The crowd roared. An old Harmony guitar hung on my back by a faded black leather strap. I felt its reassuring weight on my shoulder, like a close friend had placed his hand there. Triumphantly, I raised both arms high. The crowd roared again in approval. Women screamed and swooned, a gaggle of them rushed the stage only to be rebuffed by three burly security guards, who carried out their duty without reservation. To my left, lawyers in three-piece suits holding fat record company contracts, waited patiently just off stage. A chant started, softly at first, then increasing in intensity until it was deafening, even to my leathered old ears. WE WANT RICK, WE WANT RICK, WE WANT RICK!
Suddenly, a strange noise enters my consciousness and I bolt upright in bed. “What was that?” It took a few seconds to take stock of my surroundings. “Okay. I’m on the boat. In my cozy sleeping berth.” My wife, warm beside me, breathes slowly, evenly, obviously sound asleep. It’s pitch black, coolish, and absolutely still. “Please, if there is a God, let me go back to that dream,” I prayed. All at once an odd noise breaks the silence: clomp clomp clomp. “What the…” I shivered with an eerie chill and froze.
Again: clomp clomp followed by a scraping sound. Jeez! It sounds like its right overhead on the deck. I jump out of bed, fly up the companionway stairs, and gaze gooey eyed out the windshield which is fogged from the cool nighttime air. High above the fly bridge, the anchor light floods the deck with a yellowish glow; it was like looking though lemon Jello.
Clomp, clomp clomp. “There it is again,” I thought. Did I just see something? A shadow? I quickly reach up and hit the wiper switch. A small electric motor whirred and swept the blade across the glass. “No good. The fog is on the inside.” I put on my Sperrys and flick off the anchor light. From the aft-deck, I step up onto the starboard gunwale and make my way forward, but find nothing out of the ordinary, only the most beautiful night of the whole year! Transfixed I stand, letting the night air surround me, completely yielding my whole consciousness to a nightscape whose splendor is beyond description. “So many stars,” I say aloud, their brilliance astounds me so. A sliver of a moon hangs low over the Weweantic River, seemingly resting on the tops of silhouetted pines on Nobska Point. The whole scene is perfectly reflected in the mirror still waters like a Mother Natures two-for-one deal. But wait! There’s more! As if one was not breathtaking enough. Right now, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything in this world.
We are anchored in the lee of Long Beach Point on the western edge of Indian Neck in Wareham. Accessible mostly by boat, its shell covered beach is popular with the locals, who gather here nearly every warm day for picnics, cookouts, sunbathing, or to just hang out in one of the most scenic and lovely places in Buzzards Bay. It all but disappears every high tide.
I gave the rode a tug to check our set; the anchor held firmly. “Good holding ground here,” I muttered. That’s when I heard it: a tone, soft like a womans voice, about as long as a person can hold a note in one breath. Mid scale range, like D. Beautiful, angelic. Then another, higher in pitch by a half step, like D sharp. The same duration but ending with a gentle wavering tremolo. It seems to be coming from just beyond Long Beach which is now awash from high tide. I strain my eyes and see nothing but stars and the red flashers atop the wind turbines in Falmouth.
Later that morning, over breakfast, I tell my wife about the strange occurrences in the wee hours.
“What do think it was?” she asks as she plunks an ice-cube into her black coffee.
“It’s the ghost of Annabelle Barnes. What else could it be?” I answer immediately
“There are no ghosts. It’s the creaking of the anchor roller as the boat gets moved around from the current. The same sound we always hear while anchoring.”
“And the singing?” I ask.
“Just one of the kookie hippies we always see here,” she countered.
“BORING,” I say in a sing-song beat.
The XO looks at me over the top of her coffee cup, trying not to encourage me, but I continue anyway.
“Annabelle Barnes was the daughter of a wealthy sea captain who made his fortune delivering ships built in Kingston and Plymouth. She had fallen in love with a young shipwright from Marion, but Captain Barnes thought the young man wasn’t good enough for Annabelle and forbid her to see him. When she discovered her father was to deliver a sloop to Sippican Harbor, the largest port in Marion, she stowed away in the vessels hold. That night, the moon was a sliver, and the way it shone through the pine trees made Captain Barnes mistake it for the Bird Island Light, which marks the entrance to Sippican. He ran the sloop onto the rocks off Indian Neck, completely destroying it. He and his crew were able to wade the half a mile to shore, but not knowing his daughter was aboard, left her to drown. Every year, in late September, when the sliver moon dips just below the horizon, she calls out to her lover from the rock outcropping now known as Little Bird Island, so named for that terrible tragedy.”
Susan, half-smile on her face, raises her eyebrows over the top of her glasses in that skeptical way, and says: “There is no ghost. You just made that up. Didn’t you?”
I put down my coffee cup, gave her one of my patented I’m-hurt-that-you’d-even-think-so looks, and said: “Totally. It’d be a shame to let a silly thing like reality get in the way of a good story.”
It’s Autumn in New England. Weather-wise, this weekend is the best so far this year. The temperature is in the low eighties with just enough humidity to crowd the beaches. Perfect boating weather too.
After a chilly August, many took their boats out of the water for the season. I’m sure they are regretting it today. The weather gods are giving us a gift, and the XO and I are sucking it all in; this could be the last great boating weekend of 2014. So here we are, floating blissfully, enjoying the sea, the sun, and the warm hospitality of our dear old friend, motor vessel Ginger Lee.