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Sailing with Charlie: Belly Timber

Graphics by Hannah Welch
Graphics by Hannah Welch

In the days of yore – or let’s say early 19th Century – on board ship, the rations per man, per meal, were likely to be a hunk of salt pork, sea biscuits (with weevils), a chunk of bread … and perhaps some pickled cabbage to keep the scurvy at bay (thanks to explorer Captain Cook). It was a question of ‘eat to live’ rather than ‘live to eat’. How thing have changed!

Personally, I like food; it’s one of life’s great pleasures. To satisfy a good appetite on tasteless starchy food, just to fill a stomach, is a wasted opportunity. Even those on a budget can come up with tasty victuals using a bit of imagination – and imagination is less than a dollar a pound. Big expensive charter boats vie for customers by extolling the skills of their respective chefs. Guests often are served tropical cocktails, appetizers like deep fried camembert with a fruit coulis or breaded fried fish nuggets with a remoulade. So delicious and fattening are these tidbits that guests are often full before the main course is served, leading to the observation that wooden ships and iron men are a thing of the past, and plastic ships and jelly bellies are a fact of the present.

Charlie has a weakness for junk food and on a recent yacht delivery, from South Africa to the Caribbean, took on a green crew. Before departing, they went to a fast food outlet (which shall be nameless) and ordered Big Macs and giant cokes all round. On their way out, Charlie collected all the empty containers and surreptitiously put them in a plastic bag and carried them back to the boat.

The yacht was one of those ubiquitous catamarans, the yacht of choice by many large groups and families vacationing in the Caribbean today. Charlie with his crew of three had been en route for five days when, just after lunchtime, he decided to lay out all of the previously saved junk food containers: giant cups, bags, plastic forks, ketchup and mayo sachets – on the saloon table. When the off-watch crew member woke up and staggered sleepily into the main salon he gasped in surprise at the evidence of a just-finished fast food feast. “Where did all this come from?” he croaked. “Where’s mine?”

“Well,” said Charlie, “we tried to wake you to see if you wanted anything but you were sound asleep. We just passed by the ‘Sail Through’ window and couldn’t resist it.”

“Well, you could have ordered me a cheeseburger and fries,” said the gullible crew member as the others burst into raucous laughter and started throwing the empty containers at him.

Gullible (yep, that’s his new name) is now land-based in St. Maarten.

Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’ and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.

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