The Rock Sound Exodus
On 14th December at 0830, Lady Jane led the departure of boats from Rock Sound headed to the Exumas. More than half the fleet left that day: Lady Jane and Tropic Bird.
Tides sprint in the shallow waters around Rock Sound, which made for slow progress. But, when we reached deeper water, the wind speed increased, the tide lost its grip, and Lady Jane took off like a boat possessed. This was brilliant sailing. We managed to avoid a series of squalls through speed and good luck and sailed all the way to Allens Cut just north of our destination – Highbourne Cay. And by 1500 our anchor was set, and soon we were lounging in the cockpit waiting for the sunset.
The next morning we made our way slightly north to Allens Cay where, instead of the ubiquitous pigs on beaches, there’s a beach full of iguanas. After tucking Lady Jane away in a small cove away from the southerly wind and swells, we launched the dinghy and headed over to the beach – very slowly. The iguanas are straight out of Jurassic Park. If they were bigger (or we a lot smaller), they would be terrifying. Fortunately, they are only around 2ft long, but they make up for their diminutive status by looking harder than a T-Rex.
Shortly after landing our dinghy on Allens Cay beach we heard the roar of a seaplane overhead, which soon became the roar of a seaplane approaching us. On it was a couple of crew and a small family. The crew anchored the plane to the beach, apologised for the noise, then helped their guests out onto the plane’s floats, and onto the sand. The iguanas, I think, are familiar with the plane’s crew. Rather than run away from the noise, they turned to watch the show, then waited to see what treats were in store. Those treats turned out to be grapes offered up on a stick. When the grapes were within reach, the Iguanas leapt up for them just as a trained dog might do. It’s a bizarre sight.
The folks on the plane didn’t stay that long. The crew released the anchor, turned the boat around and headed off in a plume of spray and a deafening roar.
We also headed off, but in less-spectacular style, back to Lady Jane. And when we got to our bay, we found the boat that was in front of us replaced by another. Looking up at the boat’s spreaders, we saw an Ocean Cruising Club burgee. So, we went over to say hello. The skipper of the boat was none other than Pete Goss, whose selfless rescue of Rafael Dinelli on Christmas Day 1996 during the Vendee Globe race earned Pete the Legion d’Honneur and an MBE and saved Monsieur Dinelli’s life.
This softly spoken man is the James Bond of ocean sailing. Turning back into gale force winds to perform a rescue like that is hardcore. We are a bit wimpy about turning into the wind to get the sail away.
If you want to learn more about the rescue, read his excellent book Close to the Wind. I have – it’s emotional.