Captain Ron (acting as navigator and lecherous, rum-besotted problem solver), the boat's owner Johann (master and commander), and myself ("The Crew," i.e. toilet scrubber, dish washer, and Ron's moral compass) set out from Dana Point on the evening of Wednesday, bound for greater Northern latitudes. Being Ron's moral compass is a thankless, never-ending task that involves keeping him clear of lee shores (women and bars, mostly).
When stowing my sea bag under my bunk in the berth we shared, I noticed that Ron's gear gurgled a great deal--- upon inspection, I discovered that his entire food supply consisted of several bottles of rum, a bottle of wine, a large enough number of cans of beer to supply a small town of rednecks for a week, and a bag of Dopefish-shaped cheese crackers. One could almost wonder if Marty Leipzig had packed Ron's bags for him, if only there had been some bourbon.
"Your bunk is gurgling," I told him.
"It is? You're kidding, right? You're not kidding. Think the Captain heard it?" Ron asked with a worried look on his face. He ran below to stuff towels between the cracks, muffling the sound, before I could tell him I was kidding.
My food supply consisted of many gourmet Mexican foods, fine pasta dishes, excellent wines, spicy chili, fruit, vegetables, and assorted delicacies. No point roughing it, after all. $200 on food for ten days. Ah, heaven.
As we shoved off, Johann told us the standard "I Run A Happy, Relaxed Ship" speech, with a new twist I have never heard before: we may drink alcohol while on watch. Humm. Isn't that how the Valdez ran aground?
Since I wasn't being paid money on the trip, I was not scheduled to stand a watch. Ron and Johann planned on going "Watch and watch," which means being on watch for four hours, off for four hours, and then back on watch again. One is expected to eat, poop, and sleep on one's off hours, and pace the deck looking alertly out to sea on the on hours. As it worked out, after a day of this abuse, I was worked into the watch schedule,whereby each person had three hours on and six hours off.
We covered 200 miles a day. Our first stop was at Monterey bay for fuel, which was denied us--- they only sell to commercial boats. We were directed to take our boat, insert it in the rectum, and take it to Moss Landing, 13 miles North. Real friendly folks, these guys. Monterey bay is hip-deep in seals--- even the tiniest mooring buoy had a seal perched precariously on it. One seal was tightly hugging a buoy with its flippers, ass awash, with its nose pointed straight up in the air and with an enraptured look on its whiskered face.
At Moss Landing we begged for fuel and eventually got some. A person on the dock said Johann's boat would look much nicer with fish guts all over it. I walked into a run-down, redneck bar named "Laura's Social Club" looking for a place to mail a letter to Cat, and I wasn't very well received by the patrons of that fine establishment. I was the only one there that had taken a bath that year, had clean clothing, no baseball cap on my head, and a flat gut. Even the bar's dog looked defeated, worn out, and looking for any excuse to kill something. I reeked with YUPpieness in my brilliant white yachting-club Polo shirt, Levi shorts, bright blue deck shoes, and Indiana Jones Fedora hat. What could I say? "Say! Hi there, fellas! Wanna do me a big favor and mail this letter to my friend for me?" Naw. I briefly considered challenging every manjack in the room to a penis size contest, then turned to walk out.
In walked Captain Ron.
"Get a load of THIS place!" he yelled loud enough for everyone inside to hear. I followed him to the bar, trying to look manly, macho, and tough. I squinted like Clint Eastwood, put a thumb through my belt loop, slouched against the bar, picked out the weakest, meekest looking redneck and tried to stare him down. Ron was at the counter buying snacks. "Hey David! Want some candy?" he yelled at me. Shit. So much for being Mister Tough Guy. Real men don't eat candy.
For dinner on the boat I had a large pile of cheese and pepper tamales. I was to see these very same tamales a few hours later.
From Moss Landing to Crescent City we got our ass kicked around by Poseidon. 25 knot winds on the nose and 13-foot-tall swells. I spent ten minutes of one watch bent over the head, losing my dinner, lunch, breakfast, both lungs, and assorted internal organs. After two days of no one on board eating, we decided to go into Crescent City to wait for the storm to end.
I was soaked with rain, trudging through the town looking for a mail box to post that same Cat letter. Failing to locate a mail box, I joined the rest of the crew at a restaurant that sold fish and steak dinners ONLY. I don't eat animal flesh. Fudge! My stomach was already in pain, but the waitress kept going on and on about "our huge, juicy New York steak and halibut nuggets with horse radish sauce dinner" and greatly contributed to my gastrointestinal distress. I would have loved a tofu taco.
On the way back to the boat from the restarunt, we ran into an old fart who had a dead fish in his hand and a piece of fish gut on his nose who convinced Johann that we were wasting time in the harbor, and that fine weather was just an hour away. He seemed to know what he was talking about, since when we got off shore, the wind died and the swells grew smaller.
Ten or twelve hours out of Crescent City we were plowing through three-foot waves and 9 knot wind, when a dozen dolphins hitched a lift on our bow's pressure wave. Three or four would ride the wave, barely moving their tail, then give a spurt of speed and leap out in front, dive, and break right or left. Then the ones behind them would take their place on the pressure wave. Johann said "Look! Dolphins!" and I yelled "Cool! Where's the harpoons?!" Always the radical environmentalist, I: Marty Leipzig would have been proud. I climbed out on the tiny bowsprit and yelled at them. Several turned on their sides to look up at me. No, really. I guess we were not going their way, as they fled to the West after a few minutes.
We were 20 miles West and South of Coos Bay when gale force winds struck. Winds hit 35 knots, and swells topped 20 feet tall. This was much worse than the previous storm, as the boat was getting the shit kicked out of it. Well, that's not quite true: the boat was doing fine--- the contents (animate and inanimate) were getting slammed around. The full-size refrigerator door opened and ejected a gallon jug of milk as if it were a cannon ball, which detonated on the main salon floor like an impotent Molotov cocktail. Fortunately, no one was hurt. (Killed a Christian.)
One time Ron and I were in our bunks trying to rest (sleep, like eating and craping, was impossible), when we felt the boat start climbing a huge wave. . . .
<climb, climb, climb> "Joseph," <climb> <climb> "Mary," <climb, climb, climb> "and. . . ." I'd start.
<plummet, plummet, =WHAM!=> "Jesus!!!!" Ron would finish.
Since I was on the top bunk, with the ceiling scant inches above my nose, I often had the ceiling drop on me like a ton of bricks (or a Christian Crusader's torture press) during freefall, just to be slammed against the bunk's mattress when we hit the water, just to be slammed against the ceiling again from the rebound off the mattress. (Copulating during this might have been fun.) Having no astronaut training, I soon grew sick of this treatment, so I opened a port hole for fresh air. A Noachian deluge amount of water invited itself in and flooded my bunk, filling my sleeping bag like a ballon (well, I'm exagerating--- it was only a gallon or two).
Giving up on sleep, I went topside, and noticed the deck was awash in milk. Humm. Sloshing among the white flotsam and jetsam was a broken glass thermos, coffee grounds from the trash, a broken glass lamp, a few hundred sea shells, and assorted papers, spoons, cups, plates, navigation aids, clothing, and food. My immediate thought was "Well =I'M= not cleaning this up!" I was on vacation, after all.
Johann, on watch, was clutching a hand rail and was peering out at the darkness with a glazed, sick, feverish look in his eyes. We could have run into a brilliantly lighted Love Boat and Johann would not have seen it. He snapped out of his trance when I yelled "Hi there!" and startling him almost to the point of wetting his pants. He was probably thinking about drowning, so maybe he thought I was Satan coming to collect him.
"What's Ron doing?" he asked, hoping to be relieved soon.
<climb, climb, climb, plummet, plummet, =WHAM!=> "Jesus!!!" Ron screamed from somewhere below.
"Praying," I replied. We laughted at the absurdity of Ron praying.
There was some concern over our boat's running out of fuel. Ron was going through various abandon-ship plans, wondering if we should get out the full-emersion suits, set off the emergency SatRescue beacon, and inflate the life raft, just in case we capsized. But I had a lot of excellent frozen Mexican food on board, and I'd be damned if I was going to leave it behind, so we stayed on board. One must set priorities, after all. Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock's _Lifeboat_ ran through my head.
Two boats were not so lucky. They ran for safety into Coos Bay, and didn't make it--- they floundered on the bar and two people died. A third sail boat, which I had picked up its May-Day on the radio, was abandoned and its occupant was rescued by a cargo ship. The Harbor Patrol closed Coos Bay to boats under 32 feet--- meaning that small craft were better off "standing off and on" outside the harbor instead of trying to get over the sandbar that crosses the entrance.
The storm blew out, the swells lessened to under 10 feet, and the rain decreased to random squalls now and then. Black, low, heavy clouds showed up on both radars, making it hard to pick out boats and ships.
One night Ron was on watch when a Love Boat, no doubt with Captain Stubing nodding off at the helm with thoughts of Julie (or Gopher: one never knows) in his head, was overtaking us dead astern at 25 knots. If it had hit us, no one on the ship would have noticed- -- maybe the next person to paint the ship might have noticed a few scratches here and there to mark our encounter. When the ship was slightly less than a mile astern, and showing no hint of veering, Ron called them on the radio and asked them to "advise" us on which side they would be passing. This is a polite way of asking the helms' person if she or he has seen us, and if she or he knows it is her or his duty and responsibility to avoid us. Asking another ship's duty watch if they see you is a unpardonable insult, and the ship's watch radioed back with umbrage and sarcasm. (It was our boat's duty and responsibility to "maintain course and speed," up to the point of disaster--- if we had changed course and then collided, it would have been our fault.) The ship grudgingly changed course, which probably involved waking up the watch commander and getting permission to turn the auto pilot knob ten degrees to the right. It appeared like the person on watch didn't want to wake a superior to get this permission, and was hoping we would get out of the way--- a violation of maritime law.
When Ron thanked the ship's watch and hung up, the Harbor Patrol, who had been listening, called the Love Boat's watch and had a few choice words to say to him.
On our way to Neah Bay, we picked up more dolphins. These were a different species as the previous ones, as we were many hundreds of miles North by now. The waters were populated by killer whales, so natural selection favored these dolphins with the same coloring and markings as small (six feet long) killer whales--- if one looks like a nasty, finely-honed, meat-eating aquatic killing machine, one is less likely to be harassed. (Killer whales in San Juan de Fuca eat seals and salmon: in Dana Point last February, a whale-watching boat full of little kids were looking at seals that were resting on a buoy, when a killer whale jumped on top of the buoy, grabbed a seal, and chomped it into bloody pieces--- all in from of the kids. Gee, I hope they weren't too traumatized.) I screamed and waved at these dolphins, but none of them swam on their sides to look up at me. I was crushed.
Into Neah bay, Ron and I went ashore to mail that same letter I hadn't yet mailed. I asked a local where the post office was, and was pointed to an outhouse. Hummm. Being a trusting sort, I checked out the outhouse and found a mail box hiding behind it. I -finally- mailed the letter (tah dah!). We then has a WONDERFUL breakfast. The food was horrid, mind you, but it was WONDERFUL because none of us had eaten for several days. I ordered a huge "Spanish" omelet (which was actually a Red Neck omlet), and hash browns, plus three pancakes. The waitress warned me that the pancakes were plate-sized and an inch think, so I just got one. Mmmmmmmm!
From the breakfast table, Ron and I went to a general store and encountered an old, salty, toothless guy walking on the sides of his shoes (the toes were in the shoes, while the soles were outside) whom I very much would have loved to talk to--- the stories he could have told!--- but he was not mentally fit enough to talk with. If he were less than 900 years old I would be surprised. Ron took his photograph without asking, which I thought was extremely rude.
We got 800+ gallons of fuel at Neah Bay (US$1.09 a gallon), and from there went to Port Angeles. From then on we had fair weather, and the trip was actually fun. In Port Angeles I landed upon a Dairy Queen like McArthur landed on Korea, buying a chocolate icecream cone so dark and chocolatey that it was sinister--- I tipped US$5.00, gave the counter girl a lewd wink, and went looking for a bar to shoot some pool.
From Neah Bay we went to a resort harbor called Roche Harbor. One woman I met said I could live with her and two other young women for a week. Humm. Nice, friendly place. I declined, since I had to get back to work in a few days. Damn it all. Ron was slouching lower and lower in his chair, downing beer after beer, but perked up when he heard me decline the offer. The woman in question seemed to like Ron better anyhow. She was studying to be a minister, and she was somewhat impressed when I produced my Universal Life minister card.
While in Neah Bay, Ron, Johann, and I were sitting on the flying bridge looking at women walk by. One woman was walking down the dock, looking sad and depressed, while a violent-looking fellow escorted her with a vice-like grip on her elbow. The asshole reeked with domestic violence. I smiled at her and waved, then picked up the binoculars and stared at her through them--- though we were only twenty feet away. She broke out in a brilliant, beautiful smile and laughed. When I put down the binoculars, the man was seething with hatred and rage at me. If looks could kill, I'd be in hell right now. His insane jealousy was so disgusting I could only laugh at him--- which he also didn't like and may have given him more "reason" to abuse her. If I had been alone, this asshole might have tried to harm me.
From Neah Bay we went to Seattle. Along the way I put a note in a bottle and tossed it into the Straight, hoping the current would take it to some nymphomaniac, bored, twenty-nine-year-old "housewife" who would find it, seek me out, and do naughty things on top of me. The odds of it ever being found are hundreds of thousands to one against. The note read "Warning! Love Genie Entombed In Bottle! Opening will result in romance" with my name, address, and Internet address.
In Seattle I spent two days sitting around the dock, eatting huge piles of food. I had to somehow consume about six days of food in two days, and darn near managed it (warning, children: don't try this trick at home--- I'm a professional stunt glutton).
From Seattle I took an airplane home, and was picked up by my roommate. Mentally and emotionally (and lasciviously) I was still in Roche Harbor, wishing I had stayed a week.