Adventures of s/v WILD HAIR


Our land life took on form, solidity, routine. We had mastery of a limited set of skills. We had habitual expectations of others and ourselves. Going sailing, we let go of our attachments to our roles, views, and rituals. We persist because we are growing in this shapeless and dynamic world.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bypassing Nevis and Montserrat

It is 03:47 as I sail past the island nation of Nevis. I am alone in the cockpit. Without warning I am engulfed in the smell of a pig roast. Someone had a special party on shore and I can practically hear sizzling, dripping pig fat and see scent waves undulating toward me through the dark. I am now hungry.

Dave sleeps below to ready himself for his shift at the helm. Our sail from St Kitts to Guadeloupe is 78 nautical miles. Traveling non-stop at five knots the trip will take us more than 15 hours. We want to arrive at our destination in daylight so we left St Kitts at 02:30. The wind blows a kindly 12-14 knots and the water slides past our hull in four foot waves. I tend to the boat’s needs. My mind wanders. Another hour passes.

Suddenly, I am overwhelmed by the smell of baking cinnamon and butter. I look up to see the lights of a new town on Nevis Island. It is nearly 05:00 on Sunday morning. The baker is at work. I breathe heavily and wish I could thank her for her familiar smells of home.

Mid-day Sunday, after my nap, I am back at the helm and sailing off the shore of Montserrat. In 1632, anti-catholic violence erupted in the British Island of Nevis, forcing the Irish population—many brought to Nevis as indentured servants—to flee to Montserrat. The island followed the economic development of the times, becoming a hub for a sugar industry built on the backs of slaves. When slavery was abolished and sugar production ended, island people looked next to tourism. That worked until Hurricane Hugo came for a visit in 1989 bringing 140 mph winds and damaging 90% of the island’s structures. Just about the time island residents regained their economic footing, the Soufriere Hills Volcano erupted in July of 1995, burying the capital city and forcing two-thirds of the population to flee. The volcano erupts even today so half of the island remains off limits to all and a new capital city is undergoing construction.

I sail WILD HAIR outside the volcano’s exclusion zone. Still, ash carried by the breeze settles onto the deck. Steam emerges from the caldera; clouds stack up in the moist air as the easterly trade winds approach. Miles offshore, a sweaty-earth smell finds its way to me, bringing to my mind the harshly sour sulfur springs of Yellowstone National Park.

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