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Red Sky at Night -

 December 20, 2001 

Sunset off Isla Blanquilla

"We arrived this morning in St. John in the US Virgin Islands after a 3 day sail from Venezuela. Last week's log entry ("How's The Weather?") was written just before we left Isla de Margarita. As we departed, a ugly low pressure trough moved into the central Caribbean. We took our own advice and stopped the next day at Isla Blanquilla, a remote, mostly uninhabited island about a hundred miles north of the Venezuelan mainland. We spent a week in the company of a couple of other cruising boats anchored off the west coast of the island.

It was no great adversity waiting out the blustery weather. As big sea swells crashed on the reef that protected our cosy anchorage, we walked the pristine sand beach, hiked some inland tracks, and snorkelled the vibrant coral heads surrounding the bay. At first glance, Blanquilla seemed an arid wasteland. Our explorations revealed an amazing variety of lizards and iguanas, bright coloured birds - including a few flocks of noisy yellow-green parrots - and (curiously enough) a number of wild burros. The sporadic rain showers brought out a profusion of bright flowers on the many different cacti. The only evidence of human habitation, however, were the ruins of a modest stone dwelling on a bluff overlooking the beach. A simple child's grave dated 1951 suggested a tale of past hardship and sorrow.

Each evening we settled into our cockpit to watch great swathes of fire paint the western horizon. A vivid sunset can be enjoyed just about anywhere, but there's something special about watching the sun disappear below a line of distant waves with no land in sight. It makes you think it's dropping off the edge of the earth and you're the last person to see it go.

The scientific explanation for a colourful sunset would assert that when the sun is low on the horizon, it's rays have a longer passage through the atmosphere than when it's high overhead. The shorter blue wavelengths that dominate at midday are scattered by dust and air molecules, leaving the longer red wavelengths to tint the sky. We like to think there's also a role being played by the sea gods and goddesses who overlook the fortunes of those who wander their watery realm. Surely an artist's hand is at work setting the clouds ablaze.

Last Sunday, November Mike November (the computer voice of the National Weather Service) told us the trough was dissipating and conditions would moderate. That evening we toasted the spirits of sea and sky with a couple of our remaining duty free beers and the next morning we weighed anchor. Our deference was rewarded by a brisk reach in comfortable seas. Tonight we'll offer a few grateful libations and enjoy our guardians' artwork in a new location.

David & Eileen