My wife says I'm anti-social. That's baloney. I just hate people. I mean, people as in plural. I don't mind individual jerks – only groups of jerks. I don't like mobs either, and I consider two people a mob.
Part of the problem for the marine community is that we're all Alpha Males, even the women. By that I mean you can tell a sailor anything – but what to do. There is something about sniffing a lot of wind which makes us contrary. Let's put it another way – whatever you think, I don't.
My favorite shirt is red. I wear it almost every time I go ashore, every 30 days or so. I look wonderfully virile in it. But if you tell me your favorite color is red, I'll tell you mine is blue while thinking to myself, "… red is too flashy. Only show-offs like red. What a jerk!"
What does this have to do with boating? Lots. I'm currently sailing across the Indian Ocean with a group. Normally, I'm able to shake off any poor sap trying to be nice to me by simply saying, while sailing at night, " … let's tack inshore." Then, a few minutes later, I douse my running lights and tack back to seaward. True, some of these folks spend days searching for me, fearing I'm in distress – but they probably don't have anything else to do anyway.
It's not easy to glom on to me. If someone is following us and anchoring in all the same places, I just dive his anchor rode and put a couple of half-hitches around a coral head – then hastily leave before dawn.
If that fails, I use the old sand-in-the-outboard trick. As soon as they're hopelessly drifting out into … say, the wide Pacific, I haul anchor and speed toward them. They sure look happy when I throttle down beside them. Alas, that happiness is short-lived as I shout, " … behind schedule. Gotta go. Have fun with those short oars!"
Oh, avoiding people can be enjoyable. On the VHF I tell little fibs like, "Cmap is right on!" and (on St. Thomas), "You clear in at Paul M. Pearson Gardens!"
It is just as much fun on the SSB. People are so gullible. I sent a winlink message to all the new Caribbean 1500 participants arriving in the BVI, informing them that all the islands in the Lesser Antilles had been given new lat/lons under the new Systematic Uniform Classification Kategory, Euro Research Standards (SUCKERS) and most of them believed it (even tho it put all the islands 100 miles to windward of Barbados).
Okay, ego plays a part. When I was dating, I used to tell the girl my life history and then say, " … but enough of me talking about me – let's give you a brief chance to talk about me!' Only one woman, my wife, ever said, "Okay."
Of course, I see the advantages of the ARC. I mean, if you've commanded a large corporation, purchased a million dollar yacht, and decided to sail across the Atlantic … of course, you'd want my buddy Jimmy Cornell to tell you when to go to the bathroom while on passage. ("After the net, will be a group defecation. Good luck, everybody!")
Of course, groups have to have leaders. If I'm the leader, fine. Things go well. But I've found from hard experience that if somebody or anybody else is the leader – it is disorganized chaos.
Most modern day leaders are subtle. For instance, the "leader" of our "informal" group assumed his position with the following statement on the net: "Let's have fun and not get uptight! You guys don't need a leader and I don't want the hassle of organizing a rally. So, that's about it … save for … no one should use the dinghy dock without a permit – which I'll be happy to issue. Our designated VHF channel is 67, with the net at Oh-Eight-Hundred. Don't chat on 67, switch to 77. The propane run is Wednesday. Anyone who'd like to pay homage to me can do so at The Stingy Skipper rhumshop around sundowner-time. I've recently issued a decree which states that if you don't voluntarily lock your dinghy and outboard – your arm will be macheted off … that's right, lock it or lose it! Anyone wishing to contribute to the sterilization fund for mothers at-risk for having babies who may turn out to be pirates, can do so by stopping by the ketch Do Gooder. Oh, yes, if you're caught without a light at night while in your dinghy, both occupants will be raped. If nothing further, I'll close down the net. Thanks, everybody. Happy Sailing!"
" … you gotta admit, Fatty," my wowed wife said after that transmission, "he's good!"
I hate peer-pressure. It cuts down on my enjoyment of being bad to others. Plus, there's the wild rumors floating around. One guy who'd never met me reported he'd heard good things about us – which shows how out-of-touch-with-reality such dockside gossip can be.
It seems to me, sailing used to be about being alone and about self-reliance. Now it is about safety-in-numbers and avoiding individual responsibility.
Once you're a member of the group, you're beholding to that group. After all, you're on the same team and need to be a team player – or else.
A Korean sailor in our group came to me and said rudely, "My boat. SSB radio no workee. You look!"
My first reaction, of course, was to flip him the bird. Then I caught myself. Good Samaritans have high status within the group. I decided to pretend to be nice. I went to his boat. His radio didn't work. It wasn't a marine radio. He didn't have an antenna tuner nor ground plane. He didn't have an amateur license and was intending to operate it illegally on the ham bands. "You fix!" he kept saying, louder and louder, as if I was hard of hearing.
Finally, I snapped. "â€¦ no, YOU fix," I said. "I fix Wild Card!"
" … I thought you Mister Nice Guy!" he sneered.
" … you thought wrong," I snarled back. "You don't want a friend, you want a highly-skilled, unpaid servant!"
… but, of course, the PC-group-think prevented me from pounding him over the head with a winch handle and making him
You have to be careful what you say among the group. I try to be nice but it doesn't always work. "That's not the ugliest boat I've ever seen in 50 years of living aboard!" can be, and often is, misinterpreted. Ditto, "Your choice of a beamy Fatty Knees dinghy is a wise one – given the wifey's catamaran-wide butt!"
And some people just can't take a joke. I recently told the trimaran owner of This Side Up that you could determine a man's intelligence by taking his IQ and dividing it by the number of hulls he sails on. He didn't find it funny. In fact, he took a swing at me. "That was dumb," I said, "which only serves to prove my point!"
Of course, I attempt to be up-to-date. For example, I no longer refer to the throttle-jockeys aboard power craft as stinkpotters – the term "earth-warmers" is far more accurate and timely.
We have a squat motorsailor in our group – which is, perhaps, handsome to the designer's misaligned eye. When someone asked the definition thereof, my wife frowned when I shot back, "A vessel which does neither well."
Nor do the cruising catamarans approve of being called Windebegos, nor the day-charter cats, Cattlemarans. (Whew! All the fun names seem to be off-limits: Wet Snail 32, Outhouse 41, Bendytoe … )
You have to be careful even describing the rigs these days. Calling a yawl an "under-endowed ketch" just isn't cool anymore. Ditto, calling a ketch a "backwards schooner." People can be so touchy.
Yes, I hate groups – and the feeling is entirely mutual. I'm really not sure if I'm looking forward to my departure as eagerly as they – or vice-versa. One thing I do know is that I've never been invited back to anything.
Editor's note: Wild Card is currently in convoy off Somalia, with huge signs in its rig that accurately describe how wealthy the crews of the other nearby yachts are.
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.