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Update from the amaBelles, Cape Town, South Africa

On Day 113 of our rather strict lockdown in South Africa, a small group of dragon boaters from the Cape Town teams, including the amaBele Belles, went down to the Waterfront armed with scrapers, buckets and brooms, to rescue our boats. We had been worrying for over 4 months about what the bottom of the boats would look like, as they are moored in seawater. The first month of lockdown (April) was “hard lockdown” but by May people living within 5km of the Waterfront could go and bail rainwater out of the boats. In June we were allowed out at any time of the day to exercise, but not in organized groups, and we had to ask for permission to haul the dragonboats out and clean them. We got the go-ahead for only two groups of four people to do this, so on a bright sunny winter’s day in July, we were on the slipway heaving the boats out, flipping them onto their sides, and removing the large ecosystem that had established itself undisturbed. The boats were a lot lighter when we slid them back into the water, and swept the piles of squishy tunicates, also called sea-vases, down the slipway.

We often go for a chatty cup of coffee after a paddling session, but on this Saturday afternoon, the hotels were closed, most restaurants were closed, and we struggled to find a coffee shop. Nevertheless, we had enjoyed seeing some of the members of our paddling community, and especially our own team. We love the contact via our WhatsApp group, but it only goes so far.

As Africa’s first BCS dragon boat team, we felt early this year that we were growing to the point where we may need 2 boats per session. We did very well in the annual century City regatta in February against women’s and mixed teams………then Covid reared its ugly head. No-one expected the lockdown to be as severe or long, and we are well aware that we are not out of the woods yet.

It was satisfying to know our boats were clean, but those of us who paddled the boats from the jetty to the slipway realised how much we had been missing it. Our category of sport is still not allowed, and probably won’t be for a few more months, but “This too shall pass” and we look forward to filling out that hollow part of our lives again that has the shape of a dragonboat.