Meeting Miguel, Episode 12, Odysseys in Paradise

After six days of easy and mind-numbing sailing, Rich scanned the darkness of the northwest and caught sight of a brief flicker of light.

That could be a boat or the Juan Fernandez Islands,” Rich said. “I’m sure it’s one of the Juan Fernandez Islands, the biggest one. The port is on the other side of the island.”

Rich changed course to skirt around the eastern shore of the island. After sailing several miles east of the island, Rich dropped the sails and relaxed for the evening.

Rich sat at the chart desk eating a bowl of fish chowder made with powdered milk and a fish he caught that day.

He reached down and assured Zeke, “We will be on dry land tomorrow, Zeke. This is rough on you, I know. You wish the seas were grassy fields that you could run and chase rabbits and butterflies. I know what you are thinking, what kind of world is this, no trees or fire hydrants?”

While the sun still glowed red below the horizon the next morning, Rich hoisted the sails and tacked into a westerly breeze. In two hours he cast his eyes upon a magnificent green protrusion raising high above the waves. “Juan Fernandez,” he muttered.

Zeke ran to the bow. He sniffed and barked twice. He scampered to the helm where Rich met him with a smile.

Go ahead, boy, tell me what you see.”

Zeke barked twice and licked Rich’s hand.

As The Odyssey lunged forward, Rich caught sight of a cluster of small unpretentious modest dwellings making up a small shore village.

As The Odyssey entered the harbor protected by an immense cliff on the port side, the sails were dropped and tied. Rich started the engine and nosed into a dock protruding from the shore.

A boy, perhaps 12 or 13, dressed in loose-fitting shabby clothing, called out in Spanish, “Toss me the line!” His hair was a thick as a harvest wheat field and black like a crow’s plumes. He smiled broadly and his teeth were straight and white like a picket fence.

Thanks,” Rich said in Spanish. “You are a good man.”

Welcome to San Juan Bautista on Robinson Crusoe Island.”

Rich leaped from The Odyssey and secured the aft line to the pilings while the boy tied off the bowline.

Thanks, again,” Rich said extending his hand. “My name is Rich Larsen.”

My name is Miguel Maturana,” he said. “I am from here. Where are you from?”

I’m from the United States,” Rich said.

Why would you come here?” Miguel said.

To see if it is true what everybody has said about you,” Rich joked.

I am not even famous here,” Miguel said.

Think about this,” Rich said. “Do I know anybody on this island?”

Only me,” Miguel said.

And I came all the way from the United States,” Rich said. “I know you, but nobody else. A person from the United States knows you, but nobody else; that makes you the most famous person from this island.”

That is complicated,” Miguel said. “Do you know Alexander Selkirk?”

No,” Rich said.

Do you know Robinson Crusoe?” Miguel said.

Not personally, but I’ve heard of him,” Rich said. “I read the book.”

They are one and the same,” Miguel said. “This is the island of their story.”

Hmmm,” Rich said. “That’s interesting, but where they born here?”

Of course not,” Miguel said.

Well there you go,” Rich said. “You are the most famous person born on this island.”

Yes,” Miguel said. “You are right.”

Perhaps you can help me,” Rich said.

I will be glad to help you,” Miguel said.

I would like to purchase some food,” Rich said. “Is there a grocery?”

There is a small store,” Miguel said, “but not much to choose.”

That’s no problem,” Rich said. “I will need water too.”

Zeke’s nose pointed toward the dock as he leaned over the starboard side.

Your dog?” Miguel said.

Belongs to one of my passengers,” Rich said.

You have no passengers,” Miguel said scanning the boat. “You joke.”

He is my dog,” Rich confessed and slapped his thigh. Zeke sprung onto the dock.

Miguel knelt down and petted him.

He likes you,” Rich said.

I like him,” Miguel said.

His name is Zeke,” Rich said. “He only speaks English,” Rich smiled.

You joke again,” Miguel said.

Zeke is tired of my jokes,” Rich said.

How long will you stay?” Miguel said.

I will leave tomorrow, before the sun,” Rich said.

Where will you go next?” Miguel said.

I have not decided,” Rich said. “My goal is to sail around the world. My next destination is Polynesia; that is a group of hundreds of islands a month of sailing west of here.”

I have heard a little of other places,” Miguel said. “I only know about Chile and the big island, east, South America.”

There is so much more, Miguel,” Rich said.

Do you want me to take you to the store?” Miguel said.

Yes.”

Let’s go,” Miguel said.

They walked up a worn dirt street dotted with patches of only the hardiest of grasses. On the walk, Miguel told Rich about Alexander Selkirk with such clarity and intimacy that he wondered if Miguel might know Selkirk personally. In about 200 yards they reached a yellow wooden building with a tin roof. A wooden sign hung over the porch; Alvarez.

Alvarez,” Miguel gestured. “It is the best store within hundreds of miles.”

Who makes the jokes, now?” Rich said.

That is everybody’s joke,” Miguel said.

And everyone laughs every time they hear it,” Rich said.

Let’s go in,” Miguel said. “I will show you around. That is another joke.”

 

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