03 August 2010

Wishing for the Darkness

I'm not going to name names because what happens on the boat stays on the boat. Or something like that. I even have photographic evidence but am holding that in my special blackmail folder I keep on all people that I know (or know about). But I do have to tell the story.

Prompted by Tirso's comment on The Darkness identifying himself as the sailor at the wheel when I popped my head out of the companionway (not late by the way, that only happened once dammit), I have to tell another story of coming on watch and the pitfalls that accompany it.

This night wasn't so dark. In fact it wasn't even night yet, sort of late afternoon {editor's note: it is impossible to tell what time it truly is at sea since we keep our watches on Pacific Time and generally only have a hazy idea of where we are and what time zone it is at any given time). But I digress, the point is I popped my head out of the companionway while it was still light out to see Tirso at the wheel staring straight ahead, scared to flinch any muscles that could direct his gaze to starboard. This is weird because Tirso is a compulsive compass-starer, but this day he wasn't looking at anything let alone the compass.

And I soon found out why, but I'm not going to share that yet. First let me tell you about our watch schedules. We each stood a 3 hour 2 person watch but they were staggered. So when I relieved Tirso, I would have an hour and a half with one watchmate who would get relieved and I'd have an hour and a half with the new guy. This is a great system because you always have somebody fresh and the transitions are seamless. So, when I relieved Tirso, there was a guy still on watch who was to take the wheel.

So, back to prairie dogging myself out the companionway to this surreal scene of Tirso staring intently at the horizon and a mystery un-named crewmember sitting to starboard wearing his foulie top, life jacket and tether, and a pair of hi-tech underwear. And nothing else. Ummm, yep, nothing else.

I decided the appropriate course of action was to pretend this wasn't happening. Heck, we hadn't been at sea long enough for "this behavior" to start. So, I sat on port and pondered the situation. We had a clearly freaked out helmsman, a mostly naked watchmate, and a few minutes early me. Just sitting there, contemplating the underwear.

It was such a magnificent moment that I can't remember how the ice was broken but it was something like, "hey, where are your pants?" The reply was something along the lines of, "these are high tech underwear from REI!" You know, a normal conversation in the middle of the ocean.

Well, this couldn't go on forever so the de-pantsed crew member took the wheel, Tirso ran off like a frightened little puppy and for the next hour and a half we sailed the boat like nothing was different. Well, other than asking for permission to photograph the event .... which was granted. And filed away in the blackmail folder, ready for publication when the moment is right.

So, another crew member, wearing pants, popped up an hour and a half later for his watch. And the scene repeated itself. Except this time, it was the pantsless one being relieved. Only thing is, he hung around because, hell, what's better than hanging out in the cockpit with a couple of guys while you lounge in your underwear? Err, high tech underwear.

Again, I'm not going to "out" this sailor. In fact, with the myriad of crew changes that happened on VALIS in the days/weeks before the race, it might be impossible to figure out who was even on the boat. But I will leave you with my last comment to Tirso before I hopped into a cab to go to the airport in Kaneohe: "How on Earth did you get that man naked? I need to know your secret!"

But seriously, anyone who maligns a sailing trip to Hawaii as anything less than terrifying needs to remember this: strange and dangerous things happen at sea, you never know when you're going to get caught pants down.


O Docker said...

Please, don't explain why he was wearing a tether.

Tillerman said...

Weird. I don't wear underwear at all when I am sailing.