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August 7, 2002
Jack Iron. The Caribbean Crack

Somewhere during our stay in Carriacou, we started to hear rumblings about this stuff called Jack Iron. It's rum. Strong stuff. Most of what you find in Carriacou is about 180 proof. Cruisers talk about it as if you shouldn't repeat its name too loud or you may rouse the spirit of some dead ghoul to come haunt your soul. As a matter of fact, one of the characters around the anchorage gave us the most reverent warning about this liquid evil. To understand its weightiness, I have to first introduce the character known simply as Johnson.

One afternoon we had joined Ray and George for a day sail over to White Island: around the southern tip of Carriacou. On our way, we saw this huge sailboat coming the other direction. It looked not just like a pirate ship- but more magical, perhaps out of the pages of Peter Pan. The hull of the boat has canoe shape to it, and the sails had the qualities of a bat's wings. George and Ray chuckled at the site of their old friend Johnson, explaining he designed and built that boat himself and has been perusing the Caribbean for years on it (no one knows how long). As we drew closer to crossing his tack- here was this man standing on the deck, looking like Tom Hanks after a few months into his adventure in the movie, Castaway. He was buck naked, holding a mug of coffee in one hand and waving a good morning, "Hello" our way as his boat cut through the Caribbean swell.

Johnson's warning was actually delivered to us the second time we crossed his path- at the Carriacou Carnival. We were sitting outside on a patio watching the workboat races with the aforementioned gang when Johnson appeared beside us. He was even cooler looking up close. He has silver ringlets of hair and beard that frame his face, so that barely any face actually shows through. His skin fits his character- golden bronze with dark creases carved around his twinkling icy blue eyes. Today he was wearing a hat woven out of palm fronds as would befit his infamy as a Caribbean character. A tourist at a nearby table was sharing her new tee shirt proclaiming the name of Jack Iron, and Johnson began with, "Boy that Jack Iron is some wicked stuff. You don't want to mess with that. Clear as water, sure looks innocent enough, but it can mess you up worse than crack!" He went on to describe the destiny of those he's known to've met their fate with just a littlest taste of the stuff: whether by drunken accidents, or by what snowballed into an addiction that melted their minds. We were looking at this guy who's been around the islands for who knows how long and thinking, "If THAT guy says it's wicked stuff- it must be wicked stuff."

So, of course we had to try it. One evening, we joined our fellow cruisers for an impromptu gathering at the local Rum Shop. The prescribed way to have your Jack Iron is to order it by the quarter (costing approximately the equivalent of one American dollar) along with a bottle of Ting- similar to Sprite back home. A Listerene bottle filled with the liquid evil is slowly pushed towards you across the bar as if to give you time to consider, "Do I really want to do this?" Well it certainly didn't taste that good, but when well diluted with Ting it wasn't too bad. We drank it carefully, monitoring each other's progress throughout the evening and in the end, we were probably appropriately cautious.

Later in our adventures, as we moved further south towards Grenada, we found Jack Iron yet again… but this version had been cut quite a bit and appeared in a proper commercialized bottle on a grocery shelf. Somehow by then, it was sad to see all the ominous mystery taken out of the infamous poison. But of course- we still had to buy a bottle so Curt could get the free tee shirt that came with it.

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