There’s a soccer field on the sand at Floreana Island, just around the corner from the post office. When the tour boats stop there, crews will play against their passengers, or the crew and passengers will all team up against those of a second boat, if there is one. The day we were there witnessed an epic battle between two boats, and I am here to tell the tale.
The wind was calm that fateful afternoon. In the distance, sea lions barked. Frigate birds circled patiently overhead. Clouds gathered in the east, but the sun still shone over the field of the coming battle. Most of the passengers from both sides had gone snorkeling, but a few of us weren’t up for the cold water and relaxed in the shade, watching the crews kick the ball around.
After a while, a few of our passengers joined our crew and played a practice game against the crew of the other boat. I did not participate, because I am the chronicler of this tale and could not tell it if I was absorbed in battle; and more importantly, because I am unbelievably bad at soccer and didn’t want to embarrass myself.
Our boat lost the practice game, 4-0, in minutes. Then the real game started. By that time, some of the passengers who had been out snorkeling returned, and talented players from both sides started rotating into the game. Our cook, a man in his fifties named Darwin, was a fast and nearly-impenetrable wall of a goalie. The opposing goalie was equally strong, and their boat’s captain besides. We had some really skilled players; so did they. We also featured a 63-year-old Englishman who did his best but couldn’t quite keep up—at first.
Twenty minutes in, the game was tied 2-2. The older Englishman was now warmed up and he came alive, repeatedly throwing himself after the ball and tumbling through the sand. But it wasn’t enough; the other team upped their score with a brilliant goal by a skinny, red-haired American. Suddenly, the Englishman set up the ball perfectly for one of his countrymen, tall and skilled: A swift kick past the stunned goalie, and the score tied again at 3-3! Time went by until the English striker again found an opening and scored a 4th, the first time we were ahead. Victory looked possible!
A small, twenty-something Australian girl rotated in to replace one of our exhausted crew. We mourned the loss of our crew member, certain that the tide would now turn back to the opposing team; but the Australian surprised us all with her speed and skilled control of the ball. A few minutes later, the older Englishman received the ball in the corner, set it up once again and the new girl scored! An astounding 5-3 win!
When we got back to the boat, our guide convinced the reticent waiter/bartender (whose real name is Stalin for some reason) to make up a big pitcher of delicious caiparinha so we could all celebrate. Drinks in hand, we toasted our championship team, and especially the older Englishman who gave everything and was clearly the team’s MVP. Songs were sung by the sea lions, still audible on the beach as dusk faded into night.
Oh, the post office? It’s an unattended barrel stuck on top of a pole. At one time, whalers would use it to send letters home — a ship would drop off their mail, and pick up mail headed for the ship’s destination. Now it’s only used by tourists. Our group searched through hundreds of postcards, looking for those that we could hand-deliver to their intended recipients. Yvonne and I found one destined for the town next door to ours. There were others addressed as far away as Lithuania. Perhaps one day, someone will knock on our door bearing the postcard we addressed to ourselves.