My friend Sandy is a yacht captain. Back in 2004, while sailing off the coast of Yemen, her boat caught fire. Under her command, her crew put out the fire and none of the passengers were even injured, but the boat was seriously damaged to the point that they were pretty much adrift at sea. They were working on repairing the engine so they could sail back to the nearest safe harbor when the boat was boarded by machine gun toting pirates. Since the boat was a 40 million dollar vessel loaded with Americans, it was the perfect hostage situation. Sandy and the women hide behind the refrigerator while the pirates searched the ship for valuables to steal. Every night while the pirates were sleeping on their own boat, Sandy and her crew would work on the engine under the cover of darkness. It took them five days to fix the engine to the point where they could outrun the pirate ship and meet up with an American warship. Sandy and her crew won the Distinguished Crew Award, the highest honor of the International Superyacht Society, for their valor and cool under fire.
And because Sandy is a real hero, she, of course, isn't the one who told me this story. I had to hear it second hand from another friend. And when questioned about her heroics, she shrugs it off. "I had the best crew." She's like the coolest person I know.
I mean, really, if you'd battled pirates, PIRATES, and lived to tell the tale, wouldn't you tell EVERYONE who would listen?
I first met my friend Sandy for breakfast this morning. She was in Los Angeles for just a day on her way home from Europe.
I met Sandy on New Year's Eve 2006 while I was visiting friends in Menorca.
I got horrible food poisoning from the fancy dinner we attended, and as everyone else danced their way to the midnight hour, she sat down next to me on the sofa just to keep me company.
She discovered that I'd be in Barcelona the following week and gave me her phone number. "Call me and I'll meet you for coffee."
The following week I took her up on her offer and invited her out for coffee.
Let me just say right now, that had she been single and a man, my day with Sandy would have been like the best date ever. Sandy's girlfriend is a lucky woman.
After walking around Barcelona, Sandy gave me a tour of the 30 million dollar yacht that she was renovating. It was like a floating luxury condominium. Then I went to dinner with her and her crew. It was one of the best dinners I've ever had and I don't even remember what I ate. I just remember that at one point I was laughing so hard I started crying.
Sandy had an open crew slot on her boat. Had I had any money in the bank at that time, I think I would have taken the job as a steward at that very moment and just spent a year floating around the world with her. A small part of me still wishes that I could have done that, but then I wouldn't have Mr. Foxypants as my boyfriend. The timing for us might not have worked out as perfectly as it did. So between him and my fantasy maritime career, I choose him.
But seeing Sandy again, made me think about my future. Life at sea is now the craziest combination of new and old. Sandy's ship is equipped with a million dollars of navigation machinery, but it still takes forever to get old fashioned letters. Sailing is just as romantic as the movies make it out to be, but ten times tougher. The monotony and the long hours are made up for by the mad cash. Sandy's crew work 24/7 for the six figure tips their clients pay at the end of their private cruises, but in the end, they are disconnected from everyday life on land in the most visceral ways. One of her mechanics only sees his family every three months back in Bulgaria.
Today, after dropping Sandy off at LAX, I sent her the one X-Box game we had in the house as a present to her and her crew. I hope it makes the long hours at sea, a little more fun.