Last Wednesday while we were hiked out on the rails, the race boat bouncing in and out of 6-foot-deep troughs, saltwater soaking us from the waist down, a fellow crew member asked me how long it’d been since I’d stepped foot on a tall ship. I actually felt a sense of panic. I couldn’t remember.
Sure, I’ve been sailing – as much as I can. I’ve been on the water a ton this year. But the last time I was on a tall ship? More than a year ago. Then I realized that it’s been two years since I stepped off the Marlin. Where does the time go?
In September I’m heading back to Sweden. I lived in Stockholm six years. That’s the longest I’ve ever stayed in one place. Part of me feels like I’m going home. But I obviously can’t call myself Swedish.
How long can you be away from a place – or an industry – and still have license to consider yourself one of them? How long does it take before your membership lapses? If you still speak the language, will they let you in the club?
A few months ago Smith, the mate/bosun from The Marlin, sent me a message on Facebook asking if I wanted to go to Mexico on the Adventurer, a brigantine based out of San Pedro, CA. She said they were planning a trip down to Baja in January: wouldn’t it be great to get a bunch of the old crew together?
It’s been on my mind ever since. I mean, I can’t make a career out of being a tall ship cook. I wouldn’t want to; I love writing for a living. But a few months a year? Perfection.
So on Saturday I drove down to San Pedro for volunteer orientation for the Adventurer. The volunteer coordinator, a tall ship veteran named Skater, pointed out that I knew a crew member on the sister boat, the Adventuress, which was parked outside. At first I said no, I’d never met the guy. Then I realized that I had – twice. As I walked down to the docks to say hi, I doubted myself again. Was I an interloper or a member of the club?
Fortunately, he remembered me as the one who brought goodies from the cheese store I was working at in Brooklyn. How could I have forgotten? Bring food and you will always be a friend of the tall ship sailor.
Member of the Club
Later that day, I’d barely walked back in the door of my apartment when I got a message from Skater. Could I cook for the crew at the tall ship festival in San Diego this coming weekend?
An email from an old friend in Sweden came at the same time. “I’m really looking forward to seeing you,” he wrote.
I don’t care what Groucho Marx says, it feels pretty damn good to know where you belong.