Outside the Foul Lines - Book VI

by Rick Beck

Chapter 11

The Do

The parking for Andy's car was less than satisfactory. It was just a big blacktopped area behind an apartment complex that sat above the marina where The Do was docked. We went down a long set of wooden stairs that took us from high above the marina to the dock we wanted.

As soon as John Paul spotted us, he raced off the boat to help carry our things.

"Hold up a minute, John Paul. You aren't a servant. I can carry my own bag. You keep the boat afloat and get us to where we're going, and I'll be happy," Andy said.

Gene stood on deck as we boarded. It ended any pretense of formality as far as Andy and I were concerned. We didn't want anyone on our boat feeling like they had to bow or curtsy each time we passed.

Shaking hands, we got acquainted. Gene handled the introductions. Andy asked to be shown our cabin, which was directly under the main salon. We didn't want to see it the day we were on the boat, because we knew it would need to be changed before we felt comfortable there. We got before and after pictures and the cabin was a cozy looking space.

Gene opened the door to enter a master bedroom size cabin. The ceiling was a bit on the low side for Andy, but it only took him once to find the top of the door jam and ducking became automatic when he approached a doorway on board.

Gene had redone the main quarters in browns, greens, and some turquoise. The mirrors were all gone except for the mirror in the nice sized head. The room was intimate without being tiny or confining. The bedding was all new and different shades of dark greens and brown. It was the same size as our bed at home.

Andy asked to see the other cabins. He explained Harold would be occupying one for a week, while we were anchored in Key West.

The other two cabins were small with a single bed in the smaller of the two and a double bed in the other. They were both just forward of our cabin. Both of the smaller cabins had bunks that folded down out of the wall to increase the number you could sleep.

We went forward to the crew quarters, and there it got tight with bunk beds on both the starboard and port sides.

"Where do you keep your things?" Andy asked, bent down to fit in between the four bunks.

"Here," John Paul said, sliding out some drawers under the bottom bunk. There was no hanger space or closets in the nose of the boat.

"How many can the boat sleep?" Andy asked.

"If you stack them, a dozen, but that includes the crew quarters. It will sleep eight in the passenger portion. There are also cots that can be placed in the salon, which would probably sleep another four. You wouldn't want to travel that packed for long, but it could be done."

"Are there closets in the cabin with the double bed?" Andy asked, as he thought about what he'd seen.

"Two," Gene said. "One in the head and one by the bed. It's fairly roomy once you get accustomed to the layout. Not quite up to cruise ship size but comfortable."

"Could you two be comfortable in the cabin with the double bed?" Andy asked.

"Oh, yes, it would be a picnic compared to up here. This isn't built for comfort. It's built to keep your crew handy. Most owners don't have much concern for their crews unless the boat is sinking."

"I see," Andy said. "I guess I'm not most owners. The cabin with the double is your cabin, John Paul. If there comes a time we have a full house or when the company that is paying your salary comes aboard, you might need to move back forward, until they're gone. I'm told it will be infrequent and well planned in advance. I assure you that no one will show up on the dock demanding to go out on the spur of the moment. That comes directly from the man who owns the boat."

"That's very kind, Andy," John Paul said. "That sounds quite manageable."

"Hell, I don't want my captain jammed in up here, when there's a good cabin sitting empty. We won't be using that cabin when it's just us onboard and it will just be the two of us aboard most times."

"Yes, sir," John Paul said.

"Let me introduce myself again. I'm Andy. This is my lover Do. I'm just Andy. He's just Do. Please don't call me sir."

"Okay, Andy," John Paul said with enthusiasm.

"We've been driving most of the last two days. I want to shower and lie down. I expect there is plenty of hot water?"

"Yes, the hot water heater is quite large. You'll find all the comfort of home and than some," Gene said.

"You can let us know what time you like to eat and we'll be ready to dine with you. I'd appreciate it if we could dine together for dinner each evening and lunch when possible. We'll plan to sleep in the morning and we wouldn't want you to wait breakfast for us. I think it makes sense to think of ourselves as friends, or at least as friendly. I see nothing we are doing that would disqualify us from having a friendship."

"No, sir, Andy," John Paul said. "Nothing. I'd feel privileged to be able to know you better."

"We'll just be Andy and Do and John Paul and Gene from now on," I said.

"Yes," John Paul said. "Consider it done."

"Fine. I feel the same way. From now on we'll have conversations about these types of issues and we can forget the formalities, where there is no need for them. If there is something you think we need to know, we can save some time after dinner for such conversations. As for now, I'm tired and we want to rest a bit before dinner."

We moved away from the small crew quarters and were relieved to get to our cabin and get out hands on each other. Andy wanted to shower and then we tried out the queen sized bed. It was very comfortable and sturdy as well. We didn't think we rocked the boat, but who can say for sure?"

Much to my surprise we were under full sail when I went up on deck, while Andy slept. We were away from any sight of land as the sails billowed out in a soft breeze that pushed us along in almost complete silence.

I'd fully expected to see we were still at the dock when I came up, but we were far away from where we had been when we went into our cabin.

"Can I get you a drink?" John Paul asked, when he noticed me standing on deck staring up at the main mast.

"It's quite beautiful," I said. "I had no idea how wonderful it would look. I was expecting to hear boat engines when we left the dock. I didn't know we were underway."

"Perfect day for being under sail. Breeze is right and the seas are smooth. Saves a lot of fuel to use the sails."

"Two of you can sail it?"

"Two is comfortable. We had a third crew member to make sure Mr. Braxton and his ladies were taken care of immediately, when they wanted anything. Two can sail her without difficulty. One could do it on a day like today."

I sat on the fantail with a glass of fresh pineapple juice Gene prepared for me. It was as glorious as the day and I sat amazed by the thrill of our boat moving effortlessly toward the far horizon.

We agreed that dinner at seven each evening would be a good time for all of us. The first night Gene prepared fresh fish, a salad, and scalloped potatoes. He'd stocked up on seafood that would last for the first few nights of sailing. We anchored once we were ready to eat and everything was kept warm on a cart Gene wheeled from the galley to where we put the table near the fantail.

After Andy and I stuffed ourselves, we had drinks and chatted about the schedule and where we could dock to keep the food fresh and our vacation filled with a variety of experiences and places to see.

"I want your suggestions and your thoughts about the places we stop and your ideas on how Do and I can make the most of our time," Andy said. "We want to relax and feel like we are at home on The Do. I did see you had the name changed and I do appreciate that move," Andy said.

"Me too," I said, blushing over having a boat with my name on it.

"Lady Jane was pretentious to be sure," John Paul said. "The previous owner fancied himself handy with the ladies. I sailed his boat and got him from here to there. He didn't ask for my opinion on his taste in women and I felt no obligation to reveal my feelings to him."

"Good thing, too, by the sounds of it. You'd have been looking for a job. I will ask for your opinion because I don't know a damn thing about being on the water. You can educate us on the courtesy involved," Andy said.

"I can do that. It's not complicated. Most people living on board boats are very relaxed. Some of the owners are demanding but they usually pay for service and stay in places where that's what is provided. I tend to stay in more friendly environs. It isn't too friendly but it is friendly enough that you can smile and exchange greetings with the people who dock around us in short-term docking facilities.

"You might think these places aren't to be trusted, but you'll find that boaters tend to look out for one another and offer a hand when it is needed."

"You and Gene plan to live on the boat full time?" I asked.

"It saves hiring security to protect the boat. There are always people about who don't mind picking up things that might not belong to them. They tend to steer clear of boats that have full time occupants. We both love the water and living on the boat is wonderful. Leaving it empty for long periods could serve as an invitation to someone with larceny in mind.

"Crooks associate wealth with the boating community and they are looking for easy picking. I recommend you don't keep anything of great value on The Do, but when we are traveling and on and off the boat every day, there isn't a lot to worry about. Most docking facilities have some security and they know the faces of the bad guys that might be lurking about. Not a big problem if you take precautions, but still something to consider. It's better to be safe than sorry."

"Good," Andy said. "That'll keep you handy when we decide to go out on the boat. You can let us know if you see anything we need to avoid. We'll catch on quickly."

"We shall be handy, Andy," John Paul said.

"I bet you will," Andy said and we all laughed.

"We shall be handy and keep you well fed," Gene said.

Gene was a large man with a black beard and mustache. He was immaculately trimmed and squeaky clean. Even in jeans and a polo shirt, he looked like a million bucks. I'd never pick him for an interior decoration. He would have made an excellent model.

John Paul was closer to my size. He wasn't a large man. He wasn't tall. He had a moderate build. They were both polite and well-mannered. It was pleasant for them to be working together and have a casual relationship with us. Setting them at ease took a little work, because they'd spent so much time serving people that wanted nothing to do with them otherwise. I found both men delightful company. They were very nice to Andy and me.

Arrangements were already made to dock in Key West and a slip was reserved. We could always anchor and not stay in the slip. Being in a place like Key West meant a lot of places to visit and explore. I'd heard Key West was a gay city, but didn't know what it meant.

Andy and I never needed to search out gay places. We met in college when we were teenagers and had been together ever since. Our lives were full of baseball, travel, and rooming on the road, so when we were able to be home, we loved being home with no need to go anywhere when we didn't need to.

Andy's injury changed all that. Getting away was exciting and refreshed us. I'd be back to baseball in a couple of months and hopefully Andy would be rehabilitating his arm. The time away would make that time easier on us. I had no idea how often we'd be able to see each other during the next baseball season, but it couldn't be any worse than our usual month long separations.

We had almost three weeks before we could dock in Key West and that meant many lazy days of sun and sailing. We would dock in Tampa Bay for a few nights and then work our way down through the Keys. We could fish, swim, or simply sail off into the sunset.

Our first full day was nothing like the first perfect afternoon. Had the first few hours on the boat been anything like day two, I'd have demanded to go home. John Paul had us under engine power and all the sails were down and secured as rough seas and rain squalls dampened the day. We were heading south eastward at a slow pace to make the seas less of an obstacle.

I spent a lot of time in the boats main head, finding new ways to eliminate the food I'd eaten the night before. I felt certain a lot more came up than originally went down. Andy spent much of the day sitting on the fantail and watching sea birds and the dolphins that seemed as interested in him as he was in them. He didn't seem to suffer the same reaction to rough seas as I did.

By late afternoon we were back in sunny weather and rolling seas. John Paul went back to the sails and cut off the main diesel engine. I was surprised to see that after releasing the sails from the constraints that held them tightly to the rigging, they were raised automatically. It was all done electronically.

The second full day out was sunny and the water was smooth as glass when I got up on deck. We were forty miles from land and John Paul was still heading in a south eastward direction. After the sails were set, a modest breeze moved us smoothly along. The Do was a thing of beauty as it skimmed across the gulf waters.

I sat on the wide bridge that offered a fine view of what was around us. There were television screens to keep track of the main mast above us, both sides of the boat, and what was behind us. John Paul could change the position of the cameras so that he could see anything he wanted to see.

Gene brought a tray with coffee and this time I didn't refuse it. The day before I never did manage to get any coffee down. There was buttered toast and crumpets or bagels to pick from. I wanted to eat it all but settled for the toast to see what might come of it.

"You'll feel better when you put something in your stomach," Gene said. "You should be fine today."

A few minutes later Andy joined us and it became a morning ritual thereafter. While John Paul set our course and checked the weather for the day ahead, we sat by drinking coffee and eating what Gene had prepared for the morning meal. The bridge was bright and roomy.

Leaving the bridge, Andy and I walked the deck after breakfast. We leaned over to watch the gulf waters swishing up under the boat at a surprising rate of speed. We could look out and see nothing but water and sky. The fresh sea air was marvelous.

The clouds were the white billowy type that looked harmless. The blue of the sky was a deep brilliant blue that you have after a storm passes. We sat on the fantail and let the breeze blow in our face. The air smelled a bit salty. I'd learn in time that each body of water has its own smell. The gulf was huge and our tiny boat was a speck on it.

As bad as I felt the day before, I felt great sitting at the back of The Do with my hand in Andy's hand. Time became muddled after that. There was day and night, but my two favorite times to be on dick were at sunrise and sunset. Andy was always beside me to watch the sunset, but I watched the sun rises alone on most mornings.

Being out there disconnected from the rest of the world was invigorating. I felt as if I could stay out there forever and never miss anything about the constant motion of the world around us.

As massive as the gulf was, it accepted The Do without protest. We could see everything from the tiny boat on the big water. There was no threat, nothing to fear, no one reminding us of how dangerous the world could be if you turned you back on it.

Feeling safe and without constraint made it a kind of mellow state of mind I'd never attained before. Even as a boy there were responsibilities, fears, worries, and the constant din of warnings from sun up to sun down. They came out of every TV and radio whether I was home or out mowing a neighbors lawn. As quick as the mower went off, and standing in the kitchen of someone else's house, drinking ice tea, there they were. There came word of bomb blasts, shootings, terrorist attacks in this town or that town.

Everything was dangerous everywhere, except I'd never seen a bomb blast or heard of one anywhere near Statesville. The only shootings were when the cops raided some meth lab somewhere in the sticks, and then it was all said and done by the time I got out of bed. Lab destroyed, bad guys locked up, and there were more lawns to mow.

There was no radio reception on the boat by careful planning. John Paul could communicate with anyone around the world, but we didn't receive anything about what was going on in that world. We controlled what we heard.

We were an island in a vast sea. An island the world didn't touch. There were no alerts, alarms, or worries, and the worst thing that could happen was an upset stomach when the weather turned sour.

I moved when I wanted to move and I sat still and drank coffee when I felt like it. Andy and I were together almost all of the time. Nothing brought us down. We had found heaven. It was called peace.

As unprepared as I was for the idea of buying a sailboat, especially one that wouldn't fit in my bathtub, I must say these were the best days I'd ever had.

We cut our moorings and were adrift in a sea of joy.

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