Lots of time to read in between swims at Jost van Dyke, & one highlight was returning after many years — the late 1980s? — to Peter Matthiessen’s turtling epic Far Tortuga. Just great stuff, with an island lilt that I also almost heard in taxis & around the island.
He a wind coptin, dass de trouble. He a sailin mon, and he used to de old-time way. All his life he been ziggin and zaggin, he don’t know how to go straight. (121)
There’s a modern Moby-Dick in the story of Copm Raib’s rag-tag crew of failed turtle fishers rousting about the southwest Caribbean, from home on Grand Cayman to the coasts of Honduras & Nicaragua to “Misteriosa Cay,” the legendary Far Tortuga.
The climactic scene, in which Raib sails the Lillias Eden, a former schooner now fitted out with deisels but still flying canvas from stumps of masts, out through the reefs at night to escape a murderous band of Jamaican cut-throats, is thrilling & gorgeous. He’s up in the rigging, stearing by moonlight, Speedy’s at “the blind helm” (360), they make it most of the way through “white wraiths of reef” (361), & “the Captain flings his free arm wide, exalted. SHE CLEAR, SHE CLEAR! WE IN DE CLEAR! (361).
The ship strikes.
Only one, of course, is left to tell the tale. As Speedy has already said
Wind is de enemy of mon. Learn dat from school days (220).