We left the Reef Islands on Wednesday and set sail for Santa Ana. The weather forecast looked fine and this 230 mile crossing certainly wasn’t anything we hadn’t done before. But boy, was it uncomfortable.
Somehow, the swell managed to make us feel like we were in a washing machine. The kids and I reverted to our preferred sailing position: laying flatout on the cockpit sofas reading our kindles. Luckily nobody got seasick.
One thing the forecast can never predict accurately: squalls. We got plenty on this trip and it makes for stressful sailing, having to take sails up and down all the time and adjusting course with each strong gust (some were over 40 knots and hit us all of a sudden). At night, we heard roaring thunder and giant balls of lightening were electrifying the sky in the distance. Scary.
For the first time in three years I wondered why we were out here, and, I was faced with a strong desire to sell the boat and head back home. Seathan reminded me it was my idea in the first place to sell our house and go sailing. Ehmmm. Yes, I guess that’s true.
My friend Sarah, who admitted she had similar thoughts during this passage, compared it to childbirth. I immediately knew what she meant. A rough passage is indeed like childbirth: you just forget how bad it was as soon as it’s over. Something in your memory blocks it all out. We dropped anchor in the stunning bay of Santa Ana Island and I was happy again to live on a boat on the other side of the world.
We were welcomed by the locals in their canoes and marvelled at the beauty of the reef and the coastline. Santa Ana is a coral island and quite different from the sandy atolls we were staying at in the Reef Islands.
First things first: we went to see the chief of the village to ask permission to anchor in his bay. We were made to feel very welcome, but he did have some specific requests: did we have spare reading glasses and perhaps some tools for carving wood. We promised him we would have a look.
Back at the boat, trading started as soon as we settled down and the requests were very specific and somewhat unrealistic. The cost of fresh produce had increased significantly, especially in comparison to the Reef Islands. People came over in their canoes with a bunch of wilted spinach or five green beans and asked for a t-shirt and some perfume in return. I don’t think so. They are obviously used to more handouts here and apparently a cruise ship stops here once a month. It’s hard to believe but it must be true. The cruise ship stays for one day and this gives the villagers a chance to sell their woodcarvings, perform a traditional dance and trade anything else they have. At least it’s an opportunity for the village to get some income.
After a good night’s sleep everyone was full of beans again and it was time to get on with a priority repair job: fixing the genoa. Unfortunately it got shredded during one of the squalls. Seathan temporarily fixed it at sea with special sail repair tape but it needed proper stitching. Our buddy boat ‘Fieldtrip’ kindly let us use their sewing machine and our other buddy boat ‘Perry’ had some repairs to complete as well.
So while the men were busy fixing sails, the mums and kids went off for a walk through the jungle to see the freshwater lake. Apparently a crocodile lives there but I suspect that’s just a story because the village kids who accompanied us all happily jumped in the water and splashed around without a care in the world.
Back at the village we did some more chatting (‘tok tok’) with chief John. I had given him some reading glasses as a gift but he wasn’t too happy with them; they weren’t strong enough and could I get him another pair. No, that’s all we have but you’re very welcome.
They certainly are a lot pushier here than in the Reef Islands. The village kids come and hang around the boat all day and keep climbing onboard. It’s sweet that they are so keen to socialise but it can be quite disturbing when you’re trying to do school or when you’re having a quiet family lunch. We’ve started to feel like caged animals in the zoo.
So, we probably won’t stay here for that long and we might look for an anchorage near an uninhabited island next 😀