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Of Heroes and Fools

Fatty and Carolyn sailing without Morgan Freeman
Fatty and Carolyn sailing without Morgan Freeman

I’d just finished my first circumnavigation in 2004—and, admittedly, I was feeling pretty good. Perhaps I was feeling too good, too smug. I’d had a couple of drinks and was wandering around seeing old friends or bragging, depending on viewpoint. I was strolling the docks of American Yacht Harbor—studying a well-found 43-foot Shannon sloop in particular. I have many friends in the Virgins and everywhere I went people hugged me. And I hugged back. I was particularly impressed and grateful how many West Indians remembered me. Quite a few times, a taxi mon leaned out of his vehicle and said, “Hi, Cap!” as he drove by me on the St. Thomas waterfront or “Welcome home!” as I strolled the streets of Love City on St. John.

Yes, it was true. I was home. I was surrounded by dear friends. And I was totally blissed out.

In the West Indies, brotherhood isn’t merely rhetoric, it is often our daily reality. I feel honored to call the USVI my home.

And, way back in the 1970s, I’d decided to become a marine journalist here in the Caribbean—and my entire life plan has worked out pretty damn well.

So, yeah, perhaps I was a bit full of myself.

Now, back in the day, in order to become the marine expert I became, I went to every VIMI (VI Marine Industry) meeting for years.

One of the presidents of VIMI was a smooth talking fellow named Vernon. He was always nice to me—a fine fellow—but I didn’t think it was right that Vernon was president of the VIMI because his tourism business wasn’t directly related to our marine industry. Basically, I felt that a bunch of white guys had elected Vernon because he was black and, thus, it would help our VIMI relationship with the local St. Thomian government.

So, although we liked each other and got along well, there was always a bit of tension.

I thought Vernon was a bit of a glad-hander—no big deal.

And on this particularly day I was walking through Molly Malone’s restaurant in Red Hook on St. Thomas—and there was Vernon sitting at a table, talking earnestly with a wealthy-looking white guy.

I was somewhat amazed how handsome Vernon looked. I remembered him as a handsome and kind black man—but he sort of glowed with … with kindness. Wow. Maybe Vernon had changed? Found God? Married the woman of his dreams?

Did I mention I’d had few drinks?

Anyway, I decided to say hello. I walked over to his table and stood there, grinning. He looked at me—and raised an eyebrow. It was obvious that he sort-of recognized me—but didn’t know who I was.

Okay, so we all look alike.

“Remember me?” I said.

“You do look familiar,” he said. “Where do I know you from?”

Wow! Vernon had matured or something! His voice was poetry! I was shocked. I remembered his voice as pleasant and smooth—but now the reality was far better than
I remembered.

“VIMI,” I said, and grinned. “Back in the day. You and me. And VIMI.”

“VIMI,” he said, and pretended to not understand. “What is VIMI?”

I was puzzled. I could certainly believe that Vernon didn’t remember my face after five or six years—but to pretend not to remember VIMI, a trade organization he had headed up for a number of years? Weird. I looked at the white guy—and pegged him for a lawyer or professor. Was Vernon in the midst of some scam or something? Perhaps I should just butt-out.

On the other hand, all he had to do was say, “… Hi, Fatty,” and I’d have been satisfied. Instead, he pretended I was
a nobody.

“VIMI,” I said. “You remember. I was the fat guy with a pen—and you were the dude stringing pearls of wisdom into a necklace of knowledge?”

… okay, maybe I’d had three drinks.

“I know your face, Vernon said, struggling and on the verge of remembering. “I do. But I can’t quite place you. In any event, it is nice to see you and have a good day.”

“Flabbo,” I said, grinning even wider. “Admiral Obese. Ring any bells?”

Vernon shook his head. He seemed genuinely puzzled.

The white guy, however, was openly frowning at me in disgust—like he was going to call security.

Vernon noticed the white guy bristling. “It’s okay,” Vernon said with a smile.

God, I love that voice! It was so deep and caring and compassionate—it was like Father or God or … Morgan Freeman.

I was bothering Morgan Freeman! Hassling him! Ruining his lunch. And he was a genuine hero of mine. I loved him as an actor, admired him as a man, and respected him as a sailor … Oh, dear! I was drunk and making a fool of myself and the whole restaurant was staring at me … and shaking their head with revulsion.

“What is your name, young man,” asked Morgan Freeman.

I have never been so embarrassed in my life. I was mortified, utterly embarrassed!

“Cap’n Idiot,” I said as I lurched away in horror. “Sea fool! Sorry—I’ve been hit by a rhum-squall. I am trapped in a stationary drunk front. I am soooooo sorry, sir!”

Both Morgan Freeman and his lunch companion looked at me with puzzlement as I bumped into tables, stepped on feet, and generally acted pathetic as I fled the presence of the Caribbean sailor I most longed to become friends with.

And that is my Morgan Freeman story. You, dear reader, are the first to hear it—because I was too ashamed and regretful of my conduct to even tell my wife.

 

Cap’n Fatty Goodlander and his wife Carolyn recently finished their third circumnavigation. Fatty is the author of Chasing the Horizon and numerous other marine books. His latest, Storm Proofing your Boat, Gear, and Crew, is out now. Visit: fattygoodlander.com

 

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