The African Queen, or The Mercy

Trip dates: 
Thursday, August 6, 2020
Trip length: 
1 day
Type of watercraft: 
  • The African Queen
  • Approaching the Holiday Inn Marina
  • Getting Underway
  • A Day to Remember!
  • Charlie & Rosie with a miniature African Queen, Halloween 2019

I recognize that the Bogart/Hepburn classic "The African Queen" has not a single sailboat in it, but to me it feels like a sailing, or perhaps more a cruising, movie.  I love the story of the unlikely pair coming together for a trip down the Ulanga/Bora River to take on the Germans in their small craft.  Mr. Allnutt can't deny Rose her avenging adventure and Rose comes to realize that life is best when it's lived fully, in all its messy, exhausting, exhiliarating complexity.

I have a personal connection to the boat, too, in that I got to be her helmsman for a short trip from her dock at the Holiday Inn in Key Largo out to the ocean and back.  It was a day to remember forever...

From my log, January 25th, 2000:  

"I piloted the African Queen!!  (Jump, wave arms, shake bottom.)  Up bright and early, bid our farewell to Matt, and motoring S to Holiday Harbor.  We have made arrangements with the dockmaster to tuck "Whimsey" (our 1971 Venture 22) in a little "non-slip" just behind the Queen, so that we may ride on her.  Arrived exactly at 11am in true Charlie and Rosie style, with everyone onboard the Queen watching us in fascination.  I think our ship-mates fancied the idea of having a real-life cruising couple in their company.  Purchased our tickets and met with the captain, 72-year-old Jim Hendricks - a kindly fellow with a gentle smile and tales and tales of his adventures with the "African Queen", picture albums, and letters to and from Katharine Hepburn.  We sat and talked for a while as the steam in the boiler built.  Everyone wanted to hear about our adventures more so than the "African Queen".  Slowly, steadily, we puttered away from the dock.  I sniffled and my heart felt warm at the thought of finally finding this esteemed craft.  I wondered to myself if the captain might not let me take her tiller for just a second.  Dobbs looked pleased with his position in the bow, smiling back at me.  About half way out, midway into a conversation with another couple, the captain turned to me, placed my hand on the tiller and said, "You know how to do this - take her out!"  And so I became to pilot the "African Queen", out to the ocean, around the second marker, and back to rest at the dock.  At $8 million offering price, she's probably also the most expensive boat I'll ever find myself steering!  an incredible experience I will NEVER forget..."

Then, this past year, our yacht club, Hances Point Yacht Club, had a Halloween party where we were to come as favorite past movie actors...

However, if The African Queen won't pass muster as a sailing movie, then I'll claim "The Mercy" with Colin Firth.  It certainly gave me a different perspective than the one I'd previously maintained on Donald Crowhurst's experience in the 1968 Golden Globe Race.  It's easy to pass judgement on him until we're fully immersed in his situation; then, we're able to acknowlege our shared vulnerability.