Aragorn Dick-Read is an artist with close links to his heritage as a Tortolan. For most of his adult life he has been cultivating the West Indian heritage of the people that live in the Caribbean. Today I had the privelage of helping him transport an important part of that heritage to his beach-side studio on Beef Island in the British Virgin Islands.
Along with Aragorn, his sons Xantie and Saba, Dominicans Johnny, Moses, and Greg, I tagged along to help relocate a small three man dugout canoe from near Trunk Bay in Tortola. We all piled on to Aragorn’s powerboat, with Xantie at the wheel. It was a short 20 minute blat to the seculded bay where the canoe was.
The approach to the bay was shallow rocky reef, so Aragorn, Greg, Xantie and I had to swim from the boat about 50m to the shore. “Just watch your feet. There are sea urchins around here,” Aragorn warned. Aragorn was born and raised in this area, so I assumed he knew what he was talking about.
We trod carefully across the reef to the sandy shore, and there it was. A colourful canoe covered in canvas to keep the water out.
We removed the canvas, and discovered something that Aragorn had forsawn before we even got to the canoe. Termites. Luckily the oars were the only things affected. “If we left it here for much longer, it would have been eaten up completely!” Xantie observed.
A whole nest of ants had made their home in the coil of rope that was attached to the anchor. ‘Tickling Ants’ Aragorn called them as they crawled all over our arms and chests as we heaved the heavy canoe off the beach and into the water. Johnny, manning the helm on the powerboat was waiting 100m off shore, away from the dangerous reef that would have grounded the powerboat. It was up to us four with the canoe to sail and paddle it out into the open water off the coast.
Our first few attempts at getting the canoe moving ended in it almost capsizing. Xantie and Aragorn bailed furiously to remove the water that had flowed into the open top canoe. Greg and I paddled to gain distance from the rocky shore.
Once we were out far enough, Aragorn began skillfully sheeting the sail in and out according to the wind, and we began making way, relatively balanced with the push of the wind in the sail.
We stopped for an hour or so, rafting the canoe up to the powerboat, in order to do some fishing. We caught a few, before Aragorn and the boys took over the canoe, steering it as we towed it in the powerboat.
By the time we approached Trellis Bay on Beef Island, it was getting dark. Aragorn and the boys decided to sail the rest of the way back, and us powerboat boys dropped anchor and fished until well after dark, ending in a good haul of fish including Rock Hind, Dog Snapper, shark, and bar jack.