July 19, 2005. Union Island, Grenadines - Caribbean.
This morning, we arrived at Union island, to buy provisions. The harbour was a bit tricky to sail in. There was a low coral reef just at the water level, so we had to navigate all around it to find the entrance to the lagoon, but it was worth it: the view from where we anchored was magnificent. It is always how I imagined the Caribbean to look like. Clear blue green water. Waves crashing on the coral reef in front of us. Someone set up a small bar on a tiny island just behind the reef, in front of us. Barely enough place for a hut with a straw thatched roof, a couple of plastic chairs, flags flapping in the trade winds.
We ferried ashore with the dinghy to buy fruits, drinks, bread and some meat. While the girls are off to a boutique to buy some local souvenirs, I am now sitting in a restaurant/bar, right at the water's edge. No windows, almost like a balcony right above the water. The warm sea wind blows through the restaurant. It is quiet, I am the only customer, it is still early, mid morning.
I am looking over the harbour, over the ocean, and watch all the little things that happened, displayed in front of me, like a living painting with endless details. A dinghy comes in with two guys, and one almost falls into the water as they tried to step onto the dock. Two girls, early teenagers, trotting over the dock are giggling as the guy hangs onto the dock with both hands trying to his balance back. Two local boys and a French youngster try to get an outboard engine running. A family docks a sail yacht at the end of the pier, to fill up their water tanks. A ferry offloads small containers and boxes. A water taxi shuttles people in, and then speeds off to welcome an incoming yacht, and to take it to a mooring buoy. At the end of the jetty, the local baker with a small stand filled with French bread and croissants, hangs out with some local water taxi drivers, talking to the girls passing by. A young girl sits on the edge of the jetty, legs hanging above the water, clearly doing what I am doing: enjoying the moment, the smell, the feeling of the wind in her hair.
The atmosphere is relaxed. 'Take it easy, mon! Stay cool' is what I hear everywhere. The locals greet with a ‘shake’: softly touching fists by the knuckles and then touching their heart with their fist while making a wish. Goldfinger, the guy who brought us ice and bread yesterday, when we were still moored in the Tobago Cays, gave me a shake, and said 'One love!' What a wish, hey, ‘One Love’.
Every morning, wherever we are moored in the neighbourhood, the local fishermen/water taxis come alongside our boat to check if we want to buy fresh bread, fish, ice or souvenirs. They are big rastas in small wooden boats painted in bright colours with imaginative names. They love both of our girls. We always get things for free because of them. The girls speak a few words of English, and seduce them with their smiles. Tine is always sitting on the background, smiling, watching our children grow. I love talking and joking with the fishermen, and they are always in for a chat and a laugh. Sydney, who sold us some Tshirts ‘Work less – Sail more, Come to the Tobago Cays’, stayed alongside our boat for over an hour. We talked about Trinidad where he came from originally, and about Africa. He wants to go to Africa and start up a small business there. Tanzania seems to be his favourite place. It is strange imagining Sydney, with his long rasta curls and his colourful knitted hat, doing business in rural Tanzania.
Most of the water taxi drivers / vendors are based here in Union Island. We have been in the area for over a week now, and meet some of these guys back in town, or as they lay at the entrance of the harbour waiting to guide a boat in, or as they race by, selling their stuff. They recognize us, and wave at us, holding up their fist in a greeting, smiling.
We met a French couple who were anchored next to us in Petit Sint Vincent, a couple of days ago. Patrice and Michaela, and their two sons, Fabrice and Victor. Patrice came over to our boat asking if Lana and Hannah would be interested in coming over to play with their kids. They ferried over, and we did not see the kids back for a whole afternoon. In the evening we all had a cocktail on shore. Our dinghy outboard died for the 3rd time, so we had to paddle to the shore, and they towed us back to our boat. The next day, Lana and Hannah were back on their boat before we left to the Tobago Cays, an uninhabited chain of small islands 15 miles further, to meet up with them again. Together, we went snorkeling, floating in the current over the coral amongst zillions of colourful fish, as if it was an aquarium. The girls saw a baby shark, a meter long, playing right at the water’s edge, with its belly on the sand, and its back just above water. It kept on circling close to the beach, and we watched it for 10 minutes. The kids were ecstatic.
We had arranged with Boutique, one of the local vendors/water taxi drivers to organize a barbeque for us on one of the deserted beaches in the evening. It was a lovely evening. Sitting on makeshift wooden benches on an empty beach, looking at the sunset. Tine had bought sparkling wine and beer a couple of days ago. Patrice and Michaela brought two bottles of wine, and Boutique had rum punch. So we toasted on love, life and friendship. We laughed and joked a lot, by the light of kerosene lamps, kids playing in the water on the beech, and Boutique, getting more and more drunk as we shared our drinks with him. The food was good. The company was good. The moon was good. By the time we finished the last beers, we were all pretty tipsy. I only realized how much the island was moving when I stood up. We had beached the dinghies, so had a ball laughing ourselves silly, trying to get the dinghies back through the surf. We had a hard time trying to find back our boat which we left for anchor somewhere - there were many boats moored in the Cays that day. I guess we tried different boats, until we found ours. We just could not stop laughing. The kids went to bed. Tine and I, still tipsy, went for a skinny dip, and lay on deck under the bright full moon until the sun came up.
Soft reggae music plays everywhere. Often Bob Marley. I did not know this was your all time favourite. I once had a tape from Bob Marley, which I always played on my walkman (yes I am that old, I come from the times where the first walkmans were with cassette tapes! hihi). Will have to buy some CDs from Bob here. 'One love'. It made me think of you, and the Bob Marley song you mentioned just before you got married: 'Everything will be alright'.
That is also the feeling I have right now. 'Every little thing will be all right'... At this moment, I feel so interwoven with the love for the moment, the here and now. I am sending you my thoughts, the warmth of this place, as the wind subsided, and the skies are opening up.
P. in the C.(aribbean)
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