This is an account of a disastrous sailing trip Dylan James Brock took in June 2011. View Part 1 here
Before the captain bought the forty-one foot sailboat in May 2011, it was owned by a hoarder. Lucille crammed every corner of the boat’s two cabins with assorted trinkets that the captain had cleared out over the course of a few days. All he had chosen to keep of the clutter was a drawer full of brand new, blank baseball caps, assorted in color and identical is style. Some of the trinkets had been hot-glued down, and these he could not seem to pry off. So I would be walking around deck and see random angel wings or three plastic tropical fish and know that no storm could knock those overboard.
On 7 June 2011, when we got to the boat, it was just north of Rochester, New York. The captain, the minister and I had a fair amount of grunt work to do, but that didn’t stop Lucille from wasting our time. I was guzzling water and cursing the heat when I first heard the woman’s voice. Its vowels were always stretched long. Every minute or so she would stammer, and while she would she would hold out a note as if singing, always singing, “aw!” Then the words would snap back in and sense would have to be made of them again. Lucille undertook the difficult task of explaining to us the bounty of a thousand scavenger hunts that had been filling her boat. She said, “The theme is ‘palm trees’. Keep that in mind. The theme is ‘palm trees’.” Then she went on connecting a list of the now tossed pieces to that theme. When he first bought the boat, the captain had asked if she wanted what was still in it, and she had said no. But it was clear that she had meant for the captain to keep it all, as it was all very important to the theme, which is palm trees.
As soon as Lucille was out of earshot, the minister told the captain that he should marry herto keep her dream of living on a boat alive. Cursing followed this. As interesting as Lucille was, I didn’t think of her as the danger she would become. Her baffling ignorance about everything functional on the boat meant that we had no idea what worked and what didn’t. She didn’t know what the bilge pump was, for example, and so could not tell us that it was not working at all. Luckily we were able to get the engine shipshape before we left, but this took some doing. The minister was short, looking something like a dwarf in a fantasy novel, and so he was able to scurry over the corners of the four-cylinder diesel until everything was where it needed to be. What was wrong with the engine had to be discerned and solved by the captain and the minister, because Lucille had never run the engine herself.
Lucille had only taken the boat out onto the water once during her three years with it, and that time it had been handled by an employee of the boatyard, not her. That was Lucille’s first year with the boat, when it had spent a summer at a slip in a marina. At the end of that summer she had had it pulled and put on the cradle where it remained until us. Lucille had still lived on it, on land, in the cradle, for two summers. We realized that she had been using the head and filling the tanks with her waste without a single pump out that whole time. Such negligence coupled with such ignorance made for grave danger.
The last time Lucille was aboard it was several hours into a beastly day when we all had work to do. Still we humored her as she told us about the mural she had meant to paint where the name had once been. It was going to be a landscape of palm trees. She asked us if we remembered that the theme was palm trees and we nodded. The back had been blank in preparation for her tropical mural, and so the captain had put his favorite name down, “Spell Bound”, rather than use the boat’s original name, “Bewitched”. “I see you changed the name,” Lucille said just before she left us that first day. ” I hear that’s terrible luck.” It occurred to me that she was worse than any bad luck, but I only stayed silent.
Several gallons of sweat and twenty-four hours later, the boat was plunked into the Genesee River. Lucille was back and watched it get put in. She was clapping with the base of her palms as if she were an otter. Her face was wrought with wrinkles from her emotions’ intensity. It could have been bliss or rage or both. We three got on board and looked at each other like sportsmen in a huddle. The captain gave us orders and we were ready to cast off, but the minister stopped us both for something important. “This your last chance to sail off with her,” the minister said to the captain. “Fuck you,” the captain said to the minister. “The theme is palm trees,” I said to them both.