We Be In Barbados Mon
By Liz Tosoni
When you are at sea on a long distance passage, it’s easy to understand that the earth is ¾ water and that seen from space, our planet is blue.
|Day after day we couldn’t help but marvel at the vast blue liquid desert of the Atlantic, and the Atlantic blue is just as blue as the Pacific and Indian Ocean blues, deep and iridescent, we discovered. Day followed day with no evidence that there were others besides ourselves alive on the planet. There was an infinity of cloudscapes, a dark dome above bursting with stars at night. Winds and seas were mostly kind, sometimes light, but never mean.|
Then, there was another reality. It was 0200 hours on Day 14 of the passage. We had 15-20 knots of wind from the northeast and Feel Free was barreling along gaily at 6- 7 knots, seas were gentle. Dave was on watch while I was sleeping soundly in the aft cabin with the cooling breeze wafting over me through the open hatch. Perfect trade wind conditions, hence the sound sleep. Then suddenly, KERSPLASH!! A huge deluge (a rogue wave?) poured in through the hatch, pouncing on me like a wild animal, soaking me and all the bedding in seconds. What the hell…………. Where am I………….. oh… s h i t….. we’re sinking………. These were my thoughts during this most rude and scary awakening in the middle of that so far peaceful night.
The sheets and two side by side mattresses in the cabin were totally drenched with the warm salt water. I was like a drowned rat, shocked and annoyed as I darted out of the bed and came to my senses. “Dave, a wave broke into the cabin and I’m soaked!” I yelled out, into the cockpit. “Oh, really” replied Dave in his steady voice. No need for alarm, said the tone in his voice. He was the on watch guy and he knew that all was well aboard our little ship. I was immediately calmed. He hadn’t any idea that the disaster had occurred, hadn’t heard the crash. Sensing the commotion, Tom roused from his reverie in the quarter berth, his “on call” station, to help with the situation. We pulled out the dripping, sodden sheets and pillows, piled them up and tied them down on the after house, deciding to deal with the mattresses in the light of day. I rinsed myself off with fresh water, then curled up on the galley settee to try to get some shut-eye before my watch began.
Oh the joys of sailing! Times like these really make you question why you would choose such a life. Dawn arrived and the bedding and mattresses dried quickly in the dry tropical warmth. Fresh sheets and pillow cases were brought out, salty ones put away for laundering in port, and life was good again.
The key word is maintenance. Being the only floating object for hundreds of miles, you are always aware that you have to depend entirely on your own resources for everything. In the end though, we experienced only a few minor setbacks and few squalls during the entire 19 ½ day voyage.
|When I think back on our passage, I recall the easy camaraderie of four ship mates; a pod of whales that joined us for a spell, swimming in pairs close alongside and under the boat; and I will always have vivid memories of all the fish we caught and the amazing variety of meals thanks to four ‘chefs de bateau’.|
It is a curious thing among sailors that, almost as soon as you drop the land behind you, you are calculating the estimated time of arrival at your next port. You might be thoroughly enjoying every minute of the sail, but you are also trying to improve on your previous day's run in order to get to port as soon as possible, and with the best performance out of your boat. And so did we.
|Every morning at 0900 we worked out the distance covered during the previous day and the distance yet to go.|
And then there was the utter thrill of the landfall. A barely discernible smudge on the horizon gradually enlarged to emerge as a well defined shape, the low lying, green hump of Barbados.
I have to agree with Eric Hiscock who said in his Around the World in Wanderer III, “A successful landfall- and in spite of everything most of them are that- is surely the cruising man’s greatest moment. The feeling of satisfaction, achievement and elation is immense and, I believe, never stales no matter how often it may be experienced.” Even though he and his wife Susan made this same voyage back in the 1950s with not a bit of the technology we have today, the feeling upon arrival is still the same: sheer joy and a sense of accomplishment.
We rounded the south end of the pear shaped island and the ocean swell we’d experienced for almost three weeks disappeared, we dropped the hook in wide and open Carlisle Bay off Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, and immediately popped a bottle of bubbly to toast our arrival.
How quaint to read about the Hiscocks’ clearance procedures nearly 60 years ago: “At 6 a.m. an immaculate and smartly handled launch brought the port doctor off to us. ‘Welcome to Barbados’, was his greeting as he stepped aboard. The granting of pratique took only a few minutes, for the doctor seemed already to know a lot about Wanderer and us, and that was the only formality throughout our stay at the island.” They were promptly made honorary members of the Aquatic Club and were driven everywhere and treated royally throughout their stay.
In our case, it was a matter of entering a swelly cruise ship terminal next morning once permission was granted to enter, and tying up as Feel Free swayed back and forth drunkenly with the surge. All three of Feel Free’s guys were needed to fend off the swell while I leaped ashore with my wobbly sea legs, to do the check-in with health, immigration and customs officials. 90 minutes, frayed nerves and one broken cleat later, our welcome was complete and we were ready to enjoy our visit.
Being just one yacht crew among hundreds that arrive in Barbados every year, we weren’t wined and dined by locals as the Hiscocks had been. We did however, have a fine time on our first Caribbean island, but how could we not?!
And then, the palm trees swaying to the trade wind breezes, the white sand beaches, the green, rolling hills and of course, the rum, world famous Mount Gay Rum. Dave introduced us to the “Dark and Stormy” consisting of dark rum and ginger beer- very smooth, mellow and very tasty.
|In 1751, at the age of 19, George Washington accompanied his older brother Lawrence, to Barbados. Doctors had recommended a change of climate for Lawrence who was suffering from tuberculosis, and Barbados was considered to be the healthiest place in the world at the time. They stayed for seven weeks and it was the only place outside the U.S. that Washington ever visited. In his diary, he described dinner invitations, horseback riding in the countryside, fireworks and visits to the theatre.|
We didn’t have much info on Barbados so it was interesting to learn that in the 1700s, Boston and Bridgetown were the two most important cities in the Americas!
Like Mr. Washington, we found lots of interest things to do in Barbados. We took local transport to get a glimpse of the green countryside and the local communities. With its British heritage, Bridgetown itself looks a little like a small English town architecturally, but feels Caribbean with its colorful fruit and vegetable stalls lining the streets, roti stands, lively fish market and stately “Bajans”, welcoming us with their lilting accents and easy manner.
|But as much as we liked it in Barbados, our stay was to be a short one as the anchorage is not ideal- wide open and can be very rolly. We said our sad farewells to Gus and David as they headed back home to the chilly north and after being a family of four aboard Feel Free for over a month, we became a family of two once again and it was time to move on. Next stop: Bequia in the Grenadine Islands, a mere 100 miles to the west.|