by Harry Ricciardi
In Nelson’s dockyard, Wayne was working. On the back of some fancy plastic boat, the fitting had broken that held the wire that ran inside the davits that raised a dinghy. It was early. He had only begun to take it all apart when Tommy motored up in the dinghy of the boat Tommy was running that winter.
Tommy killed the engine and drifted underneath some dock lines, nudging off hulls on either side and bumping up against the bulkhead, where Wayne had his tools laid out. Tommy was excited. He shouted down into the lazarette, where Wayne was working. ‘Remember Danny’s brother Bo — he had that old fishing boat?’
‘I helped him recaulk it in Grenada. The season after, he had it up in St. Barth’s, when we rebuilt Paul’s mast . . .’ Wayne tried to keep working. The piece that had broken off was hard to get to.
‘Yeah man! Bo put it on the rocks a little before dawn.’
‘Whoa . . . Is he ok?’ Wayne came out from inside the lazarette and turned off his headlamp.
‘I think he just swam ashore.’
‘Where was he?’
‘Right outside English Harbor.’
‘He says he fell asleep.’ Tommy grinned conspiratorially.
‘You think he missed the mark . . .’
‘Come on!’ He shrugged and restarted his engine. Wayne put his headlamp in his toolbag and climbed down into the tender. He helped lift lines over their heads and used his hands to keep them from scuffing up any boats too badly as they idled out from between the big boats. They motored out of Nelson’s Dockyard. In the entrance channel bits of wood floated. Some sections of planks between frames had made their ways ashore. A lone life jacket hovered in the center of the channel, just inside the outcrop of the rocky entrance, before which the blue Caribbean churned in a chaos of peaks and troughs. The guys picked up the old lifejacket. Where Zorra had been printed on the front somebody had crossed it out and wrote Delilah in black marker. Tommy was laughing about Bo’s attention to detail when they came into view of the old boat. Half the hull had been chewed off by the grinding action of the swell and the rocks. The remaining half lay above the tide but was still getting slapped by waves. The mast leaned precariously and shook with the beat of the ocean’s thrust. Wayne’s stomach turned.
‘Dude,’ Tommy said. He stood up to get a better idea of where he was going, watching the water for barely submerged rocks, and turning the outboard suddenly to avoid them. ‘Duuude.’
‘We should save the mast,’ Wayne said.
‘I’m not going near that fucking thing.’
‘Yeah.’ Wayne held his mouth in a tight line. ‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘it’s a bunch of work.’
They made careful circles in the dinghy, picking things up. Before long the dinghy was full. The excitement wore off and the guys silently threaded their way around the rock piles and buzzed back into the harbor. They stopped at Wayne’s boat where they unloaded most of the stuff. Tommy lit a cigarette, hung onto Shalimar’s rail and waited for Wayne to dip below to grab a couple tools, specific to the job he was doing that morning on the bulkhead. As they were motoring back into the dockyard Tommy said, ‘That’s so fucked up.’
‘Yeah,’ Wayne said. ‘Yeah, that was a cool old boat.’
‘Did Bo build that boat?’
‘No.’ Wayne shook his head. ‘Bo’s not a boat builder. He got it from an old white dude in Grenada. But it was a fishing boat. Built on the beach in Carriaccou. Maybe Zepherine built it. Maybe not. . . . It looked just like Sweetheart.’
‘Such a shame,’ Tommy said.
‘Such a shame.’ Wayne nodded.
That night Wayne went into town to have a drink. A lot of people were at the yacht club bar. Bo looked lost. He was really drunk. ‘Sorry Bo.’ Wayne gave him a hug.
‘O fuck.’ Bo rolled his eyes and shook his head around. ‘I fucked up.’
‘You fucked up.’ Wayne shrugged. ‘You want a rum and Ting?’
‘I’ve got so many drinks.’ Bo had a drink in his hand, and there were four cheap plastic cups with cocktails mixed up in front of him. He pushed one at Wayne and sat back on the stool where he’d been sitting.
‘Thanks.’ Wayne sat down next to him and sipped it. ‘Thanks,’ he said again.
A girl came up to Bo and threw an arm around him. She kissed his head and she kissed his cheek. ‘I’m so glad you’re alive,’ she said. She kind of screamed and her voice cracked. Bo put an arm around her waist and looked happy to be alive.
‘Hi Lauren,’ Wayne said. ‘Hi Wayne,’ Lauren kissed his cheek.
‘Delilah,’ Wayne said, turning to Bo and holding up his drink. Lauren picked up one of Bo’s drinks said, ‘Delilah’ and drank. Bo said, ‘Delilah’ and took another sip. Then he said, ‘Sorry Wayne.’ Wayne shook his head dismissively but Bo kept talking. ‘I know how much you loved that boat. If it wasn’t for your help I would have never got her out of Grenada. I feel like, of all the people in the world, I really let you down.’ Bo was South African and his accent wasn’t always noticeable. That night his accent was noticeable.
Wayne was still shaking his head. ‘Potter would be sad. But Potter’s gone.’ Potter was the old English dude that had spent years on the boat. Wayne shrugged. ‘You’re alive. It’s good to be alive.’ He held his drink up.
‘Damn right,’ Bo said. Lauren clinked her little plastic cup with his after he clinked with Wayne and screamed, ‘Damn right!’
‘Did you get anything off the boat?’ Wayne asked.
‘I got most of my weed. I got a bag of clothes and my fishing gear . . .’ He smiled but after a second he tried not assert his smile. ‘It’s all up at Gregory’s house but I don’t think he wants me to stay there.’
‘You can have a night or two on Shalimar while you figure things out,’ Wayne said.
‘Hey thanks. I appreciate it mate.’ The girl kissed Bo on the head again.
A girl Wayne didn’t know wrapped her arms around Bo from behind and kissed his cheek. ‘You’re a survivor!’ she shouted. Wayne gave up his seat.
At the end of the bar Wayne had noticed the captain of the boat he was working on in the Dockyard. Cary was not the only Scot in the Caribbean running a boat, but he was the only one that had grown up in a working neighborhood of Glasgow. When Wayne had Shalimar hauled out the season before, Cary had delivered him three gallons of good bottom paint and wouldn’t take anything for it. He asked, ‘How’s it coming?’ when Wayne sat down.
‘It’s slow, but I don’t have to cut the deck apart.’ Cary said, ‘Thank god. I saw you got the fitting out, how’d you get in there?’ ‘A headlamp, a mirror and a ratchet with a joint in it . . . if I have trouble getting it back in there, I think I can remove one of those lights on the back of the boat . . . but we’ll see. I’ve got hope.’ ‘Hope!’ Cary called a waitress over and ordered them drinks, even though Wayne tried to show him the one he had wasn’t finished.
‘The riggers don’t want to put another fitting on that same piece of wire, so you’re getting a new one. It should all be done tomorrow.’ Wayne took a break to think. He sipped his drink. ‘If I have to pull that light, it could be an extra day. Either way, you’ll be able to race this weekend.’
‘You know the builders offered to fly someone in from New Zealand? They said it would be a week. . . You can be generous with your hours. It’s under warranty and it’s their bill. If we’re ready on time, you’ll have to come to St. Maarten with us.’
Wayne tried to be smiley and charming. ‘Thanks a lot. I was going to try and get down to Dominica next week.’
‘You don’t like racing?’ Cary asked. ‘I just want to go to Dominica,’ Wayne told him. ‘I wish I could come with you to Dominica,’ Cary nodded. They played pool for an hour. As Wayne was walking out of the bar, he slipped in between a pair of women to tell Bo he was heading back to Shalimar, ‘if you want a ride out.’ ‘It’s alright, mate,’ Bo said, ‘if I need a place to crash I’m sure I’ll be able to find a ride out there.’ ‘All cool,’ Wayne said.
In the harbor, the wind gusted, but it wasn’t exceptional. Bo’s gear was piled up on Shalimar’s aft deck, otherwise order prevailed. Wayne felt ready to leave for Dominica that night and regretted he’d taken on Cary’s job. Cary hadn’t pushed him. He hadn’t even asked him; Wayne had offered. For a minute he sat on the cabintop and had a spliff. He’d been reading different Caribbean history books for most of that season. That night he didn’t feel like picking any of them up. Wayne smoked and looked up at the hills around Shirley Heights. He smoked and cursed Antigua for all the boats in the harbor and all the people at the bar with nothing but yacht races on their minds. He cursed, he smoked and he listened for fish breaking in the harbor.
Bo woke him up when a dinghy dropped him off on Shalimar with a girl later that night. Wayne went on deck and finished his spliff. Bo said, ‘We can sleep in the cockpit.’ Wayne said, ‘Sure,’ and hauled a bunk cushion on deck with a couple of blankets and pillows. Then he went back to sleep.
The next afternoon, after finishing Cary’s job, Wayne returned to Shalimar to find the cushion and the blankets still on deck. Bo was reclining on top of them, but he sat up when Wayne came aboard. ‘I really appreciate you opening up your home to me,’ Bo said. ‘Sure,’ said Wayne. He went down below where he stripped off his clothes. He came out on deck and he jumped in the water. He dove down for a handful of sand and he scrubbed his armpits. He rubbed his face. He swam a lap around the boat then he hauled himself back on deck. While he was rinsing himself with fresh water, Bo said, ‘Thanks for grabbing all this stuff. I don’t even know what I’m going to do with it.’ Wayne shrugged. He started making himself lunch in the cabin.
‘Graziela’s captain offered me a spot for St. Maarten this weekend.’ Sitting in the cockpit, Bo shouted down to where Wayne was cooking. ‘That sounds good,’ Wayne told him. ‘I’ve got to figure out what to do with this stuff,’ Bo said. ‘You’re probably going to abandon that stuff . . . unless you grab another boat right away,’ Wayne told him. ‘You don’t think you can hold onto it for me?’ Bo asked. ‘No,’ said Wayne. He didn’t look up into the cockpit. Eventually he put a sandwich on deck for Bo, but Wayne ate by himself, with a book, at his galley table. That night he took off for Dominica, without Bo.
About the Author:
Harry Ricciardi writes stories and poems and builds traditional wood boats. Recently he’s been reading ancient Chinese poems. David Hinton’s translations of Meng Hao-jan and Hsieh Ling-yün continue to make him curious about distances, bodies of water and literature, here in the big swirl.