To be or not to be, a leaf blowing across the Pacific Ocean, that was our question. Some days I’d answer one way and Miranda the other, some days it was a yes others it was a no, I’d change my mind at every bend in the road, at every thicket and fence post, at every straight and every turn. The question was simply too far out of our reach to answer, it ran off in front of us like a distant ship sailing into the mist, I could shout and scream all I liked, my words were premature, they hit nothing but sea air. By the time we landed in the Caribbean things had changed, we were anchored in the middle of the crossroads, we were at last in a position to answer the question, more over, we had to act fast. The first road was easy, pegged out with beaches of white sand, one pot of honey after another, all the way from Barbados to America. The road ran north, the finish line within site, the work already done, the rum punches served ice cold and waiting. The other trail felt like more of a trial, it ran off into the haze, into the deep blue ocean, it was wild and untamed, it’s cards all face down on the table, it’s hours all unnamed. We sat down and wondered which way to go. Can we make it back to Australia? I think back all those years ago to when I left Brisbane, three green horns casted off, Harry, Jamie and I, motoring to our first anchorage where we slipped and drifted in the night, waking when a fisherman tapped on the boat. A Kiwi accent came into my dream, ‘your drifting bro,’ a road bridge crept out from the shadows just beyond our nose, it’s height from the waterline below our mast, the lights where we first lay flickered like small crystals way up the sand bar. Can Miranda and I really get Little Coconut back? I know miracles to be true because God gave me Miranda, but do they happen to one man twice? On our last trip to the super market we couldn’t even agree on what peanut butter to throw in the trolley. Miranda goes straight for the most expensive spread on the shelf, 100 percent peanuts, she’ll eat carefully, using it sparingly, spreading it perfectly, on her symmetrical cut of nut crusted loaf. It sends me crazy, buying like that, eating like that, it makes no sense, too perfect, too thought out, too clean cut, everything that goes against the nature of a Bonn. I go for the cheapest stuff possible, by the bucket load, I’ll rip into it with those red flagged sponges, you know the ones, long gone, old bread left on the shelf, sold for a dime, binned when the doors close. If after six months on the road we bash heads every time we walk down those supermarket aisles, is sailing the Pacific a step too far, or worse, is it a step in the wrong direction?
Miranda and I have no strict budget aboard Coconut other than money is fast running out, no real timeline other than the squalls scream louder, the mountain grows taller and we grow tired, at least some of the time we do. We don’t sail like our friends the Germans, there are no spreadsheets, no schedules, no weekly this or monthly that, the dog ate our ship’s calculator many moons ago, our winter larder lies raided and traded, we sit like two blind mice, hauled up in Little Coconut, bashing against the beaches of the Caribbean Sea. Wether it was my empty wallet, which swore blindly beneath the strain of imported goods, or wether it was the clock’s relentless whisper, whatever the reason we never really settled down in the Caribbean, after that ocean crossing high passed away we felt the pressure mounting. Six months of ‘camping’ as Miranda puts it was taking its toll, she was finding life aboard hard, no running water, no bathroom, no shower, no space to paint, no where to hang up her clothes, her toiletries squashed up near the cooking sauces, her dresses buried beneath the sails. In the busy anchorages she would wait until nightfall to wash on deck, sitting above the silk laced waterline, soaking away the hot sand with flannel and bucket, hiding behind the only shower curtain available, the cloak of darkness. I too was starting to find stuff hard, not the day to day stuff, but the prospect of sailing on. Those blue water passages in the Pacific rose up from the tracks in great sweeping shadows, after getting the boat all the way to the Caribbean why couldn’t we relax for a few months and enjoy it? The truth was if we wanted any time in Central America we had to get moving, time spent in the Caribbean equalled places missed further down the line, we were locked in a tight schedule, it was now or never, I was eye balling this once in a lifetime opportunity, we were so close I could almost feel that ocean breath, faced with all this I was tired and doubting, sceptical and fearful, loosing my grip on it all like a burnt out old bridge. Something pushed us on despite this, we sailed from Barbados to Bequia, then down the chain to Grenada, and with that our decision was made, we’d leave the hive of cruisers heading north, it was into God’s hands and on for the Pacific.
The Caribbean is a chain with many links, unspoilt corners still cling to the windy reaches, the places deemed unsuitable for hotels. There are landlocked forests protected by steep hillsides, green and wild, there is blown out rocky shores still untouched, left alone like a misunderstood stranger, nothing to give, nothing to take. Every stone in the Caribbean has a surprise hiding beneath it, in Barbados it was the people, they were so joyful, so full of spirit. In Bequia it was the beautiful anchorage at Elizabeth bay, in Grenada it was the rain forest, such an oasis for us after rollin & tumbin on the ocean for so long. In Union island it was quite literally lobsters, I snorkelled down and spotted a load of them hiding in the reef, I left them alone, they looked too friendly to put in the pot, no claws like the Jersey ones, just frightened eyes. We enjoyed the Caribbean immensely, but as we sailed out, bound for the ABC’s and Colombia, as that leg progressed I felt the weight of everything slowly leave my shoulders, perhaps i didn’t feel like sailing that day, perhaps the Pacific still seemed too much, but as we pushed on despite it all there was a sense of peace, we were trusting bigger things, things my emotions have no control over, it was liberating, to be that leaf on the breeze again, to cut loose and fly with the wind.