Dave (everybody called him Shark Boy), Jini (Dave’s mom), and Miss Lillie (Jesse’s friend from Lexington, Kentucky), were rail down aboard the Dream Weaver and hard charging towards British Tortola. Sea turtles nonchalantly crossed their course when suddenly a whale and her calf surfaced next to their beam and made loud hissing sounds as they blew spouts of water into the air. It was a glorious Caribbean day with giant white cumulus clouds floating above them, casting shadows that resembled phantom ships on the rolling surface of the sea. A large waterspout formed in front of them, looking for a moment-like reason for concern, but then disappeared as quickly as it materialized.
Tortola’s West End was a once-upon-a-time favorite hangout for pirate ships during the gilded age of piracy. Some of the locals swear to have seen the ghosts of Black Bart, Stede Bonnet, Calico Jack, Benjamin Hornigold, and Blackbeard, not to mention the famous women pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read—apparitions appearing in the air on enchanted days like this, along with the shadowy wraith-like images of piratical sloops and ketches hunkering down before a tropical storm. These were the ships that at the end of the seventeenth century would sail forth plundering the heavy-laden Spanish galleons of their silver, gold and commercial cargos. The slow, cumbersome galleons were easy prey for the swifter and more maneuverable pirate craft, especially when the buccaneers employed their favorite ruse de guerre: flying a friendly flag as they first approached the Spanish vessel, and then suddenly lowering that banner and raising the Jolly Roger.
Some local boats such as the African Queen still flew the authentic Jolly Roger flag portraying a red skeleton pointing a red spear at a bloody heart with droplets of blood splattered around it, or the other pirate favorite that depicted a white skull and crossed leg bones on a black background.
As they sailed into the harbor at British Tortola, Dave made ready the anchor while the women went below deck to dress for lunch. He dropped the main, and wound up the roller-reefed headsail with just enough momentum left over to complete a “J” maneuver, pointing up into the wind and bleeding off his last bit of momentum. He gently lowered the anchor pulling on the anchor line to keep the bow centered on the wind. He allowed the wind to blow him backwards until he had let out enough scope to safely stick the Weaver to the sandy bottom.
“All ashore that’s going ashore,” Dave proclaimed as he finished flaking down the main sail and putting the sheet lines in order. Jini and Lillie were giggling again, about who knew what—women were a mystery to him. His dad said, “Any man who claims to understand women is either delusional, or lying. They march to the beat of a different drummer then men.”
It was but a short distance to the yacht club and Dave’s empty stomach was looking forward to lunch. The girls ordered salads and champagne while Dave ordered two flying fish sandwiches, chips, and soda with lots of ice. A high-stakes backgammon game was in progress at the next table and the doubling cube had been turned several times when he overheard one player say that he had heard via the coconut telegraph that Big Jesse had obtained a warrant from the sheriff on St. John to search for human remains on Lovango.
Dave was shocked to hear this, but he knew better than to use his cell phone to call Jesse, because cell phones unfortunately can have more ears than a cornfield. Some of his friends had recently been busted because they sent text messages back and forth about something illegal. Security on computers, telephone landlines, cell phones, and text messages were a joke. The way that government and law enforcement snoops now constantly monitored all forms of communication, the last bit of privacy, had been murdered by technology years ago. The only safe way to communicate any longer was lips to ear with one hand over the lips. “Get used to it,” his dad said, “it’s the only safe way to communicate sensitive information.”
And this was the living proof. Only a few hours before, Jesse had headed off for the sheriff’s office to obtain a warrant to search for human remains, and already it had been broadcast all over the islands on the coconut telegraph. Even then, it still amazed Dave that this information had reached Tortola even before he did.
But he wasn’t overly concerned, because none of these outsiders knew the precise location of the cave, and as soon as he told Jesse where it was situated, it would be taped off and deputies would be posted to guard the perimeter. And Jesse already had plans to open a museum and charge the tourists to see the skeletons and other buccaneer-related paraphernalia that he had collected. Who could tell? Over a period of time, the museum could easily generate more money anyway than any gold discovered there.
Dave did not wish to hurry lunch but he needed to get back to Cruz Bay and tell Jesse the word was out about the human remains. After lunch he returned to the dock and waited for the women to finish shopping at the yacht club gift shop. Soon they were all in the dinghy and headed towards Dream Weaver. He fastened the dinghy’s painter to an aft cleat, helped Miss Lillie aboard, made ready the sails and lines, and hoisted the anchor while Jini mixed Vodka Collins for her and Lillie. Dave refrained from drinking alcohol of any sort but he was very partial to coconut milk, so as he tacked back and forth out of the bay he chug-a-lugged a large, cold mug of coconut milk.
Dave was looking for a favorable course to Johnson’s Reef or Blunder Rock, because he had promised Chef Pierre some fresh lobsters and fish after they returned from Tortola. Blunder Rock was preferable to Johnson’s Reef because it was not inside the marine park where fishermen were limited to two lobsters per person and where spear guns were illegal. You had to use snares instead.
A snare is totally useless for self-defense, but Dave had no objections to using one to catch lobsters. A lobster snare was made from a 4-foot length of ¾ inch PVC pipe. There was a cap on both ends with a small diameter cable secured on the inside of the handle grip, which was then passed out through one of two holes drilled in the business end of the snare. A loop was formed when the cable was threaded back through the second hole and returned to the handle, where it was passed out through the other hole in the other end cap. There was a “T” handle attached to the bitter end of the cable, and after the diver slipped the loop over the lobster’s tail, the “T” handle was pulled, which tightened the loop around the lobster’s tail and enabled the diver to pull the lobster from its hiding place. It wouldn’t work on fish of course. All in all, Dave much preferred his spear gun to a snare, but his dad had taught him to follow the rules.
Fortunately, the wind direction was more favorable for Blunder Rock, so that was where he headed. The two women downed a few more drinks on the way there, so they had lost all their inhibitions by the time he had reached a good anchorage spot. The women wanted to sun bathe, so he fixed a long line from the boat to the dinghy and anchored the dinghy so it would still be there when he resurfaced. He made multiple dives before filling Chef Pierre’s order, but eventually he returned to the boat with a dozen lobsters and three large groupers.
His mom was down below taking a nap and Lillie had removed her bikini to get a full-body tan. Dave wasn’t embarrassed by her nudity—that was what the island girls did and it wasn’t a big deal to him. But he whistled a loud tune and made lots of noise to save Miss Lillie any embarrassment—to give her a chance to cover up—if she was as inhibited as some of the tourist women who came to the islands.
But she was fast asleep … or perhaps pretending to be? Because suddenly Lillie rolled onto her back, smiled and called out to him. She liked to call him by his middle name Enzo, because she insisted that was a more “romantic” name than Dave. “Oh, Enzo,” she said, “would you rub more lotion on my body so that I won’t burn?” Dave gulped and did as she asked. As he stroked the lotion onto her naked body, Lillie murmured, “Oh, Enzo, darling, is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you glad to see me?” Enzo was dumbfounded, and when she pulled him close and caressed him on his lips, he could hardly believe what was happening. He didn’t know if he should run, laugh, or cry! Lillie embraced him again, pulling him ever closer while whispering, “Some women say a good man is hard to find, but I think a hard man is good to find.” To be continued…