We pre-set the reefing of our sails, an action that involves adjusting lines to tension the mainsail without it being raised to the top of the mast. In the heavy gusts that the morning presented us with, this was extremely helpful and kept the boat more level and controllable than it may have been otherwise. We reviews the local charts for the day, did some quick distance calculations, hoisted the anchor shortly after 1000hrs and turned our sights 25 miles southwest to Tobago Cays. Leaving Bequia's Admiral's Bay we performed a few jibe maneuvers, an action of changing course by the stern of the boat passing through the wind, and continued out of the bay. The jagged coastline silently told stories of countless storms battering its rocks, and a lone tanker ship lay forgotten in the sharp edges of the shore; Jimmy told me it's been there for over three years without ever being moved.
Rounding the point at the end of Bequia we settled on a port tack, wind coming at us over the left side of the boat, and began our 5-hour haul down the line of Grenadine islands. Taking turns at the helm we passed through all kinds of wind, and during my time steering I was steering through 16 knot winds with gusts coming in at over 22 knots. It amazes me how much effort the rudder of a boat this size takes to control. The fine line of give and take with each wave's rise and fall is something I got a little more used to as Mango and I spent another hour together cruising across deep blue waters under sunny August skies. Trading off with José, I settled on the leeward (loo'rd, or downwind) side of the boat, and took a much needed nap. I had attempted to manually plot our points on the navigational chart using only a compass and two reference points, but felt sick to my stomach within a minute or two in the galley as the boat rocked heavily from the white capped seas. An hour of sleep on the boat, woken sporadically by the crashing of seawater over the bow as the cold water spritzed my body, was exactly what I needed to be refreshed again.
Jimmy steered the second to last bit of our trip through rocky shoals called Break Rock off the coast of Canouan Island, then gave me the helm to steer us into the shallow waters off the coast of Tobago Cays where we'd drop anchor for the night. The wind was incredible as we passed Break Rock and made the approach to the shallows; again with gusts in the low 20 kts region, my forearms felt the wear and tear of the steering wheel and rudder fighting my every command. I turned us to the wind as we quickly lowered the mainsail, then turned over the diesel and motored us through a narrow canal to a wide space between two French catamarans where we dropped anchor. Chris, Rory, José, and I each changed to our bathing suits and jumped off the stern of the boat into 12' green waters, donning our snorkeling equipment and kicking off in different directions around the reef. After a while of swimming against a fierce current, José called my attention to a gorgeous stingray that was circling under Mango. Having never before seen one in the wild it was incredible to watch as it peacefully glided underneath us, eyes open, probably as interested with me as I was with it. Rory and Chris negotiated with a local fisherman to have him cook the fish Rory had caught while we sailed from Bequia, which the man agreed to do for fee.
We relaxed on the boat for an hour or so discussing sports and politics, and then motored our boat over to the shore off Tobago and took the dinghy in to where the fisherman's outdoor restaurant (loose term) was set up. This is where Johnny Depp filmed Pirates of the Caribbean, and many of the beach scenes looked familiar from the films. Two pop-up tents and a half dozen picnic benches were where we dined on Rory's caught tuna, as well as local veggies, Conch chowder, and rice. We watched the sun set and talked long into dusk before taking the dinghy back to Mango, watching the phosphorescent algae light up behind the propeller as we moved towards our mooring. All in all a wonderful day on board with a great group of people. Jimmy's instruction, though sometimes hard to understand through the Caribbean accent, is thorough and informative, and when not at the helm I find myself staring off into the horizon wondering if I could do this for a month straight, alone, to cross the Atlantic.
Side note, thank you for the kind thoughts about my mom. I finally got to speak with her directly tonight, and though both she and my dad sound exhausted, she sounded great given all that happened.
Until tomorrow my friends, signing off from high winds, a narrow living berth, and a very tippy boat!