Captain Nelson Baiyu has worked as a ship captain for 27 years, navigating the world’s most treacherous seas and waters. In 1990, he left Kenya after being recruited by the British to work in the maritime industry.
Now retired, Captain Nelson Baiyu has returned to his Murang’a roots as a farmer. When leaving Kenya, his wife and children stayed behind. His wife humorously recalled others suggesting Baiyu had moved on with his life overseas.
However, she held onto faith that he would return. Baiyu occasionally sent money to support his family while abroad.
In an interview, Baiyu shared how he first joined the maritime industry. He was first employed by Kenya Railways who connected him to the job as a marina trainee. This was back in the 1970s.
“There was not a single time I would have thought about going outside the country, particularly the UK,” he shared.
Baiyu pointed out that to become a fully equipped marina, one needs to pass a series of hard tests. These tests can take at least 12 years to complete.
He clarified that while ships are driven by autopilot in the deep seas, as the captain, he took control and steered the ship onto the docks as they approached ports.
Additionally, he was responsible for addressing any issues that arose on the ship and was answerable to the company.
To navigate in the seas, Baiyu explained that ships are now equipped with modern equipment such as charts and echo sounders. However, back in the day when he was a junior marina trainee, they would use sextants to mathematically chart the ship’s route.
“It was tricky because to use a sextant, you need the heavenly bodies that are not visible during the day. You only see them at night…you rely on the sun during the day to get a position line.”
Baiyu went on to work in this job for 27 years, sailing ships on foreign waters to all continents in the world at 30km/h. He proudly noted that the compensation he was getting was good and enabled him to live ‘the dream’.
“Before I retired, my monthly salary was Sh. 1.7 million ($10,600). This amount is the tax-free amount that I used to send home since I was not using the money to buy food aboard the ship,” he said.
Baiyu urged more Kenyans to look for more opportunities in this field as it is very rewarding despite challenges such as pirates and hurricanes. He recalled one ship hijacking moment on the African West Coast around the Gulf of Guinea.
Among the ships Captain Nelson Baiyu has steered include the Singaporean Kota Suria Vessel. Since his retirement, he chose to become a full-time farmer.
He keeps goats, chickens and especially cows. He rears over 50 cows for dairy and beef. Baiyu explained that his dairy cows can produce up to 30 – 32 litres per day.
He has already started the expansion of his farm in Murang’a. Baiyu stated that his passion for farming stems from his father who kept 2-3 animals.