He La in inscrip ion a he concre e en rance se s he s age for he visi or: “My God, my all.”
turned south into deep water and good wind. Before long the reels were singing, and all three men on board got a chance to fight a fish. Mine was a bull mahi that fought like the devil. He jumped and dove under the boat, and I wondered who would wear out first. After a protracted battle, however, my slammer was gaffed and dispatched on the cockpit sole. Blood filled the cockpit as Erik deftly cleaned the three fish, just in time for dinner. As we toasted our luck we were treated to a green flash of the sun as it vanished, and the nearly full moon rose on the opposite horizon. Tell me it gets better than that!
Next up was Conception Island, an uninhabited national park whose darkened silhouette was offset only by the anchor lights of three visiting boats. It’s known for some of the best snorkeling in the country, but we had miles to go before we slept so we continued on.
By 2200 we neared Rum Cay as the moon was ducking in and out of thick black clouds. The wind freshened and though it was a washing machine on board, I was pleased to see us consistently making 6 knots. I took part of the middle watch alone from 0300-0600 and had to sing and do face slaps to keep from dozing off. The sky gradually brightened at 0500 and I felt a tremendous sense of relief at the knowledge that the sun would soon rise again and end this stygian loneliness. Finally, Erik stumbled up the ladder to relieve me, and I dived into the quarterberth, fully clothed and dead tired.
After that, the wind held steady, and if I’d done my job well, I fully expected Bird Rock Lighthouse to peek over the horizon at a bearing of 11 o’clock, shortly after 0900. Columbus anchored near this spot on his first voyage, and I shared the old yarn about Queen Isabella’s offer of a lifetime pension to the first sailor to spot what they believed to be Asia. I think she did it just to get the worried crew off Columbus’s back. But it worked—again—as the crew of Delia gazed off in the distance in search off our landfall instead of questioning my navigational skills.
Sure enough, at 0930 a tiny pencil of a lighthouse poked over the horizon exactly where it was supposed to, and soon the little bumps of Ragged Isle itself hove into view. We headed in for Landrail Point Settlement, watching as the water changed from purple to blue to turquoise and then, up ahead, white. The latter was our cue to drop anchor. Fist bumps all around. We done reach!
From the anchorage the destruction of Hurricane Joaquin was still plain to see. It’s discouraging to know that the storm hit almost two years ago. Hardly a structure was not still severely damaged or razed. Suddenly I was a lot less cheery. Shore leave would be a somber occasion.
Something happened, though, as soon as our dinghy hit the ramp. Smiling people came out of their houses and stopped their cars to chat. Upon recognizing Coy, there were hugs and handshakes, and we were spirited off to the social center of the island, Gibson’s Restaurant #2, run by the Willie Gibson, who poured us cold drinks and gammed with Coy about family and business, as together they made plans for our stay. She then drove us back to the dinghy, on the way showing us why her restaurant is “#2”—#1 was destroyed in the hurricane.
The next day we passed the time eating conch and lobster, exploring the island’s decommissioned lighthouse, and snorkeling pristine reefs. I also met some bone-fishing pilots who invited me to fly with them back to Florida. Great news, but they were leaving the next morning, which meant I’d have to pack up and depart before I’d had a chance to learn more about this sparsely populated, magical place.
Still, their offer was too good to refuse, and the next morning, I was back on shore and helping wheel their plane onto the small landing strip with maybe half the population of the island looking on. As we said our goodbyes, I knew that someday I’ll done reach this place again. s