The Knave turned the ships wheel and I expertly trimmed the spinnaker. The wind caught the mainsail and, as I kept watch on the crosstrees ( the horizontal beams that spread the rigging ) we veered westward, towards the town of Negril.
By day this area would be full of divers and holiday-makers, enjoying the clear waters off the coast. But now, at midnight, although lights shone merrily in the town, the coast was free of anyone who may wonder at an ancient sailing ship. In fact, it crossed my mind that, if anyone should spy our vessel, they would probably think we were filming another ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ feature. Even our motley crew could be mistaken for some expert special effects !
We passed the Negril Lighthouse, taking care to avoid the reefs in Long Bay. Then sailed parallel with Seven Mile Beach, where surf-side clubs were still pumping out music and tinkling laughter. I wished we could linger here, in the shallow bays. Walk, barefooted on the miles of sand. Maybe trek into the rain-forests and mountains of the interior of this lovely island. But we kept on sailing until, with a raised paw, Grey Rabbit called a halt.
I deftly lowered the sails and Romo and Bomo dropped anchor in a quiet, deserted bay. There was hardly a ripple on the water as the Knave and the twins lowered the little rowboat and clambered down the rope ladder. Grey Rabbit and I stayed on board, as the trio rowed to the beach. But we both kept watch, through binoculars. I had asked if I could go in the rowboat, but the Knave said that the Dormouse was easily startled by strangers.
The full moon filled the bay with an eerie light and I wasn’t sure what I was expecting to see, as I peered through the binoculars. I could make out the beach, quite clearly and also the thick forest of trees that fringed the sand and rocks. The Knave and his companions had reached the beach and were in the process of dragging the boat further up the shingle, out of the reach of the surf. Then, nothing. Minutes passed. The three on land were leaning against the rowboat; waiting. They waited….. Grey Rabbit and I waited …. We all waited.
Fifteen minutes passed; then twenty. Grey Rabbit was checking his watch and tapping his foot, impatiently. Betty began to whine softly and pace about on the deck. Back and forth, back and forth. I stared through the binoculars; something was happening.
The Jamaican dogwood and palmetto palms, parted slightly and, from behind a guango tree came two figures. They were both male and looked as though Central Casting had fitted them out as typical tourists. Even through binoculars, i could see that they were wearing Bermuda shorts and those bright, Hawaiian shirts. They each carried a large, duffle bag, but I could see no sign of a Dormouse. The two guys shook hands with the Knave, Bomo and Romo. They obviously all knew each other, as they greeted one another warmly.
A few minutes later, they were all in the skiff and rowing energetically back to the ship. In no time at all they were scrambling up the rope ladder and hauling themselves onto the deck. Betty barked, happily, she also knew the newcomers; but I was treated to formal introductions.
The two men, who were indeed clad in shirts of startlingly vivid colours, palm trees and exotic fruit, were introduced as Colin and Trevor. Both were around six feet tall, swarthy and well-built. They looked as though they would be handy should trouble break out. They both dropped their duffle bags, wiped their hands on their shorts and shook my hand vigorously; smiling to reveal that each one sported a gold tooth. They had bright bandanas round their heads and numerous tattoos. I mentally erased the ‘tourist’ notion and decided that they both, more closely, resembled the Disney idea of Pirates ! Colin even had a gold, hooped earring, all they needed was a parrot, to complete the picture.
As if they had read my mind, Trevor unbuttoned the top pocket of his lurid shirt and out popped the Dormouse ! I can’t say that I have ever seen a Dormouse, but I was sure that they didn’t normally resemble the one that was now standing on Trevor’s shoulder. He was a bright-eyed little fellow, about four inches high. That was normal enough. But I was sure that beaded dreadlocks was not the normal Dormouse look. He slammed a high five at the Knave and said, in a squeaky voice,
“Well, I see the gang’s all here; with the charming addition of this young lady” Then he leaned over to me, conspiratorially, and added, “ Your Great Aunt was a good friend of mine. I’m so sorry for your loss. She was a wonderful woman.”
“She was” I answered and shook his tiny paw.
Strange things were beginning to be common-place and I now took talking to animals in my stride. I briefly wondered what other strangeness lay ahead. But I didn’t have much time to ponder on such things. We weighed anchor and set a new heading. Colin and Trevor stashed their duffle bags below; Dormouse sat his fat little body on the ships wheel; Tomo made a brew of nettle tea; and I deftly steered the vessel onto our new course.