Once upon a time …
In this edition we take our yearly look at what’s new in the world of chartering. And I couldn’t miss the opportunity to share a tale from my days as a charter boat skipper.
This happened a long time ago, before captains needed paper qualifications, smart phones and laptop computers. I was freelancing for a company in the British Virgin Islands, a company that has long been out of business. They were a grand little organization but they could not keep up with changing trends or compete with the charter/vacation packages offered by the big fleet operators that were taking over the industry.
At the time, I didn’t care about the company’s financial woes, I had enough of my own and a skipper’s job was very welcome. My first charter was made up of a group of French youngsters in their late teens – two girls and three guys. The charter, on a 47-foot yacht, was a present from the father of one of the guys for passing some exams. Our academic hero and leader of this pack of spoiled brats made it obvious from the start that daddy had not only paid for the charter, he’d also paid for a servant. Me.
I never could work out whether it was a deliberate attempt on the father’s part to instill some backbone in his petted son or he was simply trying it on, but he had chartered the boat without stores or provisions. The only food onboard was a few packets of stale potato chips.
At this point, I wasn’t too worried, after all, these were rich kids on daddy’s dime and we would be dropping anchor in all the popular places around the BVI. Places where restaurants served good food and it was a rule of the charter company that guests included the skipper when eating ashore.
I knew I was in for trouble by their behavior on the first sail. While the two attractive girls and their handsome boyfriends cavorted about the deck in a state of near undress, the single male, a surly runt of a lad, refused to join in and looked daggers at anyone who went near.
No one wanted to help sail the boat. The girls didn’t want to chip their fingernails and the ‘alpha garçon’ made it quite clear that I had been retained to do all the grunt work. It wasn’t a good career move to punch a guest on the first day so I smiled and let it go.
We settled down in our first anchorage and the troops went for a swim and then sluiced off with fresh water, almost emptying the tanks. After swimming, the couples retired to their cabins and made the boat rock while the cuckold went to the aft deck to plot his revenge.
A couple of hours later and we gathered in the cockpit. The girls were dressed to the nines complete with stiletto heels, which I immediately made them remove, and the guys were smoking joints, which I took from them and threw overboard. At least I was popular with the cuckold!
I asked them where they wanted to go for dinner and offered them a choice of restaurants. They looked at each other, shrugged in a Gallic way, and said they would eat onboard because they had been given no money.
I shared out the bags of stale potato chips and they told me they were going to have me fired.
Next morning we sailed back to the charter base.
It should have been the end of the charter. I should have left the boat, but I didn’t. The charter company contacted the father and a little money was forthcoming. I helped the group provision the boat with rice and beans and Pot Noodles. One of the girls told me she didn’t eat such s&#t! I told her to get off the boat. She said sorry and asked if she could stay.
I won’t say it was the happiest of charters but by the time it was over, they were sailing the boat and eating broth from the thrice boiled carcass of a chicken I had plucked and butchered on the second day. The brat whose father chartered the boat lost the main halyard up the mast after I told him to tie it off, and I made him go and get it in the boson’s chair. He started to cry but came back to the deck a hero. The cuckold scored with one of the girls and I had to break up two fights.
On the last night, I took everyone ashore at Bellamy Cay and got ‘em rip roaring drunk.
When I dropped them off at the charter base, they said it was the best vacation they had ever had and would recommend me as skipper. I didn’t get a tip but one of the girls gave me a French kiss.