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Story by Tor Pinney                                                                                                                                        Back to List of Tor's Tales


1987 Tor Pinney - All Rights Reserved


1972. Rain beat down on the streets of Key West. It was a blustery morning, nasty enough to hold the tourist hordes temporarily at bay, shut up in their motel rooms. The sailors, lobstermen and shrimpers, clad in yellow oilskins and black sea boots, made their way to local diners to congregate and sip coffee and speculate on the weather. I sat among them, belonging by vocation with the fishermen, but by inclination with the cruising sailors. That is to say, I was presently crewing on a shrimp boat to earn money to buy myself a sailboat.

But it was slow going, saving up for a boat. Oh, how often I would dream of affording my own little sailing ship someday, something fitted out for crossing oceans and visiting distant lands. And what a jolt I was about to receive that rainy morning in Key West when I suddenly came oh-so-close to realizing that dream - instantly - for a dollar!

A couple of fishermen I knew came in and took the table next to mine. I couldn't help overhearing their conversation:

"Man, that guy was upset, wasn't he?" said one to the other.

"Well," responded his buddy, "when your boat's pounding against the sea wall in a storm, you tend to get upset, don't you?"

"Yeah, I suppose," said number one. "Anyhow, I wonder if he'd really just give that sailboat away like he was sayin'. Maybe we should've stuck around."

"Hell, nobody gives a boat away, I don't care how crazy he gets. Naw, he'll get her off the wall and re-anchored and he'll be all right. The boat wasn't hurt much."

By now I was all ears. Could it be possible? I had to find out. "Hey, where's this sailboat you're talking about that somebody wants to give away?"

"Aw, nobody gives a boat away," the one repeated.

"It's just down yonder, at the end of the street," the other one said, indicating the direction with the wave of a hand. "It's up against the wall. But the guy was just blowin' off steam."

"Well," I said, trying to sound casual, "maybe I'll go on down and see if I can give him a hand."

Once outside, I hurried toward the water. It only took a couple of minutes. Of course nobody gives away a sailboat, I reminded myself. Still, my pulse quickened when I saw the mast of a small sloop bobbing above the sea wall.

I reached the water's edge a little out of breath and there she was, a rugged 28-foot cruising sailboat, fitted out with a wind vane, mast steps, full sails, life raft, spare fuel jugs - all the paraphernalia of an ocean-going yacht ready to travel. To this would-be cruiser she was a dreamboat! The sloop was pressed to the concrete by a fresh on-shore breeze, but cushioned now by car tires hastily hung at the level of her rail and topsides. I could see a few scrapes and scratches where she had chafed before the fenders were in place. Otherwise, she seemed to be undamaged.

A young man about my age was standing there in the pouring rain, staring at the boat. He was shaking his head slowly, grinning and mumbling, "I don't believe it! I just don't believe it!"

"Hi," I said, "I heard this boat was in trouble down here. Do you need a hand or anything?"

"Man," the long-haired conch said, "I just bought this boat for a dollar, not two minutes ago. And," he mumbled again, half in a daze, "I just can't believe it!"

I couldn't believe it, either. "You what?" I said, a little too loudly. "What happened?"

"Well, see that guy walking away?" He pointed down along the shore to the receding figure of a man with a large duffel bag over his shoulder. "This was his boat. Seems his wife left him recently, and he had a bunch of other problems piling up on him. From what I could gather, when the storm came up this morning and the boat dragged anchor, it was just sort of the last straw. Guess he flipped out. I came along a few minutes ago and offered to help him with settin' these here fenders, and he says, `I've had it! I'm goin' home! You want this boat, fella', it's yours.' Then he says, `You got a dollar?' and I says, `Hell, yes,' and he says, `Give me a dollar to make it legal. Here's the papers. I'm signing them over right now. You just fill in your name.' And that's what he did, and I gave him a dollar, and I got me a sailboat, and I still can't believe it!"

Well, that's the true story of the one dollar sailboat that I missed by two minutes. And I've got to tell you, for me, it was a bitter pill to swallow, going back to work on the shrimp boat after that. As for the lucky guy whose timing was just a little bit keener that rainy day in Key West, I do wonder sometimes where that sweet little sloop took him.

~ End ~

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