Beam Reach

Published: June 10th 2017
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Geo: 12.6, -61.4333

We are sailing in the Grenadines, off Union Island in the country of St. Vincent. At customs in Hillsborough, Carriacou, Grenada, we checked out because we are sailing to a different country, even though these are all the Windward Islands. I am learning so much about sailing, geography, and interactions among a small group of people living in close quarters for almost a month. What an excellent education!

The sailing was good and no one got sick, although three of the crew are quite susceptible. I learned that I was not prone to seasickness when we crossed the angry Drake Passage two years ago; one of the lucky 10% who enjoyed the crossing, having that boat almost to ourselves for each of the two days traveling from Ushuaia to Antarctica and eventually back again. Here in Chatham Bay we dropped anchor and some of us took the dinghy to walk and explore on the pretty beach. There are four restaurants here, three little holes-in-the-wall plus one that looks much fancier. Most of the crew wants to stay here two nights, to hike and snorkel and swim and just relax for a full day. On the beach I found two lovely large conch shells; I would dearly love to take them home but know I don't have that much extra space--not even for one of them, since I've already bought too many presents for family and friends to take back with me; how I'll ever pack them all is a mystery. But the conchs can decorate my cabin, and I can enjoy their beauty for all the rest of the days on this trip.

This morning four of us went for a little hike up to the top of one of the hills surrounding this beautiful horseshoe-shaped harbor. We dinghyed to shore, ran the boat aground (there was no dinghy dock), tied it to a bush, and started walking up a rough "road" all broken and rocky, parts just dirt with lava intrusions here and there, pretty circular patterns called pillows. It was hot and buggy, but dabbing Rosemary essential oil on my neck, arms, and legs worked very well to keep the pesky insects off all of us. (Since it is very effective in the deep woods in Maine in springtime, I expect Rosemary essential oil will work well anywhere.) Towards the top we met Bushman, a legend in these hills, a native who tends an isolated animal farm just near the summit of the hill we climbed. I think he might be in his late 40s, but that is just a guess. He has three children, one soon going off to college, the youngest one only nine years old. Garrulous, very friendly, Bushman obviously enjoyed taking time to talk with us; he doesn't get the opportunity to interact with many people at his work here on this secluded hill. Bushman has taken care of all the goats, cows, ducks, geese, rabbits, and whatever other animals we didn't see, for eight years. He knows he's lucky, working in such a peaceful, lovely place, having a good, reliable job. No one else is nearby, just the animals. Bushman walks to work from his house, 25 minutes away, and then back again in the evening, six days each week. We enjoyed speaking to each other for quite awhile, sharing our stories, bits of our very different lives, and then finally bid Bushman good-bye, and continued over the top, looking out at the stellar views, trying to find our boat, and, of course, our dinghy. John spotted the dinghy (still there!), but the boat was tucked behind another hill, hidden from our view by trees. Such a gift of a morning!

In the afternoon John and Mary and I went snorkeling, the longest snorkel I have ever done. I saw new fish--some incandescent, corals, sponges, and, astonishingly, an enormous school of seemingly transparent fish--hardly bigger than minnows--who at first swam in front of us, and then back and forth, turning in a flash, allowing us to enter and become a part of their unending group. Three of us, large, human fish, were enclosed inside their incredibly enormous school and they didn't seem to mind us at all. It was magnificent! But then a chilly rain began; by this time we were quite a distance from the boat. I do love to swim in warm rain, completely encased in water from both above and below, but with staying still, floating to focus on the lives around and under us, coupled with the cold rain pelting down, I was getting shivery. Almost at the beach, we decided to turn around. I called to let them know I was heading back, and swam quickly to the boat, and thus missed seeing the purple squid John and Mary saw on their way back. A quick warm shower felt very good after that long snorkel.

So what does beam reach mean? One of the many sailing terms I am learning, a beam reach is a point of sail, the wind blowing perpendicular to the heading of the boat. To me it suggests making constant adjustments to facilitate the smooth continuance of the sailing, the journey, very appropriate in all ways on this adventure.


27th December 2015

Excellent, Laura, tell John thanks for the sailing lessons that you give out. Love your blog.
28th December 2015

Another wonderful entry!!!!!! MAny people see the world through your eyes. Keep writing!

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