March 4, 2014

A cruisers' parliament

The Disease Called Cruising
19. Our Beloved Leaky, Reeky, Tiki

IF YOU GO north on Hendrick’s Isle in Fort Lauderdale to where the sign says “Royal Retreat” and walk between the buildings toward the yachts moored in the canal, you’ll see the tiki hut beside the pool.

That’s our town hall, our pub, our meeting place, our parliament. As parliaments go, it’s not terribly imposing, but it’s well situated. From the tiki it’s only a few steps to any of our five boats.

Its open sides let in cooling breezes and its palm-frond roof keeps out most of Florida’s summer downpours. It leaks a bit and it reeks of suntan oil, but there’s a handy ledge all the way around at the right height to steady your hand so you don’t spill your beer while watching the ladies in the pool, and there’s room inside, at a pinch, for all eight of us.

It’s also our carpentry shop and paint shop when Steve’s not looking. Steve manages the apartments. He has trouble with visiting cruisers. We’re not supposed to do maintenance or repairs in the tiki hut. But heck, you can’t help it.

Sometimes, during the day, you just find yourself there, and in your hands there’s a piece of wood sawn neatly in two, or a table-top covered with fresh varnish, and you honestly have no recollection of how things came to be that way.

Mainly what we do in the tiki hut, though, is solve the world’s problems. There’s no subject too complicated for the combined brains of the tiki hut, no dilemma that can’t be solved, no one whose personality can’t benefit from a bit of friendly advice.

Bob and Susan’s problem is that Steve keeps hollering at them for using our pool. Their Prout catamaran is moored in front of the apartments next door, which have no pool of their own. So, naturally enough, Bob and Susan use our pool.

The tiki parliament solves the problem by making Bob and Susan our guests. The six of us with pool rights start an 18-hour daily rota system. We take it in turns to invite Bob and Susan, our comrades of the sea, to be our guests in the pool.

Steve does not take kindly to this. He decides to get even. He yanks the cable from the air conditioner in our shoreside bathroom. The bathroom turns into a sweatshop in the summer heat and humidity, but the oracles of the tiki hut take it in their stride. Worse things happen at sea, we say. And in any case our mighty brain power is finely focused on something else now.

We have this crab, you see. It lives in the sand just alongside the hut. One breakfast time, Bob discovers that it eats Cheerios. So, for the past three days we’ve been engaged on a scientific quest to establish whether crustaceans can also exist on Quaker Oats, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, and Almond Delights.

One of our parliamentarians, Captain Crunch (so named for the difficulty he experiences in berthing his Morgan 42) proposed that we test Twinkies as well. But we vote him down. It’s a scientifically proven fact that Twinkies is not breakfast food, we assure him, and it would only muddy our research, invalidate our conclusions and perhaps even prevent the publication of our important paper . . .

I’ll tell you something: At the end of the month, when we all split up and move on, we’re going to miss our dear old tiki hut. But I’m thinking that Steve will be heaving sighs of relief.

Today’s Thought
A society like ours, which professes no one religion, and has allowed all religions to decay, which indulges freedom to the point of license and individualism to the point of anarchy, needs all the support that responsible, cultivated homes can furnish. I hope your generation will provide a firmer shelter for civilized standards.
— Alan Simpson, commencement address at Vassar, 31 May 65

“What’s your opinion of bathing beauties?”
“Dunno. My wife’s never let me bathe one.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.) 

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