I met Phil one night at a bar called “Rocks” on State Street in Santa Barbara. It was a good bar/restaurant that lasted for quite a few years. As far as Santa Barbara restaurant life-spans, that’s a millennia. My friend, Jessica, and I were friends with the owner and we spent many happy hours there depleting the bar of their olive stock. —shut up, we were really poor.—
At Rocks one night, this handsome man chatted me up and we ended up making a date for the following week on his sailboat in Ventura.
I arrive at Ventura harbor and Phil’s boat. The sailboat’s cabin was already occupied by two stunningly beautiful women, Erin and Lynn. Both who, I find out later, were there to size me up. As is my go-to, though I couldn’t surpass them in beauty, I did make them laugh—I do a great impression of trying to back up a 43’ sailboat out of Ventura harbor—and from that point on, we were all friends.
One day, Erin and Mikhail (her then boyfriend) set sail on their even larger sailboat with Phil and I as passengers for a 3-hour tour to the Channel Islands.
I hope you’re getting the reference.
We sail out through the channel towards Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands carried on the strong Santa Ana winds blustering us towards the horizon at a furiously-hot pace.
Once there, we find a shaded, calm cove for Erin to wake board–dive for pearls/hunt for pirate treasure/save every whale shark in existence–whatever adventure she does on a daily basis. Mikhail and Phil have drinks on the deck in the gloriousness of the shimmering daylight…
While I awkwardly fumble around for something to stop the cataract of blood that is now violently forcing its way out of my body like it, early or late but always inconveniently, does every month. Because I’m me and, if things went smoothly, I would cease to be me.
And, yeah, it’s a gross detail but a necessary one to contrast that while I’m trying to shove coasters in my shorts because it’s the only thing I can find to stem the horrible tide,
Ms. Pro-Windsurfer/photojournalist/USskiteam/whalesharkprotector is effortlessly wake boarding in a way one could only see on ESPN, and filmmaker Mikhail and entrepreneur Phil are casually discussing how they’re going to assuredly and quite literally save the world.
The Gilligan reference starts making sense now, doesn’t it.
My only hope to maintain any dignity I may have is to go back home soon so I can attend to this typical over-the-top, slapstick, Molly-type moment of a normally (for other people) fair-weathered experience.
Because we are. This was only a 3-hour tour, after all.
It’s Sunday and I don’t have anything keeping me rooted to the shore (except for work on Monday), so I settle in to a great afternoon. Having effectively yet comically fashioned whatever-it-was I did to fix my womanly problem, I do what I feel is my honor and privilege to do and entertain; both intentionally and not.
Then it starts getting late.
I’m pretty sure there are people back on shore who might be missing me if we don’t return me by at least late evening. It’s downright dark now and I politely inquire as to when we’re going back.
“Can’t. Santa Anas,” is Mikhail’s response.
“Yeah. Off-shore winds. We can’t sail against that. I mean, come on.” He smiles and makes another drink.
“Well, um, I should really call someone then.”
“Can’t. Sun spots,” Phil says. He’s the only one with a cell phone in the early 2000s so he clearly knows what he’s talking about.
“What about ship-to-shore radio?” I ask. I didn’t know shit about sailing but I’ve heard about radios.
“Can’t,” Erin says smirking though I bought it anyway, “Island is in the way.”
None of their answers seem quite legit but I accept them as truth. I’m in no position to argue with these world travelers.
I kept up the worry for a fast minute as it didn’t take me long to give up on going home that night. Besides, we were having too much fun pretending we were pirates that I was okay with it. Okay, I was pretending we were pirates. We’ll be home tomorrow, work be damned. After all, no one can blame me for sun spots.
The next morning, I wake up to Bloody Marys, visits from random sailing-types also seeking out a shady cove, and a glorious sun.
It’s suggested that we hike to the top of the hill on this protected, no-humans-allowed island. I, again, quietly suggest we try to get a hold of someone on shore in Santa Barbara. Hell, I’d settle for someone in Ventura knowing I was still alive at this point.
They’re having none of it. On the island’s beach, Mikhail is putting rocks on his chest claiming he’s trapped under a landslide and can’t captain the sailboat back home.
“How are we going to call anyone to save you if we can’t call shore?”
“Oh, never mind. I’m fine.” He giggled and jumped up, rocks flung aside, to start up the steep hill. I’m ignored and left to either follow or twiddle my thumbs.
I do take a second to begin to think this might be a setup.
I do enjoy the illegal hike, follow Phil’s asthmatic wheezing (another tip off that we weren’t far from help considering his lack of worry) towards another glorious view. From that vantage I can see California’s Central Coast and have a quick, twingey thought of who might be worrying about me. I care as much as the thought is fleeting.
We return to the boat to engage in an extremely competitive and somewhat frightening game of Pictionary. In addition to being beautiful inside and out, Erin has competed her way to the top of everything she’s ever tried and her accolades are very well-deserved. The list is exhaustive and I won’t get into it here. You can here, though.
And apparently, Pictionary was something she wasn’t going to come in second at either.
I say with pride that she can win everything else in the world but no one can beat me at Pictionary. I only wish I kept that drawing of Barry White that ended the ill-fated game amidst nefarious accusations. It was a draw. I won the game, she won at pouting.
TUESDAY! I wake up suddenly to what felt like gentle waves rocking the boat and the hum of a well-maintained motor I didn’t know the boat had.
I know what you’re thinking, “How the fuck did you not know the boat had a motor?”
I didn’t. It was a sailboat. I knew about the sails! Stop judging me. I know other stuff. Jeez.
Mikhail is at the helm (see, that’s something I know), and Erin is filming a pod of a thousand dolphins surfing alongside us. Phil is smiling, sipping a mimosa with his leg up, as I creep out from the cabin.
“We’re motoring back? We’re MOTORING BACK?? OH MY GOD.” Giggles then outright mocking me competed with the sound of the happy motor.
It was hard to be mad at the great time or the great people on the deck smiling and enjoying the day despite my kidnapping and collected plotting against my return. If I were ever to be Shanghai’d, I couldn’t have asked for a better one.
There were a lot of concerned then angry messages when I finally got home. I deflected them by being an ass about it. I’m sure I’m over it.
20 years later, we are all still friends. Though they are a tough crowd to keep up with.
Phil can be found selling giganto-yachts in New Zealand or Monaco or Tahiti or… somewhere, I forget.
Erin is still doing everything more exciting than any of us can imagine, just ask Richard Branson.
Mikhail, though, had to one-up everyone by accidentally flying his helicopter into a glacier. It sucks that he left us but if there’s a way to go, that’s pretty much the most badass way to do it.
Me? I’m writing stories and taking the frequent naps they refuse to in honor of all them.
Someone’s got to.