December 30, 2015.
We sailed with Seahorse to another island nearby. On its windward side, the Atlantic roars over an underwater reef and surges in great round swells, rolling boats side to side as they head through the strong current. Here we are protected from that rollicking bay. We found lovely calm, clear water on its leeward side.
We sang Happy Birthday to Lily, who turned 10 today. Ten is an excellent age for a girl. She is not yet self-conscious of the pressure on her to be a sexual being and thus inhabits her body and mind without pretense or anxiety.
On the island the Fowler girls met a dog, a black and white lab mix, female, very friendly. We heard her barking during the night and saw a light or two. They assumed someone was taking care of her. I didn’t think anyone was there, as I hadn’t seen any boats and there were no footprints on the beach.
We spent the rest of the day on the water. It seems we are becoming more and more like those floating villages in the South Seas, where people spend their entire lives without touching solid ground. “Land” is the cockpit, the foredeck, the galley, the salon, the tiny patch of teak floor in the v-berth, in the head. These are the areas where we do our eating, our walking, our yoga, our lunching, our lounging, our reading, our writing, our preening, our teeth-brushing. We create parties on rafted paddleboats and dinghies.
The water at this anchorage is swimming-pool blue and green, clear, and full of colorful fish. Some of them, like the silvery, Bluerunner Jacks, swim freely in the open, but most of them stick close to the little boulders of coral, which spread out into flatter, lacy mounds with hidey-holes. We saw small, pale, spotted Groupers lurking under the larger coral hills, magenta Squirrel fish and pink Blackbar Soldier fish sheltering in nest-like sandy hollows, tiny blue Wrasses, blue-yellow Damselfish, and larger black-and-yellow striped Sergeant Majors nibbling around the brain coral. Two or three green and blue Queen Triggerfish with clownlike blue frown lines swam sideways and peered up me with star-burst eyes. A three-feet wide, brown, Southern Sting ray hovered over the sands and then winged away. Clouds of thin Yellowtail Snappers raced around and through the coral, while tiny, blue-white Fairy Basslets and baby-pink, -yellow, and -blue Cardinalfish hid in the grasses and poked their heads under the conch shells.
We were diving for conch and other edible treasures, so I tied the painter of my paddleboard to my wrist and followed the Fowler sisters out towards the northern tip of the island, where the current flows strongly and the conch like to grow. Lauren, who was swimming without flippers, met a four-foot Barracuda, who swam right up into her face to take a better look. They are very curious fish, and not really dangerous when unprovoked, but sight of them sets off some ancient alarm in the reptilian brain that rings, “DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!” She panicked and kicked at it. Fortunately, she did not meet its teeth and it swam away peaceably.
Back on our boats, Ryan and Travis tackled the shells in the cockpits, gloating and shouting to one another enthusiastically as they got better and better and the art of conch cleaning. Men. I chopped up pearl onion, garlic, celery and red cabbage for the salad. We didn’t have any fresh tomatoes, but I did find a box of tomato soup that had a few lumps that did the trick. To this mess I added the conch, of course, which Ryan helpfully diced, hot pepper sauce and lime juice. We had lovely curried beans and rice leftovers. Ryan insisted we add pork to the mix, and I made him do the frying since I was already sweating and wanted to get out of the galley. We still have one more bag of frozen pork, which was organically raised and humanely slaughtered near Oriental, North Carolina. The pork is very tasty, but it did nothing for the beans and rice, which ended up very bland. Mary made a rum cake for Lily’s birthday. I drank too much red wine, which always gives me a headache. The girls turned in at around 9, signalling that it was time for us to go home, too. We dinghied back under a brilliant, starry sky. Ryan stayed up for a rum nightcap. I collapsed gratefully into bed, delightfully exhausted.