While Marc was at sea, doing battle with the reincarnation of Attila the Hun, I was sitting in an outdoor Caribbean bar, waiting for a mysterious German gentleman to show up and buy me a beer.
Okay, it’s not quite what it sounds like. I met Peter (the aforementioned gentleman) on a website where people look for crew and/or volunteers for their boats. Peter had a sailboat. I wanted to crew. We were both in Antigua. A match made in cyber heaven! Right?
I checked the time on my phone for the dozenth time. It was already twenty minutes past our meeting time; twenty long minutes of fending off a young tour driver, that seemed to think I was in need of a real Antiguan experience.
The longer I waited, the more my anxiety began to kick in. I began to hope that the German wouldn’t show up at all. After all, I was sure to become tongue tied and end up spewing some sort of martian-esque gibberish. The German probably wouldn’t enjoy that nearly as much as my two-year-old nephew…
Even if I managed to maintain some level of coherency, there was always the deeper and more serious question. A question that has plagued introverts throughout the ages… What, oh what was I supposed to do with the big hunks of wood attached to my torso. Aka: my hands.
Then it was too late to dwell on it further. The German had arrived.
And he was great. I don’t remember what I did with my hands (that’s probably a good thing), but I am positive that I didn’t spill anything on him. Bonus! And I must have been coherent cause I got the job! A week on his boat, helping with random things, and then sailing around to the other side of the island. And the best thing of all, he agreed to let Marc come aboard too!
Marc arrived on Antigua, having just survived sailing there with the most bad-tempered, crotchety man as his captain. A real bully. Comparing him to Attila the Hun really is only a slight exaggeration.
So as you can imagine, being stuck at sea for weeks on the bully boat was about as savoury as being an officer on the Death Star (at least Darth Vador was semi-polite to his commanders before strangling them to death with the force).
Like me, Marc had been planning on working full time in the yachting industry. After Attila, he was no longer so sure.
Peter’s boat had less in common with the fancy yachts we had been working on over the past few months, than it did with a high end doghouse. It was filthy. It was damp. It smelled. It was old. It was dark.
It was absolutely wonderful!
How great it felt to be free of the glitz and glam. Free of the countless hours spent polishing windows that were already more spotless than Mr. Clean’s shiny head. Instead, I was down on my stomach on the dirty floor, scooping sludge out of the water tank with an old margarine container.
We stayed on the boat with Peter. The nights were so hot and humid that it was difficult to sleep. In the mornings the three of us had breakfast together, which included Peter’s specialty: rock hard slabs of bread that he claimed to have preserved by drying in the sun. However, I remain convinced that the bread was older than the sun, so he must have been lying… All in all though, not bad. Especially not if you followed Peter’s example of adding a touch of scotch to your morning coffee.
When the boat was ready, we had her put in the water. Yes! She floated! We started out on our journey around the island. It was beautiful! We stopped in a little cove and Marc and I swam to shore and walked along the beach.
That night, after Peter had gone to bed, we stood outside on the deck and looked out over the oil-black water. There under the stars, Marc told me that he loved me for the first time. We decided then, once and for all, that we were through with yachting. We both wanted to sail, but we wanted to do it more like Peter. And we wanted to do it together.
The next day, we navigated our way through walls of coral reefs. They were difficult to see under the water and very dangerous. Peter was as relaxed about it as he was about the general cleanliness of his boat. Imagine the chilled out Surfing Turtle from Finding Nimo. Except not a surfer… or a turtle… and with a strong gruff German accent instead of Australian… On second thought, erase the whole image. He’s nothing like the Surfing Turtle.
Still, the only time I ever saw him even mildly ruffled was when we almost ran into a particularly difficult-to-see underwater reef. Then he made the call to “Turn! Now! Now! NOW!”
When we reached our destination and parted ways, I confess I was sad to say goodbye to that lovely un-turtle-like man.
But new adventures awaited. Marc and I were going to Canada!
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