Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum... make that
The Caribbean is back after a couple of distinctly
British days of rain, cloud and high winds. So much so that our long sail
yesterday up to the northeast of the island could easily have been a sploshy run
out through the Needles Channel and round the corner to Portland. At least the
wind was fairly constant at 20 to 25 knots, allowing us to reef down and get
comfortable. Nonetheless, there was a moment when the Gaffer looked very put
upon, as a lively wave slapped against the side of the boat and deposited itself
on his head. "The rotter", his look seemed to say.
It was an exhilarating run nonetheless. Once we
were out from behind the shelter of Green Island, we were able to move on to a
starboard tack, just off a beat, and fizz along at about seven knots. The pilots
were full of dire warnings about the treachery of the waters here and the
nondescription (ed: noun from 'nondescript') of the coastline, which is low and
hard to take landmarks from. In fact, Jacques Patuelli, the king of the coral
pass and the tamer of Martinique's wild east coast had this to say about our
chosen route in through the reef yesterday afternoon:
'Approaching Horse Shoe Reef Pass from the north is
for the very experienced or the foolhardy."
The jury is still out as to which category we fall
into, but suffice it to say that the waves died down as we approached the
channel through the coral, which proved to be several hundred metres wide, and
the depth never fell below 7m - plenty for Summer Song.
We spent the night in perfect serenity, anchored up
off a sheltered beach fringed with the uber exclusive Jumby Bay resort. Here,
little villas protruded from among the coconut palms, and every house had it's
own pool, just feet from the sea. The wind raged over the top of us, and the
waves rolled past the point, but we lay very comfortably.
It was all in stark contrast to the night before,
in Nonsuch Bay. After a fine late lunch at Harmony Hall - an Italian-run
establishment couched in flowers, besieged by hummingbirds and overlooking the
bay - we returned to the boat at dusk and found that the wind and the waves had
got up. Summer song was bucking to-and-fro, snatching at the anchor chain. At
about 7.30pm, we all heard and felt a gentle bump which differed from the
previous ones, and the bottom boards in the cabin jumped slightly. Racing on
deck, we saw the depth had dropped to nothing and we'd dragged back into the bay
until we were aground.
Alex started the donk and motored hard ahead to
loosen us from the muddy bottom, and the skipper hauled up the anchor. With the
Gaffer and Mamma calling out depths and giving directions, we used the GPS to
motor through the dark to a much better protected inlet on the other side of the
bay. Skirting round invisible reefs and gliding between the barest outline of a
headland, we anchored up in an inky black pool, just distinguishable from the
inky black shore a hundred metres away. We felt as if we'd got off lightly,
given the number of coral shores in these parts, that we'd come to rest on mud,
and while we were all awake.
Meanwhile, we've moved on in North Sound and are
now anchored in the gentle lee of Great Bird Island. It boasts two coral sand
beaches, a colony of Red-billed tropic birds, numerous frigate birds, pelicans
and some very fine snorkelling. It's also firmly on the Grockle map, hosting
some 20,000 visitors a year. Many of them seem to have buzzed past our anchorage
in the last two hours in flat bottomed boats that glide straight over the coral
heads that ring the island. The sun is trong, the sea is turquoise and there is
the promise of some excellent exploring to be done. And as I type, exploration
of a different type is on the cards - malodorous root veg called dasheen and yam
is emerging from the pressure cooker for a 'local' lunch. The chef is not
expecting much in the way of a tip...