The delivery captain loosened up and had some stories about things. New Age mystics had commissioned him for a night trip, once, and he lost power, and a strange green light rose up around the boat. Then one time a low-flying Cessna headed for the south island fell out of the sky and disappeared below the waves in a blink.
We all needed to unwind after the crossing; holding tight in 8 to 10s in the stream built a collective nervous tension. The tables at the restaurant sat under a trellis on an open-air patio, and the breeze kicked up from the front that had hindered our cruise, sending napkins into the air.
Tim tried the ring toss game and stuck it on the first swing and the next few hours disappeared trying to find the balance between rum and hand-eye coordination.
Bonefish T pulled his skiff into a vacant slip behind the hotel and we stepped down onto the bow and he ran east into the sunrise, stopping on a flat intersected by mangrove islands.
Nothing brings insecurities to fore like standing on the bow of a flats skiff, especially with a head made weak from dehydration. Bonefish T found a school and turned his skiff and called out instruction. I lay down a cast and missed and awaited castigation.
“Pick it up and lay it down again, to the left,” T said calmly, and I did.
The line tightened up and I held the rod high and watched the backing peel off the reel. After a while T pulled the sleek metallic fish out of the water and handed it to me for a snapshot.
The delivery captain had some friends on a sportfisherman that made the crossing and he went to meet them. Jill wanted food first so the rest of us found an outside eatery and filled up on beer and cracked conch.
The server asked what brought us here.
“Bring a barracuda back for me tomorrow,” she said laughing in response.
The flats around the south island did have drug planes; the upturned tires of a flipped one exposed in the shallow water. T poled me in front of a small group of large cruisers and one bit and took me far into my backing and as I reeled it in the fish charged straight for the boat. A large lemon shark fell in behind it, ripping a wake.
Loosen the drag loosen the drag, T kept saying and I had no tension on my line but it still ended in a frothy explosion that carried the violence over a great distance.
The crew from the sportfisherman was at the Compleat Angler and they recognized us and we played Liar’s Poker for the rounds. Jill stuck her business card under the glass table surface with all the other cards and photographs (a permanent record that would disappear in the fire a year later).
We had a Chalk’s flight in the morning so Tim and Jill left early but I made one last stop at the hotel bar because you think about a trip for months and then you’re in the middle of it, and then you go to sleep and when you wake up, it’s in the past. And that feeling you get when the line comes tight starts to fade so you can barely remember it.