Reverend Bill-The Boat Captain
Reverend Bill, the boat captain, was not a reverend and his name was not
Bill; also, he was not really a boat captain. Reverend Bill had colored
himself with stories of adventures in the North Sea where he lived most
of his life although he had never been there. Feverishly he followed in
periodicals, sailboat construction and designs. Regularly he revolted
against new techniques and materials. One season he continuously
discredited fiberglass, "If God had wanted man to have fiberglass boats,
he would have made fiberglass trees," he would say. The next season it
was fuels, "Gasoline is foolish and smart captains should use diesel."
Finally he gave up construction and design entirely.
He was Reverend Bill, the boat captain,
because what he once was had become unimaginable to him. It was not known
whether Bill was a good captain or not, for his days were spent on a
stool at the Holiday Bar where he had thrown himself so violently into
the sea he had very little time left for sailing of any kind.
For sport, Bill was an active member of the chicken
drop. San Pedro did not have a symphony, a movie house or even a
miniature golf course. San Pedro had the chicken drop. Every community
needs a social event to gather together and satisfy its need to gossip,
brag, argue and court. The chicken drop was this for San Pedro.
Every Wednesday night, Celi would hire a band and
conduct a large beach barbecue where fresh fish with beans and rice were
sold cheap enough for everyone to afford. In the middle of this grand
event was a large checkered floor surrounded by a low chicken wire fence.
Each square was numbered. There were one hundred squares and one hundred
chances to win.
Bill sold chances by allowing participants to reach
into a large pickle jar and draw from 100 numbered poker chips. Each chip
cost one Belize dollar and represented one square on the game floor
inside the chicken wire.
Chico and Bill worked the event with the skills of a
good bartender. Chico served a few beers and Bill sold a few chips. A few
beers and a few chips - by the time the last number went out everyone was
well served and anxiously awaiting the arrival of the chicken.
A procession, led by Chico holding a large covered
basket, would then march outside to the squares. Bill, the master of
ceremonies, would then re- move the chicken from the basket, hold it over
his head, blow on its tail and toss it into the numbered arena. Theory
was that the surprised chicken drawn from the dark basket, feeling an
abrupt cool wind on its butt and jolted as it hit the floor in the middle
of thirty cheering drunks would cause it to immediately soil the number
on which it landed, providing its owner with a $100 cash prize. But that
never seemed to be the case.
The dazed chicken would dance around from number to
number causing waves of cheering and hooting from the crowd screaming,
"░Caga Pollo Caga!" There seemed to be only one rule governing the
conduct of the gallery imposed by Celi: "Thou shall not throw beer
bottles at the pollo!"
Eventually the chicken rewarded its audience with a
small gift atop a lucky number, and the cycle began again with more beer,
poker chips and a fresh chicken. By the end of the evening everyone was
well fed, drunk, grandly entertained and socially exorcised.
One evening Reverend Bill laid his eyes on a short
Guatemalan Indian woman. Through his veil of rum he might not have
noticed or cared about her large hooked and broken nose or the extent of
rot in her teeth from years of chewing sugar cane.
It must not have mattered to him, her
rotund-ness and inability to speak or understand a word of English. Even
so, he fell in love with this beautiful woman God had sent him in his
time of need. Ignoring the chicken festivities, they sat at the bar as he
told her of his whaling adventures in the Atlantic and sailing around The
Horn in a typhoon. She held his hand and looked into his eyes smiling as
he spoke. From her look you would have thought she understood every
Tequila Steve, usually immune to
activities around him, was peering over his paperback and was witnessing
this miracle in the making. He started buying rounds of tequila in
celebration of Bill's new found love. Everyone was feeling very
During the course of the evening, unnoticed by the
chicken drop enthusiasts, Bill and his new love walked arm and arm from
the bar onto the pier where Bill was suddenly struck with one of his
greater ideas. Tied to the dock before him was Tito's small skiff and
He could borrow the boat, motor off shore
just a little and have some private moments under the stars with his
little angel. Without hesitation they hopped in the boat and he motored
towards the reef.
San Pedrano men love and care for their boats and even
though no one would ever dream of stealing from them, it was a common
practice to take your gas tank and anchor home with you in the evening. A
clean, tuned 30 horsepower Yamaha will run three or four minutes on just
the little bit of fuel in its lines and filter housing.
Bill only noticed they were far enough off shore for
the right amount of privacy required for the affair when the engine
stopped. He did not investigate as to why. The heat of this magic moment
was rising fast.
When the cool breeze began to blow, Bill probably thought it
was another present from God to cool him and his sweaty little
Ambergris became a different place when a northerner
blew. It placed San Pedro in the lee, silencing the roar of the reef. The
giant Cypress Trees, permanently bent by the relentless trade winds,
whistled as this cool air traveled through them from this unusual
direction. A peaceful air covered the island that seemed to calm not just
the sea but its people.
Early in the morning while Chico swept the peanut
shells and chicken feathers from the veranda of the Holiday Bar he
glanced out at the pier and noticed Tito's skiff missing. Lobster season
was on and it was not too unusual for fishermen to take their boats out
before dawn. So he continued collecting dirty drink glasses and picking
up empty beer bottles, thinking little else about it.
By midday Tito was at the police station lamenting his
missing skiff in front of the constable's desk. Shortly after, two and
two began to add up for Chico when he noticed Reverend Bill's bar stool
vacant after 12:00 for the first time in years. During the day after,
Tequila Steve and Scary Sherrie made some wild suppositions about Bill
eloping with the Guatemalan woman. Chico turned to Lovely Rita and said,
"You know, Bill disappeared at the same time Tito's skiff turned up
missing and this northerner started to blow!"
The Caribbean sun had just begun to warm the surface of the
rolling sea. The slow rising and falling had been like the rocking of a
cradle for him during the night, but now they had drifted from the
protection of Ambergris lee, and the pitch and quickened white caps had
replaced the calm.
It could have been the waves or possibly the pounding in his
head that woke him. The rum had done its job of making him forget his
past and sometimes even the present. He slowly opened his eyes. At first
he did not remember anything of the evening or how he came to be adrift
in this small boat with by far the ugliest woman he had ever laid eyes
on. Little by little, like small flashes in his brain, his memory started
coming back. He began to assess his predicament. Slowly with collective
realizations the picture sharpened.
Suddenly sleeping beauty came alive with a very loud,
"°Quien demonios eres tu?, y °Que diablos hacemos aqui?"
This painful noise gave Reverend Bill's headache fuel. He
squinted with a wrinkled forehead and said, "Do you speak English? Habla
As if speaking to the tiny vanishing island on the horizon
she said, "C****** su madre!! °Como llegamos aqui y mas aun quien eres
tu? °Que es lo que esta pasando?"
Realizing his English would be falling on deaf ears
Bills sighed with, "Oh my God your an ugly b****!"
Unaffected by Bill's obvious lack of understanding she
looked at him with fire in her eyes and said, " Dime idiota como p**** se
te occurrio hacer algo asi sin tener ni una simple migaja de comida o
Bill understood the look and tone but was trying to
ignore the shouting and concentrate on the dilemma at hand.
There seemed to be no anchor, no oars, only a
little rope and a fuel line to nowhere. The northern breeze had just
pushed them out of sight of land and moving at a steady pace to the
There is no hope of explaining a series of misfortunes like
this to someone who does not speak your language. His black haired lover
had become a beast in the light of day and his concern was only to blot
out the painful noises she was making so he could think.
"░Ademas de idiota eres una mula. La poca gasolina que
tenemos no sera suficiente ni para llegar a visitar a tu madre!"
Making a zipper motion with his fingers across his lips Bill
said, "Please shut up."
With no decrease in volume she continued with, "Y fue-dime
dime - Hijo de p***, qu╚ hacemos ahora. Te tiras en el aqua y nos
regresas o nos damos aqui como acabados!"
Bill's hopes were sinking as they seemed to drift
further and further to sea. His luck turned when she lunged to the side
to vomit. The sounds of her heaving and regurgitation seemed far more
pleasant than her screaming vile Spanish at him.
The sea sickness had weakened her and she raised few
objections to giving up her skirt to the sail Bill was making. He
fashioned a sea anchor from one of the seats and the stern line. He
enjoyed a few sips of water from floating coconuts they gathered. The
little chunks of coconut meat worked well as bait on the hand line he
found in the bow. He fashioned a rudder from the remaining seat using a
piece of bamboo they passed as a tiller. By night fall he had caught
three small mackerels.
Bill now seemed in control of his little ship and
unwilling crew. A swell of pride took him over. For the first time in a
long while he was in touch with reality. This was in fact his only
experience at sea and he would not only survive it but was in
Bill and his dehydrated green honey were picked up by
a fishing smack on the Turneffe Atoll on his third day at sea and
returned to San Pedro with Tito's skiff in tow. Upon docking his first
mate disappeared never to be seen or heard from again. Having no one
around to dispute his heroics, The Captain Reverend Bill's epic adventure
grew and grew through the years as he told it proudly from atop his stool
overlooking the Caribbean at the Holiday Hotel Bar.