The Latest Scheme


I never had a “get rich quick” scheme. I heard someplace that they don’t work. If I had a scheme it was more of a “struggle to make a subsistence living” scheme. I have noticed lately I’m in good company. Struggling to make a subsistence living has become incredibly popular over the past three years. It seems as though everyone is clambering onto the proverbial bandwagon. Speaking of the “bandwagon” read on;

I’m still trying to make a living. I don’t really know why… it’s never worked before. Well, at least I don’t harbour any high expectations. As long as there are fish under the boat and I have the cooperation of low tide at least I won’t starve… and I’ll enjoy a healthy (if sparse) diet in the bargain.

My latest scheme is a book. It is the true story about a 1923 Alden sailboat that flogged Jinna and I nearly to death for thirty years. The book relates the story of how we somehow survived living on and rebuilding the ungrateful old tub whilst making our so called living in the music business. Not the kind of music business where you’d find Bono, Jimmy Buffett or Willie Nelson… or in the case of my personal taste… John Williams, Julian Bream or Christopher Parkening… but what I have come to call the industrial music business. It is the thankless kind in which you eke out your miserly pittance banging out repugnant rock ‘n roll in bars.

I would have written a book long ago if I wrote fiction… but I don’t so I had to live long enough to gather the experience so I could write the book. Now it’s time.

Here’s an excerpt:

All of us who live aboard can recall a pretty much specific point at which we irrevocably decided to move onto a boat. My epiphany came during the Blizzard of ’78.

Because I was living in Ohio I had “center ice tickets” to this uncomfortable meteorological event. The blizzard (combined with an equally precipitous drop in beef prices) cured my desire to be a cattle farmer. While feeding said cattle at 0530 on that dark and icy Tuscarawas County morning I fantasized floating in a marina on my sailboat. I would lead an idyllic life in the very close, hopefully even intimate, company of scores of beautiful women. I would consume delicious fresh seafood washed down with an uninterrupted flow of adult beverages. I would jam in the cockpit with Jimmy Buffet! I would drift off to sleep listening to steel drum music! I resolved to sell my farm and move onto a boat in Florida. Oh, yeah, in the end the beverages and seafood worked out ok.

I chose Florida because it was as close as I could get to moving back to Liberia, West Africa where I was born and raised. Florida, however, is far more conveniently located at the southern terminus of I95. In addition Liberia had its own unfortunate weather problems courtesy of the ubiquitous AK47. Therefore, although warm, living there was out of the question due to frequent precipitation consisting of small high velocity pieces of lead and, of course, machetes. Since all of our Liberian friends and acquaintances had been executed (or less ceremoniously murdered) I felt moving there might result in a decline in my health.

Instead I moved to Boca Raton. I wanted a boat. I found a boat. No surprise. I’m unsure of the appropriateness of postulating that artists arrive at their decisions through logical thought processes. The true course to the decision may simply pass through a lens of sheer emotion. Just in case artists think, though, I guess I should admit I’ve always thought like an artist. I might as well go all the way and confess I AM an artist. So…

Through the above mentioned lens of emotion I selected the Borealis.  Our relationship was based neither on common sense nor on anything even remotely resembling a sound seamanlike base of knowledge. No, dear readers, it was based solely on the fact that I was in love with the bloody boat. She looked really sexy and that, as they say, was that.

My new love was advertised in The Fort Lauderdale News Sun Sentinel. The Borealis… aka the Borey… was a wooden gaff rigged yawl. She flowed from the drawing board of John G. Alden, an American yacht designer of world renown, as Hull #202. Built by George Lawley & Sons of Neponset, Massachusetts in 1923, she was constructed at the behest of one Arthur N. Peck of New York City. He christened her “Laura” and as far as we were able to learn he sailed her “down Maine” which is the haughtily nautical way of saying; “Along the coast of Maine”. At the conclusion of his voyage he apparently recovered from his affliction whereupon he sold Laura to another addict. Thus commenced the long and sordid (upon my inclusion on the list) group of victims (excuse me, I mean owners) of this once proud vessel.

To adequately explain the Borey would require a tome the size of Tolstoy’s War & Peace and that would just be the first chapter! Never in the history of marine endeavors has there been a more scummy derelict wreck of a boat. She was indeed a sickening sight. The fact that she floated at all is an enduring monument and testimonial to the manufacturers of Rule bilge pumps… the BIG ones… and low tide. Under way the Borey was reminiscent of a New York Harbour fireboat in a 4th of July parade. A minimum of four pumps ran continuously while the Borey crept along like a stream of stagnant mud at a staggering four knots. The cost maintaining the Borey approached the magnitude of the US national debt with one notable exception; the national debt has at least some potential of being reduced over time. Naturally I just knew I could fix her up… the proverbial piece of cake! I would do things properly, though.

Through my adolescent fog I remembered reading in a yachting magazine it would be wise to secure the services of a marine surveyor. This was just a formality of course, like putting a silver dollar under the mast heel or conducting some ceremony or other to change the name of the vessel. After all nothing in the magazine article said I had to actually heed the surveyor’s advice.  Although I resented the potential of the survey report to place itself wisely between me and the newfound object of my affection (read lust) I arranged a survey.

The man arrived and bravely climbed on board to commence the survey. In less than thirty seconds he emerged from the main hatch with all his gear and announced to me:

“I am not going to survey this boat. In fact I’m not even going to charge you for coming here today.”

“Why?” I asked.

“There are full grown oysters living in the bilge forward under the mast step. Do you know what that means?”

I thought hard and the only thing I could come up with was that maybe I’d have my own on board raw bar… and that seemed good.

“No” I said hesitantly.

“Oysters must have rapidly flowing clean water to live” continued the surveyor. “That means this boat is leaking so profusely… even sitting here at the dock… that there is enough water flowing through the bilge to keep them alive and well!”

With that the disgusted surveyor spun on his heel and left.

No amount of thoroughly sound information or sage advice could dissuade me from seeing the best in the squalid old tub. Unfortunately “the best” in this case could only be described as submicroscopic. It would be akin to seeing “the best” in Ivan the Impaler or maybe Attila the Hun…. Very difficult to find but probably a grain of it was present to be ferreted out by the diligent searcher.

I hastened forthwith to consummate the purchase of the ship of my dreams. The “gentleman” from whom I purchased the Borey was an untrusting fellow who could under no circumstances be trusted. He shall remain nameless in accordance with my reticence to speak ill of the deceased. He had recently relocated to South Florida (for “personal” reasons, he said) from a northern city whose alumni included such notable humanitarians as Al Capone (who had a propensity for islands) and Bugsy Moran. He shared with the aforementioned Mr. Capone both his ethnic heritage and his fear and resentment of the IRS. For this (and I imagine, other) reasons the payment for my new yacht was made through the instrument of myriad checks drawn in small amounts. The number of these small checks would have sufficed to wallpaper an efficiency apartment. He explained his desire for small checks in terms of something called “red flags”. Apparently he did not like flags and red ones particularly irritated him. Well, in nautical terms I guess he had the “con”. Besides I had already learned that the usual daily activity in South Florida would qualify as an indictable offense anywhere else in the civilized world.  So after this arduous exercise in penmanship I became the 13th owner of the Borealis. I immediately began to experience the legacy implied by that number but that story is for another chapter.

Well, it all went downhill from there. Feel free to comment… I am used to being judged an idiot… so you won’t even hurt my feelings. Just one thing though; it would not be a good idea to make Jinna mad.

Check back soon to see how things are progressing on the book. Help me put all those hours spent in quest of a liberal arts education to some kind of use!


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