Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The captain of our Buck Island tour was a man named Llewellyn Westerman. Everyone knows Captain Llew. Originally from St. Nevis, he’s now an institution on St. Croix -- an old-fashioned sailor. Llew’s 37-foot trimaran has no engine. Not even the dinghy. Doesn’t slow him down a bit. His gray beard and mentioning of his five adult children tell you he's 65 years old, but if you saw him work those sails or scuttle that rowboat, you’d guess he was half his age.

How long has he been sailing?, I ask. One of our passengers answers for him: The man came out of the womb with a tiller in his hand.

Captain Llew doesn’t say much. I hope to hear some old gob-speak. Topsails and mainsails. Steady as she goes. Prepare to come about. Listing to starboard. Port bow, man overboard. St. Elmo’s Fire.

But he stoically mans the boat as the others provide the details. Bernie the Attorney tells us how one day back in the ‘60s, some drunken sailors got tired of going around the coral reef surrounding the inlet, went out there with some dynamite and blew up a big hole. It’s illegal to damage the coral -- if those guys did that today they’d be locked up. But at least now there’s a doorway to go out to sea.

“That’s right,” Llewellyn says as he steers us toward the opening.

We stopped off at another reef for a little snorkeling -- saw lots of the same fish (blue tangs, parrotfish, snapper) as the reef near the hotel, but how can you get tired of that?

Then we went to a beach at Buck Island. The first pure sand beach I’ve seen out here. Most of them are rocky and full of coral. We laid out, went for a swim, and then dried off on the boat as Bernie played some Dylan and Stones tunes on his guitar.

Heading back, I offered again to lend LLew a hand -- did he need help pulling the anchor? Unfurling a sail?

Our fearless captain dashed up and down the boat, saying, “Man, by the time I explain what needs to be done...”

He didn’t need to finish the sentence. We were already off, heading back home. I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.


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