Late in the afternoon, they set sail again, their course due west, past Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo. Captain Crouch ordered a watch for any sign of the pirates who were known to infest these waters, confident that they could be driven off by his nine-pound cannon, but the only vessels they saw were harmless traders, and by 14 March the Kennersley Castle was out of the danger zone, with Jamaica fading into the horizon behind her. Four days later, she had reached the Swan Islands, in what the settlers' maps called the Sea of Poyais, where she turned south for Cape Camaron and the promised land.
They reached it towards the end of the day on 20 March, dropping anchor half a mile or so out to sea from the narrow entrance of the Black River lagoon, the Captain being concerned about the reefs and sandbanks that might lurk unknown to his imperfect charts and endanger such a large ship. He would wait until morning before sending out a lighter whose crew would take soundings and find the channel that, at high tide, would bring them closer to the shore to await the pilot boat from the port. After eight weeks at sea, another day was hardly going to make much difference. For the passengers, their first sight of Poyais confirmed everything they had imagined. It really was the most beautiful place. Sun-dappled wavelets lapped gently along the rocks of the lagoon's protective landspits, the surface of which was thick with strange trees and shrubs. Inland, they could make out sandy beaches, and beyond them the dense forests they had heard about. There, dominating the landscape, was the Sugarloaf mountain, just as in the picture they had seen. Below it, too far away and too low to be in view, must be the little township where they would disembark. The settlers stayed on deck watching this vision until it disappeared in the short tropical twilight. As they sat down to the evening meal, which would almost certainly be their last aboard the ship that had been their lodging for what now seemed like an eternity, they could barely contain their impatience to disembark.
When would they be able to take to the boats and go ashore? Would there be some sort of official welcome for them? Perhaps it would be as well to dress up in whatever finery they could muster, just in case.
Copyright 2003 by David Sinclair. All rights reserved.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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