Our two weeks in the Keys and our first joint shipboard duty behind us, Carrie and I once again set out to find work. Knocking on halls and speaking with captains and crew was now a familiar routine. In between these short yacht assignments we continued to find gainful employment at the shipyards that catered to yachts by filling voids left by vacationing crew. These temporary jobs generally paid better than full time employment, but the duties were also a bit more involved as these boats were generally undergoing significant refinishing and repair and the labor was therefore plentiful.
Time apart can be hard for a couple. Especially, so I believe, for newlyweds as Carrie and I were at that time, having been married only a year. I had had a number of discussions with the captain concerning the possibility of hiring Carrie as a stewardess. He assured me she would be hired at the next opening. Though, 6 months in, and multiple stewardess hirings later, these discussions had proved fruitless and I was soured. The most recent excuse he had given was that “Indonesian girls could be had for half the price”. I recall the strangeness of a catalogue of Indonesian youngsters laying on his desk, indicating individual’s information and their expense of employment. I was feeling jilted after earlier promises of hiring my new wife had failed to come to fruition. I felt my time on board was short, whether by my own hand or theirs, as I had recently let it be known that either they hire Carrie or I would leave.
Full of the romance of a new love, and the bravado of a young man, I had informed him that if he did not hire my wife I would have to leave, as we were in love and wanted to be together. The captain had not taken this ultimatum well and had offered to “hand me my hat and show me the door”. I staved off an immediate escort off the ship with some verbal tap dancing, but I was still feeling a transition was at hand. He had heard only a threat in my words, and unbenounced to me at the time, I had initiated a race to my employment’s finish-line.
A short number of weeks later, in July of 1998. My Captain had spent a little time securing a replacement for me, and he had won the race I didn’t know we were running. He came to me one fine afternoon as I sat in the galley enjoying refreshments. To inform me that my time on board was over and I was to leave then and there. That is how they did things on yachts, there is no two-week’s-notice given nor offered. No severance, just an immediate escort off the ship. These ships are much too valuable to allow a disgruntled employee the run of the place.
The yachting scene is a difficult one socio-politically, and is liberally dappled with distrust and false promises. A light application of truth to all matters being deemed adequate for most. Individuals would sometimes promote themselves dishonestly and at times it seemed the rule of the day.
As I was given my walking papers the captain asked, “What shall I tell people as to why you left?”
I had not expected this question and replied directly and without hesitation. “Tell them the truth.” I’m hoping he used my version of it.. In the end, it didn’t really matter, it just felt good to say.
I was a little saddened to go, but very much looking forward to rejoining the love of my life. After only 7 incredible months aboard, I was leaving my assistant engineer position, and it was the right move.
Carrie picked me up in her old Beretta port side, having said goodbye to all of my crewmates that were left aboard, I exited the shipyard with a happy wave and turned my back on an amazing ship. That was 17 years ago, and I still keep in touch with a few of the crew.
I climbed joyfully into Carrie’s Beretta and we reveled in the short drive back to West Palm Beach together. The main thing I remember about this time is being back with the woman I love and feeling happy to be together again, having our whole future ahead of us. As we had gained some experience with our recent endeavors we were now more employable and we were confident that we could find a boat together.
We return to West Palm Beach and moved in with some old crew-mates that I had met on the big yacht. We rented a room there and found work in a local yacht refitting yard. A number of these local shipyards catered to yachts specifically, and they were always looking for somebody to fill the void of cleaning or repairing these massive boats. I recall a particular set of shelves being built by one of these yards and it being installed into the big ship before I left her, I had overheard that this 5 foot tall 4 foot wide piece of furniture with 3 open shelves and 2 lower drawers, all painted white, overall an unremarkable creation made of fiberboard had sold for $5000! I was astounded that such a price tag should be attached to a simple set of shelves that I could have turned out in most of a day and a half of labor consuming perhaps $300 in materials. It was at this very point that I realized there was a class of people who were willing to pay for what they wanted and that their money meant less to them then a similar amount did to me, and that this would be the focus of my future efforts. The scale of expense on these yachts was astounding. Right then and there my future efforts at employment became clear to me. Other Peoples Things was to be my focus.
Meanwhile, I found some engine room work on a nice yacht being refitted in a local shipyard. I made friends there and enjoyed going from boat to boat assisting in any way I could and getting paid well for it.
Carrie’s experiences had introduced her to a decent yacht crowd as well, and she was able to clean and tend for these and other yachts during this period. All the while we were looking for a new position together at sea. It was about this time we discovered a yacht that was seeking crew for a two week trip to the keys. We interviewed with a very nice captain and were hired and thereby embarked on the next leg of our adventure.