Numbers

The curfew has been a little spooky. First there was the catamaran.

It turned up in our anchorage a few days ago. A big Lagoon 450. We went to see it – staying at a distance of course, and saying hello from our dinghy. In normal times this is a perfectly normal thing to do.

It was an American-flagged boat. She’d crossed from Europe to Brazil and then came up the South American coast. Huh. A lot of moving around during lockdown.

The captain shrugged. ‘We did our quarantine in Bridgetown,’ he explained. ‘They took into account our 12 days of travel, so we did two further days and they let us go.’

That sounded a bit strange too. How could anyone know for sure you didn’t stop somewhere else? Boats can slip in and out of most places undetected if they really want to.

For example, we spent a whole hurricane season in Grenada watching customs come and bust various sailboats. These were rumoured to be drug-running boats, posing as normal cruisers. Exciting or what? It was a summer of high entertainment!

Now, I’m not saying this was the same thing. The captain seemed respectable. A retired airline pilot. Just trying to find a safe place to shelter. In almost no time though, the police came to their boat.

We’ve got used to seeing the water police and the coastguard. They zoom around, while making their way slowly through the anchorage. They’re very friendly to us – always waving. Even the guy with the large automatic weapon smiles.

This boat went straight up to the catamaran. The cat also had a number of crew on board, the seemingly usual bunch of young sailors who hitch their way around, in exchange for crewing help. They stood in their swimmers, watching. The captain spoke.

Voices raised. I heard the captain exclaim that indeed he was the captain. In response, half-a-dozen Barbadian police bunched up together in their camos. Their boat bounced against the catamaran while they exchanged words. Most of the boats (a whole nine) in our little anchorage had noticed and were watching too. Our cap was straight on the binoculars.

The police left eventually. They came back the following afternoon though – and this time it got more heated. The captain was dressed but the crew were still in their swimmers. Urghh – not ideal I thought. In these waters, it is considered prudent to cover yourself.

The catamaran captain got angrier. Despite the wind blowing across our decks, we could hear him say, ‘What law have I broken?’ And then moments later, ‘Well, that’s a backward rule.’

Uh-oh. This time all us were out in our cockpits. I was sitting on Quest’s coachroof trying to catch a sentence blow past. It was pretty stunning. Never seen this type of police behaviour before with yachties – not in Barbados anyhow. Barbados is usually the island of smiles.

The police boat left again. The coastguard were back the following morning though – before the sun even crept over the Port St Charles development. This time all the crew were dressed as if they’d been waiting. The catamaran hauled anchor without much fuss and the coast guard escorted them away. All of us left in the anchorage stared at each other. We were eight now.

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