Thursday October 31, 2002
A Spooky Halloween Mystery on the Sea
Our bellies are full of Baja style fish
tacos. Curt and I were just looking out over the water, talking
about how we didn't know the world could get so pitch black.
As a matter of fact, this is the first time I've really considered
the phrase "pitch black" or, black as pitch. Pitch
being the residue of coal tar. Yup. That's about the color
of the night here. Past the toe rail of our boat, we could
be floating in space for all we'd know. We can see a few stars
twinkling above and a few lights on nearby boats. But no land,
no sea. It's like we're rolling around in the darkness of
the inside of a shoebox. It's 20:00 here. That means it must
be either 4 or 5 o'clock back home (we can never remember
the time difference). By now the streets are filled with Trick
or Treaters in their Halloween costumes. The kids have had
a big day at school, marching in their playground parades
or perhaps going to a carnival. I wonder what my friends'
chidren are disguised as? And here we are living on a boat
bobbing around in the Caribbean Sea. I wonder if a time will
come when I'll stop marking the time pass here by the milestones
Appropriately for Halloween however, our
day started with a fright. I was cleaning up the breakfast
dishes when I noticed something floating off to one side of
our boat. It looked big. It looked gross. It looked like something
was dangling down into deeper water from below the surface.
I called Curt over and pointed this icky thing out. We stood
on the deck and peered over the side, trying to figure out
what the heck it was as it floated closer. Finally Curt got
in the dinghy to get a better look. After much deliberation,
we found that what we saw floating on the surface were the
intestines of a shark and they were attached to its head which
was dangling below. We figured perhaps it came down from the
fishing camp just up current from us. But holy mackerel that
was a big head- probably belonging to an equally big shark.
After lunch, we went in to the little island
to explore with Viva. Having been here before, and all over
the world, I'm sure it got old for them hearing us repeat
over and over "how beautiful it is." "We can't
believe how gorgeous this is." And moreover, we can't
believe these little islands aren't totally overrun with tourists
or a hotel, or ANYthing really. I mean, there is nothing more
than a few little fishing villages with tiny little houses-
some of concrete, some just of palm fronds and whatever they
could find. We walked along the beach to pet the horse roaming
the sandy hillside, and then on down to talk with some of
the fisherman sitting under the shade of a palm tree lean-to.
Two seemed to be just kicking back, and a third looked like
he was working on a lobster trap from sticks and chicken wire.
Steve did most of the talking. In Spanish,
he said hello and asked if there was a chance that maybe tomorrow
we could either buy or trade some lobster from them. The one
making the trap, who also seemed to be the most jovial, replied
that tomorrow, maybe. But it depends on what happens (I think
meaning if they catch some). Today it wasn't time yet- but
yes, maybe tomorrow. Steve then said we had things to trade-
like perhaps liquor, or shirts, or hats, etc. The guy laughed
and pointed at his toothless friend and said he could sure
use a new shirt- making his friend smile a toothless grin
and look down into his lap while he laughed. So we all got
to laughing then, and that's when Steve said, "Hey, we
could even trade lobster for a girl!" gesturing towards
me! To which I replied we could also trade lobster for an
old man. The men really cracked up at this and it was so great
to see their faces light up as we all laughed together standing
on the sand, looking so foreign from each other. We exchanged
waves and smiles as we walked back down the beach and I wondered
what they must be saying about us at that moment as the four
gringos that seemingly appeared from nowhere walked back down
Back at the dinghy, we opted to go down
the coast a little ways and see what else we might find. We
passed a tiny little cactus covered island, a few pirogues
here and there, and found another, larger village with perhaps
five to ten little structures. There were the most beautiful
boats anchored just off their shore. They were immaculately
maintained and painted in cheerful bright white with sunny
colored trim. Still further down, we found two other fishing
boats rafted together and it looked like some men were aboard.
Steve once again was the band leader, charging towards them
with the dinghy, while Curt, Pam and I thought, "Oh no.
Do they really want us coming over to check out what they're
up to?" But we were so glad he did go to say hola.
At first, there were maybe three men on
the deck, but after a minute or two, there were more likely
at least eight that came up to see what the gringos were all
about. We asked about fish and lobster, and perhaps making
a trade tomorrow. Their deck was stacked with fish, and the
smiling guy in this group wanted to show us them all and tell
us what they are called in his language. He said we could
come to their village tomorrow if we'd like to make a trade.
And then he handed us two of the fish from their stacks. We
were so surprised and said we had nothing to trade today and
said we had drank all of our beers pointing to a few empty
cans in the dinghy. He said it was no problem, perhaps he
would see us tomorrow and waved us off with a smile.
I was so warmed by this, I can't tell you.
These people have nothing by American standards. Their government
is in upheaval, their economy is bottoming out
live in barely more than a shanty. And four Americans come
by out of nowhere and they offer us the fruits of their day's
labor asking nothing in return. In the few Spanish words we
know, we couldn't even express our thanks properly. I can
tell you though, as we sit in their bay at anchor, I feel
so safe, and so good about humanity. I only hope that these
islands can stay this way. I hope that the yachties that come
after us don't muddle things up, and that they're kind and
respectful to these good people.
Tomorrow marks the opening of lobster season
in the Caribbean! We'll be looking to make a deal with our
new neighbors and may even going adventuring on another nearby
island across the channel. Hopefully this time tomorrow, my
fingers will be too buttery from lobster to type another entry!