We had come 38 miles from Lowe Sound to Rudy's creek and it was an easy run, but the trip back, plugging into the wind, was as rough as Rudy had predicted. When the pounding became excessive Frank grabbed the bowline and stood spread-eagle in Bill's Whaler, riding it as if it were a chariot. I followed suit. The reward was a drenching from waves soaring over the bow, but in standing up we transferred the strain from our kidneys to our legs, making the ride more fun and infinitely more endurable. Until Bill's Whaler ran out of gas.
We were still on the west side of Andros with a long way to go. It would be dark soon. The sun was an apricot so near to dipping into the sea that you could stare right into it. Rudy checked and found that he, too, was low on gas. He said with extra weight he could not make it more than a mile down the east side. Nevertheless, he insisted everyone transfer to his boat and had Bill anchor the other.
"What will we do when you run out of gas?" Bill asked.
"I pole us in," said Rudy, simple as that.
And he did, too, with some help from us he did not really need. We could barely see the lights at Lowe Sound when the gas finally ran out. It took three more hours to pole in. The tide was out, and we frequently scraped bottom, stirring up sparkles of phosphorus. It was a chilly, moonless night, dark as the inside of a trunk, except for the stars and those twinkling disturbances under the waves. For Frank and me it was especially cold because we had saturated ourselves playing rodeo.
Rudy's daddy was concerned about us. He had built a huge fire on the beach and, with the impressive Mrs. Knowles looming beside him, was feeding it palm fronds when we poled into the dock. In minutes Rudy had filled the tank and was speeding us around Money Point to the Queen B, anchored at Morgan's Bluff. We were three hours past rendezvous and the others were relieved to see that we had not been taken by the chickcharneys. After some drinks, a dinner of dolphin and french fries and a change to dry clothes (in that inverted order, because Frank was starved), Captain O'Neill suggested we have a look at the strange fish in the well. We opened the hatch and there, its glittering black body curled up like a sleeping child, was a seven-foot blue martin. One of the others had hooked it at 5 o'clock that afternoon off the Joulters. O'Neill said they also had hooked another, larger one—"probably half again as big"—and fought it for 20 minutes before it threw the hook. They had had other action, too: a pair of 40-pound dolphins, a nice wahoo and some big barracuda, which were taken on light spinning tackle over a reef. The safari had definitely taken a turn for the good.
The next morning, to our grateful surprise, Rudy and Granville arrived with both Whalers. They had set out before daybreak and made the long haul around Andros, to retrieve Bill's abandoned boat. "And now," said Granville, "we ready to take you to the bonefish." Fifty yards from the Queen B one of the boats ran out of gas again, and we had to wait an hour for Rudy to fetch us more from Lowe Sound. It took an hour because he also stopped to catch a pail of soldier crabs for bait. Bill, a purist, said he would stick to his jigs. He also made a point of loading the decoys on one of the boats in case we eventually decided on a little more duck hunting, which, of course, we eventually did not.
The day was warm. And the water was so calm we seemed to be gliding above it instead of on it. The flats on the lee side of the Joulters encompass thousands of acres of white water no more than a couple of feet deep. The tide was going out. We would not have much time. We were barely on the flats when Granville began pointing ahead. "There! There!" he called from the other boat.
Rudy, disdainful, ignored him.
"Only a dozen or so," he said.