Monday, September 29, 2008

Boom Boom

One afternoon Ron Glendinning and I were sitting at the bar in the Beachcomber Club talking about a luau we were planning. The luau was a joint venture between the two service clubs on the island, the Beachcomber Club at the Air Force facility and the Oar House Club at the Navy base. Jerry, a Navy Chief Petty Officer, ran the Navy's Oar House Club and Ron and I were club officers at the Beachcomber club. Between the two clubs we had all the booze we needed for a great party but we weren't doing very well on the food.

Ron and I were both member of our skin diving club which had been assigned the responsibility of getting fish for several hundred people. Nobody in the diving club had had any luck and we were discussing this when a grizzly, old chief sitting next to us spoke up.

"Me and my boys can get you all the fish you need," he said in a low cocky way.

I said, "Where are you gonna get fish when our guys aren't seeing any anywhere?"

"I'll get the fish if you let me and my boys come to your party."

"Look, since you are on the base you and your boys, whoever they are, are automatically invited to the luau. Who are you, and how are you going to get fish?" I asked.

"They call me Boom Boom," he said, "and I got a crew of seabees deepening the channel down at the POL dock. Just leave it to us, we'll get the fish."

Eleuthera Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricating (POL) pier.

This water on the west side of the island was called the Caribbean side and is calmer than the eastern side, the Atlantic.

I didn't recognize the chief but we often had temporary crews in to do odd jobs on the base's facilities. Anybody that was on the base was obviously legal and therefore able to use the club and attend any of our functions, but I was still confused about how they could get fish. We had been diving for days and had speared only a handfull of fish. I asked Boom Boom about this.

He replied, "Don't worry about it. We'll get the fish. If you want to go out with us be at the POL dock Saturday morning at 7:00 A.M." He finished his drink and left the club.

I looked at Ron and said, "Let's do it!"

He agreed, so we did our normal duties until Saturday morning, and at 7:00 o'clock we were waiting at the POL dock.

When Boom Boom showed up he had two scuba diver equipped seabees with him and they were pulling a zodiac work boat on a trailer. The deck of the boat was covered with primer cord and demolition charges. There was also a hand-held detonator device.

From my Marine training I was familiar with detonators, primer cord, and the blocks of C-3 plastic explosive that were in the boat. It was clear what kind of "fishing" Boom Boom had in mind. Things moved pretty fast and before I knew it we had cast off and were moving out into the water on the Carribean side.

Not to far offshore was a group of small, mushroom-like coral islands undercut by thousands of years of wave action. The first island was about 70 yards long and only about 20 yards wide. I had always found fishing and loberstering around such islands to be really great - but not lately.

As we approached the first island Boom Boom cut the engine and he and his boys went to work. The two scuba divers stuffed their BC vests with C-3 blocks, grabbed rolls of primer cord, and back-rolled over the side. Ron and I only had our snorkel gear, but we went over the side right after them.

As we watched from the surface the seabees lay down the primer cord around the island. As they went along they used their diving knives to cut open the C-3 blocks and then tied them to the primer cord, one about every 10 feet. They went completely around the island.

I was shocked at the amount of explosives that was used and was concerned about where we would be when the detonation went off. I signaled to Ron and we got back into the zodiac.

As we got back aboard, Boom Boom was connecting the primer cord lengths to the detonator. After finishing up their underwater roles, the seabees also came back aboard. At this point I thought that we would return to shore or the POL dock, but this was not to be.

As soon as he had connected the primer cord to the generator, Boom Boom gave it a hand crank and my heart lodged in my throat. The resulting explosion never broke the surface. The whole ocean for hundreds of yards just seemed to rise up about six feet. There was a crashing, rending sound; I can hardly describe it; as though - well if you can imagine a thousand egg crates bursting at one time. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the island rise up with the blast, tip over, and fall on its side into the sea.

I was still trying to catch my breath when I heard Boom Boom say, "You better get the one's off the bottom pretty quick because, before long, we're going to be overrun with sharks."

The explosion had burst the swim bladders of the fish making most of them float to the surface. However, many fish were laying on the bottom, and we all went down to gather them up. But, just as Boom Boom had said, soon we were soon swimming with the sharks. There was dozens of them of all types. I didn't stay down there long enough to identify them - I got back into the boat.

There were fish everywhere we looked on the surface. We grabbed them up, large and small, and threw them in the boat. Needless to say Boom Boom had kept his word. We had more than enough fish for the luau.

Boom Boom and his crew came to the luau and we all had a great time. Nevertheless, I worried that we might have an international incident on our hands - sinking an island in a friendly country.