|nonoctave.com / Rebel Yell / Part III / Chapters 3-4|
|Rebel Yell||Jason Scott||Part III - FOB Taiwan|
Sometimes, it seems, it is harder to give birth to a child than it is to sustain it.
My financial whiz, partner in sailing enterprise and advisor in things concerning money had been noticeably quiet of late. Knowing her propensity for things monetary alleviated any fears along those lines as no doubt she had maintained an up to date account of every cent spent, wisely or not. As long as the ledger remained relatively in the black (as it still was), no sniping would be forthcoming. On the other hand, if my personal nestegg happened to be stolen from the henhouse during the hatching period by the wily genus Capes Orientalus, and I had to get her to dip into her nestegg (which she guards far more closely) control of the entire operation would likely fall into unfriendly hands!
As it was to that time, the boat was still costing some $25,000 less than it would have in the States. It should be noted that Chris had been grousing at the increasing bite into the anticipated savings. She had expressed dissatisfaction over what was termed “a penurious attitude regarding the fun things” (shopping sprees and nights out on the town). Explaining that this was necessary until our final financial position was made clear and it was possible to project total cost to completion and clearing the harbor, did not alter her stated position. It was time to take a stand with TB, sexy interpreter or not!
Several things contributed to that decision predominant of which was the rapidly approaching typhoon season. The impasse with TB had to be resolved and resolved immediately.
Downtown, at TB’s office, my personal interpreter was beside herself with joy when advised that the boat had to be put into the water, ready or not.
Armed with this turn of events, she so advised the reclusive TB who immediately emerged from his office (he always hid there when I showed up), smiling and effusive. He had miraculously recovered from his Tower of Babel disease and spoke flowing English. In dulcet tones, he said that the boat would be immediately made ready for transport via night truck to Keelung no later than the following waning of the moon.
I reminded him that he still had a contractual obligation to complete certain work and, in accord with the contract, he would not receive final payment until the boat was accepted and we physically cleared, outbound, the harbor entrance. I left his office amidst great profession of good faith knowing full well that, in the interest of moving the project, I had been carborundumed by a known illegitimus.
There had to be a reconciliation with the real possibility that much of the gear which was to have been installed at the factory would end up being installed by me or it wouldn’t be installed at all. Now I knew how President Carter felt dealing with the Ayatollah regarding the hostages! The boat was being held hostage!
There was some anxiety to get the boat into the water and discover just how much of TB’s definition of “everything” was left over after he accepted my extra commissioning money. Port officials grimly reminded me that, once the keel was wet, they would permit the yacht to remain in the harbor no longer than 14 days. Efforts to get TB to agree to reimbursement for work contracted but not done, met with indifference bordering on contempt. I had taken the only course open to me other than losing everything we had spent to date. Hidden in all of this folderol was the fact that, even though a conscientious attempt was made to detail inspect the construction, much Mickey Mouse construction was deliberately concealed!
There is a time to be born and a time to die.
But, it is the time in between which is the more significant. It is there that the conception itself plays the greater role and no amount of exorcism can ever undo the deviltry of those who brought the final article into the light of day. This thought prevailed as I witnessed the delivery of my baby REBEL YELL from the factory on the Tam Shui River.
Chris and Jeff were advised of the event but, knowing that it would be an all night stint, they decided to continue their fun and games with newly made friends. They would join me at the harbor at Keelung in time for the baptism (wetting of the Steel). I left by taxi for the factory.
If one has to travel by taxi in Taipei, it is best to do it at night. Two things are going for you: There is less auto and pedestrian traffic for the driver to attack and, if he does manage to find something interesting to vent his latent homicidal feelings on, it is dark and thus more difficult for the rider to see the target (or victim, as the case may be). Given these things, the riding visitor can relax back into the seat instead of automatically assuming the usual crash position (arms over face and face in lap) one assumes when riding a cab in Taipei.
Ramshackle TB Yacht, Ltd. was lit up not unlike a gambling casino in the middle of the Nevada desert. Men were scurrying here and there just as if they knew exactly what they were doing. After all, getting a boat out of the factory meant getting paid! This fact was well known to all workers and they responded with an alacrity which had not been seen by me until then. The transport tractor was already standing by. Other unusual happenings were to be seen. The place was filled with smoke!
Smoke curled skyward in the motionless night air. It emitted from ten or twelve open containers each of which sported numbers of sticks of incense. They were everywhere. The place smelled like a Chinese bordello in distress!
Factory doors were cracked just far enough to expose a makeshift Buddha altar upon which many more pencil slim candles burned sending their message to the gods above. Oriental delicacies were laid out on the altar and on tables placed alongside. The workers stopped from time to time to indulge themselves. The atmosphere was definitely festive. CY Fong, the factory foreman, joined me sporting a toothy smile which threatened to crack his face.
“What’s with the food and incense, CY?
“Oh, much impor’ance on occasion of boat reading fac’ry,” he beamed. “Gods asked to bress work done. Even more important, evil spirits will be frighten away just as yah-tee reave fac’ry. You will see how. When evil spirits return they will fin’ boat gone. Not know where. This way, never any ploblem when say-ring!”
As events turned out, I’m glad this effort went well because the sail could not have survived an attack of evil spirits in addition to everything else which went wrong! At least, the boat was predestined to float. Possibly a direct answer to their prayers?
Gazing at the boat, my heart welled with the anticipation of an expectant father. Even as she sat there, perched awkwardly on the way-frames, she was almost too beautiful to behold. Lost in that magic moment was the realization that I may have been the father of this child but my ideas had been carried forth and brought to fruition by a surrogate.
Manpower is plentiful and cheap in the orient. Things which we would have handled with machinery were manhandled. Oh, the ancient principles of leverage were applied in their crudest form but the moving force was strictly human power. The craft weighing in at some sixteen tons before dressing, was handed on to the transport dolly to the tune of a Chinese equivalent of “one, two, three, heave!” Hernias notwithstanding, it worked that night as it had for thousands of years. The tractor was maneuvered into position and hooded to the trailer on which REBEL YELL was perched. This done, the men stood back briefly to survey their accomplishment and a spontaneous cheer broke from the crowd. I was getting caught up in their excitement. Goodies from the smoking altars were partaken of for good luck (their equivalent of a last supper) and the crew broke for home. There must have been something besides solid refreshments on hand for many of them had a difficult time making it off the premises.
There were but a few people left when the driver and I climbed into the truck and he started the engine. As if by predetermined signal, rockets spewed forth into the night air and firecrackers went off in a staccato of noise destined to continue until the truck and its cargo were well beyond the all-seeing eyes of the Chinese Yacht Demons which, in all probability, spent most of their time overseeing the building of yachts in Taiwan.
REBEL was finally on her way to fulfillment of her destiny! Midnight, the witching hour, had struck and we could still hear the pyrotechnics exploding in the distance as we crept along the narrow winding roads toward Keelung harbor. At that point, in the wee hours of the morning, half way around the world, all seemed well!
Launching a new yacht is not unlike baptizing an infant child. You dunk it in the water and send it off into the world, sink or swim!
Silence prevailed in the cab of the truck speeding along the back roads at a good 5 miles per hour towards the port city of Keelung carrying its special cargo of the yacht REBEL YELL. Somewhere along the way it started to rain. We had moved through the night with our cumbersome load trailing behind us, slithering through the narrow dank side alleys at a pace akin to a fat rain-forest slug rushing home to dinner. Beautiful Keelung-by-the-sea could be detected by the odor long before she rose into our sight just as the first light of dawn filtered through the mist which, by now had deteriorated into a soggy drizzle.
As usual in the orient, increasing masses of humanity began to move on to the streets with the early hours of beginning light. Family farmers trudged, heads down, on and along the streets with seeming indifference to the presence of other traffic. Their human drawn ox carts were laden with the results of months of toiling in mud, trousers pulled over their knees, behind the ancient ox and a wooden plow. This scene, so typical in the far east, was as ancient and undying as the cult of Confucius himself. The enigma, in this modern day where machinery has made its demonic presence known, is the farmer himself who, after working from dawn to dust in the fields, leaves in the wee hours to wend his way with his ethnic brothers down the hills and into the city where he can hawk his wares just as he had done in dim history past. No middle man here. If he was lucky, his ox pulled the cart to the market. . . or his wife. If he wasn’t so lucky, he did it himself.
We were moving at a pace not exceeding the slowest of the ox carts and the mass of humanity in front of us which seemed to be oblivious to the rest of the world around it. After perhaps an hour at this gait, we cleared the market place and moved on to the road leading to the harbor itself.
The air was increasingly dank and laden with odors common to places where men brought things in from the sea and combined it with the human refuse dumped ashore. The harbor itself, surf and sand, was defecated liberally with such debris. It was alongside one of the roads which led to the fenced in and zealously guarded wharfs that the truck and trailer carrying one beautiful and virginal yacht finally stopped. The way-stay containing the cargo was lowered to rest on the street and the driver left the two of us to shuffle for ourselves. Ostensibly, it was to be a short wait until the launch crew arrived. I had been led to believe that it was to be a wait of no more than one day so it was in to the equipment crowded cabin to wait . . . and wait.
* * * * *
The next day arrived. . . . and the next. . . . and the next. There we sat, REBEL and one lonely skipper convinced that, considering the reputed vandalism and theft in the area, it would not very smart to leave her alone and out of sight for even a moment. With that in mind, it was necessary to eat at the local roach coach which neither qualified as a gourmet restaurant or practiced the highest of sanitary standards. One meal a day was all that could be ingested. Fortunately, as the days went by, the prevailing odor of rancidity seemed to diminish along with previously developed Epicurean standards. Other problems set in.
It was just as well that eating was restricted to one meal a day. Any more than that would have resulted in the necessity of more than one trip a day to the only sand box available within the guarded area. It was becoming increasingly evident that destiny’s tot, by deliberate design of a disgruntled yacht builder, would have to sit it out until TB got damned good and ready to move. Only when he determined that sufficient punishment had been administered to sate any face-saving tradition, would he send word to Chris that the boat was ready to be put into the water. A total of thirteen days passed in which there was plenty of opportunity to think about how I had snookered myself into this mess!
*** *** *** *** ***
There was an awareness that the weather had turned cold and the chill permeated my whole body. As long as the sun was out in Keelung, the wind did not interfere with the only pleasure left . . . sunning. Clouds began pouring in over the bay from the north, backed up and stumbled over each other in their eagerness to cover up the clutter below. Shivering, it was necessary to go below to put on more clothes and get out of the wind. Curling up in the cave foraged out of the jungle of equipment below, all that could be done is indulge in more thoughts about the predicament. Some action on my part was necessary. Hire some local Taiwanese to look after the boat while a couple of phone calls for help were made? Surely, someone must miss me by now. With some thoughts of perspectives, points of view, young sons, business scruples, squat pots and wives who did not like to sail, sleep came fitfully. In the dimness of lying uncomfortably in the arms of Morpheus, came an awareness that someone was coming aboard.
The inside of the yacht had been piled high with equipment, rigging, ropes and anything else which could not logically be stored on deck. A path had been cut through these things in order to maneuver. From a position on the bunk in the master’s cabin one could barely see out of the hatch. There was no need to worry about anyone sneaking aboard because access was by a rickety make-shift ladder which had to be climbed to the deck. Any use of that devise so shook the boat that it was impossible to board without alerting those inside. Before I could get to the hatch, a head popped through. It was Jeff! Help had finally arrived and my forced exile had ended.
My young son, and light of my life, piled himself into the debris below and managed to leap on me with legs astraddle. You’d think we had been apart for a month. Perhaps that much time did slip by. After all, it is pretty impractical to put daily notches into the fiberglass. Chris’ head then appeared along with a smiling Pat (an old friendship from California renewed in Taiwan) and his pixie-like wife Mary Ellen. There had been a chance meeting of this old friend while having dinner at the O Club.
His wife was so Irish it hurt. She was some 15 years his junior and as Catholic as St Peter’s Basilica with enough kids to prove it. Her figure and bounce belied her motherhood. Pat’s unassuming way was completely counterbalanced by Mary Ellen who took on the role of Tigger in the family. She was such a character that a description is worthwhile even though she does not play a primary role in the total odyssey.
Mary Ellen took everything in stride and managed to always give a little more than she got in return. Her zest was at its peak every time she took their large American car on the road to brave the intractable wilds of Taipei traffic. Driving in that town is an experience no one soon forgets! Riding as a passenger is almost as bad. Pat, like most Americans who value their life, simply refused to drive, but not so with his wife.
It didn’t take her long to find out that every moment behind the wheel in that town is an enormous game of chicken. For the most part, Americans in their fine cars chickened out early in the game and were thus completely intimidated every time they did take to the road. Not so, Mary Ellen! She gave it back to them in spades. Looking nary to the left or right, just as the Taiwanese drivers do, she blasted her way through the traffic. Her command of the local language consisted of one phrase which seemed to do her well.
“Kong! Kong!” she would shout out the open window each time someone had the audacity to challenge her supremacy as Queen of the Road. “Kong, Kong,” came the Amazonian cry.
Pedestrians froze in their tracks; traffic would miraculously part; brakes would screech and the prevailing sound was tires squealing in protest as caroming cars scrambled out of the way. It was amazing to see just how wide the usually slitted eyes of the Chinese could get when faced by this terror!
“Those are the only words you need to know when you drive here,” she confided the first and only time I rode with her. It wasn’t the prospect of being killed that got to me. It was the thought of being maimed for life.
“It simply means, (hesitation to either impart more emphasis or, more likely, to concentrate on a succession of moves designed to barely miss some cross traffic) Dumb Shit! (a pedestrian was barely scraped as she managed to scramble back on to the sidewalk) When an American woman uses it,” she continued as if it were a Sunday drive in outback Maine, “the men will give her a wide berth!”
“Amen to that!” I gasped.
Their terror was well understood. Mary Ellen was a terrible driver in any sense of the word. Worse still, she thought she was very very goody. Bubbling and talking incessantly while appearing to pay absolutely no attention to others either on or off the road was her forte.
“God protects drunks and young Irish mothers,” I mumbled under my breath and she looked at me quizzically.
Mary Ellen and Chris had become great friends and drinking buddies during our stay in Taipei. It was her hospitality that Chris and Jeff had enjoyed while I was suffering in exile on the wharf. This relationship was not totally fun and games. Mary Ellen was an expert in shopping the local black market and this was essential to our ability to provision properly.
“We figured you had a problem and we’re here to rescue you from a fate worse than death,” Mary Ellen gushed, her Irish nose barely perceptible above the grocery bags she carried. “We stopped by our local black market and brought some good old American junk food for sandwiches and the like.”
As with most Americans in Taipei, she bought most of their food from the local illicit grocers who regularly replenished their stock from the US military commissary. The supplies somehow seemed to regularly miss the commissary and end up in local shops where those without commissary privileges could pay outlandish prices to eat something besides Chinese food. When it comes to efficient piracy, the Chinese have few peers in the world.
The custom was so flagrant that the stores gaily displayed, for all to see, such things as hard to get American bourbon whiskey. Right out there in the front window! The marked prices were shown on the bottle in dollar signs. It was convenient that the NT (Taiwan dollar) used the same sign. What the commissary marked was NT but what you paid was US. A slight difference in worth! The merchants did have the temerity to scratch out the code number the commissary had written on each bottle to designate who it had originally been assigned to. (GI and officers alike supplemented their income in this manner. Many of them couldn’t possibly drink all the booze they had been allocated and remain sober a reasonable amount of time. This was good old American free enterprise in full flower worsting well with the old world’s most reasonable sense of morality!)
A feast (or so it seemed to me after eating off the roach coach for two weeks) was laid out on the fan tail and we dug in while Mary Ellen babbled on.
When we didn’t hear from you, we called the shipyard. After the usual ‘no speeka English’ crap, we got word where you were.” God love her warm Irish heart. When she was around, few others got the opportunity to talk!
“No one would give us a commitment when the boat would be put into the water. At first, that is. Now, they say, ‘soon’." (Considering TB’s definition of “everything”, I could understand her consternation.) If the Queen of the Road got to TB, I could see how even old TB would eventually succumb to her tenacity or sharp tongue, or reputation, whichever was the more effective for her at the time.
“I found out the name of the agent who is supposed to take care of the launching,” Pat managed to get in when she paused to take a bite. “When you’re through here we’d best get down town and get a firm commitment.”
“Hah!” Mary Ellen laughed at the statement.
“Gotta do something,” I concurred. “Don’t know how much longer we’d survive in these quarters under these conditions.” I looked at Chris with too obvious lust. “Besides, dammit, I’m getting hornier by the minute.”
No comment at first. Then, Chris got up and looked below at the cluttered mess. “Don’t look very conducive for an orgy, Jas.” Then, she came over and sniffed at me. “Don’t smell too good for an orgy, either, Jas.”
“Hell, in my condition I don’t think it will turn into anything as exotic as an orgy. More like a quickie.” Pat smiled at my confession and Mary Ellen giggled somewhat lasciviously.
“Under these dire circumstances,” Mary Ellen remarked dryly with a Gaelic twinkle in her eyes, “we’d better get moving. There is no point in you two spending a night here, however. There’s a decent hotel in town.”
“I’ll change clothes here first. It will take some two hours for the odor of my unwashed body to seep through. In the mean time, we can beard the Chinese lion in his den. Later, I’ll get a bath at the hotel.”
“You’ll lose at least 10 pounds in the operation if I’m not mistaken,” Chris taunted.
Before we all made it over the side, Campbell Fisher, who was to be a crew member on the maiden cruise, and his young son arrived. Jeff, who had not been too happy over the prospect of staying by himself on the boat while his mother and father frolicked at the hotel, would now have overnight company. Just as we piled in the car another visitor arrived in an official harbor police car and addressed the lot of us.
“Who is responsible for this boat?”
I weighed my words carefully. “I am. The boat was built for me, however delivery has not yet been taken. TB Yachts is the owner of record.” It was important to find out if there was a problem before admitting ownership.
“Boat here too long. You move or it will be pushed into empty space.”
This was no idle threat. It probably entailed use of a piece of wrecking equipment or a bull dozer with all the delicacy afforded garbage which had been thrown into the street.
“How much time do we have?”
“Right now you move!” Always with the Chinese police it is right now. He saw that his statement did not make much of a dent in my countenance and that I was apparently waiting for him to offer something which was not impossible. “Perhaps two day, at most,” he grimaced with a trace of smile flickering across a pursed mouth. He turned to get back into his car.
“You are harbor police, yes?” He stopped at the importance of recognition. “I don’t like the boat being here any more than you do. Your office has information as to plans for moving which must have been filed. Such as who the broker is and who is responsible for the move.” He listened attentively without comment or expression. Time for diplomacy! I gave him my best “helpless foreigner” look.
“As a visitor to your country, I am at a loss to move the boat without the help of your most efficient police force.” That got to him. His entire attitude changed from one of wariness to one of condescending help. He was going to be able to tweed another Chinese with the importance of his office.
“You forrow me, prease.”
Campbell stayed at the boat with Jeff and Tim and the rest of us piled into Pat’s car with the Terror of Taiwan at the wheel and took off after our newly found patron. The officer was able to get a firm commitment from both the broker and the builder that the yacht would be put into the water the following day before noon. Jeffry and Tim slept on the boat that night and Chris and I checked in to the Royal hotel for companionship and whatever.
After a delightful evening, just the two of us, browsing the shops and market places of this ancient port city and snacking on delicacies offered at this and that street cafe, we retired to the comfort and privacy of a modern hotel room. Mary Ellen had thoughtfully left a bottle of good California wine with us for the evening and we were in a mellow mood.
The factory launch crew was due at 0900 hours. They didn’t arrive until noon. REBEL still had a dry bottom when we arrived at 1000. Pat and Mary Ellen were already there. They had a chilled bottle of mountain grown to start off the festivities.
“Come on up here on deck. At least you’ll be a few feet from that open sewer. The odor is so heavy it will stay close to the ground,” Pat called. Besides, one whiff of Mary Ellen’s coffee and you’ll be incapable of smelling anything.”
“Don’t blame me for the way I make coffee,” his wife pouted. “After all, I was an innocent Irish girl you plucked out of a convent and taught how to please a bunch of your dirty old sailor friends by brewing navy mud.”
“Hah! Not so innocent, if my memory serves me right,” Pat corrected.
“You’d best be careful, Pat,” I warned. “This coffee looks to be damned hot and she hasn’t got to pouring your cup yet.”
Mary Ellen, in the meantime ignoring her husband’s snide innuendo regarding her premarital state of chastity looked thoughtfully at Chris and me while pouring the coffee. “The two of you really looked relaxed,” she noted. “I suppose you old folks went to bed early and got a really good night’s rest.” It was phrased more as a question than a statement.
“Enough of your mental voyerism, you trollop,” her husband cautioned with a playful slap on the rear. He turned and faced us. “Now you see why we’ve belonged to the kid-a-year club for nigh on to six years. He sighed with mock resignation.
“God, you’ve got your problems, Pat,” I laughed.
“Hey, this is a good gang,” Chris enjoined. “Are you sure you can’t get a six months baby sitter and go with us?”
“Like to, Chris. Really like to,” came the comeback. There was a definite catch of dramaticized remorse in his voice. “You must understand that the way this gal of mine is, we have to stay close to the maternity ward.”
This proved to be a little too much for his gal and a smart whack over the head with the business end of a fly swatter which just happened to be handy, was forthcoming. Knowing how the Irish are, it was lucky it wasn’t the hot coffee in her hand! About that time, Campbell and the two boys showed up.
“Small ploblem with truck driver,” he apologized with the usual toothy smile. “Solly we late.” I also smiled but what my mind said was Sure, friend. About fourteen days late!
Amenities over, he proceeded to issue a series of staccato commands which sent the men scurrying around removing equipment from the car trunks, placing wooden scaffolds alongside the portable way and disconnecting the trailer from the truck so as to place it under the yacht.
The tractor was maneuvered most unskillfully to a position in front of the trailer. It didn’t take a genius to note that this particular driver had never been asked to do this before. It didn’t take a linguist to know that he was the recipient of a barrage of oriental cursing which greeted each and every move he made. It took him the best of two hours to do what was normally accomplished by an experienced driver in ten minutes. By the time he was ready to move, the tea-time habit our British friends fostered on the world wherever they made landfall, had arrived and there was no chance of continuing until this earth stopping event had run its normal gestation period of two hours. We piled into Campbell’s car and proceeded to beautiful downtown Keelung for a late lunch. There was nothing else to do when the world stops.
The phenomena of all humanity stopping for a spot of tea even in the midst of a pending apocalyptic event is incomprehensible to the average American. It is, however, the most widely adhered to ritual mankind has ever known including religious and royal pomposity.
“I’ll bet that, even in hell, the devil is forced to give the Brit his tea time or suffer the effects of possible collapse of his empire,” I commented on the way back to the dock. “Is there anything in the world which could occur that would alter their habit?” No comment.
We arrived just as the truck was making a U turn and heading towards the launch area. CY had been joined by the agent who, by union rules, had exclusive right to direct the efforts of the crane operators and dock workers. Custom further dictated that the workers could not be approached by anyone except the agent. All conversation, coordination and special direction deteriorated into a formal affair with all the protocol of a diplomatic impasse at the United Nations.
The agent was impeccably dressed in full semi-formal matched pin striped coat and trousers complete with bow tie. This was somewhat ludicrous to the casual observer considering that he accomplished his task riding up and down the docks perched on a Lambroghetti motor scooter. His admonitions, all emitting from the seat of his scooter, had little effect on the workers who continued their rote seemingly oblivious to his presence. They neither changed their way or worked any faster until the boat was lifted, way and all, from the dockside and placed gently in the water. We all rushed over to the quayside as the crane cables slacked indicating that REBEL was indeed on her own in the water.
“Damned if she don’t look as though she’s gonna float!” Campbell exclaimed, expressing what we all were thinking.
The masts were stepped, pulpit bolted into place and the rigging set. About two hours had transpired to this point and the last of the launch crew started to disburse. Jeff was the first of the family aboard by unanimous decision and the Admiral (Chris) was next. As owner/skipper, I boarded carrying the American flag which had previously flown on SIBLING. It was the symbol of continuum.
The moment, so long in coming, was finally on us. I likened the emotion to that expressed by the Astronauts and Ground Crew alike when they heard the cry, We have liftoff! When the flag was fixed to its proper place on the aft stay, a resounding cheer went up from our friends ashore. Americans dearly love to see their flag flying!
“Come on aboard, everyone,” Jeff cried. Everyone except Mary Ellen piled over the side and on to the deck. She turned and ran for her car.
“Look what I’ve brought for the occasion,” a returning leprechaun gushed with understandable passion. She held up a half gallon of Chevis Regal in one hand and a half gallon of Jack Daniels in the other. In the excitement of the moment she tried to make it over the side somewhat discordantly and started to fall into the drink with her precious cargo. Three of us grabbed her and hung on for dear life until she and the fixins to splice the mainbrace were safely aboard.
“My God,” Chris gasped. She had been holding her breath all of this time. “I’d never have forgiven you if but one of those bottles were broken or lost!”
“Chris, you know us Irish better than that!” “If there was any real danger of that, I’d have gone overboard with the booze!”
“Given the priorities of this crew, you know which one would have been rescued first,” Pat commented with his usual aplomb. “If at all,” he added.
Dusk was approaching and CY started the engine. The boat had to be moved from the launch dock to the place where it was to be tethered. It didn’t matter that the engine had not been aligned.
“Not to worry,” CY said as we moved from the dock. The boat hasn’t yet been delivered into my hands, I reasoned. If anything happens at this point they would be responsible until official acceptance. Besides, hadn’t all the Chinese Yacht Demons been left back at the factory?
Rebel moved out into the gentle chop of the bay. Like the thoroughbred she was, each gentle nudging resulted in a new surge of confidence in herself. I could feel her pulse, almost in euphony with mine, as she moved forward parting each ripple on the water with the considerate firmness of one who knows exactly where her destiny lay. I had to fight the urge to wrest control from the man at the helm for she was really mine and we were one. Jeff put on a harness and crawled out on the pulpit where he could lay on his stomach, lean out and dangle his head over the bow.
The sun had been showing off most of the day. The wind was down and the decks were still warm even though the day was essentially over. I leaned against the mainmast and luxuriated in the feeling of self esteem which only a sailing captain can feel when under way on his own craft. God had been good to us.
Into the main harbor we went where a gentle swell greeted us as we passed the seaward entrance. A freighter cut our bow creating considerable wake but we rode with hardly any additional flurry. The effect of that full keel with 10,000 pounds of ballast was noticeable in how she nonchalantly made her way through varying wave conditions. Soon we pulled into what was referred to by the Taiwanese as their “yacht-tee harbor” where we tied up next to the boat used by the Chief of Harbor Police. The usual cadre of bayonet fixed, rifle bearing army men were standing on the quay as we tied up.
“Call factory if you have problem,” said CY over his shoulder as he left. “You have two weeks to leave port. Police permission cannot be extended.”
What could go wrong? After all hadn’t the Smilin’ Hybernian back in San Diego assure that TB was an honorable man? Hadn’t there been 400 boats of this design already built and delivered? Everything was going our way! God, was I naive! Any second thoughts which could have been entertained regarding my blind foraging were dispelled by the sound of a clarion call from below.
“Come and get it!”
The sun had disappeared over the hills to the west and it was already chilling off rapidly. While we had been underway, the girls had been busy below moving equipment which had not yet been installed. The interior now took on the usual look of a yacht salon. Working space in the galley was loaded with an array of black market goodies and the girls were busy filling the young boys’ paper plates with food. It was a festive moment to be relished.
We were in a cozy world of our own oblivious to anything which might be occurring outside. The evening passed on into night and ended in the wee hours of the morning with no one feeling much pain. The boys had long since gone to sleep in the forward cabin, Chris sported that all-knowing Mona Lisa look of contentment she always maintained when bombed, Mary Ellen cuddled up with Pat in an obviously suggestive position in the quarter berth where he had gone to recover from too much liquid fun. I threw a blanket over them, gathered a semi-somnolent and pliant Chris to myself on the other bunk under another cover and, exhausted from the action and excitement, no one moved until almost ten the next morning. We had indeed spliced the mainbrace well!
|Part III||Part IV|
|Chapters 1-2||Chapters 3-4|