Four months on an island 20kms long and 5kms wide. Four months, 120 days, a whole season… As someone who is rarely preoccupied with time, I was a little surprised by the anxiety gripping my chest as we sailed into Tortola. The Caribbean, not long ago, evoked images of a distant wonderland – where pirates danced on sandy shores and coconuts fell to feed them. My ignorance failed to inform me of the location of the Virgin Islands, let alone their British, American and Spanish settlements.
Now though, I had their coastal contours mapped out in front of me, and since U.S soil remained forbidden (temporarily), my life would have to fit within the wall of palm trees marking the confines of English territory. A northerly sail awaited me in April, but until then this would be home.
And although furthest away geographically, it was closer to ‘home’ – to the country I’d say I’m ‘from’ – than expected. The similarities to Vanuatu were an exciting discovery. I recognised so much of the flora (unfortunately mostly introduced) – Breadfruit trees, paw paw, banana, guava, banyan trees and what I’ll always know as ‘christmas trees’ – wide shady branches with bright red flaming flowers. To bite into sugarcane again for the first time in almost a decade, it’s sticky syrup on my lips, set me into a fit of giggles for over an hour. And at 30 degrees, everyday, this was my kind of winter!
No pirates yet but pretty close to paradise, and it’s hard to get bored in paradise. I spent two weeks on the most Easterly point Wwoofing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) with Arragorn, a local artist I met at the full moon party (it’s a small island), did some painting on the most Westerly point with Charlie, a guy who used to race on “Ramble” (it’s a really small island), some varnishing for John, and the rest of my time in between at Cane Garden Bay with a man named Mike.
He’s from a slightly bigger, slightly colder island – Vancouver Island, Canada – and says ‘boat’ so that it sounds just like ‘boot’. A longtime lightfooted traveller, he cycled down from the north west to New Orleans, sailed the east coast and is here spending three months hitchhiking around while studying online. He charmed me with his calm humility, witty humour and indiscriminate compassion. It’s been a welcome distraction for both of us – time never lasts long with lovers.
We went to an open mic night in town recently. Walking in, I recognised a dozen familiar faces, sat down next to another peddle powered friend (Scotland – China), ordered a Carib beer and realised, smiling, that I’d found myself a nice little community. It’s a very small island, but turns out it’s just big enough for me!