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Life: 81.5º West


A wet and squally day at sea... heading home.

Fall, 2001

The clouds began to pile up to the windward, mounting higher as they blocked the sun. Soon we could see the line of rain itself advancing across the water, blotting out the island behind it. The gusts would become a sustained wind, whipping the waves into whitecaps around us. Above the noise of the wind we would hear the rain’s approach as the first big drops fell and we scrambled for our slickers (so aged and worn they could only be counted on to keep one damp). The hard slap of rain on those plastic hoods always sent a chill up my spine; this was weather. In a minute the water would be pouring down my back and pooling uncomfortably on my seat as the rain blurred the sea around me.

Our tiny skiff seemed the only solid object, suspended in that hazy world of gray as my entire universe shrunk to a fourteen by five foot fishing-boat. Only the fish that tugged on our lines recalled a world beyond. It is a study in extremes to be wet, cold, and shivering in a blinding rain and simultaneously elated because you’re catching fish hand over fist. At such times I did as the Old Man: grit my teeth and kept fishing. In a few minutes the squall would pass, dwindling to the leeward as the sun returned.

After a few hours testing our luck with hook and line we would haul anchor and point for home. On the way I would lie back and take it easy for a while, letting the warm breeze and sun dry me out. Sometimes there would be fresh mangoes stowed in the cooler and I would pass the time in the early sunshine with a few of those. Then, just as I was getting all drowsy we’d come ashore to stand like fools in the blazing sun to clean our catch and maybe see what the other fishermen had done that day.

Back at the yard lunch would be fresh fried snapper and maybe some fritters or ripe plantain. Afterwards there’d be a nap in the hammock on the shady porch. I’d wake up when the sun got low and sit under the big Poinciana tree (with her whole top in bloom and spread out so that from below it seemed on fire). I’d just relax and listen to the night easing in. The wind would start to drop out—maybe getting a bit more southerly and damp off the sea. The light would get softer and grayer so I could hear but hardly see the troop of parrots fly over on their way home to roost. On the cistern-top I could hear the Old Man rigging the gear for the next day’s fishing, fussing over knots and hooks and knives. Inside dinner was on the stove and the BBC World News on the radio…

…Life at meridian: 81.5º West.

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2 Comments
  • Wind Knot Follower
    Reply

    Yes…more please.

  • sensitive soul
    Reply

    I regret never coming to visit.. you make it sound so amazing there.

    I love this line..

    “It is a study in extremes to be wet, cold, and shivering in a blinding rain and simultaneously elated because you’re catching fish hand over fist.”

    –that is what life should be like.

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