For 35 years I’ve written a Caribbean boating column that chronicles how utterly and pathetically stupid I am. And, despite all logic and commonsense, I’m not about to stop now. I’m just getting good at it. I’m totally focused. No member of the offshore sailing community is as dumb as I. Yes, that is a direct challenge to each and every one of you none-too-bright blue water yachties. Plus, there’s the longevity thingy. I’m on my 54th year of being exiled from shore—ha ha! Beat that! And I’ve recently had some sort of mental break-through or break-down or break-dance … whatever!
What I’m trying to say is this—I’ve brought myself to the next level. That’s right; I’ve pulled myself up by my own Topsiders. Simple idiocy isn’t enough anymore. I’m way beyond that! And I’m mainlining—just clamping down on the plunger straight into my aorta! I’ve discovered something profound and weird about the nature of my ignorance—of its unique weight, heft, and size. I know, I know—I’m not supposed to exaggerate in print—but I honestly believe I’ve broken through Everyday Reality into Total Cosmic Delusion.
Let’s back up slightly.
I’m in New Caledonia. It’s French. My wife likes the wine. I’m addicted to the almond croissants. Alas, in order to purchase said wine and pastries, you have to go ashore. The people here aren’t nice. In fact, they are awful. (Well, I met one guy named Pierre who was okay—but he was the exception.)
In the past, I’ve often been accused of being a Francophile. I love St. Martin, Guadeloupe, Le Saintes, and Martinique. I’ve raced all over coastal France, on both the Med and Atlantic sides. I’ve cruised its canals. I love French Polynesia. I can’t wait to return to Mayotte, off the coast of Africa.
But New Caledonia?
The continentals here are mean, greedy, short-tempered, evil, and dumb—and those are the nice ones! The other continentals are far, far worse—and should be given the option to: (1) commit suicide; and (2) be killed.
That’s fair, I think.
Unfortunately, the Kanak tribal people are no better. Picture a very primitive people who are just bright enough to sniff inhalants in sufficient quantities as to be unable to regain the use of their feet to overthrow their (see above) oppressors.
No, I have no desire to work for the local tourist department; yes, I’m leaving soon.
And yet this place is absolutely perfect for what I’m using it for.
Perfect is a strong word.
We’ll return to the above shortly.
Every ten days or so, we return to Noumea for provisioning. My wife Carolyn—bless her heart—braves the landlubbers ashore long enough to get our food lockers and freezer bulging. Then we hastily up anchor, go to an utterly pristine empty anchorage, and do it again.
Normally, I write for four hours a day, five days a week, and have done so for almost four decades. But now that workload seems so light and unfocused as to be laughable.
I currently wake at 6am and am writing by 7am. I work until noon when my wife serves me a magnificent gourmet lunch, which takes two hours to eat. We savor. We moan. We lick. We laugh. We burp. We drool. We even chortle.
That’s sick! Totally sick. The man who wrote that should have his penis twisted off with a rusty pair of pliers.
There are main courses and palate cleaners and sweet & savory dishes … fruits … pastries … enough food to kill a horse.
Or, at the very least, to put a horse to sleep.
I am not a horse.
I spring up and have that look in my eye.
My wife shrieks and makes a dash for it. Alas, she trips. (We’ll close the curtain here.)
Afterwards, I nap and awake refreshed at 3pm.
I write for another two hours, making for a total of seven hours a day at my keyboard, seven days a week, 30+ days a month.
Now, when I say write I don’t mean think. A lot of writers make that mistake—to assume you need content. That’s silly. Content is totally overrated. Take the publication you’re holding in your hand. It’s worth what you paid for it, isn’t it? There! We agree.
So, no, I don’t worry about content. I think in terms of words-per-day. I’m averaging about 5,000 of those little word-thingies every day, and have been for months.
Every word is funny. I write naked. Every few minutes I re-read what I’ve just written, bend over in laughter, run on deck waving my 13-inch Mac Air, and scream at the top of my lungs; “That’s sick! Totally sick. The man who wrote that should have his penis twisted off with a rusty pair of pliers.”
I kid you not. It’s good. I’ve sent whole chapters of it out to various other writers and they all agree. HST says, “I think I checked out just in time.” Ha! High praise indeed from an early hero who used to know something about high—back before he started to play with the wrong end of his weapons.
A relative of Joshua Slocum encouraged me with, “I’m not sure which my great great great grandfather would be more ashamed off—being a sailor or being an American.”
I sent an advance copy, still in the galleys, to the executive council of the SSCA—and the next day they announced they were disbanding. Ouch!
Let’s put it another way: a number of sailing attorneys who do pro bono work for the ACLU have requested the book be banned. (Thank God for eBooks, as one conservative logging group has already refused to supply the paper for the dead-tree edition.)
Do I think it will sell? Well, duh, it has sex in it. And I don’t mean vanilla sex either. I’m talking about sex scenes that would make the Marquis de Sade blush.
My wife isn’t quite as enthusiastic as I am. “Well,” she said, trying not to allow my ego to be too over-inflated, “There is something to hate on every page!”
The VI Boating Industry group is reported to have issued its first ‘fatwa’ via its tight-lipped announcement of “50K for his head atop a boathook!”
Now, the only trick is to keep it a secret. I used to write for Gallery magazine under the name Condor Van Harding, and am considering dusting him off. Or just using Ben Dover or Seymour Butts.
Oh, this has been such fun. I love literature, and literature loves me back. I can barely wait to start collecting my royalties. Of course, the real money will be from selling the movie rights—and optioning the remainder of the series. (Oh, yes, my pen ain’t empty yet.) Needless to say, I’ll retain full artistic rights—even hire and fire! The main problem will be who plays me. Nicholas Cage can’t act weird enough. Edward Norton doesn’t have the range. Robert De Niro’s too old.
Licensing is something I’ll want to get some legal advice on in case Beneteau or Bavaria wants to issue a special offshore cruising design which features a ‘Cap’n Fatty whoopee room’ or something. (There’s a well-equipped whoopee room on a well-known 390ft mega-yacht and I’ve always been a bit envious.)
But licensing at this level is tricky. I don’t want to license, say, a group of feminists to use my face on the bottom of ashtrays in such a clumsy manner as to prevent me from taking money from deep-pocketed misogynists as well.
See how difficult being a successful inkslinger is? Did William Shakespeare have to put up with feces like this? (No, which is a vote for using a pen name, right?)
The best part is, of course, the world is my oyster. I can do what I do anywhere. But for doing something like this—locking yourself aboard and spewing 200,000 of the worst words ever— New Caledonia is the perfect spot.
Or, to put it another way, I have no desire to go ashore and I’m sure shore feels the same about me.