Downtime

Last Laugh: Self-Ownership

15 July 2020By Gavin Rothenburger
Illustration by John Devolle

I’ve never owned a yacht. I’ve never even been part owner unless you consider the parts I stole from my last boat as qualifying me as co-proprietor. That said, I’ve worked on lots (if you call my efforts work) and feel like over the years I’ve developed a fair idea of how a yacht should be managed, how a crew should run, and most importantly, how owners should behave. So, what if I were boss?

We’ve all prepared for lengthy trips: we provision and polish, get fancy haircuts, and wave goodbye to friends. Nobody knows how much time actually passes, but a century or so later, the owners leave while we comb our now shoulder-length hair, discover our brand-new phones are seven generations beyond obsolete, our friends have got married and whelped four children. And then there’s our parents, who filed missing persons reports three years ago, believing us to be lost at sea.

The first thing I’d do would be to set trip limits. People can’t be confined for weeks on end and be expected not to sleep with someone they’d otherwise shun like a rabid weasel. Trips, therefore, should be no longer than the captain can go without making an inappropriate comment to a crewmember of the opposite sex which, in my experience, is about three hours. But let’s go with the average and call it three days.

Overnight runs would be forbidden, and I’d never order a waterslide, trampoline, or anything that requires more than seven hours to assemble or a master’s degree in physics to figure out its stowage in the only locker not filled with the fishing rods and dive gear I insist on having but never use.

The next thing I’d do would be to get my butt to bed at an hour that didn’t coincide with the rest of the guests waking up in the morning. Admittedly, at times I’ve dribbled and raved senselessly in the wee hours over half-forgotten beers while everybody marvels that I’m A) still conscious, B) still drinking, and C) completely powerless to stand — yet somehow capable of engineering a pizza delivery to an anchored boat in a deserted cove on an island without a pizza shop. But if I were the owner, I’d recognize that crew need good rest (and opportunity to sleep with rabid weasels) and would disappear at a reasonable time that allowed the freedom to gripe about my burping habit for at least an hour every night.

I’d then set a rule that nobody, not even the chief stew, is allowed to be manifestly psychotic or any more unhinged than I myself can be when ordering island pizza. While I recognize that setting the bar at such heights could probably mean I’d never have any crew, I do feel like paying an engineer who doesn’t relieve himself in the bilge because going to the head means getting up from his nap, might be beneficial, and I could go about my ownerly business without the least concern that crew might put something in my food as payback for asking that my shirt be ironed with something other than a broken rolling pin.

Overnight runs would be forbidden, and I’d never order a waterslide, trampoline, or anything that requires more than seven hours to assemble or a master’s degree in physics to figure out its stowage in the only locker not filled with the fishing rods and dive gear I insist on having but never use.

Subsequent to this, I’d hire the entire crew of Below Deck just so I could fire them for no particular reason other than that they’re just awful and it would be a lot of fun. I would then require that the captain say something deferential and nice to each crewmember just to watch his head explode.

The chief stew would be compelled to take a course on how not to throw broken glass into the garbage so it slashes a crewmember’s legs to ribbons when removing it from the boat. This trash elimination could only be carried out by a qualified person who’s done advanced training in the obscure dark art of noticing that the trash is oozing a festering version of dinner all over the decks and perhaps doing something about it other than blaming the mate and a father who never loved her. Also, the engineer would have to have a degree in how not to be a dick to those around him just because he knows how to hire someone to fix whatever it was he broke while trying to fix it.

Okay…If I owned a yacht, I’d probably be a tyrant. I’d come for months on end, make you wear winter coats to cover tattoos, and have you drive me places just because I know you’re busy trying to get my dinner ready which, upon serving, I’d refuse in favor of a bowl of Cheerios. I wouldn’t be as awful as the Below Deck people (nobody’s that bad). But I would be awful.

So maybe it’s best that we leave things as they are and limit my fractional ownership to the stolen dive gear filling my entire closet that will never get used.

This column is taken from the July 2020 issue of Dockwalk.

More from Dockwalk