It is now 22:15 and we are anchored quietly in a small creek up on the beautiful Chesapeake bay. But this very bitter happy end of a day had come after a lot of patience, anger, and horror.
In the two weeks while Virginie and the kids were away I was preparing Nomad for their return and our year to come. I got to meet some great people around the boatyard and had a good relationship with Brian, the owner-manager, who gave me some advice on different occasions. My aim was to have everything ready on Sunday evening when they arrive and so Monday morning we can get back in the water and start our sail southward.
On last Friday I went to ask Brian if he could put us back in the water on Monday morning reminding him at the same time that I will need to stay for an hour or so to paint our lifting keel before. Sure, he answered. As I knew he takes only cash I asked for the bill so I can go to the bank and get the money. He just repeated the same rates he gave me on the phone two months ago – 10 dollars per foot for the haul-out, pressure cleaning and one week storage than 175 for a month divided by the actual time we stayed and and so I can figure it out myself.
It’s Monday morning, the family is back on board, and the boat is all ready to go. But here in old bay marina time has a different rhythm, the locals call it Brian’s time. On our first day in the yard we learned about Brian’s time but it did not bothered us much then. We were supposed to be lifted around 9:00-9:30. At noon I went over to look for him and he told me it’s lunch time now so let’s do it after lunch – around 14:00. It was 16:30 when he finally came to pick us and it was already dark when we could at last climb back to Nomad. We did not mind it too much that day but this time we wanted to get going as winter is closing on us and for the coming days the wind is perfect for a sail southward. So where is Brian?
As we did not see him the whole morning at around 14:00 I go over to him. He was working on his roof. He could not do it now he tells me angrily; he needs to fix his roof and there is a boat in the lift waiting to be blocked and another waiting to be hauled out before us so maybe but only this evening after dark. I say ok, I just need to know if today or tomorrow because with the kids.. if we don’t do it today we will just go and do something with the kids so I would simply like to know – today or tomorrow? Only after dark or tomorrow he says again, you see, that’s why I don’t like it when people live on board on the hard he adds, now getting even more angry. Ok, so let’s do it tomorrow morning we agree.
It’s two o’clock in the afternoon, Tuesday. I go to talk to him as, again, we did not see him the whole morning and the boat in the water that is supposed to be lifted before us did not move yet. I ask him at what time he thinks we will be able to get into the water. “There is bad weather coming tomorrow and I need to finish with my roof. I don’t want to work with the lift today I want to work on the roof.” He answers, again, somewhat angrily. But look, on Friday you told me there is no problem to lift me back to the water on Monday, we worked hard to make everything ready and there is wind coming we want to be sailing south. That’s where out of nowhere his expression changes, he has hate in his eyes, his voice goes up to a yelling volume and with his finger pointed at me as if he was holding a gun he screams that since Friday many things changed and he cannot do it now, or if I want, after he will finish with the roof, the boat in the water and than very quickly – up, paint and straight to the water but it will be dark, I can decide he adds and he leaves. His reaction came with such a surprise from a calm discussion to so much anger and hate in his expression it was just shocking and left me speechless. The kids that heard this guy yelling at their father in a language they don’t understand started to cry.
At around five o’clock he shows up with his lift. They lift us, he tells me I can go and paint the centerboard and when I finish he asks if I want to stay the night on the lift or if we want to go straight to the water. To the water I say – we want to go away. Ok, so let’s settle the payment and I’ll put you back in the water he says. He takes out his mobile phone and starts to throw numbers at me. He wanted me to pay him for a full month. Plus mentioning that living on board and painting the board cannot be done free of charge. This is not what we agreed upon two months ago and on last Friday. When I mentioned him that on two occasions he told me completely other things he exploded in rage once again. I should not bargain about the rate he charges me and next time I should go to Annapolis where they will charge me double. Ok but this is not the issue I tell him, I don’t complain about your rates, I just want you to respect what both of us agreed were the rates I should pay. We cannot be that poor if we sail around the world (especially if we head to Florida and the Bahamas he thought) he tell me, and then the racist devil goes out of it’s shadow – he continues by saying me that with my attitude I must be a Jew (well, he knew I am from Israel) and that he has problems with Jews.
I refused to pay him the amount he asked me now but rather to pay him by the rate we agreed upon in the beginning so now he started threatening me he will call the police and the immigration and they will confiscate our boat. I don’t know why he thought this will threaten us so I told him he is welcome to call the police and immigration we are doing everything legally, we. So he tried to give arguments (very stupid I must add) such as – you were working now under the boat which was in the lift and you are not allowed to do so – well, you just told me to do so, etc.. And of course, again, all this in front of our crying kids that start to understand that we are hostages at the hands of this crazy person that does not want to put our home back to where it belongs – in the water.
After he tried to bargain himself – ok pay me 550 and we settle. 530 last price. And all this while yelling and threatening to call the police and some other authorities. Please do, and if you don’t put us back in the water immediately, I am going to call the police. I don’t think I use the right words to describe you this scene that for us, was taken straight out of a horror film: Amos, Noa and Adi hugging their mom in this cold November evening with this Brian walking back and forth, yelling at me, waving his hands, than screaming some more and refusing to put us back in the water. It was simply a nightmare. It’s late, it’s dark, kids are cold, Adi is sick, and we have no place to go except of our home which is hanging on a lift up in the air.
After some more yelling (now, not to my liking, both Virginie and I were yelling too) he backed off from his demands. We insisted we will pay him what we owe him but we want a written bill. Then, just as he became angry out of nowhere he calmed down in a second, went over to the kids and told them quietly, look I am sorry, ok? I will put your boat back into the water, I just had a very bad day.
And he disappeared into his house. 20 minutes passed while we are waiting in the cold, still in suspense as to whether this nightmare is really about to end and we will be able to go back to our sailing life but no sign of Brian anywhere.
So we went to one of his (very nice) workers (well, not really a worker as I think a worker should receive a salary, this 65 years old guy is not being paid) and tell him we will call the police if he does not show up and put us back in the water, now. Together we went to ring at Brian’s door. He comes down, very calmly, gives me the bill. I pay him cash. He climbs up the lift and without a word he lowers Nomad back into the water.
We climb back to our home. It’s completely dark now, kids go straight to their beds. At first we thought simply to drop the anchor in the bay in front of the marina because of the hour, the cold and the dark night. But as we got out of the slip both Virginie and me we knew – we sail away, we go far away. We don’t want to stay near this place even one more second.
When morning comes Noa tells us she had a nightmare about this guy that did not want to put our boat back in the water.
In the days that followed Amos checked the charts and measured our progress south with relation to the distance we have made from the boatyard of that ‘person vraiment pas gentil’. And Adi keep on asking why this guy was so not-nice.
Luckily we have met so many nice people along the way that this one horrible incident will be forgotten very quickly.