A SUMMER CRUISE

adventure, FOOD, Sea Story, Travel

A SUMMER CRUISE

As I finished my third year at the University of Washington, I landed a great summer job at an exclusive adult summer camp and fishing resort in the San Juan Islands. I was the cook on the Thelma Rose, the resort’s classic vintage yacht. They offered six-day cruises to their well-heeled guests aboard this eight-stateroom vessel. Mid-way through our third cruise, Max Dumas, one of the guests, became a problem for both the crew and the seven other guests. This wealthy, middle-aged man was an unpleasant, arrogant ass, who delighted in belittling and bullying the other guests, ordering the crew around and complaining about everything, including my food. One evening, when we were anchored up off Roach Harbor, Max missed the five o’clock cocktail hour on the fantail and didn’t answer the seven o’clock dinner bell either. Everyone seemed happy to be rid of him, as they dined on Dungeness crab cocktails, Caesar salads, and freshly caught Lingcod. Halfway through dinner service, Max burst into the Captain’s mess. He was very drunk and argumentative. He took his seat, knocked over the crab cocktail, spilled his wine on the man to his left and picked a fight with a diner who asked him to, “Be quiet and behave like a gentleman!” Max was incensed by that remark and threw his wine glass at him. The skipper had enough of Max Dumas. He whispered to me, “Help me get him out of here.” As we manhandled him down the stairs, he kicked me, screamed obscenities at the guests, and grabbed a bottle of scotch off the sidebar. As we locked him in his stateroom, he threatened to kill both the skipper and myself.

About ten that night, I finished cleaning up the galley and made my way forward towards my berth. Just then, Max kicked open his stateroom door and stumbled out into the narrow passageway, brandishing a 357 Magnum. I was scared crap-less and stepped into the head, locked the door, and hoped he didn’t recognize me. I realized what a stupid move that was, trapping myself in this tiny room behind a flimsy wooden door. I was terrified when Max stopped and rattled the doorknob, I held my breath until I heard and felt a fleshy thud against the door, and it became very quiet. I waited a few minutes, hearing nothing, I forced the door open a few inches and discovered Max was passed out on the floor and sprawled up against the door, blocking my exit. I froze when I heard a groan and a string of curses; he was awake and back on his feet. Fortunately, he must have forgotten about me in his drunken stupor, I could hear him moving away, towards the stern.

When I was sure he left the cabin, I quietly made my way up to the captain’s mess and peered through the window to see what he was doing. Max was standing high up on the stern bench watching a school of a dozen killer whales that were playing harmlessly off our stern. I heard three shots, followed by a soulful animal moan and furious thrashing in the water. The gunshots woke up everybody on the boat, and lights were coming on all around the bay. I watched as the remaining school of whales, circled, dove and darted in and out around the mortally wounded female until she died. Then, they came together and plunged deep below the waves. I knew these animals were smart, fearless killers, and we had not seen the end of them. Max seemed oblivious to what was going on as he swayed back and forth waiting for another clean shot. Suddenly, the eleven remaining angry whales rose from the depths of the sea as one, striking the hull of the Thelma Rose with a premeditated jolt that sent Max, their enemy, flying overboard into their world.

The skipper flipped on the searchlights, and we raced out onto the fantail and searched the dark waters for him. We spotted Max thrashing about in the blood-tainted water near the dead whale. As the skipper tossed him a lifeline, the school shot out of the water, leaping six feet in the air and pummeled Max.

shutterstock_ocraAlthough I was horrified, I couldn’t turn away from this fascinating display of animal vengeance and retribution. I watched them toy with Max as he screamed in pain and terror. A bite here, a bite there, then they dragged him under the water and tossed him in the air, as he gasped for breath. When the big male sunk his teeth deep into his adversary’s chest and shook him like a rag doll, I turned away and said a prayer for Max Dumas.

*** THE END ***

I FINALLY GOT MY BOAT

Sea Story, What's Up?

I FINALLY GOT MY BOAT

 

Frisky r

The Winston’s are people of the sea. Back in the eighteen hundred’s, our ancestors built and sailed ships out of Scotland. My grandfather, father,(seen in this photo) and all my brothers and sisters loved the sea and owned boats. From the time I was six, I spent countless hours on boats of all descriptions.

***

We sold our boat in 1999 and moved to the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, which is two-thousand-five-hundred-miles from the nearest main body of land. I stepped off the plane in Honolulu with the anticipation of living in what should be a boater’s paradise. Surprisingly, there were relatively few outstanding boating opportunities in Hawaii outside of ocean fishing.

unnamed (1)I would routinely return to the Northwest twice a year to get my boating fix. Sometimes I rented a sixteen-foot kicker boat and took my son and grandkids crabbing on Oregon’s Alsea River. Once I experienced a brief stint as a deckhand aboard a commercial gillnetter in Bristol Bay, Alaska. There were lots of weekends spent aboard leased cruisers in the San Juan Islands and sports fishing off of Vancouver Island, which Elizabeth, my wife, pointed out, worked out to about $62.50 per pound for the fish I usually brought home. These excursions to the mainland were a band-aid, not a solution, and I knew it.

 

IMG_1961I almost realized my dream when I found an older fifty-eight-foot trawler tied up at La Mariana’s Sailing Club and Restaurant, which needed work and was for sale. The price was right, and it came with a moorage right in front of the restaurant/bar. It was perfect. As I was negotiating the deal, a tsunami tidal wave wiped out La Mariana’s marina, and the boat disappeared.

 

Bow up

***

After that disappointment, Elizabeth decided to cheer me up with an afternoon of riding the surf in a six-man outrigger canoe off of Waikiki Beach. It was exhilarating, but it reinforced my determined to be out on the ocean.

***

The following summer, I was thrilled when the owners of the local dragon boat, “the Opala,” invited two of my buddies and me to join their regular paddlers in the annual international Dragon Boat races held in Waikiki. My fellow sixteen paddlers, a drummer, and a coxswain practiced for hours and drank beer every evening for six weeks in preparation for the race. On race day, we beat the favored Chinese boat by a full length and won.

IMG_5065-1

***

The following year we were invited back, and we were smoking the competition. As we approached the finish line, the coxswain ordered the paddlers to lean to starboard. The two big locals paddling in front of me misunderstood the order and leaned the wrong way, capsizing our canoe. The Opala slipped across the finish line upside down and without a crew.

***

I was through screwing around with these diversions to my goal of boat ownership. I started searching the newspaper and marinas for a proper boat to purchase. I knew I couldn’t afford the boat I badly wanted, so I lowered my sights to a twenty-four-foot Boston Whaler rigged for ocean fishing. I figured I could eventually trade up. As I expressed my dream to Elizabeth, she told me, “Listen, Jake, I’ve stood by as you bought and sold seven boats over the years. I know how much work and expense is involved in owning and maintaining a boat, and so do you. Please, why don’t you just rent or charter a boat when you get the urge. I could go along with that, but not with owning another boat.”

***

The next evening, there was a copy of an internet advertisement beside my dinner setting. A fishing guide up in Waianae was offering to rent or lease his twenty-four-foot boat to qualified skippers for the day or week for a reasonable price. I called the guy immediately and reserved the boat for Wednesday of next week. I hung up, wrapped my arms around Elizabeth and told her I was lucky to have such a wise woman at my side.

***

unnamedI can’t describe how much fun my grandson and I had on the following Wednesday. The ride up to Waianae, where the boat was waiting for us was an adventure in itself. We met the owner, who showed me how things worked and grilled me about my skipper’s qualifications. After he was satisfied, I could safely handle his eighty-thousand-dollar boat he handed me the keys. I politely asked some questions about the electronics and four-hundred horsepower engine, just so he would know I was an experienced mariner. When I ask him about the Fish & Game rules regarding the legal sizes of different fish we could keep, He laughed, “Where you from, Boy? This is Waianae, the wild west. You won’t see any fish and game guys anywhere around here!’

 

IMG_4763 copy 3The owner backed the boat and trailer down the launch ramp with my grandson and me aboard. As he watched my every move, I lowered the outboard, started it, and slowly backed away from the trailer. I slipped it into neutral and let the boat slow to a near stop, and I imperceptibly shifted it into forward and executed a slow, smooth turn towards the channel entrance. He looked satisfied and gave us a friendly wave, which I returned with a curt John Wayne salute.

 

IMG_4801-1Once we were in the ocean and out of sight, I pushed the throttle to the wall, and let out an exuberant blood-curdling victory whoop as we went flying up the north coast at forty-knots. Initially, I was confident and comfortable with this overpowered vessel, but as the day wore on, and we went deeper and deeper into the not so friendly ocean, I wasn’t so sure as the wind and seas rose to a menacing level.

 

 

IMG_4760 (2)When a twenty-foot-plus unidentified fish came alongside and shadowed us for several minutes as we trolled, I was concerned. The big fish was close enough that I could reach down and touch its dorsal fin if I so wished. It was indeed capable of flipping us over. That’s when I thought a twenty-four-footer wasn’t going to cut it.

***

When we returned home that evening, I realized Elizabeth was right. One of the highlights of the trip was getting off the boat, handing the owner $500 and leaving. I didn’t have to wash it down, untangle the fishing tackle around the prop, refuel it, or haul it off to the storage yard. There would be no boat, insurance, storage yard, maintenance and repair costs. I accepted the fact that renting made a lot more sense than owning for us at this point in our lives. Peace settled on our little household.

***

About six a.m. several weeks later, I looking for something on the internet, when I stumbled upon an ad on Craig’s List:

FOR SALE, 20-FT BOAT, AND TRAILER. $1.00

boat & trailer

I couldn’t resist, I bought it on the spot. I was excited and couldn’t wait to share my good fortune with Elizabeth. I waited until a little after eight when she had her coffee and proudly blurted out, “I bought a twenty-foot boat this morning, Dear.” She sputtered, “You did what…?” Ten minutes later, I called the boat owner and said, “Here’s the deal, It’s down to my wife, or the boat. Sorry about the boat, but I’m keeping the wife!”

***

Opportunity was not done knocking at my door. Six weeks later I had a chance to buy a nearly new kayak for a good price from my grandson who was headed up to Alaska for a summer job. I couldn’t stand to see him sell that boat to a stranger for pennies on the dollar. So, I bought it. Elizabeth had no fight left in her, and just let it go.

IMG_5320I was under the impression it weighed about fifty pounds, or about the weight of two cases of beer or pop. I knew I could handle that easily, but as I struggled mightily to get it down from the kayak rack, I realized it weighed close to a hundred and fifty pounds. Once I got it on the ground, I could neither lift it onto the roof of my SUV nor place it back on to its spot high up on the rack.

I was dejected, out of breath and out of ideas, I took a seat in my kayak and staring at the rack trying to figure out how to get the damn thing back up there by myself. Fortunately, a couple of college kids wandered by and asked, “Are you okay, Mister?”

“No, I’m a long way from okay. Can you guys help me get this kayak back into the rack?

“Sure.”

kayak 2They helped me to my feet and out of the kayak. They asked me to stand clear as they struggled to lift it above their heads and squeeze it back in its spot which was a tight fit. I thanked them, and after they left, I chained it up and stood back to take a look and study my options.

It was a nice boat, but I knew I would never go to sea in it. It was just too cumbersome for me to deal with by myself. My situation reminded me of the words to an old Bobby Bare song called. “The Winner.” It ends like this:

 

“…but, I got her boys, and that’s what makes me a winner!”

 

*** THE END ***

 

*Credit to the song “The Winner” by B. Bare