The rain paused and we stood there on the narrow dock staring at our dreamboat. It was a bit of a shock because after all we’d been through that day, neither of us was quite sure we’d ever actually see the boat.
Eric pulled out his phone and left yet another message saying we’d found the boat and it would be great if he could come down so we could see the inside. The cockpit hatch was locked with a padlock. So we walked around her looking up occasionally to see if the owner was coming down from one of the condos. There was no one around anywhere and I was not impressed with the security of this marina. You’d think with all those condos around someone would notice these two gawkers and inquire as to our business.
After a brief discussion consisting of “should we?” and “Yes, we should,” Eric jumped on board. Right away he checked the bow hatch and found it unlatched. I looked around nervously. The guy had said we could come see the boat. We weren’t damaging anything or taking anything, but still it felt like trespassing. Eric asked if I thought he should go inside. I shrugged. He shrugged. “What the hell, we’ve come this far.” And he slipped below decks.
I listened to him ooh and ahh and call out various features.
“It’s got a little sink. No headroom, but the aft bunk is big.”
“Should I come aboard?” I asked nervously.
I took off my shoes and scrambled over the lifelines. Went feet first down the narrow hatch onto the V-berth. And I started oohing and ahhing. It was so clean and it didn’t smell musty or mildewy. The cushions were clean (later we found out he’d spent $500 on new ones) and it seemed to be all we’d hoped for. Under the cockpit, sure enough, was a queen-sized berth, albeit with very little headroom in the middle.
We lifted all the cushions, noted the porta-potty, located the apparatus for raising and lowering the swing keel, one of the selling points of the boat, for its ability to run aground without damage, or “beachable” as they called it.
We sat across from each other in the cabin. “I like it,” Eric said.
“Me too.” We grinned at each other.
Safely back on the dock, Eric checked his phone. No message. We shrugged, said goodbye to the boat and went back to the car.
Neither of us had been to Carolina Beach, so we just drove into town and stopped at the first restaurant we found. It was after three and we’d not had lunch. It was closed, but we walked next door and found an Italian place, Mama Mia’s, that was open, but empty. A pretty, bouncy blonde college student named Caitlyn took our orders and we guzzled our beverages and scarfed our food. We were just finishing up when Greg called. He had not received our messages, but he’d be happy to meet us at the boat. We settled on four-twenty to give us time to pay and get back over to the boat.
Eric hung up and looked at his phone. He shook his head. He looked at the phone number Greg had just called from. He frowned and said the number he’d been calling was correct. Then he slapped the side of his head. “Nine-one-nine!” All this time he’d been calling some poor fool and leaving all those messages and it was the wrong area code. It was off by one number. Oh well. It was all working out.
We spent another hour on the boat with Greg and his adorable three-year-old. He extolled the virtues of the boat and we poked around at the hardware and he started the outboard for us. It was very nice. Eric was worried about towing the boat with his Jeep pick-up, but Greg said he’d towed the boat down from Annapolis with his Pacifica. Back in the parking lot I remembered that this was the very first place we had pulled in. If we’d gotten out to look down the canal, we’d have seen the boat. Oh well!
Our business concluded, we debated the merits of staying overnight or going home and decided to stay. We got a room two blocks from Mama Mia’s at the Drydock Motel. It had just the right degree of funkiness combined with the necessary amenities. We were thrilled. We walked back toward Mama Mia’s to check out this funky little bar we’d seen earlier. Beside the door is a sign that says, “Hippies use side entrance.” In spite of the sign, we went in the cavelike front door. We hesitated by the small bar, growing accustomed to the dim light and pounding music. The bartender noticed us and leaned over the bar to ask if it was our first time there. It was.
“Ok, then, here’s how it works here at the Fat Pelican,” he pointed farther back into the catacomb like interior. “We got four hundred kinds of beer in a cooler back there. You go and pick out what you want and bring it back here and we’ll tell you how much it is. We also have wine by the glass, ‘kay?”
I had to ask. “Do you have any beer at room temperature?”
Dead serious he says, “Yeah, sure. The closer you get to that door,” he nodded at the front door, “the warmer it gets.” There was a pause as I processed that little gem.
I laughed. I guess it was cold or nothing.
We picked out two beers, an IPA for Eric and a Yuengling Porter for me. I love porter and had no idea Yuengling made a porter so I wanted to try it. It was adequate, but later I got a Bell’s Porter that really sang. Oh boy.
It’s a mystery how this place manages to keep a liquor license, the building seems cobbled together, literally, from scrap boards, bricks and random thrift store furniture. On every wall was a piece of colored construction paper reading, “Please do not feed the dog!” But there was no dog in evidence. Outside the ground was covered with sand and we found an empty table with two mismatched chairs next to a white board structure containing a porch swing. At the back a little boat was sunk into the sand and we checked to see if we could sit in it, but it was inaccessible and full of coolers. The place was absolutely steaming with atmosphere.
Right away the place began filling up, as if we’d started something, and when we saw a salty-looking older man scanning for a seat, we invited him to join us. He hesitated a second and then shrugged. He was drinking a two-dollar can of Pabst and smoking a cigarette, which he tapped into the large coffee can on the table. Bearded and wearing a baseball cap, he looked like a boat person for sure. But we soon found out that he lived a bike ride away and worked on Figure Eight Island, north of Wrightsville Beach. He had been an electrician by trade but now he was semi-retired and worked doing maintenance at the yacht club there. He regaled us with tales of the Weyerhauser heirs and John Edwards and some of the funny things that happened there.
Much too soon, he headed off and we were left marveling over his stories. But soon two young men came out from the cooler squinting for a table. By this time they were really all taken, but there were a few extra chairs. They pulled two over at our invitation. Shawn was originally from Washington, DC and worked as an engineer on the Okracoke ferry. My first husband was a marine engineer, so we had plenty to talk about there. Meanwhile, Eric was learning that Danny works doing environmental assessments of buildings, a field related to Eric’s. So we were all chatting away and putting away beers and eating peanuts and Utz crab chips. They smelled great, but tasted too much like crab (yuck) for my taste. I stuck with the peanuts, which were Planters and salty.
Shawn and Danny decided to move on, it was Saturday night and they were going for some live music. At just before midnight, the night was young for these young thirties and we old folks were getting mighty tired. We’d had quite the day. We were pretty sure we’d found our dreamboat. Now if we could just find one closer than Ohio.