Tuesday 22 December 2009

A Christmas Tale Part 2

December 22nd 1997 S/Y Blue Clipper

Erica had baked some flapjacks, thinking that they would be a treat during our last two nights at sea. The next morning our position showed that we had made even better progress than we had hoped for, so we ate the last of the flapjacks, a sign of confidence that we would be in Barbados before dark.

The island, although low lying, was sighted in the early afternoon. We sailed to our waypoint off the southern tip to avoid a shoal. Closing the south western coastline we could see trees and white shuttered colonial buildings.

Finally the cruise ship dock at Deep Water Harbour came into sight. Our pilot book said that we needed to radio ahead for permission to enter, so we called them up on the VHF.

“Deep water harbour, this is sailing yacht Blue Clipper requesting entry, over”
Nothing – no reply
“Deep water harbour, this is sailing yacht Blue Clipper requesting entry, over”
Nothing – no reply
Slightly concerned we tried for the third time
“Deep water harbour, this is sailing yacht Blue Clipper requesting entry, over”

“Okey-dokey, welcome, welcome - you jus’come righ’on in”
The strong Caribbean accent was friendly and welcoming, maybe he should have said “man” but he didn’t, still it was the best welcome we could have wished for..

We were quickly tied up alongside and presenting our ships papers and passports to customs and immigration, who were no less friendly. They had just cleared in a cruise ship with 3500 passengers and I think were keen to go home at the end of their shift. Christmas decorations including an artificial tree adorned the small office.
“Port of departure from the Canaries?” he asked assuming like most yachts we had departed from Las Palmas or Tenerife.
“No the Gambia” the blank look on his face at my response had me worried for a moment, clearly they were not used to small sailing boats coming from west Africa - then suddenly he smiled.
“oh sure” Thump!, the big rubber stamp came down.
Our clearance was complete with wishes for a great Christmas.

Back on the boat the tropical twilight was descending fast, we made the short trip south from the cruise dock and around to the anchorage in Carlisle Bay. It took us about thirty minutes to get there, by which time it was completely dark. We made our way in cautiously, guided by the lights ashore, moving slowly through the bay we could make out the dark shapes of the anchored yachts around us.

The anchor chain ran out in 12 meters, Blue Clipper finally coming to rest after three long weeks – 21 days at sea. On the shore we could make out the trees, and the buildings, one of which was a church, drifting across the water was the sound of gospel singing. We sat in the dark, in the warm sweet air, listening to the carol singing, we didn’t speak much, it was enough to just be there.


  1. Great story - Christmas and winter sun all in one.

    BTW how far are you from Port Hamble? That's the place been to the most on the Hamble

  2. JP - Port Hamble is in Hamble village, we're members of the RAF Yacht Club right next door, but we live up the river, near the Jolly Sailor


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