- The Lamu county director of Meteorological Services Edward Ngure said the region is currently receiving strong North Easterly winds all the way from Arabia which is a direct cause of the strong tides and rough waves.
Small boats and dhows business across the Lamu archipelago have been driven into a forced hiatus owing to strong winds and tides which continue to hamper visibility and navigation of the vessels on the Indian Ocean.
The last two months have seen the region experience continuous turbulence at sea which has proved challenging to sail through.
Even the most skilled coxswains in Lamu have been forced out of the ocean as they await to resume once the weather is favourable and vessel-friendly.
The situation is expected to normalize before the end of the month.
The entire archipelago has a boat population of over 5,000 vessels which ply the 35 islands in the region.
Half of these populations which are mostly small boats and dhows with an engine capacity of 15 Hose Pipe (HP) have been temporarily forced out of the ocean until the tides die down.
The Lamu county director of Meteorological Services Edward Ngure said the region is currently receiving strong North Easterly winds all the way from Arabia which is a direct cause of the strong tides and rough waves.
He however revealed that the situation normalizes briefly during certain times of the day or week.
Ngure reassured that the situation is set to normalize before the end of the third week of March, all through to April and May.
He warned sailors against plying renowned dangerous channels in the ocean until the end of March as the tides in these areas are normally triple as powerful as what is being experienced in the rest of the ocean.
These channels have been nicknamed ‘killer channels’ because of their impossibility to navigate especially in extreme weather conditions and also over the fact that they account for most fatal accidents in the region.
They include Mlango wa Tanu in Mkokoni, Mlango wa Ali in Kiwayu, and Mlango wa Bomani in Kiunga, all in Lamu East Sub-County.
Others are the Manda Bruno, the Mkanda and Shella channels, and Mlango wa Kipungani in Lamu West.
They are known for being impossible to manoeuvre due to the gigantic waves and tides.
“Just chart and look out for those specific times when it’s a bit safe to venture. Am confident by May, the weather will be back to normal,” said Ngure.
The chairperson of the Lamu Small Boat operators Association Abdalla Twaib said the tough winds accompanied by equally large tides could easily flip vessels over and cause drowning accidents.
He however said a few daring coxswains have been forced to continue but carry half the normal capacity to avoid putting excessive pressure on the boat capacity.
“Most of us would rather not ply and wait but a few are still out there but are now carrying half capacity which is quite a loss considering the cost of fuel. If the capacity is 11, then they are only carrying 6 or 5 and have to be extremely cautious because the demand for services remains high,” he said.
He said the small engines cannot cope with the harsh weather at sea yet many of them cannot afford the high cost of high-powered engines which can easily cruise through any tides and winds.
The operators urged the county government to help them get high-powered boats on loan to avoid situations like the current one where they are losing out on profits because of the small engines.
“We need large engines so that even when the weather is like this, we keep sailing and making a living. We hope the county government will help us either through donations or loans because the large ones are quite costly,” said Mohamed Ali, a coxswain in Lamu island.
Those travelling around, in and out of the archipelago have been asked to consider boarding large vessels as their large surfaces can withstand the tough winds and tides.