He La in in­scrip ion a he con­cre e en rance se s he s age for he visi or: “My God, my all.”

SAIL - - Under Sail - Boat­ing writer Robert Beringer sails his Catalina 34, Ukiyo, out of Jack­sonville, Florida

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

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