Soft splodges landing on my face, rain blown in and diffused through the mosquito screen, was my wake up call this morning rather than the cockerel strutting down the hill, cockscomb juddering in righteous earnestness as he crows the dawn. Sometimes he gets it wrong and starts well before the allotted time.
There is no vehicular movement yet, and the yachts moored in both bays visible from the gallery are swinging on their buoys, masts swaying, in the easterly breeze. They are in recovery mode after the evening’s festivities, and it’s too early for the church doors to open to the faithful.
Yesterday was a busy day. The territory’s governor, John P de Jongh, threw a Christmas party for the island’s children at Fort Christiansvaern. Tree decorating and present wrapping competitions, face painting and dancing, temptation came in the form of raffles offering I-pads and other must-have items for the kids, and two nights at a luxury hotel for their parents – respite after the season’s revelry. And of course Santa delighted most.
Then as dusk switched to night in the magical moment in the tropics that leaves you wondering how it happened in the blink of an eye, the Boardwalk came alive as Crucians, residents and tourists jostled for poll position to watch the Boat Parade.
Two months ago the stretch of wooden walkway lining the lapping Caribbean was a hazard to all: splintering uneven planks a lawsuit waiting to happen should an unwary tourist trip and be pitched amongst the idling fish. The Eyeores, referring to the ‘keep out’ construction signs along parts of the Boardwalk, assured all who would listen, “hey man, they’ll never finish afore de season”. Awaiting the siren call for the boats to light up I admired the new Boardwalk – Hardi-plank, deep and crisp and even, providing safe passage between the bars and shops and I had a moment of delight to see the naysayers had been wrong.
The crowd, a melange of colours and creeds, some sitting with legs dangling over the new Boardwalk, turned right as a police vessel with blue lights flashing heralded the start of the parade. It was then I learnt the man-in-red’s mode of transport in the Caribbean is different. Down here, and I’m pretty sure in other parts of the world, dolphins pull his boat-sleigh. Silly of me not to have realised reindeer might struggle on the short inter-island flights. The lead dolphin, I’m not sure of his name but think it might be Bounder, also has a red nose and leads his pod gracefully through the warm waves, occasionally checking his passenger is holding tight.
The Christmas-merry crowd cheered and waved as the boatsleigh glided along in front of the Boardwalk followed by yachts, dinghies and motor launches bedecked in thousands of coloured fairy lights, quite possibly confusing to boats out at sea attempting to understand the signs. Some were decorated as Christmas trees; one a shimmering floating snow-scene above the inky dark sea, another represented the local seaplane company with glittering wings gulled out from the deck, all had music blaring across the water drowning out the cheers from land.
As the parade circled around behind Protestant Cay I left the Boardwalk and made my way back to the gallery to watch the promised fireworks. Comets with trailing tails exploded into falling stars, booms and flashes spiralled up to form giant globes of coloured light, green, blue and red flickering into oblivion, ever-increasing circles of silver pinpricks led to the heavens and the aahs of the crowd on the Boardwalk filtered through the trees and up the hill. A display to rival many seen in other parts of the world.
A squall has passed over and as the soft rain moves along the coast I see sails being raised, but still the town slumbers – a Sunday morning in the Caribbean. A time of relaxed goodwill and peace and, I think, in the distance I can see dolphins.