IT BE JUST ALRIGHT : AN ISLAND JOURNEY
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J. MATSON HEININGER
About the Book:
It Be Just Alright: An Island Journey
begins when Wilson Abernathy wakes one morning to hear his friend Jeffrey, a fellow Aspen ski bum, banging on his door. Jeffrey invites Wilson on a sailing voyage in the Bahamas. He and his wife, Noelle, have found a sailboat for sale at a bargain price on one of the out islands. The three set off for the Caribbean where the friends seek adventure and refuge from the creeping capitalism they perceive overtaking Aspen.
Bahamian culture and the drumbeat of its constant refrain, "Be Just Alright", drive the Americans half mad, while the materialism and greed they sought to escape hounds their journey. Culture shock, storms at sea, and buried treasure bedevil the adventurers, nearly capsizing their voyage through tropical paradise.
It Be Just Alright is an adventure of enduring brilliance and warmth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J. Matson Heininger has been a ski lodge maintenance man, carpenter, builder, and designer- architect of custom homes. A skier and a sailor for most of his life, he currently spends time in Michigan and Colorado.
It was a different adventure from the beginning, starting on that humid misty March morning in the high mountains of Aspen, Colorado, Jeffrey banging at my door and I, Wilson Abernathy, waking and stumbling to the door in pre-caffeine oblivion.
“Arise, Up--Up, young Wilson. Adventure awaits you.” This was Jeffrey’s speech and affect, and it continued as he pounded at my entrance. Bam, Bam, Bam. The frame and trim vibrated with his aggressive knocking. I opened the door that morning to Jeffrey and an adventure that I was not yet party to, almost as the man who departs his steps one morning, knowing the road outside his door goes many places and not realizing that adventure is at hand.
“What the hell, Jeffrey! It’s morning. It’s early. There was a girl at the bar. She’s trying to sleep.”
He gave me a glance, a slight leer. “Sadness” whispering now. “Sorry”, looking towards the still shaded mountains. “I guess it is early, but hey, I’m too excited. Yachts, Wilson.”
He shoved a picture in my face, a faded worn picture that would have been tough to make out even if my eyes had not been blurred from the nights debauch. “I am going to buy a yacht in the Bahamas.”
Jeffrey radiated an infective excitement, his ski tanned face brown-bright against the sky’s deep blue.
“Give me a moment. Let me check on . . .” Stammering, I could not remember her name--never have been any good with them. Faces and substance, but never names.
I closed the door and headed downstairs. The woman was still sleeping sprawled across my bed, one naked leg exposed, tendrils of her hair spread over the pillow. She did not stir as I grabbed a shirt and pants, and headed over to Jeffrey’s condominium. A sour symphony played in my head. Hell, I would have much preferred more sleep. I had only had four hours. But motivated by Jeffrey’s obvious enthusiasm I climbed his steps and entered without knocking.
Jeffrey’s wife, Noelle, regarded me quizzically, raising her eyebrows “Tough night, want some coffee”? She lifted the pot in my direction
“Please, is it that obvious?”
Frowning now- “You went out on a Monday? Who goes out on a Monday?”
“I did, and so did the lady I met, real attractive.”
“Jeffrey said you had company. What’s her name--from here?”
“I don’t know, can’t remember”... shaking my head for a moment. “Janice, I think. Yep her names Janice.”
“You spend a night with a woman and you’re not sure of her name?”
“Hey, I remembered, it was late, we had a lot to drink, some blow, dancing. She’s still asleep, and it wasn’t a night.” I glanced at my watch. “It was only a few hours.”
Noelle threw up her hands, and gave me a stare, which said without saying...You asshole. What an idiot!
At that moment, Jeffrey emerged from his office-bedroom, more pictures in his hand. “Look at these, isn’t she beautiful? A Rhodes Ranger. Look at the windows. You can tell it’s a Rhodes design.” He proudly placed the pictures on the table, six in a row, beaming and excited. “Our new yacht,” he said.
“You mean your new yacht,” Noelle said from the kitchen, where she was kneading dough.
“Our new yacht, honey.”
“If you say so.”
“Anyway, what do you think, Wilson?”
The pictures showed an attractive sloop about 30 feet in length, sitting in a small cove of blue water and bordering palms. The photo was from a distance, so details were obscure. But she had beautiful lines, long overhangs fore and aft, a design of the C.C.A. rule of the fifties and early sixties. “How much?”, I asked. “What does she cost?
“ Not sure,” he replied. “I’ve got to make an offer.”
I again looked at the pictures. “Well, she’s pretty. But it’s hard to tell her condition.”
“Oh, probably lousy,” Jeffrey said. “Edward’s seen the boat. He said she looked alright but that was two years ago. His friend Johnson wants to get rid of her. He’s not sure of her shape today. It seems the fellow taking care of her didn’t.” Jeffrey looked at one of the photos, taking a sip of coffee. He continued. “It’s too bad. The seacock to the engine was left open and apparently the hose went. The story is she sank.”
“She sank?” I said, my eyes widening.
“Well, only partially. Johnson says she’s floating, has been ever since, but who knows what happened.”
Thinking for a moment, I responded, “I don’t know. Saltwater ruins things fast. The engine may be destroyed, maybe more. How long was she sunk?”
“ Not sure. But, like I said, she’s floating now.”
The hoses on the engine of a boat are like those on your car. They also require maintenance and if not repaired or replaced they will leak. With the seacock open when this one simply rotted away the water flowed in. A situation which would not have occurred had the valve been closed. It is standard to close these if a yacht is untended for a long time, but not always. And in this case, someone must have forgotten. Unusual, I thought, that no one would notice a boats gradual sinking. But I had not yet been to the Bahamas.
“ There’s lots of boat magazines at my condo,” I said. “We can look through them, see if some have Rhodes Rangers, see what they’re priced.”
Jeffery tossed a couple on the table. “Here”
“Let me look,” I opened the first one he handed me.
Classifieds- Cruising World January 1983. Rhodes Ranger- Classic yacht fully founded and in good condition. Galley- alcohol stove, oven, three sets of sails,
Spinnaker gear, and two spinnakers, ¾ and 1 ½ ounce. 22,500.
“They’re not cheap. What do you think you can buy her for?”
“I mentioned two to five thousand. Johnson didn’t say no. You’re probably right though, the engine is likely ruined, who knows what else? But, he doesn’t want her anymore. Said he hasn’t sailed her for a few years. With the damage I may be able to get a bargain.”
“Well, shit, Jeffrey, you can do a lot of repair for twenty-thousand, maybe enough for ten. A new engine is about a grand. That sounds like a bargain to me. Offer him 3500.”
“I think I’ll make it 2500.”
He looked at Noelle. “Can we afford it honey?”
“I suppose,” she said. “Something tells me that this is only the beginning.”
“Possibly. But you heard Wilson, you can do a lot of repair for ten-thousand.”
“I thought he said twenty”, Noelle finished putting the dough in the pan.
“Well, I’m thinking ten. Wilson, let’s look at some of your magazines before I call Johnson.”
I got to me feet and headed to the door. Noelle, still in the kitchen, said, “Invite Janice. There’ll be coffee cake.”
Walking back to my condominium, I thought, you should have left a message before rushing over to Jeffrey’s. And Janice was gone. There was a simple note on my table in a loopy, flowery, female script. “Where were you? Had to run. Later. You might have forgot. My job’s at Stephans’ sports. Come by.”
It was just as well, given the morning.
Under my coffee table were piles of sailing magazines, and none on skiing. It may seem odd—no ski magazines. But I never bothered to read them. They bored me, perhaps because I knew so much of skiing. This was in contrast to my perception of the sailing magazines, which spoke of storms, adventure, and pitch poling in the roaring forties, and such. I perceived Cruising World and Sail as sources of information and dreams. As much as anything, boats, especially before you own one, are dreams and a desire for adventure.
We were ski bums living in the almost ruined Aspen, Colorado of 1983, dreaming of sailing. Had we been sail bums, we would have probably dreamt of skiing. This is the nature of those who become bums; escapist pastimes dominate their lives as they work around them for income, as opposed to the more common approach of letting work be preeminent in life, the escaping something in the future perhaps never to occur. We had these traits, I am sure, as a result of the tumult and turmoil of the sixties and seventies, times when the country was so polarized and our leaders so corrupt and grasping of our rights and freedoms that the only rational choice for some of my generation was escape. And if escaping was the choice, it might as well be enjoyable and full of romance and beauty, and require some effort as opposed to escaping completely to drugs or alcohol, which requires no effort at all. Not that alcohol and drugs did not play a part in our existence. They did, but they were part and parcel, peripheral to our lives center—the athletic pastimes of the mountains of our escape.
I suppose that it could be said that my addiction to skiing and escapism has been the ruin of me. Certainly, I have not accumulated the dollars, shekels, or specie of those who took the other path, those who today have stolen Aspen from some of us who loved it and destroyed it in the process. These people, only actors on the escapist stage—and poor ones at that. It is difficult for a senator or wealthy entrepreneur to loosen the limits of their lives. These folks tend to drag their baggage with them and, by trying to grab and be part of what was wonderful, they have sunk the ship that was Aspen, producing with their needs and presence a place little better than Disneyland or the plastic Venice of Las Vegas. But all this is another story.
Jeffrey bought the boat! After additional reading of advertisements and circumspection, a night of analysis and gradual increasing inebriation on the part of Jeffrey, myself, and to a lesser extent Noelle, Jeffrey arrived at his price. He offered $2,500 to Mr. Johnson, and it had been accepted. Our adventure, something totally unforeseen a day and half before, was now going to be a reality. After this, excitement reigned at the Jeffrey and Noelle Andrews’ residence. It filled the air and spread down the street to my neighboring Condominium.
Over the next couple of weeks we prepared. Jeffrey and I perused more magazines, examined charts of the Bahamas, and read everything we could find about disaster at sea. I read the Gypsy Moth by Sir Francis Chichester and Jeffrey the writings of Joshua Slocum. In addition, we examined our many magazines for advice on how to deal with disaster. When I was not looking for what I deemed fact, but only the feeling of the sea, I read the stories of Patrick O’Brien. The pirate books of my childhood and the wonderful children’s stories of boats and water by the English author Arthur Ransom filled my memories. I even went so far as to purchase Wagner’s opera the Flying Dutchman, listening to it daily. The trip’s preparation approached obsession.
We made lengthy lists of all that we thought required for the journey—bolt cutters to cut failed rigging, bungs--tapered wooden dowels for repairing failing hull fittings. We saw ourselves either cutting the rigging and tossing an offending, broken, plunging, dangerous spar over the side or leaping into the sea, shoving bungs into fittings failing cavities and hammering them home as a tempest surrounded us. Vivid in our imagination, these scenes were the result of the many articles we read; how to survive a vessel’s capsize and sinking; how to survive for days in an open raft at sea; how to lose fifty pounds in two months on raw fish alone; how to hide from hurricane. Obsession.
The lists grew and grew. While we concentrated on the manly rigging and other rugged nautical stuff, Noelle made menus so that she could generate a list as well. But hers was even more necessary. It was food. She and Jeffrey had done some chartering in the Caribbean, and she was familiar with pasta and the various canned goods from which she could make a decent meal. For my part, when sailing it has been canned soups, sandwiches, and Dinty Moore. This was not Noelle’s idea of cooking. She had also read the magazines. But, in addition to many of the articles that Jeffrey and I read, she also read how to bake bread, cook rolls, and produce cuisine on board far superior to anything I ever attempted at home in a full size working kitchen. In her list making, I wondered if she was anticipating the likely sorry and perhaps dysfunctional state of the galley on her and Jeffrey’s new yacht.
We selected April 1st for our departure date. Tongue in cheek as this was, we wished to be on the road. Our coffee table lists started to become reality, and boxes large and small began arriving daily. The UPS drivers clad in and driving brown, so drab, became frequent visitors to the Andrews’ residence as the packages first covered the tables, then littered the floor. The bungs and rigging, running lights, freon horns, life jackets, rdf, bolt cutters, dinghy, oars, and a myriad other items filled the room, lacking only a season and a tree. It was a sailor’s Christmas in spring.
Amidst the growing mound of our purchases also appeared the clutter of Jeffrey’s storage, backpacks and tarps, bags and duffels, camping stoves, lines, and fishing gear pulled from this or that bag. The floor became harder and harder to find, and it seemed at times that our trip might never emerge from the chaos of Jeffrey’s packing. My packing was for one, and because I owned few things, it was slight and immediate. I was ready in an afternoon and afterwards rose every morning impatient for our journey, regarding the mountain spring mornings with their drifting firewood smoke, some bright, some gloomy, fickle with the weather of Aspen in springtime. The changing season only heightened my expectation for departure, spring, and rebirth.
Every morning I came for coffee, eager and anxious perceiving the ever-increasing mess which filled the Andrews residence. Noelle would look at it, seeing her former neat living room, pour me a cup of coffee, shake her head, and shrug as if to say it is just Jeffrey’s way. I would joke with Jeffrey on these daily visits, pretending myself the Pope and he Charlton Heston’s Michelangelo. “When will you make an end Jeffrey? When will you make an end?”
“Soon, Wilson, soon.” He would joke back, as he stared at the various piles, moving a flashlight from one to another in an attempt to organize. I tried to assist but Jeffrey has his ways, and my attempts only produced argument. So I would leave and hike or ski in the cement-dense spring snow or ride my bicycle on the sunny days, watching small avalanches form and fall, while climbing up the mountain roads.
It became a daily ritual. “When will you make an end?"
“Soon, Wilson, soon. Tomorrow.”
Soon and tomorrow stretched into days and then weeks. During this time I occasionally saw Janice. Relationships sometimes started different then—a throw back to the sixties. First you met someone, both of you too high at a party or bar, tumbled into bed, and then later grew to know them or never saw them again, depending on circumstance. Janice was proving to be pleasant and intelligent and very attractive. I hoped she felt the same of me. We seemed to enjoy an easy companionship, and as we spent more time together, she learned of our plans and upcoming journey, becoming a bit envious. New relationships in spring have always appealed to me but this one was difficult because I so desired to leave and get on the road. There is no doubt that she resented this. Jeffrey and I discussed the option of including her but he pointed out, and I agreed, that even on a well founded and large boat, where every thing works, one must choose sailing partners carefully. Boats are small places and the dynamics of human interaction, when run amuck, can be intense.
There is nowhere else to go and the petty conflicts between people, which soon dissipate on land, can linger on the water. Still, she was privy to some of these coffee mornings where the ritual continued. She, Noelle, and I all in unison announcing, “When will you make an end, Jeffrey? When?”
However; it was not all packing. Jeffrey and Noelle needed to store their stuff and arrange for their condominium’s summer rental. All of this took additional time. And then there was the car. It also required proper packing and pre-trip maintenance. And on the morning when departure was finally near, I learned that the car, Jeffrey’s car, needed an oil change.
“Shit, Jeffrey, I could have done that weeks ago.”
“I know, Wilson. But I know what needs to be done.”
“But if you had told me what you wanted,” I responded, “I would have taken the car to Glenwood. It would be finished now.”
But Jeffrey has his ways and it was not for him to pay someone to change the oil. At least I could now be helpful. “Wilson, I need a filter.”
Off I went.
“Wilson, I need fuses.”
Off I went.
“Wilson, I need belts and hoses.”
So I fetched hoses and clamps, filters and belts all to make our chariot, an ageing faded yellow Mercury Comet ready for the highway.
Finally, it was Thursday April 14, 1983. The car was finished and all was set, packed, and processed for departure. We would leave the next morning, and to preserve the cleanliness of our kitchens we decided on dinner out, and Mexican fit our budget. So early evening found, Jeffrey, Noelle, Janice and myself, at La Cocina; seated in the noisy yellow glow of its space—copper sculptures and primitive paintings on the walls, a bright candle flickering on the table. Chips and bean dip were before us as we raised our glasses to adventure.
“When will you make an end, Jeffrey. When?” I said this once, and then Noelle and Janice joined in and we repeated in unison.
“When will you make an end, Jeffrey. When?”
Laughing together, toasting our upcoming trip with Cuervo Margaritas. A second pitcher, new, a muted lime green, waited in line behind the one we’d almost finished. Salt glistened on the rims of our glasses. The margaritas flowed and Nick’s hot sauce seared our lips as we chatted and waited for blue corn Enchiladas and tacos.
“To new friends,” said Janice. “I wish I was going with you.”
“We will call from Nassau,” Noelle said.
“Maybe you can join us there,” I offered.
“That would be great,” Janice said. “When?”
“That’s the problem,” said Jeffrey. “We don’t know. We’re not even sure when we will get to the Island.”
“I’ve told her,”
“I’m going to miss you.”
“I’m just glad we are finally about to go,” I said. “I thought we would never leave.” My frustrations were departing with the margaritas and our trip’s expectations.
“It’s easy for you, Wilson. But we had so much to do,” Jeffrey said.
I couldn’t resist a dig. “And you did it so deliberately. You’d think that you never planned to return.”
Noelle started humming that old Kingston Trio song, Oh, They Never Returned. We all started singing with laughter and moderate inebriation in our voices. “Oh they never returned, they never returned. Their fate is still unknown. They will sail forever in the Bahamas. They’re the folks who never returned.”
We again toasted, raising our glasses high. Diners at adjacent tables looked at us and we announced to all that inquired that we, like the rich trust-funders of the town, were also leaving for the off season—a cruise, sun, and islands. Few, if any of these people, suspected the status of our “ship.” Even to his good friends Jeffrey simply said he had bought a thirty foot sloop.
The next morning, I was up early. Janice lay on the bed, her dark hair spread around her. I almost went back to her, but she wished me well, saying she would lock my home when she left. A slight hangover from the previous evening’s margaritas was soon dissipated by my enthusiasm; and, like Jeffrey weeks before, I found myself banging—Bam, Bam, Bam—on the Andrews’ door, ready for departure. I was set to go at 6:30 A.M. We left at four in the afternoon. Jeffrey had just a few more chores—move tools to storage; forward mail to New Jersey; get some additional supplies at the store; buy a swimming suit and proper floppy hat to protect his skin from the Caribbean sun. By the time we left, I had locked my own door, again kissed lovely Janice good-bye, and promised to call with our whereabouts as soon as I knew them. By four, we were loaded in the yellow Comet and leaving Aspen heading down the valley, away from the mountains, still covered with snow, towards Glenwood, Denver, and the Great Plains.
It turned out to be my last road trip. Not that I have not driven since. I have many times. But I mean my last road trip—the last trip of the carefree, free-spirited legacy of my college days. I did not know then that it was the last, but should have. After all, I was thirty three. And how long can one be a kid? I still hope forever but know that it is only in my mind, and that I am already so changed by life’s experience that it would be impossible to locate the eighteen or twenty-year-old youth that once was me. So it was my last road trip—the last one on which I cavalierly set off across the country with beer and whiskey and drugs to drive all-night for days, until my destination was reached. Jeffrey and Noelle had done the same when younger, and we started off as if Richard Nixon was still horribly president and the society for all its failures on the big things had not reduced itself to the nasty and shameful morality of today.
It was still nothing in 1983—for us anyway—to anticipate travel with the fuel of booze, cocaine, food, and white speed—nonstop across the country. It still seems odd to me that in a time of righteous morality we could do this and be freer than we would be at present. But that was before the huge drug cartels, the money laundering, before the advent of mean sour faced “drug Tsars,” and before MADD Women had taken over the highways.
Not that we believed in driving drunk—the alcohol was to take the edge off. But we certainly drove with the more benign substances of cocaine, speed, and marijuana fueling our system. We knew of these. We knew of alcohol, and also knew that while we couldn’t ski on that drug, we could on the others, and usually with athleticism and grace. Our reality was, hey, if I can ski at forty and fifty miles an hour on toot or weed, I can certainly drive.
Within an hour of departure, we had grabbed the bindle, each of us dipping into it for sniff. Aware that my shift was not for five hours and that the sun was far over the yardarm, I indulged with some whiskey and gazed at the fading mountains growing distant on the horizon.
A journey is in many ways a renaissance, allowing one to open the door to a different future and ignore current circumstance, which, no matter how exciting, may become boring from redundancy. Travel, for pleasure or adventure, is renewal, a psychic shedding of the skin, new boundaries. Because of this, our journey perfectly fit the spring, the one season when we are legitimately pagan, truly influenced by the planets and their cycles. All seasons bring change, but spring is the greatest positive with its longer days, warming temperatures, and nature’s future growing in the soil, shortly to emerge with subtle green brightness, colored lavenders and yellows, our hormones, like all animal’s, budding with the daffodils. It is no accident that the early Christians chose springtime for their Easter myth, with bunnies and eggs, all symbols, pagan, of new life.
To travel is to leave the world behind, even as you seek a new one. The schedules we take on, itineraries and reservations, can be rigid. Or they may be as flexible and fickle as the wind or weather. For me, it is the freedom of the affair, the loosing of schedules, spontaneity, the leaving behind of the common daily duties, bills and work, life’s agenda. A journey seems to bring with it the brief and fleeting emotion that all may still be possible.
Our cross-country trip opened almost immediately the floodgates of my memories and imagination, leading me first to the contemplation of places we passed by. The west, the whole country for that matter, is full of past lives, if you care to think about them—and travel in a car makes one ripe for thought. It is not like passing overhead 30,000 feet above the land, oblivious to the landscape and those who live and have lived, oblivious of how the geology of the landscape was shaped and formed and why. Within the first hour of departure the history of the area was full in my mind.
In Glenwood Springs, just down the valley from Aspen, where the high meadows widen at the riverbeds and junction of the rivers Roaring Fork and Colorado, history is large. In recent millennia, first were the Ute Indians, then the Europeans, farmers, ranchers, and gambling gunslingers. Doc Holiday is buried in the old cemetery. At the turn of the century it was a spa for presidents and tycoons who came to visit the hot springs and their massive pool, while at the Hotel Colorado T. R. along with the robber barons of his time took the waters as the ancient Romans did at Bath.
More impressive is the land which Glenwood borders, a canyon small enough to see and understand and large enough to impress. Glenwood Canyon today is divided by one of the world’s most beautiful four-lane highways, east and west lanes above and below each other, built with the same care and sense of design as those high European routes through the Alps and Pyrenees. Then it was a winding two-lane close to a river full of giant pointed slabs of stone, bordered by canyon walls rising a thousand feet or more. We entered in twilight shadow. It was only far above that a reddish sunset gold brightened the gray craggy peaks and pines, twisting, burrowing into the rock for purchase and life.
I found myself peering out the rear window of my station in the car, imagining the millions of years of erosion’s toil that had created it and Indians hundreds of years before astride horses on the upper ridges gazing down at our path, which would today, absent of asphalt and railroad tracks, be little changed by man. Even the new road to become dust in a millennia or so.
My thoughts of the past soon fled as I observed on the Canyon’s parent waters kayakers, spinning, flowing, pirouetting on the river’s waves, which, coming from distant heights, seemed to be going the wrong direction. But this sight became quickly obscured as dusk turned to dark. The kayakers, if still there, lost to vision. The only thing still visible was the foaming, cresting river at the snags and holes.
Noelle was at the wheel and suddenly, as we left the Canyon’s final twists and turns, the lights went out on our yellow compact, leaving everything black—no night vision from our eyes or the vehicle’s beams. So careful in his preparation, Jeffery had somehow missed something more important than oil and batteries or belts.
“Jeffrey, I thought you fixed this,” Noelle hollered as she slammed on the brakes.
“Cautious. Cautious,” he replied.
“I keep changing the switch but nothing seems to work. It takes a while to warm up or maybe to cool down. I don’t know.”
“But I can’t see and no one can see us,” Noelle said, continuing now to gradually slow the vehicle.
“You Can see. The moon is rising. Adjust your eyes.” She sped up slightly. “They will come on again anyway.” He was correct. Suddenly, the lights came back on.
“You mean this is normal and you haven’t bothered to fix it?” I asked.
“The dealer can’t figure it out. It never lasts long,”
My jaw dropped and I just stared at him. “You mean all those weeks of packing and of ridiculously wasting time and you knew we would have no lights?”
“We have lights. You see? They came back on.”
At that point, they immediately went off again. He was right, though. They did come back on. Over the course of our trip, the two nights of driving, this continued: 20 minutes of bright and two, three, four or five of dark. Sometimes the cycle was longer, sometimes shorter. It was Zen driving. I wondered if this was indicative of some lapse in our overall preparations. What else would not work? Would the boat have any lights? No, but we had allowed for that. If for Jeffrey driving lights were not important, what other Zen activities, adventures lay in store?
People tend to think of Colorado as mountains, skiing. But it is not all mountains. From Aspen to Denver one drops in elevation almost 2400 feet. From Denver, the continent slopes east until it meets the sea, a mile below. Passing Denver, we headed into the Great Plains. After two-hundred miles of Colorado, we entered Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois, the land growing more and more fertile—tumble weeds to budding wheat, then budding corn, and then that dark black humus which grows everything in abundance, Illinois.
We changed shifts every three hours or so; and except for the flickering headlights, our trip was uneventful. There were the truck stops of Nebraska and Iowa, large rural semi industrial places full of pumps and lights and dust and commerce, Middle America where the food was cheap and greasy, where the rednecks lived. Years before I had passed this way, during the Vietnam War, scared sometimes when entering these places. Large men with feed caps looked at my long hair with the same aspect as the fellows in Easy Rider who took out Captain America, Peter Fonda. But the country had changed since then, and now, and maybe then, it was just hardworking teamster types hauling the commerce of our nation. We talked and drove and slept and got high across America, passing Illinois, then Indiana, and onward, thinking more and more of warmth and blue waters as we approached Maryland, which would lead to New Jersey, Philadelphia, a plane flight, Miami, and then that Island nation, the Bahamas.
But before we ever made Florida or our flight from Philadelphia, we halted in Cape May, New Jersey, an old resort of boardwalks and deteriorating Victorians. I had entered, to my surprise, quiz-show land. For two days, as Jeffrey arranged his and Noelle’s business for the summer, we housed with his in-laws. Every morning the whole family, mother, father, grandfather, and anyone else around watched the television with expectation and joy over those about to win a car, a dream vacation, an oven, or a booby prize of two years supply of Tuna fish, guessing the proper price, the perfect square or the magic word...A world of stuff and dreams.
In a way this was not so much different than our adventure, which was a dream too—just a different kind. Who am I to say which had more validity. And could any of these television contestants have put up with our prize?
Nevertheless, I know now that these players had more information than we did. All we knew was Jeffrey’s price. The puzzle and the doors were unknown. We were soon to be through the looking glass, staring back at America from that little island in the Bahamas—the other side. Soon we would have our quiz show.
The next afternoon, we were transported by Alex, Noelle’s father, to Philadelphia and to our plane to Florida, which would connect with another and send us on to the Bahamas. We were excited by the real beginning of our adventure and the end of its beginning, full of enthusiasm for our continued journey. Alex was enthused also because after Philadelphia he was on to Atlantic City and the Casinos, where he saw dreams of numbers and flashing lights coming together for wealth and possibility. He dropt us at the curb and sped away. I wondered how many more years we could sustain our dreaming without including the dollars and if for us someday the dollars would also become the dream.
“Well, we have done it, Wilson,” Jeffrey said as he hoisted his packs from the curb and headed into the airport.
“We sure have. I’m stoked,” I replied. “Excited.”
“I hope we didn’t forget anything,” Noelle said.
“Well, if we did, it’s done now, and after all that preparation it can’t be important.”
But it was. At that moment, a look of dismay crossed Jeffrey’s face and he started to rapidly pat his shirt pockets, digging his hands into the many satchels of his clothes. He was calm and then became gradually frantic as he checked and rechecked, and then started to burrow into the various pockets of his pack. His faced turned red while he dug with the right hand and rubbed his left rapidly through his hair.
“I think I left the tickets.”
“Oh no, Jeffrey,” Noelle said. “Do you have the passports?”
“I have mine,” I said
We had divided things up as we left Aspen. My passport and ticket were secure in my backpack. At least I thought so, and when I checked, they were still there. Jeffrey’s eyes caught mine, begging silence. Mine twinkled back, but I stayed silent, amused inside that even with all my friend’s preparations, he might have left the tickets and maybe his and Noelle’s passports behind. As Jeffrey searched and placed his bundles aside, Noelle set about reexamining the same.
“Don’t bother with that. I have already checked it,” he said.
“I know honey, but just in case.”
Airports are never good places for confusion. There is enough of this already, and as Jeffrey became more frustrated, searching and searching again and pulling everything from his pack, the chaos of humanity hurried around us contributing to a lack of calm. Gradually he became more and more frantic, and then suddenly his mood shifted and he became resigned.
“I’ve lost them—tickets and passports. We’re fucked.”
“Well, where did you leave them. You were repacking last night. Did you take them out when you were searching for the charts?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“You shouldn’t have smoked that joint,” Noelle said as she grabbed another bag, now frantic herself and rechecking everything Jeffrey had already checked.
“Where did you leave them?”
“I hope at your parents,” he replied.
“We better call.”
“You call. They might be on the bureau. I am going to talk to the ticket agent.”
“I’ll watch the stuff,” I said.
Jeffrey looked down the line of agents. Everyone was occupied. In front of each agent was a twisted queue of people. He looked at me.
“Just pick one,” I said. “It’s like the line at the bank or the market. You cannot win. They will all seem slow. You’ll be sure you selected the wrong one no matter what you do.”
Before Jeffrey was even around the first bend in the line, Noelle returned. “No one’s home. But I called my sister, Susanne. She’s gone to check. I need to call her back in fifteen.”
I sat with the bags and regarded Jeffrey and Noelle, Jeffrey leaning toward her and she talking rapidly and looking pissed off. I guess she should be, I thought. Murphy’s law. But what works easy? I was sure this was minor compared to what we might encounter once we reached the boat. And knowing that it would all eventually be resolved I stared at the people in the airport, intrigued by their variety, imagining places and destinations for them as Jeffrey inched through the queue. A family of rich pampered blondes, swarthy dark types, blacks, pale redheads. Where were they all going? What were their lives? Were they happy, content? I wondered what we looked like with our high-mountain tans and our backpacks and our midthirties faces. The songs of the musical Peter Pan—“I Won’t Grow Up” and then “Never-Never Land”—drifted across my consciousness. I supposed we fit these songs and wondered if it showed.
Not long after, Noelle again called her sister. It was redemption for Jeffrey as Noelle returned from the phone smiling, full of the moment; her smile beamed in her high cheek-boned face—Polish and blond. “They were there on the bureau, you idiot. How could you have forgotten them? But Suzanne is coming immediately in the Comet with them. Her husband has their car and I told her to come as soon as possible. I think we can still make it.”
By now Jeffrey was almost through the queue. “Great”. Another problem solved,” I said. “She can certainly make it in two hours.”
“I hope you’re right,” Jeffrey said, knowing that momentarily fate had not been on his side. “It is only an hour ride. So it should work for us.”
We waited as the hour window waned and approached two hours, our plane almost boarding and our anxious senses growing with apprehension. The stuff we put ourselves through at airports. The whole damn unpleasant nature of them, waiting, waiting, and wondering if the plane will board on time, if it will be late, if it will even fly at all. And through the door, frazzled, running, racing came blond Suzanne. “Here are the tickets. Don’t talk. Go.”
This was before the days of security. Americans were still free in their travel, so there was no guard manning a post to annoy and slow us. We raced like O.J. in the Hertz commercials, through the airport, huffing and puffing, Suzanne running with us, proclaiming the litany of her drive and the car lights, on and off, and the police who had stopped and ticketed her. “How did you get cross the country with that thing?” she asked. “But I don’t care now. Just get on the plane. And call if you ever arrive.”
Sweating and hot, we raced to the gate agent’s podium. The door was just closing as we hurried by her, spinning her around as she yelled at our backsides down the gateway. “Stop! Stop! What are you doing? I am in charge here. The plane is full. Stop!” But we ignored her and they let us board. Already seated and comfortable, the passengers looked at us as arriving freaks with our sweat and hurry. We ignored them and were soon settled in row 18, seats A, B, and C.
Even with the confusion, flying was more settled then than now; and once our blood pressure returned to a stationary level, our flight was uneventful and almost pleasant. It was helpful that I had checked all the baggage through on my ticket because this was at least something we would not need to worry about. After all, it was all our supplies, except for the few we had sent ahead to be picked up in Nassau. We were able to relax, the stewardesses were friendly, and a couple drinks calmed us down.
Noelle leaned into Jeffrey. “Well, thanks to Susanne, we were lucky. Next time pack a little better, will you?”
He frowned sourly at her, but then a grin captured his face. It might have been the rum or just the release of anxiety. “Hey, the plane! We’re on the plane now.” He smiled.
“It’s no worse than the lights on the Comet.”
“Sure, unless your Suzanne and now need to pay a ticket.
“We’ll pay,” Jeffrey said.
I raised my glass slightly. “They never returned,” I said, and we chuckled.
“When do we get to Miami? When do we get to the Bahamas?” Noelle asked.
“Not till after morning, honey,” Jeffrey said. “I am not sure of the exact time.” He bent his head towards her.
“Don’t even think about it,” Noelle said, gesturing as if to dump her glass in his lap.
“But, really, when do we arrive? Some time in the early A.M., isn’t it?”
“That’s right,” I responded, pulling my tickets from my shirt. “2:10 for Miami. 8:30 Nassau.”
Miami was a shock. Foreign-looking people milled about and the signs were not first in English. Spanish sat above all. Had we stumbled on some United Nations outpost by accident? We had not. This was Cuba’s revenge against TR and San Juan hill, Hearst and his ‘Yellow Press’...“Remember the Maine”. But such thoughts did not occupy much time. Rather, where to rest was major in our minds. It was late and, like many things on this trip, it was again the last time for something—the last time that I slept in an airport, on the couches and benches with jabbering cleaning folks sweeping around me. I said to myself, you and your ego may be getting to old for this, sleeping as some traveling bum on the benches of this Miami Airport. I have done it since, but never in my own country.
We woke sleepy-eyed and slovenly, unshaven in the morning, early, to catch our flight at 7:15. Noelle went to one washroom and Jeffrey and I another. I felt traveled, greasy. It is the worst of hygiene feelings. Certainly I have been stinkier in my time, but that stink has been the results of days of labor and no washing, and there were never any washed travelers around me, looking fresh and smelling of aftershave.
“Jeffrey, it looks like we will make it. I’m excited to get there.”
“Me too,” he replied as water dripped from his face and hair and he tried to dry himself with the hand machine. We both looked scrubby, with stubbed beards, his much lighter than mine because he was blond.
“Wilson, it’s great we are finally near.”
“I know,” I replied. “You have been there. I have not. I have only heard my mother’s stories of growing up in Jamaica and read grandmother’s letters of the islands.
“I'm not sure,” he said. “I think Jamaica is somewhat different, this may be less bountiful. But we will have conch to eat, and you will like the markets.”
We exited the bathroom and found Noelle looking much less worn than us. Women are better at this. They are brought up to it, trained to instant resurrection. And the lack of whiskers helps. When I looked at the three of us, knowing myself and seeing Jeffrey, it looked as if an attractive woman had joined up with two bums.
The plane waited and we boarded calmly this time, with only hand luggage. There were a lot of passengers, many dark and many obviously tourists. The conversations I overheard were lyric, from the Islands, coarse and guttural, from New York, and then simply the nightly-news speech of middle America. These all melded into a cacophony of English that was mixed with the planes instructions, the life jacket locations, and the announcements of food and beverages to come.
The sea as we left Miami was deep blue. But as we approached the Bahamas, I could observe even from our high eagle’s elevation the shoals and reefs and corals, which have made the area dangerous for those that have voyaged there. The Caribbean, the Spanish main, the home of centuries of pirates and reprobates, plantations and slaves.
Descending into Nassau, New Providence Island stretched emerald before us with Paradise Island its much smaller sibling slightly North. The two were separated by a narrow central channel filled with cruise ships, a bridge and boats of all description. Our morning was full of sun and small clouds drifted above the green. These heavens were different from what we were used to in the mountains, where on pristine days the sky is deep blue and the air less filtered and clear. The lighter blue of the Nassau morning was more subdued, washed out—the eight-thousand feet of additional air at sea level bleaching some of the color from the sky. Immediately off the plane, my senses were assaulted with the noise of aircraft, musical voices, and unfamiliar scents. These smells were different from Miami, and much different from in the mountains. They were of sea, salt air, humidity, and flowers. There is a difference in odor that inhabits any new place one journeys. The stench and perfume of the inhabitants, the surroundings, and the localized land. It varies everywhere you travel, yet the
variety becomes the similarity. It was not unpleasant, and I wished to leave the airport immediately and see the surroundings.
After customs, we hailed a cab. “Where too, mon?” the cabdriver asked.
“Nassau, mon,” Jeffrey said.
From the taxi window, I looked at the newer structures of New Providence Island, a name which bellowed out 17th century righteous Christianity—God on our side and all that. I was not sure that God was on the side of anyone who might be buying these. They were far from well-built, the stucco already starting to crumble on some of the most recent buildings. There was a veneer of fraud. Everything seemed put up quick to impress.
The avenues became wider, and as we headed toward Nassau, the structures became older, yet grander than the new ones we had already driven by. These older walls and buildings from Britain’s times were slightly moribund—too many hedges, too many creeping flowers, the stucco failing with the attack of time and nature and a lack of maintenance. But it was clear that if nothing was done for fifty years that the British constructions would last longer than the newer ones near the airport.
Views of water were all around us as we moved onward to the alien world of Nassau, first inland lake and then sea. Nassau of the past and present, Nassau of Caribbean fame, tuneful lyric Nassau of colors and narrow streets and black Bobbies in their costumes neglecting traffic. It seemed to be a parody of the British Empire. The trappings there, but somehow misappropriated. White gloves dirty with song.
Honking traffic was all around and dark deep black Bahamian faces, almost purple, were everywhere. The people’s fashion was slack and saggy, baggy pants on the men with a colored or white shirt and the women, bright smiling, with primary and secondary colors all curtain draped around them. I can hear the sounds and the accents of the people now—that island English accent, so cultured and yet sufficiently removed from British stuffiness by patois and slang that it is full of lyric joy and lacking of pretension.
We moved forward, deep into the town, past the market areas and towards our hotel, the Grand Nassau, a small little pink thing into which Jeffrey had booked us via some Aspen travel agent’s scam. It looked like a dive but it was a bargain according to Jeffrey. He had explained it to us on the plane: how his connections and acumen had found a deal for the night. It was obvious that the place had seen better days, but the paint and plaster had not yet completely departed from the building’s exterior and there was supposed to be room service and a pool.
Jeffrey marched up ahead, Noelle and I followed. Behind the counter was a thin black man with skinny arms who wore a bow tie and a white shirt with the logo Grand Nassau on it.
“I have a reservation for a room. Jeffrey Andrews,”
The clerk looked at us and our backpacks with some disdain, smiled, peered into his book and responded. “You do not exist, mon. I see no sign of you.”
Jeffrey sputtered, “But of course I exist. I am here in front of you.”
Again the clerk looked at the register. “No, sir, you do not exist.”
“I made the reservation through Aspen travel.”
“Where’s dat, mon?”
Jeffrey was looking a little frustrated. “Colorado. The USA.”
“ You have your passports, mon?
We busied ourselves looking for them in our packs, then handed them to him. He carefully regarded each one, then again looked in the book. “I cannot find you.”
“Let me speak to the manager.”
“I am the manager, mon.”
“Well, just give us a room anyway.”
“Dat will be very difficult, mon. But I will try. We are very busy.”
I looked at the lobby and the adjacent restaurant. The place was almost empty. I noticed a small puddle off to the side of the building, which I surmised was the pool. The clerk, manager—he may have been the maintenance man and the chef, for all I knew—again inspected the register.
“I have found two rooms, mon.”
“One is fine,” Jeffrey said.
He looked at us with a leer. “For de dree of you, mon?” he asked. “Do you want just one bed?”
Jeffrey held his head. I was laughing. “Look,” Jeffrey said, “one room, two beds is what we want. Just give it to us.”
“Very good. Dat will be seventy-two dollars.”
Jeffrey leaned forward and placed both hands on the counter—aggressive body language. “Look, fellow, it was supposed to be thirty-nine dollars.”
The manager was nonplussed and smiled back with a toothy grin. “Maybe, mon. But it is seventy-two if you have no special reservation.”
“But we had a reservation.”
“No, you did not exist.”
“OK, OK.” Jeffrey turned towards Noelle and me. “Let’s just get out of here. I have had enough. Let’s find another place.”
“Oh, come on, Jeffrey. Just get the room,” I said.
The manager was now all concerns, smiling. “Oh no, sir, dat will not be easy. It is de season.”
“Just pay,” Noelle said. “I didn’t sleep all-night in that damn airport just because you wanted to save some money.”
“Just pay him,” I said.
Jeffrey reluctantly paid and was given the key. “Welcome to de Grand Nassau Hotel,” said the manager.
The room was adequate enough. It was not large. But it was considerably larger than the boat would be. Noelle entered, then Jeffrey, then I. She tossed her bags to the floor and Jeffrey sighed, dumping his pack in a pile just inside the door. I moved mine to the corner. Noelle bounced on one of the beds and Jeffrey moved towards her and bounced as well. She gave him a mock look of disgust. But then they hugged and kissed.
“We made it,” he said. “Even if I did muck it up a bit with these reservations. We got scammed.”
Both Noelle and I said something to the effect of don’t worry about it. I was tired, too, but could tell they needed and wanted some time alone. Feeling like the odd balance of the scale, I said, “You guys spend some time together. I’m going to have a drink and look around.”
I headed out the door to sit by the puddle, the water of which hardly possessed the clarity of the clear ocean we had seen from the plane. As I traversed the lobby, the manager nodded. “Is everything satisfactory, mon?” Not knowing what else to say, the fellow was beaming at me.
“Just fine,” I replied. I sat in bright sunshine amidst faded luxury and had a boat drink, wondering why I was usually the one alone. The sounds of steel drums were faintly in the background.
After the boat drink and a cup of dark strong coffee, I went out to explore the surroundings. The hotel was in that portion of Nassau that is low and near the sea. The streets were narrow and winding, and the buildings multihued—whites to many pastel colors. Motorbikes, small cars, and aging taxis sped by me as I headed towards the water and a little park from which I could observe and watch the chaos.
Before me was a small bay, a part of the larger central channel between the Islands. Boats sped and went, and to my distant right was a large cruise ship docked and disgorging tourists, who would spend the day in Nassau. Every so often a seaplane, those old Pan Am types designed before the world had as many airports, would land amidst the traffic and the boats. White, a bulbous flying thing, looking just as misplaced in the air as it did on the water. I watched the show for a while, soaking up the place, contrasting it with the mountains of home.
Eventually I decided to explore some more and walked farther from the central town towards the west. There was a small shop, fishing things inside, and rigging and paraphernalia for smaller boats, the kind of establishment that sells small outboards and hooks and bait, shackles and such. In front of this was a little marina. I meandered down to the docks, looking at the boats, which varied from eighteen- to twenty-foot runabouts, to fishing powerboats of thirty feet or so and sailboats of similar size. The docks were adequate but in need of repair. I was getting the feel of the Bahamas. So far everything looked like it was in need of repair.
Returning, I happened to look into the depths of an empty slip near the shore. There, to my amazement, perhaps five feet down and clear as if it had been sitting on the surface, sat a thirty-foot sport fisherman, open with no cabin and two massive outboards on its stern. It sat, perfect, looking almost new, rods attached and outriggers folded, lines still tied to the cleats, sunk, with no one giving it any notice. I watched Bahamians, heading out and in along the docks, pay it no mind at all, and thought of alerting someone. But then realized that they knew it was there. It just didn’t matter. I pitied the owner, probably someone from the States who had left his boat in their care. What a strange place I have come to, I thought, then retraced my steps to find Noelle and Jeffrey looking happy, languid, and refreshed.
The rest of our day was filled by purchases of food and rum and beer, assorted supplies for the voyage, canned foods and pastas, some fresh fruit, but mainly food items that would store. Most of these were to be transported to the Island by the mail boat, the Lady Ullah, which, according to its prominent schedule displayed on the market wall, would reach the island, after stopping in Nassau, in four days time. We also arranged for the dinghy and the outboard to be transported as well because they were too large to be transported by the little plane that we were to fly out on the next morning.
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THE FIRST EXCURSION-another fifty pages later:
The sun was a small grapefruit in the sky, yellow on the waters, soon to become an Orange ball. The water swirled and sea gulls swooped, soared and dove around us as we headed to the first can, which defined the Harbor. The smells of salt air increased as we departed land. It was sad leaving the little island-sad-yet joyous and full of expectation, as are all departures from exceptional destinations. We had seen a month of days in just a few and had experiences that could have traversed a year. Not in our most outrageous imaginations could we have thought of the reality of the last week or so. A few days of peace would be "just alright,"
The Ullah was two hundred feet ahead, lots of scope to protect us. She was our engine and Captain Curry was our navigation. So unless we sank there was little to do but see that the Aphrodite sat in the middle of her wake.
Rounding the can, our voyage began in earnest. We had been traveling level through the water at perhaps five knots. But with the can's rounding things changed. We were off now, a great towed sea creature bound for Nassau at fourteen knots. So much for cavitation. I had never been on a sailboat towed this fast and I hope not to be again. Suddenly the long graceful stern of the Aphrodite, normally more than three feet off the water, was now immersed almost completely in the sea with less than a foot to spare. The bow rose as the stern sank and behind were two wakes-ours inside the Ullah's. The Aphrodite was now a giant sea sled, a toboggan on the waters. And we were its un-controlling and surprised passengers. It felt as if we were riding an immense water ski. There was no wind and the sea was flat, but sputum and foam splashed into the air around us making my glasses useless as the saltwater dried upon them.
We were towed into the sinking sun, and after a while, with nothing happening and Jeffrey constantly checking, the emergency, if it been one, dissipated in importance. Like many of the sunsets we had seen, this one was full of oranges and reds; horizontal cloud slashes purpled above the circular pumpkin of the sun. It came quickly. The island stood out, a darkening green, forming black shadows with bands of pink behind us. Then it was dusk, then night, and then the island was gone.
We traveled west into the darkness, white foam spewing from the Aphrodite's sides. There was no wind and this was probably fortunate. Who knew what might occur if we were towed by this Ullah in stormy seas. I did not wish to know. The stars were great lanterns in the sky, so bright, so full of light that it was difficult to compare them to the same stars one saw on land. I was not steering and we were on a sea sleigh ride into the dark, which held no hassles. Jeffrey, Noelle, and I sat and watched the foaming sea around us take on a strange green glow. They say it is plankton that does this, sea amoebas in the water which glow in the dark. They were there and eerie with their consequence. Bright stars showed around a moon rising, near full. The little stern lights of the lady Ullah shone amid the greenish phosphorescent foam. It was magic, magic, cathartic and mentally soothing after the last few days.
It is good to go to sea and watch the sky, and shed the skin, the skin of civilization, its angst and hassels and surprise. At sea beneath the heaven's stars, one is no different than he might have been thousands of years before. Twentieth century science dwindles from the mind and leaves one young, aware of only water and the night. Noelle and Jeffrey soon retreated below to gain rest, perhaps affection, sex, before there respective turns on watch. I remained alone and comfortable.
Sailing at night is a supreme experience, and if it is clear with a moon, as it was this night, then the stars shine bright and imagination soars. I have always treasured these moments on watch alone on a boat with only myself, the sea and stars for company. I was happy to be chasing the Ullah through the dark. For the first time for many days, I was at peace.
The heavens are much brighter on the water on nights like this, away from city lights. Constellations are clearer and they stretch to the perimeter of the earth, all the way to the horizon as it aligns the sea. No hills or trees or mountains block them. The vista becomes a giant natural planetarium hemisphere, starting at the floor and circling around one, rising to its apex billions of light years away.
This night I imagined myself as some ancient Phoenician or Greek coastal sailor lacking knowledge of the Earth's place in the universe, pre-Copernicus, pre-Keppler, Newton and Einstein. Looking towards the heavens and thinking it the center, fairy tale as fact, and wondering what is man-making up not just names for the constellations, but maybe their reality. The journey primal. I thought of man traveling the sea for commerce and adventure for thousands of years. The adventure of Odysseus, Charybdis and Circe, the Sirens. I wondered, what were these but tricky places on or in the water, given names and substance by ancient imagination, employed to explain the infinite. I was struck by my insignificance. Introspection is sometimes enlightening and sometimes a disease.
On land these types of thoughts come less readily, with the lights, the cars and the noise of cities. Perhaps only in the desert have I seen the stars so bright. Night, alone and private on the water-we should send our politicians here to think and ponder, although I doubt that most are capable of this. But the few would return better and more thoughtful men as long as they were not "born again" in the process.
Introspection digressed to reality as I checked below, hearing snores from the forepeak, Jeffrey's almost boisterous, Noelle's hardly there at all. I poked around, a red-bulbed flashlight in hand. There was no water; the bilge was dry. We were being hauled through the sea with the full moon climbing the banks of the sky behind us, west to New Providence. I was not tired, so no need to awaken Jeffrey and Noelle. They could sleep all night, for all I cared. How often might I be towed under these circumstance? Probably never again. It was time to soak in and store these pictures, where I could remember some day when I was stuck in traffic or shopping at some dismal strip mall for food and underwear. I wondered how Noelle and Jeffrey could possibly be sleeping.
Around midnight, we changed course. I could see the can's flashing beacon as we rounded. The Bahamas are full of shoals and reefs and coral heads, islands just below the water which have settled beneath the sea. No strait courses would be possible and woe to any sailor who might attempt to sail as the crow flies. We were now heading north, northwest, oblique to the passage of the moon and on course for a buoy offshore of New Providence, where we would turn first west, then north to find Nassau.
Until about four in the morning, Jeffrey and Noelle continued to snore and I watched the night listening for any oddities from the Aphrodite. I heard none. At four, Jeffrey appeared.
"Why didn't you wake me? You were supposed to."
"I was enjoying the solitude, my thoughts," I replied.
"But I wanted to see some of this." He harrumphed and farted, scratched his face and hitched his shorts, giving me a peevish glance at the same time. It had been so peaceful. But the boat was now full of the sounds of Jeffrey's puttering. First, he found his compass, then his light. He clanged the stove a bit to make some coffee. He found his slicker for the spray. The putter putter of Jeffrey was an intrusion on my thoughts.
"Has it been OK, Wilson? Have you seen any water? Heard any strange sounds?"
"Only you're snoring, Jeffrey. Otherwise, it's been tranquil as a pool at night at the country club. You see the water-how flat it is?"
"We'll, I'm glad we picked a good night for this. Want some coffee?" he said, fumbling with two cups in his hands, dumping one on the cabin sole.
"Let me do that. You're not awake yet." I could hear Noelle now from the forepeak.
"Jeffrey, quiet," she said. "You sound like a band of pirates all by yourself." Jeffrey came up for watch and I went below to straighten out the coffee.
To the east, the dawn was forming, a zippered streak of light
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