It was a scene I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid. Overhead, a velvety carpet of stars vaulted the heavens. Off to the east, a waning gibbous moon surmounted a vast body of water, in this case Block Island’s Great Salt Pond. And to the west? A cheery array of mastlights, on sailboats and powerboats alike, nodded in the fragrant darkness.
There was a fire of sorts at the center of things, too—a big, red-hot, swim-platform-mounted grill presided over by Gary DeSanctis, officially the general manager of Active Interest Media’s Marine Group (the power behind Power & Motoryacht), but unofficially our crew’s chief cook and bottle washer, with an emphasis on the former designation (as opposed to the latter), due to an Italian heritage with tasty culinary sensibilities. And there were three other guys gathered ‘round too, all friends as well as Power & Motoryacht colleagues—Dan Harding, John Turner, and myself. Jason Wood and Simon Murray, the remaining staffers on board, were inside our Beneteau MC5 project boat, digging up six plates and a half-dozen steak knives.
“Shine that thing over here, will ya, Bill,” Gary suggested, leaning back to get a little breathing room from the heat as I adjusted the aim of my flashlight. He pointed with a set of barbecue tongs, then bore back in to judiciously adjust a couple of T-bones. “Yeah, man, good. Good. Thanks.”
I feel vaguely responsible for what happened next. Perhaps it was some form of drowsiness that overtook me—I mean, Jackson Browne (one of Gary’s favorites, apparently) had been hypnotically droning for hours on the stereo. Or maybe aromatic factors had affected my ability to focus—heck, the beefy perfumes wafting about were enough to befuddle anybody. Or who knows—maybe it was just plain ol’ dreaminess that did the trick, of the sort that manifests among fellow travelers who gather in the dark around a campfire. But anyway, for one reason or another, I spaced out and let the beam of my flashlight slip from the grill to the swim platform’s deck.
“Whoa!” Gary yelled, looking down at what my flashlight was now illuminating. We all zeroed in as well, trying to see what had set Gary off—it was Dan’s bare feet! I’d inadvertently put them in the spotlight.
“Those things, my friend,” Gary went on, seemingly in shock, “are some of the weirdest lookin’ feet I have ever seen on a human being! The toes, man. The toes!”
The plain-spokeness of the observation was perhaps justified. From the very start of our voyage, all kinds of weirdness had been creeping in. Only the evening before, John had inexplicably broken into song, nailing every single word of “Blinded by the Light” (the original, Springsteen version) with such full-throated gusto that comments from neighboring vessels arrived early the next morning. Then, for the entire first day out, Simon, just back from the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago, had slept on the salon settee with such disconcerting depth that his pulse had to be taken, not just once but twice. And even I myself had slipped the surly bonds of normalcy now and again, once going so far as to try blowing the doors off a Sea Ray with our Torqeedo-powered Sea Eagle tender.
“Man,” Gary muttered softly, as if just coming to grips with a deep and disturbing truth, “You guys got some very serious weirdness going on here. You know? Very, very serious!”
I, for one, deeply appreciated the comment. After all, it helped confirm something I’ve believed for years. There’s only one, sure-fire way to get to know everything about your friends, relations, or colleagues in a hurry. Get yourself a boat, and take em all cruising for a week!