Blue BoatBlue Boat
Blue Boat

The tale of 'Blue Boat,' a simple skiff that was a container of of adventures and memories, helped me think about the notion of value that has nothing to do with numbers.

Contributed By: Julian Bleecker

Published On: Monday, July 12, 2021 at 07:00:00 PDT

***
  1. I told this story a couple weeks ago to a guy who was interested in buying a majority interest in a company I started. For some reason, likely my very theatrical imagination, I thought I should have some kinda..monologue so that when Stephen Soderberg does my biopic he has some good material to work with for this pivotal moment.
  2. Or maybe it’s Tarantino because he does long monologue-y shots, right? Like in Reservoir Dogs?
  3. At the time it felt like a good way to lay the ground as the purpose of this call was to figure out whether my vision for the company was aligned with his vision for his majority share.
  4. The story starts with “Hoagie” — his name is Jim — who has a place on a little island you never heard of called Culebra.
  5. It’s off of Puerto Rico and it takes a day or two to get there from New York City, when I used to go there while I was living in New York City. You’d fly to San Juan and then you’d want to load up on supplies while in San Juan. Steaks for the grill. Fresh produce. Booze. Bug spray. Another bathing suit. Toilet paper. That kind of thing.
  6. And then you’d catch a ferry, but you’d have to get to the ferry with your supplies so you’d rent a utility vehicle of some description (this was before they were called SUVs) or get a taxi and it was a schlepp with all those steaks and jugs of booze and probably not enough bug spray and what you think is too much toilet paper but you can never have enough, really.
  7. And once you got to Culebra you’d figure out the room situation. There were four rooms, each room is at one of the corners of the modest, small, lovely bungalow with the big open common area and the deck in front and the miniature amphitheater in the back where the evening’s micro performances, re-enactments of the day’s antics, Charades, etc., would unfold.
  8. Hoagie’s bungalow was just across a basically untraveled narrow road that you’d cross there, and then it was a few steps down to the bay.
  9. And moored just there was a blue boat called Blue Boat.

  1. It was a skiff. That might be the most generously ambiguous description.
  2. An unremarkable fiberglass boat with maybe two benches that were not infrequently augmented with a low-slung beach-style folding chair that was probably at some earlier occasion picked up while in San Juan along with the steaks and bug spray.
  3. We’d take gallon plastic milk jugs, close the top tight, and tuck them under the transom or up along the bow or under the seats for “floatation.”
  4. I never entirely understood that, but that’s what we did. To make Blue Boat a bit more stable? Was that even possible?
  5. Honestly, with an inconsequential level of effort, I’m confident that Blue Boat could be swamped were I to grab opposite gunwales and rock to-and-fro until I found a resonance frequency for the rocking and Blue would sorta shrug and roll right over.
  6. There were four things that would happen every day, along with unexpected things like a random backgammon game or reading one of the books that accumulated in the house library.
  7. Thing 1: Talk about what we were going to make for dinner, at around 7:30 in the morning. Over coffee.
  8. Thing 2: Eat what we decided to make for dinner at around 6:30 in the evening.
  9. Thing 3: Morning fly fishing for the elusive and rascally Bonefish
  10. Thing 3: Afternoon fly fishing for the elusive and rascally Bonefish.
  11. We went fly fishing one afternoon. It’s sorta funny because I’m not a fly fisherman by any stretch and particularly alongside Adrian and Hoagie — I’m not even an outside-man, let alone an outdoorsman.
  12. We’ve known each other since, like..grade school and both of those guys moved to Wyoming immediately after college and have been there ever since.
  13. They can do things like field dress an Elk with as much bother and consternation as I have loading a dishwasher.
  14. (By the way, to “field dress” an Elk is the extreme opposite of, you know, putting clothes on an Elk, if you follow.) Soap-Mesa.September.Field-Dressing__PAD_1200.png
  15. But, I’ll play along and practice casting and, heck — standing up to your knees in crystal clear salt water while playing fly-fisherman half a mile from shore during low tide in a Caribbean bay isn’t so bad.
  16. The way it works is like this. We motor out in Blue Boat and we each pick a spot typically 100 yards or some such away from each other. The way I remember things is I was driving Blue Boat and dropped the fellers off and then found a spot for myself and made like I was a fly fisherman.
  17. Back then I could bore pretty easily so here I am realizing that practice may not make perfect, at least not in the next 30 minutes, and I can’t even see any fish and the water is crystalline. I decide there’s nothing here to catch.
  18. I let some time pass and it’s starting to get hot and maybe it’s time for cocktails so I clamber into Blue Boat which is pretty easy because the water is pretty shallow.
  19. I give Blue a bit of a shove to send ‘er in the direction of deeper water and clamber in, lower the motor and start it up and head towards Adrian who was closest to me. Adrian clambers in and we take a look around, nod at the serenity of the place and then wonder if we should go over there and get Hoagie. We squint in the distance to see if he’s giving us some sorta..you know..signal or whatever.
  20. Hard to tell so, well — let’s motor closer and see what’s what and so me being me I open ‘er up but good and off we go.
  21. A moment. Maybe two, and then Blue Boat stalls out. Just stops.
  22. Damnit, what?
  23. “Motor stop?”, Adrian asks. I just glance at him and blink twice. I look back at the engine and gesture at it with two open palms and a shrug and say, “Yeah. The motor stopped, I’m pretty sure of that.”
  24. Adrian gets out of his lawn chair situation with determination. He’s an amazing worker. Works on anything that needs working on.
  25. “Well, hit the priming bulb there and, well..”, he said.
  26. I looked at him and looked at the engine and that rubber priming bulb thing and said, “Awwww’right.”
  27. Couple of squeeze-y-squeeks of the primer bulb and then I half-asked/told him “Start ‘er?”
  28. “Yuuuuup”, Adrian drawled.
  29. And then now the fuck what? How’d I end up in the water, is what I’m wondering. And who is that behind me saying, just as calm as if whispering to a sleeping kitten, “Dude. Don’t get cut.”
  30. That’s Adrian behind me — he must be in the water too — saying, “Dude. Don’t get cut.”
  31. And then I see Blue Boat and it’s not underneath me but off over there and she’s running flat out and, oh right — I didn’t twist the throttle off when that motor stalled out so, well — I guess it started and we just got tumbled out from the sudden jolt. Everyone from on the boat is now in the water. The both of us. And that “Dude. Don’t get cut” must be because that motor has a propeller down there below the waterline and well — most of me is now below the waterline. So, like..huh.
  32. I’ve read about boating accidents before. This might be one of them actually happening, I guess?
  33. Now, I’ll be straight with you. I could make my self-rescue epic so that when Michael Bay has to take over from Soderberg he’ll have something requiring six days of shooting for 18 seconds of screen time and even an opportunity for an explosion or two to work with. But it didn’t go that way. All I remember is Adrian’s “don’t get cut” advisory and thinking, “I’m getting back in that fucking Blue Boat because there are a fair number of big luxury yachts at the other end of the bay and boy would that be a boating accident story, I tell you what.”
  34. Plus I didn’t want to die. So there was that on top of the Blue Boat torpedo scenario.
  35. I don’t know if it was physics or what but somehow the motor torqued and turned and is now setting Blue Boat on a circular course so she’s coming back at us and then I’ve got my arm hooked up to my elbow on the gunwale and find myself flat on my back in Blue Boat looking up at blue sky and then here comes Adrian who’s saying something to the effect of, “Cut the engine! Cut the engine!”
  36. So, like..I cut the engine.
  37. And then we had the most maniacal wide-eyed laugh I’ve ever had before or since.
  38. “Did you see that?!”
  39. “Dude. See it? Are you kidding me?? I was fucking there! Did you see that? Who does that kinda thing? Do we do that kinda thing now, the fuck?!”
  40. We sat there for 10 minutes taking stock and shaking from the adrenaline. The event couldn’t have lasted more than 45 seconds, if that. Everything was out of scale. The speed of being tossed out. Blue Boat being so far away so quickly. The small feeling of being so far below the gunwales as Blue Boat got closer. And suddenly back in the boat in such a way that seemed positively beyond my abilities.
  41. Have you ever tried to get back in a boat while in the water up to your chin? Have you? I mean..
  42. Finally settled, we start the engine again according to well-established procedures, also known as ‘common sense.”
  43. As we putter over to Hoagie, Adrian whispers conspiratorially, “Let’s not tell Hoagie.”
  44. “Uhhh..okay?”
  45. Hoagie is one of the mellowest dudes I know. He only gets out of an open toe shoe situation when it snows at his home in Jackson Hole. He’s just a mellow open-toe kinda guy.
  46. Hoagie clambers in with his gear and I start motoring us back. After a few minutes he says with a smirk and just as casual as you please, “So..what were you guys doing, anyway?”
  47. Needless to say, we made good use of the jugs of booze that evening.
  48. I tell you that story to tell you this one.
  49. Recently the missus was visiting Jackson Hole and had opportunity to stop in and have a meal with Hoagie. I told her, even though she knows it, “Get him to tell you the Blue Boat story. He tells it good.”
  50. After he told it, he added a coda.
  51. “You know, some guy offered me $500 for Blue Boat.”
  52. “I told him I would rather see Blue Boat rotted out and sunk than sell it.”
  53. I can totally see Hoagie saying that, standing there open-toe with a can of suds in his hand, maybe. Or one of those Titleist golf visors high on his forehead and a golf-gloved hand grasping a yard sale 4 iron.
  54. He’d say it without a hint of malice nor a dose of contempt. More a statement of clarification.
  55. That’s not just a shitty fiberglass skiff missing a bench and in dire need of floatation.
  56. That boat? It’s full of sweat and stories and good adventures and days on end without a single fish caught. And more days on end of variously crappy fishing, great fishing and trips to town to watch the island play softball against itself or sit at that one open air bar that sits on the bay.
  57. You clearly don’t get what it is.
  58. It’s not a blue boat.
  59. It’s Blue Boat.
  60. You can’t value Blue Boat that way. With a number. Not like that. You’re not seeing Blue Boat. You’re just seeing a blue boat.
  61. So. That’s the story I told that guy, that self-proclaimed numbers guy, whose transparency as to his capitalist proclivities I appreciated. I may have even envied them.
  62. I told that guy the Blue Boat story, with neither a hint of malice nor a dose of contempt. The story was just a statement of clarification.