Boats have been the locale of secret meetings throughout history. But never in broad daylight, until now.
It was May 3, aka day 49 of our “Fifteen Day” quarantine. Like everyone else, I was having a long spring, going to the office every day on the coast of Lake Michigan but watching all the big stuff around me being closed, canceled and canned. Aside from the important things like schools and medical facilities being shut down, launch parties for two of our newest yacht designs in Maine and Michigan were put off. And like everyone else, I was in need of a haircut.
I was just glad my boat was in the water. Even that was difficult, as our local storage facility had locked their customers out during the busy spring commissioning season. We were allowed only two days to paint, prep or pump what needed to be painted, prepped and pumped before launch, and those two days came weeks later than normal.
But still, I was among the lucky ones. Marinas down the beach in Milwaukee and Chicago were closed with no opening date in sight. Outsiders were arriving from Michigan to spend the summer on our docks. More and more boat owners were rebelling in their own way, determined to enjoy what we all love: time on the water away from the masses.
I was hearing stories of boat dealerships across the state line having to “break in” to their own properties in the middle of the night with unmarked, employee-owned trucks to retrieve customers’ boats from storage and tow them back to their rightful owners for a summer of supposed social distancing. Imagine that! Privately owned boats in privately owned buildings needing to be swiped under the cover of darkness to be returned to their rightful owners. This smacked of civil disobedience, boat-style, and I liked it.
And, again, I could really use that haircut. But across Lake Michigan barbers were getting their 15 minutes of fame by lawlessly defying orders and—gasp—giving people haircuts! It was billed on cable TV as a danger not seen since our GIs huddled in foxholes during the Battle of Kasserine Pass in ‘43.
With no barbershops open, I had to be creative. Even the Sparkling Waters Yacht Club down the street was closed, so there’d be no chance to ... wait! Isn’t there a guy in the club who’s a barber? The guy with the red Corvette? Maybe this was my kind of civil disobedience—getting an “illegal” haircut on my “yacht.” I love the smell of elitism in the morning.
I checked in with the club bartender who knew a guy who knew a guy. Arrangements were made on the down-low. Soon, word got back to me that the masked barber would be casually strolling my dock at 1600 hours on the appointed date.
The Masked Barber was in his late 70s. His red satin jacket had a Corvette logo on one lapel and the Sparkling Waters Yacht Club logo on the other. Above his N95 mask were kind but intensely focused blue eyes and a red Corvette ball cap. I invited him aboard the cockpit of my convertible.
Wordlessly, he pointed to the deck chair in the middle of the cockpit. I sat down. He snapped the apron around my neck and plugged in his trimmers. There was no small talk. This was serious, illicit business. I closed my eyes at the sound of the trimmers buzzing, slowly drifting away to memories of the good old days in a real barber’s chair where we traded lies with the guy in the next seat about the fish we didn’t catch and speeds our boats don’t go.
Soon, the buzzing and snipping ended. I kept my eyes closed for another minute, feeling the gentle breeze on my newly-trimmed neck and listening to the wind in the rigging. I opened my eyes slowly and came back to reality. I turned to thank the masked barber, but he was nowhere to be seen. His trimmers, even the apron, were gone. Was this all a dream?
I looked down at my feet and let out a sigh of relief. A cockpit covered in clumps of dark but graying hair confirmed that my mission of civil disobedience was accomplished.