By The Good Graces Of NeptuneWe couldn’t sleep, both of our minds thinking about leaving Martinique (home of the French bread and cheap wines!). We didn’t trust our engine, even though we were fairly sure the culprit letting salt water in the cylinders had been repaired. It was all going to be under sail… which was how we usually did things unless running to a fuel dock once in a grand while. The next day’s sail would be to Portsmouth, Dominica if the wind would allow us into the bay before dusk. Otherwise we would head straight to the USVI.
We both laid in bed, pretending to sleep until we finally turned to each other and said, “**** this, let’s get underway.”. It was 2am. It was also my birthday. To me, there was no better way to spend a birthday then out on the water. I only hoped that Neptune would grace us with the cooperative winds and seas forecasted a day earlier (we all know how well weathermen predict….).
So we pulled up the anchor and threw up a full jib and main. Heading north, we crept out of Fort de France and the mountainous terrain of the island (particularly the volcano near St. Pierre) created a lee we knew would take some time to work through. The sun rose with a particular brilliance, revealing a most beautiful day emerging from the shades of the night.
A pod of dolphins frolicked within sight, and their gleeful acrobatics were something to behold! I took over the helm while my boyfriend ventured below to catch some sleep before we got to the channel between the two islands. Sometimes I’d be sitting at the helm in a dead calm, sails slack, and riding a half knot current around the island… Then I’d spot the wind ahead, just a puff that had swept out of a valley and fan over the water. Watching with an excitement every sailor knows when they see wind only boat lengths away, silently willing it to fill the sails and send us gliding along in search of another wind puff. Ghosting, we call it.
Several hours later I thumped on the cabin top to alert my boyfriend that the wind from the channel had arrived as we cleared the point of Martinique. I grinned like a fool as I surveyed the familiar channel before me; I knew we were in for a romp. The wind was up (20-25 knots, as usual), we reefed the main, and the boat skipped along the wave tops at 8-10 knots! The wind sang in the rigging and the boat seemed to hum with a life of her own, putting the peaceful calms far behind. Dominica was already visible across the channel and we aimed for Roseau on the south side of the island.
We flew past the headland and rode out the wind curving around Dominica. Eventually, of course, we ran out of that wind and drifted in a dead calm for what seemed like an eternity before scoring a measly 2-5 knots of wind from ever-changing directions. We shook the reef in the main and milked all we could out of the breeze, which surprisingly carried us from puff to puff (coming out of the valleys, Dominica is also a volcanic island). We were alive with excitement by the time we reached Portsmouth (on the north side of Dominica) just as the sun was dipping below a clear horizon, gifting us with a lovely green flash.
It was a magnificent day of sailing in the good graces of Neptune (whom I thanked profusely).
I wish everyone could experience the world as I do.