Many people are scared of travelling on the lake using passenger engine boats commonly known in Luganda as ‘ebinaala’ fearing to get stack in deep waters in the middle of the lake.
Although people sailing on Lake Victoria to various parts of the country get excited starting the voyage finding it exciting when the lake is calm, interactive conversation flourish among them until their situation start mixing with fear resulting from simple waves which increases into storms making the boat loose proper sailing.
It is at this time when silence takes on as passengers squeeze themselves to the safest position of the boat to avoid falling off. The hope of safe landing diminishes when storm causes technical encounters on the boat. They sometime stop engines from working on top of consuming a lot of fuel.
At this stage, the boat reduces its speed especially when there is no wind blowing it to any direction of the shoreline.
The helmsman drops the fluke anchor (ennanga) a metal device tied on rope to connect a vessel to the bed of water body so as to prsevent it from drifting. Boats with small spots leak water inside preventing the boat from floating.
The next step is waiting and calling for help from other boats plying the same route. According to Farouk Mbajjo who operates a boat from Masese Jinja to Bugabo landing site in Buvuma says every boat has a cut small jerrycan or a bucket (olutiba) used for removing water from the boat. He notes that the operator raises it in space signaling other sailors that his boat is in danger. They also make telephone calls to request for help from people at the landing sites.
“It very rare to take two hours without any boat sailing on water, even if it is in a distance and sees you raising the bucket, it will know you need help”
Another passenger boat operator at Kirongo landing site Joseph Mukiibi notes that boats are given loading numbers for easing tracing and since they are used to time for plying various routes, they get suspicious whenever boats delays prompting quick tracing.
Mukiibi says some parts of the lake rare have networks to support telephones calls but once they discover that the boat is stack, they send another boat in good condition with ropes they tie on the stack boat to pull it out from water.
“The rescue boat we send depends on the size of a boat stack on water, once it is damaged, we remain without any option than pulling it like break down truck does to vehicles”
Maria Namatovu a resident at Buvuma who once got stack in a boat for about two hours says it is a terrible moment where one almost stops breathing, think about drowning and leave behind all the beloved ones especially children.
“This is the time when you don’t want any interruption, say, receiving telephone calls or seeing any person making noise on the boat. It is a silent moment.” Namatovu recalls.
Another resident David Mukosa believe that sometimes boat operators cause bad omen to the voyage. “I have been travelling on the lake but whenever the boat starts on its journey and then return to pick something or a person things don’t go well.”