Dave (everybody called him Shark Boy), Barrack the rooster and Lambini the hungry monk found themselves in a dangerous situation. They were trying to get through a passage between Lovongo and Rada Key when a foul rip tide started running against them with winds gusting over thirty knots. The dinghy was nearly out of gas when Dave called his Dad for help. His Dad suggested he should spin the dinghy around and use what fuel he had left to get in the lee of Rada Key. Dave’s first attempt at reversing his course was unsuccessful, but before water could spill over the rail he spun it in the opposite direction, and just as they were raised to the top of a wave the dinghy came about without a problem.
Dave was an expert boat handler, so although the Monk and Barrack were terrified it was no big deal to him. But the monk, a non-swimmer, was white as a ghost, and even after they were safely bobbing in a neutral eddy current in the lee of Rada Key, he still had a death grip on the gunnels. While they waited for the big sloop to appear, Shark Boy rigged a make-shift anchor and stuck them to the bottom with a huge treble hook and heavy-duty shark tackle.
Without comment, Dave put on his flippers, grabbed his spear gun, dove over the side of the dinghy, and soon re-surfaced with a huge lobster. While Dave hauled the lobster onboard, Lambini asked him, “How long have you lived in these islands?”
“Almost all my life,” replied Dave. “I was born in a hospital in British Tortola and a few hours later, my Dad and Mom rigged a car seat to a gimbaled table on the Hirondelle, a 44-foot wooden yawl, and moved me on board.”
“How long have your Mom and Dad lived here?” Lambini asked.
“A long time,” Dave answered. “Dad sailed here on a racing sloop named Touché in 1985. According to him, her bones are still on the bottom of Little Cruise Bay. He told me that Hurricane Hugo sank her in 1989, before I was even born. After Touché, Pop bought Hirondelle, and that’s the boat I lived on until he bought a Columbia Fifty. I was swimming before I even walked or talked, and spent most of my early life in the water. People around here thought a barracuda or shark would get me before I was old enough for school, but it never happened. I love sea creatures (except bait-grabbing lizard fish), but the sharks and barracudas could’ve killed me a long time ago.”
“Many times while I was swimming back to the dinghy with a fish on my spear, I encountered sharks bigger than me. I gave up the fish and retreated to the dinghy, but if they wanted to, they could’ve eaten me a hundred different times. And so now, I return the favor and don’t kill them after I catch them. Even though Big Jessie says, ‘Boy, you better kill those man-eaters, or some day one of them is going to transform you into shark shit.’”
Lambini asked him, “Have you ever been in a Hurricane yourself?”
“No,” Dave said, “Not since I was old enough to remember, but I’ve survived several powerful tropical storms. Since we’re already into hurricane season — the season runs from June all the way down to December — if it’s a hurricane you want, one might come along any time.”
Lambini started looking very nervous again.
Dave went on, “My Dad rode out Hurricane Marilyn on Hirondelle a few years after Hugo sank Touché. He removed the dinghy’s motor and sank it, but during the storm the dink came out of the water and flew like a kite. It was tethered to the mizzen mast and he finally had to cut it loose to save his mizzen. Marilyn knocked Hirondelle down a dozen times and Pop had to pump sea-water for twelve hours straight. Marilyn’s winds topped 150 knots and after Dad low-crawled forward to inspect his chaffing gear, the wind burned and blew the hair right off the top of his head.”
To be continued.