25 - Human Remains

So, this guy stood there, rocking on his heels, staring at our stranded boat. Probably a gawker, but he wasn't snickering, gesturing derisively or making lewd comments. It was freakishly out of character for a man in a marina.

Elena spotted the bloke, froze and went silent. If she had hackles, they would have risen.

"Ignore him. He probably wants to sell us something." I waved a sailboat diagram in her face, pointed at a big fin sticking out of the bottom of the boat. "This thing, what does it do?"

Man cleans a yacht propeller photo elenameg.com

[Image 25-1] With the yacht high and dry, one takes the opportunity to get at those hard to reach spots.

No answer. Elena was on high alert.

I hate gawkers. They're like wankers watching you pee in the woods. I pulled a Turkish bazaar act. "Yes please! Finest yachts in all of Christendom! And, fine sir, where are you from?"

He put down his groceries, straightened up and said, "Oregon."

Whew! He wasn't Russian, or homicidally pissed at me for scuppering his travel lift booking. "OK, Oregon." I kind of leaned back on my heels like him, and said, "British Columbia."

"I know. We've met."

"Huh!?" Who was this bloke? And did I owe him money?

"Briefly. You were looking for a boat. Seemed preoccupied. It's Jon, by the way."

I was still pulling a blank. "Aaaaah."

"I live on a boat. We met in town. You had just been to see the gulet broker. I sent you to Gino's."

Ding! Ding! Ding! "Oh, yeah. I caught on. That was you?" Crikey, I thought, when he said he lived on a boat, it was under a row boat or bridge somewhere. Elena pegged Jon as another Alexi. She's like that. It's a Russian thing: everyone's out to get you and guilty of something.

"I see you have a yacht now, and I hear you are going offshore? Congratulations!"

Congratulations? I was used to you're-gonna-bloody-die-out-there, not congratulations.

Elena Vaytsel supervises the launch of her yacht photo elenameg.com

[Image 25-2] Elena supervises the yacht's launch from the travel lift.

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"Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffeeee chameleon. You come and gooooo, you ooh oooh--" Pouring my first cup of mercy, I was rudely interrupted by what sounded like someone strangling an old macaw.

"Cooo-weeee! Ellie an Megs, ya 'wyke dine b'lie?" Harvey was on board and down the companionway before I had time to think. "Here it is going on six-thirty and you're still in your nightie!?"

"It's a t-shirt!" I growled.

"And nothing else, I s'pose, hmmm."

"I wasn't expecting company." The boat was back in the water, and we were finally in our own digs. I levelled the glare of death at Harvey, tugged my shirt down and backed slowly out of the galley.

"Aww, don't go on my account. I was just bringing your survey over."

"Fine, leave it on the table. I'll check it out later." I had my bahookie backed into a cabin and could just about close the door.

"And my bill." He smirked. "You don't happen to have twelve-hundred euros under that T-shirt of yours?"

Yacht launced from a travel lift photo elenameg.com

[Image 25-3] The yacht, lowered into the water, still in the travel lift's harness, is checked for leaks before letting it loose.

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I got the Euro-cash from an ATM and watched Harvey count it aboard his boat. With the last of the colourful bills counted and stacked, I asked if he could recommend a device or two we might need for long-distance sailing. Well, I'd certainly come to the right place. Harvey's Yacht Inspection Service instantly morphed into, Harvey's Yacht Outfitting Consultancy. "Nie whyries mite. You ladies leave it to me. Go and enjoy your day. You'll have my proposal by morning."

In fact, Harvey hand-delivered it before the crack of dawn. It included a map showing three possible routes to Canada. The lines all snaked their way through the Mediterranean and down the west coast of Africa. Two of them hung a right near the equator and made a beeline, west to the Caribbean. The one that didn't, crossed the equator and most of the southern hemisphere, to round Cape Horn -- that's the southernmost point of South America, in case you didn't ken -- and then, it crossed the South and North Pacific to Vancouver Island. Of the two lines that parted ways in the Caribbean, one of those turned north for Nova Scotia. The other one crossed Panama via the canal, to slalom way out into the Pacific, where it joined the other line from Cape Horn. Those two came to an end on Vancouver Island.

Brief footnotes rated the routes according to distance, advantages and pitfalls. The Panamanian route was Harvey's clear winner. It avoided rounding the Horn the wrong way, and instead of Halifax, it got the yacht home; not frozen into the ice in Eastern Canada. Oh, bloody hell, Winter! Another niggling complication I overlooked.

The equipment list was broken into two parts: nice, and necessary. Just the necessary stuff was crazy expensive, but I was too far into blood to turn back. I gave Harvey the green light. His take from the project would be a ten per cent commission on the parts, shipping, fees, taxes, and labour -- including his. For the next two months, Harvey was not only going to be a project manager, but our new best friend.

Elena and Meg yacht Boadicea in Netsel marina, Marmaris, Turkiye photo elenameg.com

[Image 25-4] Elena and Meg's yacht afloat at the dock.

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It was sailing lesson number one -- manoeuvring under motor. Elena was a natural. Forward. Reverse. Throttle control. Rules of the road -- aye, she was a born power boater. Sinem brought a weighted, wooden stick to practice man overboard procedures with. Given what it was made of and what it was for -- in rather poor taste -- we called it Natalie wood.

Under the guise of, "Let's see how I can do," I took the wheel and majorly scored an own goal. I think I actually ran over Natalie wood. I was used to steering a boat with a tiller, not a wheel. Blimey, all the directions were reversed!

Elena Vaytsel at the helm of Boadicea photo elenameg.com

[Image 25-5] First sailing lesson -- maneuvering under motor.

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Our training progressed fast, and we were having a riot with Sinem. Eating a lot of pizza. Doing a lot of touristy things. Killing time, we absolutely couldn't waste.

Harvey, on the other hand, didn't appear to be doing a bloody thing on the boat. All I saw, was a lot of surfing the net, printing out fancy equipment adverts, then getting me to phone in my credit card number to pay for it.

Jon wandered into the marina at the same time Elena and I headed out. I wasn't sure he could see us over his grocery bags, so I called out, "Ahoy there, Oregon."

"Meg, Elena! Have you decided to stay in Turkiye?"

"No, why?"

"I haven't seen anything happening on your yacht to make it ready for the high seas." He pointed at a little marine electronics shop on the marina property. "If you need solar charging, I know he has two big, high-wattage panels. A deal fell through. It might help."

The solar panels were perfect. The seller covered that month's rent, and we finally started to equip the boat for the voyage home.

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"Probably, pieces of crap! What did you pay?" Harvey snarled. Then he told me, "You owe me a commission on the panels I spent hours researching for you. Including the shipping and bribes for customs. Bet ya didn't think of that, smart lady!" That was the first worrying hint, I wasn't dealing with my kind-hearted grandpa. The next was, "Where are those shitty solar panels? Give them to me!"

Elena Vaytsel in a rubber dinghy photo elenameg.com

[Image 25-6] Discovering that their boat came with a rubber dinghy and outboard motor was like winning the bonus prize. No lessons needed. Elena prepares to take it out for a spin around the marina.

"Harvey, it's OK. The guy I bought them from will keep them until we need them."

"Dingbat! My welders need to make new brackets to mount your panels on the arch I already designed for you!"

"You've started on the mount?"

"It is a good thing I didn't. I need to redesign the whole thing now. These delays are your fault. Push me, lady, and you will see how slow I can go."

I started for the gangplank.

"Hold up there, deary." Harvey's voice got all smarmy. "Seeing as you brought it up, I need two-thousand dollars, in cash. It's for stainless steel. You know, for your mounting arch."

"That's a lot of steel!"

"It has to hold a lot of stuff. Solar panels, antennas, radar, which is why it's called a 'radar arch.' Satellite dish, wind turbine, barbecue. You might want to hang your tender on it."

"Tender what!?" I took a good long step away from him.

"Tender! Your little boat for getting to shore. Yours is an inflatable."

"We have one?"

"It comes with the boat. I saw the thing while doing your survey."

"Brill! We have a tender, rubber dinghy?" It felt like hitting the jackpot. "Where is it? How come I never saw it?"

"Big locker at the bow, that's the pointy end. You're beyond the black stump, lady!" He stood. "Come back with my cash, then I can get started."

A swindler makes off with cash photo elenameg.com

[Image 25-7] The irascible Harvey, getting "his" cash.

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Sailing lessons intensified. Elena went from I-don't-wanna-die to completely no-fear! Sinem showed us sailing tricks that would scare the snot from your average yacht clubber. We rescued Natalie wood under full sail in a stiff breeze. Sometimes, not even screaming and swearing too much. It took an awful lot of strength and cool to completely change the sail configuration, maintain control of the yacht, not lose sight of the rapidly receding, wooden pole, and then, retrieve it, entirely on one's own.

Elena Vaytsel at the helm learning to sail photo elenameg.com

[Image 25-8] Sailing lessons progress while yacht preparations grind to a crawl. Elena "listens" to the yacht, learning to find the sweet-spot: an indefinable set of the sails and helm that bring the boat to life.

We practised climbing back aboard, even underway, without a ladder or assistance from our taunting crew mates. We put out way too much sail in strong wind; just to see what happens. It was ugly but taught us to heed the warning signs before the dishes started flying. We climbed into the rigging while bouncing over waves. We listened to the boat and learned to find the sweet spot: an indefinable set of the sails and helm that brought the yacht to life. Elena, only weeks before, having never been near a sailboat, commanded the vessel, exhilarated, empowered and beaming. It brought tears to my eyes. We and the boat were becoming one.

Elena Vaytsel with her sailing instructor photo elenameg.com

[Image 25-9] Sailing lessons: Sinem shows Elena the art of getting the most from the wind.

"Ready to tack!" Elena screamed from the helm. "Grind, grind, grind! Damn you, robotay, work, Meg!" I cranked an insanely taut rope through a really big winch. The sooner the sail was tight as a drum, the faster the speed picked up. She had me begging for mercy. "That's it. I'll take the helm. You grind now, or how about we drop the anchor in the next nook and go for a swim?"

The Mediterranean is salty -- really salty! Especially the eastern end of it. If you don't want to shrivel your eyeballs up like raisins, you need a diving mask. Sinem didn't have one. She told us to swim without her. Fine. She moped in the cockpit while Elena and I played crazy-sea-otters-gone-berserk.

We chased each other as deep underwater as our breath held out. Circling rock formations, startling fish, it was all fun and games, until a human skull leered, inches from my mask. Bollocks! I thrashed to the surface. Elena, of course, had to check it out. She surfaced a few seconds later, screaming out the details of our grizzly find. It had been down there a while. The rest of the skeleton was scattered about, probably by something looking for dinner. Still, no mistaking what it was.

Backgammon aboard Boadicea photo elenameg.com

[Image 25-10] Elena and Sinem, locked in a fierce battle of Turkish-rules backgammon.

Sinem leapt for the helm to start the motor, shouting at the two of us treading water, "Shut-the-fuck-up and get on board. We're going! Right the fuck now!"

"Memorise that spot. We need to tell the police" I pointed, scrambling onto the swim platform.

"The cops! Are you crazy?" Sinem said. "This is Turkiye. You tell the police, you found a body, and they are going to keep you here until they find out how it got there. That takes a long time. Maybe, the guys who put it there will not be happy about you finding it. You might end up down there, keeping it company. You need to forget what you saw." She slam-sat on a bench, elbows on knees, chin on fists. "You saw a dead goat, that's it! Got it!? A dead goat!"

Meg and Elena learning to sail. Marmaris Bay, Turkiye photo elenameg.com

[Image 25-11] Meg and Elena at the helm, learning to sail in Marmaris Bay, Turkiye.

[[ updated Apr 24, 14:49 GMT ]]