Story and By Ken Krayeske • 9:00 AM EST
Sometimes, the sun set's twice in a day. In the middle of the Atlantic, Gavin the mate takes a picture of a gorgeous sunset, and I grabbed a picture of hime, and got a reflection, too. Sometimes, the life of a deckie wasn't all that bad.
Editor's Note: I couldn't write a real column this week because I had my last law school exam! (It's all done but for a paper and that little test called the bar exam). The following story was first published in Dockwalk back in December 2009. I am told that I should write more humor. It may not be a bad idea considering the current state of the world...Enjoy.KK
Waking for midnight watch was a challenge when I was a deckie on a 150-foot stinkpot, but even more difficult for me was staying quiet when the live-aboard owner opened his mouth.
All sorts of drivel emanated from privileged lips of Mr. Shady Owner Man, and it was all I could do to zip my lips. But it's amazing how a paycheck and the promise of passport stamps hush a tongue.
I didn't sign up to for Mr. Boss to be on board some 80 out of 150 days for the delivery from Fort Lauderdale to Thailand (110 days of which were spent underway). But that's what we got. And I learned to deal with it.
Captain Bill first trained me to shut my trap a few years earlier on a 120-foot ketch. One Saturday during a yard period, Captain Bill gave me a last assignment at 5 p.m. I thought I was Jon Stewart fending off Tucker Carlson when I responded "I'm not your monkey boy." Captain Bill has called me "Monkey boy" ever since, even gifting me a specially-embroidered "Monkey Boy" shirt and hat for my birthday once.
The captain's good sense of humor disappeared with Mr. Liveaboard, especially when he brought his son to Fort Lauderdale to help finish the refit. Teaching the soft-handed teenager to scrape barnacles off the bottom of the crew tender wasn't easy. I made it thankless when I told the boy that I disagreed with the Iraq invasion, and had been jailed for civil disobedience protests.
"Are you stupid?" Captain Bill asked me (but not so nicely – this is, after all, a family website). At that point, I feared for my job. So I invoked my right to silence when the owner or his family entered my workspace, be it in the bridge or on the sun deck.
The fishing platform provided the most face time with Mr. Old-Man-And-The-Sea, and he always wanted to chat. Once, cruising for barracuda in The Bahamas, I listened to him degrade fat Americans who drive SUVs, hoping out loud that the price of gas hits $5 a gallon so chunky Americans will be forced out of their cars.
Considering that Mr. Limousine Liberal's yacht used some 40,000 gallons of diesel to cross the waters of the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Red and Indian seas, I comforted myself by repeating silently the famous Miranda warning: "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you."
A bigger test awaited in the middle of the Med when Mr. Show-Off's know-it-all friend yanked the rod and reel out of my hand as I was about to set the hook. "Don't you know what you're doing?" the know-it-all said as he lost our first hit from a big-game fish in 2,500 miles. Everyone was grumpy afterwards. But I smiled, because I didn't respond with a big "Kiss my ass."
Come 2 a.m. that night, 100 miles from Malta, the Med kicked up its mistrals. We pounded headlong into heavy waves, Mr. Land Legs wobbily made his way into the bridge. He looked green. His wife, Mrs. I-take-Dramamine-for-a-sea-trail-in-Florida's-Intercoastal-Waterway, must have been ghastly. Woe to our poor stewardess who had to clean their head!
Mr. Sea-Sick-Owner-Who-Thinks-It's-Romantic-To-Do-Deliveries, grabbing onto the balance bar on the instrument panel, glanced at my watch partner, the engineer, and then me, and pleaded "Can't you make it stop?"
"Of course," I wish I replied. "The Wave Regulator! Why didn't I think of that? Silly me. I am so sorry we inconvenienced you. I turn the waves down now." But I could never understand why he took his Mrs. when she was obviously not a sailor.
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