Call me Gilligan: The Final Chapter

I awoke to a quiet Two Harbors morning, trying to judge as I looked out the window directly over my head whether the sky was gray with early dawn or gray with clouds. From the rectangle of sky I could see, squinting through myopia, I could not tell. The rectangle was a uniform color that I could imagine turning to blue, but certainly had not yet. There was no direct light falling on the mast where it punctured the rectangle, soaring over my head. None of the other boats had started their diesels to recharge their batteries, so I knew it was before seven. I closed my eyes again and dozed off.

The next time I opened them the sky had not changed. How much time had passed? It might have been five minutes, it might have been an hour. The sky was unchanged. Overcast, then, most likely. I sat up and prarie-dogged, popping my head up out of the window/hatch to look out over the harbor. The sky was a uniform gray; the air was heavy with moisture. I crawled around and made myself presentable above-decks and made my way aft. On the way I stowed the dishes I had washed the previous evening to make room in the galley for the making of tea, then went topside to turn on the propane.

The deck was wet with dew beneath my bare feet, the water smooth, broken only by the wakes of dinghies ferrying the early risers to shore and to showers. Our dinghy joined the morning rush hour with Carol Anne and Pat aboard, leaving me to enjoy the peace of the morning.

My dish-stowing had awakened Gerald despite my best efforts to keep things quiet. There’s just no stacking plates quietly enough to avoid disturbing someone sleeping in the same room. We each secured tea and bagel and went back up topside to sip and munch and not say much, steam from the tea hovering in a cloud over the rim of my mug, while my pants absorbed the condensation on the seat cushion.

Eventually the harbor patrol (all of whom were very friendly and polite) came by and asked when we were heading out; the mooring was reserved for the next night and the boat could show up any time. Our reverie broken, Gerald and I moved about, stowing things, pulling out the safety equipment, and generally getting ready to sail. The the others returned and it wasn’t long before we were under way.

The trip back across was uneventful; in fact I took a nap for some of the trip. There was some nervousness about docking as that was where Pat had broken his wrist—same boat and same slip. After a bit of trouble at the fuel dock (tidal current and other boats made things tricky), Carol Anne piloted the 38 foot Beneteau into the slip like she had been doing it all her life. A sigh of relief, a nice late lunch, and I was back in the car again, stopping in San Pedro to leave Pat and collect the rest of my luggage from their behemoth and then away, east and south down the coast highway, back to San Diego and the adventure of finding a hotel room, as already documented.

On the way I made a couple of wrong turns, one of which led to a photo op. I used the new camera, which has a slightly less streamlined process for getting the pictures into format for posting here. I’ll try to take care of that this evening, and add pics to the entire Gilligan series.

Call Me Gilligan, Part 4

Location: Harbor Reef Restaurant, Two Harbors, Catalina (map)

I’m sitting in the only bar in town—if you can call it a town. A wooden lattice casts shade over the wooden deck without blocking the view of the palm trees swaying with the breeze. I put myself back near the building to get better shade so I can see the laptop monitor better. Which means I’m getting less breeze, but that’s a quibble. Good tunes are playing (Nick Cave at the moment). The bar runs along one side of the deck and is reasonably well-stocked. In the harbor nearby, I can see the masts of the boats swaying with the gentle waves.


The bar has a signature drink, called Buffalo Milk (there are buffalo on the island). The bartender, with a moderate amount of flipping bottles and spinning shakers, puts ice, vodka, creme de cacao, banana booze, and milk into a blender, whipps that up, pours it into a plastic cup, tops with whipped creme, chocolate powder (I think) and dribbles a little Kahlua over the top. I’ll stick to beer.

Note: Since writing the above I have consumed Buffalo Milk, and it’s not bad. The powder in top was nutmeg, not cocoa, but I’m thinking cocoa might be better. Each of the boozes was about a 2-3 second pour, so they are in more or less equal proportions.

Sailor jer The trip over here from Avalon was uneventful, a simple motor over glassy waters with practically no wind. I would have chosen to sail, even if it meant taking a lot longer, but I’m Gilligan, not Skipper, and this isn’t my trip. I’m here out of my host’s kindness, so who am I to complain? I just sat up on my perch and watched the sea, the other boats (none of the others were trying to sail either), and the shoreline of Catalina pass by. It was great. I spent a lot of time thinking about my next novel for November, tentatively titled Worst Enemy. I really should be working harder on The Monster Within, but this trip, the whole tour, in fact, is more suited to the other stories.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned the Flying Fish Cruise yet. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve wanted to see flying fish, and now I have. It was cool! We went bombing down the coast in an 80-year-old open boat filled with benches built for exactly this purpose. It has big spotlights on either side and as we blast along the boat scares the bejesus out of the flyers and away they go. Once those suckers get airborne, they have no control over their course, and at 30 mph they’re relying on good fortune to land them someplace safe. None came in the boat on our trip, but one slammed into the side right near me. While they’re flying, when they are about to splash back down into the water, they can dip their tails in and give themselves another kick, flipping their tail at 50 Hz to launch themselves again.

This picture isn’t from today; it’s actually from the first day out, when we were sailing into San Pedro.

I’m not sure, but I think I sunburned my forehead today. *sigh*

Powerless in Avalon

Location: Luau Larry’s, Avalon (map)

No Internet here, but there is AC power. Power has been a precious commodity lately, as we discovered that the boat’s alternator was broken. No juice. We would start the motor and the high-tech electrical thingie still said we were still draining the batteries. Cause for only minor alarm, as the engine battery still had plenty of life in it, but the battery for running everything else was getting alarmingly low. That meant no computer recharges, no tunes, and (gasp!) no refrigerator. I didn’t come on this trip to be inconvenienced!

After a few calls back to the company that rented us the boat (good thing I had my phone along), we established that no, in fact we were not just doing something stupid, the system was not working. This morning the boat repair man came out on his boat to our boat and took a look. He determined that the alternator was indeed fried. He didn’t have a matching part. Oh, grand. He had a close-enough matching part, it turned out, but it was just damn expensive. More phone calls to home base to authorize the service. Finally it was approved.

When I used to do home improvement projects, I measured success by how many trips to the hardware store it took. The fewer the trips, the better I was doing. This guy came out by boat to look at the alternator, then went back to the shop to see what he had. He couldn’t reach the rental people, so he came back out to our boat (map) to explain what was going on. While he was there we reached Seabreeze and they authorized the repair. He had not brought the new alternator with him, however, so he went back to his shop to get it. Back out he came for the third time, and got everything installed, except he needed to go back to shore for a nut. Finally everything was cool, the alternator was alternating, and he went on his way. A few minutes later another, younger guy shows up in the boat, chasing us down as we are leaving, because the guy had copied the phone number of Seabreeze wrong. (Of course, he had already called them once.) Total: five trips.

He was a real nice guy, though, and knew his stuff.

Rather than wait for the ship to get it’s juices flowing again, I took off to town to find a bar with an outlet. That’s what led me to Luau Larry’s. It’s not a big place, and it isn’t as busy as it has been the provious times I’ve poked my head in, but to be honest the service really sucks. Granted my table is out of the way, towards the back while most of the customers gravitate toward the front, but I have frankly given up trying to get another beer here. I have tried everything short of being an asshole to get someone’s attention, even when the waitress was just two tables away. I thought it was me but I’ve watched others get crappy service as well.

Luau Larrys: Nice look, nice looking help, but the help isn’t really help at all. I’m leaving here sober.

Post Script: Now I’m back in the marlin club, talking to toothless, bearded people and I’m where I belong.

Call Me Gilligan, Part 3

Location: The Marlin Club, Avalon (map)

I know this is ungrateful to say, but after four nights aboard Alouette I’ve got to bust out. There is a certain friction between my hosts that they are completely used to, having been a family all these years, that has slowly become sandpaper on my nerves. It’s how they work, and for them it does work. They probably don’t even think of it as friction–it’s just how they communicate. I have become attuned to solitude, and being in close quarters with the same people for an extended period just isn’t for me anymore. Perhaps that’s the real reason I couldn’t stay married. I like being alone too much.

Today, sweet blessed solitude for two precious hours. In a bar, at the bar, unusual when I write, but there aren’t any good writing tables in here. There’s a cruise ship in the harbor, and the touristy places with tables and beautiful people are packed to the gills. I should be out hitting on elderly cruisers, I suppose, looking for my sugar mama, but can you imagine me really doing that? Even trying that? Nah.

I’ve found the dark bar, with other patrons with big bushy beards. The locals bar. The bartender is impressing the others with card tricks, and he’s impressing me as well, even though I know how they’re all done. He has obviously worked at his craft and he is much smoother than most. He showed me some of the hand drills he does every single day. I’ve seen pros who don’t have the control this guy does. There are clues anyone could see, but I’m not going to point them out here. Just pay more attention to the man behind the curtain.

Oh, man, this is a great place to be. I just got into a baseball argument (I was right).

Yesterday I was here briefly, to taste the sweet tantalizing nectar of solitude, but just as I was starting to feel at peace I was thrust back into the competitive arena on board Alouette. It’s not as bad as I’ve made it sound, but man I wanted the quiet camaraderie of a locals bar, and it put me in a foul mood that I could not have it longer. On the boat last night, to be honest, I was testy. My taste of solitude left me all the more sensitive to the abrasion on the boat.

On a lark, I checked for wireless networks. There are two from here, both with good signals, thus I am able to post this. What a great bar!

Call Me Gilligan, Part 2

I delay dragging my sorry ass out of the bunk even while listening to the voices in the main cabin. The refrigerator repair guy was out there and when he finished his work it would be time to go. Experimentally I stood. So far so good. No sign of hangover. No doubt a nap will be welcome later today once we’re running steady. Meanwhile, I paste a smile on my face and emerge for the day.

After I spent some time puttering around the fridge guy was done but rather than head out right away we decide to stroll over to Edie’s for breakfast. Thus fortified, we return to Alouette and make ready to sail. We go over a few more safety things (the seat cushion can be used as a flotation device) and finally we are motoring out to sea, dingy in tow, bouncing over the waves like an eager puppy.

As we get out to the main channel it is time to raise the main sail, and that means it’s time for me to earn my keep. I am here for one reason only – to pull the halyard – the rope that is attached to the top of the sail and pulls it up. I scampered to my halyard-pulling station and when given the signal I hauled the yard right on up. Whoopee! I’m a sailor now!

Tacking out of the harbor was a slow process in the light morning wind (4-6 knots, for those keeping score at home) and when we hit the open sea we flibbered out the jib and monkeyed with the mizzen-mast until we were sliding through the waves with aplomb and grace while porpoises pranced about us. The wind was still on the zephyr side, so we were not moving very quickly, but we were on the sea, by jing, fifteen fathoms of foam beneath our feet, and no one around but the rest of the grumpy crew. (For some reason they stayed up too late last night.)

Nap time. I sack out to the sound of the ocean rushing past the hull and the VHF radio handling emergencies and telling boaters to slow down in the harbors.

I wake to a change in the wind that has caused the boat to lean the other way and the sails are making different noises. Up on deck the wind is coming straight up our butts and is shifting around, making it tricky to find a course and sail trim that works for very long at all. Finally Skipper gets things under control and in the process I tug on a couple more sheets. We’re making good time now, much to Pat’s happiness as it means we we’ll reach San Pedro in time to crash that yacht club’s special dinner. Our skipper has his priorities, no doubt about that.

Pulling into the harbor at San Pedro I had great fun climbing around and pulling on things. Hoo boy! Just call me a salty dog. Overbearded, overburned, I look more like a wayfarer than these Yacht club blue-bloods.

Call Me Gilligan, Part 1

I arrive in LA surrounded by crazy cars. Everywhere is someone who wants to kill me in some innocent act of abject stupidity. I need space. I’d be crazy mad but Santa Margarita is with me, leaving her residual joy even as Jack comes crawling back from the place he’s been, shabby and mad, with his dark Word from beyond: “Wow!”

I was early to the boat, and the others weren’t there yet. I drove around the marina area for a while, stopping off at Ralph’s to buy a bunch of gatorade to quench the powerful thirst I had accumulated on the trip north. I sat in the parking lot at the grocery store, sweat and sunscreen combining to make me clammy and shiny as I give my body what it’s thirsty for. Noam Chomsky was on the radio, trying to convince people that causing change requires hard work. I opened a second bottle and spilled electrolytes and glucose down my beard onto my shirt. Then it hit me. I could be in a bar.

Minutes later I was at Edie’s, settling onto a chrome stool with red vinyl upholstery. Plan A, beer, quickly gave way to Plan B, Margarita. They had a nice big one with decent tequila and I was all over it. While I waited for the preparation I opened up the old Kerouac and found my place. I fear his joy, I fear his power even as I covet it. I fear he will swallow me, and I’ll be just another imitator. But even as I fear losing my voice to his I know I am too afraid and too tiny and too foolish to move people like that or to be moved like that. No, my demons are less exuberant and have their own vocabulary if I can find it. The margarita lived up to it’s promise. Yes, miss, I’ll have another.

Now I’m in the car again; the music is loud and I’m joining in, wondering in a joyous wonder whatever became of the singing voice I once thought I had, it’s gone now and good riddance, silly big-head thing that it was. The other drivers want to kill me and I want space. There’ll be space out at sea, I know.

We show up for dinner, the family and me, Gilligan, at a trendy little place filled with thin beautiful people eating cheesecake. I am the madman in my shaggy beard and smudged shirt and smelly feet and I can see the women look me over with distaste as I look them over. My grin is fierce and manic, and for once I am not afraid of these artificial creatures because tonight they are afraid of me in some kind of superior way. Ha! They move about and they wonder who this disheveled prophet is and my jokes are funny tonight and my eye is keen and I’m seeing everything and knowing everything and they orbit and leave me space but I am the madman and my gaze carries knowlege they are not ready to learn.

Back on the boat we all stay up far too late and drink too much beer and talk too loud, our voices echoing over the still water. It is nice out, a little cool and I’m not sleepy and my enthusiasm seems to have infected the others except Pat who proves he is the smartest of us by turning in while it is merely late instead of ridiculous. Finally I have to give up or I’m going to be watching the sunrise, and the next day is going to be a long one for sure. My berth is the forward stateroom; I lie in state with my toes in the pointy bow of the ship. I plug in the laptop, thinking I’d write a little more while the madness is upon me, but I am fooling myself and soon I’m gone.