I recently hauled my boat out at Independent Boat Yard on St. Thomas. This proved to be a fairly ego/liver/wallet-bruising experience. Seriously, I have to really thank IBY… not just for being the finest yard on the planet but for being the ONLY yard which has had the guts to haul me more than once!
All the other ‘yard’ experiences I have had ended with a ‘good-bye-to-bad-rubbish’ feeling on the yard’s part.
I realize this is entirely my fault. I’m cheap and I’m a notorious pest. Example: when I rebuilt Wild Card I quickly established a ‘professional relationship’ with Mike Sheen, their fiberglass man.
By ‘professional relationship’ I mean I sort of hounded him 24/7 for advice on how to smear ‘dried snot’ over the hole in my boat.
“First off,” he said wearily, “it is called fiberglass, NOT dried snot, okay!”
“Touchy, are we?” I parried. “…and, Mike, when you get done with a pot of resin… and it is starting to kick… do you think you could, quick-as-a-wink, toss it under my jack-stands? I mean, I’d have my mat & roving all set to go… why waste our planet’s precious natural resources, eh?”
Mike was… well, somewhat resistant to my charm at first… but soon realized that the quickest way rid of me was through cooperation-not-confrontation.
Eventually we got along just fine. Or, to put it another way, every time I say good-bye to him… he smiles!
Machinist Bruce was another matter. He’s smart. I walked up to him with a prop shaft which was bent like a pretzel and said, “I think this shaft is straight, Bruce… in fact, I’ll bet you a nickel it is!” in hopes he’d toss it on the bench and mic it for free… but no luck!
“…you’ll have to do better than that, Fatty,” he said.
“…but if I thought I’d have to think in 2005,” I lamented, “I wouldn’t have had so much fun in the ‘60s!”
“…how’s that?” he asked.
“I don’t remember,” I explained.
Tim Peck, their Awlgrip man, has totally given up on me. While I roll my topsides with a furry rollers to get that jazzy ‘orange-peel’ effect, he sits cross-legged in the mud of the yard, weeping, “…have you no shame, Fatty?”
Roger at the marine supply store is equally fed up with me. “You can’t pan-handle in here,” he snapped.
“I am NOT pan-handling,” I replied huffily, “I am merely asking your customers… that, hey, if they want to buy some anti-fouling for their boat… maybe they’d like to buy some for mine too!”
The best part of an IBY haul out is the people you meet. Take Inflatable Frank, for example. He always surprises me. Example: he brought his wife to Bottom’s Up. Of course, many guys bring wives to Bottom Up… but their own?
Tugboat Tom is often there spinning yarns, many of which begin like: “Did I ever tell you the time I towed a small island… I think it was Nevis… into Trinidad to collect on a bad debt?”
Kiwi Brett is another Colorful Caribbean Character: he can’t remember how many times he’s dismasted… because he ‘ran out of fingers and toes’ as he says.
Timmy Carstarphen (of schooner Maverick fame) is often ‘hard aground on the mahogany reef’ at Bottom’s Up. I love it when him and Mighty Whitey get together and start telling ‘when-we-were-young-and-stupid on St. Thomas’ stories. I mean, if those two guys are still alive… there’s hope for anyone!
The Pirate Queen presides, of course. She can resist anything except temptation. Once a stranger said to her, “I bet you can’t go ten minutes without…”
“I lose,” she replied happily as she flipped up her blouse.
Oh, what a crew of sailors, live-aboards and dockside loungers! The charming Austin Gumbs. Carlo. Custom Canvas Chris. Calvin. Mace. Malcolm. Matthew. Kurt. Cees. Jose. Andy. Parker. Danielle. Davis Murray. Neil Lewis. Will-the-Party-Animal. Humbug John. Mouthpiece Ruth. Morgan the Terse. Skip of the Droopy Mustache. Andrew Pan. Johanna Jack.
Then, of course, there are the folks who don’t want to see their real names in print… sailors like Max Cunningham, Ebb Tide, Jack Tarr and Cap’n Fatty. (Is that shady sportfish guy still around, Smokey Reel? Or Happie Miles? Or his girlfriend Ima Fonie?)
Why, there’s even a guy skipping around the yard with an invisible rabbit! (I always ask him “How’s Harvey?” and he responses brightly, “Fantastic!”)
Amid all the fun, of course, actual work gets done. During one particularly active week, three times someone did something on a vessel in the yard! Whew! During such an actual event, the rest of the layabouts gather around to watch, laugh, advise, ridicule and commiserate… usually in that exact order.
Of course, many of the people here have read Tom Sawyer and particularly the part about him painting the fence. They’re constantly attempting to con others into helping them… remove their holding tank, grind off their blisters, or, as one nattily-dressed sailor waving a wrench lisped, “…could somebody hold my shaft nuts… just for a moment?”
But, as I say, the best part is the people. Guys like Davis Murray, for example. For the last dozen years he’s been hanging around the East End and telling everyone he ‘works on boats’ on St. Thomas. Everyone believed him for the first decade or so… but, hey, finally reality set in. It dawned on us that, yes, Davis is always AROUND boats, LOOKING at boats, drawing PICTURES of boats, and TALKING about boats… and, yes, he spends a lot of time washing his hands, buying sandpaper, selecting dust masks and walking around in the grinding suit… but nobody had actually ever seen him DO anything to a boat!
When confronted with the above facts, as damning as they may be, he didn’t even break stride, “Ah, so you’re on to me, Fatty,” he grinned and slapped me on the back. (He’s a big boy, and when he slaps me on the back… the momentum usually carries me… right to a chiropractor!)
“…gee, I was hoping nobody noticed!” he said. “But the real trick of life is to have a good time, isn’t it? To do some sailing? Meet nice people? Party a bit? Play some music?”
I agreed it was.
“Well, then,” Davis said smugly. “By that measure, I’m an over-achiever!”
Don’t you just love Lagoonie logic?
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