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abounded on the good boat. Fred could trim sails. He reminded

us several times that he had been a racer. It was very good to gain a half knot on light wind days because of his suggestions. And he could make a killer potato salad. For all this expertise we were grateful. A few days after his refusal to hand

steer, he had a late-night watch. I was asleep below. He was troubled by the track of a big ship, confused by its lights, and scared of collision. But he did not know how to turn the autopilot to standby. He panicked. By good fortune another crewman was awake. He explained to Fred how to turn off the autopilot. In the morning Fred said proudly to me that he had hand steered the boat. On day 6, the mainsheet flogged,

and broke a traveler car block. Fred’s opinion was that the entire traveler (on the Morgan a very robust piece of hardware) should be replaced. “Only about 2000 bucks, Dan.“ Weeks later, in Seattle, I learned that the block had broken because I had installed it backwards on the car so the purchased control line was not captured in the block as it should have been. On day 9, we poured cleansing

solution into the bilge. It wetted the high water alarm, which beeped earnestly and unremittingly awhile. Fred’s opinion was that it should be disconnected and taken apart. A few hours later, given time just to dry, it returned to normal. Not once, day or night, did he

ever take any interest in our position. Never was he inclined to plot a fix on the paper chart. Never did he take even a moment to turn on the laptop, open the Fugawi software, and look at the GPS icon or the track. There is a curious obstacle some

distance off Baja California. It is known as Rocas Alijos: tips of undersea volcanic formations spearing up above the surface, tightly localized but, incredibly, unlighted, unbuoyed. On the paper chart there is ambiguity about how they sit: Even a close examination of Chart No. 1 to verify the symbology does not satisfy the wary mariner. Always visible? Always submerged? Sometimes? We worried about them, Fred didn’t care. Or -- now that I ponder it -- probably caring

Daniel Millar will continue his voyage from Panama to the US Virgin Islands and Antigua in November.

wasn’t the issue. Fred almost certainly calculated well that four other people on the boat not only conscientiously plotted positions, but reveled in doing the work. He reasoned, correctly, that if he did also, the pencil fixes would be just too close together, given the scale of the chart. After all, how many navigators does a boat need?

But lo, he had done something wonderful – unintended but wonderful – He had become part of the lore of the sailboat “Transcendence”. In subsequent legs, when I acted out the scenes with Fred for other crew, they would lose themselves completely in hysterical laughter.

The rocks proved to be a fascinating

phenomenon far out in mid-ocean, not at all one to strike accidentally for want of navigational efforts. We cleared them by five miles. All was forgiven; until on the early

morning of the 11th day we approached the marina at Ixtapa. It is not among the most difficult approaches, but we had some uncertainty about depths close in to land. All hands were alert. All hands were on deck, with binoculars. Except Fred. He chose not to come up. He sat

in the saloon. I was agog that he did so. Of course, as skipper, I could have asked him to come up, lend an eye, advise. He was, in his way after all, an experienced sailor. But I chose not to.

In those moments I hardened toward this low animal with a force which overtook me. He stayed below. We did navigate fine to the fuel

dock. We tied up, we fueled, but not Fred. He sat below. We moved to our assigned slip, and he appeared. We cleaned the boat – without Fred. When I asked a crewmember about Fred’s demurring from cleaning, I was told that Fred had revealed to him that he didn’t clean boats, because he wasn’t a boat donkey. Never mind that a good part of the dirt was his tobacco slobber which had stained the deck badly. Paying him was excruciating. I

wanted, rather, to punch his nose into his brain and throw him unpaid onto the concrete. But lo, he had done something

wonderful – unintended but wonderful – which I could not have conceived or predicted in my hundred moments of rage at him! He had become part of the lore of the sailboat Transcendence. He had become a story, no, stories – many, many stories. Later, in subsequent legs, when I, at my most dramatic, acted out the scenes with Fred for other crew, they would lose themselves completely in hysterical laughter, and tell me at the end of their legs, that it wasn’t the 15 knot breezes, nor the rural beauty of Costa Rica, nor the transit through the Panama Canal, but the tales I had told them about Fred, the anti-crewman, that were, without doubt, the high points of their time on the boat.

48° N 48° NORTH, SEPTEMBER 2010 PAGE 63

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