Flying Cloud

Dave Smith

In June of 1995 I boarded a passenger ferry on Frenchman Bay along the coast of St. Thomas Island in the Caribbean.  I climbed to the second level for sightseeing and the craft departed for about an hour trip to Frenchman’s Cay, an indention on Tortola Island.  June, the “dead calm” time of year on the leeward side of the islands, provided a smooth, clear-water cruise of relaxation and anticipation of the barefoot adventure in the week ahead.  Moored at the edge of the cay, the 3 mast Flying Cloud gently bobbed invitation, a dream come true for me.  A sail on the sea of pirates had long enticed my thinks, a youth-full of imaginings and desires to walk the sands of the hearty, ale-swigging, “aaarghhhh matey”, romanticized criminals of long ago.  We docked, disembarked, gathered gear, and boarded a modern day, canopied and motorized version of a long boat and aimed for mahogany rails of the Cloud.  A barefoot cruise, the itinerary a day-to-day choice of the 60 member “crew” governed strictly by “ish” time and soon to be customary breaks for grog.  I recall looking forward to the mid-week meal, a promised, very fresh catch of grouper to be grilled to perfection and served with all the trimmings a sailing ship could muster.

I had arrived early, an extra “stow-away” night on board prior to sailing the next day.  I quickly fell into the rhythm of the vessels steel drum band, the easy, unending motion of the sea beneath, and the sunshine, sweltering though it was.  In the days ahead, clouds would build quickly, spit refreshing rain, and disappear across the enormity of blue. Nights offered an idyll of stars and moonlight at an unmarred, amazing height that included sighting of satellites’ swiftly crossing the incredible crowd of twinklings.  Cabin sleep became optional as the serenity of the deck or the widow’s net enticed many to slumber, some sleep abetted by the grog and night frolic of vacation life.  I snorkeled with massive schools of prismed fish, with the eerie, almost ghostly dangles of jellyfish, and, in the depths I didn’t challenge, a feasting barracuda.  I floated, enthralled and unbelieving that I could see bottom that lay 250 feet below.  I walked those sands of dream, my feet squishing on the beaches of Cinnamon Bay, Cruz Bay, Privateer Point, and Flannigan Island.  I dawdled on Pelican Isle, wondered about the naming of Quart-A-Nancy Point, explored the rocky outcroppings and secluded shallows of Beef Island, ate lobster at “Rudy’s” above Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda – and daydreamed to my heart’s great content.  We floated past arrays of aptly named isles – West Dog, Great Dog, George Dog, Cockroach, Beef, Buck – tucked into Fat Hogs Bay and moored in Road Town Harbor.  And for that week, I was my think. “Alone, alone, all all alone, alone on the wide, wide sea.” So went the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and so went I despite the other guests and those family and friends that shared my bucket list moments.

At that time I did not think I would ever find such peace again.  Flying fish in silver-streaked frenzy performed in the settle of dusk as the horizon split with lightning along the curtain marking the end of starlight.  Thunder never happened, just strobes on the mantle of water and sparkling bedazzle of applause for the fish. That ever-present melody of steel drum settled the silence, settled any chance for worry.  Just peace, adrift on the Caribbean Sea.  An albatross or two did swoop the sky along with other varieties of gull, their white pale in the dusk, their wings just a hush brushing the silence of pirates gone.



God richly blessed me with that voyage.  Its memory generates imagery in this think that clarifies His peace when all is put in His hands.  I find that idyll in my days now, not as often as I should, but it is there.  My soul can, does, and will know real peace, so long as I but believe.  I thank God for giving the examples of His peace as a foretaste of the peace to come.