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Voyager defends Kenyan yard as top-notch

Jan 1, 2003

To the editor: In your May/June issue (Issue 114) you published an article entitled, “Careening in Kenya,” by Tad and Joyce Lhamon, in which you printed an opinion about a boatyard that I found not only incorrect but totally inappropriate.

I quote from the article: “And [then] there was the boatyard across the harbor from us, but on inspection it appeared that the yard had done almost no maintenance on its own facilities in years, let alone serve any boats. Word had it that the yard was so in debt that it couldn’t get even beer delivered to its tiny pub due to lack of credit.”

To make such a statement without the author investigating the situation or inquiring about maintenance at the yard, is unfair and does undeserved discredit to some fine people.

In Kilifi there is only one “boatyard across the harbor” (actually it’s a river), and it is the Swinford Boat Yard, which has been owned by the Mason family for many years. It is a small, privately-held boatyard that has been a favorite of countless voyagers. I first learned of the boatyard when it was recommended by another sailor while I was in the South Pacific in the mid-80s. I first became acquainted with the Masons while spending several days at their boatyard in 1990 when I made my first stop in Kilifi. In 1997 I left my boat in their care for over four months. On both occasions they helped me with routine maintenance and looked after my boat in my absence in an entirely satisfactory manner. They were building two large powerboats at the time as well as working on several cruising boats, including cleaning several bottoms. This is not a well-equipped states-side-type boatyard, nor does it pretend to be. But it has continued to serve boaters and provides the much-needed assistance that passing voyagers often need.

Roger B. Swanson has 170,000 miles of voyaging under his keel and is finishing his third circumnavigation aboard his 57-foot ketch Cloud Nine.