At one little uninhabited cay, we bounced Sentijn through a narrow gulley in the fringing reef and stayed for three weeks. We couldn’t have left if we wanted to; the tiny, twisting pass into the lagoon was closed by breaking waves most days. We settled into a pleasant routine, taking little Dean to the beach in the morning, before the sun became strong enough to sear his fair skin to cinders.
The middle of the day–during nap time–was dedicated to small maintenance projects; mending sails and splicing lines chafed during the Atlantic crossing. Our bottom paint had lost whatever trivial toxicity it had once possessed, and keeping the growth under control was a constant job. The shallow white sand reflected the sun’s light onto the hull and the seagrass flourished.
Scrubbing it off released a huge plume of ablative blue paint into the pristine water, but with our engine trouble it was imperative that Sentijn sail efficiently. I thought back wistfully to when antifoul had vicious chemicals in it: one coat of paint was sufficient for years of sailing, and only the occasional wipe was needed. Nowadays I put on six coats of paint, knowing that I’ll end up scrubbing it all off the hull in multicolored submarine clouds.
The evenings were the best part of the day. We’d load the dingy with spears, masks, flippers and weights and zoom out to the fringing reef, new outboard purring. There were lobsters the size of Jack Russel terriers wandering around, out in the open, in broad daylight, in shallow water. Dean, by this time, knew the drill: stay in the dinghy and keep the lobsters from climbing out. Pound-for-pound, it was a pretty fair matchup.
There were also a pair of resident grey reef sharks and they were no dummies. After a few repetitions, they started following our afternoon excursions with particular studied interest. Kara worried they were waiting for little Dean to fall out of the dingy–which would not have been a very fair matchup–but they seemed content to follow the swimmers at the limits of visibility, sidling up alongside when they sensed action. After a few prods with the spear when they got too close, the sharks and I struck up an uneasy truce; they didn’t seem very interested in lobster anyway.
In one deep corner of that lagoon, hundreds of conchs had congregated in about 15 meters of water. I got pretty excited when we discovered this and a little over zealous on the first dive when I gathered an armload. I couldn’t make it back to the surface with more than two or three; their chipped and beaten shells were so thick that each snail weighed about 5 kgs.
All good things must, unfortunately, come to and end and in this case it was the water supply. We hadn’t filled Sentijn’s tanks in a few countries, or in a few months, and supply was now critical. There was no source on this deserted, desert island so we sailed to the next nearest one but that was uninhabited as well. And the one after that.
Finally we made landfall at Crooked Island, which was not deserted, but there was also no water. The municipal supply had been destroyed by a hurricane a half-decade previously and never repaired; the residents had been shipping in bottled water for years. Gasoline was easier to find than water…even if it was chunky and cloudy and siphoned from a steel tank in the only store’s parking lot. Our outboard seemed happy enough, though…