Monday 25 August 2008

Phoning home

I arrived at Aigua-xellida as the shadows lengthened from the shore; a dog-legged bay with a rock-bound lagoon to the north and beyond, a tiny cove among steep rocks with calm, clear waters sheltered from all winds, as contrived as an illustration from a work of fantasy. Furling the sails amongst the anchored boats that rose and fell on the northerly swell in the outer bay someone hailed me to signal that he was taking photographs and behind him I noticed a girl on the bow yakking into a mobile. Ob’s hull shone in the mellow evening light but, rather tired of being photographed by all and sundry and often from motor boats that left me reeling in their wake, I waved and continued working.

When ready I rowed OB up to the far end of the cove, manoeuvred in tiny circles until I decided how best to moor, then threw the anchor off the stern and scrambled, like an ungainly amphibian, from the bow onto a slippery rock and so ashore, bashing my shins, where I passed a line through a ring set in the stone for this purpose. Then I slipped down the rock until I was up to my neck in the water, clawed myself aboard again and tightened the stern line. The rocky bottom was scarred with deep crevices and to ensure that the anchor held I donned mask and snorkel and dived to set it. The deliciously cool waters were clear as glass and fish darted around me as if drawn by Disney. I pulled up the anchor and dropped it into a deep crack with a sandy bottom then retightened the lines until OB was firm. I went for a long swim around the bay diving into the chasms, herding small shoals of fish before me. The last of the sunlight slanted into the cove penetrating the depths with golden rods.

When I got back to OB she sat in brooding shadow and a surprisingly stiff breeze chilled me as I dried. Before the light faded I went through the palaver of going ashore again to take a few photos, then messily regained the boat and dressed before opening a beer that I’d previously sunk on a line. I lay back on my cushion sipping beer, satisfied that that OB was securely moored and wondering what I might cook for dinner. Then I remembered that I ought to make my daily phone call home to report that all was well and to receive the weather forecast.

Naturally my partner worries when I’m away sailing and we had an arrangement by which, to save batteries, I would only switch the phone on once in the evening to make a call between 7 and 10 o’clock. My partner had warned me that if 10pm came and went and she hadn’t received a call she would alert the coastguard. Although I’d pleaded that she leave the coast guard in peace explaining that they wouldn’t mount a search until the morning so she might as well wait before phoning them, the threat had stood.

As I switched my phone on I noticed that it was 9.30pm. I saw that the battery was still full and waited for the phone to find reception, but the little lines stubbornly refused to grow in their usual place on the left hand side of the screen. I shook the phone and waited. Nothing. I switched it off and tried again. Still nothing. The seriousness of the situation began to dawn. In little over half an hour a horrible silence would settle in my home and the coastguard would be receiving a distraught call. I gracelessly sloshed ashore, there was no cover on the beach and none in the thick pines that crowded down to the water. I beat uphill through the thorny undergrowth but no cover appeared on the phone’s screen. Then I remembered the girl on the boat laughing into a mobile. I dashed down through the woods, across the beach, splashed out to OB, slithered aboard, untied the line from the shore, hoicked up the anchor leaving it in a messy pile in the stern and stood to the oars just before OB’s bows swung onto the rocks. I rowed hard out of the cove, the photographer’s boat was still anchored in the outer bay and the occupants looked bemused as I sped passed. OB’s cockpit was a mess. The beer had tipped into the bilges and cooking gear littered the floor. The strong, chill breeze blew off shore and the sea was bruised mauve. I stopped rowing and looked at the phone, still no cover. I rowed some more, now 300 metres offshore I tried again. At last a full stack of dashes on the screen. I made the call, was rather brusque, said sod the forecast. And rowed back to the cove against the nasty wind, it was 9.55.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hey there !!!
best regards to OB, to Monica and the kids, to you of course. i'm in Colombia, i'm afraid i can't go back to Europe by boat but it is just imposible to get upset, i enjoy this trip a lot and literally felt inlove with the country. i wish i could sail more though... next year seems easier to "organise"... i'll see, i think Martial is back in Brazil, 2 weeks this time and going again this winter to sail more, will you join him ?
take care, be happy !
un besito