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...