Back in the day when sales tax could be avoided – by taking delivery of a yacht offshore and using her outside of the state for at least ninety days during the first six months of ownership – I had the job of delivering a brand new 47′ yacht to the Coral Marina in Ensenada, Mexico along with the owner and a crew of three experienced sailors. For reasons that will become obvious, I will refer to the owner as George, not his real name. George had no real sailing experience, but the romance of the sea called to him much as it has to the rest of us and he seemed eager to learn all that he could on this trip. When I set the watch schedule, he asked to be included. Since it was mid summer and the weather was typical with sunny days and marine layer overcast at night, I complied with his request. The trip was expected to take approximately nineteen hours and I liked to plan to arrive in the early morning to allow for a return to Marina Del Rey that same day. This, of course, made it necessary to stand night watches. Since the weather was fine and the yacht was equipped with the latest navigation electronics, including an autopilot, I was not apprehensive about giving George a short two hour night watch.
About midway through his watch, I awakened to check our progress and I thought to ask George if he wanted a coffee or hot chocolate. To my dismay, when I mounted the companionway stairs and looked out, there was no sign of George. I called his name and quickly entered the cockpit only to find George curled up in his sleeping bag on the port cockpit bench. I could hardly contain my alarm and when I confronted him with the meaning of standing watch, his reply was you can’t see anything, it’s too dark.
By John Carello