A Song While Island Hopping
By Douglas Charles
Out the plane window the island appeared and from a mile high the west coast was
adorned by turquoise clean water, the beaches white coral sand and the interior was
tropical lushness, greenery, interspersed with some large structures on the shore, big
hotels. The crowd clapped upon landing and the plane was at the gate in no time; this was
a small international airport for a smallCaribbeancountry. Exiting the airbus, we used
the rear stairway saving the time usually afforded to waiting for each aisle to vacate,
complete with the choreography of taking down the carry-ons from the overhead bins.
We boarded a shuttle bus that weaved on the tarmac, stopped hard a few times and then
disgorged us near the building that held customs. My suitcase had four swivel wheels and
with her decorative leather bag on top we motored into line. It was still nearly an hour
until we cleared, went outside in the warm humid air and her sister was there, with her
husband Reggie, a Bajan, and his nephew Mackie, who had procured transport.
Mackie gave shorts answers to our questions, and he was a cautious and respectful driver
and for the10 mileride he kept it around 30-40 kilometersper hour. We went through a
harbor town and he said there was a big fish fry every Friday night, popular with tourists
and locals, and it had a name hard for me to remember, Oistins. A sailor friend had
mentioned it, he had been there.
Reggie had invited us to join them many times on their yearly trips toBarbados; this was
a staple of the family holiday gatherings. He had effectively painted a picture of an island
paradise, ideal for a vacation, and this time we went, on the spur of the moment. On Long
Island we would be missing the fireworks inThreeMileHarborand the Lone Sharks
playing on a night cruise, both fun times on the water, but we had seen fireworks in
Greenport already and would catch the band we liked another time.
Our room had an enclosed porch only100 feetfrom theCaribbean Sea, which was like
thePeconicBayon a non-windy day. The sun was fighting it’s way out of the heavy
clouds now that the rain had stopped. Four glass bottom boats bobbed at anchor or on
moorings. We unpacked quickly and then went a few doors down where Reggie was
pouring rum. He had purchased fresh coconut juice from a lithe Bajan who had climbed
one of the few trees between the hotel and the water, chopped off big green coconuts
where inside the part we normally see is located.
Rum. The liqueur of choice over six years before, a poor choice indeed, on a late April
day every bit as hot and humid as it was inBarbadosin July. It was another lifetime,
before I met the wonderful woman who traveled with me now. This time I drank the
concoction of coconut juice and clear white rum, confident I would not cause any trouble.
“All right” Reggie said as a greeting, in a sing song voice hard to describe as we walked
on the beach to a place to eat. Nods, smiles come back. Everyone was all right, especially
Herbie and Marvin, whose livelihood was made convincing tourists to ride in the glass
bottom boats to see the turtles who inhabit the nearby reef. Others tried to rent wave
runners or small catamarans. The Surfside was a casual place with a small bar only a few
feet from the sand and there were five picnic tables outside and inside about 10 tables of
plastic resin. This place would have fit in the old Montauk, before entrepreneurs made
fancier places for the summer crowd in theHamptons. There are fancier places on this
island too, increasingly. There are big hotels being built and gated luxury condos you can
get to with your yacht up in Port St. Charles, a few miles north, if you are in the one