We did a Boy Scout trip to Atlantic City. It was a bitterly cold early February weekend day and we weren’t there for the casinos. There was a major sailing trip planned for the coming summer to the Bahamas, and the adults wanted to get the kids acclimated to big sailboats, so we crammed into a few cars and made our way to the Atlantic City Boat Show.
That particular trip was one of my dad’s favorite visits to the Boat Show because we all wore our Boy Scout uniforms.
This was actually my least favorite time at the AC boat show for two reasons.
First: we had to wear the uniform.
Second: these Boat Show trips had been a father/son tradition, an institution, yet this trip was ruined by a dozen boys, all of whom seemed to unanimously agree that the trip was boring. They didn’t enjoy walking in and out of the beautiful brand new boats, or seeing how every piece of furniture and appliance intricately fit into the unusually shaped space or crawling through these practical working works of art.
Why did they think it was boring?
Simple: to piss me off.
We were truly throwing pearls to swine.
This trip was important though for one reason; I realized just how much my dad didn’t like people asking him where he sailed out of. By the way, this is the exact way the question is always asked, ending preposition included.
It may not seem like all that much, but here’s the whole setup:
You get onto a nice boat.
You talk to the fairly nice sales person therein.
You tell them how nice the boat is.
They thank you.
They tell you some of the interesting features you may not have noticed.
You give due courtesy, nodding your head where appropriate.
They ask you: “Where do you sail out of?”
You tell them the truth: “I don’t have a boat.”
They give you the cold shoulder and turn their attention to someone else.
Repeat for each boat.
Ten thousand people attend this boat show every year, how many of them would you think actually have a nice yacht? How many are in the market for one? Yes I’m sure there are some, but not, enough to merit the attitude. Is that how they train salespeople these days? I don’t know. But I do know that if at some point I do come into a significant amount of money, then I will not be buying any Hunters, Benetaus, Oysters, etc. not because they are not quality boats, but because their salespeople have attitudes.
“Why don’t you just lie to them?” I asked.
The following year my dad and I were back in Atlantic City without the Boy Scouts and uniforms, and it wasn’t too long before someone asked us where we sail out of. My dad began to say something, but I interrupted him.
“We sail out of the Chesapeake.”
“Oh, the Chesapeake, that’s a nice area.”
“Yes, it’s nice for a day or weekend sail. Unfortunately we’re too busy to go on long cruises, at least for now.”
I looked over to find my dad, but he had walked away. He told me he probably would because he couldn’t stand there listening to me lie without laughing, which would in turn, as the British say “rumble our plot.”
“What kind of boat do you have?”
“A Pacific Seacraft, Flicka 20,” I said. “Ironically being sailed near (and occasionally in) the Atlantic.”
The salesman laughed.
“That’s a nice boat,” he said. “What’s her name?”
“The Lyin’s Pride,” I said.
Clearly the salesman did not see how it was spelled in the verbal dialog.
You may wonder why my dad didn’t tell me not to lie. My guess is he probably didn’t think I could do it. But he was wrong.
As the years went on the lies increased, becoming more and more complex each time. We sailed out of Maine, the Caribbean, La Jolla.
At 16 my dad and I had to walk well out of our way to get from the parking garage to the convention center because you had to be 18 to get onto the casino floor.
The boats changed in size and shape, 21 footers, 41 footers, single or twin masted, one or two halls, your choice.
At 18 they upped the minimum age for the casino floor to 21.
My dad began to feed me different ideas he wanted me to lie about, different details that he thought were interesting but that he couldn’t say himself because he was not a remorseless liar.
When I finally turned 21 and could walk on the casino floor, they moved the Atlantic City Boat Show from Atlantic City to Philadelphia. Why? Again, to piss me off. Or was it karma? Nah, probably not. They even continued to call it the Atlantic City Boat Show, for added effect. That was the last year we went to the Atlantic City Boat Show (in Philly or Jersey), but it wouldn’t be the end of boat shows in general. Not even close.
Anyone who’s been to both will tell you that the Annapolis show is far better than the AC show. There are many more boats on display, some 200 at least, and because the show is “in water” the boats could be much bigger. At AC you couldn’t get many boats bigger than 40 feet, but at Annapolis, there were 70 to 80-foot boats and a few even bigger. Of course with bigger boats came even bigger attitudes from the salespeople, and with the bigger attitudes came bigger lies.
Aside from lying, there was another tradition. All boats had been set up in relatively the same way, at both AC and Annapolis. They were very nice, well appointed, with births (beds) in every corner, pillows, blankets, flowers, fake fruit, etc. The reason for this is so “the wife” will give her husband permission to buy the “pretty” boat.
My dad always wanted to see what one of these boats would actually look like while crossing the ocean, and he always said: “I’d rip out that V-Berth and put in a workbench.” He said it on most of the boats we went on, that is until I started saying it before he could.
It got to the point that I was ripping out everything to put in a workbench. I didn’t know what half the stuff I was ripping out was.
“I’d rip out that dorsal and put in a workbench.”
“I’d rip out that bowsprit and put in a workbench.”
One day we actually came across a “practical” boat, and by that point, I had been waiting a whole decade to say: “I’d rip out that workbench and put in a V-Berth.”
The first time in Annapolis it was just my dad and I. Then a year or two later, my uncle joined us, and after that his daughter. One time my dad’s friend from California flew in to see the boat show with us. That trip was good, but for some reason my uncle was convinced that his Prius was more than ample to fit four adults and one teenager for a two-hour car ride. It turned out he was incorrect.
The first year that my cousin came down with us, we told her all about the lies. My uncle was less amused. I guess for him there was still a chance that his kid might turn out okay, and as for my dad’s kid, you can see the results and judge for yourself.
“Don’t go being rude to these people,” my uncle said.
“Rude is not how it’s done,” I told him.
Soon after we got to the Boat Show we separated. I took my cousin one way, while my dad and uncle went another, and we met up a number of times throughout the day.
“I want to see you lie to someone,” she said, out of earshot of her father.
“I will, but first I want you to do something for me.”
At some point halfway through the day, she tugged on my dad’s shirt.
“Uncle Ron,” she said. “I would rip out that v-berth and put in a workbench.”
She was my dad’s favorite niece from then on.
Now it was my turn to perform.
“You don’t just go up to someone and start lying to them,” I told her. “That’s not how it works. They have to be asking for it.”
“How do you know if they’re asking for it?”
I saw one guy sitting on his boat, relaxed, feet up, sunglasses, khaki shorts, golf shirt, and a smug look-upon-my-wealth-ye-mighty-and-despair smirk on his face.
“He’s asking for it,” I said.
“So go lie to him.”
“Because he’s asking for it, but he hasn’t asked for it.”
“He has to make the first move.”
She still looked confused.
“He has to say: ‘where do you sail out of?’”
“How do you know he will say that?”
“It’s a long story.”
Eventually we found a salesman that was ripe for the picking. I talked to him briefly, told him how much I liked the boat, and like clockwork he asked: “where do you sail out of?”
“Here,” I said. “For now at least, Tolchester marina.”
“You spend a lot of time sailing?”
“A few years ago I did,” I said. “I was supposed to go to college and my dad said he would let the sea educate me. So we sailed out and hugged the coast from here, all the way down through South America, went around the horn, came back up the other side, went through the Panama Canal from the Pacific side, and then came back here.”
When I first started telling the unsuspecting salesman my tale, my cousin (like so many others) had to walk away. From the galley (or kitchen) she watched me through the window, and behind the salesman’s back, mouthed the words “Oh My God.”
“Have you read ‘My Old Man and the Sea’,” said the Salesman.
“Sure, Hemingway. Read it in high school.”
“No,” he said. “‘My Old Man and the Sea,’ it’s by David and Daniel Hays.”
“Oh, no,” I said. “Never heard of it.”
“It’s good; it’s a similar story, father and son sail around Cape Horn.”
“Get out,” I said. “I’ll have to read it.”
We shook hands, exchanged names. I don’t remember if I told him my real name or not, it wouldn’t have mattered.
“How did you do that?” she asked, when out of earshot of the salesman.
“Years of practice,” I said. “I was a teenager too, not too long ago, and never got in trouble. It wasn’t luck. Not that you need to know any of this.”
As the years went on we kept the boat show tradition and all the practices therein. The boats and stories I told got even more outlandish (or is it “out-sea-ish”?). We had a Gunboat and feigning a half-German half-Australian accent told someone that we sailed out of South Africa. My wife hit me when I said that, she didn’t approve of my lying way others did. Understandably so, but the woman I lied to that time was really asking for it.
One year the boat was a hand-carved dugout made out of a single redwood trunk that I, of course, made myself. The boat was called “The Red Express” after Eugen V. Debs’ campaign train, which is quite the juxtaposition.
Finally there came the time where I topped all other lies I had previously told lo these many boat shows. The Scheisskopf 88, as its number would imply was an 88-foot boat, however the kicker was that it was wider then it was long and was the world’s first “quadromaran.” Catamarans and trimarans (two and three halls respectively) are uncommon, but as far as I know quadromarans (four halls) do not exist.
It should also be noted, as it is not exactly common knowledge in English, the word “scheisskopf” is German for “shit head.” So by logical extension, every poor sap that asked what kind of boat we had that year, got called a shit head, and most of them had it coming. My dad couldn’t even be on the same boat when I started telling people about that one.
For various reasons I missed the last two boat shows, but I’m going back this year, and you won’t believe what I have cooked. Unless that is, you have the misfortune of asking me where I sail out of.
Zach Smith is a graduate of Chestnut Hill College and has been writing for more than a dozen years, struggling all the while with Dyslexia. His work has previously appeared in: Crack the Spine, Revolution John, Fast-Forward Festival, the Short Humor Site, and Schlock Magazine, among others.