High Point

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Ready For The Ride Photo by Louis Cahill

Tim looks like he has swallowed his tongue.

He’s pale, eyes dilated, the corners of his mouth twitching. He’s soaked in sea water, eyes burning and red. His fingers digging into his seat bottom, he squints and stiffens like a corpse preparing for the next wave which drops the little skiff hard. It sounds like a car crash and sends another five gallons of water into our faces. Nothing, it appears will stop the next navy blue, six foot wave from hurdling over the bow. It’s a fraction of an inch from doing just that when the bow lifts. The wave seems to ride the bow up, hovering literally an eight of an inch from crashing over into the cockpit for a few seconds. And then the whole thing starts again. Norman Rolle, our guide stands stoic in the back of the boat, a buff bearing the Rio logo pulled up over his face all the way to his Smith wraparound sunglasses. His left hand is on the back of Tim’s seat, his right gently twisting the throttle of the outboard, accelerating up the waves then coasting down, steering us carefully through the cross currents and surf crashing into, and back from the wall of jagged rock that the Bahamians call High Point. High Point is one of the most inhospitable places I’ve ever seen. It juts into the Atlantic like a knife blade for a quarter mile, huge rough hewn boulders guarding it’s coast. It separates the inhabited northeast coast of South Andros Island from the wild and isolated south. It can only be passed on a fairly calm day, and today is not so calm.

Tim leans over to me and says nervously, “Jesus, this is bad”. I’m suddenly aware that I’m grinning and quite possibly looking a bit out of my mind. “Oh no” I tell him, “I’ve seen it much worse”. “I did this once when the whole boat came out of the water on every wave, no shit, the whole boat dry every wave, you could hear the prop singing in the air”. He didn’t seem at all consoled so I quickly decided to have some fun with him. “Do you know how a flats boat sinks?” I asked. He shook his head. “Well, you see”, I continued, “when the first wave comes over the bow, it scares the hell out of you, but you think you’re going to be ok…you’re not, once that first wave comes over you’re fucked. The boat can’t climb the next wave with all that water in it, so the next wave fills it, then the third wave flips it over and if you’re still in it you’re dead, so what you want to do is, when that first wave comes over, pitch the cooler, then get out after it. That way you have something to hang on to.” For a minute I honestly thought he might puke, mulling over the idea of fighting me and Norman for a place on the floating cooler, but by then we were through the worst of it and Tim was clearly relieved to not be staring at a wall of water every ten seconds. I didn’t see any need in telling him I was messing with him, nor did I see any profit in telling him I knew a guy who’s boat had gone down exactly like that. The color was coming back to his face and I knew he had the exhilarating feeling that he had done something remarkable, which he had.

The trip around High Point is just the morning drive to work for a South Andros flats guide. Norman has likely been doing it since he could walk. Is it dangerous? Probably. I’ve never heard of one of these guys sinking a boat but I’m sure it happens. My buddy Bruce has been a guide in the keys for over twenty years, and he hates it. I imagine he wouldn’t mind it, if he was driving. I feel the same way about motorcycles. I’ll drive mine a hundred and fifty miles an hour, but I won’t get on the back for a ride around the block with anyone else. For me, this sketchy ten minutes is my favorite part of the day. It’s the part that let’s me know that, this is not just another day. This is something special. Something to drink in. Something to take home, and hang on to for as long as possible. Three quarters of the earth is ocean and we huddle on the other quarter like sea gulls on the rocks. When you ride around High Point, you are dipping you’re toe into the real world. You’re getting just a taste of what planet Earth is really all about.

High Point is beautiful. The water is dark purple-blue and angry, full of barracuda and sharks. The rocks rise up like castle walls hiding most of the point from view. Waves sending spray high into the air. Sometimes, you can look down into the water and see the flash of huge schools of bonefish running around the point like silver confetti caught in the tide. There are a few abandoned buildings and a couple of palm trees. A line of deep water moorings and a concrete dock hang along the southern edge, rusting into the sea. If High Point was in the States there would be a huge mansion on it and Tom Cruse or somebody would live there and pay millions of dollars in hurricane insurance. The Bahamians know better and leave High Point to the sea. I’ve been told that it was the U.S. Navy who built the landing and buildings but apparently they gave up on it. Now, it’s on it’s way back to being wild, maybe not in my life time, but soon. After all, the sea gets what she wants. Today, I get what I want too. I ride a flats boat around the most beautiful place I know. I see an angry corner of the ocean. I feel the speed and power of some bonefish. I stroke their sleek silver sides and watch them swim away, wild and free, likely to never see another human. I stand on the bow with my toes curled over the edge, the sun on my back and the wind in my face. I stare at the flats and try to soak up the sea. The green and teal, gold and blue, the feel of the wind, the rocking of the boat under my feet, and the soft lyrical tone of my guides voice. “Hey buddy, bonefish comin’ eleven o’clock, point your rod for me”. I raise my rod, I find the fish…and I wish that this moment, could last forever.

 
Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
 
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3 thoughts on “High Point

  1. I’ve been on a couple of those rides and I probably felt more like your bud than you, but definately exhilarating.
    Thanks again for my Monday 1st read, always enjoyed.

    Wayne

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