"South America on $320" story # 10

Store Bay, Trinidad & Tobago           July 1, 2002

"Wamnow, dreds?" - Trinidadian equivalent for 'What´s up, guys?' or 'How´s it hanging, dudes?' or 'What significant happenstances have in recent times occurred, my fellow friends and peers?'
     Well, as for this dred - waaay back in mid-May - I was invited by Dexter´s nice mom, Sandra, to spend a week with her family (minus Dexter) in Tobago. And being a free-loader, I of course accepted. We would be travelling to Tobago and staying aboard a 40-foot yacht named Xanté. This name - for all I care - means "DON´T EVER GO SAILING!"
     People love sailing. Other crazy people love shoes. Still others whom you might find in a mental ward have an unexplainable fetish for feet. I place all these people in the same category.
     I got my first taste of sailing during the ten-hour trip to Tobago. I enjoyed exactly ten minutes of it; I joined Sandra´s family on the top deck and watched Trinidad´s foresty north coast over the rocking waves. And waves. And waves. I felt queasy and lied down in the cabin. I got up exactly four more times.
     OCCASION 1: To puke.
     2: The rocking waves shifted my bed from its position atop some seats. I thumped hard to the ground. Sandra saw this from the deck and eruped into a laughing fit, which is when I first realized she´d invited me on this trip as punishment for the poor paint job I´d done on her fence.
     3: To dry-heave.
     4: A loud "Boom!" was heard and the walls of the cabin appeared to temporarily shoot two feet inward as would happen in a cartoon. I rushed upstairs and asked Dexter´s dad, Eugene - who looks just like Heathcliff Huxtable´s father on The Cosby Show - if we´d hit a whale. He said no; the sail had broken and needed to come down from the mast. His family scurried in the gray rain, adding and easing tension to some of the dozens of twisting ropes which may have looked complicated, but each one played an important part in the elaborate process of making me feel queasy. There was no land in sight when we lost the huge sail. Only rocking waves.
     Luckily, our sailboat also had a motor. We arrived in Store Bay, Tobago, shortly after and dropped the anchor.
     Apparently, a metal thing had gotten stuck in the hollow metal mast when the sail had broken. I was hoisted up the mast in a sling on a wild goose chase after two swazzles. Seeing as how I´m a landlubber who wouldn´t know a "swazzle" from a "jib" - or what to do upon finding one - it was no suprise that this hoist was a non-success.
     It was a success only in the fact that I recieved a yellow-breasted wren´s view of beautiful Tobago from atop the 60-foot mast. Along line of tall, flare-headed palm trees traced the island´s yellow sand. But, what I admired most about Tobago wa how it stood there. So stationary. The palm trees were green there; not the people´s faces.
     That night - and each one aboard Xanté - we rocked to restlessness by the waves as the ever-moving swazzle performed surgery inside the mast, ringing about so loudly it sounded like somebody was trying to knock over a skyscraper with an aluminum bat.
     By the following morning, Store Bay was full of yachts and crazy people who´d come to compete in the boat races of Sailing Week in Tobago.
     Some boat whose name also means "DON´T EVER GO SAILING!" was probably the one to win the whole weeklong competition. However, the most impressive feat perpetrated was when a cuddly little boat named Merlin managed to convince me to join them for a race.
     Sandra and her youngest son waved good-bye to Eugene and I - possibly forever - early on the first morning of races. Eugene went to the newer boat, Nirvana. I boarded the aging Merlin.
     Merlin´s crew included Rupert, the retired, sunburnt, smiling owner and captain. I´d been convinced to join the boat by the first mate, Richard, who acted as a bone doctor by day and a brainwashing Satan by night. The fourth crew member, Carrie, was a poor zombie to the demon that is sailing.
     I was given a blue Merlin polo shirt and a hat of Richard´s. We made our way to the starting line at sea. Above Richard´s stocky medium-well frame and his stout moustache, his eyes gleamed red. He began yelling and directing Carrie and I to exert ourselves pulling and then easing the same specific but indecipherably similar-looking ropes. He was as intense as a head surgeon. There was no time to be queasy. And the race hadn´t yet begun!
     The pre-race shuffling gave Richard and them the early chance to see what most jobs don´t find out about me for usually six weeks: that I´m totally incompetent at anything technical (which is why I travel so much; because I have to switch jobs). Merlin´s motor was turned off. The race began, and I´d already been absolved of all meaningful duties.
     We raced boats to bobbing red markers. I was mainly just used as high-side weight. Which still sucked. I beat up my sunburnt back and risked getting my fingers caught in the deck or my head struck by the mast, as I slid from high side to high side of the boat whenever we "attacked."
     "Attacking" meant that Carrie and Richard, using precise timing, pulled on the boat´s sail to shift sides of the boat like a bullet, resulting in a change of directions. We made a great attack on one marker, taking it at a speeding, acute angle that separated us from the pack.
     It was cool to see the pointed, shiny white boats behind us. With sails fluttering in the wind and masts protruding like medieval jousters, the pointed yachts cut a foaming path as they angled sharply by the red balls and back on track. You could imagine how enjoyable sailing could be when you sat still for aminute and stared into the endless silver sea, or, better yet, observed a large-numbered crew of high-side Trinidadian women in matching bright-pink or hot-orange bikinis.
     Unfortunately, all our boat had to look at was stubbly-bearded Carrie "busting a gut" and huffing and puffing for a drink, he was so exhausted.
     Our crew of only four was by far the smallest of any boat, and it was demanding. We lost our pole position.
     We struggled to beat as many of the boats as possible. In the mayhem, I once was slow and remained standing on the submerged low side of the boat with water up to my shins. Another time, a rope from the swinging mast hit my head hard, nearly hanging me, and pulled the hat I was wearing into the sea. I took a little solace in the fact that it wasn´t my hat I´d lost. I took a lot of solace in the fact that it wasn´t my head I´d lost.
     Approaching the finish line, we made another nice attack and finished well. We awaited the results of the race at that night´s on-land gala, and we learned Merlin - with handicap points - had taken first place in our class that day. Even with our small crew. And even with me as a crew-member. Richard was happy.
     I was just happy it was over. Sailing is not for me. However, I will admit it COULD be fun, provided the following three conditions.
     CONDITION 1: Instead of racing, you just sit still and stare into the silver sea.
     2: You have a crew or two of thin, bikini´d women sitting high-side with you.
     3: A rule was made mandating that every stated sentence had to made while doing a pirate impression.
     For example, if one of the tanning beauties had to go to the bathroom, she´d say: "Arrgh, matey, how many degrees avast the starboard mast would ´ye find the head!?" Quite a turn-on, huh?
     Alas, there seemed little chance I would get my wish. Some crazy sailor at the gala that night asked me, "Will you race again?"
     "No!" I had the sudden fright of a small child asked if he would take more shots than needed.
     My week´s attention was now drawn to the exploring I would do on the paradisical island we were near. Exploring ... Tobago-style!

My fellow friends and peers, I anxiously await the ensuing occasion in which we shall visit or converse - Modern Oddyseus

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