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- Story Listed as: True Life For Adults
- Theme: Adventure stories
- Subject: Adventure
- Published: 03/22/2020
Cat IslandBorn 1954, M, from Cocoa Beach/FL, United States
CAT ISLAND REGATTA
One of my incentives for living in The Bahamas was opportunities to explore remote outpost of civilization. My work for the Bahamian Government required occasional flights to some smaller Bahamian islands, known as Family Islands, the equivalent of states. Each Family Island was unique, with its own culture and music.
Just the name, Cat Island, piqued my interest the first time I gazed at a well-worn Bahamian Island map at the Ministry of Works in Nassau. Did the curious name come from native cats (we had none in Nassau due to numerous wild dogs that roamed the streets,) or a sailor, or some other obscure reason? My co-workers had no clue. Although Cat Island’s infrastructure was our responsibility, we rarely went there.
My curiosity kicked in. Since the island was out of range of my twenty-one-foot powerboat, transportation to the island was limited to sailboat, charter airline, or the weekly supply boat. How could I arrange to explore Cat Island?
Emancipation Day, also known as August Monday, occurred the first Monday of August. This boisterous holiday celebrated the 1834 emancipation of slaves throughout the British Colonies. On this holiday Bahamians returned to their ancestral Family Island to reconnect with their relatives. Cultural activities included sailing regattas, beach parties, and dances. August Monday also coincided with the opening day of lobster season, adding more food to the tables.
Fortunately, my Jamaican friend, Dr. Greg Neil, owned an airplane and offered to explore Cat Island for the holiday. Supplies on the island were scarce, Doc, his co-pilot, John, a ponytailed ex-pat wandering the Caribbean, and I loaded his plane with dive gear, food, water, and adult beverages for a three-day weekend. I mentioned to Doc that we had no rent car reservation; rentals had been booked months in advance.
“Don’t worry, mon,” he responded.
I knew he would find a car. We flew southeast out of Nassau on Saturday morning. I watched diamonds flutter in the waves as a series of gorgeous Exuma Islands slipped under our wings. That familiar Caribbean magic cast its spell on me again. What would I discover this time? Clear turquoise water interspersed with green and brown reefs that turned cobalt blue when shallow flats fell into deep water. Cat Island was located on the eastern edge of The Bahamas with no barrier islands to protect it from harsh Atlantic storms. Its only sheltered marina was Hawks Nest, widely known for world-class marlin and tuna fishing in nearby deep waters.
Long, boot-shaped Cat Island rose from the sea. Doc circled low over New Bight Airport, which had no tower to control air traffic. The runway was clear, and we landed. While waiting for a taxi, a porter noticed my Masonic ring. He identified himself as a fellow Mason and was thrilled for a rare American Mason to visit his island.
With a broad smile of white teeth on coal-black skin, he said, “There be other Brothers on the island.”
I found fellow Masons everywhere I went in The Bahamas. They played a crucial role as a moral compass in their culture.
“Are you here for Regatta?” he asked.
“You‘ll have fun. Its da Rake and Scrape Festival too.”
“That sounds like fun. Sure is hot here.”
“That’s why you have that big hat on.”
“My cell phone doesn’t work. Is there service on the island?”
“No mon. You put that away now and have some fun.”
We turned off our phones and looked forward to escaping civilization.
Since reggae and Junkanoo were the primary music forms in my part of the Bahamas, I looked forward to my first taste of rake and scrape, a music form unique to Cat Island. Its roots traced back to the Turks and Caicos Islands whose immigrants brought their music to Cat Island during a migration phase 70 to 80 years ago.
As I had predicted, rental cars were not to be found. Doc tuned into the Coconut Telegraph, the native’s invisible communication system on every island. He made a few calls on the terminal phone and found a local preacher who was deeply appreciative of Doc's recent life-saving surgery. An hour later the preacher showed up, more than happy to lend us his car for the weekend.
Cat Island was not on the tourist trap list. Its 1,522 residents were scattered in small settlements around the island. Our motel, the Fernandez Bay Village Resort, was one of only four motels on the island. Though there were no convenience stores, restaurants, souvenir shops, or medical facilities, the roads were paved, and electricity was generally available, putting Cat Island above third world status for me.
We settled into three stone bungalows overlooking a spectacular beach with lawn chairs nestled under Australian pines. This was not a chain tourist hotel. Sunburned brats and American food restaurants were no vacation for me. The accommodations were exceptional by Family Island standards. All rooms had AC, full kitchens, and drinkable water rather than sour well water. The requisite Tiki Bar and restaurant featured superb four-star food and service. I smiled when told that computer access was sometimes available through one phone line in the office.
Doc wandered outside while I unpacked.
He returned excited a few minutes later and said, “Come help me with the coconuts.”
John and I followed him to small coconut trees along a path between bungalows.
He pointed up. “Lots of green ones. Give me your dive knife.” He was taller than John or me and could reach the lowest fruits.
Our timing was perfect. Immature green coconuts were full of water for their internal seed. When they turn brown, the water transforms into delicious white meat. Technically, coconuts were one-seeded dry drupes. Loosely, they were considered a rare combination of fruit, nut, and seed. Doc cut down a supply of green treasures for the weekend.
He said, “Watch this.” He sliced a hole through the tough green fiber and balanced the shell over a glass. Clear, sweet water drained from the hole and filled the glass. After adding rum to the water, he handed me the freshest tropical drink ever. Two more coconuts and we toasted our first round to the Regatta.
I complimented him, “Doc, you’re handy to have around.”
“My father taught me to drink the coconut in Jamaica.”
We drained more coconuts into a jug that fit nicely beside a bottle of rum in the car’s trunk.
Doc drove us to the Regatta site at New Bight beach where at least fifty brightly colored Bahamian sloops were beached. Crews frantically attended to last-minute repairs of sails and lines. Vendors under palm trees sold fresh local food. I couldn’t resist conch salad and Kalik beer for lunch. To me, conch salad was the best Bahamian food. In this wonderful dish, conch was prepared ceviche style with lime juice, onions, and peppers to cook the meat into a soft island delicacy. While we ate, I listened to crews banter raucously in thick patois I barely understood as they reminded each other who won or lost past races. Racing was serious business with rivalries spanning generations.
The Regatta was for wooden Bahamian-made and owned sailboats. These sloops traveled from island to island for various Regattas and vied for end of year National Championships. Most had been built in Man of War Cay in the Abacos, one of the last places in the world where wooden boats were still built. Three classes of boats were raced - small dinghies, 20-foot Class B sloops, and 28-foot Class A sloops bearing 24-inch drafts, single mainsails up to sixty-foot tall, and one or two jibs. The boats had changed little from their roots as traditional Bahamian fishing boats. Crews carried great honor and tradition to this ageless sport. Regattas occurred throughout the year, with National Championships in Georgetown, Exuma each April.
John had excellent boat experience, having sailed through the Caribbean on several boats. He had raced previously and hoped for another chance this weekend. He left us on a mission to join a crew. Doc and I sat under a palm tree and watched sand crabs scurry along the beach. A few boats made practice runs around buoys.
Later, John returned to us with a grin. “I did it.”
“Really?” Doc asked.
“Yeah, man. A crewmember is sick on boat 81, so I’m in.”
"Way to go, dude,” I replied.
"I found a way to talk to people. When they say 'Hello' you respond 'Okay, okay.’ Then they know you’re cool.”
John catches on quickly. This was not a custom in Nassau. He went back to boat 81 to help prepare it for racing. Doc and I watched for a while, then got antsy and left to explore.
My sightseeing list for the island included the abandoned Hermitage Monastery perched on a hill 206 feet tall, the highest point of all of The Bahamas. We drove to the base of Mount Alvernia, named after La Verna, the hill in Tuscany where St. Francis of Assisi received the Wounds of the Cross. The Monastery’s approach was a strenuous climb along a steep, narrow path cut into the rocky hillside. Stations of the Cross were chiseled into rocks along the path. At the top I was rewarded with my first view of a hermitage, a simple rock-hewn three-room structure built in the 1940s by Catholic priest Monsignor John Hawes, known locally as Father Jerome. The rooms consisted of a child-size abbey, a small chapel with a bell tower, and living quarters comprised of three closet-sized areas for sleeping. Father Jerome must have been a short man, for when I stepped into the monastery, I ducked through a five-foot-high opening. He lived there for 17 years as a hermit. He passed away in 1956 and was buried in a cave at the base of the Monastery. A stick and cloth voodoo doll on top of Father Jerome’s casket reminded me that the native Obeah religion still existed on Cat Island.
From my observation point, I turned in a circle to see the whole island of thick green scrub brush, surrounded by rings of sandy shoreline and endless blues sea. Except for a few homes and one road, the island was close to pristine.
We returned to New Bight Beach to retrieve John. We ventured further south through Doud’s Settlement, Moss Town, and Old Bight Settlement. In total, these villages may have contained a few dozen weather-beaten houses, a few food shacks, and a couple of general stores. Life was slow on Cat Island and people live off the land.
Cat Island runs from southeast to northwest, with a high ridgeline along the middle, parallel to the shores. Hurricanes frequently hit the island’s windward side, so the main road and most settlements were on the leeward side for wind protection. With few protected anchorages, boats were battered by storms and don’t farewell. Unusual for The Bahamas, topsoil has accumulated in many small valleys, allowing farmers to grow coconuts, pineapples, and vegetables. Cat Island was one of the few Bahamian islands with horses, goats, and sheep. A veterinarian arrives once a month on the Mail Boat to tend to farmers’ animals.
We continued southward on a two-lane road to Flamingo Bay Club, a new three-villa resort owned by Florida ex-pats Jerry and Donna Ornsberg. They eagerly showed us their modern home built on a thirty-foot bluff overlooking a beach on the south end of Cat Island. They had a delightful swimming pool, three secluded cottages, and a potable water desalination plant. Jerry was quite a mechanic and carpenter, which are necessary survival skills when on your own. I was quite impressed with their modern home every bit as good as mine in Nassau. Next time I’m staying at Flamingo Bay Club.
We walked downstairs to their private beach where we found hammocks, a kayak, and a sheltered picnic table under Australian Pines. We donned snorkel gear and launched the kayak from a calm beach. I wasn’t in good a shape like my younger days, so I paddled the kayak while Doc and John held on and swam beside it. Just a few yards out we encountered a shallow reef and dove into 100-foot visibility water. Coral extended as far as I could see. I had come far for this escape to float in silent serenity. I closed my eyes and let the high pressure of a fast-paced world leave my weightless body like steam escaping a kettle. A receding tide pulled us away from the reef to deeper water. John lifted his flippers high and dove to search the bottom. Up he came, proudly showing us a pink and green conch. We found several more nearby, but let them be. Our target was lobster, or crayfish, as the natives called them.
We pushed the kayak to another reef a mile offshore where multicolored tropical fish swarmed around a thirty-foot deep uprising. Down we went with spear guns, but at that depth had little time to search under coral heads for crawfish, much less chase elusive snappers.
The deep dives soon wore us out. I was pretty weak, so Doc paddled back to shore, pulling us alongside the kayak.
As I rested in a hammock, I told Doc, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
“Yeah mon. The cell phone doesn’t work out here, so the hospital can’t find me.”
“This is the only way you can escape from your patients,” I replied. “Don’t worry, someone else is on call.”
After drinks and pleasantries with Jerry and Donna, we continued our adventure by driving to the east to Port Howe. I was surprised to see no apparent port at this hamlet of sixteen homes. While the road was only a few yards from the beach, there were no signs of boats or fishermen. Hmmm.
Onward we ventured toward the southeast corner of Cat Island. The road ended at the delightful, yellow Greenwood Beach Resort hidden in swaying palm trees. The sun was low when we followed boisterous music to a tropical bar, restaurant, and pool above a magnificent 20-mile-long beach. Though the motel had only sixteen rooms, over a hundred people danced on a wooden deck to music from a rake and scrape band. This was paradise.
The leader’s instrument was a handsaw bent and scraped with a butter knife. Another musician used spoons to scrape washboards. Box guitars and accordions blended to produce a unique blend of polka, calypso, and 1950s rock reminiscent of fast-paced Appalachian and Irish Jig music.
We ordered rum drinks at the crowded bar. The interior restaurant was empty, but I smelled food.
I asked the bartender, a middle-aged white lady, “Is this a private party?”
“No. It’s for everyone. We do this every August Monday. Enjoy yourselves. People bring meat from Nassau and we barbecue it for them.”
That explained the crowd. Beside the pool, we found barbecue pits with steaks and chicken. Voluminous side dishes waited nearby. All we needed was for the meat to be cooked.
I walked to the heavenly beach where the smell of salt floated on a gentile onshore breeze, soft waves brushed the shore, and drooping palm tree leaves fluttered like bats in a cave. The only trace of mankind in either direction was a lone Hobie Cat sailboat on the beach. Small patch reefs merely fifty feet offshore dotted shallow, green water for miles. What a snorkeler’s utopia. Though I’m tempted to dive again, I turn my attention back to the party and join a lone table of eight white ex-pats. In foreign lands, ex-pats band together at bars.
I asked, “Mind if I join you?”
“Have a seat,” replied a weather-beaten man with a British accent. “I’m Jack.”
He sported a dark green Indiana Jones hat, fishing shirt, pleated shorts, and hiking boots.
In an ex-pat ritual, I exchanged names and countries of origin with the group, a mix of tourists, explorers, and Cat Islanders. Conversation was easy; the locals wanted news from the States, sports information, and current events from Nassau. The tourists asked about life in so-called paradise. I was a rare Government official from Nassau that spoke openly with them.
Jack was a hustler. He explained, “I’m here on business.”
“Work?” I asked.
“I represent a consortium interested in developing a new resort here on Cat Island. Would you like to buy prime preconstruction beach lots?”
“No thanks. I know what storms do to these islands.”
“Not to worry. We’re in a protected cove.”
I changed the subject to the upcoming Prime Minister election. I explained the inner workings of the government, tax increases, ways to avoid customs duties, and problems with scrambled Property Appraiser records on tax bills. Spirited discussion continued as music throbbed and people danced.
The dance floor emptied when barbecue was served. I filled my plate with steak, jerked chicken, peas and rice, and mac and cheese. I joined Doc and John to savor the wonderful Bahamian food and rum drinks. Looking around the crowd, I recognized a Brother Mason from Nassau, Edgar Moxey, who was Director and Chairman of the Audit Committee of the Central Bank of The Bahamas and a Director at Family Guardian Insurance Co. Ltd.
I approached his table and yelled over the music, “Brother Moxey.”
He turned to me and responded with a laugh, “Brother England, what a surprise. All is well?”
"Okay, okay," I replied, taking a lesson from John. We exchanged a Masonic handshake. “What brings you to Cat Island?”
“This is my birthplace and I always come back to my people on Emancipation Day. What about you?”
“I’m here for Regatta and Rake and Scrape. This is quite a party.”
"Do you like our food?"
“I brought it over.”
My eyebrow rose.
“It’s the least I can do for my people. We throw this party every year.”
“You’re a good man, Brother Moxey. I was certainly impressed by your installation as District Grand Master last year. That was a most inspiring ceremony. I loved your ornate green regalia. We have nothing like that in the States.”
"Thank you, Brother England. I’ll see you at the next meeting. I must make the rounds.” He left and melted into the crowd.
I noticed an elderly white lady at a table with a young girl. Though the table was in the thick of the crowd, they sat alone. The lady was overdressed for the casual beach party. I approached and asked if I could join them.
“Certainly,” she replied with an air of dignity and a European accent. Maybe German.
“I’m Gordon England, from Nassau.” I bowed my head and held out my hand.
“Waldemar Illing. Pleased to meet you. And this is my granddaughter.”
I said, “What a wonderful party.”
“Yes, I throw it every August Monday.
“Is this your place?”
She nodded. “I came from Germany and built this motel many years ago.” She pointed to the white female bartenders. “Those are my daughters. My people run this place. I sent them to Europe for an education and now they are back. Someday all of this will be theirs.” She looked around with pride that came from hard work to make her place in the world.
“I‘ve been curious. Why is this called Cat Island?” I asked.
“There are lots of stories, but I will tell you the real one. This used to be a hideout for the pirate Arthur Catt. He ran with Blackbeard.”
“I’m glad to hear the real story.” I paused, and then asked, “Would you like to dance?”
She was surprised. Natives would never ask her to dance.
“Why yes. It‘s been a long time.”
As we walked to the dance floor, I caught the surprised eyes of John and Doc. People cleared a circle for us as we danced a slow jitterbug to the music’s steady beat.
“It’s been years since I danced like this,” she said.
When the band started Goodnight Irene to my surprise, I lead her into a waltz. Her eyes widened and her feet remembered. All heads turned our way; we were the only dancers touching each other. When I passed Edgar Moxey, he nodded and laughed. After the song, we returned to her table.
I said, “Thank you.”
“Thank you, young man.” She beamed. “Enjoy the party. Come back and see us again.”
I had made her evening. Shadows of dusk now flickered behind flaming lanterns around the dance floor. Musicians strummed their saws, rum flowed, and sweaty bodies pulsated for hours. Island magic flowed thick while stars appeared to watch a tropical celebration of life.
Later, John, Doc, and I swayed back to the car. John insisted on driving back along the empty road lit only by our lonely headlights.
“Do you know how to drive on the left side?” I asked him.
“It doesn’t matter. There’re no other cars.”
He had a point. He weaved across the island as Doc and I cut up and told fishing stories.
Suddenly I yelled, “What’s that?” as a creature the size of a snapping turtle scurried across the pavement.
John swerved. Curses rang out.
“It’s a land crab,” Doc laughed. “They migrate during the summer.”
We continued along the road, veering back and forth in a game of dodge the crabs.
“I think I can see better with just starlight,” John said. “The headlights wreck my night vision.”
He turned off the lights. We plummeted recklessly through darkness. John giggled while Doc and I pleaded for him to slow down. A dark shadow appeared in front of us.
“Watch out,” I shouted.
Pat slid onto the shoulder, passing within inches of a car parked on the lane. He zigzagged back onto the pavement and stopped. My heart pounded at the near-miss.
“Let me drive,” I yelled at John.
“Yes,” agreed Doc. He opened the door and went back to the parked car.
“I didn’t hit anything.”
“This isn’t fun,” I said. “Get out.”
I switched places with John and waited for Doc.
He returned and told us, “A couple of boys parked the car without lights because nobody’s around. They catch crabs on the road. We scared them pretty bad, but they calmed down after I gave them a beer. Let’s get out of here.”
I took the wheel, turned on the lights, and drove slowly through a dark void.
When we returned to the motel, we sat in chairs under palm trees away from the sea. The island lay in darkness, with no lights, reflection from the sea, or the sound of waves. Even with my night vision, I was enveloped in total blackness and silence.
I looked up and said, “Doc, have you ever seen so many stars?”
Endless sparkling lights surrounded us, close enough to inhale. The Milky Way poured millions of stars into a cup of emptiness at the edge of the horizon.
“Not even in Jamaica I have seen stars like this,” replied Doc.
I pointed, “Over there is the Big Dipper and Little Dipper. The big one is the North Star.”
“How do you know that, England?”
“In Boy Scouts, we learned constellations to find our way at night.”
“It’s different in the southern hemisphere,” replied John. “Stars form the Southern Cross. The longer bar of the Cross points at the South Pole. I used that for navigating before we had electronics.”
We sat back, sipped rum, and enjoyed the solitude of the moment. I contemplated the providence that brought us together from so far apart to share an unforgettable night.
Sunday morning I woke a grumpy John and took him to the Regatta beach.
“There’s a steady wind today,” I told him. “Good luck. We’ll be back later to watch you race.”
“Yeah, thanks,” he mumbled as he put sunglasses over bloodshot eyes. He wore a fishing hat with a flap down his neck, long pants, and a long shirt to protected his skin from a day of brutal tropic sun. Gloves protected his hands that would desperately hold onto wooden boards and pull lines on sails.
I went back to the hotel and slept on a lawn chair at the beach. A few hours later Doc awoke me.
“England, let’s go snorkeling. I brought your gear.”
“What are friends for?”
“My prescription for you is water,” handing me a cold bottle.
We geared up and entered sparkling clear sea. A short distance from the beach we reached a small reef with a tunneled mount ring out of the water. Schools of parrotfish, sergeant majors, and other colorful reef fish swirled. Barracudas eyed me as I swam through a shallow coral tunnel. What an amazing dive site so close to the beach.
After snorkeling, Doc and I cut down more coconuts to resupply our jug. The Regatta party was in full swing when we arrived at New Bight. We joined hundreds of partiers. Dozens of food booths sold cracked conch, fried dolphin, and roasted pig. Side dishes included mac and cheese, fresh conch salad, and steamed peas and rice. I passed on several spicy stews I couldn’t identify. Caribbean rum and Kalik beer flowed in vast quantities along the beach. Speakers boomed deafening music at strategic places along the road. A marathon music fest featured bands from around The Bahamas.
On other islands such as Georgetown on nearby Exuma, cruise boats carpeted protected harbour and tourists filled the town during Regatta. However, there was no protected harbour or marina on Cat Island. Since the race site was a long beach with no anchorage, I saw no cruisers and few tourists.
The race commenced with sails down and anchors dropped in a traditional Bimini start exactly one hour late - precisely on island time. A gunshot rang out for the start. Cheers erupted from the crowd. Men scrambled across decks to pull anchors and hoist sails as they ducked booms swinging inches above the deck. Wind slapped the sails tight and the sleek hulls spurted across laser blue water in a scramble that reminded me of motorcycle races. This race was not carefully choreographed like the America’s Cup competition. Though they had no collisions in this start, Regatta lore tells of numerous 'smashups' and calamity in bitterly fought races. Dozens of white sails slid dangerously close to each other across the water, tilted perilously low to the sea in a race around buoys set on a 1.5-mile triangular course.
Captains shouted, “Up de pry board mon.” Men scooted high over the water on two 2 x 10 moveable wooden pry boards that extended beyond the hulls at midships like munchkin diving boards. Staples, large metal brackets, held the boards in place. Men on the plank used their weight to offset strong winds, allowing the boat to lean hard. When they hit it right, the boat would ‘stand up and walk’ at maximum speed. Sliding pry boards rapidly through the staples from one side of the boat to the other was tricky business. It was not unusual to crush or sever fingers.
Unlike other sailboats where crewmen held onto lines, men on sloops had no lines to hang onto. The just held tightly to the pry board with their hands. Neither did they wear life jackets. That was not my idea of fun.
Competition was fierce as captains maneuvered for positions to steal the wind from each other’s sails and obtain optimal angles around the buoys. In a turn around a buoy, the sails swung over crew members as they scrambled off the pry board, slid it to the other side, and climbed on again. They only forgot to duck the boom once.
Doc and I cheered when John’s boat took second place in the first round. When his boat came ashore, the crew refueled with Kalik and talked strategy. They decided on a new order for manning the board. John would be the first or last of five men to climb on the pry board, depending on which way the boat tacked. Changing the pry boards was timed with the swing of the boom. The key to maximum speed on a sloop was to constantly trim the sails and adjust human ballast on the pry boards.
John’s boat would be in the finals later in the afternoon, so Doc and I joined the beach party. Though action was intense onboard a sailboat, this was not a great spectator sport. We strolled through a happy crowd more interested in revelry than racing. On a music stage, local rake and scrape bands played. Later in the night, big-name Junkanoo and calypso bands would whip the crowd into a frenzy. Booming speakers prevented conversations; maybe they played to the boats offshore. Like music everywhere, the songs told stories of their culture and comical strife between men and women. I had thought Nassau was off the map, but Cat Island was way out there on the edge of civilization. I truly adored these gentle people who enjoyed life despite their hardships.
We wandered back to the boats to watch John’s last race. With a gunshot, the race was on. Crews scrambled like rats. Organized rats. Sails went up and caught wind. John scooted to the end of a pry board and waved at us. We retreated to the shade of a palm tree to watch sails lean one way and men the other way. Back and forth they tacked around the buoys. John’s boat was in the lead, barely ahead of the pack. When they made their turn around the final buoy, the captain swung too wide. A trailing boat cut inside of 81, stealing her wind. Her sails emptied. The pry boards splashed into the water and John fell off the end. He splashed and hollered to avoid other boats during their turn. We lost sight of him momentarily in the chaos, but when the other boats passed, he was still afloat.
A Regatta rule was that a boat must return to shore with as many men as it left with. Anyone who falls off must be picked up, so boat 81 circled back to pull John aboard. They had gone from first to last in an instant. When boat 81 landed last on the beach, the crew fiercely cursed the boat that cut them off.
John jumped ashore, his face blanched.
"Are you okay?" Doc asked.
“God that was close.”
“I thought you were a goner,” I said.
“You wouldn’t believe it. When the pry board dropped, I flew off. I surfaced and a boat was headed right at me. I crossed my arms in front of my face and waited to die. The boat turned at the last second. The crew’s eyes were as wide as saucers when they passed beside me.”
“Wow, what a close call,” I said.
“That’s not all. When another boat bore down on me, I dove under and saw the keel speeding toward me like a torpedo. I jerked sideways as the damn thing passed inches from my face. I came up and swam as hard as I could to get away from the other boats.”
“I think you used up two of your nine lives,” said Doc.
“I need a beer,” trembled John. “Make that two.”
We commiserated with other boaters for a while, and then drove back to the motel to escape the afternoon heat.
Later, we returned for the awards ceremony and joined the party for more music. At one point, I lined up with other ex-pats in a dance contest against Bahamians. Music pounded, rum flowed, and people celebrated life to its fullest on a beach under thick stars. I felt eighteen again, for a short while.
As we flew away the next day, I looked down at beautiful Cat Island floating through endless waves. Little had changed since the days of the pirates and I liked it that way. Another special place was now on my list of tropical hideaways. Caribbean islands had a hook in my soul and I will return for rejuvenation as long as I am able.