Well I don't have much to say about the "Voyage". I am in San Carlos, Sonora, a long way from the new Manatee. I haven't even started on the new outriggers, though I have picked up a sail and mast along with a cute little sailboat called a Sabot. I have a new digital camera; the old one suffered an accident with a yoghurt container full of salad in my backpack on a hike in the desert. The resultant leak of oil and vinegar has resulted in the gradual loss of function.
While uploading the last of my photos onto my laptop, I discovered a pair of pictures of the new Manatee.
The first is the boat at the boatyard before I bought her.
The second is the builder: Mr. Bradley of Bradley's Boatyard, Belize City. He was surprised I wanted to take his picture, but was very gracious.
The last picture is of the new boat in Dangriga. I have cut out the plywood moulds for the bulkheads and the decking is screwed on but not yet trimmed. With any imagination you can picture the basic form she will take.
The dogs hear it before we do. The first sign of the approaching storm is the banging at the door by Tequis, who is so afraid of thunder that she tries to get inside. That brings our attention to the flashes of lightning. The thunder soon follows as the storm gets within 15 miles of us.
The monsoon is a wind pattern, not a rainfall. It begins in the summer, when the air over the desert heats up enough to drag the trade winds from the tropics up this way. This brings us moist, tropical air, and eventually, rain. Hence it is called the monsoon rain.
After several months, almost a year in fact, of no rain, the desert is dry, brown, burnt-looking. The sun has baked it until it releases a scorched smell. The cacti are lean, deeply pleated, and the only green things in the landscape, as not a leaf remains over most of the desert. And a walk in the desert raises only dust. But every day since the monsoon began, the air has become a little more humid. At night, flashes of light are seen over the horizon .These flashes, called heat lightning, are the result of static electricity, released as the cooling night air descends. But the lightning I see tonight is the real thing, and the dogs are not at ease tonight.
I have been hoping the rains would come before we head north to Canada. I miss the seasons up there. Here there are only two seasons: wet and dry. Dry is most of the time, but the wet season brings a transformation to the desert that must be seen and heard, felt and smelt to be appreciated. Before the first shower is even finished, the air is filled with the resinous odour of the creosote bush, what is universally known here as the smell of rain. And at the same time arrives the shrill chorus of the spadefoot toad. Lying dormant in the ground since last summer, they begin to emerge in response to the rumbling of the thunder. By the time the rain has soaked the earth, they are crawling out and filling every puddle. Tonight they call out for a mate. Tomorrow they will be silent. The puddles in which they breed do not last long: there is no time for prolonged courtship so by the end of tonight they will have selected a mate and begun to lay and fertilise the eggs. Within days the tadpoles have hatched and started to feed on each other in the mad race to emerge as fully developed toads before the Sonoran sun dries the puddle to a cracked bed of clay.
As soon as the adult toads have mated, they begin to feed and fatten on the sudden emergence of winged termites. These insects are easily desiccated and so they also must mate and seek a place to lay their eggs and start a new colony while the humidity is high. Hopefully they won’t choose the window and door frames of our house.
After the rain ends, the transformation of the landscape begins. Leaves begin to emerge, the desert floor becomes carpeted in flowers. In two weeks, what was bare brown earth and dry grey branches, is green, yellow, orange and blue: a riot of colour and profusion of life. Summer is here.