Hurricane Debby had broken up, humbled by shearing winds into a tropical depression, trailing a steady, bracing suck of breeze that stretched east from Cuba all the way back to the Turks and Caicos Islands, where, on Providenciales, a young islander in swim trunks helped me lug a mountain of gear from my Turtle Cove hotel to his pickup truck. I asked the driver if he was the boatman, too, and he said yes, he was Captain Newman Gray.
Twenty years ago, when I first came to Providenciales aboard the South Wind, a derelict ninety eight foot tramp freighter captained by Tay Maltsberger and his wife, Linda, the forty nine Turks and Caicos were tiny, arid, sunbaked, and mostly useless outposts of the British Crown, still virgin turf for sportsmen, drug runners, and real canada goose factory outlet estate pioneers.
Now I was looking out the window of Captain Newman’s truck at the resorts and casinos crowding Grace Bay, remembering when there was nothing on its austere sweep of beach, when Providenciales did not have a jetport or a store, only an islander run rice and peas shop at its dusty main crossroads and a warehouse stocked with booze, frozen steaks, and a thin collection of building supplies. Nobody was around on the bay then except my wife and me and Tay and Linda. We’d swim from shore to a nearby reef and spear lobsters, perform ballet with eagle rays and sea turtles, and slowly retreat from the tiger shark, big as a sports car, that regularly prowled the formation. At the end of the day, we’d walk carefully back through the thorny island scrub to where Tay and Linda had anchored themselves and were attempting an unlikely enterprise for professional seafarers: Provo’s first nursery and landscaping business.
“I know that place,” I said to Newman, pointing to the new canada goose factory sale parking lot and retail office of Sunshine Nursery. I told him there had been a time on Provo when everybody whites and blacks, and the West Indians especially knew and https://www.baertakreation.de loved the couple who started that nursery. But the captain had never heard of my friends the Maltsbergers and made only the smallest grunt of acknowledgment. My memories were beside the point to young Newman, who had migrated from his home on North Caicos to Providenciales to take advantage of the recent economic boom. I was simply the latest job, an American who wanted to be dropped for ten days on some ideal island, the only criterion being that the place have no people, no nothing, except flora under which I could escape the sun.
Within an hour we were aboard the captain’s twenty four foot cat hulled reef cruiser, flying toward East Bay Cay, a skinny sidecar that hugs North Caicos’s windward side, separated from the mother island by a half mile wide channel. I had provisioned myself modestly with rice, beans, fresh vegetables, onions and limes for conch salad, beer, a canada goose outlet uk sale bottle of rum. Otherwise I planned to fish and dive for my food, which is what one does, happily, on a deserted island in these latitudes.
Captain Newman jutted out his chin to direct my attention to a narrow cut, which I canada goose jacket outlet could not yet demarcate, behind a glistening bar mouth between the big island and the cay. “This is the road in,” he announced, pointing to a slight taint of turquoise indicating deeper water perhaps six inches deeper.
We came aground about a hundred feet off a rocky point, the terminus of the shaded white sand beach I had been watching unwind for twenty minutes. We waded the gear ashore through transparent water, the two of us together hauling the heavy coolers and my main duffel bag, and finally it was done. I saluted the captain goodbye and then turned my back on him and (I hoped) every other human being on the planet for the next ten days.
As his boat receded into the distance, I pulled a celebratory beer from my cooler and sat down to engage myself in what could have been a most illumining canada goose outlet canada conversation about the liberties we finesse for ourselves, but my mind went stone blank with euphoria and I could only stare at the opulence of color the blue of jewels, eyes, ice, glass and the glowing white towers of late summer cumulus clouds queuing across the wind tossed horizon.
I was alone, as sooner or later we are all meant to be.
Texas, three days earlier. More than a few years had passed since I’d last bunked with Captain Tay, and this was by far the largest space we had shared: an expansive bed in a dim apartment annexed to the house Canada Goose online in San Antonio that had once been his father’s and was now his son’s.
The captain’s one room apartment had the ambience of an exhibit in some provincial museum the Explorer’s Room its walls hung with crossed spears, shark jaws, barnacled fragments of sunken ships, intricately carved wooden paddles, yellowed newspaper clippings, and glossy photographs of adventure.
I opened my eyes to stare at the ceiling, the morning sunlight a radiant border around the two makeshift curtains pinned over the windows, and finally called the old captain’s name. No answer, and when I nudged him, no response. Captain Tay was a self proclaimed dying man, an arthritic and half blind silverback awaiting winter in his bone strewn lair, and I thought, Well, that’s it for him. Apparently he had slipped canada goose coats away in the night, fulfilling his chosen destiny by dying in the same bed his wife, Linda, had died in thirteen years earlier.
The night before, the captain had shown me a sketch on a legal pad: the outlines of a human body, front and back, with twenty eight red X’s drawing the viewer’s attention to a catalog of the physical indignities Tay had suffered over the years: stitches, concussions, animal bites, punctures, cracked ribs, broken bones, and a shrapnel wound he had sustained from a mortar round in the jungles of Colombia while tagging along with his blood brother, a commander in the National Police, on a 1973 raid against guerrillas. Not indicated on the drawing were the recent, less visible assaults: a bad heart, diabetes, clogged lungs, an exhausted spirit. He had also handed me one of his designated undertakers his self composed obituary, the last line of which read, “He will be buried at sea in the Turks and Caicos,” and his desire was that the burial take place over the South Wind, the ship his wife’s ashes had been scattered over in 1987. As I was leaving for the archipelago after my stopover in San Antonio, I thought it was damned decent of the captain to die with my convenience in mind.
But when I came out of the bathroom a few minutes later, Lazarus was sitting up, canada goose outlet store pawing the nightstand for his glasses and cigarettes. He was already dressed, because he’d slept with his clothes on. As far as I know he had always done so, ready to leap up at a moment’s notice into the godawful fray.
“Any day now,” said the captain with a spark in his hazel eyes, lying back down to smoke, his shoulders and head propped up with stale pillows. He’d been lying there for six or seven years, a veteran recluse, the lone survivor of all that he had loved, canada goose black friday sale shipwrecked here on this rumpled king size mattress.
I offered him a respite from the soul heavy inertia of his retirement, as I’d done annually since he had hunkered down. “Come with me, Tay. Ten days on an uninhabited island. The sort of thing you and Linda used to love. What the hell are you doing lounging around here, waiting to croak?”
This was a bit more irreverence than the captain was accustomed to, and I could hear the growl forming in his throat. “I’m seventy canada goose black friday sale one years old, I’m an alcoholic, my legs are going out, I’ve buried all my lovers, and I’ve done everything a man can do down there where you’re going,” he barked. “Get it through your head: I want to die.”
I tried to imagine him as he had been four decades earlier: a thirty one year old man carrying a briefcase and umbrella, dressed in a Brooks Brothers suit, stepping aboard the commuter train in Westport, Connecticut, riding to Manhattan in the glummest of moods, believing he had traded his “real” life for a half hearted commitment to virtues that read like a checklist of the American Dream canada goose outlet online uk social status, upward mobility, material comfort but were somehow entering his system tilted, knocking him off balance. He had married Barbara Rolf, a lithe, sensual blonde from the Ford Modeling Agency, a woman whose face was radiating from the covers of Life and Paris Match and who had borne him a son named Mark. Tay was natty, lean, dashingly handsome, husband of one of the world’s original supermodels, and the father of a towheaded three year old boy all this, and yet he was still a despondent man riding a commuter train from Westport into the city. It wasn’t another company job he was hunting for, but a resurrection, some kind of a life in which he could breathe freely again.
He had had that freedom, had pursued it with Hemingway esque flair Golden Gloves boxer, three years with the 11th Airborne Division during the Korean War, the big man on campus at the University of the Americas in Mexico City, twice elected student body president. In Mexico City, he had operated his own gymnasium, teaching boxing, judo, bodybuilding. Exciting opportunities had knocked relentlessly at his door. While Canada Goose Jackets doing graduate work in industrial psychology, he had led a group of scientists into unexplored regions of British Guiana, Venezuela, and Brazil. There was something wild in his blood that wasn’t going to be tamed, no matter how much he muffled it beneath button down oxfords and dry martinis. Being Texan was likely part of it, he figured. His family had come to Texas just before the Alamo fell, and his great grandfather had been a civilian scout for the Mormons on their trek to Utah. On both sides, his family lines were heavily saturated with footloose visionaries and hell raisers and uncontainable spirits.
Stepping off that train in Manhattan, he crossed the platform and caught the next train back to Connecticut. Off came the suit, the briefcase landed in the trash, and he hired on as first mate on canada goose uk shop a sailboat out of Westport that carried tourists around Long Island Sound. And then he was gone.
“All right, goose outlet canada come die in the islands,” I told him. “Save me the sorrow of carry ing you back there in an urn.”
“I’m not moving,” the captain snapped, but then he shifted himself upright and his voice became sonorous with care. “You have a good knife?” he asked. “Something that will hold an edge?” He eased up off the bed to rummage around in his moldy piles of gear. “Here, take this knife. I want you to have it.”
Ever since I had met Tay and Linda in Colombia in the early seventies I was fresh out of college, a twenty two year old tadpole who had decided to see the world the Maltsbergers had seemed intent on teaching me how to take care of myself. I took the knife, just as three months earlier I’d reluctantly taken the pistol he’d been trying to give me for years.
Then I held him this man who had taught me the vocabulary of freedom, schooled me in how it could be seized and harvested and lost, who had made his world so big and then made it as small as you can have it outside a coffin and said goodbye to him. For all that, I could see that his inner world had never really changed, and that for those of high spirit, a life wish can at times bear canada goose outlet a terrifying resemblance to a death wish, and a certain degree of metaphysical disorientation is bound to seep into the program. It was only that the seep had become a flood. You could walk on its banks all day long, throwing lines into the current, but the captain canada goose outlet shop was indifferent to rescue, not dissatisfied with being swept along toward a promise he had made to Linda decades ago:
I will not leave you alone in the sea.
It was January 1971. Meteorologists call the type of storm that slammed into Tay canada goose outlet nyc and Linda in the Bay of Biscay, off the northern coast of Spain, an extra tropical Atlantic cyclone an out of season, out of place hurricane. Trapped in the storm’s cataclysmic center, the ten people aboard their boat, the Sea Raven, watched in awe and horror for seventy two hours as the fury doubled and then tripled in intensity. Their efforts to reach port were cruelly defeated by straight on winds, with the tops of the massive waves humping green over the bow. Force 6 became Force 8 became canada goose outlet new york city Force 10. The mainsail blew out, and the captain, unable to steer, ordered the crew to chop the mizzen sail cheap canada goose uk off its mast to bring the ship under control. The canada goose outlet pummeling wind and pounding swells vibrated the caulking out of the boards beneath the engine housing, and the ship lost power.
They issued a Mayday, but the answer from the uk canada goose Spanish navy only increased their sense of helplessness and doom. They were going to have to wait in line; ships were in desperate straits throughout the bay, and resources were fully deployed and floundering. Not far from the Sea Raven’s position, a tanker’s castle toppled into the water, taking sixteen men with it. Thirty people were rescued off an American freighter that was going down nearby. A boat put out from the port of La Corua to respond to the Raven’s Mayday but had to turn back, heavily damaged. Linda watched the water rise up the hatchway steps as the Raven sank lower and lower into the colossal waves.