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Sailing Away From Home

We’ve been gone from the Virgin Islands for over six months now, and I’m starting to feel it. Like when I telephone back to St. John, “Fat who?” they ask. “Are you sure you have the right number?”

My own mother is the same way. When I ring her up——say, every millennium or so——she says, “Who? No, I don’t want any diet pills!”

America is beginning to fade. Sure, people tell me stuff like… like the president is mad because he can’t torture people… but, hey, I don’t believe them.

I attempt to keep up. I buy PLAYBOY, HUSTLER and other American cultural mags——but still, I feel the social fabric of America gradually slipping away from me.

Thank God for DVDs! If not for the Sopranos, I’d have completely lost touch with New Jersey!

…and 50 Cent’s new movie ‘Get Rich or Die Try’n!’ is, in many ways, the perfect American Export for the Third World. (I’m not sure, though, that I agree with the IRA on this one… that America would be a better place if every gang-banger was given a complementary weapon upon their twelfth birthday!)

But some of the news items seem too ghoulish for even a gullible person such as myself to believe. I mean, nobody REALLY ripped off Alistair Cook’s bones, did they? (Wow! What a ‘Letter from America’ THAT would make on the BBC!)

There’s a lot of stuff I can’t figure out: how did Bob Dylan, who was famous for forty years for not uttering a single coherent word… suddenly get so chatty?

There was actually a paragraph in his latest book which, if you read it a few times, makes sense. And I saw a teaser for Martin Scorsese’s new DVD bio on the net… in which Dylan muttered something like “…where’s my socks?” which was, again, completely understandable and not obscure.

Boy, you can’t depend on anything or anybody anymore!

We’re currently cruising in New Zealand. It is funny how much of the local news parallels the international.

For instance, there is a sizable minority of people here which feel they’ve been ripped off, marginalized and discriminated against… while the majority can’t seem to figure out why they are whining and complaining so much about being merely ripped off, marginalized and discriminated against!

But when you are cruising-without-end, year-after-year… you do, indeed, start to have a slightly ‘bent’ perspective on world affairs.

I mean, if the French Quarter really wanted more FEMA funds… couldn’t they rename themselves the Freedom Quarter?

Solutions like this seem so easy… when you are 10,000 miles away.

Of course, since I’m a bit of an infamous fellow I often get interviewed by foreign reporters as we circumnavigate. Sometimes the subtle meaning of what I say gets, well, ‘lost in translation’ so to speak.

“Do you often have friends visit you aboard Wild Card?” I was recently asked by an inquisitive Kiwi National Radio journalist. So when I blurt out, “All my friends have visited me!” …well, only the people who know me well would realize that means never.

The trick is, for a true sea gypsy, not to get too lax. I mean, I have to (darn, I hate work!) occasionally make sure my checks are being auto-deposited via the internet, my fan club knows how to accept donations on my behalf, and (lucky me!) young girls know where to email those naughty pics of themselves!

Yes, it is ‘attention to detail’ in which most yachties fall short. How to make sure that any stray money finds you… but no bill collectors?

It’s a challenge, believe me.

There are medical issues, too. I’m getting older, there is no question about that. For instance, yesterday while watching my wife hoist our dinghy aboard… I got eye-strain!

Darn.

My job is taking more and more of my time… especially the photojournalist part of it. (Doctoring all my pics with Photoshop 7… adding hair, whitening my teeth, reducing my ‘waste’ line and unsagging my buttocks… uncrossing my eyes… drying up the drooling… all takes ‘oodles of hours,’ I’ll tell you!)

Oh, it is easy to believe an ocean-jaunting, ocean-jotting writer like myself has the Life of Riley… but the reality is a tad different. Sure, I’ve got buckets of money stashed all over the boat, no, it never seems to be the right currency!

Most people have no idea of the problems I face! Take my passport, for instance. It is bulging with stamps, visas and worse. Did you know many countries have stamps for bail-jumpers, deportees, dead-beats, womanizers and tax cheats?

Neither did I.

Ditto, my vessel documentation. I’m astounded by the number of countries which reject my ship’s papers merely because the expiry date of 1998 has been XXXed out… and the current year written-in with crayon! (Gee, I hate government burly-crats, don’t you?)

And things expire! I just had to renew my FCC SSB license… and my VHF license… and my EPIRB license… thank God my poetic one didn’t expire as well!

Seriously! It cost me $155 US to ‘internet renew’ all the above, and the end result will be that somebody I used to know, like, a hundred years ago… and conned into telling me their address… probably when we were drunk… is gonna get little note in the mail which says, “Thanks, Fat Man, for the cash!”

…who knows what address the FCC is using! My old reform school’s PO Box? That half-arse Half Way House in Brooklyn? The hot-sheet hotel in Bangkok? General delivery, Cali? The bartender at the Whip & Chain in Amsterdam?

The sad fact is: governments the world over want you to be somewhere. Basically, they want your cell number… and if you don’t give ‘ em one, they get suspicious. (Yes, I realize ‘cell number’ has one written and one spoken meaning——that’s why I reject both!)

Part of the problem that I have as a ‘international marine writer of some repute’ is that people are always meeting me who have grown to know me through my writing… and are either too slow and/or too illiterate to realize I’m not a nice guy!

This is troubling.

Every time I pull into a dock in South America, Asia or Africa and someone yells, “I love your writing!” Carolyn mutters underneath her breath, “…Loser!”

But, life flows, and so it goes. We sail on. And on. And on. Occasionally, we bump into land masses, wander ashore and amuse the locals. Bits fall off our boat and we glue them back, sort-of. When money is needed, I scribble.

And, occasionally, people in uniform ask us questions and we do our best to answer with a straight face.

It sounds crazy——but for us——this is maturity.

Cap’n Fatty Goodlander lives aboard Wild Card with his wife Carolyn and cruises throughout the world. He is the author of “Chasing the Horizon” by American Paradise Publishing, “Seadogs, Clowns and Gypsies” and “The Collected Fat.” For more Fat-flashes, see fattygoodlander.com

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