Settlement Harbour Dinghy
The sun has not yet exposed herself, but teases the harbor with hints of her arrival, peeking from behind a curtain of lavender clouds to the east. It is neither dark nor light as I carefully tie the dink to the pier. A clove hitch finished with two half hitches should hold, even if the wind kicks up. A red sign at eye level commands, “Boats must use a stern anchor.” The edict is clear but I don’t want to waste time. Sunrise will not wait. Sure, my craft is a “boat” but I rationalize the rule should not apply to it. Maybe in the Bahamas a dink isn’t considered a boat. It’s a rubber bumper for cripes sake. What harm could it cause if it swings? I disregard the sign, unwilling to re-board, dig out and set the anchor. They’ll know it belongs to an inept charterer. It’ll be fine.
A pudgy middle-aged man in a tiny rust-pocked car parked pointing to the quiet harbor watched as I tied up. Now, he openly stares as I walk toward him. I say good day and for some reason confess I didn’t deploy an anchor.
“Ah ha. Well, which boat’s yours?” he asks, as if he hadn’t witnessed my arrival. I know he did.
“The dinghy. I don’t need an anchor for a dink, do I?”
“Nah. Not for a dinghy.”
“Thanks,” I wave and trot up the narrow street, running faster than usual, wanting to escape his creepy gaze. I feel him watching as I huff up the hill.
There’s a five-mile long beach on the far side of the narrow island. Running toward the Atlantic, I hope to arrive there before morning floats above the horizon. I hurry to the beach. The view, singular in its splendor, stops me in my tracks.
“Ah! Ohhhh my!”
White-laced turquoise fans splay open on the creamy beach. In reverence, I remove my shoes dropping them in a sandy remembrance of volleyball and sand castles. The beach gives way to my weight until I reach the saturated strand where the water has flattened all evidence of anything but the sea. My steps dent the immaculate welcome mat to the Atlantic. This is the center of the beach. Long wings of sand spread both east and westward. I begin to run toward the rising sun, the sand sponging beneath me as I gaily sing, “Heaven. I’m in heaven.”
I go on a gleeful romp. Exuberance propels me at a too-fast pace to greet the sun as it pierces through a battlement of clouds. I’m kissed by the breeze against my cheeks. Perfect, this amazing place is perfect. Happy, I’m giddy, ecstatic … but about to run out of sand. A dark, craggy outcropping marks the turn-around. In my excitement, I’ve run too far, and on sand!
I make a wide arc passing my own footprints, some already erased by the surf. With the wind at my back and the sun out, it’s suddenly hot. The sun mocks my slowed running with a shadow plodding along. Wind whips hair across my sweating face and pastes it over my eyes. Attempts to hold it back are in vain.
Nearing where I dropped my shoes, I’m glad I’m done. Overheated and sweating like I never sweat in Arizona, I wade into the water and plop backward, letting a wave wash over my smoldering head. Hair swirls as I lift on my elbows, laying back with my face poking just above the quenching water. This extinguishes the heat, but as I walk to collect my shoes rivers of salty water erupt again and roll down my face, arms, back and legs. Hair hangs in dribbling clumps in front of my eyes as I bend to wash sand from my feet. I have to cross deep dry sand but I don’t recall where I entered. Was this the place? Or was that? The chaotic beach is featureless. I pick the closer way thinking, How can I go wrong on an island.
Jogging to cool down, it doesn’t take long to realize this is not the way I came, but I’m going the right direction, headed back toward the south. At the crest I turn right. It looks flatter, easier so I zig-zag down to the waterfront and walk exhausted to the dock.
Huh? I don’t see my dinghy. Where is it? Uhoh. Was I that sloppy with my knots? I wipe sweat from my eyes and rub them in disbelief. Its not here! The man in the rusty car is gone. Where’d he take my dinghy! I knew I should have put out the anchor.
I scan the harbor. Our Moorings 40′ has the tender tied at the stern. What the … who swam in and took the dink? Who’s that kid! … Oh, that’s not our boat … This isn’t our harbour. Where’s my dinghy? Where’s my harbour? Where’s my chartered boat? Not here. Where the hell am I?
I’m on the right shore, the Sea of Abaco side of the island. I remember from the chart a Fisher’s Cove around a jut of land from Settlement Harbour. Ah, I must be at Fisher’s. I’m not lost. Not really. I’m at Fisher’s, but did I run past Settlement or did I not run far enough? I decide I needed to go up the hill when I took the flat route, but had I turned right or left? I can’t remember. I’ll ask someone where Settlement Harbour is! Of course pedestrian traffic is less than bustling at o’dark-thirty. I’ll jog uphill and figure it out.
Reaching the hilltop it is still not clear which way I should turn. There’s a fifty-fifty chance I went too far, so I turn back, run up one hill and around another. Not the way I came but reasonable. For a long way, there’s no road, no path back to the Abacos side of the island. I run farther thinking I made another wrong turn, wishing I had water. I’m hoping to see someone to ask for a drink, and directions, when a narrow road opens to my right.
Aha, this is the way. In a few yards there’s the tiny rusted car. He’s still there. I turn and walk casually to the dock. My dink is still where I left it. My boat is where I left it. My knots are as I left them and I didn’t need an anchor. No one needs to know, they’re not even up yet. I jump into the dink, start the outboard and buzzing along promise myself I won’t say a word about getting lost.