Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Is it ever plain sailing?

For the last week and a half we have slogged to windward, hard on the wind all the way. As we sailed south on the trip from the BVIs, back to the east Caribbean I lay in the cockpit looking up at the innocuous white clouds in the sky, despite their appearance I knew their insidious nature was going to spell trouble for us. Sim was working around me, trimming the sails, I told him about my misgivings, how I’d seen these clouds before, looking all innocent during the morning but gathering momentum as the day wore on. He said “you’re probably right Babe” as he so often does when I make a statement like this. I like the affirmation from him that I’m paying attention to my surroundings – learning to read the weather. That I am actually doing something while he pulls the jib in and lets it out, cranks in the main or adjusts our course. I don’t like sailing to windward, it sucks me to the side of the boat, exerting all my energy if I have to move, which I try to avoid.

Dolphins Ahoy and little white clouds
 We have lunch and Sim goes down for a rest, I assume the captains position and look around me. All the fluffy white clouds are coming together in a thin white line. It looks innocent enough but as we sail through them the wind gets lighter and lighter and pushes us further and further off course. “Please don’t let this be a two night sail” I think to myself, cursing sailing at the same time! My mind starts to wonder and once again I’m drawn to thinking about life on land. About having a car and driving to places – getting there quickly or just nipping out for something I need or to see friends or family, to pick up the phone and have a chat; how easy and convenient it all would be. But most of all I have an image - of a front door and a hallway – a proper home. My oldest school friend Kristin has recently bought a new house. She showed me around while we chatted on skype and it’s this front door that stays in my mind with its beautiful coloured glass and wooden frame - so grown up, so lovely. I think about what I have given up and if I could go back. I feel sad. I’m so fed up of sailing and the Caribbean and I can’t seem to shake that thought.
Waterspout forming
I look around me and back to the clouds and I can see the start of a waterspout. I’m curious yet apprehensive to see if it will fully form. Dusk is falling and I wonder if waterspouts can form in the night. We are so far off course that I know we should put a tack in but the little white clouds that have joined together form an ominous looking grey line that runs as far as the eye can see, from east to west - it would mean passing through it. In the past half an hour I have seen four waterspouts start to form; with one making it all the way to the ocean. I wake Sim and we discuss the merits of various strategies. The wind dies but the engine is still on as we have been motor-sailing to keep a better angle. But without the wind we make little progress. I feel so frustrated.

Another waterspout!
We have dinner and I go down below to rest. We had been trying to make Nevis but it would mean another night at sea and I don’t want that. We agree that unless the wind angle improves we will head for St Maarten instead. We still can’t make the course even though we are only thirty miles or so away, we are down wind and it will take all night to tack there. Is there really such a thing as plain sailing?

Arriving in St Maarten
We pull into St Maarten the following morning – an island that I have a love/hate relationship with, with its hedonistic nature and I wait for the foreboding to settle in; that deep seated feeling of discontentment that has been slowly growing inside of me. But it doesn’t come. It must have rained recently as the hills are vibrant green. The sun is shinning and all the little white stucco buildings climbing the hillside look so pretty.  I had been so adamant that I didn’t want to stay in the east Caribbean that I am taken by surprise. I smile; maybe, just maybe, everything is going to be alright.

Simpson Bay, St Maarten

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