Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Jumping ship

We spent another day in St. Martin after the scratch and win incident. Justyna and i went over to Marigot market to look at local arts and crafts. After all we never made it to Philipsburg for souvenirs the day  before. We also checked out of the country at the Captainierre office and then made our way back to Grand Case to provision for the next leg of the trip. We decided to head to St. Barths the following morning. A weather window was opening up and we needed to take it before it closed up, trapping us where we were. We had no regrets about leaving St. Martin. Sometimes it's hard. We find a place we like and wish we could linger. There were a lot of things we enjoyed about St. Martin: delicious cheeses, fresh pastries, inexpensive wine, smooth jazz on the beach, but after a week there we were ready to move on. 
We were underway early Sunday and sailed well into the afternoon to get to Ile Fourchue, just north of St. Barths. The rugged, moon shaped island is an old volcano and the bay where we moored is its flooded crater. The 2006 guide book we've been using says there was a herd of goats living on it, decimating all the vegetation, eating itself out of food. Well it must have finally, because when we got there there were no goats and a number of new, green bushes were covering the hills. Aside from these few patches though, the island was barren and grey, the rock face dry and wrinkled like elephant skin. The place was captivating. And it afforded great snorkeling, which Justyna's been really looking forward to. We enjoyed those serene surroundings for a day and were off again on Monday. We hoped to ride that weather window all the way to Guadeloupe. It would be a 24 hour passage, which meant a night sail, something Justyna was excited about. She's done her share of sailing and it was nothing new to her, but this time it was with a twist. We suggested that she join Gerrard on Saltwhistle since he's single-handing and could probably use an extra set of eyes and hands. They both liked the idea. Gerard said that if nothing else it would be nice to have the company. The problem however, was that we were already under way when we sprouted this brilliant idea, so now we had to figure out a way to transfer Justyna from one moving vessel to another. The seas were just rough enough to make rafting together dangerous. She wouldn't be able to step from boat to boat. She would have to jump overboard and, hopefully, be retrieved by Gerard before being swallowed by the dark, cold vastness of the open ocean. It really wasn't that dramatic, but it sure sounds good in a story. Anyway. We considered our options and finally decided that Gerard would pull up alongside Rodeo and pass over his life ring so that Justyna could put it on before she jumped in the water. Once she did, he would pull her aboard. 
She packed a change of clothes, a book and a few other items in a dry bag, that I would toss over to Saltwhistle once she jumped. It almost went according to plan. Almost. As Saltwhistle pulled up alongside, Justyna and I waited at the bow, ready to retrieve the life ring. Gerard threw it and missed. It landed in the water. No problem, we could motor side by side and try again. But before any of us had a chance to react Justyna was climbing over the life lines, throwing herself into the narrowing space between the boats, reaching for the life ring. She just went for it. We couldn't believe it. It happened so fast. She jumped and was holding onto the floating ring a few seconds later. Gerard now worked on pulling her in towards his swim ladder and I attempted to pass her dry bag over. I missed. It bounced off the deck and tumbled into the water, floating fast between the moving boats toward where Justyna was trailing at the end of a long line. Holding onto the ring with one hand she reached out and snatched the bag with the other as it drifted past her. What a girl. Finally Gerard pulled her up into the safety of his boat just to be rescued in return from a long night of loneliness.

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