35 Knots

We woke up in the middle of the night to the most intense sound. Air was barrelling down the mountains, through Deshaies and out to sea.

It wasn’t even a squall – there was no rain with it. I always think wind would be much better if it wasn’t so noisy. As it was – rushing into Quest, crashing through her rigging and making her lines tap furiously on the bulwarks – we jumped out of bed and headed into the cockpit. Flicked the instrument screen on the way up.

31, 32, 33. The numbers inched upwards. Then 35 knots – the highest wind speed we’ve seen on anchor so far. Quest was snaking like a cobra. We weren’t dragging though – not yet anyway. Our anchor was holding. We had over 30 metres of chain pailed out – a good amount for our depth. Jack put the boat keys in the ignition, ready to start the engine.

‘If we start to drag, just bring the anchor up as quickly as you can,’ he said to me.

I nodded. Definitely wasn’t going to dawdle.

We weren’t the only ones up. Most of the boats in the anchorage had figures also staring out from their cockpits. Lights were on.

We spent a while just taking everything in. The wind was so strong it was causing low vibrations, almost whale-like, across the water. Each boat was then screeching with their own separate symphony. It made me think of that saying – if a tree crashed down in a forest and there wasn’t anyone to hear it – would it make a sound? If there were no boats here, this gale would probably sound peaceful.

While we watched, a boat was trying to re-anchor behind us. They’d evidently dragged and were securing a safer spot. I didn’t envy them. In these conditions, and this pitch darkness, it had to be a disorienting experience.

The poor skipper and person up front were shouting at each other to be heard. They were French. ‘Attend, attend!’ were the main words I could pick up. Finally they dropped their anchor just behind us and began making their way backwards. They went backwards until they got really small.

‘They’re dragging,’ Jack said.

Sure enough, some minutes later they were at Quest’s stern, trying again. Shouting into the unrelenting wind and fighting its punches. Back again they went.

A few minutes later, they were a dot on the horizon.

‘That’s not good,’ I said.

‘Nope,’ Jack confirmed.

They came back and tried again – and again.

Eventually the wind did die down – to a relatively peaceful 18 or so knots. It was 3am.

They had it this time, I thought as the yacht backed up for the fifth time. My eyes were going blurry. Or at least they’ll keep trying.

The morning opened into a serene scene – of course. As if the weather was feeling sheepish about its earlier behaviour. ‘What tantrum?’ it seemed to say. ‘Look at my peachy dawn.’

Ellie was in the cockpit when we came up. A man came past in a dinghy,’ she said. ‘He said sorry if they’d woken us up last night.’

The boat behind us floated peacefully.

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