In San Diego, after the sailor showed me his yacht, we talked for awhile on shore at a pleasant restaurant, drinking tea and eating dim sum. He was stingy in ordering the tasty, bite-sized portions from the carts that pretty Asian girls wheeled through the large, open-air restaurant. He insisted on paying but he would only order the little bits of the dim sum that he preferred, and he gave me one for every two he ate. He would not let me buy my own. It was curious control. I was more interested in his sea stories than dim sum, so I let it slide. I love the ocean and enjoy tales of travel. I enjoyed the background murmurs of the many diners, and the subtle oriental music was relaxing.
This man was big, ugly, and rough with the horizon-seeking eyes of a true seaman. I did not like him, but he was fascinating. His yacht had been a racing vessel, it had almost won several long-distance completions. There was beautiful teak wood trim in the cabin of the yacht. Although old, it was obviously still a treasure. He worried to me that the government sought to seize it for something he did not care to talk about. He thought that he had hidden the yacht well enough in the slip of a small marina by paying cash. He needed time to get the parts he had ordered to make the repairs the yacht needed before sailing on. He had enjoyed showing me the mechanicals of his yacht and explaining how it worked. He was surprised that I understood as much as I did. I could see why he loved that ship. I admired it, and his abilities to command it. When he slid open a teak wood drawer with his neatly folded silk underwear in peach, rose, sea blue, foam white...the intimate smell of him filled the yacht enticingly. He slid it open a second time for me, but that was as far as it went.
The seaman worried that the government would track his Social Security retirement benefits to impound his yacht, he would have to move fast. I thought that this man was capable of moving very fast indeed. I knew to keep my distance. When I complimented him on his yacht, he bragged that he had, "got it off of a rich guy who owed me." But he hung his head when he said it. I was coldly curious. He was disgusted with me because I had refused to hoist him in the boatswain's chair on his yacht so that he could get high enough to see what repairs his mast needed. He was old and he could no longer climb the rigging as he used to do. I too was old and I doubted that I safely work the ropes to haul him aloft.
At last he told me about his shipmate in the Pacific Ocean. She had been the love his life, and as he showed me a small, worn snapshot of the pretty, young woman, his eyes teared over. He lamented that they quarreled when he drank hard liquor. Then in a soft, sad voice he said that she had gone overboard on the way to Tahiti and had been lost at sea. He did not say if she had gone overboard into the sea of natural causes, or not, but he hung his grieving head. Then with the smallest of snarls he asked if I would like to sail the South Pacific with him. I told him "No." I still shudder at the memory. That poor girl who had been his shipmate had perished adrift in a momentary mystery at sea. Was the ocean terrifying as she descended the depths, was the cold unbearable, was drowning difficult?
I saw the old seaman one more time, a few days later on his birthday when I called him out for a modest dinner on me. He was very surprised and grumpy. He would not tell me more stories.
I do not know when or if he ever sailed from San Diego because I never saw him again, I did not want to risk being shanghaied. And, there went my only chance in life to sail the South Pacific.
Caption: Adrift In Momentary Mystery
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018