkey cost one
outboard motor and a television set. Both monkeys were hugged
to death for their crimes. h
by Alan Lucas
Our ship’s cat, whose home he reluctantly shared with humans,
was not so welcoming to a Sudanese monkey.
Babysitting the Sudan Port Master’s pet monkey was
fun, but the monkey’s reaction to shock produced the
best paint stripper ever.
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