We are now officially in the Mediterranean Sea. We know this because it is crowded, expensive, and the people are as cold as the water. Everyone ashore has dollar signs in their eyes. There are so many crazy rules and so much governmental red tape – you have to sail while towing a lawyer in your dinghy. Different countries are constantly bickering over their legal jurisdiction, yelling "My victim! My victim!" in greedy competition.
One of the main 'Neo-Euro' economic concepts seems to be: force 'em into a marina so it is easier and quicker to siphon off their money.
A vessel in the Mediterranean which doesn't have its charge cards electronically-linked-via-modem to shore at all times is viewed with suspicion. "The reason yachts were created is to carry large sums of money to us," one self-assured Euro-marine businessman told me briskly. "So why would they anchor out and do something frivolous like go for a swim? Don't they know this will delay the transfer of our funds?"
Needless to say, we're suffering from sticker shock aboard Wild Card. A can of soda ashore costs about the same money as, say, to buy an entire Thai family in Southeast Asia.
"… we're so broke we can't pay attention," my wife recently lamented to a Turkish harbormaster – who didn't crack a smile as he asked her to leave.
A couple of days later we were walking past a clothing store and she quipped, "… all we can afford to wear is a smile!'
Since we're in a Muslim country, the beer is even more expensive than normal because of the distaste Islamic bar owners have making their money this sudsy, faintly-Christian way.
The marinas are my favorites, though. They truly have no shame. "If you want to tie up to a dock, it's expensive," admitted one marina manager, "but that's life. Convenience costs money."
"Okay," I said, attempting to get into the big-spender swing of things, "how much to tie up our pathetic pile of fiberglass-debris named Wild Card to a dock for the night?"
"… a hundred," he said.
"… a hundred what?" I asked. "Lira? US dollars? Euros? Ounces of gold?"
He hesitated, as if considering how far he could press his luck. Then he broke into a wide smile and said, "Which ever is worth more! No, seriously, for you my friend, today-only … 100 euros!"
"Okay," I said. "What's the slip number? Where is the dock I tie to?"
"You're new here, aren't you," he mused, "because any Med sailor would know you don't get a dock for your dockage payment … you get not-a-dock! That's right, you get the right to attempt to squeeze-in, stern-to, between two large, heavy steel German motorsailors, that's all."
"… no buoy to hold us off the wall or some sturdy pilings, perhaps?"
"Absolutely not," he said. "We don't believe in coddling!"
"But what if I nick my topsides or, gosh forbid, am crushed like a flimsy eggshell between those German battleships …"
"That's why we have a shipyard on premises," beamed the manager. "And highly skilled $80/hour yard workers who have watched a minimum of two hours of 'international yacht maintenance' videos!"
"That's reassuring," I said. "This is certainly a lot more fun and far easier than backing down on my anchors!'
It took me awhile to wedge myself stern-to the quay. Luckily, I had plenty of help from the crowd ashore – which didn't dissipate even after I'd been squared away.
"â€¦ why are all these people staring at me?" I asked the manager.
"Oh," he said with a gay laugh. "Them! They're your observers. Or, to put it another way, you're their floating exhibit. This month our theme is 'Sea Gypsies at Play.' You can think of our city marina sort-of as an aquatic zoo – where both animals and onlookers are allowed the privilege of paying and paying and paying."
"Well," I said, "I guess it makes sense to make it coming and going – even if it is to the detriment of the customer."
"Exactly," he beamed. "You're catching-on to Euro-style, eh?"
"Where do I plug in my electricity?"
"Well," he said with a sheepish grin, "that's a bit of a story. You'll need to buy a special Tibetan plug – which is, lucky for you, also on sale. I assume your vessel is 169 volts?"
"… what?" I said. "Isn't 220 volts standard?"
"… Used to be," he chuckled, "but recent EU electrical codes, delivered via black Belgium helicopters, now require us to change the voltage daily – to prevent touristsâ€¦er, I mean, terrorists – from using our power grid to their benefit. So you'll need, in addition to said plug, a converter which converts more of your money into oursâ€¦ no problem!"
"Water?" I asked.
"We have Perrier on tap – which is one of the reasons we have so many Frenchies as customers," he said. "Sure, it's a tad pricey but, hey, if you can't afford drinking water, you ain't a rich Westerner, are you?"
I was lowering my passarelle to the dock when I noticed him staring at the area intently. "Is thereâ€¦?"
"Well, yes," he admitted. "We have to charge for your docklines and your gangplank – I'm sure you understand … we can't just ignore such obvious profit centers, can we?"
"Certainly not," I said. "I don't want to victimize you …"
"Of course you don't," he said. "which brings to the head-valve lock rental …"
"… head lock?"
"Yes, so you can't pump out your holding tank while in harbor."
"Oh," I said, and rocked back on my heels.
"You'll also need to have us empty your holding tank in order to stay here – strictly as an environmental service, I'm sure you'll understand."
"… and that's …?
"… twenty bucks."
"Twenty dollars to pump out my holding tank?" I said. "Well, okay."
"There's a slight problem," he said. "You have to have your holding tank pumped out to tie up – but we don't have a pump-out station here. In fact, there are no functioning pump-out stations anywhere in the entire country."
"But that's impossible," I said, "if …"
But he cut me off with, "… no, it is not. We're a creative, hardworking people – and so we've figured out a way around this … for an additional $20 … total of $40 dollars … we'll mark your holding tank punch card as pumped-out without actually wasting all the carbon to pump it out … and, hey, everyone is happy!"
"… very happy," I said. "you can't get much more agreeable than that!"
"… I'm all for the environment."
"… me too," he beamed.
It was dark by this time – and hard to work on re-wiring the Tibetan shore-power plug with all the on-lookers yelling "… show us your tits!" to my suddenly-shy wife at the galley below.
"I don't know what's gotten into her," I laughed to all the gawkers pressing eagerly around the stern rail. "Normally she parades around the cabin in her bra …"
It was, of course, a cosmopolitan crowd – as Euro dock vultures tend to be. "Do you know the German word for brassiere?" asked one Nazi-looking dude – who got a big laugh with the punch line, "… holds 'em from flopping!"
Carolyn was too shy to come out into the cockpit amid all the cat-calls, so she hollered up at me, "… throw away the garbage, please."
This wasn't easy – as we had to sort our trash into separate piles of plastic, metal, glass, natural, organic, fake, insincere, gold, lithium, titanium, cement, paper, cardboard, clay, imitation vinyl, wood, aluminum, iron, plaster, fish scales, stainless steel, etc.
Frankly, I thought the fee of $5 was rather reasonable for garbage disposal costs … until I realized it was $5 for each category, plus an additional two dollars for each item. (Each grain of rice, naturally, counted as one category ($5) and one item ($2) for a total of $7 per.)
It was close to midnight when I finally was able to bring my insurance forms into the marina – which was long-closed.
In order to be first in line in the morning, I slept directly in front of the marina office … on the concrete steps.
This turned out to be a good move – as the paperwork took a long, long time to complete the following morning. We had to wait for the water-meter reading, the electrical-meter reading, the sucker-meter reading … you name it!
"… and, finally," smiled the marina manager, "did you have sex with your wife last night while on marina property?"
"Well," I said, blushing, "Frankly … I'm not accustomed to telling such intimate details of our lives …"
"I understand," smiled the manager. 'And we're well-aware, via Monica Lewinsky, how prudish you Americans are. But I need to know … for billing purposes … did you or did you not conjugally visit with your spouse?"
"I did," I admitted, and blushed deep red.
"… then there's a $50 'sir' charge."
"… what?" I gasped. "Why should I pay the marine to sleep with my own wife?"
"Because the marina can – and will be happy to – supply you with a prostit … an, er, a professional woman. If you choose celibacy, fine. There's no additional charge. But if you have sex with your spouse – you are depriving a local 'working girl' of her livelihood. Thus, understandably, you must pay – unless your wife is a locally-licensed, VHF-radio linked, DSC-enabled-call-girl!"
"Oh," I said, my head spinning. "I thought because I'd had a long-standing 'in-house' service contract with my wife …"
I noticed the marina manager was frowning. "… we don't, Cap'n Fatty, much like nit-picking scofflaws here in the eastern Med."
"No," I agreed contritely. "Of course not. Sorry."
Since the dockage bill (for not-a-dock) was so large, I couldn't put it all on one credit card – in fact, I had to swing a small 'bridge loan' through E-trade to cover the unexpected expense.
Just when I thought I was finally done and stuffing my receipts into the ship's papers – just when I was going to return to my yacht and fall into a deep, deep, penniless sleep – the marina manager said, "I'll cast you off."
I looked at my watch, and grinned sickly. He was right – 24 hours had passed.
"I hope you enjoyed your stay," shouted the manager as I cranked up our M30 Perkins diesel.
"I did," I said – but couldn't stop myself from adding, "but it was fairly expensive."
"Well," he responded sagely, "like I said, Fatty – convenience costs!"
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," "The Collected Fat" and his newest, "All at Sea Yarns." For more Fat-flashes, see fattygoodlander.com.