Author’s Note: Summer 1991. Our second “bareboat” sailing expedition to the Bahamas in the ketch, Sundancer, begins with an all-night crossing of the Gulf Stream. Destination: the Berry Islands, a chain of small, mostly uninhabited coral cays northeast of Bimini. We’d been there for a week manning the lines the previous summer, and thought we’d seen it all before. We soon learn, however, that any sight is the sum of many glances.
One day, we walk all the way around Hoffman Cay. It’s only six miles, but our hike takes over five hours. We stop many times: to scale frowning white cliffs and admire the spectacular ocean views; to snorkel or swim in the surf, and to cool off in coral pools carved out of the rugged coastline. An undisciplined bunch, we travel in one direction, but each moves at his or her own pace: alone, in pairs, or in small groups.
Two hours into the hike, we find a piece of white brain coral. Round, but flat on one side, it is about 18” in diameter. Sue asks if we can take it home with us. In the Bahamas, it is illegal to remove live coral, but this has been high and dry for months, if not longer.
It is fair game, and so, apparently, am I.
At first, I carry it alone. The most endurable method is to hold it in one hand, bracing my upper arm against my side. Picture a kid with a coral boom box up to his ear and you’ll get the idea. But this item is no radio; it weighs well-over 20 pounds, so I have to change hands often. Worse, the day is killer-hot, the footing is sandy, at best; at worst, nasty, razor-sharp coral.
After half an hour, I decide to share this adventure with our strapping 18-year old son, Bill. It will be a bonding experience.
“Years from now”, I solemnly intone, handing over our prize, “you will tell your children of the time Grandad found this very same piece of coral on an island in the far-off Bahamas, and of how you and he carried it back to the ship, Sundancer.
“Think of it, son! Won’t that be wonderful?”
Bill’s reply, though largely unprintable in a family publication, does show a certain creativity. Happily, Darren Casto finds a plastic laundry basket and a broomstick, which have conveniently washed up on the beach nearby. By putting the stick through the basket handles, Bill and I carry our prize safari-style the rest of the way. It’s still a job, however, especially when the trail gives out and we must wade up to our necks through the surf.
Though curious visitors may now inspect this chunk of brain coral in our living room, Bill still thinks it is I whose head should be examined.
Bill Willard is a commercial freelance writer in Clearwater FL. A high-impact writer and editor for over 30 years, in addition to his byline pieces, Bill’s beat includes ghostwriting and editing for businesses of all types and sizes, professional practitioners and individuals. He is a www.thefreestyleentrepreneur.com Contributing Author.
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Now 36, Bill Jr. is a prior-enlisted Captain in the Marine Corps.
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