Crew Wanted

In a recent post, I mentioned a boat hailing from HAMBURG – GER. There’s another boat here, with a similar name — for the purposes of this story, I’ll call it FRANKFURTER. For some reason, the owner doesn’t have a name; he goes by the name of the boat. We’ll call him “Frankfurter,” too.

For the past few years, Frankfurter and FRANKFURTER have gone south for the winter and returned to Bock to store the boat in the summers. The man always sets off with a crew of four: Himself, Jack, and two crew members he rounds up somehow, probably on the internet. Each year, Jack and Frankfurter return, sans crew.

Laid-back Jack laughs and shrugs, “He’s impossible. I’m the only one who can put up with him.”

This year, Jack wasn’t available, so Mr. Frankfurter rounded up three crew members on the internet. The first one to arrive was a very experienced sailor who worked diligently alongside the captain to make fiberglass repairs and paint the bottom. A few days later came a wide-eyed, clean-cut young man from Europe who didn’t have offshore experience, but was even harder-working than the first. By now, the first one had been driven to drink — I caught her hiding under FLUTTERBY one day, sneaking a drink from a pocket flask.

We told the first crew member, Ziga, that she need not drink alone. With that, she brought her sense of humor and excellent sea stories to the nightly happy hour gathering. She positioned her chair behind Jack’s keel, directly across from FRANKFURTER, so she could keep an eye on her boat without being seen by her captain.

One evening, she peered around Jack’s keel as her captain’s car returned from town. “Oooh, that’s our new crew member,” she said. “Captain’s really looking forward to this one. She’s a dominatrix.”

This took me by such surprise that I swallowed the wrong way and started coughing. Surely I’d heard that wrong? “What!?” I squeaked. Ziga explained, matter-of-factly, “A dominatrix. You know, whips and chains? The captain calls her ‘the fetish lady.'”

We all peeked around Jack’s keel as the captain — who rarely bathed, according to Jack —  helped a good-looking blonde woman out of the car. The young clean-cut crewman went to the trunk for her luggage. What he pulled out was not the usual sailor’s duffel bag, but a crate you could use for carrying chains and things made out of studded leather. There was something black dangling from her pocket. “Is that a whip?” I asked the group, ducking nervously out of sight.

It was a well-known fact that the captain didn’t dare stop at any port before Key West, for fear that his crew would jump ship. And so the betting began. Would the dominatrix and the clean-cut guy make it to Key West? Would Ziga make it through the winter with a captain who rarely bathed?

When FRANKFURTER was ready to go, several of us pressed our email addresses into Ziga’s hand. “Good luck. Let us know what happens. Please!”

The results were nothing short of spectacular. By that, I mean the three-page email we received from Ziga a few days later.

The email spread around the boatyard like wildfire and was forwarded to friends and cruisers all over the world. Her synopsis went like this: “Landlubber equivalent of this boat trip:  Drive an old car that is loaded with junk like the Beverly Hillbillies, with bald tires, faulty brakes and windshield wipers that only work when the sun is out.  And the driver really does not care which side of the road he drives on…..”

Before the boat had even left Beaufort inlet, it was taking on water uncontrollably, and they’d deployed the anchor and nearly lost it. From the email: “Hey, Captain, the bitter end of the anchor rode is not secure! DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT, says Captain Frankfurter.”

Then the young clean-cut fellow was knocked overboard by the captain (the boat has no lifelines), and the PFDs were all buried under piles of junk. “Hey, Captain, can we clear some of this clutter and clear the decks? DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT, says Captain Frankfurter.”

Out in the ocean, they set a course for Key West. However, at one point, the captain accidentally started sailing north. The dominatrix fixed that, but the email didn’t say how. I suspect a whip was involved.

After the first day, Ziga wrote, “Told Captain that I was leaving the boat as soon as we reached shore.  Told him flat out that he was trying to kill me, and that just won’t do.” This is the woman who was planning to stay aboard all winter.

On page 2, she described how almost every part of the boat, including the charts and food, was soaked from leaks. Only the aft cabin was dry. On page 3, she wrote, “Aft cabin now mostly soggy, because Captain left the toilet on water intake….flooded his own boat. All three of us have now told Captain that we want off of the boat.”

The young clean-cut crew member had been incapacitated by seasickness the entire time, including 20 hours passed out in the aft cabin (before the captain flooded it with water from the toilet). Towards the end of the ordeal, when he perked up, Ziga wrote, “He is a charming fellow, when he does not have his head in the black bucket.  That bucket has been his constant companion for a long time.”

This paragraph just about sums it up:

“Engine died just after the sun set. Under the jib, can only sail 330 degrees, boat won’t turn any farther east. The Auto-pilot won’t completely release the wheel.  Heading way out into the Gulf Stream now, way, way off course. Cabin is trashed. Unsecured stuff crashing around everywhere. DONT WORRY ABOUT IT, says Captain Frankfurter. Tools, knives and boat parts left wherever Captain sets them. This is the first boat I have ever sailed on where I have to wear shoes below decks, or risk serious injury.”

With a tragedy like this, the betting pool didn’t have a chance. We had argued over which crew members would make it to Key West, not whether or not they’d survive the first 84 hours. None of us expected the boat to issue a Mayday call and be rescued by the Coast Guard. No one bet that they’d be towed into Southport, a mere 100 miles from here.

According to Ziga, despite the loss of his crew and near-loss of his boat, the captain is committed to continuing on. What she didn’t say was how he would find more crew.

I know exactly what he’d say if I asked: DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT.

Special thanks to Ziga for sharing the story and allowing me to excerpt it here. If you are ever looking for good crew, I’ll put you in touch with her. I have her email address…it’s at the top of that hilarious 3-page email message.

5 thoughts on “Crew Wanted

  1. How do I apply for a crew slot on FRANKFURTER? When I sail, I want to have fun on a sound vessel, but how do I know this is actually a good time? I need experiences like those documented here to truly appreciate those major life changing boating inconveniences like being out of peanut butter and the main engine needs a bit ‘O paint. Beauford seems to be an epicenter of salty characters, (present company excepted? Aheem))where do I sign up? Does Flutterby have training camps scheduled such as when the bugs are out the most? Can I clean out the sanni pump then? All replies answered.

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