I think everyone has at one point or another encountered their own personal “perfect storm” of human negativity. You know- the sort of person whose arrival at a party causes at least two positive personality humans to vanish before your eyes? Well, cruising being a sort of running party in some ways, has these personalities too. This is the story of one boatload of human negativity so intense; it actually resulted in intense isobars of positive energy surrounding its cloud radius.
I’ll use Joe and Edna for pseudonyms. Joe being the Lil’Abner cartoon jinx with the cloud over his head. The notable exception here is that where the cartoon Joe was a jinx, the sailing Joe seemed to vacuum up all of the negativity around him and carry it off, leaving some pretty good luck in his wake. Think of a street sweeper. It comes in on a somewhat dirty road. It makes a racket and a huge cloud of dust. And when it’s gone, the road is actually cleaner than it was before.
I think it was in Philipsburg that we first met. I had Charis alongside at Bobby’s marina and had to pull the engine, change the mounts, and get it re-aligned in less than a week before Christmas since my brother and his wife were flying in. “Never happen” said Joe. He rattled off at least 15 supporting arguments (turns out he was a lawyer in a past life.) Having no choice I pushed ahead. At times it did seem like it wouldn’t get done. But in the end, with some do-it- yourself, some scrounging and re-purposing of materials, and some genuine talent from unexpected quarters, the job was done and done well.
At the very end I saw Joe again. He was amazed that we got the work done, but “Boy were we in for it” on the bill he assured us. So just before Christmas, fully expecting to eat Ramen noodles for the rest of the winter, I headed off to the office to settle. $160 was the total. For the first and only time in my life I argued that a boatyard bill was too low. No- the mechanic (whose alignment was perfect) was an apprentice charged out at a ridiculously reasonable hourly rate. The steel plates were scrap. No charge. No charge for using the machine shop to cut, drill and tap since I did the work myself. No charge for dockage since they were working on the boat…
The cruise budget being saved, and with a bit of mad money left over to boot, I decided some new Bose cockpit speakers were in order. I Ran into Joe on the way to the cruise ship electronics district. “No deals to be had here. All tourist trap scams – fake products… high prices. Forget it.” Having begun to see a pattern, I wanted to thank Joe, but headed off quietly assured good things were about to happen. And so it was that wonderful sound came to Charis’s cockpit for far less than I would have spent at home. I still think of Joe whenever I enjoy those speakers.
Christmas day arrived. As this was pre-refrigeration (a.k.a. ice-capade) days on Charis, my brother and I headed out in search of a bag or two of cubes to keep the chilly bin cold and for Holiday mixed drinks later. We found Joe ashore under his cloud. “You’ll never find ice today. Holiday….Stores closed….restaurants will charge you a fortune…” After a somewhat in vain happy holiday wish to Joe, we headed off, now assured of success beyond our wildest dreams. And so it was, that shortly after, two fools were seen staggering down front street each under the load of a Hefty 40 gallon trash bag full of ice cubes. We had inquired at Mickey-D’s and when the counter girl said that they didn’t usually sell bagged ice, but she guessed for a dollar a bag it would be OK. Better get 2 we figured. That was before we found out that the only plastic bags they had were trash bags, and they meant $1 for a full bag. We hit every cruising boat we knew (including Joe and Edna’s on the way back to Charis, dispensing ice like some sort of tropical Santas, minus the red suits, sleigh and reindeer. Most were pleased to take some free ice, but Joe seemed a little hostile.
We headed off to St.Barts for the New Year celebration. Joe and Edna were there too. This was my first “smart “ year of cruising and I had warned all visitors that they needed to plan the cost of a hopper flight into their trip budget as I was not going to beat up boat and crew to meet an airline reservation. And so it was that our guests finished their trip on a Liat hopper to Guadeloupe for their flight home. Just before they left, we saw Joe ashore. I explained that we were going to sit tight until we got a north east shift in the trades and then sail down to Deshaise. “Never goes north of east here in January” Joe assured us. Shortly after he and Edna bashed out into a strong southeast tradewind for their trip to Guadeloupe. I waited. By the following morning the wind had dropped to 10 -15 out of the north east. With the wine bilge packed to the hatches, we set off and enjoyed probably the nicest overnight sail I’ve ever had in the Caribbean. Steady gentle winds and a perfect starlit sky made the 23 hour run seem too short. But then we had sort of expected this after our own little “ill fortune vacuum” had cleared the way for us.
We arrived in Deshaise to the smell of the wood fired oven bakery ashore and anchored just astern of Joe and Edna. Joe came on deck and fired over an “I told you so” about the weather. They had arrived about 4 hours previous. “Horrible trip. Beating into gale winds for 2 days…” “By the way, when did we leave Gustavia?” “23 hours ago,” I responded. Little did I know that this response would kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.
To explain, it didn’t exactly “kill” the goose. Joe remained very much alive. But for the rest of that cruise – all the way down the island chain to Grenada – we were to see Joe and Edna in many more harbors. Trouble was they refused to talk to or even acknowledge our existence after that. Without Joe to suck up all the negativity around us, from then on we had to settle for the usual mixed run of fortune – some good, some bad, but none spectacular. Oh well. It was nice having our own little jinx vacuum while it lasted!
Still wish I’d tailed that guy through a casino or three….But then I’m not a betting man.