My Lady Wife and I were all prepared to take our second Caribbean cruise with her sister and brother-in-law. They are a salty pair, veterans of several cruises, and we were looking forward to sailing with them again.
They made it a snap two years ago on our inaugural cruise. We hardly had to do much more than show up at the airport. It was better than having personal cruise directors. So we were ready for more of the same when my sister-in-law got sick days before we were to leave and they couldn’t go.
We were heartsick that they could not go, and apprehensive that now we would have to solo. We were also more than a little worried that my Lady Wife and I would have to spend the next nine days together. Not “have a nice day, honey.” We’re talking 24/7 together.
No Thursday night poker for me and no Monday night quilt bees for her to interrupt our constant companionship. Just together. Was this going to be a vacation or a sentence?
Then along came Captain Ron.
If you saw the Kurt Russell movie “Captain Ron,” then you know it is the story of the uptight American couple (Martin Short and Mary Kay Place) who hire Captain Ron to sail the boat they inherited, but had to fly to the Caribbean to bring it home.
There was a quality in Captain Ron that said there is Eastern Standard Time and there is Caribbean Time. Captain Ron is definitely always on the latter. And there is no problem that can’t be solved with another beer.
So with that in mind, our third day aboard this huge liner, Kathy and I were stepping off the gangway for our first shore leave. Personally, I was happy to be standing on something that didn’t move under me. The seas had been a little choppy, and I was only just getting my sea legs.
The only problem is once you’re off the ship, you don’t quite have your land legs back, which means you have a tendency to lurch a little because the earth isn’t rocking under you.
But I was determined to put a brave face on it, so off we went to find Captain Ron’s Pirate Cruise. Now his name isn’t really Captain Ron, but he will forever be so called in my memory of that excursion. The brochure on his website said “Pirate Cruise aboard sailing ship with snorkeling among wrecks and rum punch.”
Any brochure that ends in rum punch sounded like a pretty good excursion to me, so off we went. A 5-minute walk from the end of our pier, the brochure said. What it didn’t say was from where we docked, it is a 15-minute walk to the end of pier. Then we walked through the customs gate. Was this where we turn left for that 5-minute walk? No, I said 10 minutes later. That path led to the water taxis.
But someone did point over to the next cove at some ragged brown sails sticking up on toothpick masts, to say that was our Pirate Ship. OK, so they don’t have the crispest directions and no hint of a sign anywhere. Fifteen minutes later we walked up to the marina and looked out at the three boats moored there. Which one would be the Pirate Ship? Certainly not the catamaran. Likely not the motor boat that would only seat four comfortably, either.
That left the boat with ragged brown sails – more ochre now – not so much tied up at the end of the dock as holding on to it.
With snorkels and fins in hand, we casually walked to over to it – there are really only two directions to go when you’re on a pier, and it would be just too embarrassing to turn around to go the other way.
There didn’t seem to be anyone in charge, just two twentysomethings who seemed to shamble around the boat to some obscure purpose I could never quite discern.
After about 10 minutes of that, they got off what by now that hollow feeling in my gut told me was the Pirate Ship and got into the other boat – not the catamaran – and left never to be seen again.
It was then I saw a head appear at the hatch and began to rise up out of the bowels of the boat.
I didn’t know it then, despite the faded and stained billed cap with a fouled anchor patch perched over the bill, but this was Captain Ron.
As much as I detest the words “To Be Continued,” I am forced by the exigencies of time and space that define the limits of a newspaperman’s world. I will have to haul before the wind on this lee shore until next week. There I promise weigh anchor and finish this yarn.