Wednesday, April 12, 2017

1980 (17) - Pirates?!?

Pirate Ship.  Art quilt by Jean Baardsen

To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

After settling in at Deep Bay, we spent a day resting up for our 100-mile, overnight passage from Antigua, north to St. Maarten.  In the middle of the afternoon, we were startled out of our bunks by loud pounding on our steel hull.  We came up on deck to find three men climbing on board.  (A definite no-no; you never board another boat without permission.)  My first thought was that we’d been caught by Customs.  We had decided to save a little money by stopping at Antigua illegally, and not clearing in.  Considering the grubby appearance of these three middle-aged men, my first thought should have been that they were pirates, and that we were being hijacked - but I never worried about stuff like that.  

Ed was by the ladder, trying to stop the lead man from coming on board, but this man gently pushed Ed back to the cockpit, while he unwrapped something rolled up in a newspaper.  My second thought was that he was going to try to sell us a fish.  These men probably hadn't waited for an invitation, because they wouldn't have understood us anyway, as they only spoke Spanish.  With Ed still attempting to protest, the first man reached the cockpit table, and unrolled the newspaper to reveal a chart. 

I said, "They probably just want information on where to anchor in St. John's Harbor."  We had had trouble over the location of the anchorage the first time we had taken Tropic Moon into the harbor.  Expecting to see a chart of Antigua, I was surprised to see a chart that covered the whole Caribbean Sea. 

The first man, with many smiles, pointed at the chart, and then pointed toward land.

"San Marteen?" 

We just looked at him, then pointed at the island and said, "Antigua." 

He frowned, pointed again and said, "San Marteen?" 

We responded, "No, Antigua!" and pointed to it on the chart. 

He looked to his two friends, who had also gathered in the cockpit, "Antigua!"  They all frowned over the chart. 

Ed's four years of high school Spanish came in handy when the leader asked him, "Where is San Marteen?"

Ed pointed to the northwest and said, "Cien milas" (100 miles).  That brought a lot of muttering, and one man with a straw hat nodded in an ‘I told you so’ manner.  

The three men were from a large, ancient-looking motor yacht named Dona Concepcion, which they’d anchored near us.  We gathered, through sign language, pointing at the chart, and hesitant Spanish, that they were traveling from Puerto Rico to Venezuela.  They had wanted to make a stop at St. Maarten.  They explained they’d been north of Anguilla early that morning.  As St. Maarten is south of Anguilla, they had motored for three hours out into the Atlantic, then turned southwest and traveled the rest of the day, till they found themselves at what turned out to be Antigua.  

The man asked Ed how many miles it was from Anguilla to St. Maarten.  They all looked rather pained when Ed said it was only five miles - you could see from one island to the other.  They obviously couldn't read the chart, and had no idea of the relative distances between the islands.  Ed tried to explain that one degree on the chart equaled 60 miles.  They all nodded, but didn't really seem to understand. 

Then one man uncovered our compass, and asked for the reading to St. Maarten.  Ed told him, and he carefully wrote down the number Ed was saying.  Then he asked the compass direction from Saba (another island) to St. Maarten, and Ed showed him how to read it off the chart.  Again the blank nodding, because he next asked for the reading from St. Maarten to Saba, which, of course, was the opposite number on the compass from the Saba-to-St. Maarten direction. 

The man tried explaining something to Ed, but Ed couldn't follow his Spanish.  The man wrote "Japan" on his paper.  I looked at it, and said it looked like Japan.  Ed said, yes, but he didn't get the connection.  I suggested, "What about that big fleet of Japanese fishing boats in St. Maarten?"  Ed tried "fishing boats" in Spanish, and got smiles and nods of agreement.  

Pirate Ship.  Detail

Our visitors sat around in discussion for quite a while, finally getting up to leave.  We had told them we were sailing to St. Maarten that night.  I said to Ed, it was a wonder they weren't going to try to follow us.  Ed said they’d discussed it, but decided they were too tired, as they'd been traveling since the previous day. 

As the men were shoving off in their dinghy, I waved, making use of my limited Spanish vocabulary, "Adios!" 

Grinning, they replied, "Mañana! San Marteen!" 

Since they couldn't understand me anyway, I called out, "We'll be there, but I doubt if you will!" 

Dona Concepcion did show up in St. Maarten two days later, and anchored near the Japanese fishing fleet at the entrance of the harbor.  

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