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Marriage in a Storm

Lila and Rubin were from the suburbs of Washington D.C. and they both worked for the Government.  Rubin was the right-hand man of a governor whose star was rising. Rubin was tall, lean with a friendly grin.   He was sincere in believing that government could and should work for the people. Lila was short and shapely with a pretty face and neatly-coiffed blond hair.

Lila was stressed.  As an important official in the NEA, she had just been through the wringer.  Now she didn’t even know whether she’d have a job when she came back to Washington. She had gone to bat in support of artistic freedom for artists that were receiving federal monies. A big show which was meant to demonstrate the cultural benefits of government funding  backfired when one of the exhibits, unveiled for the first time, turned out to be a detailed, lifelike portrayal of the leather handle of a bull whip stuck half way up what in a fish would be called a cloacae.  Frisky, to say the least.

The artist managed to make his name a household word—or epithet—by betraying the NEA which had funded him.  Money for art is always a slippery bet, under the best of conditions.  This episode gave conservatives a sand packed bull pissle with which to flog the NEA.

She and Rubin decided to get out of DC for a vacation and to get married.  Actually it wasn’t quite so impulsive.  For some years, they had wanted to be together but they each was divorced with teenagers at home who were upset at the breakup of their family. Bringing a new spouse and instant siblings into the picture would only exacerbate the confusion and hurt, so Lila and Rubin decided to wait til the youngest was in college…and now, the time was come.

They had a wonderful daysail to New Found Bay on St. John’s windward coast.  We picked out the edge of the barrier reef and glided into the calm beyond it, dropping our sails, then our anchor in a bowl of water that sparkled just like a swimming pool.  It shimmered with sunlight, the turtles came up to breathe with audible gasps, a pair of boobies soared high above then skimmed low over the water, reflecting the blue of the cove on their pristine white bellies. 

In short, it was choice and they decided on the way back to Coral Bay that New Found would be the perfect place for their marriage. They wanted a sunset wedding and afterwards we would sail by the light of the silvery moon in a roundabout fashion back to port.  They would just like to lie in each other’s arms on the cabin top and gaze deeply at the moon.

It was a good plan—but like many a good plan, it sank upon deployment.
The weather looked dubious as we set out.  Once past the headland of Fort Berg, a steady gust found us and stripped the petals off the flowers my wife had tied in the rigging.  Blown petals in the wind were shortly followed by spray.  Clouds obscured the sun.  Dorothy, in sotto voce, suggested to me that Hurricane Hole might be a better destination given the weather if we didn’t want to wind up with a sea sick bride.

So we altered course, bride and groom, to head for one of the most protected spots on the island, or for that matter in the eastern Caribbean.  We eased into a landlocked cove where the wind stopped and all about was the verdant green of mangroves thick and flourishing on the shore.  It was like being miles up a river. 

I had a quarter-bottle of fine rum, expensive stuff and good—I believe it was Brabancourt 5 star from Haiti.   Rubin had a nose for rum, so we had a prenuptial snifter.  Then up on the foredeck, with the flute clear and melodious, the couple was married by our local Anne Marie just round sunset.  An honor guard of pelicans saluted the kiss with their tightly bunched splashes—a fulsome sound, crisp feather bombs in a ragged salvo.  A school of brazen mangrove snappers boiled amongst the mangrove roots.  As the kiss ended, I popped the cork to a bottle of good champagne and we all had a glass.  That was the good part.

“Let’s sail!" said Rubin.  "Is the moon up yet?"  

"It is overhead," said I dubiously.  I looked overhead to where the moon should be.  As I watched, a black cloud expunged the dim light like a wet eraser on a chalkboard.  A low thrumming came from the shrouds as a gust of wind put the trees ashore into chattering motion.  Like it or not, we had to set sail to get home that night. We handed out our foul weather gear, stowed the newlyweds on the cabin top where they sat entwined, and took off.

Thee visibility was terrible. The sky was black.  Immediately beyond the headland, the wind whipped it to the boat; 25 tons of it heeled over rail in the water then tore across the sea.  Another squall was bearing down on us, one after another.  It felt like we were being enveloped by a black hole.  Suddenly the lights of land blinked and went out, the squall blocking them from view. 

We were in complete blackness.  Johnson’s Reef was up ahead approaching fast, Turner Point behind us.  The squall moderated and I could spot land’s lights, then it was on again, the boat reeling to punches from the steep seas.  We couldn’t come about so we jibed, the boom flinging past over our skulls.  That night had the worst weather of the winter, squalls that beat the boat to her knees.  In the cockpit, I was sweating bullets and I heard the flute player praying out loud.  My wife was steady as a rock, poised to spring at anything that needed doing.

Through it all, the couple exclaimed, "Great sailing."  “I think I see a star," or, "This water is actually quite warm," when the rain pelted down.  

As we entered Coral Bay, the worst squall yet blasted the bow away from the mooring…Dorothy and our terrific crew immediately dropped the big Bruce and paid out scope and the good tenacious sand and mud of Coral Bay saved us…at last.

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