We arrive at the waiting area of the municipal pier on Big Corn Island just before 10AM, the scheduled departure time of our voyage to Little Corn Island. The waiting area is an outdoor, covered patio with benches and a couple of ticket counters. There are about 40 people milling about, some tourists, some locals, some tourists-gone-locals. We set our backpacks, smartly covered with black trash bags, on a bench and I sit while Drew goes to buy the tickets. $6 USD each and we have our laminated tickets in hand. The couple next to us, we learn, are Americans who came to work on the island temporarily two years ago and never left. They are just returning from a shopping trip in Managua.
After a few minutes they get up, grab their stuff, and start heading for the dock. There was no announcement as far as we could tell but we figure they must know how things work around here so we follow suit. We get to the dock, not really knowing what sort of vessel to expect. In front of us is what reminds me of a plastic toy bathtub boat and it is already holding about 20 people. It is bright blue and quite literally made of some sort of plastic material. It has maybe 8 or 10 benches going straight across, all the way along. Behind the benches are the motor, steering wheel, storage compartment, etc. Along the starboard-side of the boat is a wadded up plastic sheet and all along the benches and scattered across the floor are bright orange life jackets.
A man instructs us to pile our bags on the dock from where he will load them into a compartment under the deck. We spot a couple who we met the night before at dinner and decide to hop in next to them. The four of us comfortably fit on our bench but people are still piling in. The boat is unnervingly lopsided and I wonder if we might capsize right there at the dock. I’m already holding onto the bench in front of me, white-knuckles and all. It seems like we are sitting there forever but people are still trickling in. Two girls, about eleven years old, look with concern into the boat, wondering where they will sit in the sea of people. A man looks at our row and instructs us to make room for her, in the middle. We shuffle around and help her to the middle and all sit back down, now quite literally squished next to one another on the bench. I am between Drew and the young girl and I can’t help thinking about what will happen if we capsize and how now I am responsible for this young girl too.
Finally it is time to untie from the dock and head out on the 8 mile journey to Little Corn Island. Weather is overcast and windy, but luckily not raining as it had been. As we pick up speed, the cool breeze feels good on my face but I am still holding on for dear life. We begin to get further out into the deeper sea and now the cool breeze has become intense, drowning gusts of wind and water. The people on the side with the plastic sheet begin pulling it up over their heads and eventually it is passed all the way to the other side.
The rest of the journey is about 45 minutes of bouncing and wobbling across the waves. Again and again the boat goes up and lands with a frighteningly hard slap in the water as we navigate what, to me, feels like a severely dark and stormy sea. Drew is sitting next to me telling me how the swells really aren’t that big; it’s just that the boat is too small and there are too many people on it. But at least the guy driving knows what he’s doing, Drew says. Yes, at least there is that. I tell Drew to tell me about it when we get there and can we please not talk about it anymore. He says to just keep looking at the horizon and we will be fine. Finally we are in close sight of Little Corn and the waves are beginning to calm. I feel relief as we get closer and closer and I think I could probably swim to shore if necessary. In no time at all we are tying up at the dock and beginning to unload. It feels good to be on land. We see a sign boasting “Welcome Andrew and Jonathan” from Little Corn Beach & Bungalow and we are here.