July 3, 2020: Bali Ha`i Doesn’t Have to Lie Far Away

Though I’ve read Hawaii, and liked it well enough, no one could consider me a Michener fan. But I do love musical theater, so I’ve seen South Pacific more than once. At least for me, it’s hard not to feel stirred by “Bali Ha`i” . . . those lyrics about the call of one’s own special island: “Come to me, come to me.” Who hasn’t dreamed of sailing over the horizon to discover their own special island, the place that fits them, the world in which they belong?

With the July 4th holiday and the resurgent COVID-19 lockdown, pulling out of the slip and heading away from the harbor toward Galveston seemed like the only thing that made sense, but instead of beelining for Offatts Bayou off Galveston Island, we decided to make a real trip of it and spend the first night anchored in the lee of Red Fish Island, a pile of dredging tailings that sits in Galveston Bay offshore from the town of Bacliff.

The island can’t be but a few hundred yards long, and if one wants to take the dinghy and go ashore, one should bring shoes! It’s all shells and sharp things (and probably sand fleas; or at least something tiny and hard to see enjoys biting visitors).

(That's Scout, the dinghy; she takes us to and from anchor. We can either tow her behind the Caliber 40 sailboat we call home, or she can "live" on her dinghy davits, swinging off the back of the Caliber.)

But after a cold front blows through, after the warmth of July starts to roll back in, when the full-ish moon sits behind light clouds and people ashore are lighting off orange and red fireworks, and one’s dog is salty and wants to explore, even little Red Fish Island can be Bali Ha`i. Especially when the folks on the sailboat next door in the anchorage call across the water, ask if anyone would mind if they shot off some sparklers. When leftover pizza and chocolate-chip cookies taste so good after the trip out, the motoring through no wind and then 25 knots of wind . . . while dreaming of fisting flying jibs on China-run clippers. With pelicans in formation beside the boat, and after anchoring, the sulfur smell of agitated holding tanks making the cockpit a bit more enticing than the cabin.

When it’s like that, Bali Ha`i may be close indeed.

(Waking up off Red Fish Island.)

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