I keep thinking I want to write about “The Captain”, but in the next thought, I don’t know if I can. I don’t remember a lot of it. I can’t seem to write anything else right now, so I guess I need to do this. Fine.
I’ll try and see what happens, but first I have to start at the beginning…
I was in the Bahamas; George Town. I was the only female mate on a 1986, 27 foot? Gulf Star sail boat -The S.J. (abbreviated for privacy). Jim was the owner/Captain and also my boss in the states. I was his “Girl Friday”, well for him and his girlfriend, Phyllis. Phyllis was planning on Jim sailing ahead and being on the Virgin Islands at a specific date, and she would arrive via plane. She reported having intolerable sea sickness, and wouldn’t be able to sail with Jim. Everything was contingent on Jim making headway sailing down from Florida to the Virgin Islands, but he was stuck in George Town with endless Rum, Pot, and “Island Time” all working against Phyllis’s time table. So I was commissioned to fly to George Town with ADHD meds in hand, and get Jim …well…sailing! Upon arrival, I cleaned the boat, stocked the galley, and got Jim in a healthy sleep/wake cycle that included morning meds and at least three meals of actual non-alcoholic food a day. Next, I was to get him on the task of reviewing maps and weather forecasts to determine when was the best stretch of good weather to get from George Town to Puerto Rico for our first restocking stop.
It was on George Town that I saw him. Tall, maybe 6’3”, shaggy curly wild soft brown hair, tan sea-leathered freckled skin, piercing amazing azure blue eyes, and a sly bad boy smile. Paul. He was walking across the beach with two or three kids skipping along beside him. He had a big square of cardboard in his hand and was walking like he had a mission. He did. Rain was coming soon, and a local woman’s car had a broken window that he was attaching the card board to keep the water out of her car for her. He went on to tell me about the LUXURY sailboat he was the Captain of, and the “state of the art” weather system she had on board. The Amphora, I believe, hailed out of South Carolina, I think.
“Very wealthy wife’s side”, Paul reported, as matter of fact. Paul brought the boat wherever the owners wanted to entertain. He would sail her there, and the owners would fly in/out, usually to entertain guests. He offered to share weather data with Jim so that we could be safe. He was soooooo charming! Never hit on me, which only made me want him more. He was kind and deep, and I wanted to know more, but the weather was in our favor and so we needed to get sailing before the next band of storms! We convinced another boat owner to come aboard; Sean O’Sullivan, retired Irishman who was blonde and round…smoked cigars…from Ohio, I think. Jim and Sean were two older, successful business men in their 60’s, trying to fulfill lifelong dreams of adventure before it was too late. Actually, the islands are crawling with wifeless men at sea, the wives opting to stay home with dogs and or grandchildren, leaving men along with their toy boats, and life-long dreams of the open seas. I felt equally proud and sad for both the wives and the men. The three of us, my two men and me, headed out, leaving conk salad, turtle fritters, and all the red stripe beer and Siren Songs of the local bars behind us. It was exhilarating.
There had been a flu bug going around before we left. Both men had their own version of it. Until the fever hit, I thought it was just sea sickness or my body getting used to the absence and equilibrium balancing sight of any land at all. My constitution is far too sensitive to take most medicines. I found that it is far better for me to “ride things out”. For two days I lay burning up with fever with a bucket touching my body for easy access. On the third day, I was sipping canned fruit cocktail juice from the can, when the fever released its grip. I had a lot of time to day dream and I did, mostly falling in love with the stories that I made up about the handsome Captain Paul.
Three people sailing 24 hours requires three 8 hour shifts. I asked for the Midnight to 8am shift so that I could enjoy the darkest star lit night and the joy of the sunrise. All the lights on the instruments are lit with red light so that your pupils don’t dilate. Your eyes don’t have to adjust, as you move from looking at the instruments to up and around the boat, or out at sea. I also wore a chest harness that was attached to the helm so that I couldn’t fall off the boat while the other two were sleeping. There are no words that come to my informally educated brain that could ever do what I saw justice….black velvet sky with LED lit various sized diamonds scattered into the heavens – breathtaking! It was overwhelmingly vast and expansive; beautiful beyond description, and to top it off, when the sea was dead calm, the water was a freaking MIRROR to the sky above, so that you feel like you’re motoring slowly IN the night sky! I’m getting emotional writing this! Then there’s this stuff that lives in the water! In some places you come across an algae plant – phosphorous algae. It glitters! No kidding! So, you’re sailing or motoring; starry sky; the sounds of the water against the boat; maybe listening to some music on the Walkman, and then, the waves beside the boat are sparkling! You look around, and all the water around you is sparkling! Who needs drugs?! Life is mind blowing! Wish my two men felt the same way. They were drunk and high daily. Cranky in the mornings, and each had a “boner on” for me that I constantly had to deflect. Such a fucking drag!!
We made our way to Puerto Rico, and found us a slip to dock in at a marina in Ponce. We were there in time for their “Fish Festival,” and the place was lively with music in the far off distance. Lots of fellow boaters were looking for some fun and human interaction. I, on the other hand, had had enough of human unsolicited attention and wanted to be left alone on the boat! The two men went off to explore the festivities, and I hoped they’d find a hooker or two or three. Please, God. I sat top-side on the boat, finally able to let my guard down and breathe. I noticed a very expensive motor boat called a Scarab? Come in with a half dozen men and two young children. The boy, 10? And the little girl was maybe 8? One reminded me of a Latino version of my Uncle Ray (perp) he led the two children to the fresh water hose on the dock. I watched him wash the little girl very slowly, alarmingly so. My heart beat fast, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of them, if I wanted to. I waited for one sign, one mistep, and I would pounce, like a jaguar, and rip him to shreds. He washed her little body. Then he washed her hair. He proceeded to wash the little boy, slowly. Then he got on the boat, and it appeared like he was going to go below with them. Over my dead body! Instead, he handed each child neatly folded clothes, and sent them below to get dressed in clean dry clothes, in private.
I WAS SO WRONG.
What I witnessed was fatherly love; not perversion.
I grabbed a plate and a bunch of grapes, and headed my way over to them. I presented my offering to the young father, and looked into his sad dark eyes. I told him I watched his love, and was touched by it. I learned, as the day and my visit went on, that he was once a drug runner who got caught and went to prison, leaving his children behind. He had just gotten out and this was his first weekend, reunited with his children. His friends used their “borrowed” drug runner boat to make a day of fun for all. They also gave me a quick ride on the boat to show me how fast these boats are. I got a thrill and a facelift from the trip! Wow. It was fast!
My men staggered back to our slip, and the competition between the two of them, about who would win MY affection, escalated. Sean was asked to leave by Jim. This was not good for me. I avoided the boat, as much as possible, and made a few local friends who are certainly noteworthy.
It would take another book to tell you about all of them. I’ll just share this: we all watched the boxing match on TV and the fighter bite the ear of his opponent. The old men in the bar taught me how to dance. The son of a prominent rum company shared dinner with me, and he told me about his love of racing boats all over the world. Another was a recent medical graduate who had to give a year of his career to the local prison in exchange to practice medicine.
After another day of being pursued by Jim and his blue pill induced erection, I asked my new friends to please drive me to the San Juan airport. Yep, I jumped ship and went home to Kansas, which begs the question…go ahead…you know you want to…. (Insert Cheesy Wizard of Oz reference) THERES NO PLACE LIKE HOME. Fine. Let’s move on.
Three weeks later I got a call from Phyllis. I never told her the full truth about Jim. She loved him, and I learned a long time ago that it’s best not to “tell”. She told me that Jim had fallen in the galley, broke several ribs, and was just being released from the local (not private) hospital with despicable conditions. He needed help right away, and would I put aside any upset, and go back down to PR and save Jim from himself?
Fine. And so I did. He was indeed in bad shape. He had found a mate, a young blonde boy, 20 something from England who was looking for a new boat and adventure. Game on. I cleaned up the boat, restocked our supplies, monitored Jim’s pain meds, got him back on his ADHD meds, and away we went. Destination? Turks & Caicos, then the Virgin Islands.
After days at sea we all needed a break. The maps told of one little cay nearby, but warned it was for a good weather only. It had white powder sand and was uninhabited. The side note for this cay was the curve of the key is absolutely dangerous in bad weather. If bad weather comes, it would be wise to get around to the other side and moor there. It was a beautiful day, so we stopped in the “good day” side of the cay. I staggered along the sugar white sand while my inner ear tried to find its center. Something like a big one foot square started me. I followed it to see what “it” was. It turned out to be a baby stingray! Ha! I followed her. Then she followed me. I ran. She chased behind! I. was playing “chase” with a stingray in the Caribbean. OMG!!! ME! I was having such a great time exploring and staying away from the two men drinking full throttle, that none of us saw the storm coming in. None of us was “fit” enough to get our boat around to the other side. There was only one thing to do. Bungee cord everything, and batten down the hatches! Hang on!
Can you imagine a plastic toy boat in a bathtub? The waves were such that the “toy boat” tossed completely on to one side and then the other! I mean completely on its side! Yep. They had to tie me with a rope to the seat/couch in the galley. Whatever wasn’t tied down went flying. It was a loooooong night. The next day we assessed the damage. We had taken on water in the bilge. The prop was ripped off, when we hit the reef (numerous times). It now lay among the cays collection of props in shallow graves of sugar white sand below us. Damage, but nothing serious to the exterior of the bottom of the boat. A big piece of the main sail was ripped. We were alive. The boat was beat up but usable. I was given accolades for my courage. Neither of them had ever been in such a wild storm. I was dubbed a “true” sailor and given gifts of a regatta cap and a Puerto Rican flag. Nice way to side-track the fact that their drug abuse almost got us all killed. THAT fact was never mentioned. We quickly squared everything away, and set our course to the nearest island, with services to fix the sail and better secure the prop. The men dove for our lost prop, and, ultimately, just took one that they could lift and manage to attach. We were on our way to Turks & Caicos’ industrial side, not the pretty tourist side. Once we arrived and got the repairs started, we three went to the Club Med for the day to hang out. Jim was obviously feeling like his old self again, and asked the young stallion to find another boat. Here we go again. I left and never saw Jim again.
Once home, I got a call from Dreamy Captain Paul. He wanted me to come down to where he kept his own boat. I forgot her name now, but she was kept on a mooring off Hope Town, I think. It was risky to travel down alone, but I had met so many people who all lived their life with this type of danger that I agreed.
Once off the puddle jumper from Florida to Nassau, I went to the ladies’ room to make sure I looked pretty. Then I walked out, full of high hopes to greet Dreamy Captain Paul. I knew I was in serious trouble within seconds of seeing him. My heart went from floating in the clouds to a dead-weight fall and splatter on the earth. He was very drunk and mean. If you are at all familiar with the term “Mean drunk”, you know exactly what I’m talking about. He was a horrible demon who had inhabited the body of Captain Paul. This man…this man was the exact opposite, the evil twin, of the man I met, helping others with a smile and whistling a happy tune on George Town. He grabbed my wrist, told me I looked like a whore, and took my passport. I was in total shock and terrified. I couldn’t think about anything other than, he is going to kill me. I knew, with every cell in my body, that he was going to kill me.
Months later, he called me. He said that he was going away for a long, long time, and wouldn’t be able to ever contact me again. I don’t remember anything else he said. I was thrilled.
There have been many times that my experience or “automatic instinctive survival skills” have saved my life. I have also learned a lot about people and humanity. What we are all capable of under the “right” circumstances? I hold no absolutes about anyone, not even myself. Charlie has been known to say to me, “Wow. You see the “dark” in people.” I do. I can’t say that I wish I didn’t. I’m alive because I can. I can say that I wish it wasn’t there. And I believe our Souls ARE free from the dark stuff. It’s just, in our humanity, that dark exists. AND we can be free from much of it by the way we live and think. It’s not easy, but it can be done! I choose to believe this. Those with hearing challenges can see what is already there, but see it more fully. Those who are sight impaired can hear what is already there, but hear more fully. There is no “voodoo” in this concept. It’s just Darwinian adaptation. It’s also true for those like me, who have had to assess people correctly, or pay the consequences. This trip with Paul was “me” paying the consequences.