This post is brought to you as part of Sian's Storytelling Sundays! Last weekend our news was full of Hurricane Irene as it lashed the East Coast of America and so I thought that this month I would share my very minor experience of a Tropical Storm!
In 2004 we went on a family holiday to Barbados. It was a truly amazing trip and a real holiday of a lifetime. We stayed at the Discovery Bay Hotel in Holetown; a lovely location and superb hotel. We visited in August and the weather was typical for that time of year, the majority of the time was gloriously hot sunshine and then every afternoon, about half an hour of warm, tropical rain.
I need to point out at this part of the story that I am not a confident swimmer. I only learnt to swim when I was 26 and am a founder member of the 'heads up brigade'. I only do breast stroke, I don't like to go out of my depth and I keep my head out of the water at all times. The rest of the family had been out on jet skis and whizzing up and down the coast on power boats but I had stayed on terra firma, bravely volunteering to look after beach towels, cameras etc while they went out to sea. They kept going on about how lovely the coast line was when you saw it from out at sea and how you could see Cliff Richard's villa and the place where Tony Blair was staying and I knew I would have no peace until I had been out on a boat. So I left it to the penultimate day and agreed to go 'tomorrow'. When we woke that morning, the sky was a little more grey than normal, and there were clouds where previously the sky had been clear and blue. As the time for the boat ride grew nearer, the sky grew darker, the sea got choppier and I was confident that the owner of the boat would say that it was unsuitable to go out. As we paddled out to the jetty he welcomed us aboard and I did mention that the sky looked very grey and wasn't that a nasty breeze that was picking up? But as is the manner of the population of Barbados, he gave a broad smile, a shrug of the shoulders and a confident 'Don't you worry Ma'am, everything will be fine'.
And it was. All the way to the south of Holetown, and all the way back to Holetown, and then he said we would be going north of the resort - towards the darkening sky. I wasn't ever so happy, but everyone else was chilled and relaxed and - then suddenly the wind picked up and the first big blobs of rain started to fall on the boat. 'No worries, we'll just sail out to sea a bit further to escape it, it will soon blow over' and so with the coast line of Holetown behind us, we set sail towards the horizon - which was not where I wanted to be at all. He then decided that we could not outrun the storm, and the best thing to do was to cut the engines and let it pass over us. He reached beneath his seat and put on his life jacket. I reached beneath my seat - and discovered that there was only one life jacket on the boat and he was wearing it! I think that my face must have betrayed how I was feeling - bobbing around in the ocean, a long way from shore and in the middle of a storm - as he offered the life jacket to me. And while this offered some reassurance, I then wondered whether or not it was a good idea for the only person on the boat who knew how to drive the thing wasn't wearing a flotation device.
I don't know how long we were out there before the rains stopped and the wind died down, probably not as long as I imagined it had, but boy was I relieved when he saw a window of opportunity to dodge through the cloudbursts, started the engine and set sail for the shore. There is a photo of me taken just before we got off the boat - my daughter had stuck it into an album and there is no digital copy on the computer so excuse the poor scanned quality - I may look like I am smiling but if you look carefully, my knuckles are white from where I am gripping on to the boat for dear life!