Reaching past the Mobile Sea Buoy at two in the morning, unable to even see the buoy as we passed because of the spray flying off the leeward pontoon, I kept mumbling to myself, "This ain't sailing. This is more like farm league NASCAR." I had the helm, steering her towards Pensacola and was constantly glancing down at the speed gauge to see how much faster above 17 knots we could hit.
The cockpit was piled high with crushed up coke cans and empty handles of Mt. Gay, and in the quarter moonlight, Doc whose weight was tactically positioned aft and windward was forcing the experience into an even more surreal realm by drunkenly howling in Spanish from underneath his Ho Chi Minh rice farmers hat. And yes, apparently you can howl in Spanish - there's a lot of rolling r's involved.
Normally doing this race aboard my Gulfstar, I'm damn well used to baking for 20+ hours in the Gulf Coast summer sun and have never finished the 100 mile course before mid afternoon on the second day. It is an endurance race. In a few hours from now on a typical Pensacola race we would've hit the standard doldrums and sucking tide of Mobile Bay, and as I tried to hold rhumb line on the trimaran, I remembered one of those races past and it was a bad one.
Windless, stranded and lightly spinning in the currents, the god awful alert horn from a nearby oil rig was driving us insane. For two hours in the dark heat, that damn horn was piercing our brains - you couldn't think and all of our drinking was done. There was no escape. We stunk, the ham sandwiches were wet, and I wanted to kill Lawrence who had to get up every five minutes to piss off the side.
Then Doc started grumbling, "Christ is there anything to drink on this boat except for booze." In the heat Doc was getting irascible.
Lawrence, sitting back down from taking a leak, chimed in, "I think there's some Kool Aid below."
"I won't drink Kool Aid in the tropics." Doc replied.
"Why not, you look like their mascot." Trudy sneezed out a laugh and I had to admit that she was partially right.
"Kool Aid leaves a bad taste in my mouth." Doc's eyes were half lidded from the booze and the heat and it looked like he was fading into a waking REM sleep, but he continued.
"Blackin eight, yo so supperatin" Doc's eyes rolled into the back of his head.
"What idiot!?" Trudy brought him back to the here and now.
"Where was I? Oh yeah." He shook himself awake. "Back in '78, I was operating an Alpha 66 base out of the Dominican Republic, when I got an urgent communiqué from my handler up in Langley ordering me aboard a Piper Cub that was to be landing out at our dirt airfield in thirty minutes. None of this alarmed me though. It happened all the time."
"After three hours of mindnumbing boredom, most of it spent trying to figure out the riddle of my field pack which I was using as a footrest. It was oddly filled with hundreds of packs of empty Flavor Aid - the competing brand to Kool Aid. That finally bored me and I watched below the Gulf of Mexico finally give way to the dense jungles of South America."
"Anyway, we touched down on what I later figured out to be the Port Kaituma Airstrip in Guyana. It was November 17th in the year 1978."
Doc made an attempt to belch, failed, then cleared his throat. "The only other plane out on the tarmac was a twin engined Otter, riddled with bullets, as well as were the five bodies lying around it."
"As the propeller came to a halt, the co-pilot of the Piper got out of the plane, motioning for me to follow with the field pack. He walked past the Otter and the bodies to an old Land Rover parked nearby. He hot wired it and the two of us drove out into the jungle."
"After a twenty minute ride down the mud slogged track, we stood amidst the suicidal carnage of Jonestown. Jim Jones' cult followers were scattered like colorful fall leaves everywhere on the grounds of this jungle camp, none having made it more than twenty steps from a central Kool Aid stand. It was quite a disturbing sight."
"The co-pilot, who was armed with a 45 on his side, finally gave me my instructions. It was a cleaner mission. I had to track down every smidgen of Kool Aid evidence, every single empty packet of the colored sugar, and swap them out for Flavor Aid packets. Someone up on high in the CIA was apparently trying to protect one of the Kraft Corporation's best selling brands from the inevitable bad press that was to follow this heinous incident."
"Well you can pretty much guess how foul it was to march around the hundreds of dead men, women and children who were all starting their early rot in the jungle, and look around for Kool Aid packets - but I am a warrior - this too only made me stronger."
Doc paused for the rig horn which was still driving us nuts, then continued, "As I finished my second sweep - my field pack now bristling with tons of Kool Aid packets that once held the kid's summer beverage that turned the cyanide and valium sweet and palatable - the co-pilot abruptly pulled out his 45 and damn near shot me in the face."
"Luckily I tripped at the last minute - it was the only thing that saved my life - and barrel rolled under one of their crappy huts. With this ass still trying to shoot me to cover-up the mission, I hopscotched from one shanty to the next and near the edge of the jungle in the crawlspace under one of the last raised huts, I was shocked to run face to face into a breathing female cultist. We were both covered in mud and feces and I quickly put my finger up to her mouth to silence her. Nearby we could hear the co-pilot's steps as he stalked me. After twenty minutes or so of this dangerous cat and mouse game, he gave up, returned to the rover and pulled out."
"As the cultist and I waited under the hut, covered in filth and with the sickly sweet aroma of death wafting by, our eyes never left each others. And I have to admit, those eyes burgeoned the firey sword in my pants."
"Together we eventually made our way into the deep jungle of Guyana headed West. For 45 days, Candy and I traversed the northern edges of South America through to Venezuela and then eventually into Columbia subsisting off of parrots and small boney monkeys."
"At first she was frightened of me, but after a time she grew to trust. Over small jungle fires, she would try to convince me of the beauty of following the deceased Jim Jones' teachings, while I would counter with the beauty of my soul, the rightousness of my heart and the need that I had, after such a harrowing brush with death, to get into her knickers. Two weeks into our odyssey, as she nibbled on a monkey paw our eyes met and she was mine. I made a hasty bed of banana leaves and…"
"You're making me retch, can you please stop?" Trudy held her finger before her mouth as to induce vomiting.
"Fine. I digress. Anyway, I kept my field pack with me this entire time, understanding that these Kool Aid packets, which by now we had licked clean, were all the proof I'd need to blackmail the CIA for my life when I returned to the states."
"After some of the hardest jungle humping I've ever experienced, Candy and I finally made our way to Cali, Columbia where we lucked out and hitchhiked out on a dope run aboard an old DC-8. We set up house in San Diego for some time, where I taught her to sail and she took me as her new master. She would cook turnips for me constantly."
Lawrence broke in, "Does she want to crew with us bra? We need crew?"
Back on the trimaran, I woke on the starboard trampoline with the sun pouring on the heat. I quickly realized that I must have crashed while thinking back on this story that Doc had told us on one of the countless Pensacola races we've done together.
I looked around to get my bearings and spied that we had caught up with the bulk of the monohull A class fleet. I checked the knotmeter on the GPS, which was registering 17.6 and then over to the Melges 32 off to our port. After a moment I turned aft to where 30 feet behind us, Lawrence was knee boarding in our wake.
Doc, who had the helm, looked down at me and said, "Morning." He then thumbed back over his shoulder towards Lawrence, "You're up next if you want."
I followed his thumb back to where Lawrence was waving at the crew of the Melges as we passed. Most of their crew riding the rail was shooting the bird back at him.
"Sure." I said and went below for a beer.