Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fierce winds and following seas

It’s 2:30am. Of course it is. Because I am up and there is something dramatic going on outside. Tonight it is gale force winds. As I stand in the relative protection of our cockpit, other boats in the bay come in and out of view. The wind and rain beat the boat and the water’s surface, and we are swinging wildly from side to side on our mooring ball. Thank heaven for the mooring ball.
Earlier we headed out of Mustique, intent on never looking back after two days and nights of a swell that came into the bay and hit us side long, with force. It had been like anchoring out in the middle of the ocean. Our guest gagged while JW and I puttered around with flashlights, holding on so as not to fall over, or off the boat completely. We checked the mooring ball and the lines (ropes) for chaffing. The squeaking sound of the ropes, fighting an uphill battle with the forces of nature were more than unnerving.
The decadent evening at Firefly earlier in the night, where we had snuck into the fold of well-to-do landlubbers, dining on rare beef and banana flambee, had dissolved into a haze of erratic motion and whipping winds. We could no longer imagine sipping after supper liquers and retreating to stable, large, soft, four poster beds.
 Instead, I steadied myself against cupboards, walls, poles and prayed for morning to come quickly.
After one last visit to the civilized strip of shops on Mustique, chocolate croissant crumbs at the edge of our lips, we had to face the reality of getting out.

Once out of the bay, waves piled up behind us, pushing us along in huge navy mountains of water. We put up a reefed mainsail and cut the engines. The wind, directly behind us at 20 knots, rendered our autopilot useless for the first time, and we manned the helm in turns.
As my arms tensed against the force on the steering and the waves gathered and grew to walls, coming up behind us in 3 to 4 meter swells, I peered around for any sign of other boats. But no one had been silly enough to head out in these winds, these waves.
The overwhelming feeling that we had no control over our boat and our surroundings kept me in a mild state of unchecked panic. JW, my calm and able captain took it all in stride and kept up small talk with our guest. All I wanted was to reach the other side, have a few straight shots of rum and climb down into a deep non-rolling sleep.
Just then, between waves, appeared another Lagoon cat, coming diagonal to us, beating directly against wind and waves. Each undulation of wave sent one hull completely up and out of the water altogether. It was at once beautiful and frightening. And as they came closer, the 4 crew came into view and we waved madly, a sense of crazy camaraderie overtaking us all. And then they were gone. Disappeared in the distance, behind the mass of waves.
And eventually we came into the lee of Canouan and the huge Charlestown bay.
But my dreams of leaving behind the wind and tucking in to the safety of land disappeared as the gusts continually hit 22 to 25 knots, deep in the bay.
We followed the small crowd of boats, tucked in as close to land as possible, to avoid the swells. Dropped anchor and let out a lot of chain. But the strength of the wind didn’t allow us to switch off engines and relax. I donned my snorkel gear and jumped in to assess our holding.
The surface of the ocean, slapped by wind, slapped me in turn and with my snorkel continually full of salt water, I could only see that our anchor was dragging slowly, puffs of sandy dust billowing up below me. JW tried again and once again until the local guys from the charter company in their little speed boat came to warn of more serious winds in the night and offered us a mooring ball, if we agreed to put our anchor down as well. Double protection.
If only all the ‘protection’ against dragging meant a peaceful night’s sleep.
If only the wind, determined and powerful wouldn’t target our anchorage, and when I peer out my cabin porthole I didn’t see a huge Lagoon charter boat, dragged or lost it’s mooring, trying desperately against the storm to re-anchor.
If only this life in paradise didn’t come with the unpredictable chaos of weather.
But then, with only turquoise seas and rum punches to look forward to, we might get bored.

No comments:

Post a Comment