I wake up in the morning determined to get a hold of my friend Tony. Last night I got a text from him saying he’s spent the last few weeks in Puerto Rico in the jungle, living off the land. “I wiped my ass with banana leaves, I brushed my teeth with a mango stick. I’m only back in Florida to sell these boats and then go build my jungle house. Peace.” I am hoping to catch him before he goes off grid completely. Last we talked he was going to try and come up here to help me a bit in the yard, and I was supposed to help consult him on the purchase of his next boat which he planned to sail to the Caribbean after hurricane season. We hadn’t talked that often as of recent and the last time he called me I didn’t answer. By the time I called him back he was gone. He had mentioned once that he stopped carrying his phone when he was working on his boats; a Seasprite 23 I helped acquire and sell to him and an Ericson 27, which were soon to be on the market and put towards the bigger boat.
I’m talking to my friend Ray in the boatyard about Tony. I’m telling him the story and basically calling out Tony’s name like Tom Hanks calls for Wilson in Castaway when he stops me.
“So what’s your end goal here, you want to go and live in the jungle so you can wipe your ass together with banana leaves?”
“No,” I say. “I’m not saying I’m in love with him, but I do love him. And I’m trying to sail to Puerto Rico, so I’d at least like to kick it with him in the jungle and for him to leave a way to get in touch. Plus, there are some things left unsaid.”
I still haven’t heard from Tony.
I’m sad that I hadn’t been more present in our friendship lately, or ever really. I was in a state of romantic entanglement when we met and was always experiencing some drama every time we’d hang out. Tony was my crew when I finally left Palm Beach, on the blue road again but in dire straits this time. I had no confidence in myself, or my boat. I was leaving the city that had broken my spirit, and my heart. We had left the downtown anchorage and I just planned on dropping the hook further up the waterway—still in the city limits where Tony would hop off, but the tide was favorable so we kept going. He stayed on the boat with me for two more days, having brought nothing except the clothes he was wearing that day.
Tony was a great friend to me when I had none left in that town and no energy to make any new ones. We met almost everyday for lunch at Publix and would ride around on the free trolley. One time he actually wound up nearly driving the trolley when one of the drivers needed help. He would hang at the free city dock and wait to make sure that I made it back to my boat, no matter how long it took. Sometimes my dinghy would be pinned against the dock with the swift current and wind that I’d have to claw my way off it one stroke at a time.
He was my crew when I had no other choice but to head north on my broken boat, with my broken budget (and let’s not forget my broken heart). Still banished to the ICW and in need of a place to land for a while I was anxious, jaded, and feeling oppressed by the hot Florida sun. I didn’t have any sun awning at the time but the sails offered me shade, and his company helped ease my pain and bring back the old me. The real me! I was even starting to talk to fellow sailors again when we reached Vero Beach where Tony had to get off the boat.
I had to continue on. Not long after he left and I was alone on my boat again I got super depressed. The rest of that trip basically consisted of tweaking my sails and constantly pulling them up and down, running my engine at too high a throttle just to get there (wherever it was I was going because I didn’t actually know), and crying in between mile markers. Tony would text me everyday.
“Where are you today, Captain?” Or some other musing.
I’d tell him where and how I was fantasizing about just abandoning my boat and some how or another I’d be pulled back into reality that things can get better on my boat, or on another boat, and I’d sail on.
I eventually landed in the best place I could for what I was seeking to do and I started to gain back my confidences and happiness. I wound up in Palm Beach again as crew on a sailboat delivery, but time and weather didn’t allow me to see Tony. We kept in touch often but in the last month I grew busy, and neglectful of our friendship. Now, in light of this news, I miss my friend.