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The journey home

April 20 to May 21 2006

Eye of the Wind, Bow

I have been South.
To the Blue Caribbee
And the Islands
Anchored in the sun with their palm trees and silver beaches.
Places of legend, mystery,
Where tales of piracy, treasure and adventure abound.

Their wild flowers of vivid hues and colours
Red, black, orange,
Visited by strange birds with raucous cries.
No sweet blackbird or thrush calls here,
But Boobies, Frigate birds and tropical flyers.
The hot breath of the day
Tempered by the Trade wind breeze
As the season changes from Spring into Summer.

People dressed in colourful clothes
Move elegant, but indolent along the paths.
The young, perhaps a little more purposeful,
But the elderly lady in the straight, plain dress with hat and handbag
Is slow but sure in her church destination.

Cars move apace, but carefully on the narrow, crooked, uneven roads.
Cracked and ridged by tropical sun.
Their horns call greetings, one to another at any passing.
Pink buses driven by ladies in black run the island routes.
Each passenger, each stop, a greeting exchanged,
Movement on and off controlled
By the imperious hand gestures of the driver.

Winding in and out, up and down
Narrow roads with strange yet familiar Titles:
Top End, Down Lane, Shinbone Alley, The Nest.
Small cottages line the roads
Surrounded by cactus plant hedges and mango trees.
Whilst grand properties
Peep from behind screens of walls, hedges and tiered steps.

The crew are mustered, the watches set, the lines cast off.
Marigot Bay, Anguilla, Dog-Leg Passage,
The islands fade...
The penance of the poor, their slave inheritance.
Leaving the playground of the rich,
The yachts and liners,
For the open sea,
The journey North begins.

These calm seas are the purview of Shearwaters and Petrels.
Flying fish leap suddenly from the surface of a wave
To swing elegantly above the sea.
And disappear,
Perhaps forever into a rising swell.

A small disturbance stirs the surface
And Leviathan lifts a tail in farewell
As he moves aside and returns to the depths.

Dolphins of different kinds gambol and dive alongside.
Mates together, side on side perpetuating their race
Whilst riding the pressure wave of the ship's bow.
Youngsters follow their peers
Dipping in and out,
Diving and jumping in the vivid blue sea.

The solitary shark, dark hunter of the deep,
Glides disdainfully past
With no acknowledgement of our presence.
Minute jelly fish cover the sea.
Silver and translucent on top,
Broken and turned in the waves
Their blue undersides form petals of colour on the surface of the water.

At dusk, the stars appear.
Arcturus, Sirius, Betelgeuse, old friends.
New ones, familiar in sound but 'till now unseen,
Antares, Nunki, Diptha.
Jupiter sits overall as the constellations swing behind.
Scorpio rises in the East as Orion sets in the West.
The Southern Cross is low.
Gentle Venus opens the portal of the new day
As Sol drives his chariot over the eastern threshold
With a fanfare of light and colour.

The winds,
Ever capricious,
Wander and fade, return and steady.
Man's ingenuity is at naught
When weather chooses to be contrary.

Where Southern tropic warm meets Labrador cold,
From the birthplace of fogs and wild winds,
Comes the Westerly.
Piling the sea, grey heaps covered in foam.
"Go Home!" They shout.
And push us on.
Great combers, flecked and broken
Lift our vessel,
Toss it onwards, playfully.
Their power is immense.
The horizon becomes bounded by water.

On! On! The ship,
The venerable lady flying,
With skirts tight, full with the wind.
Surrounded by moving waters,
Pushed by the increasing storm.
Our ship seems very small.

All is tight, safe,
As searching waves crash aboard.
Seeking doors, hatches, windows unsecured,
Ready with prying fingers, knocking with watery fists,
To rush greedily over and within.

A surge, a shrug, they are gone.
To be followed by limitless kin.
The horizon is filled
With wave and spray,
All hurrying Westward.
Onward, ever onward, we ride the gale.

Nothing lasts for ever.
The speeding weather overtakes us and leaves us frail humans
Spent, tired and bruised in its wake.
The waves, ever playful
Have no desire as yet to take up their regular routines,
And gambol and pirouette still as their partner the wind,
Tires of us,
And seeks further sport elsewhere,
Leaving us tossing and turning,
Leaping and bounding under the sun of a new day.

Gulls and Gannets, young and old,
Familiar harbingers of our homeland coasts,
Dipping and diving with shrill cries
Their ever hungry souls demand appeasement,
Over the empty wastes of opalescent green waters.

Home, soon home,
The land moves slowly ever closer,
Pale mountains rearing up under distant cloud,
Creep into view under the morning light.
Mizzen Head, Fastnet, Tuskar Rock,
All are marked and noted.
Signposts to the mariner,
Dangers to the unwary.

Soon, St Georges Channel,
The cleft between two nations, named with a third,
Irish Hill and Welsh Mountain
Frown at each other across the grey sea.
Each with strange tongue to faze the unknowing,
And sound a welcome particularly their own.

Dark clouds form in the East,
Whilst Western sunset
Paints the lowering sky with orange rays.
Soon, as we close the narrows,
Other vessels, scurrying hither and thither on their business.
Coasters, Carriers, Tankers and Ferries,
Each with their thoughts
Pound their way across the waters.
The Brigantine ignores them all,
Fully intent on her business -
Bound for Mona's Isle as the crew aloft tend her needs.

Through the night, the quiet sea,
Spent of its driving forces of wind and tide,
Giving free passage,
As if to say enough,
And biding its time 'till the next contest.

I have seen great wonders,
The Whale, flying fish, the dolphins at play.
The limitless stars with foreign names.
Tropical birds and wind sailing jelly-fish,
Deep blue gentle seas.

But now,
In the grey seas of home,
Bardsey and South Stack guide us to the dawn.
The new day, rising beyond the mountains
Gives light for the final watch,
At journey's end.

Brian Hill
on Bermuda quaiside

Written on board the Brigantine EYE of the WIND.
St. Maarten to Holyhead. April/May 2006
Photos: Brian

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