Sweet Providence

Chapter 10: La Isla de Providencia – Caribbean Sea- March 2014

There was no Alice, no islands, no ships, nothing but endless turquoise waters. We were nowhere, somewhere and anywhere but home. The compass directed us as far North as we had provisioned for until we anchored in Providence.

The sun shone and the atmosphere was pleasant. The islanders dressed in their finest shop-bought clothes, with neatly combed hair, whizzed by in an endless procession of mopeds, as the storm was still brewing outside the island. The boats rocked like erratic cradles, tipping their contents from one side to another.

As the weeks stretched out before us, we began slowly to meet our neighbours, one being the Purple preacher whose passion for Christ found expression through decorating every part of her husband´s yacht, her dress and total being in purple, even the frosting on her superbly made cupcakes, were her favourite shade. I was surely not going to do the same to Ship Matey. The Captain and I were now an unofficial couple; however, my love affair was really with the boat and I loved it, just as it was. Everything about it gave me great comfort and a sense of infinite freedom, but the truth was I couldn’t go anywhere without the Captain. A picture of his father, who watched over us like a kindly saint, hung up in the galley, and I would often spend time there reading the Women’s guide to sailing but I was so baffled by it in the end that I abandoned it, altogether, thinking it hopeless and returned to boatkeeping. I was beginning to get that sinking feeling that I was not as free as I hoped. At least the Purple Preacher could sail and not just run up purple upholstery. If her husband got sick of this invasion of maroon, he could surely abandon ship and she’d be able to sail off, no problem, I thought as we made our way back to shore, in little Matey, a speedy Dinghy. 

It had been many moons since leaving Wales to embark on this seemingly unplanned expedition, and here I was standing on top of the highest hill where Captain Morgan, a Welsh privateer, once stood looking over the puritan colony, but whose conduct was less than pure. With his spyglass he would look out at sea to see if any Spanish ships, carefully navigating around the reef Alice Shoal, were within reach to raid.  Over the centuries many Islanders had lost their lives, were imprisoned, or simply disappeared off the face of the earth, only because they aspired to a better life. I shuddered as the black crabs whose shells looked like they were carved from slate, scuttled under my feet. The whole Island was shrouded in mystery. There could be gold underfoot, I thought as I scrambled my way up a steep rock, with my Captain, the Purple Preacher and a merry band of middle aged retirees in hot pursuit. We battled through the thick mangrove, wielding machetes, secretly fancying ourselves as modern-day privateers about to raid a formidable drug lord’s secret lair.

There was nothing left to loot, his house was a skeleton, and stood fragile. I quietly slipped away from my crew looking for my own fortune, lifting pieces of beam and concrete, only to return a little while later, with a little broken tile in my palm. Gazing at it in wonderment, I imagined if blood had spilt on it due to a business dispute, if criminals themselves had once stepped on it as they served themselves a rum and coke, kissed their women, ushered them away and spoke about their business. 

Still clutching the tile in my hand, “Where´s my piece of home?”, I thought as my Captain pulled up the anchor.

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