It’s beyond cliché to say that many a new custom yacht began as a napkin sketch at a bar. A prospective client can relax and enumerate his desires for a new, better boat built just the way he wants it. His yacht designer of choice flamboyantly snatches a pen from his shirt pocket as though it’s a magic wand and finds the nearest dry napkin. He cracks his knuckles ceremoniously and casts a knowing look towards the expectant client.
While I tend to forgo the flamboyant and ceremonial style during these episodes, at a recent boat show I found myself at the bar of a nice steakhouse with a friend of my favorite captain who seemed really interested in a custom cruising boat for his family. But there was a head sea, one that the sober naval architect must sometimes navigate during these passages.
Understand that a typical busy boat show day for a guy with my job is akin to a 10-hour marathon of walking and talking in the sun. It’s not until 7 p.m. or so that I might find time to sit down with some friends and clients to enjoy a cold beverage. But by that hour it’s likely that my friends and their friends who attend the show as tire-kickers and buyers have spent the better part of the day drinking. In the sun.
So first-drink me and the eighth-drink friend of my favorite captain are now bellied up to the steakhouse bar. He leans in very, very closely and begins to tell me all about his dream. I listen as the captain and his other buddy lean into the bar, looking on as I find the next napkin and do my thing. Sketches don’t take long.
His dream now drawn before him, our glassy-eyed Eight Drinks strikes a thin, squinty smile and shakes my hand. I manage a bit of theatre and sign the napkin to a smattering of inebriated applause by our two companions.
The napkin gets handed down the bar so those two guys can ogle, sip and fist bump.
The sun rises anew and I am off for another full day at the boat show. I expect I’ll hear from the captain and his friends not before noon. But the phone rings by 10 a.m.
“Hey Bill, do you, ahhh, have the napkin?” It’s the captain.
“No. I wonder if the bartender took it just as we LeBron’ed Eight Drinks to the men’s room on the way out of the steakhouse. Any chance he saved it, or just tossed it out?”
“Yeah, I didn’t think he would remember, but he’s looking all over for the sketch.”
Soon, Eight Drinks rings me. “Alright, meet me at the steakhouse bar at 1 p.m. They’re open for lunch. I want that napkin sketch back.”
I have better things to do, really, but I think this guy is serious about a new yacht, so I’m on the team for the time being. Back at the bar I find the captain and Eight Drinks. A skeleton crew is on duty for the lunch crowd. Last night’s bartender is nowhere to be seen.
“I can draw the sketch again—really,” I say. “On paper this time.”
“Yeah, but I want that napkin sketch.”
The good captain has a way of making things happen, and by now he’s talked his way behind the bar and is snooping around. He discovers that the bartender had a kind heart last night and had neatly parked the signed napkin sketch next to the sliced lemons and limes.
The captain victoriously slaps the napkin sketch down on the bar in front of us. Eight Drinks is so excited he flails his arms out in what may have been an attempt at a high five or an awkward hug across the bar, but presented itself with sufficient force to knock over a pitcher of water, which cascades down onto the sketch.
The saturated napkin dissolves before our eyes, into a blob of wet papier-mâché.