Cook has closed the bilge and is rooting through the ice chest when Margarete and I emerge from her quarters fully chocolatized. Most of the men who had taken to their bunks to sulk over the floppy dinghy and their resulting denial, are now on deck gazing longingly toward shore. A few others have gathered in the salon and sit reading, eating grapes Cook has set out. Randy, the skipper, is leaning on the threshold of his stateroom casually grasping a handhold while he talks on his cell phone. He’s grinning and cajoling, graphically retelling the tale of the “limp dink.”
After shoving off and until anchoring, phones have been used discretely — except by Miguel, the young Venezuelan, who has his palmed and glued to an ear every moment we are within range of a cell tower. It seems his girlfriend is missing him terribly, even though they chatter constantly. Still hot from recent cooing, Miguel’s phone, which is plugged in for recharging right under Randy’s hand, sings for attention. Randy looks for Miguel to scurry to answer, but he must be in the head or on deck. In a seamless wave Randy drops his hand, swoops up the phone, flicks it open and slaps it shut. Everyone in the salon giggles as the skipper theatrically touches his finger to his lips to shush us. He cranes to look up the hatch.
“Who wants to go ashore?” he asks loudly, holding his phone above his head. An immediate surround-sound, testosterone-juiced chorus of “Me!” “Me!” “Me!” circles the salon. If anyone was asleep, they aren’t now. Spencer yanks the curtain open, toddles into the salon with his hand raised, yawning, “Me too!”
Miguel bounds down the companion way, glances toward his phone and shrugs his shoulders begging a translation.
“Do you want to go ashore?”
“Si. Yes, si!” Miguel smiles as he picks up his phone to determine its status. He checks for messages and plugs it in as Randy finishes his phone conversation.
“My friend who lives here, another skipper, has a skiff he can launch. I didn’t want to impose, so I offered him $100 to water taxi for the evening. His boat can handle six. He has to drive, so five can go ashore in one trip. We should let the birthday boy go to celebrate with his little brother. Miguel, Spencer — Alex, do you want to go?”
Elenore, who looked so longingly towards shore, turns on her heel and lurches up the steps. She knows she must stay aboard and get a bit of sleep.
“Anyone else?” he looks over his shoulder incapable of ignoring the first mate’s huff. “So, it’s settled. We’re pulling anchor at midnight. Don’t miss the boat. Get your twenty bucks and be ready. He’ll be here shortly. Remember, everyone back and set to head north before 2330. No later than 11:30 or you’ll be driving up the coast!”
We nod our heads, satisfied with the arrangement and the change of mood. Cook hoists two bottles of white wine above his head and does the Rocky Balboa victory dance. “Look what I found for the rest of us,” he sings. He stops and gestures stiff arm, palm out. “For dinner,” he decrees. We hold as commanded, lick our lips and make hot tea he has set out. Cook is the master of what and when we eat or drink while on ship — except our chocolate.
Everyone gathers on deck to enjoy the lengthening shadows and scan the harbor for the shore boat’s arrival. A small aluminum skiff nears. The skipper waves and calls to Randy as he eases the throttle. As the boat skims alongside and disappears in our sheer, Miguel’s cell phone rings again. Miguel retreats to the bow to answer, looking somewhat irritated. He returns quickly, flipping his phone shut as he shrugs his shoulders. “Mi novia es crazy por me,” he apologizes.
Boarding will not be as simple as stepping from one deck to the other. We are more than six feet above the waterline. Margarete and Connor rig a rope ladder while Randy introduces his friend below. “This is Charlie. He’ll take you in and bring you back. Call him a half hour before you’re ready or just show up where he drops you at 11. People fall in using these ladders so be careful. If you have anything you don’t want to get wet, leave it or we can hand it down once you board. Miguel, give me your phone,” instructs Randy as the men cue up at the ladder.
The five have primped, slicked their hair, put on travel clothes. They smell strongly of baby wipes and cologne. One by one they lower themselves to the launch and speed away. We watch until they cut behind a jut of docks and Cook has called us to dinner. Randy pulls Miguel’s cell phone from his pocket, plugs it in and turns to serve himself salmon, rice and a green salad. Cook pours wine into small plastic juice glasses and passes them to the table.
“To the birthday boy,” offers Randy. “And the skipper,” adds Ed. “…and the crew.” Smiling, we raise our glasses to toast. Miguel’s phone vibrates loudly.
I jerk awake as adrenaline squirts into my veins. Have we hit something? A whale, a container, a crate of shoes? No. The thump is on the sole, not the hull. I take a long breath. Has something fallen? No. The boat is neither pitching nor yawing nearly enough to toss some heavy load onto the floor. I peek around my lee cloth to see the dark figure of the First Mate Eleanor pulling on her shoes, illuminated by her red flashlight. She has launched herself from the bunk above me to prepare for the change of watch, her third watch in 24 hours. She is covering for a mate stricken with seasickness. Read more