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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Bardans' Burden – “A True Story”

Vinnie was his name. His friends called him Click McClickerton (or Click Click for short) but I called him Vinnie. In fact, I don’t really know if he was actually a he at all. This is because he didn’t once jump out of the water or go on his back. So I didn’t have a chance of seeing if he had one slit or two. Nevertheless the name Vinnie stuck!!

My first encounter with this fascinating fish-like water mammal was on a day much like today. The Bardan was making white trails in the clear blue sea, just off the Wasini Channel. The sun was beaming down. The tide was low, and swell even lower. Poseidon was happy for us to be sailing on his waters, which was made obvious when the captain of our vessel, Shafii (Otherwise known as The Shaff-Meister General) called and graced his pointed fore-finger towards the horizon.

-- Bardan riding the high seas in search of dolphins --

“Dolphins!” He spoke in his deep voice. Without a doubt on his word and only minutes later we were blessed by the presence of the Bottlenose. The sail was lowered and The Bardan crept quietly into the dolphins playground, for it would seem that it was a playground and Vinnie was the gracious but stern dinner lady; in charge of the entire school. With at least six juveniles swimming in all directions and a calf by his side it was obvious that his job was to take them down to the coast to practice their fire assembly drill.

The Bardan was invited to join Vinnie and his pupils on their travels. For fifteen to twenty minutes we were basked in the glorious sun with the sails high, travelling and watching out new friends surface for air.

That was until the moment the sun disappeared. We found ourselves trapped, flanked by two tourist dhows. One of which cast its shadow over The Bardan. With motors more than double the power, double the speed and twice as loud. The tourist dhows powered past us and into the centre of the group of dolphins. The sun did not return. The dolphins dispersed. The wind grew strong and the water with it too. Poseidon was not happy. The dhows sailed on.

With a slim chance of being able to make it to land and an even slimmer chance of being able to anchor safely The Shaff-Meister General called “All hands on deck! If there is anything loose the tie it. If you fall loose then tie yourselves. It’s going to get a little bumpy.” He turned away from the crew on deck and looked towards the raging white ocean. Out of his pocket he pulled a silver flask, engraved on it a picture of a great lion battling a trident handed merman. He swigged from his flask and spoke towards the horizon, “Not today old friend, not on this day…”.

-- 'Vinnie' leaps clear of the water and winks at me --

A few hours later we had succeeded in sailing out the ‘storm’ and also managed to avoid the maze of fishing traps. Edita had since taken controls as vice captain and the “Shaff Meister General" lay at the centre of the deck with his eyes closed. I approached him silently. “We did it.” He said calmly. “We were supposed to fail but we did it didn’t we, old boy, we did it.” I looked up at the sun on the horizon and saw a Green Turtle appear from the water in the distance with what looked like a huge golden fork in his mouth. He swam towards the sun. Suddenly and completely unexpectedly a Bottlenose Dolphin jumped from the water and over the turtle. A great arching leap it was and at the centre point of the leap it winked at me. The crew jumped with various wows and one of them shouted “Eagle!” as a shadow past of the boat quickly. They all looked up at the empty sky as I witnessed the dolphin splash back into the sea.

It wasn’t an eagle. It was Vinnie.