We didn't stick around for long this morning, instead eating a gigantic omelette that Christina prepared with local peppers and onions and soon after tidying up the boat to raise the sails and head north for a short jaunt to the marina on Petite Martinique, a 600 acre island rich with history, color, and fishing industry. We practiced docking skills when we arrived, each taking a turn or two at dropping sails, bringing the boat up into the wind, and easing her 45' Fiberglass length up against the large wooden dock. After we had each had a turn with touch-and-go, we tied our bow and stern lines to the dock itself and took a half hour to replenish all that needed such. Paying the young kids in the dock office we filled our 160 gallon fresh water tank and bought literal blocks of ice for the on-board refrigerator to aid in keeping our perishables cool. As the fresh water holding tank filled, Jimmy pointed out a sign he thought I'd like to photograph (the whole group is now accustomed to my dSLR being strapped around my shoulder even while at sea) so I called out to José and we hopped off Mango at her beam (widest point, mid-ship) and wandered onto the island. Photographing the 'Welcome to Petite Martinique' sign, complete with locals in-frame, we then walked up the street and down a few blocks on roughly paved narrow roads. Neighbors waved and smiled as we walked by their homes, packed tightly together, and I even met a man with a worn Red Sox hat on his head. He didn't quite understand my English, nor my enthusiasm of the matter, and after giving me a puzzled look immediately began asking if I had any money to give him. Wearing a bathing suit and having no possessions except a camera, I smiled and moved on. José and I walked by two little markets, a dozen cows, a small cemetery, elementary school with Big Bird painted on the exterior wall, and more goats than I could count. Making our way back up the beach to the dock, we boarded Mango and motored off into the open harbor to raise her sails and turn west to our next destination.
Once back in the deeper blue waters between Petite St. Vincent, Petite Martinique, and Union Island, Jimmy briefed us with a short refresher of what was involved with QuickStop overboard actions. Alike the figure-8 man overboard procedures this involves some quick maneuvering, though by the way it is executed it actually allows for the yacht to stay much closer to said MOB, thus making it 'safer' for whoever was unlucky enough to end up in the water. We went through the motions a few times, arguably not enough for some at the helm, and turned off again to what was my favorite stop so far on the trip. Yesterday as we sailed into Petite St. Vincent I noticed a gigantic straw umbrella quite literally in the middle of the ocean. Rubbing my eyes and expecting the mirage to disappear, Jimmy told me he would bring us by the minuscule island the next day for me to photograph. 18 hours later there I was, hands on the wheel steering us towards the more shallow waters surrounding the tiny beach of sand called Mopion where we anchored the boat. Quite literally petite, measuring in at only 80' long and 15' wide, the sand is home to a lone umbrella and is surrounded by the most colorful and simultaneously translucent Caribbean waters I've seen yet. I took photos of Chris and Rory when we arrived, as they celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary tomorrow and I offered to get anniversary photos for them to remember this trip, and this unique little destination island by. After a few dozen shots with them, including kneeling down in the tide to get the best angles as water splashed up above my waist (worry not, this camera and I have gone through a lot together over the past few years) I switched out my neck strap for a tripod and proceeded to get some real photography work done. Marching out into the tide, planting the legs of my carbon fiber tripod as firmly as I could on a lone rock in the water, I proceeded to take a dozen long exposure shots before ditching layers of thread-on filters and capturing stills of the island. You'll see in two shots below, but to say this place looked like a scene from a Corona commercial is an immense understatement. It was surreal in its beauty, sheer randomness, and complete appeal to the senses. We didn't stay for long, but I'm incredibly grateful that Jimmy piled us into the dinghy and motored us over the shallow reef for me to photograph.
The final bit of sailing for our day occurred after we plotted out our route on the charts below deck, deciding and verifying a 356 degree heading for only 4 miles of sailing. We pulled into the harbor at Union Island shortly after 1500hrs, dropping anchor and almost immediately beginning our American Sailing Association level 103 certification written exam. I passed, but wasn't pleased with my score due to what I would call some contextual and literal discrepancies between myself and whoever created the answer guide. Alas, 101 and 103 have both been completed (don't ask me why there's no 102 level...) and all that remains is a 104 test on Friday. After everyone finished we went over the questions that the group got wrong, then dove off the back of the boat for a quick swim in the harbor before dinner. Reading through the local islands guidebook we couldn't decide on an exact restaurant, so we took the dinghy over and walked down the Main Street of Union Island looking for a place to eat. We ended up taking a free shuttle a mile outside of town to a secluded resort called Sparrow's that has an amazing oceanfront restaurant with a fine selection of locally caught seafood. I ordered calamari with grilled potato wedges and a small salad, and skipped on a stiff drink for the option of a cold Coca-Cola with lime. We watched the sun set as we awaited the arrival of our meal, sitting outside at a picnic bench under a large straw umbrella canopy. Dinner was delicious, and after we finished eating the same free shuttle picked us up and brought us back to town.
We met Jimmy at a place by the marina called Twilight Bar, and as he finished his beer Chris, Rory, and José each ordered a drink. I sat back and happily enjoyed watching the world in my immediate vicinity move about. Union Island must have 1,000 wild dogs and puppies running around, playing with each other or napping in the street, and a few came up to greet us as we sat at an outside table. One cute female black lab made quick friends with Chris and revisited her a few times throughout our time there. At one point a man tuned up his guitar and began playing to a backing track, adding in intricate solos and rhythms as he sand along to notable tunes. He opened with Bob Marley's Waiting In Vain, and suddenly the whole scene reminded me of something out of a movie. The disco lights moved about lazily in the bar as women swayed to the music, stray dogs barked in the background, and old boxy Suzuki SUVs puttered by with burned out brake lights down narrow and dimly lit streets. It takes no stretch of the imagination to envision why people dream of the cruising yacht life style, or appeal of Island Time.
I could be a regular at the Twilight Bar, I think. I'd travel back with a boat anchored off Union Island, take the dinghy into town each night, and have my own table in the corner with a wooden chair visibly worn from my regular presence. I'd wear an old and weathered shirt that read "To Travel Is To Live", and all would be right with my world.