The Three-Hour Tour: Part One

*Daisha, The Bahamian Story-Teller, was my character study written for my writing group. Darren is also my character only written for this story. All of us introduced a character, with their own backstory. We each wrote a story using as many other people’s characters as we could. Stay tuned for Part Two of The Three Hour Tour.

“Come on, Daisha! Why won’t you marry me?” begs Darren as they pull away from the dock. He waited until they were going out to sea to bring up the subject. Daisha was known to walk away from personal confrontations in the past. He was taking no chances.

“Darren! You promised! I am marrying no one, do you hear me? If I did not need you to take me to Robert Cay for my aunt, I would jump off this boat! Now just do your job and leave off the proposals,” admonished Daisha for the umpteenth time since she met Darren. He was a sweetheart, but marriage was not on her mind at this point in her life. He knew that, but yet he pushed.

“Ah, well. You can’t blame me” Darren said as he deftly maneuvered the tour boat out into the lane. “I had to make my move before I picked up the tourists from the pier. I won’t have a moment alone with you after that,” he winked his dark eye at her as he looked over his muscular mahogany shoulder.

Daisha smiled in spite of herself and decided that Darren was an incorrigible flirt. She would have him no other way. Since being childhood friends and much in each other’s company, it was difficult to switch off the friend mode and switch on a potential love interest for her, even from Darren.

They rode the gentle waves toward the pier where his passengers would be. His Island Tour business was taking off in a big way since he hired that agent to market for him. Some of his fares did not look the tourist type, but it paid the bills and then some when they had a mind to tip well.

“Swing out the line, Daisha while I snug her up to the dock,” ordered Darren. “Aye, aye, Captain!” Daisha merrily called back and threw out the rope before she jumped to the dock to tie it up for embarkation. “I swear you’re a better sailor than my regular crew. Are you sure you won’t marry me?” Darren teased one more time. Daisha shook her head at his insistence.

“Welcome aboard the Damsel, ladies, and gentlemen! My First Mate will collect your tickets and help you get settled. Watch your step. That’s right. Yes, ma’am, the lady’s room is below deck.” Darren answered as eight paying tourists stepped aboard for the Three Hour Tour of the Exuma Cays his agent booked for him. Today was shaping up to be a profitable venture.

“Miss? My wife, Gertrude, needs the lady’s room. She is not feeling well.” requested the thick-built middle-aged gentleman for the woman at his side. She had a green cast to her pale complexion as she hung limply on his arm. “Yes, of course. Mr. and Mrs. Rodriguez?” At his nod, Diasha took the woman below murmuring soothing words of comfort.

“We are newly married!” Mr. Rodriguez announced to his shipmates close by. A man in a gray pin-stripe suit looked up from his i-phone to incline his head in acknowledgment. The woman seated near him smiled and nodded her head. Rodriguez was intrigued with her tattoos and spiky hair. Young people these days, he thought and began to explore the deck scouting out a cozy, quiet spot for himself and Gertrude when she returned.

“The wind seems to be picking up,” observed a woman with a pixie face and short dark hair near the stern. Another passenger walked up to the rail beside her and looked down at the water.

“Water has a greasy look. “ppears like a storm’s a’comin’,” she said. The older sun-tanned woman held out her hand, “My name’s May Belle. What’s yours?” The pixie woman turned to take her hand and replied, “Name’s Megan, Megan Holly. This is my first time in the Caribbean. How about you?”

“Oh, I’ve been a few times, when my boys took me along with their families. I’m here to meet up with one of ’em, but they won’t be here ’til tomorrow. Thought I’d take a ride around the islands without them grandkids pulling me this way and that. They’re a handful, they are. Bless their souls,” she smiled as she said it while looking out over the water. Megan nodded her head and grinned at the picture May Belle had painted of her family. Both women seemed happy just to feel the sun and wind on their faces.

Daisha returned with Gertrude and guided her to where Mr. Rodriguez was waiting for her. He gently assisted his new wife onto a comfortable bench out of the wind, sun, and away from people. They set up their belongings so that they could have space for themselves for the duration of the tour.

“Miss! My name is Adam Patterson. Here’s my ticket,” he said as he handed the card to Daisha. “I wondered if you were giving a running narrative of the tour we have embarked on or are you only the First Mate?” teased Adam as he dimpled his cheek and leaned back against the bulkhead near the stairs. Daisha knew his kind. Rich, handsome, and knows it. He was a paying customer though, and she was helping Darren today, not fending off would-be admirers at the Straw Market.

“The captain will be guiding you all on this trip. He grew up on the ocean and knows these cays like the back of his hand. I’m sure his “running narrative” will satisfy your curiosity about the area. Excuse me. I must see to the other passengers,” she said in her lilting voice as she brushed past him to speak to the ladies leaning on the rail. Adam watched her go and talk to each person as she collected their tickets. He admired her hips swaying in rhythm with the boat.

“Sir? May I have your ticket?” asked Daisha as the man handed his ticket to her. “Saul Pender,” she read on the small piece of cardstock, “Welcome aboard, Mr. Pender. If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask,” she said as she stepped back toward the center of the deck where the passengers had gathered.

“My name is Daisha, and this is Capt. Darren. Welcome to The Damsel’s three-hour tour of the Exuma Cays. We will be serving some light refreshments in an hour. You are free to walk about the deck or go below to the lavatory if you need. The captain will be telling you all about the islands after we get out to sea.” Daisha turned to walk up to Darren at the helm. The passengers found a spot to watch the departing land or chat with their neighbor as the little boat plied the water to begin their journey.

Darren scanned the horizon as he carefully navigated the smaller tour boat around the larger cruise ships docked in Nassau harbor. He had done this many times before but was always alert for danger. He picked up the radio handset and pressed the side button to alert the harbormaster of his departure.

“Do you smell that? I bet that storm near Puerto Rico is heading this way,” predicted Darren. “Check the scanner and see what they’re saying about the weather, will ya?” Daisha opened the scanner and looked over the forecast. “Darren, they’re saying it’s already turned and heading for us. Maybe three days tops. We may see some rain soon, even if it is a small storm. Should we head back?” she worriedly asked.

“No. I think we will be fine. Alert the passengers we may run into a spell of rain, but it shouldn’t be much. Is it about time to bring out the refreshments? Let’s do that now in case it gets a bit rough out in deep water,” advised Darren.

Daisha left to take care of the people scattered across the deck enjoying their ride. “Ms. Davis? Ms. Severino? Would you like a drink or something to eat? I have a small buffet and bar set up near the stern if you would like to join the others,” offered Daisha as she gathered the people near the back of the boat for a bite to eat.

“All the “Ms” stuff is so formal. Just call us Eleanor and Kate,” said Eleanor as she looked at the tall, lean woman at her side for confirmation. “Yes! Please do,” agreed Kate as they walked to where everyone was gathering.

Mr. Pender strolled from the bow where he was examining the boats at anchor to the stern to pour a drink at the bar. He glanced at the other passengers and dismissed them for the moment from his mind. In another hour they would be near Robert Cay. His associates would rendezvous with the boat. He would pass on the message, and no one would be the wiser. He would be home in time for Betsy’s birthday party. This would finally be his last paycheck. He would be free. Nothing could go wrong now.

The waves were getting choppy, and the wind had freshened. In the distance, you could see rain off the bow. They were heading right for it, but it would take a while. Darren glanced at his watch. He calculated the time remaining for the tour and the approximate ETA of the heavy weather he saw. They would be heading back to the harbor before it hit. He timed it well.

Megan chatted with Adam near the starboard railing. “I get a kick out of all those high school kids. They may think I’m an old fogy, but I’d take a bullet for any one of them,” she reminisced as Adam plied his charm on this seemingly unsuspecting female. She wore a gold chain with a diamond charm and a key around her slender neck. Old habits die hard as he scoped out his fellow passengers for something worth pilfering. Only for fun, of course.

“He keeps eyeing the charm Nan gave me,” thought Megan as she chatted and joked with this too-handsome fellow she just met. Her senses were alert. Her nose twitched at his expensive cologne. What is this man, who’s obviously slumming, doing with us peons on a boat like this? This guy bore careful observation.

“Mr. Rodriguez, is your wife feeling better?” asked Eleanor when he approached the buffet. “Please call me HR. She is a little better. I’ll see if she can take some food now,” he said as he placed choice bits on a plate. “I am admiring your body art. Is it all done by the same person?” HR inquired.

“Yes. My brother did these. He is quite talented and in demand now. He did all these before he became famous,” she said with a little laugh, “if I want one now, I have to make an appointment!” She chuckled at the thought. HR laughed with her then carried the plate to his waiting wife.

“I really like that Tree of Life,” Kate admired as she pointed to Eleanor’s right shoulder. “I have not dared to get any kind of tattoo. Too squeamish about needles,” she wrinkled her nose as she took a long drink of water and sat down on a nearby bench. The boat seemed to be rocking more she thought.

“What brings you to the islands, Mr. Patterson? Do you have a home here?” asked May Belle of the handsome man watching Megan intently. For all his charm, he seemed a bit predatory, like a hawk spying a tasty rabbit. He’s bitten off more than he can chew if she hasn’t missed her guess. Megan Holly is no fool.

Adam looked up at the sound of his name. The little country-sounding woman asked him if he lived in the Bahamas. “No, ma’am. I don’t have a home here, but my family has been here many times,” he smoothly answered. She doesn’t move in my circles so she can’t know people who know me, he thought and went back to concentrating on Megan and her necklace.

“I thought you looked familiar when you got on board. Are you Richard Patterson’s son?” May Belle inquired.

“Yes. I am Richard Patterson’s son,” Adam warily said. “Do you know my family?”

“I met Richard years ago at a party on Musha Cay that David Copperfield was hosting. Susan is such a dear. I had heard you joined the firm. Your parents are awfully proud of you.” murmured May Belle as she sipped her drink.

Adam excused himself from Megan and sidled up to the older woman. “I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure. My name is Adam, and your name is…?” he asked. What does this woman know about him? She might just take the fun out of this pleasure cruise.

“My name is May Belle,” she chuckled at his discomfiture, “I can see the wheels a’turnin’, Mr. Patterson. You’re wonderin’ how a woman like me could know your family much less attend a high-society social engagement.”

“I mean no disrespect, ma’am. My parents have never mentioned you to my knowledge. Did you work for them in some capacity?” he fished as he wracked his brain as to how this woman could be involved with the Patterson family, preeminent Chicago lawyers.

“Mercy no, Mr. Patterson. My Alvie was a contractor in Ocala. We met your parents at a Topping-Out Ceremony for The Villages just south of there. Your father was the lawyer for the main investors of that planned city. My Alvie was the builder.” she explained.

“Your husband is Alverson James? Why he’s famous! His company has built half of central Florida.” exclaimed Adam, clearly impressed.

“That’s mostly my boys now. They took over when Alvie got sick. He passed last year. Now my boys run the business,” a shadow passed over her face as she remembered those hard days. She missed him still, but without her family-grandchildren and all- she didn’t know what she’d do.

Adam sat there still a bit stunned at how small the world was. He needed a drink. What was he doing? First, he was considering lifting a trifling necklace from someone he barely knew. A person he might even like. Now this woman, like a ghost from his past, shows him how looks can deceive. He had some serious thinking to do.

Daisha looked at the scanner again. Hurricane Beryl was still on track to hit the Bahamas in a few days. The passengers were getting to know one another and enjoyed the buffet she laid out. Now they were milling around looking at the sights Darren was pointing out over the loudspeaker. She looked up at the sky and noted the clouds off the bow. This didn’t appear as a positive sign.

“Darren? What do you think of that bank of clouds up ahead?” she asked when Darren had taken a break from his tour duties. “That looks pretty ominous to me.”

Darren studied the horizon. He looked at the scanner again then back at the sky. “Daisha, do exactly as I tell you. Get out the life jackets and get the passengers buckled in. We’re heading for a squall, and there’s no way out. I’ve got to send a distress signal.” He turned to secure the below-deck hatch and then get the radio handset.

Daisha stood there a moment. What did Darren just say? “Go Daisha!” Darren yelled. She sprang into action opening the sea chest that held the life jackets. “People! Get over here now!” she called, “We must all put on our life jackets. We are heading into a storm,” she saw them hesitate, “Put your life jackets on!” she commanded. They all began to gather around her to get a jacket.

“What’s going on? Why do we need this? I don’t see a storm.” everyone was speaking at once, but thankfully they were putting on the jackets as she asked them to do. The wind was picking up, but she knew the worst was yet to come.

Darren saw that she was helping the passengers. He turned to the radio and pushed the distress button and held it for the required 3 seconds. Now the authorities will be able to find them since it transmits a signal every few minutes of the boat’s location. He turned the dial to channel 16 then picked up the handset and pressed the side button to speak. “MAYDAY< MAYDAY< MAYDAY- This is the Damsel 549- MAYDAY- We are at 23°37′.34″N 75°58’10.37″W near Jim Cay- We are heading into a squall and need assistance- seaworthy for the next 10 minutes- 10 passengers- We will be listening on channel 16- This is the Damsel 549- Over,” Darren waited for an answer but knew it would be chancy at best.

Daisha handed Darren a life jacket. “Are the passengers strapped in? You strap yourself in. I’ll man the radio,” he commanded as he strapped himself in the jacket and hooked it to the helm bracket with the attached cord. He sent the distress call again and braced himself for the storm that was now upon them.

Daisha had made sure everyone was strapped in near the center of the boat using the attached cords and deck brackets under the middle benches. Everyone held on and to each other as the rain and wind pelted the deck and rocked the boat like an exuberant toddler’s toy in a bathtub. The wind and waves carried the small craft up where it was held suspended in the air for an incredible moment only to crash down into a trough as deep as they had been high just seconds before. Water splashed the already soaking wet travelers. They were jostled to and fro, banging into each other and the columns that once held the deck canopy, now long gone. With a final heavy sigh of the waves and a jerking halt to the boat, the storm passed.

A squall only lasts a minute or two, but to those in the midst of it, it seems like a lifetime. The boat had stopped rocking. In fact, it stopped moving at all and was listing to the starboard side. The rain was dying down. It was just a light shower compared to only moments before. The people were still strapped to each other and the boat deck was coming out of their storm-induced stupor.

Darren let go of the radio handset and stumbled to his feet. He looked around and marveled at the site. The others were unhooking their cords, and a few were coming to their feet. The deck was slippery and leaning over so that walking was arduous without holding on to something to keep you upright. Darren put his arm around Daisha as they stood at the rail and looked off the side of the boat. They had run aground, beached, shipwrecked on Jim Cay. The Three Hour Tour was over.

Stay-Tuned for Part Two of the Three Hour Tour

~ Pixbay terimakasih0 / 978 images

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