great isaac light

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Chapter 1

Submitted: June 12, 2019

Reads: 99

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Submitted: June 12, 2019







The 66-foot Viking sport fishing boat, Great White, ignored the slight undulations of the ocean as it cruised west at a leisurely 15 knots. At night, it is prudent to reduce speed because all manner of flotsam and jetsam can punch a hole in your expensive hull. In two hours, it would clear the cut at Gun Key and head up to make a dawn landfall at Bimini. In the fore-ward cabin, Magdalena Garancha cracked the cabin door open so she could hear the charter guest’s conversation going on in the master stateroom. She had joined the boat in Nassau as a stewardess. Actually, she cooked breakfast, prepared and served the drinks, and made the beds. The leader of the charter party was speaking Arabic to his two companions. The buzz of the satellite phone stopped the conversation. Uqbah, the group leader, grabbed the phone, listened, and then spoke, “Wa alaikum as-salaam.”

He nodded and then shook his head side-to-side violently. Punching the phone off, he threw it onto his bunk. In Arabic, he said, “Mother and father, that maha. Our little stewardess is a spy. My people are not sure who she works for, it doesnt matter. Tonight she will die. We must be careful to not alert the captain or mate. Nazem, go to her cabin and knock her out. When we arrive in Bimini, we will say she got drunk and passed out. Then I will personally drown her. If you want,, you can enjoy her before we arrive.

Magdalena shut and locked the door. He called her maha, a wild cow. That was one of many things he would have to pay for. She grabbed a small backpack with her passport, money, cell phone, and crawled out the hatch above the bunk. She pushed it closed, and eased to the side of the boat. The mate was at the helm on the fly-bridge looking at the instrument panel and didn’t see her as she sprang from the deck in a shallow dive. The shock of hitting the water knocked her semi-conscious, but she managed to keep from sinking. When her eyes could focus, the stern mounted white light was just visible, as if it were a star right at the horizon as Great White motored on.

The shock of slamming into the water tore the backpack from her. Not fully recovered, she tread water and slowly rotated. There was nothing but ocean and sky. She was alone and helpless in the thousands of square miles of the Great Bahama Bank. After several deep breaths and with an easy kick, she stretched out and floated on her back, looking up at the light show of The Milky Way as it coursed though the sky like a current—so beautiful—so remote. She sighted the North Star and began swimming towards it with an easy sidestroke motion. She would swim until her energy was gone. It would be a more peaceful death than she could have expected in the violent places where she normally lived.


I guess my troubles began off Great Isaac Light. It used to flash regularly giving comfort to mariners transiting the southern side of Northwest Providence Channel, but, like so many services in The Bahamas, it is slowly crumbling from neglect. A few days before, my buddy Gonzo and I sailed my forty two-foot yawl, Antigone, into Bimini to drink a few beers. We’d escaped from the bars in Key West, but it would have been foolish to just sail by Bimini. Alice Town, which takes up most of the island, is a place that is fun for three days maximum. At the end of the second day, Gonzo had a fine looking red head attached to him. The contrast of her glaringly white and his dark chocolate skin made even the locals give them a long glance.

I hadn’t expected Gonzo to come back to the boat. He didn’t show up for morning coffee. He didn’t show up for lunch. Finally, he arrived with the red head as I was stretched out in the cockpit having a sundowner. He’d volunteered to show this fine lady the Bahamas so he came to claim his meager belongings. I wondered what story he was working, but he didn’t really need a story, he just did it for his own amusement. I’d miss his company, but now that we were in the Bahamas I could sail alone. I don’t like to make long passages single-handed, but here the next island was a day’s sail away. In case Gonzo changed his mind, I waited another day, but he didn’t come so early the next morning I slipped out of the harbor bound for Great Stirrup Cay.

Antigone likes being at sea; she had a happy motion as we sailed north. About midday, just rounding the hunk of rock that supports Great Isaac light I saw a bright colored heap on what looked like a raft. When I checked out the heap with binoculars, it looked like it moved. Curiosity is a prime mover, but at sea if something doesn’t look right it’s usually proper to check it out, except for the times that it’s a really dumb idea. You never know. Someone had put a mooring buoy in near the lighthouse so I didn’t have go through the anchoring drill. Probably a tour operator out of Bimini—the place was supposed to be haunted. Any respectable lighthouse should be haunted. No one was using the buoy so I tied up, launched the dinghy, and rowed to the raft. As I got close, the heap moved again. I grabbed the raft and the heap raised its head. It was female and it groaned.

The raft looked like it was made from a regular storage pallet with extra wood nailed on top and some rigid foam shoved underneath for flotation. I pulled off the yellow and blue tarp that first caught my eye and there was a small woman who was in bad shape—sun burned, scraped, and seriously dehydrated. She wasn’t coherent, but I didn’t think it was from drinking in Bimini. Fortunately, she was small so I could ease her into the dinghy without causing her any further damage. She groaned and her eyelids fluttered, but didn’t open. I rowed back to Antigone and lifted her aboard. It was easy to lower her into the cabin because she didn’t weigh much more than a hundred pounds. Her pulse was light and rapid, she needed water immediately. There was an enema bag in the first aid kit because a nurse friend of mine recommended it as a way to re-hydrate seasick crew. I grabbed the bag, filled it with bottled water from the abandon ship kit, and poured in some Gatorade for the electrolytes; it couldn’t hurt. I pulled off her clothes and covered her with some water soaked towels to reduce her temperature.

After rolling her onto her left side, I grabbed some Vaseline for a lubricant. Although she probably couldn’t hear me, I apologized because we hadn’t even been formally introduced and I was about to shove a tube up her butt. She moaned as the tube went in, but didn’t move—so far so good, but now what? She needed real medical attention soon, but I couldn’t leave her unattended to sail the boat back to Bimini. Then she’d have to go stateside for real care. Without money and a passport that might not happen. Folks in not much worse shape than she was in have died. I kept the towels wet and rinsed her face with fresh water. Salt had caked her eyelids shut and when they were clean she opened her eyes. Her stare was blank.

I said, “Hello.”

She might have smiled and then closed her eyes. Her pulse had slowed and was stronger. I finally got a chance to look at her. She had certainly been pretty and with luck might be again.

I was hungry so I warmed some soup and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. How did anyone go to sea before peanut butter was invented? She ‘umm’d’ instead of moaned which seemed to be a good sign. I swallowed my meal quickly and figured while she was still out it was time to have my way with her. I broke out the peroxide, triple antibiotic cream, honey, aloe, and gauze wipes. Water softened the scabs and peroxide cleaned the fresh scratches. The cream went on the few cuts that looked suspicious, the aloe on the sunburn, and the honey on the clean cuts. It was now too late to go back to Bimini so I got the anchor light ready and pulled the dinghy back on deck. It might seem isolated where we were, but dinghies have a magical way of disappearing in the Bahamas.

Her skin felt cool and her breathing was regular so I figured she would make it. I eased the enema tube out and she ‘umm’d’, but didn’t wake up. After dressing her in a dry t-shirt, that fit her like a dress, I put her in the starboard bunk in the main cabin. I took the port side so I could hear her if things went bad. She was sleeping quietly. I went on deck and watched the last light fade in the west, drank some rum, and wondered what tale she would have to tell. There is a theory that the reason to go to sea is to generate good stories. This little episode should provide a few decent tales. I fell asleep before the moon was up.

My eyes slammed open well after dawn. I was wet from dew and stiff from the cool night air. It took a moment to remember that there was a patient below. She was sitting with her knees drawn up. The t-shirt covered her like a tent.

She asked, “Water, please.”

I gave her a bottle from the over-board kit and told her to drink it slowly.

“I know.”

I grabbed a can of chicken broth and lit the stove. My nurse friend said chicken broth cured more things than antibiotics.

She said, “You must be my angel.”

“That would be a first.”

“What day is it?”

“Excellent question . . . I think it’s Monday.”

“Which one?”

“Probably the twenty-ninth.”

“Oh god, which month?”


“Thank god.”

“You’ve really lost track of time. Do you have an appointment somewhere?


The broth was warm so I gave her a cup and she sipped it, her lips curving into a hint of a smile. She held the cup in both hands looking like a content little girl.

She raised her eyes to me and said, “Thank you.”


“Where are we?”

“Just off Great Isaac light.”


 “When you feel a little stronger, I’ll get you to Bimini.”

“I can not go there.”


“It is going to take a little time for me to think clearly. Is that all right?”

“My schedule is open.”

“You want to know what is going on, but I can not talk about it right now.”

“We’re on island time, it would be improper to rush.”

“Thank you.”


A horn blasted just off the transom.

“Mon, you onna private buoy, I need dat buoy now!”

The guy driving the boat was not smiling. The semi-sun burned passengers stared at me with a you-are-ruining-our-holiday look.

“Sorry friend, it’ll just take a minute to get underway.”

I got the engine started, pulled the mooring line, and backed away as the little tour boat nudged in giving me no maneuvering room—so much for friendly natives on island time. The passengers were still displeased with me.

I smiled, waved, and yelled out, “The ghosts left two days ago. They got tired of stupid tourists.”

I called down to my patient, “I was on my way to Great Stirrup Cay. Is that okay?”

“Yes, please, thank you.”

There was a nice southeasterly breeze so I raised sail and set off for Stirrup. The reason I had a yawl, with its little mizzenmast set way aft, is they are easy to trim sails to hold a course without always steering. Antigone was calmly heading east without me constantly fussing with trim and helm. My patient had refilled her cup and was nodding and jerking awake.

“How do you feel?”

“Pretty good. I am sleepy, is that all right?”

“Sure, just let me feel your pulse.”

It was strong and steady. She was doing much better than I would have guessed.

“What’s your name?”


“Do you like Magda or Lena better?”

“Mama called me Magda and Papa called me Lena.”

“Did that confuse you?”

“No, I always knew who I was.”

I made up the port berth for her and rigged a lee cloth to hold her in if something like a ship’s wake rolled the boat. She smiled and closed her eyes. I grabbed a beer and went up to keep watch and wonder at the strangeness of things. What had I gotten myself into this time?


The huge, grotesque cruise ship was pulling away from the beach at Great Stirrup as we arrived. The cruise company had purchased the island so the passengers could have a real island experience without having to deal with the discomforts of a real island. I eased Antigone through a passage that led behind the island and into a quiet cove that few sailors used or even knew about. I’d stopped there a few times because it is my fantasy of the perfect little tropical anchorage—quiet, isolated, with the occasional squalling seagull for atmosphere. Water so clear it seemed invisible. But nothing lasts. The cruise ship company had decided to build a Disney-eske amusement center and there were cranes and heavy equipment moving dirt to improve paradise for its intrepid passengers.

After the anchor was in and settled, a kid came roaring up in a skiff and stopped just short of us. Antigone rolled slightly to the wake the kid had made. He yelled out that this was private property and we couldn’t anchor here. We had to move now. I said that you couldn’t own the water in the Bahamas; it’s open to all and to go back and tell his boss that we’d be gone in the morning. The kid seemed insulted and roared off getting several seagulls to take wing and complain at such an unnecessary disturbance.

Lena came on deck and brought me a beer. This woman was psychic.

“Is everything good?”

“Yes, the corporation just sent its regards and hoped that we would have a nice stay.”

“That was thoughtful of them.”

“Yes, they are welcoming.”

I rigged the awning and a little breeze cooled the cockpit.

“I feel pretty good.”

“You’ve recovered quickly, more quickly than I figured.”

“You are a good doctor . . . I must ask you something. I found some kind of goo on my bottom.”

“Yah, well, you needed water and the only way to get it into you was an enema. The goo was some Vaseline to make it easier.”


“I did apologize first.”

“That was kind of you. So you know much about me now.”

“ Only some of the outside stuff.”

“Yes . . . I do not know how to tell you my situation, but I will try if you give me a little time. And I need to make a telephone call. Is that possible?

“There’s no cell coverage here, but we can get to a phone in a day’s sail from here.”

“I can wait a day.”

“Good, I want to get to Spanish Wells anyway and you can make a call there. Your accent isn’t from New Jersey.”

She laughed, “No, I am from Latvia.”


“You know Latvia?”

“No, I just like to read maps.”

She smiled. It was a DaVinci kind of smile—you knew there was some mystery behind the smile and it probably meant more than one thing.

I mounted the grill on the life rail and prepped the pork chops I was saving for a special occasion. Some rice pilaf and a good salad with a bottle of chardonnay aught to make a meal.

“What is your name?”

“Most folks call me Hap, short for Happy.”

“Are you happy?”

“Mostly, except when I’m not, but that usually doesn’t last long.”

“Captain Happy. I thought most captains were serious.”

“Sailing for a living is a silly thing to do so I figure I might as well have fun doing it.”

“Silly—it seems kind of dangerous.”

“Doing something dangerous for a living is silly.”

“Is not dangerous sometimes necessary and then it is not so silly?”

“Maybe. I’ve got to go below and turn off the pilaf, would you flip the chops in a couple of minutes?”

“Of course.”

The pilaf was fluffy, the chops moist, and the wine chilled just enough. We sat silent as the sun went down. She had let me know that what ever she was into was probably dangerous and was worth it to her. There had to be a lot more happening out there than just an abandoned woman on a raft. Eventually, it would come out.




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