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Thoughts . . .

Valentine's Day in the Caribbean

The Valentine by D. K. Christi

The little family sailed into St. John's harbor and dropped anchor. The boys lowered the anchor and managed the helm with no shouting, using efficient hand signals. Mel watched from below, where she foraged in the icebox for sandwich fixings. Their 40' ketch-rigged sailboat no longer beat against the wind, rocking and screaming in protest against their determination to reach a safe harbor before nightfall.

The sun moved slowly toward the horizon and set the mackerel sky awash with rose, orange and rich golden swaths of paint. The boys were anxious to pull the dink around and head for shore. They cleared Customs in St. Thomas, but they didn’t like Charlotte Amalie harbor with the huge cruise ships, commercial vessels and yachts so large they carried their own helicopters.

No, the peaceful harbor at St. John's even called to the boys who heard there would be fun ashore at little bistros and clubs. Their youthful exuberance was a joy to behold, channeled into danger and challenges at sea instead of fast cars and other equally dangerous interests on land. They were anxious to check for mail. I guess I will forget the food locker so we can head for shore. We can eat there, Mel decided easily.

The sail was so exciting they forgot to eat most of the day. Perry and Brian expected letters from young ladies at home since they were careful to send wordy valentines just before they left Miami. Mel waited for them to send their mail standing in the middle of the piled duffel bags full of the prescribed contents for their five-day cruise on a chartered yacht.

Arrival at St. Thomas had its discomforts. Mel reserved the hotel room with an island view, unseen and unknown. The climb up the “thousands” of steps leading to the hotel, dragging their duffels that gained pounds with every set of stone steps, was not expected.

Once they arrived, they had two rooms in a little cottage, one for Mel with a double bed and a second with a twin and bunks for the boys. They were too exhausted to care that the rooms were far from the luxurious accommodations pictured in the brochure.

Mel claimed the bath first and settled for a drizzly shower of water less than clear in a tub stained brown, but seeming clean. The towels were thin, but serviceable. Mel was grateful for a bed, glad the boys were in the same cottage, and left them to their own resources. She was bone weary and emotionally exhausted. This was the year from hell.

The next morning brought an unpleasant surprise: tiny red ants, the size of dust, but definitely moving, crawled in the bed and all over the room. They were everywhere. Mel emptied her duffel to be certain none had entered the clothing.

She called the boys who laughed heartily at her discomfiture. Please, please, let the boat be clean she begged to whatever spiritual force still governed her life. The rooms were pre-paid; they gathered their things and departed.

Fortunately, the trip down the steps was considerably easier than the arrival. The view was spectacular. Charlotte Amalie harbor spread out below with its diverse ships and small boats, ferryboats zipping from one place to another, the waves fanning out in a "V" behind them.

Red and orange hills were covered with bougainvillea and other tropical, flowering plants in vivid color with large, green fronds supporting delicate blooms. This was winter. How could spring and summer bring any more beauty? The sky was blue and clear; occasional puffs of cloud drifted by.

They stopped in a little restaurant for a great meal of scrambled eggs, cheese grits and sweet biscuits. The boys ate like it was their last meal. They were due at the dock by 9:00 a.m. and loaded into a jitney for their bumpy ride across the island to the harbor. Their jitney companions smiled and continued animated conversations.

Mel caught snatches; but for the most part, the conversations were in the rapid fire English that drops beginning and ending consonants. It sounded like English, yet she comprehended nothing. They smiled broad grins occasionally, lighting up their dark faces, some weathered and others with the bloom of youth. The young passengers carried their radios, island music calling to dancing feet and swaying bodies.

The excitement built as soon as the harbor came into view. The boys raced for the docks to find the yacht, The Muse. The name was a perfect fit. Mel planned to spend her free time writing, and certainly a muse was a good Companion.

Companion… If she thought about that word too long, tears filled the corners of her eyes. I will not let that happen, not today. Today I have an adventure to wash away the pain. Sailing was the best antidote she knew to take away the pain that buried itself in the recesses of the mind. Sailing required every ounce of energy and mind to catch the tiniest breeze or out sail a following sea. At the mercy of the elements, there was no time to cry, no time to dwell on events without resolution. At least, that was her hope and plan. If sailing was not enough, three teenagers would fill the bill.

A scruffy captain introduced himself and made certain they had proper documents. Stocky in build, braided, gray hair hung down his back. An untidy beard hid a weathered face and he was dressed in wrinkled shorts and shirt. His boat shoes had seen better days. He dropped his cigarette but on the dock and invited them aboard The Muse. He looked at Mel with some disdain as she showed him that, in fact, she had her six-pack license with a sail endorsement, sufficient to charter the yacht for family use; he was adamant that no passengers joined them.

He asked Mel how many hours she logged, and she assured him she had extensive powerboat experience and also sailed a 25-foot sailboat and a sunfish. He was definitely under whelmed. The boys piped in with their experience, too. He was still unimpressed.

"Okay. Let's have the boys take her out and see what they can do."

See D. K. Christi's books at Amazon.com, The Valentine, a 99 cent short read for "the rest of the story." Read More 
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