Monday, July 16, 2007

Long Bay, Bahamas

0 nm
Wind: E 10-15 knots, seas forecast as 2-4 feet offshore

Wordsworth said:

...Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled on a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lee,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
And hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

I’m not generally a big fan of old Will, (oh, daffodils! Daffodils! and all that) but that one does ring true out here. We’re in a pleasant lee today, and I wish I could have a glimpse of old Proteus and Triton. It’s another of those days when I try to convince Karl to leave our pleasant lee anchorage and head out to the open sea. The forecast is brilliant and open today, with no bad weather forecast on the horizon. Still, though, he is oppressed by the giant cumulus clouds billowing above us, the clouds that bring with them wind, rain, and squalls. It’s so hard to judge what open ocean conditions would be from harbor. I know the land can both quell and amplify the wind, and I know that thunderclouds are made by the moisture rising from land. Our anchorage behind the land could be making us think that the wind is worse than it actually is, but it could also be making us think it’s better.

He is captain, so I reconciled myself to another day at anchor, and consoled myself with domestic witchcraft. I whipped up a dough from a Joy of Cooking recipe, using milk, eggs, and shortening, attempting to simulate the refrigerated crescent rolls you buy in your grocer’s freezer section. We still have vast quantities of hot dogs to contend with, a legacy from the Club Med binge. A friend on shore has bestowed on us some frozen gallons of water to assist with preservation, and I’ve also doused them liberally with vinegar to keep the bacteria at bay. So I thought the best thing to do, since we have no bread left on the boat, would be to make gourmet pigs-in-a-blanket.

They turned out beautifully--flaky and crisp on the outside, moist inside. There’s very little better than hunks of meat enveloped in pastry. It could also be our continued love affair with high-quality Club Med flesh. These hot dogs seem to be the best I’ve ever tasted, bigger than any I’ve seen, without any of those troubling morsels of bone or cartilage that always seem to find their way into sausages, especially those of the low-end generic combination-pork-chicken-and-beef variety that we always end up buying. Maybe I should call my European hot dogs frankfurters.

It’s a good thing we have stacks of them, because fish don’t seem to be interested in biting our chewy and over-charred lobster tails. My other entertainment for the day was going and visiting the fish below our boat and practicing my diving. I stalked some around the coral today, chasing them at top speed and then hovering above them to watch, unobserved. I saw some amazing things, two fish they call blue runners with a long blue stripe and elegant, wing-like fins engaging in an elaborate dance with a stingray scavenging below our boat for rotten egg fragments. Every ray I’ve seen comes with a fish of some kind hovering above it, for what reason I know not, but these two swam in such a way that can only be called dancing, seeming to predict the other’s every move in a paired and swirling pas de deux. They even used their fins as one, keeping the one pressed to their bodies while the other angled out and fluttered in the water, until they split apart and unfurled their second fin, folding it as effortlessly inward again when they came together to rejoin the dance.

They led me to a giant grouper hidden under a rock, who eyed me with an old and wary eye. I’m practicing my hunting, even though I have no weapon as of yet, and a great method has been to use the smaller fish to lead me to the hidey holes for the big, good-eating fish. This one retreated into the shadows as soon as he saw me. He was wise enough to know me as a threat. Most of the big fish do--they’re smart enough to recognize other, bigger fish (me) as predators. The little fish ignore me. He kept hidden under his coral head home as I made a slow, lazy circuit of the thing. Then I lost him and thought he had escaped. I dove down deep to peer into the recesses of his cave and saw him back there, hiding in his corner. In my astonishment, I forgot that I couldn’t breathe and lay against the sand, staring eye to eye with him, until finally I burst, gasping, back to the surface.

A barracuda tracked me for a while, thinking I was going to throw him a tasty tidbit or two, but soon lost interest. It reminds me of the lobster I saw at Conception, who kept looking up at me as he went about his scavenging, or even my old beta Finnegan, a pet at college. I swear fish do have consciousness, at least the big ones. They’re at least aware enough to know that they’re in the same class that I am, that they can threaten me, and I can threaten them. Finnegan, as an isolated fish in a fish bowl, would hover motionlessly in his bowl for hours, leading me and my roommates to believe him dead. Eventually he would rouse himself, and my conclusion (informed by my study of History of Philosophy at the time) was that was suffering from mordant existentialist angst as a result of having achieved self-consciousness. Wouldn’t you, after all, if you discovered you were living in a fish bowl?

Poor Finnegan. The fish out here have much better lives, even if they do risk being shot. In my newfound synthesis with nature, I’m well aware that it’s eat or be eaten out here. Kill or be killed, man. It’s the law of Proteus’s Pagan wild.

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