Sunday, November 29, 2009

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

As we followed the curving island beach, and walked to the end of the debris line, we arrived at our first challenge. Stan said,

"We've got to make a landing by clearing the rocks away. They could put a hole in the bottom of the raft."

Starting on the shoreline, I began clearing the sharply pointed rocks aside, while the other guys worked on blowing up two rafts. After clearing out a nice area on the beach and out to knee-deep water, I stood up, and looked out at the channel between us and our next goal. The tide was flowing in, with a stiff breeze pushing it. A strong current, the breeze and the incoming tide would have to be crossed to get to the other side, and closer to float hunting paradise. My partners had opened the box with the 4-man raft inside. The battery-powered pump was ready to go, and my mind talk continued:

"Man! Those little plastic paddles look flimsy."
"How in the heck are we going to cross that channel with those?"
"Is it possible?"

Our hope was to find a treasure trove of glassfloats hidden in the brush after being deposited there by the surging waves of great storms. Reaching our goal: an island about a mile away, was shaping up to be something other than a simple walk in the park.

At 7:30 that morning, we received a phone call from a Belonger friend of Stan's who had a boat. We were hiring him and his boat to take us to a hard-to-reach cay for another float adventure. We woke up before dawn, had breakfast, and packed our gear in anticipation of the call. The news was not good.

"The engine is apart."
"We're at the mechanics."
"Maybe it will be ready later this morning."
"What did you want to do

This was our last chance for a trip, and we could not waste the day wondering if the boat would be ready. We needed to talk about it, and would call him back.

I offered the plan of going back to where we left off after our first day's adventure. I did then, and still want to go back to that spot to keep hunting. The vision of the point of the island a good mile away, and it's potential for finding more floats was in my mind's eye. There was a lot of territory between our first day's finds and that point to explore. That idea didn't go very far. We still wanted to try to get to our original destination.

Rudolfo's charge on the flight to the islands, was to carry a 4-man raft with his luggage. As the reader may remember, we all had to pack-mule something important for either the trip or the house with us. The fact that we had two rafts, a one-man and a four-man raft, became the focal points for the feasibility of this adventure. The maps of our planned destination came out once again, and the exciting possibilities conjured up by the story of the last time Stan had been on the hard-to-reach island spurred us on.

The preceeding spring, he and his son had tried to beachcomb that island, but shortly after starting their treasure hunt, a sudden storm came over the horizon. They were forced to run across and around the island, then make their way to the channel, cross it and get back to the house. They did so, just before the tempest struck. Luckily, the tide was with them that day, and the channels were wadeable. Before crossing back to the other side of the island, Stan told us how he had looked down a beach that they had no time to search. He saw a line of fishing floats and debris, stretching on and on. That was his vision, and now his vision was in all of our heads.

"We've got the rafts."
"We can drive to this trail, then pack everything to the channel."
"We'll blow up the rafts, and row across."
"Once we get to the small cay, we paddle along its shores then across another channel to our destination."
"We can do it!"
"Ok! Let's load the truck and go

That battery-operated pump did a great job of blowing up the rafts. The decision was made for Stan to take the one-man raft across with three of our packs. The three of us would take the big raft with the extra gallon of water, and the rest of our gear. Stan got into the raft and started across.

Luck was with us. We had arrived at the 1st. crossing, and made the rafts ready at the end of the incoming tide. Before beginning to paddle, high slack tide had come, and the wind was now a gentle Carribean breeze. We crossed without incident.

Rather than paddle in the raft to the next channel, I decided to carry two packs, one from Stan's raft, the single pack from the three-man raft and the rakes, then hike the cay. It would be easier to paddle the raft with one less person and the gear. Maybe there would be a float or two on the cay? The hunt was on, and as I hiked and looked, my companions started rowing again. Twenty minutes later, we met at the next crossing, loaded up, paddled the short distance to our destination, and sat under a beautiful stand of Casuarinas to eat lunch.

What a beautiful site to be in! It was so comfortable sitting in the shade of the trees, eating and talking excitedly about our adventure up to that point, and what lay ahead. In front of us was a beach that was the epitome of pristine.

A beautiful sandy point stretched out for a quarter of a mile to meet the torquoise ocean. Just a couple of hundred yards off the end of the point, a tiny cay, covered in sunlit green growth, jutted out of the water. Bright cumulous clouds with their Carribean breeze tails floated in the blue sky. The sand was white, and there were four or five drift lines leading out to the point. A beautiful large green, white and yellow marker buoy lay in the sand in front of us.

Unable to sit there and not explore the drift lines, Rudolfo and I, with sandwiches in hand, began to walk and search the drift. Shells, absolutely beautiful shells lay in the drift. Both of us picked up a dozen or more specimens. Nancy was there with me in spirit as I gathered the souvenirs. Excitedly, we showed our finds to our pals, then we got down to float business again.

Shouldering our packs, we hiked through the stand of trees, through the brush and stopped on the crest of a low hill. Looking across a mile-wide expanse of brush, boardered on the right by a large lagoon, Stan took the maps out again. Pointing to where we were, and where we had to hike to, one could not help but take a deep breath then gulp at the thought of crossing the pathless brush to the edge of the lagoon. The hope was that hurricanes had backwashed glassfloat-laden storm surges into the lagoon, then into the brush. Once off the crest, and down into the brush we were quickly enveloped, and could only see a few yards in front of us.

We kept to whatever openings we could follow, yet tried our best to stay on a line toward our goal. Whenever we came to a higher outcropping of rock, we could look ahead, and that helped us keep our bearings. The good spirits kept flowing, and after awhile, we broke free of the brush and found ourselves on the edge of the lagoon.

Walking the shoreline, there was a conspicuous absence of debris. Rudolpho and Jim walked ahead of Stan and me. We made the occasional foray back to our left and into the brush in hopes of finding a debris line. We soon lost sight of our pals. Stan found a debris line, and a couple of floats-plastic and metal. He called me, and we both started looking harder in the brush. After a while, I stumbled onto another part of the line, and found a wonderful metal float with the embossing: Manufactured Phillips Trawl Products Ltd. Grimsby, England. As a student of European commercial fishing history, the port of Grimsby, England is significant to me. Even though the float was not glass, I could not leave it behind, so decided to carry it with me for the time being.

We called the guys on the "talkies," and told them about finding some parts of a debris line and floats, and they too began to go away from the shoreline and into the brush. Stan and I continued forward, but found nothing glass except a few bottles.

Finally, we all met at a tidal creek with a Mangrove swamp on its opposite shore, which blocked our way to the target point at the beginning of the shoreline that Stan saw on his last trip. We had no choice but to cut inland toward a stand of Casuarinas on the coastline. Hopefully we would not be stopped by more Mangroves, and have to go back the way we had come.

After a surprisingly easy hike, we came out on the backside of the trees, and walking through them, reached the beach. Now what? Rudolfo decided he wanted to walk the beachline up to the rocky point which marked the end of the beach, and toward the rafts. Jim wanted to go in the opposite direction toward a cove. Stan followed Jim. I was not too sure which way I wanted to go, and headed into the Casuarinas with the thought that perhaps I could find tidelines pushed inland. Once, I turned around to go back toward the cove with Stan and Jim, but decided that walking on the other side of the trees, than back under them to inspect all of the debris might pay off.

Twenty minutes later, Jim excitedly called to say that the cove was covered with all kinds of debris. Stan was close to him. Rudolfo was quite a way up the beach, and I had covered close to a quarter of a mile by that time, so decided to continue on my path. Later, after a few messages from the guys talking about all of the debris, there came the call that Stan had found a glass V over B float. Having found nothing but plastic, and a couple more metal floats, as well as being fooled by two sangria bottles, I began to wonder about my choice. Calling Stan to congratulate him, the sad news came that the float was in three pieces. It looked perfect, but when picked up, only the top of the float came away from the sand. What caused that float to be broken like that?

Time passed. Except for the wonderful diversion provided by a pair of Cuban Crows following and talking about me, plastic floats and bottles, the long grove of trees ended. Standing on the beach, I saw Rudolfo up ahead, bent over and searching between the rocks on the point. Stan and Jim called to say that they were headed back to us. We had to get back before the sun set. Twenty minutes passed as I slowly hunted the brush and beach toward the point, when Stan appeared a few yards away. In his hand was the glassfloat. What a beautiful float it was. Its V over B mark was on the seal, and appeared to be a more modern embossing than is normally found on either the side marked, or the other seal marked examples that I'd seen. The letters were larger, and from a different engraver and/or tool. The glass was bright green, and the ball was in three perfectly-fitting pieces.

Stan showed me the way it looked when he found it, then we hiked to Rudolfo to see what he had been looking for. In the sand by his pack were two huge biscuit shells found on his hike up the beach. Searching the crevices in the rocks, Rudolfo had found a good handful of beachglass, some of it cobalt blue. A few minutes passed, and Jim joined us. The glassfloat was buried in the sand by the point just as Stan had first found it, and we decided rather than cross through the brush to the other side of the point where the rafts awaited us, that we would hike the debris-covered rocky point. Lots of netline, plastic floats of all sizes and some metal balls lay in the crevices, but no glass Euros or Great Ones were found. Of course, the chances of any glass surviving the rocks was practically impossible. We looked though, and even chanced to look over the inland crest of rock where the thick brush started. None.

I continued to carry the Grimsby float. At least three times before the point, there were thoughts about relieving myself of its weight, but unless it was replaced by a glass float, I continued to keep it with me. We reached the end of the point, and realized that we would have to cross a stretch of thick brush to continue on. Rudolfo took the lead, and surprisingly found the openings in the brush that quickly and relatively easily, brought us to a continuation of the rocks. Across a cove we would have to hike around, was the beach leading to our rafts. Th sun was now setting.

We made it to the rafts, and headed back. The tide was dead low, and the water between the beach, the small cay, and the channel was often too shallow to paddle over, so we got out and pulled the 3-man raft for most of the way. Stan in the 1-man raft, continued to paddle his way back. Crossing the channel was easy, and soon, we had the air out of the rafts, folded and put them back into their boxes. Picking up our gear, we hiked toward the path that would lead us to the truck.

Once again, Jim and Rudolfo forged ahead of Stan and I. It was enjoyable talking about the hike, and speculating on the possibilities of the cove, and the next island over. Then we saw a shark, big enough to do some serious damage, only a few yards off the shoreline. It was now dusk, and the shark was in the shallows hunting. We both realized how fortunate we were to have gotten back to the sands, and out of the water. Other sharks were probably hunting in our wake. It would have been dangerous to be in the water at that time. The adventure still wasn't over.

The sun had set, and it was getting close to dark. We had not found the path that would lead us out to the truck, and it was hard to see. Finally, we decided to head inland. The thought that we had missed the path was expressed. The mosquitos would be out in full force very soon. It got darker.

Thankfully, the light-colored sands' visibility enabled us to make our way through the brush, and we reached the dirt road. Following the thought that we had passed the path, we headed back down the road, and ten minutes later, there was the silhouette of the truck. Of like mind, we all speedily finished the hike, and upon reaching the truck, packs were shed, placed into the back of the truck with the rest of the gear, bug repellant quickly applied, and cold beer was soon gushing down our throats. The beer bottles were quickly drained, and an ice cold coke apiece handed out. Laughter and exaltation were shared between us. Soon, we started the truck's engine, and headed home to a shower and a good meal followed by the last of the and rum and coke.

After a late breakfast the next day, Jim and I were walking a village road on the way to the homes of the lady Belongers to purchase their handmade beachgrass baskets. Jim asked me,

"Are you disappointed that we didn't find many floats?"
"I'm glad that I did find one, but I'm sorry that you couldn't have found a whole one too."
"It was fun looking, wasn't it!"
"I think that we would have found them if there had been any big hurricanes this season."
"I haven't had much luck on these trips, but I sure do enjoy coming here."
"Maybe next time."

The afternoon was spent visiting acquaintances and Stan's island friends, culminating in a wonderful visit with our fishing guide and his wife to see his treasures. His gracious wife sent us home with a wonderful meal of conch stew and rice with vegetables. Her gift, together with the final treat of fresh lobster provided by Stan and Rudolfo, was a great last supper. We went to sleep with the house in clean-going-home shape, our bags packed and a storm blowing. Rudolfo and I lay under the screened in porch on our mattresses, talking as we had done all week before going to sleep. The talk that night was punctuated by the crashing of the ocean's waves upon the shoreline, and the blowing of the winds. We wondered what had blown up from the south, and whether it would blow itself away from us by morning?

Just before first light, I opened my eyes to the new day, and quiet. The crashing of the waves was gentle compared to a few hours earlier. No wind, no rain, and soon everyone was up. The last breakfast was quickly made. All the leftovers from the last couple of days, and the last three eggs were used. Bags were zipped up, and promptly at 9:00 A.M., our transportation arrived to take us to the ferry dock. After customs at Miami International Airport, Stan, Jim and I met up and said our goodbyes. Rudolfo, called us just before he left on his plane to New York. He was on his way to see his family and new grandson. At 2:00 the next morning, I arrived in Philadelphia International Airport to a wonderful series of hugs and kisses from Nancy.

The end.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009



Smack..smack..brush the ear..brush the neck..brush the arm... Darn Mosquitos! Suddenly, Jim shouted with a start. I looked over in his direction, and saw the silhouette (great word for a spelling bee) of an open shed, and the light from Jim's flashlight swirling around, as he tried to see something flying at him.

"Are you alright?"
"Gees! What was that!"
"What happened?"
"I think a big bird flew out of here right at my head!"
"Flew right into my head!"
"Scared the helloutofme!"
"I've had enough of these mosquitos' 'I'm going back to the truck.' 'What about you?"
"Yea, me too."

Back inside the truck we both asked the same question,

"Where are the crabs?"
"That guy got 24 of them, and we can't find one."
"What the heck are we doing wrong?"

An hour earlier, feeling great after a good meal, Jim and I decided that tonight we were going crab hunting. The crabs found on the island were Land Crabs, and came in two varieties: black and white. The difference seems to be in the coloration of the shell, and the word was that some prefer the white to the black for eating. From the Belongers we talked to, they both are quite edible. Thoughts of a Linguinne and crab dinner filled this cook's head.

I grabbed a long-handled tool with a metal head that opened and closed like a jaw, (still don't know what that tool's purpose really was) from its position just inside, and to the left of the downstairs entry door. It was purposely put there in anticipation of the crab hunt. Feeling confident that we could pin any Moby Crab down, and not get our fingers pinched off, Jim and I jumped into the pickup. Our companions wanted nothing to do with this adventure, preferring to stay in with cold glasses of rum and coke. They did wish us good luck, but it seemed to me that there was a slight hint of derision in their wishes too. So with laughs, and good lucks, Jim and I set off on the hunt.

Driving slowly out of the village, and even slower on the road, we headed north. I was riding shotgun, and with the windows down, hung my head, shoulder and arm out the window while using the flashlight to look closer into the edge of the brush. This technique was alternated with looking directly ahead, in the hope that we would see a herd of crabs slowly crossing the road. After half and hour of hard looking, the herd of crabs would gladly be exchanged for just a glimpse of one.

"Maybe, as we drive closer to the Flamingo bays, we should see crabs.' 'Right?"

Nada. Nothing.
Past the bays, and a mile or so further, we pulled onto the dirt road leading to the boatdock, where we had met our guide a couple of days earlier.

"There's got to be crabs around here."

After the startled-bird-flying-into-the head incident, the thought of a cold rum and coke, convinced us to turn around, and head back. We hadn't given up though. At that point of the hunt, all we wanted to do was to at least be able to say that we'd see one. We both hated the thought that we would return to our pals with absolutely nothing to tell.

I drove this time, and decided to slowly drive the truck in a leisurely side-to-side curving pattern up the road. Since leaving the house, we had not seen another vehicle out on the road, so felt no sense of being the cause of an accident. We were the only ones out there hunting. Still, we were careful, and slowly made our way up to the village, and left-turned into it, toward the house.

A block later, we made a right turn, and saw a fellow walking up the road ahead of us. I turned off the brights. Jim and I both felt and said the same thing about wanting to go back with a story that was better than, "didn't see a thing." We had even talked about the possibilities of setting up a crab trap. They had to eat something. What did those crabs eat? Could they catch those quick little lizards? Did they eat bugs? Eachother?

"Sure wish we didn't throw all of the fish carcasses into the ocean."
"Bet if we'd left them in a pile on the path to the beach, and checked the pile every 15 minutes, sooner or later, crabs would come to it."
"Yea.' 'We should have tried that."

Suddenly, at the end of a driveway, I saw a crab.

"There's one!"
"At the end of the driveway!' 'I'm shining my flashlight on it!"

Jim jumped out of the pickup. With pincerpole in hand, and flashlight shining everywhere like a kaleidoscope, Jim's big body suddenly flashed across the headlights, and in an instant he was standing over the crabspot, with pole down, and pointing the flashlight into the brush. For a big guy, he sure moved fast!

Seconds later, I was standing next to Jim, cardboard box in hand and looking down. Seeing nothing, I asked,

"Where is it?"
"I can see it!' 'There it is!"

Down stabbed the pole, and there was the crab, throughly pinned. Jim reached down to pick it up, and did so, by grabbing it from the back. But he got his fingers too much on the body, and the bugger got him just as he was releasing it into the box.


Laughter, followed by a look with the flashlight to see if the finger was still attached to the hand. Yes! Everything was still intact. A bit of blood, but we still had the crab. Nice big black colored Land Crab. Now, we had a story to tell.

Handshakes, more laughter and excitement punctuated the night's air as we drove up the road to the house. Passing the fellow walking up the road, we both noticed that he gave us a funny look. We laughed some more, and talked aloud about what that guy must of thought of those two crazy whitemen in the truck, and the stories he would tell to his friends and family.

Back at the house, we climbed the outside stairway up to the second story rooms, proud as can be with our box and it's new inhabitant. Opened the door to see our pals hurridly getting up from their chairs to greet us. The box was put on the table. The question, "did you get anything?" was followed by proudly tilting the box for them to see our great catch. That crab looked a bit forelorn. Mad too.

As a couple of pictures were being taken, the crab scrambled forward, almost making it over the edge and out of the box. Guffaws of laughter, exclamations and the quick tilting back of the box, just saved the victory from turning into a "mad crab dashing around the house, being chased by four crazy white men" moment.

After the victory, pictures were taken, Jim took the boxed crab down to the beach path, and freed it. Can't imagine what that crab must have thought about its personal Karma. "What the heck just happened to me?"

Timing is everything.

To be continued...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Seven or Twenty-seven

The pattern emerged: a day of intense float hunting adventure, followed by a day to recoup our energies for the next battle in the brush. Looking back on the total trip, there were new adventures everyday, even during the days of leisure. As the sun was setting after an easy day, Jim and I walked the path from the house to the beach to try a bit of fishing.

It was good to have company, and good to have a pal like Jim to share the unknown with. No one in the house had any experience with fishing the surf there. Except for my tale of having hooked two fish, but not seeing them, and the story of a local woman catching a better than 20 pound snapper on a handline, fishing on the beach was a shot in the dark.

The path to the beach is right next to and behind the house. Strolling down the sandy road, there is a garden literally carved out of the brush, with various plantings of corn-green, but struggling to put on height due to the lack of rain this year. The path was crossed by many vines of a succulent type of pink morning glory. Even though they grew across the path, it was no problem stepping over them to walk to the sea. The end of the path went slightly downhill to a short stretch of sand.

The shoreline was mostly rocky outcroppings made up of fossilized hunks of coral from the reef, with an occassional short stretch of sandy beach. Looking to my right, the beach stretched south as far as I could see. A quarter of a mile to my left, there was a high rocky point that one would have to traverse in order to continue up the beach.

The color of the water varies from cobalt to purple outside of the reef, to turquoise, green, and many shades between inside of the reef. The color changes are dependant upon what is on the bottom. The water itself is a very light shade of green, similar to the light green color of some Heye Glass clover-marked floats.

Looking out about half a mile, the Atlantic Ocean's waves crashed against the reef. There was enough force from the Atlantic's waves to continue over the reef, to the shore. Depending upon the wind's force and direction, the surf could vary from calm as a bathtub, to chaotic crashing upon the sands. Seeing hightide debris lines on the land behind and above ten-foot high walls of rock, I could not help but imagine the force of the hurricanes that came ashore.

That evening, there was a breeze-smelling of salt and beachgrass blowing from the north, and the tide was going out. Jim and I were both using jigs with rubber tails. We cast them over the edge of the inshore rock ledges, and worked them over the rocks trying not to get them snagged. The breeze, the breakers and the rocks made fishing a bit difficult.

I had walked a hundred yards to the right of where Jim was fishing, then cast my way back toward him. Neither of us had a strike, and managed to keep our lures from snagging badly enough to lose them in the rocks. Suddenly. a fish grabbed my lure. The reel screeched as the fish took line, and Jim quickly realized I had hooked a good one. What a fight! Even though it was a very strong fish, it wasn't able to break or cut the line on the rocks, and finally tired enough to allow me to use an incoming wave to swim it safely over the ledge, onto the sand.

What a beautiful fish, big-shouldered-silver body tapering to a sharp forked tail that was highlighted in bright yellow. It had a large mouth, no big teeth and the biggest round black eyes I had ever seen on a fish of its size. We later learned it was a Horse-eyed Jack Crevalle. It was such a beautiful fish, too beautiful to kill, so we set it free. What a great feeling it was to see it swim strongly back through the surf. After happy handshakes followed by a few more casts, we headed back to dinner, and rum and cokes-with a story to tell.

Our next "leisurely" day was spent arranging to borrow a club car to drive the path to a great swimming and shelling beach. Sounds innocent enough, but nothing we did was without the potential for some calamity, and this was no exception.

The arrangements were made, and we visited a local friend, who gave us the key to another friend's garage where the club car awaited us. Both the car and the engine had a through going over prior to our arrival, and the engine problems had been diagnosed and corrected. Hmmm.

After a discussion of rust (everything in the village that was made of metal, other than stainless steel, had a very short life span), and directions on how to get around the electric pole to be able to continue on the path, we loaded the trailer with our gear, and jumped in. The difficulty around the pole was caused by erosion from Hurricane Ike, which had eroded the side of the path where it passed the pole. Supposedly, there was just enough room to get around it, without falling off a ledge. Hmmm.

The engine started easily, we backed out and headed down the road toward our destination. Then we came to the pole. I have to give it to our driver, Stan. With just a bit of guidance, he gunned the vehicle at just the right spot, and got that vehicle past the pole without a scratch. With happy gusto, the four of us jumped in, and we headed through the brush toward the promised land.

Stories of a few choice floats being found on earlier trips, had me anxious to forget the swimming, and go float hunting. We passed through the soft sand then up and over a high hill. Passing over the crest, we saw the most beautiful sandy beach boardered by two rocky points. The beach was about 250 yards long, and looking at the high tide drift line, we could see plastic floats, and debris. Two of us chose to walk above the hill leading down to the beach, and two walked the driftline.

I decided to explore the brushlines that descended toward a small bay cove. Looking as throughly as I could, and feeling certain, that sooner or later I would spot a glass float, I continued all the way down to the cove. Nothing. But I still had the return trip, and could explore where I had not covered. Nothing.

The last time that I saw Jim, he was up ahead, going over a rise. When I came out of the brush, the end of the sandy beach was below me, and the tracks of my companions led back and around a point to the beach's beginning. I found them separated a few yards apart, waist deep in the surf, and all looking down. Then Rudolfo, tossed something up on the sands. They were shelling.

Quickly joining them, I began looking down into the crystal clear water where a line of shells could be seen below. Unfortunately, we did not have snorkels or fins, which would have been fantastic. As the series of small waves rolled in, there would be a break when for a brief 20 or 30 seconds, the waves would receed and leave the shells exposed. If you had your eye on something in particular, that was your chance to quickly grab it. In no time, I had some beautiful Cowries, small Welks, Tritons, etc., filling my hands. My partners had had enough, and were sitting in beach chairs with a cold brew in hand, when I came up to my towel to deposit the shells. We compared our finds, and I returned to the surf. Both the shelling and the swimming were wonderful. Thoughts of finding shells for Nancy gave me a feeling of closeness to her.

The cold beer felt great going down, and after another swim, we decided to get into the club car, and drive further up the trail. That's when the engine decided to play games with us. It easily started, then died. Stan tried to get it to turn over again, without success. Then we thought to try a different combination of turning the key to the on-position, putting the transmission into 1st. gear, then turning the engine over. Started right up, and off we went.

After climbing a couple of hills, we came to a beach that held promise of some good beach glass, and decided to check it out. We wondered if we should keep the car running, but confidence ruled out, and we shut her down. Of course, on the next attempt to start up, our latest engine-starting system didn't work, and we began to have the feeling that maybe our luck had run out. Stan kept trying to get the engine to turn over, then out of desperation, decided to change the position of his tongue, and the crazy engine turned over!

Except for jumping out to push the car up a sandy hill, the trip back to the telephone pole was uneventful and fun. We all felt so darn good. Smiles, jokes and laughter filled the drive. We came to the pole, and without hesitation, Stan gunned her right past it, and we were good to go.

Arriving back at the house, showering, and sitting down to a batch of rum and cokes, we were wondering what to have for dinner when there was a knock at the door. Our host opened the door, and found the chef and owner of the restaurant smiling and offering two heaping containers of Conch fritters-the promised missing course from last night's meal. The dinner question was answered.

Plans for the next night's poker game, great conversation, more rum and cokes, and stomachs filled with fritters and hot sauce, were followed by more conversation as unexpected guests stopped into say, "Hi!" One Belonger (the name given to the local inhabitants) came to tell us that he had just caught 24 landcrabs that night. A spark filled Jim's eyes, and mine too. Recognition passed between us, and plans were hatched with a, "We've got to try that!" Satiated, the hunt would have to wait for another night. A great 2-hour discussion of politics and foreign policy ensued after the last guest had come and gone, then it was off to sleep with high expectations for the morrow, and that night's poker game.

The sound of the waves breaking on the shore, and a star-filled sky were our companion's during the night. The cymbal-like sound of waves coming ashore, greeted me as I opened my eyes at first light. Half and hour later, the coffee was made, everyone else was awake, and plans for the new day were discussed as I prepared breakfast.

As soon as breakfast was finished, and the dishes washed, we bagan to clean the house throughly, and get the furniture and table set up for dinner and the game. Our menu for dinner was planned, and with a four-man-flurry of gusto and work, we had everything ready. Then sandwiches were made, camel packs loaded with water, gear stashed into the pick-up, walkie talkies checked, and we were off to do some float hunting.

We went to a beach area where our host's son had found a 20+ float cache of Euros, inexplicably left by a Belonger many years before. Maybe he forgot which bush he left them under? The story of the find had us all looking very hard to duplicate the feat. I did find another cache, but it was a cache of fuel and water containers, and not floats. Doggone Sangria bottles fooled me at least twice more, then I stumbled across a beautiful amber Euro-in at least twenty pieces.

The find was stimulating, and pushed us on, but that was the only float found. There were numerous bases, sides and tops of bottles at the surface, with the largest portion of the bottles buried, indicating that there must be many many floats buried beneath the sands. This year's hurricane season on the Atlantic was very quiet, so nothing was disturbed. All of those buried floats will have to wait for future storms. Portents for future hunts. We returned to the house, showered, and began preparing for dinner and our guest's arrival.

I can't help but wonder what has been stirred up by the huge storms that have pummeled the Asian Pacific shores this season?

Dinner was terrific. The poker game was a lot of fun, especially learning a bunch of Southern Illinois poker games. One of the favorites was called 7/27. Aces count for 1 or 11. Face cards are 1/2 a point. Numbered cards count for the number on the card.

To start the game each player is dealt one card up, and one card down. One additional card is dealt to each player on each pass, and bets placed. If you pass on the dealing of cards twice, you have to sit pat with your hand. You can be dealt as many cards as necessary to reach your goal, and when the last player is finished having cards dealt to them, the final bets are placed followed by the totals being counted. There are normally two winners, one who's cards add up the closest to 7, and one who is closest to 27. There's nothing like being in the catbird seat, knowing that you are the closest to 7, while everyone else is trying for nearness to 27. That catbird sitter, can run up the pot, because half of the pot is guaranteed.

Our guest was cleaned out, your's truly won a few bucks, Rudolfo came away from the table breaking even, our host was throughly skinned, and my fishing partner Jim, was the big winner.

To be continued...