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"There is nothing like returning to a place that has remained unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have. " -- Nelson Mandela
|113--The Cayman Islands: Back in Brac|
Jan 17 2003 - 16:14 PST
cherie writes: Back in Brac
And I never made the cheerleading squad!
That thing has our names all over it!
I´m a puppet, you just can´t see the strings.
Life is sweet when you are young at heart.
Ingredients for an instant smile:
1. Add water
2. Add trampoline
I meant to do that!
Future Olympic hopeful? The judges gave him a 9.7.
Baby got Brac!
The Brac Pack. You´d think we´re old friends, but we are actually new friends.
Cherie: "Let´s make a "W" with our legs!"
Cherie: "Because we can."
Wonder Woman watch out...its Super Cherie!
The artist sees a canvas everywhere.
Mike painting a backwards sail. He should have consulted his own T-shirt.
Artists at work. (Note Greg´s version of participation.)
The finished product!
I don’t believe in violence. Having written that, I must admit that I smacked Greg in the face. Here’s the worst part--I don’t regret it. After I slapped him, I examined the red stain of hemoglobin on my hand. I even showed it to him. No one was more shocked by my random assault than Greg. His eyebrows congregated into an “M” on his forehead.
“Mosquito,” I announced. “It was sucking you dry.”
Greg examined the smear of blood and the smashed remnants of bug on my palm.
“I probably saved you from catching Dengue Fever.” I added. “I think the general reward for such valiant behavior is an expensive meal at a nice restaurant.”
So that explains why I decked Greg, and he rewarded me by taking me out to dinner.
You’d think one of the benefits of being in a tropical island is dining on the local “catch of the day.” But there’s almost no fresh fish in the Cayman Islands, save a few locals who fish off a dinky skiff and sell their catch to other locals. Most of the restaurant’s fish is flown in frozen from Miami. The Cayman Islands are indeed surrounded by delectable underwater critters--you just aren’t allowed to catch them.
Since fifty percent of the island’s income comes from diving, the Cayman Island’s government all but prohibits fishing (unless you are a native Caymanian.) If there are no pretty fish for the tourists to look at, they’ll take their vacation money and spend it elsewhere. This also explains why spear guns and Hawaiian Slings are forbidden in the Cayman Islands. (But it does not explain why the local grocery store sells spear-gun tips.)
Scirocco has a Hawaiian Sling (who knows why since the number of fish Greg has caught still rests at a whopping zero.) Like the honest people we are, we declared the Hawaiian fish-killer to the Customs Official in Grand Cayman. He promptly seized it. He told us we could have the confiscated sling back when we left the island (which was a huge annoyance.) Did I mention that Greg has never even used the sling responsible for all this hassle?
We wanted to leave on Saturday, but Customs wouldn’t give us our sling on a weekend (without a hefty “fee” for their valuable time.) To make a short story long, the Custom’s agent finally delivered us the sling (taking his own sweet time) on Monday as we were about to set sail for Cayman Brac.
But we needed to top off Scirocco’s gas tanks before we left. If the Customs agent’s skin wasn’t so tan (the island’s sun taking its toll) I’m sure we could have seen how blazing mad he was. Didn’t we realize how precious his time was? And now he had to sit and wait for us to get gas! We had some nerve! I’m sure he had to get back to his Customs cube so he could clean his nails with all his other seized spear-guns. We waited two days for Customs; you’d think they could wait fifteen minutes for us. The British can be such snobs at times. They act like they invented English, or something.
Doctors, mechanics and customs officers never wait for you. You’re always waiting for them. The big meany kept glaring at me, like the delay was all my fault. He was making me nervous. I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. Then the next think I knew there was a geyser of gas drenching me. I was covered in diesel. (And I’m not talking about the expensive perfume.) It looked like a 12 year-old girl rubbed her glossy “kissing potion” all over me.
Cinda (from Bob Soto’s Reef Diver’s) was the first to help! She said I could use the hose on their dive boat to rinse myself off. (The dive boat held 28 tourists anxious to go snorkeling.) I introduced myself as “gas girl,” stripped down, and tried to rinse the slick film off me. The Customs guy was shaking his head at me like I was a very bad girl. To him, I was probably just another tourist trickster procrastinating so Scirocco could stay in the Cayman Islands longer. As if I would cover myself in toxic liquid simply to irritate him.
Finally, we left waving goodbye to our friends Clee and Cinda who came to see us off. I think I even got a smile out of the Customs Agent, though it could have been a case of bad gas. Scirocco roared out of the shallow North Sound with the energy of a Labrador who hasn’t yet grown into his feet.
Scirocco had the speed, but was a little confused when it came to direction. There are several channels that lead out of the North Sound. Good thing, because each of us was able to choose their own channel. Everyone on board advising each other to go in a different direction. Mike pointed one way, Tom pointed another, and Greg pointed still another. We should have listened to Mike, but at that point, he was just “the new guy.”
In the middle of our indecision, a wave lifted Scirocco and slammed her on a bed of coral. Our eyes bulged and converged on Greg (the Captain.) Greg was looking at one thing—the bilge pump. The bilge pump light flicked on; it was pumping out water! Greg turned pale and we all exchanged a look reserved only for those about to enter an inflatable life-raft together.
Then the bilge light turned off. We waited. None of us moved--as if a single blink might cause the boat to sink. The bilge light stayed off. The four of us exhaled together. Glad to know we weren’t going to become another submerged wreck off the Cayman coast.
“Let’s anchor and I’ll inspect the bottom.” Greg announced. After a few dives, Greg declared that Scirocco escaped the coral with only a scratch. It was just a flesh wound! We threw up our hands in celebration and then Tom and I jumped in the water with Greg. At that point I knew Mike was going to be a great addition to our crew. He never even said: “I told you so.”
We happened to be anchored in Stingray City, the best twelve-foot dive in the world. Any day you can find up to fifty stingrays flying over the talcum powder sea bottom. Tom and I used up a roll of underwater film taking pictures of each other playing with the rays. We even found a friendly Moray eel as curious about us as we were about him. One minute we thought we might sink, the next minute we were frolicking with local marine life. When you’re sailing, you never know what life is going to hand you next.
In our case, the next thing life handed us was bad weather. The sea conspired against us, intent on giving the four of us the full extent of her wrath. The waves were like street performers, juggling us like a ball on its crest.
I’m like a chameleon, blending into almost any environment. So, I turned a nice shade a sea-green. I also made up this little rhyme: “When it’s bumpy, Greg gets grumpy.” Greg didn’t like my poem. But then, poets are never appreciated properly until they’re dead.
When we finally arrived at Brac, we picked up a mooring ball. After a bumpy sail, we were anxious to get a good nights rest. That’s when I think someone (I suspect it was the Custom’s guy from Grand Cayman) switched the ocean into “surge” cycle. No one could sleep. We waited it out, lurching in the darkness until morning, when we met with Customs and Immigration.
The water was so tumultuous we couldn’t put the engine on the dinghy. Greg and I had to row into shore, fighting the waves and the currents. Then Customs sent us back to Scirocco with some tedious forms for Tom and Mike to sign. When we rowed back (the second time) Greg decided we weren’t going to do any more rowing in the horrible weather. So when the Custom’s Official asked Greg if we had a Hawaiian Sling, Greg lied. He said we didn’t have one. (The moral of this story just happens to be: never lie.)
Of course the Official didn’t believe Greg. (When you rarely lie, you are bad at it.) Customs wanted to inspect the boat. So on the row out there, with two Customs Agents crammed into the little dinghy, Greg admitted to having a Hawaiian Sling onboard Scirocco. When they boarded the boat, Greg gave the authorities the offending sling and a heartfelt apology. But they decided to search the boat anyway.
As far as I was concerned they could scrutinize Scirocco all day. The only “white powder” they were going to find was laundry detergent. After a half-hearted thirty-minute inspection, the Custom’s officers called off the hunt. The seas were too rough; they were about to be sick.
Tom, Mike and I had the best seats in the house to view what I can only describe as “The Big Splash.” We were watching from shore. One of the Customs Officials was “sort of” trying to get into the dinghy, but mostly struggling to stay on Scirocco. The sea was churning and heaving and Scirocco’s mast looked like it was trying to whip the clouds above it into froth.
Here’s the thing. When you get on an inflatable dinghy, you have to commit to it. You can’t have it both ways. You have to stay on the boat OR get in the dinghy. The Custom’s Official was sort of on the boat, then sort of in the dinghy and then he was on neither. (I guess you could say he was sort of in the water.)
Tom, Mike and I were hysterical. I was laughing so hard one might have thought I was in the middle of an epileptic fit. But it was only the beginning of the movie. Then the “big guy” tried to get into back into the dinghy. His body looked like a Sumo Wrestler’s (without the G-string diaper.) He couldn’t pull the massive bulk of his body aboard. He deposited his cellular phone (nice and wet) and radio (also soaked) into the dinghy. Finally, he flung his saturated “Customs Official” shirt in the dinghy and swam ashore.
Only, the “wet one” didn’t quite make it. He wasn’t a strong swimmer. To a shark, he would have looked like a fish in distress. To the three of us watching on shore, it looked like he was drowning. Greg maneuvered the dinghy, threw the guy a line, and pulled the Custom’s Officer into shore. The water-logged Customs guy dragged behind the dinghy like a fish in tow. Even worse, on the ride back to the Customs Office, they made the soggy fellow sit in the “trunk” portion of the van, so he wouldn’t ruin the upholstery.
Now Customs wanted to talk about penalties. Greg’s lie was going to cost him. They could send him to jail, if they wished. They let Greg squirm with that thought for a few minutes. I think the Customs Official that most liked the idea of Greg going to jail was the one dripping all over the floor. Greg’s freedom was finally purchased for $300 dollars and a letter of confession. I find it odd that the “fine” for not declaring the Hawaiian Sling was about the same amount of money that it would cost to replace one wet radio and one ruined cellular phone.
Having drenched a Custom’s Official, Greg became infamous. The locals knew our story even before we could tell it. We spent a total of four days in Cayman Brac. Two of them dealing with Customs, and two of them signing autographs for pushing the Custom’s guy off the boat (who said Greg pushed him?) We also sampled Brac’s incredible diving. And when we weren’t jumping into the water, we were jumping on top of it.
In front of Divi Tiara Dive Resort (one of two dive shops on the island) there is a trampoline in the middle of the sea. Nothing can make you lapse into juvenile silliness like a trampoline. Mike and I swam out, while Tom stood on the shore and captured our childish regression on film. Tom clicked away as I flew off the raft… “Super Cherie!” Mike did cart-wheels. We tried to bounce each other off the floaty-bouncy thing. We attempted everything from flips to “Flying Squirrels.” We even attempted tandem jumps that proved more painful than entertaining. I almost threw out my Brac!
Before we departed, we participated in the Brac tradition of painting your name on a rock, wall or tree. The front desk of the hotel armed us with paint-brushes that contained more paint than the cans they supplied us with. We picked a palm by the beach and wrote “Scirocco,” each of our names, and the date. Mike painted a picture of Scirocco (complete with a backwards sail) on the tree and added the important detail of a stick-figure Customs guy falling off the boat. Once Mike realized his error with the sail (“Why doesn’t this boat look right?”) he repainted the boat to face the other direction.
In the end, I think we left our mark on Brac in more than one way.
*All photos in this section were taken by Tom Lafleur.
Click on each picture to see it full size.
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