The idea wasn’t mine. I swear! It was Mike’s. It was always Mike’s idea. No matter the adventure, no matter the risk, Mike was always scheming to have an adventure. Whether it be skirt chasing in Southeast Asia while doing God’s work, to protecting Moroccan virginity from the would be ravaging’s of a young ladies drunk uncle, Mike was up for a good adventure. No matter the adventure, no matter the location, if it meant a chance for fortune and glory, Mike and I were usually, all in. This night would be no different.
Mike and I were sitting at the restaurant at the Puerto Chico Marina in Fajardo. I think it was the marina. Could have been Puerto Del Rey Marina a little further down the road but I was drinking and all marina’s look the same after rum. Either way, our flip-flopped feet were propped up on the sea wall and we were kicked back, drinking rum while a beautiful local girl sang reggae tunes accompanied by her steel drum band. As we drifted away into the reggae music and Mike polished off another cigarette, a habit I was trying to quit, we began to share ideas about the big boat in the marina. The boat had no earthly place in this particular marina, or any marina along the east coast of Puerto Rico or anywhere else for that matter. It looked like a throw away boat. Something made and then left to sink to the bottom of the ocean once it was decided that it wasn’t what the builder had in mind, but there it was.
It was giant. Maybe 100 feet long and approximately 20 feet wide. The majority of the ship looked like a barge but it stood to high above the water to be a barge. It was rusted out and appeared as if it were set for demolition, perhaps to create an artificial reef off the coast. The only thing that stood out was the bow of the ship. It had been decorated in a way that would have made Robert Louis Stevenson proud (author of Treasure Island). There was a larger than life skeleton holding a spear, as if in anticipation of an attack, hanging from the bow. A figure head that was as ominous as it was enormous hung like a gargoyle from this rickety old craft. This ship made no sense. It looked like a pirate ship from the late 1700s had an affair with a salvage barge but it was strangely magnificent. Little did I know that by the end of the night, Mike and I would have quite the story to tell.
As the rum flowed the ship docked in the marina became the subject of conversation. At some point in the evening well before midnight, (I know this because the bar closed at midnight and when the story wraps up we were still able to order more rum before the bar closed. That’s how I tell time when I’ve been drinking) we had concocted a plan to get aboard that ghost ship and snap a few selfies. Why, you may be asking? Well, there is no good answer other than, we had to.
The plan was simple. Wade into the waters of the marina and commandeer another vessel to take us out to the ship, scurry up the rope ladder (yup, it had a rope ladder hanging off the side) and snap a couple of photos to include the always impressive, Leonardo and Kate, “I’m King of the world” scene from the movie Titanic. It wasn’t the best plan but it was simple and easy to remember. We did not, however, take into account any other variables that might disrupt our adventure and why should we? We were drunk, young and invincible. The fact that the ship was privately owned, didn’t matter. The fact that the anchor chain wasn’t properly fastened to the ship, didn’t matter and the fact that the current was attempting to pull the old ship out into the Caribbean, didn’t matter. It should have. IT ALL SHOULD HAVE. In our head the only thing that mattered was getting proof that we were on that ship. It would all fall on the success of phase one of our operation, boost a vessel (Boost in the slang dictionary means to steal). Without a way out to the ship the story couldn’t even start.
Mike was the first to make a move as he tossed his most recent cig into the water and set off down the beach. I quickly slammed my rum and followed him down the beach. After a few hundred feet we headed out to sea, and by “headed out to sea” I mean walk about twenty feet into waist deep water and board the first boat we can reach. Of course, the first boat we came to was a million years old and it appeared it had been used for fishing. It was about 20 feet long with a closed bow and covered, open stern. It was painted, many, many years ago in a very Caribbean yellow but had been worn by the sands of time. As Mike approached the steering wheel he slowly turned and looked over his shoulder with the grin I’ve seen several times and says, “Easier than I thought. Keys are in it.”
I reply, “The first part always works in our favor. It’s the second and third part that usually backfire and we end up trying to talk out way outta shit.”
And as slyly as his initial response was he retorts, “Hey! We’re off to a good start. Cut it out with those negative waves. Quick pull the anchor and get ready to make way.”
There was no way I was going to let that comment go, “Ready to make way? Calm down there Jack Sparrow. Twenty feet into the Caribbean and all of a sudden you’re a seasoned pirate of the high seas?”
To which he smiles, his crooked smile and simply responds, “Savvy?”
Mike can always make me laugh. He has been a friend since the turn of the century and while it’s been a bumpy friendship it has always been a good friendship. The story of Mike will be the next part of my story. I promise that it won’t take away from this story. It will only add to the humor and the almost mythological adventure that we have been thru during our time as friends.
So for now and until next time, we leave you, drunk on a random little fishing boat in a small marina on the east coast of Puerto Rico, planning the next step but at least, hey! The “keys are in it.”