In Part 1 of the story, Cap’n Fatty described how they were coming towards the end of an idyllic Caribbean cruise and sailing north when Stan said his time aboard Ganesh would be complete if he could visit St. Barth. Considering his special guest’s request, Fatty hauled in the sheets and laid a course for the French Island … That’s when the trouble began – Ed
St. Barths always has the magic—and always has some weirdness too. Within minutes of stepping ashore, we were hugging Fast Eddy, a dear friend of nearly four decades. He invited us to Le Select on the following day—for its 68th anniversary. What luck! And his father Marius, its statuesque founder, was both 92 and sharp as a tack.
“See,” I told Stanley, as we strolled about town on photo safari, “this place is full-on with excitement!”
Stanly was in puppy love—with the island, her people, the pastries, the wine, the champagne—but mostly he was utterly intoxicated by the good vibes. And the anniversary party at Le Select was extra special—even such local luminaries as Lulu Magras and Jenny May (whom we have visited many time both here and in France) were there.
Rivers of champagne flowed. While I no longer drink, I happily served as bartender for Carolyn and Jenny May. (Stanley barely drinks—again, the strict Singaporean influence.) By mid-afternoon, Carolyn was tipsy enough to require a nap—and I took her back to Ganesh. At 4pm precisely, I—glowing with sweet vibes and peace & love in my heart—returned to pick up Stanley.
Time was of the essence. We had to immediately sail to Sint Maarten where I had an appointment with the economist, yacht racer, marine gear gadgeteer Sir Robbie Ferron. (Yes, the Caribbean is a weird place!)
The moment I approached Stanley—I got a bad feeling. There was a muscular 40-year-old guy thrusting his ID in Stanley’s face, telling him, “I speak French. You don’t. That’s a problem!” I frowned, and pulled Stanley away to the other side of the street. “He’s high,” said Stanley, looking bewildered. The guy followed. Anger was boiling off the Frenchman. He gave me his ID—rudely forcing me to take it against my will. I could have snatched his wallet. Why was he giving me his ID? Was he a cop? A crazy person? Why was this happening—St. Barth’s was, or had been, the safest place in the Caribbean.
He kept shouting his name belligerently—and demanding mine. I told him. He said, “Show me your ID!”
My passport was in my pocket—a team of wild horses couldn’t have made me drag it out.
“Stanley,” I said with a hint of command in my voice, “we’re done here. Time to leave. Let’s get in the dinghy.”
I started trotting toward my dinghy. Stanley was beside me. There was shouting. “Stop, stop!” the guy was yelling. The crowd parted. I managed to jump into my dinghy, cast it off, and was about crank it up—when I noticed poor Stanley’s feet swinging through the air like a rag doll’s.
The Frenchman had him by the neck and was holding him totally off the ground. He was spit-screaming in Stanley’s contorted face.
Everything slo-moed. I thought, that’s not right—not Stanley!
I was in my dinghy. All I had to do was push off three feet and I was safe. I’m 66 years old. My street fighting days are over. But he had Stanley by the neck and Stanley was turning blue and Stanley was asking politely to be let down and Stanley was pointing out that he didn’t want his neck broken. I was suddenly out of my dinghy beside the man (with my open palms in the air to show non-aggressiveness) and said forcefully, “Put him down, pal.”
My idea, the only thing I could figure, is that the guy had some racial issue with Stanley—but that evidently wasn’t true as the guy instantly dropped Stanley and grabbed my neck! Oh, darn! Now I was confused—and having difficulty breathing. He seemed to be trying to smash me into a wall by the garbage bins. He was strong. We were on the quay. The crews of M/V Terra Nova and the mega yacht Illusion IV watched nonchalantly from their cockpits. It seemed surreal—that after three circumnavigations I’d be in imminent danger on friendly, peaceful St Barths.
The guy still had me tightly by the throat. I tried to break away. I could not. I was still yelling to be let go—with raised arms and open palms. He hit me. My hat flew off. I tried to cover up with my arms. I didn’t want my teeth knocked out. Stanley was just behind me off to my right. Bam! There went my Maui Jim’s. Damn it! He suddenly had ahold of my backpack—with hundreds of US dollars and Euros, and a thousand dollar Olympus camera. All I wanted was to get away from this madman—but there was no escape from him. He was all over me. I couldn’t run. I was constantly backing up and begging him to stop—but there was no more room to back up—and suddenly he had my backpack.
I saw red. I lashed out. He went over backwards. “Stay down,” I shouted.
He got back up and came at me—low and growling with hatred.
I never thought about it, planned it, envisioned it … I just reacted. My right foot came up forcefully—and my Topsider caught him full in the face. His eyes rolled back in his head and he pole-axed over backwards.
I thought to myself, “If he’s a drunken undercover cop, you’re going to jail, Fatty!”
I have never done anything that brutal in my entire life—totally by reflex.
Stanley’s jaw dropped. He looked at me with amazement. “Chicago-style!” he said with disbelief.
I collected all my gear scattered on the ground—and ran for the dinghy. The guy seemed bionic. He was starting to get up—like the undead.
“Hold ‘em,” I shouted to Stanley as I cranked up the dinghy.
Stanley is brave. He daintily sat on the guy—in the politest, gentlest, most Singaporean manner possible.
“Okay, Stan!” I screamed. Stanley ran towards me at full gallop, and leapt into the dinghy. I sped away. My last vision of the guy was waving one of Stanley’s flip-flops in an angry fist. He (we learned later) immediately went to the Port Captain—who immediately felt threatened by him. The Port Captain immediately called the gendarmes—who also felt threatened.
As I hauled up my anchor chain, the man was in handcuffs and being led away to jail.
Across the harbor, I popped open the Genoa—and Ganesh heeled sharply to port.
Stanley was painfully rotating his bruised neck, trying to work the crick out.
I was opening and closing my fist—staring at the damage to my knuckles.
Stanley blinked and bit his lip in concentration.
I glanced over—and hoisted an eyebrow.
“You’re right,” said Stanley. “The West is different.”
Author’s note: Once in safe harbor, I immediately called the officials of Barths and filed a complaint via telephone and email. They were extremely cooperative. This unusual incident has in no way diminished my love for that tiny, normally peaceful isle.
Cap’n Fatty Goodlander and his wife Carolyn are currently preparing for their fourth circumnavigation. Fatty is the author of numerous marine books. His latest, Cruising Boat Basics, is out now. Visit: fattygoodlander.com