the adventures of a girl, her dog, and two cats.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

two year liveaboardaversary (and postscript on sleazy captains)

Thursday marked two years since the pets and I moved aboard. I've heard most liveaboards only last a year and a half before they give up, frustrated, and move back ashore. I feel like I should be so much farther along on all the projects, but nonetheless it doesn't occur to me at all to move ashore. Ambrosia is the only home I've ever owned, the only place that has been truly mine.

practicing my sugar skull makeup for halloween
So, what next? I am somewhat loathe to state any plans because people relish pointing out when one doesn't achieve the deadline or follow the stated plan. But I'm just drawing really broad brush strokes right now and I don't owe anyone apologies or explanations if they change. In the most general sense my plan is that of most every liveaboard I've met: to sail off to that mythical destination called South. For some that's the Carolinas. Or St. Augustine. Perhaps it means Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, or the Keys. For many it also means the Bahamas and the Caribbean. In my case I can see myself heading home to Miami for a bit, on to Key West to look for work fishing or slinging drinks. Ideally, taking a few months to hop around the Bahamas; if I find remote work, perhaps the island-hopping is indefinite.

While I have a few close friends in Annapolis there is nothing to hold me here. I don't know that the prospects for work are any better anywhere else, but they are very meager here, so "career," whatever that is supposed to be, certainly doesn't tie me down. In the end, I'd like to leave the US entirely and for good. I think it will take some time to find a job overseas and secure a visa that lets me emigrate, but this is no longer a land of opportunity and I need to find someplace else to get a chance to start over and build a life. In the meantime, I may as well take advantage of having a slip that includes electricity until Spring. I have work to do on the hard, but don't expect to have the funds to get hauled before winter sets in here. Thus, my thinking is that I'll leave Annapolis and initially head for an area where yard rates are more reasonable and spend a bit of time on the hard making repairs and upgrades before continuing down the ditch, heading South, wherever that is. 

I had thought I'd have contract work in DC for the next few months and while it's a terrible grind commuting four hours round-trip, I would just try to keep my head down and save money. I need to save up a lot for the repairs and upgrades I need aboard, and more urgently the pup dog needs an $800 surgery to remove a rotten tooth. But of course the project I was working on that was slated to last two to four months instead lasted just seven working days. It gets tiring being down to the last penny all the time, but at least I'm not trapped in a horrible marriage or slaving away in an evil law firm. Though I'm poor and have little hope of that ever changing, I'll take the strain of poverty any day over the life I was trapped in before.

As the situation quickly deteriorated on my trip to the Cooks, I didn't dish all the details in real time. So, here's the postscript on sleazy captains and the sordid tale of my brief visit to beautiful Aitutaki.

Regrettably, I doubt I will be willing to crew for any single guys for quite a while. I have been too trusting and too generous in thinking guys who are wildly outside of my age-range and/or seriously not my type understand that and won't be sleazy. And even if a guy is of an age I might consider, that doesn't mean I'd have any interest in sleeping with him. What part of the 30-second rule is so hard to understand? I guess I just have to be rude and tell guys bluntly as soon as I meet them, "Dude, I am never going to sleep with you. If you still want to have a drink, hang out, sail, fine, but you have been friend-zoned, period." Perhaps I'd be willing to crew with a couple making a passage, but I've even had bad experiences (though not yet when sailing) with what appear to be swinger couples with an agenda just like the creepy solo guys. Maybe I have to find a nice gay couple to crew with so I know the guys really don't have any agenda with me. I still want to be able to work on a fishing charter, but after the last charter gig I will definitely have to bluntly tell the captain that he'll lose a hand if he lays a finger on me. I know there are decent guys out there, but the sleazebags sure do give all guys a bad rap.

As for the recent trip, I absolutely never thought the captain had any expectations since he's plainly too old for me, so incredibly not my type (which I also explicitly told our mutual friend), and he knew I quit the fishing boat because of the handsy old captain. I wasn't sure if he was either trying to or did hook up with our mutual friend, but he referred to her as an "ex" to someone in conversation, which surprised me. In the Cooks he was constantly trashing her and her boyfriend, saying how jealous the guy was that he was there, and how it was a nightmare staying with her, what a disaster it was staying on her boat. This from a guy with zero personal hygiene and no working head on his boat; ugh. But he'd definitely like to get his hands on some of her boyfriend's money since the captain is broke, in debt, and living off credit cards. He was scheming how to get the boyfriend to invest in his daysail / fishing charter in the Cooks; hopefully the guy will steer well clear of the captain and not get scammed. 

So, how did the trip unfold?

When I arrived in Aitutaki on Monday and we got to the house, the captain showed me a little twin bed, which he said I could use, then showed me the big bed where he sleeps, and said I'm also welcome to sleep there. I actually laughed out loud at that suggestion and made it clear I'd be on the twin alone. That was such a ridiculous proposition that I mostly took it as a joke but that was the first indication that he might have expectations beyond the crew and cook role I had signed on for. It was cool at night in Aitutaki and I asked about a blanket. The captain said there was only one blanket so if I wanted to use it I had to sleep in the bed with him. I said that's nonsense and took the blanket. He bitched and moaned the next evening about how cold he was and wanted the blanket back. I argued that there couldn't seriously be only one blanket in the whole house and to find something. He took the good blanket and gave me a light bedspread he found in another room. Fine. Being old and highly unattractive is unfortunate, but not a character flaw. Being a manipulative sleazebag is a serious character flaw and pretty much sums that captain up.

Tuesday we had to run all over the island with a borrowed pick-up buying groceries and hauling things to the boat. He was supposed to return the truck the night before and when we ran into the owner of the truck the guy was pretty pissed off and told the captain to move all his stuff out of a house where he was storing things. The captain ended up just bad-mouthing the guy the rest of the day and decided to keep the truck all day and not move out his stuff. How he would have ever fit all the junk he has onto that catamaran anyway is a mystery and he certainly was no where near being ready to sail to Tonga. 

The captain only appeared to have three "friends" on the island after some six months: (1) the American ex-pat guy he borrowed the truck from, who didn't exactly seem to like the captain; (2) a Samoan guy married to a local but who was out of town for an extended trip; and (3) a local auto mechanic who always looked very annoyed by the captain any time we went by there to borrow things or use his shop. The captain would put on a front of being buddies to anyone we came across and as soon as they were gone he'd be bad-mouthing them or gossiping about them. The actual locals never seemed genuinely friendly to him and likely the only people who really tolerated him were outsiders who had happened to marry a local.

It must have been Wednesday morning when the Samoan guy's son told the captain that they had a plan to get the island council to approve him to stay. The plan was for the captain to sign half his boat over to the Samoan and/or the son and be partners in the business so the council would consider the application to be made by a local. Personally, I'd think that was a steep price, giving up half your business and boat to be able to stay. But I guess if it's the place you really love and want to be, it'd be worth it. Ah, but it turns out the captain has a different plan. He said that whatever paperwork they did in the Cooks saying he'd signed anything over would be irrelevant because he wouldn't be changing the ownership documentation with the US Coast Guard, so after a few years he'd just sail away and the locals wouldn't get anything. So, one of the few people he was supposedly friends with and he'd happily screw him over once he got what he wanted. Maybe they were both planning on screwing each other over, but it was pretty clear the captain had no moral compass whatsoever. I feel so sorry for Aitutaki if the island council approved him for a business. He'll just milk the place and the tourists for everything he can and then move on. 

On Wednesday the captain was being pissy and I suspected perhaps he was mad that I wasn't sleeping with him. He would constantly be in my personal space and trying to touch me, which I really hate. When he came back from lunch on Wednesday he left me on the dock when he took the dink to the boat, and that was just the beginning of the snippy, petulant behavior. It was Wednesday or Thursday evening that he cornered me, put his arm around my waist, and said he "wasn't opposed to some female companionship." Eewwww. I pushed him away and told him he was totally in the friend-zone, which definitely pissed him off. Thursday evening I was going to try to watch the traditional dance at the Tamanu resort, but the captain's inability to ever stop talking or invading my personal space was too annoying and I called it a night by 9:00pm. 

It was pretty clear by Friday that the captain planned to stay in Aitutaki so I had been trying to find another boat to join to sail on to Niue and Tonga, or even Auckland if possible. Unfortunately, not having a cell phone and very limited Internet access made it too difficult to connect and coordinate with the few other boats in the harbor. Friday night we went to a local bar, Crushers, with a little dance floor inside and picnic tables in the sand outside. As obnoxious as the captain was, I had just been trying to slide away from him whenever he got in my space and just bit my tongue for the sake of being peaceable. Walking to Crushers, however, I had had it. He kept touching me, goofing off, rambling on, and doing anything he could to get attention. I finally told him that being around him is like babysitting an 8-year-old, to please just shut the fuck up and walk. 

Naturally, he was all piss and vinegar but once we were at Crushers he was acting nice because he wanted people to think we were together. I did whatever I could to not have to sit next to him and was relieved when Mary and Patrick, a couple from another boat in the harbor, arrived and I could chat with them. Mary clearly felt bad for me being stuck with the captain. Mary and I were on the dance floor and a local guy came up and asked if I "was the girl running on the island [that] morning." Yes, indeed, the one and only runner on the island, that was me. When I was dancing the captain came up and was trying to dance with me and I kept evading him and finally had to just yell at him to get the fuck away from me. The owner of the bar invited Mary, Patrick, and I up to a rooftop deck where a few other people joined us and we hung out for hours having an impromptu jam session. Thankfully, the captain didn't know where I was and went home. I ended up crashing at a friend's, a few houses down the road from the captain's rented house. How nice to have indoor facilities and a good night's sleep!

Saturday morning I strolled in and said good morning, but the captain was chilly. He left to work on the boat shortly after I arrived. I took some time to actually enjoy the beach a bit and then investigated the Internet access at the nearby resort, (where I met Carol and Nikki, both of whom ended up generously opening their homes to me in Aitutaki and Papamoa Beach, respectively). I figured it was going to be very difficult logistically to find another boat to join and researched flights to get to Auckland. It's much pricier to get from Aitutaki to Auckland than to get there from Niue or Tonga. Even though the captain was a scumbag, I would most likely have suffered through a passage if it looked like he was actually going to relocate. I wouldn't travel half-way around the world and leave someone hanging. But it was pretty clear at that point he planned to stay in Aitutaki. And while I wouldn't want to leave anyone short-handed, I don't know that I'd have felt safe trapped aboard with him for any length of time. 

When I got back to the house Saturday afternoon the captain had a total hissy fit. He said that it wasn't working out and he didn't think I was ready for 1000 miles of open ocean sailing. Complete bullshit, of course, which I told him. I've got more mental and physical aptitude in my pinkie than he'll ever have. (And it'd be 800 nm consisting of one day sail plus two 36-hour passages, but whatever.) But I agreed that we should definitely part ways as soon as possible. He said he thought I should fly out on Monday. He lied about the cost for a ticket to Auckland and belly-ached about it, trying to push it off on me. He said I should just make something up to qualify for the travel insurance to fly back to the States early. He explicitly told me to commit insurance fraud. Wow. I told him I'm obviously not going to do that.

I headed back to the nearby resort for happy hour and some more Internet access. Nikki asked if I'd found a boat and when I said I hadn't, she generously invited me to stay at their house in the Bay of Plenty when they got back to New Zealand. The locals were insistent that the captain had to pay for my ticket to Auckland and seemed pretty disgusted that he was trying to push it off on me. I asked about a cheap hotel for the following night, but Carol invited me to stay at her home instead. I dreaded going back to that house with the captain, but thankfully it was the last night I had to put up with him.

On Sunday morning the captain was under the gun to move out of the little house and onto his boat. I told him that I just needed my plane tickets to Auckland and I had a place to stay that night, so we could just part ways as soon as he handed me the tickets. He was clearly pissed off at me, and then the real reason he wanted me gone came out. He went into a tirade about how it was totally "disrespectful for me to be sleeping with someone else when I was living under his roof." I burst out laughing. How completely ridiculous. We were roommates, period, sharing a little rented shack. I'm an adult American woman, no one makes rules for me and no one owns me. Even a really stupid American guy should know that. He was acting as if we were married and I'd had an affair. This guy is seriously disconnected from reality. There's not a universe in which I would have ever dated him but somehow he created that little fantasy world in his head. He went on about how all the locals are laughing at him and talking behind his back about it, blah, blah, blah. And the really funny thing about it: I didn't actually sleep with anyone there, though I certainly could have. He stormed off on his little scooter to get online and find plane tickets.

I packed all my things up and hid out at the resort. I obviously wanted to minimize the amount of time I had to be around him. I managed to just pop back to the house and get the flight confirmation numbers from him and when I returned later to get my bag he had left. Naturally, he got me the very most inconvenient flights possible just to be a jerk. Oh, well. The girl who arrived to clean the house said that last time he left it was "very messy," but I told her I had cleaned the kitchen and swept the floors, so it shouldn't be too bad. Carol picked me up and her family welcomed and spoiled me and made sure I got to the airport the next morning. 

Hopefully karma will deal the captain the hand he deserves. Although one very ugly American did his best to ruin my trip, I met countless amazing people, saw great sites, and enjoyed the adventure that presented itself, even if it wasn't the one I had planned. And in the end, I still think the world is my oyster. But perhaps it's best if I'm "the captain of my own ship," as my friend Mike likes to say, so I don't have to worry about any more sleazy captains.


  1. That's quite a story regarding the captain! I guess having you there was an agenda for him to get some and to show the locals that he had a girlfriend? I'm sure he had some sort of angle he was working (in addition to sex) seems everyone does...

    I thought I'd share a great blog I found....'s a couple that started in Michigan and just crossed the Atlantic. They went around the Caribbean too. I spent the last few weeks reading the entire thing, and it's an excellent read! Check it out if you haven't done so already.

    Thanks for's one of the highlights of my days and a great break from the eff'd up reality of my life.
    Stay's getting cold out there!

  2. Thanks, and thanks for the tip on another good blog! I agree the captain likely had an agenda all along. Despite my repeatedly saying I was on the look-out for cute locals or a floppy-haired Aussie or Kiwi, and repeatedly telling him he needed to find a local girl if he wanted any business success on any of the islands, he made his sleazy moves and tried to give locals the impression we were a couple. When it began to look like he would find a way to stay in the Cooks he even commented that my being there seemed to make the locals more open to him, made him seem more stable or something. Perhaps I'd have been willing to play along if I'd been asked nicely from the outset and it was clear it was only for show, but for that guy... probably not. Live and learn; gratefully, I made the most of the trip nonetheless.


Thanks for reading! Have you had a similar experience you'd like to share? Have a link to an interesting blog fellow readers and I might enjoy? Just want to say hello? Post your comments below. I'm a smart, resourceful girl doing things her own way, so I just ask that folks keep the unsolicited advice to themselves.