A Welder, a Chef and a Traveler
Three men in shorts and flipflops weave in and out of the stopped two lanes of traffic, each holding an empty gas can. They pass in front of a pickup pulling a long red fishing boat and see the laughter on the driver’s face as he mutters to himself, “Bah ha ha…. didn’t you dummies see the 20 gas stations all along the road? I may be stuck in traffic too, but at least I have a half tank of gas.” With chests high and big smiles, the three men continue to make their way to the other side of the road and walk against traffic to the nearest station.
The smirks and shaking heads in every car they pass filled them even more with the determination that this plan was going to work. They fill the three containers, make their way back down the street and once again walk in front of the same pickup pulling the long red boat, which had only moved two inches by then. They can feel the heads turn in each car they pass as they stroll back across to the other side where they had left the car. A window rolls down and someone yells out, “Woo-hoo! Looking good! Need a ride…. ha ha ha.” The faces behind the windshields most likely all dropped their jaws wide open when they saw what happened next.
The three men, all sporting goatees and big grins walk up to a car, pop open the hatchback and stash the gas cans in the back. They all climb in and turn the little car towards a side road that leads them back to the Gulf of Mexico; leaving the looky-loos with the sounds of Jimmy Buffett’s Son of a Sailor to mingle in with the exhaust fumes of the stopped traffic.
This tale actually starts much earlier than this moment. It was probably at the same tick of the clock earlier that Sunday morning that the man pulling the long red boat started his journey back towards the mainland from one of the Florida keys and the same island breezes would also bring the Welder, a Chef and a Traveler together for an adventure of their own. Shortly into the beginning of his one hundred mile ride up the Overseas highway the traffic began to thicken. The two lanes merge into one and the pickup pulling the long red boat comes to a stop, for the first of many, many times to come. Meanwhile the bald man, the going bald guy and the dude with hair like Fabio decide that this 75 degree February day was the perfect chance to let the wind blow through… the traveler’s hair. They gather their beautiful women, who thankfully have the foresight to pack a few beverages, sandwiches, and some other essentials that they will need later in this day and uncover the little boat, that has also been patiently waiting for this moment since September.
In typical Sunday island fashion the morning most surely begins with a liquid salad of tomato juice, hot sauce and an assorted variety of pickled veggies. They slowly fill the boat with towels and coolers and lazily meander to the ramp where they slip the boat in the turquoise water. A quick holding of the breath while the engine turns over and they slowly troll out into the sea. (The pickup and long red fishing boat has only moved five miles by now.) The captain, first mate and other first mate do a high five as the captain pushes down the throttle into full speed. A passing boat is mesmerized and waves as they are drawn in by the shiny white teeth and long flowing hair of the beautiful mistresses on the bow of the boat. It was probably somewhere in this moment when the events that are to later take place would formulate. The captain had a choice to either turn north or turn south. He weighed his options. North was a great dock on the water where they often had bands playing right on the shore and they could float around and enjoy some tunes. South has a special cove that he loved to share with friends. There was also a couple more docks in that direction a little further away that also had music you could listen to from the water. He looked left, he looked right and banked the boat towards the south and somehow never felt the tug from the little boat as she tried to will him in the other direction.
The tall man, the average guy and short one seem to blend together so nicely. They float around in the special cove and pass around laughs and sip on songs and just can’t get over how beautiful this day has turned out to be. The captain then decides it’s time to head towards the first dock, which should be another ten miles or so by his calculations and he puts the boat into the wind. During the ride his bride’s most beloved hat flies from her head and in a split second the first mate jumps up and snatches it from the air. The boat erupts in cheers. A few miles later and the captain feels something in his gut turn over. Unknowingly to his passengers, he silently glances down to his panel of dials and gauges. A few seconds pass and the engine turns off as they drift to another smooth stop. Though now they are in the middle of a busy channel instead of a cozy cove. (At the same time traffic on highway 1 seems to ease up a little and the pickup pulling the long red boat breaks 15 miles per hour for the first time.)
The captain kept his crew in wonderment for sometime as they drifted and he sorted through his choices. The crew just continued in laughs and stories until they could hear the captain on his cell phone. ” Yes, my Sea-Tow membership # is …..” The first and second mate knowing the wit of the captain start to break into gut laughter. He raises his hand and covers the phone. “We’re somewhere between the Scudder inlet and the Shanky cove. Our vessel is aqua blue in color with an aqua canopy. Just out of gas. Ok, two should work. I would think a couple gallons should get us over to the marina dock. Ok… we’ll just be floating and waiting. About an hour? ” And the boat erupts into uncontrolled belly laughter. They break into the song for Gilligan’s Island. “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip….”
An hour passes in minutes and rescue arrives. The two gallon container is passed across bows and poured into the thirsty tank. The skipper turns the engine and the little boat tries and tries but can’t seem to catch. The Chef pumps the gas bumble and notices that it’s not filling up. The rescue man mentions that running out of gas may have pulled some trash into the line. The skipper tries and tries again and the battery slowly weakens. The crew sits quietly looking in separate directions at the darkening skies. (Out on Highway 1 traffic has come to a complete stop once again and the man pulling the long red fishing boat bursts out a few curse words.)
The rescue man throws a tow rope and says, “Let me at least start pulling you. You can continue to try and get her going while I tow ya.” The skipper mulls over his options of being towed to the nearby marina or starting the long 5 mile per hour tow back to where they’d put in. The marina would have gas where they could fill up and hopefully continue the planned dock hopping adventure, but what if the problem was more than just running out of gas and something was lodged in the filter. What if the problem was worse. With head low, he instructs the rescue man to pull the welder, the chef and traveler along with their lovely brides back to the dock where the adventure began.
The boat slowly heads back north. (and the truck pulling the red fishing boat inches a little further north too.) The crew makes the best of the experience and chants, “Where ever WE go, there WE are.” They all start inventing marine rescue ideas that would include flags to indicate that help of some kind is needed. “There should be a universal flag that all boats have that someone could raise when you run out of gas.” “Yea, you just send it up and someone passing by with an extra gallon or so pulls over and hooks a buddy up.” As they were passing the idea around, a boat speeds by their rescue tow and laughs as they cruise full speed into the sun.
“What emblem should be on the flag?” The smaller dude asks.
“Maybe a gas can.” Says one of the beautiful ladies.
“No no… I’ve got it.” Chimes in the average guy. “It should be a dunce cap!!!!”
The tall man rolls in laughter and the crew falls to the deck in a roar. They decide a flag with a beer can would be good in case you run out and someone passing by happened to have an extra cold one. A flag with a toilet when you really had to go, and by now they REALLY had to go, (but so did the man pulling the big red boat). They decided that when they got back they would start a company called WUber – the water version of Uber because being towed was so awesome. They didn’t have to talk over the engine, hats weren’t flying off, and they were having the best Sunday ever.
By the time they made the twenty mile journey back to where they’d put in, the Welder still knew he could somehow salvage this day and have his friends on the Gulf of Mexico for a sunset to remember. Something in his belly said that perhaps it wasn’t the pump or something in the filter but possibly that the two gallons of gas that he had put in was just not enough to make the engine start and all he needed was just a little more. So they leave the little boat tied to the dock and the three men with goatees drop their women off so they could go pee, grab three empty gas cans and drive towards the nearest station. When they pull up to the main street they see the grid locked traffic that they would have to get into in order to get back. “We will not be stopped!” the Chef proclaims as they park the car and decide to walk their way across and up highway 1 for gas. (right in front of the man pulling the big red fishing boat.)
A few moments later, you could hear the drums rolling, and people on the dock were cheering them on as the skipper turned his key. Nothing. Drums start again and spit, sputter, varoom and the little boat was alive again. They pull away and the captain banks to the north. Full steam ahead winding through the mangroves. His crew all had arms in the air and unstoppable smiles when suddenly that beloved hat of the captains fair lady caught the wind and lifted into the air once again. In what seemed like slow motion it bounced off the hand of the first mate and landed in the sea. The blue color of the hat matched the waves of the ocean and a bit of sadness shortly filled the vessel as they circled back to search and then lo’, out in front, there she was, still a float. A quick scoop up and she was aboard.
The captain’s wife searches through her bag, and being the prepared one she is, pulls out her back-up Pink hat, slips it on and says, “Onward skipper.”
They coast into the dock and notice that the shore is packed with people listening to the music and most were wearing some shade of pink. They drift closer and folks on the dock start clapping and cheering for them as they float in. The band stops playing and makes an announcement about how proud they were to be here at the Big Chill playing in support of breast cancer awareness. Just then the boat explodes once again into laughter realizing that their warm welcome wasn’t because the word of their adventure had spread somehow to everyone on the dock, but because of the pink hat that the skipper’s wife had on. Just as the laughter fades to giggles and nose whispers, the Traveler looks out beyond the dock and can still see the traffic slowly moving on highway one. At just that moment the man in the pickup pulling the big red fishing boat comes into view and the three men with goatees explode into laughter to the point of tears.
“If not for the laughter of the fearless crew, the minnow would be lost.” Someone hums as they slowly motored back. They sat together mostly in silence and in awe of the amazing day while watching the glorious sunset over the gulf. Days like this just can’t be duplicated. Running out of gas when you are among good people is just a way to let the wind blow you in a new direction. And being anywhere with friends, is better than being stuck in traffic.