Friday’s forecast was perfect for our sail east to Guadeloupe. We left at 4 am, increasing our chances of arriving at Deshaies by Dark.
We pass the south coast of Montserrat with the sun reflecting off the dusty lava still evident of its 1995 flow down the mountain of Soufriere.
The eruption wiped out the city of Plymouth and along with it beautiful villas belonging to Princesses, Mick and others. The rich and famous forgot what was once known as the Emerald Island and moved on to Mustique. We moved on to Deshaies.
We anchored for the night in the lovely fishing village but didn’t go ashore, we set sail at first light.
Our destination, Ile des Saintes, an archipelago just south of the main island should make every Frenchman not living there, envious. We love The Saints and it’s one place I wanted to go back to on our last tour of these islands. Like Friday, the weather was calm, as were the seas. After a few hours of motoring, I dozed, Bill didn’t need me. At least I thought.
I awoke, startled by a loud bam on the hull. Bill’s eyes told me we had a problem. Looking past Bill, off the stern I knew what it was. We hit a fishing pot, we must have, there’s a dark bottle in the water. Clusters of white buoys off to the side. He saw them, and circled around but there was that stray out of his view. A plastic engine oil bottle, the color of the water tied with a line. How is anyone supposed to see that, let alone someone forty feet behind our high bow?
Now we have no engine and we don’t know how bad Corcovado’s injuries are.
But, we’re a sailboat and even in small wind, we can sail just not very fast. We can’t get to the Saints, that required the engine, so we turn around, look for a protecting harbor where Bill can go over the side and inspect for damages.
We ghost along the coast for a few hours. I’m on the bow keeping a too late lookout for more pots or dangers. A half mile ahead, I see a huge fish jump from the water, I yell to Bill and point. Bill sees it and yells, “That’s a whale, Babe. That’s a whale.”
We watch the whale frolic as the winds calms from little to none. I return to the cockpit as an eeriness settles and we wait for the winds to return.
“How much further to that harbor?”
“Three miles maybe.”
I think that far in no wind.
We wait some more. No wind.
Bill says, “Let’s put the dinghy in the water.”
“Yeh, I was thinking we would have to do that just to get into the harbor. I guess we can push from here.”
We lash the dinghy on the starboard hip and I start its engine. Bill takes down the sails. I look out toward the bay that Bill wants to go to. While looking over the water, not far away, I see sea birds hovering. Oh, the whale, they’re chasing the whale. Its closer, too close. I turn off the dinghy engine and start to climb onto Corcovado.
“What are you doing? Why’d you turn the engine off?”
We’re now without any control, no sails, no engine, not far from shore.
I sputter, “The whale, it’s right there, the birds are right over it.”
“Get back in the dinghy. The sounds of an engine will keep it away. ”
I’ve heard that theory also. The only boats damaged or sunk by whales are sailing boats. The noise of engines keeps them away. But do I really want to test that theory? Test it from this tiny nine-foot hard-bottomed blowup. Well, I have a knife and if it comes near us, I can cut myself loose from Corcovado, rev up the engine and head to shore. I’m satisfied with that. I concentrate on getting us to the bay.
I do rev up the engine but it’s to keep us safe. I’m driving the engine, our little 9.9 horsepower on our nine-foot dinghy, attached to the side of Corcovado, 40,000 lbs and 46 feet long. We do 2.5 knots and close in on the bay. We get closer. The entrance looks small. Cliffs and rocks on both sides.
“Susan, slow down, we don’t have any breaks. Reverse on that engine won’t do any good.”
I slow and we coast along a few minutes then Bill rushes forward, drops the anchor. We’re in 40 feet of water, it takes too long for the windlass to pull the chain up from the locker. It comes up at one foot a minute. We’re close to the rocks.
The anchor hasn’t touched bottom when Bill yells, We’re too close, I’m pulling it up.”
I direct us off and we circle again. Drop the anchor again. This time we’re good. We’re safe. In the middle of the harbor entrance but safe. Any normal boat can get past.
We relax, have dinner, leave the cockpits lights on and sleep out on deck. At midnight we both wake to a boat pacing back and forth just off our side. Someone’s on their deck with a bright light and they’re trying to pass us to get into the harbor. Finally, they give up and anchor with us. In the morning, we see why. The catamaran must be fifty feet wide and seventy feet long. I don’t blame them for being chicken, those rocks are too close and they aren’t any normal boat.
The next morning with good light, Bill goes over the side. Every time he comes up with a handful of line, I complement him and cheer him on. I offer to participate, give him a break but no, he keeps at it, never stopping. I see blood oozing from cuts all over his arms while handing him different tools to coax the line from around the shaft. When he hands me a big bundle I think this must be the end, then he goes back for more. It takes more than two hours of sawing and hacking but finally he gets to the end. He comes on board turns on the engine and slides it into gear, both of us looking at each other and listening. He did it. He’s my hero again.
We relax and I ask, “Bill, remember our honey moon cruise we went on. Didn’t they cut the trip back because the propeller on the cruise ship was damaged when it hit a whale?”