Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Did You See Jesper?

A Boat Show Story by A Boat Show Novice
by Sassy Esquire

"Did you see Anna Kournikova?" she asked.

"No. But I did see Jesper Parnevik," I replied, squinting across the dock to see if the Party Barge was still open.

"Who’s that?"

Well, I have to admit...I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t know. It was slowly becoming apparent to me that I was one of the few people working my section of the 2004 Fort Lauderdale Boat Show who could recognize Jesper on sight, even without his trademark bill-flipped-up golf cap.

"Oh, he’s just a golfer," I answered dismissively. I was also learning that the veteran brokers are bitterly unimpressed by "the rich and famous". That is, unless "the rich and famous" are signing a check made out to a certain yacht brokerage house.

"Hey, do you think the Party Barge will be open when we get done?" I asked my new friend across the dock. "I think I’ll need a cocktail when this is over."

No, I am not a heavy drinker, in case you are wondering. But this is the Boat Show. You know how it is. You spend the whole day sitting on a yacht, tied up to a floating dock, hoping that the next new owner is about to slip out of his (or her) Sperry’s and ask for permission to board. Who doesn’t need a drink? Yeah, I’m jaded....and this is my first Boat Show.

Ok. I am not really that jaded. But it is my second day at the Show and I am a quick study. Jaded is the name of the game. Let me explain.

I am a land lubber. Yeah, I said it. I know nothing about boats. Or yachts, or whatever you call them. Heck, I can barely swim. But, as fate would have it, I am working the Boat Show. Yep. I am decked out (no pun intended) in a white polo shirt, khaki pants, and bare feet. I am sitting on the aft deck (hey, I said, "aft deck"!) of a 60 footer, with the sun in my eyes, making friends during the dry times with fellow "boat sitters" and crew. And I am loving it. And here are the highlights, from this landlubber’s point of view:

Boat Show, Day One (minus one): I am somehow enlisted to help bring the boat into the Show. "Ok. What do you mean, ‘bring the boat into the Show’?" I ask my Captain. "Handle the lines, etc. You know," he replies gruffly. Hmmm....actually, I don’t know. But I can fake it. We arrive before our scheduled time and manage to dock (even though I don’t know how to tie off a cleat).

Day One (for real this time): "So what do I have to do?" I ask the broker nervously. "Just sit on the boat, escort guests, and answer any of their questions." Oh great. They’re going to have questions???? "And remember," the broker tells me, "This is the VIP pre-show day so we might have some real takers." Oh goody. I proceed to memorize the boat listing. I don’t know what half of it means (twin CATs???) but I can I repeat it verbatim. Get to the Show around 10 a.m. (slightly delayed because it took me a while to choose the perfect earrings). Sit alertly in the sun on the aft deck. Drink a beer (but try to hide it from the broker). Show the boat to some people who are very proud of the fact that they know more about the boat than I do. Of course, I make sure they take their shoes off first. Drink another beer. Make friends with the people sitting on the boats across the dock. Go home.

Day Two (not a VIP day): Get to the Show around 10:15 a.m. Today I have opted for a blue Oxford button down shirt and shorts - it got way too hot yesterday in long pants. Say "hello" to my dock buddies across the way. Drink a beer (no point hiding it). Read the listing again. Decide it’s probably alright to use the day head. Read a magazine I find on board about yacht designers. Remember to put the flag out. Listen to music from the Party Barge. Wander through the boat and push every button - alas, none of them fires up the engines. See Scotty Pippin. Escort some guests. One of them invites me to work on a boat in Croatia (based on my overwhelming knowledge of Feadships.....hahaha!). Croatia guy also invites me to dinner. Hmmm. "No thanks. I’d get in trouble with the captain," I reply demurely.

Day Three: Today it is hot. Just like yesterday. And the day before that. I arrive around 10:30 a.m. Put flag out. Drink a beer (or three). Talk on my cell phone to friends around the world. "Yeah, I am just sitting here in South Florida on a million dollar yacht," I brag. See, I have realized that the only people impressed by my surroundings are those who aren’t here. "Yep. Saw Scotty Pippin yesterday. You know, the basketball player? No. He didn’t come aboard." Some guests arrive. I don’t care if they take their shoes off anymore. Frankly, I don't care if they make themselves an omelet in the galley. I leave the boat and go to Party Barge. Drink some frozen concoctions with new friends. Take a cab home.

Day Four: I think today is the last day. I can’t remember. I also don’t care. Get to the Show around noon. Look at the boat from the stern. Yep, she's still there. Forget to put the flag out. Drink a beer. Walk around the docks and board some other boats. Drink some beer from the other boats. Meet some other boat sitters and crew. Make plans for big after parties. Visit the crew lounge and get a free lunch (why didn’t I do this before?!) Go back to my boat. Escort some guests. Now I am making up answers to the questions: ("What does this do?" "Oh, that holds the spigot down on the pilot house wash basin." "And what is this silver thing?" "Oh, that? Just kick it.") Yes, I have basically lost all interest in the boat. And I have basically lost my will to live. It is clear to me this boat is never going to sell. Certainly not on my watch. I think the guests are on to me. Perhaps it was when I told them that the silver thing on the bow of the boat was called a wind-ass, as opposed to a windlass. Or maybe it was when I told one lady that she didn’t need a stove on board, she could just go to McDonald’s for dinner. Well, let’s face it. I am like a fish out of water here (pun intended) and I just want it to be over. I want to go home and watch football from the safety of my sofa. I don’t want any more beer. Or sun. Or celebrity spotting. Most importantly, I don’t ever want to hear another one-man’s-band remake of a Jimmy Buffet song. Oh yeah, and I want that cocktail.

All that being said, I do have fond memories. For starters, I saw Jesper Parnevik. As an avid golfer, watching the infamously nattily dressed Swedish golfer stroll past my boat's stern was worth the tedium of having to explain who he was to everyone. But my best memories of the Boat Show are the friends I made on the docks. We chatted during the day about everything and nothing. We suffered through the megayacht wannabe owners. We smiled all day. We were not ashamed of our broken toe nails. We all had bruises on our knuckles from the temporary shackles on the floating docks. We were tight. We were compadres.

And, of course, I also enjoyed the Party Barge and the crew lounge - I won about five THOUSAND dollars at the makeshift blackjack table. Too bad it was five thousand FAKE dollars.

And I did enjoy showing the boat. I learned a lot: I now know that twin CATs are apparently engines and that it helps if you tie off a bow line as well as a stern one (don’t ask).

Will I work the Boat Show next year? Sure! Well, if the insurance company lets me.....Hey, do you think Jesper will be there?

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