Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Between a rock and a sleepless place

It’s 2 am and one moment I am deeply sleeping, my body slightly rolling with the waves. The next moment I am at the helm, starting engines, blinking wildly to get the eyes to focus. The harsh rocky coastline of Fowl Cay was beautiful in the day when we anchored into the prevailing east winds, and tucked ourselves nicely up in her lee. 

At 2 am when the wind has swung against all predictions to the west, and the frantic sound of waves slamming against sharp defiant rock is now just a few feet from the back of the boat – not so beautiful. We have to move. Now.
As JW balances up front, his headlamp blinding me as he moves around lifting the anchor, I reflect on the bizarre reality we live in.
There are no 6 am alarm bells or morning traffic for us. A Sunday is the same as a Monday. There is a lot of laughter and freedom and of course rum punch. But there are nights like this. Sleep is not sacred on a boat. It’s the shut-eye you catch when the seas allow. In the very early days of my sailing career I would meet these interruptions to my nights with exasperation and fear. Being woken to an impending disaster that requires immediate action, is something you have to develop a taste for. Tonight I realise that I have. It’s exactly what has happened. Expect the unexpected. Deal with it as it comes.
I gun the engines into forward and leave the crashing slamming disaster looming all behind us. We are blind navigating and choose a spot just far enough away from the island and before the ocean floor dips further out. Apart from our buddy boat Alley Cat, we’re alone out here. It’s another one of those strange realities. We spend much time socializing, either on boats or partially submerged, treading water by countless beaches, a beer in hand. But only one sail away, we can be totally alone. And it’s an amazing feeling. Like camping deep in the woods. You hear all nature’s sounds. You see things that are invisible in a city. 

Tonight, the charcoal sky has been torn in one small spot and the moon peeks through. It’s only half exposed but it’s enough to make out our surroundings.  We drop the anchor, tug back the engines in reverse and wait for it to grip. We are set.
It’s all over and the excitement has died down but sleep is now a distant memory. In the morning we’ll be diving with the sharks who prowl the reefs just around the corner if all goes well.
For now I ponder the world we discovered earlier in the evening. Sundowners on the tiny beach, after the boat loads of happy rowdy tourists have made their way back to marinas and resorts and we had Fowl Cay to ourselves. The terrain is other worldly. Sharp towers of spiky rock poke out from the soft sand, making walking treacherous. We made our way to the little shelter built as a vista – or a bus stop where no bus will ever arrive?!
Tiny hermit crabs, who like us, take their little homes with them as they go, made their way along the sand. To destinations unknown, they made patterns between the huge science fiction style rocky mountains. I was fascinated. Filled with wonder. As if I’d shrunk and seen their world from their height. A new adventure. Another of natures amazing mysteries. I close my eyes now and smile. And sleep comes. 
The other-wordly landscape of Fowl Cay

Sundowners in the Fowl Cay shelter


  1. What were the clues that your boat was in danger? Anchor alarm? Changes in sounds and/or movement? Glad you were able to protect your boat and yourselves.

  2. Thanks for replying Sarah! Both the sounds and movement changed as we were swung toward the rocks.